June 20, 2003

Wet Spring springs springs

We've exceeded 150% of normal rainfall so far this year. Most of that excess has come since the end of April. When spring officially ends tomorrow, we could have the wettest season on record for southwest Virginia, at least. The water table, dangerously low and causing many, many wells to fail in the county last year, is above the long term normal, and that is a very good thing. But we are not acclimated to Vancouver's and Seattle's sustained rains, and everybody you talk to lately admits to having their spirits 'dampened'... a word not chosen at random from our vocabulary of emotional states.

Cancelled this spring on account of rain: lying on the walkway in the warm sun of late spring while the maples put on their last leaves to complete our canopy of shade; walking through the valley the day after pasture cutting among the huge shredded-wheat rolls of hay pretending we were on a park lawn strolling among big round alien toadstools; seeing the summer constellations from the little bridge across the branch while fireflies rise from the field and woods by the thousands. And of course, it has not been a good year for gardens.

Yesterday afternoon, the sun shined and the sky cleared for the first time in weeks. Being outdoors for more than a quick sortee between the eternal showers and storms seemed unfamiliar, foreign, having been so long since I last enjoyed enough time under the sky to actually set about a task and finish it before the rains came again. We've gotten to where we just accept getting wet, and our back porch has been decorated for days at a time over that past six weeks with wet clothes that refuse to dry and are heavily flecked with pasture pollen and chaff and unfit for the dryer... looking for all the world like the signal flags on a sailing ship, the house like an Ark floating in a sea of heavy grass and mud. We are most happy to finally see that darned dove with the olive branch.

I squished around in rubber boots in what will have to pass for a garden this year, already almost a month behind in a short growing year. With another few days of drying, I will till under the bolting Buttercrunch patch I broadcast last fall before putting the garden to rest, put in more peas, a second block of corn, summer squash, and put up the piece of fence for the cucumbers to climb on, if it's not already too late for them. The tiller is across the creek in the barn and the water will be too high for days for me to walk it oh-so-slowly across the two planks over the creek to the garden. Maybe I'll just swingblade the tops off the weeds, till in a week if we get dry weather, and leave half of our small garden fallow this year with maybe a cover crop and hope for a better gardening year next time around.

Seasonal bonus: windfall firewood. Sitting here at the desk a few days ago with the windows open from the top enough to let in some outdoor air and outdoor sounds and keep out the blowing rains, I heard what I at first thought was a big orange DOT truck crunching down our gravel road. No, after a second I realized it was more of a breaking, tearing, ripping sound and it went on and on, and finally, the finale of an enormous THUD. A tree falling in the forest. A tree falling in a valley in a heavy rain is ventriloquial in it's ability to throw its voice, and I had no idea from the sound where the tree had crashed; but I've had my eye on a half dozen, thinking "It won't be long" and also thinking what a mess it could make if a particular tree fell a particular direction instead of another. I've even calculated, based on weak places in the tree or roots, the lean angle, and the weight distribution, where those several trees will fall when they inevitably do.

I'd had had my eye on this week's windfall for some time, knew its days were numbered, but it seems I cast too pessimistic a prediction on its inevitable fall that took place with me to hear it happen. A tall maple, it perched on the high side of the creek about half way up the pasture, clinging to the rocky bluff, its roots some ten feet up on the precipitous creek bank exposed and clutching the air. Every time we'd wander down this way, I'd tell Ann "You know, I think it's leaning more than it was a while back". She'd always tell me my imagination was playing tricks on me, and I know better than to argue with this woman, mostly.

So. This week, with a great fanfare, after weeks of rain that softened its tenuous hold on earth, the great tree fell. Perfectly. Breaking incompletely near the base in a splintering tear, it's roots did not come with it as I had predicted, and it is not blocking the creek as I had feared, instead it hangs suspended ten feet above the water, like a bridge. It did not lodge in the locust tree on the low side of the creek (as I had predicted) but it's 50 foot top fell precisely in the only small cleared space between treetops. And even better, it fell in a spot that I can easily access this fall with the truck, when maybe I can recruit a neighbor with tractor to help me sever the trunk from the roots, and drag the long straight trunk up to the edge of the pasture where I will buck it up into stovewood for the winter of '05. There'll be maybe a third to half a cord in it, and when I finally use it to warm us winter after next, each piece will tell this story.

Oh. And the best part about the fallen tree: I get to tell Ann "See. I told you so!"

Posted by fred1st at June 20, 2003 07:14 AM | TrackBack
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