Wednesday, February 23, 2005

End of an Era

I spent this morning cutting up a huge old elm tree, the largest, and last in our woods, dead of Dutch elm disease. I had told everyone that it had to be at least 75 years old, but when I counted the tree rings, it was only 37, which makes more sense, as Dutch elm first went through here about 35 years ago, and only young saplings survived. It was a double-trunked tree, though, which made it much larger for its age, and 37 X 2=.... well, so I was wrong about the age. The only good thing is that we'll have bushels of morels where the elm was, for a year or two. A large limb had to be taken off a black cherry right next to the elm, in order to drop the dead elm tree, so this morning I started off chopping up the cherry branches, and at that the doe and her two offspring ambled out of the woods, at first nonchalantly making like they were going to head to the north ravine, but when I turned back to my work, they circled in behind me and were soon right next to me, peacefully munching the cherry branches I had piled up. As the elm trees have died out here, black cherry (Prunus serotina) has become the predominant tall tree in the woods, and while having attractive bark, I can't imagine a more frustrating tree to garden under, with tens of thousands of little cherry seedlings springing up in the flower beds every year. I used to pull them all every spring, a laborious job, but then I realized that 95% of them die out on their own; apparently fungi in the soil inhibit the growth of most of them. I read that the American black cherry has become an invasive pest in Europe ( including the Netherlands... here's for the Dutch elm) and apparently the reason for it's invasiveness in Europe is the absence of the inhibiting soil fungi that we have here. It was a good day to be laboring hard outdoors as it was quite chilly, being one of those days where the sky was milky white, like ground glass, sapping the pale sun of its warmth, and the landscape of its color. Even the birds were muted, with only a crow cawing across the pond in the high trees on the bluff. This afternoon, though, patches of blue began to show through, the high clouds being the front edge of cold air dropping down from the Alberta prairies, and so the day turned brighter, though colder. I wandered the garden paths, and was surprised with the cold to find a few tiny Cyclamen coum flowers pushing up through the mulch, their bright mauve color seeming out of season in this weather. As I continued walking the paths I noticed many more cyclamens in shades of palest lilac to hot pink also pushing up their flowers like little brightly coloured stars against the drab ground.The sun was now out, the cyclamens had lifted my spirits, and Snickers the kitten was racing up and down the pathways, showing off by jumping in the air and flattening old flower stalks, and then she found a little melted spot in the ice on the goldfish pond to have a drink.We both headed back to the house in good spirits after a satisfying day's work.

Comments:
Sorry about the elm, It's hard to loose nice trees like that. Perhaps you can plant some resistant strands of elm in the woods to help fill the void?
Its neat you have critters come so close. We get the occasional dear 9mostly during breeding season) and some rabbits, squirls and a lot of toads but thats it. I figgure thats doing pretty good for living in a city.
 
Don. I didn't know you were such a poet. Your decription of your time in your little Eden is quite lovely. I suppose I should have suspected it when I explored your beautiful garden the first time last spring.
 
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