May 6, 2009
In April, the weather at Brightside Acres is fitful, to put it mildly. One day the wind blows warmish and thick, vaguely perfumed, despite the absence of flowers, or indeed of anything green. The next day it snows, and the next after that it rains. Sometimes, to my abiding astonishment, all three conditions occur in a single span of 24 hours. It seems that regardless how many layers I take with me when I leave the house, I still spend most of the day alternately sweating or shivering, and too often wet.
It's futile to plan more than an hour or so ahead. In truth, it's silly to plan at all--sure to lead to nothing but disappointment.
Although this fact of mountain life tends to make me cross, I also know that it is one of the gifts of living here. Like most humans, I like to pretend that I'm in control. Schizoid Spring weather forces me to set this illusion aside and take each moment as it comes. I have to admit that I'm not at the helm of this ship--I'm merely along for the ride. Best try to enjoy it.
And I do. Living within each moment is a liberating experience, with a decidedly limbering effect on the mind. It forces me to take notice of what I might otherwise have ignored, or simply been oblivious to. It opens me to possibilities otherwise unimaginable.
Of course, all of these benefits are easier to remember when the seat of my pants isn't wet.
Not that I'm complaining. After all, April is only 30 days. The reward of living through each moment of them is the wonderment of May.
April is Nature's time of necessary preparation for May's topsy-turvy growth. I do what I can to help Her along. In April, this means pruning and fertilizing the fruit trees and grapevines.
Although folks who live in the valley may start this work in February, I have found that schedule impractical up here. Often well into March the ground remains frozen and the weather Arctic, with sub-zero wind chills routine. We usually have our first real warm-up around March 20, the first official day of Spring. After this date it will get cold again and will likely snow--often in significant amounts--but neither will stick around for more than a day or two at a stretch.
Filled with a sense of happy anticipation, I begin in the orchard of four-year-old apple trees below the road to the spring. This is the first time I will have looked closely at the trees in five months. I have what can only properly be described as a maternal interest in how they are faring.
I kneel beneath one of the tallest of the young trees (at about 12 feet) and remove the plastic sleeve used to protect it from deer. The bark looks healthy. The tiny buds lining the limbs are still weeks away from swelling. I trim back suckers from the base of the trunk. Then I stand back and examine the crown of the tree from several angles. Two vertical limbs are competing to be the central leader. I cut one of them out. I notice several limbs growing inward, toward the central leader. I cut those out. I notice two branches growing one immediately above the other. I cut out the one that appears less vibrant. I stand back and look at the tree. I envision what the tree will look like when it is full grown and producing apples. I pound a couple of six-inch fertilizer stakes into the ground with a sledgehammer and then replace the protective sleeve. I wish the tree a healthy Spring.
Although no one is working with me, I am not alone. Quite the contrary: I relish the conversation.
Do I know for certain that everything I am doing is correct? No, I don't. But I've learned to trust the trees. They'll tell me soon enough when I've made a mistake.