Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Out in the woods, the delicate pink blossoms of the hepatica are scattered about the back meadow, along with pale purple wood violets. The fiddle heads of ferns are unfurling, and the wild ramps accompany them along the back of the barn. Barn swallows compete with bluebirds for the birdhouse nearest the garden gate. In the small orchard by the chicken coop, the pear trees blossomed today, the sour cherry trees are almost ready to bloom, and the tiny apple blossom clusters are tinged a deep pink, just waiting to burst open!

A peek at the vegetable garden shows two spears of asparagus poking up out of the soil. I picked a large bowlful of spinach this afternoon, and chopped up some chives and got them in the dehydrator. I also finished dehydrating the nettles I gathered yesterday... so far I've gotten one whole gallon of packed, dried nettles for tea and tossing into fall and winter soup.

The peepers still call from the marshy places in the fields and woods. Salamanders can be spotted floating near the top few inches out back in the pond, and while gathering rocks this evening to finish a stone border around the windmill, I came across a few black and yellow salamanders under the stones, as well as a small garter snake. The black flies were pesky enough as the humidity increased tonight, and by the time I finished the chores and settled into the porch swing, it began to rain. As I finish this, the first thunderstorm of the season is winding down, and with it, the anxiety eases for my poor old husky, who even at 14, with failing eyesight and hearing, is still frightened by the flashing lightning.
Happy May!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Burning wood

Apple wood for fragrance, Ash for violet glow,
Hornbeam, Larch and Sassafras, such lovely words to know.
Sycamore's serenity, Hickory's embrace,
Oak to scatter golden sparks before the watcher's face.

Juniper for incense, Birch for flame and flare,
Someone to come walking in with snowflakes in her hair.
Darkness past the windows, wind about the eaves,
And friend to friend relating the thoughts the heart believes.

Hemlock, Spruce and Poplar, say them softly now;
Chestnut, Pine and Mountain Ash, Beech and Cherry Bough.
                                  ~Esther Wood, 1905-2002

So much of our winter centers around wood, especially in the form of firewood. We heat pretty close to 100% with firewood, using wood furnaces in the garage and shop, as well as in the house. There is also a fireplace in the living room, and two smaller ones in two of the upstairs bedrooms. Both the kitchen and the summer kitchen have wood cookstoves. I use a wood fired stove to boil down the maple sap during sugaring season.
The firewood is cut on our property, hauled out with the tractor, and cut, split and stacked in the woodsheds. After it has seasoned, before winter comes again, it is stacked nearest the wood stoves and furnaces in each building, where it provides warmth yet again. We try to keep two years worth of dry wood ahead.
Most of the wood selected for burning is dead or dying... hickory, maple, oak, white and yellow birch, and especially beech. The beech have been hard hit by blight... not just the big old trees, but the young as well. The bark becomes cankered and checked, and if the trees are not culled, they will topple and decay quickly. It is hard to look at the areas once filled with the soft grey beech trees, now becoming cleared out patches in the woods. Yes, young beech sprout up everywhere and fill in these patches with their bouquets of dry rusty leaves, but their fate will be the same. Still, I am grateful to know that the majority of the wood that is cut to provide our winter comfort were not vigorous healthy trees.
My daughter often scours the woods for various pieces of hickory, ash, pine and beech to use in carving wooden spoons and such. I am waiting for the cutting of the next season's firewood to gather some hickory and maple for crochet hooks. And unfortunately, I have two 20+ year old apple trees that need to be culled and added to the pile for the kitchen stove. The fragrance of burning applewood is a favorite of mine. And I especially love splitting hickory and yellow birch.
Needless to say, it's almost the time of year to start cutting and hauling trees. Like many of you, we were hit with snow from the Nor'easter this past week, and are waiting for some of the snow to melt. Meantime, trees that weren't marked for cutting in autumn will be tied with red tape or a spray painted X, and soon will be laid up in the field to season til the weather is right for cutting and splitting.