May 27th, 2012- Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls

6AM today felt like rising in the tropics as I readied myself for work.  I had awakened earlier around 2AM, opened the window to see if the humidity had abated, then very quickly closed it. We have moist, unstable air pushing up from Nebraska it seems, one of those days when no amount of extra-hold hairspray will help; in fact, I’m already looking pretty wild and fuzzy. Keeping an eye on the weather for later on; let’s hope we don’t get hail!

The rain has been great for the garden, of course.  Beans are well up and ready to be thinned and the asparagus starts I thought might be duds finally sent up some ferny shoots.  The potted peppers and tomatoes are at least looking sturdy, if not quite taking off yet, much in part to the cool nights we’ve had, no doubt.  I also appear to have a good supply of rhubarb to freeze for jam and baking.   

The market is jumping and has lots of seasonal produce to offer and plants for sale, as well, not to mention some really excellent locally grown perennials, which of course can be planted any time before the fall weather becomes prohibitive.  With the night time temps just settling in to where they should be, there is still plenty of time to get those warm weather crops in the ground.  The soil in my pots was never cold and so planting them early was a gamble I took this year. In fact, I’m just getting my cucumbers planted by one of the trellises, and will get the ochre seeded in this week.  

Since my last entry here, I have lost a large friend; the hackberry tree mentioned in my last entry had to be taken out of my yard.  It had grown so tall and top heavy that I was fearful it would split in the wind.  It was brought home by my youngest as a sapling in a Dixie cup in 1985, so of course I had an emotional attachment.  In our ignorance of trees at that time we just planted it too close to the house, and the arborist I hired assured me that if it did come down or split, my home would be heavily damaged and that of my neighbor’s as well.  Although I have other large trees on my property, this one had begun to sway substantially in our frequent gusting winds, unlike the other maples, ashes and aspen that seem to have sturdier trunks. I would find myself checking it from the back window with a flashlight when the wind would wake me–nervous.

Although I was at work when the arborists came, several neighbors reported they heard the crash when it came down, falling angled across the length of my back yard.  By the time I arrived, all that remained was the soft area where the trunk had been removed.  The play set I kept beneath it had been returned to its place and not one hosta or daylily was damaged.  I asked the tree people to leave me some of the mulch after they had run it through the chipper, and this will go around the new river birch I planted farther back in the yard.

I am surprised at how emotional this event still feels for me, even causing me to tear up a bit at this writing.  Most of us have serious losses in life, and some of these smaller constants have a way of becoming a balm. Upsetting that continuance is never welcome. The sentimental edge is there, naturally, but there is more to losing a tree. As a friend reminded me over coffee a few days back, it’s a shame to lose a mature hackberry, as they are one of the trees that do well in our poor soil and will still be around after the emerald ash-borer has depleted our boulevard shade.  Additionally, that tree was outside my office window all those years, and although it was really too tall to give any real shade, I spent many mornings watching nuthatches and downy woodpeckers work up and down its sides.  One year, the robins got drunk on its fermenting berries and put on quite a comic show, and on a very frigid New Years Day in 1998, a red-tailed hawk went eye to eye with me from one of its lower branches. Last summer, when my neighbor’s adjacent tree split, that hackberry prevented it from falling onto my roof. 

In a way, I liken this event to putting down a pet that has gone past the point of having any quality of life.  One always questions if it was the right thing to do, if another solution might have postponed the inevitable, a very emotional time.  Well, like the photos we all have of those family pets, past and present, I have some photos of that tree from over the years, and will simply add one to the area I call my Good Dog Wall of Fame (and now a tree) that I keep in my office.  

Finally, here’s a quick update on Mama Duck, still happily ensconced in the somewhat wild outback of my yard.  She flies off about dusk each evening to forage I assume, leaving the ten eggs well camouflaged with her pile of downy feathers, and by my near estimation, has a good two weeks to go.  She has proven to be very tolerant of my movement in the yard, and I am mindful of her presence and just work around her quietly, giving her wide girth.  I keep the fence gates latched against stray dogs, but not much more to add, just a nesting duck for now. We are trying not to get attached; after all, she’s a wild creature, and the perils of the wild exist, even in one’s back yard.  Although I am treating her as simply a point of interest, I can’t help but care for her a little. My son commented that it seemed a sweet mother’s day gift, as I discovered her that weekend. With luck, she’ll hatch her ducklings and leave me for a better area with due haste. I just hope to get a look before she heads out with her fuzzy brood.     

 And here is a happy development.  If you have Midcontinent cable service and a digital television, you can see re-runs of Garden Line at 6PM on Saturdays on PBS channel 2.3, called the Create channel.  Although the shows won’t be weather or growing condition current, they are still a rich source of garden information, and the familiar faces make the loss of that additional constant a bit easier to bear.  I have to add here that I had a bitter-sweet moment when the first question on the first re-broadcast was one I had emailed them in 2010 about my leaning mulberry tree, now straightened up and thriving.  Life just circles around us.