May 21, 2020

The never-ending brush pile

Having a lot of trees means we always have a lot of sticks and limbs to burn. If we want the place to look decent, that is. We could let everything stay where it lands, but then we'd be knee-deep in deadwood. The solution is we burn, which is what we did this Monday past.

A strong wind is Mother Nature's pruner. Dead limbs and sticks come down. I pick them up. Sometimes what comes down is the entire top out of a tree. Wood with a large diameter gets cut to length for the woodstove. Everything else gets tossed on a pile that gets burned on a regular basis. 

It's a family affair. If we're working outside, the dog is generally right there with us. Our current cat, Loki, will meander around to keep an eye on us, but he's not a helper. He's a watcher. With this cat, that's almost as scary as it sounds. 

Burning is hard work. The brush is usually awkward and heavy. Having a battery-powered chainsaw helps. Once the fire is going, there is time to take a break and enjoy the flames and being outside. Once the center burns out, the edges need to be raked in so that material burns. Having the John Deere 1023 with a bucket really helps. The tractor does the work. I spent years using a rake and believe me, the tractor is better! 

Once the fire dies down, it's time to wet down the area and let it finish. My office has a window where I can keep an eye on things. Wetting down the ash forms a crust, and what's underneath smolders away to ash. Then it's time to start the process over again.

There will always be the next big wind that prunes the trees. It's just the way things are. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

May 11, 2020

Peonies - almost there

May 11, 2020
My mother and grandmother both loved peonies. My grandmother had a row of them planted along her driveway, and my mother did the same thing in 1965 when she and Dad bought their house. My grandmother, in fact a lot of the older women I knew as a child, called them "pineys." 

When I moved to the manor, my mom insisted I have a start of her favorite variety, one that is pink with a yellow center. The problem with that was I'm not the same caliber of fan my mother and grandmother were. But I was dutiful in those days. 

Somewhere along the line, probably in 1993 when my mother sold the house she and Dad had lived in, I went to the row beside the driveway and dug starts for a white, red, and mauve-ish pink, and planted them in a row front of the porch. Pink, white, red, step, red, white, pink. The women before me were more haphazard in their plantings. 

I must admit that, now, in the spring, I wait for the "pineys" to bloom, checking them daily for progress. The deer taught me a hard lesson - if I live here I can't have many flowers. I spent years doing backbreaking gardening only to have the deer eat the flowers down to the ground. They don't eat my peonies. 

It won't be long now until they open and the connection to my grandmother and mother comes full circle for another year. I have a lot of those connections and they mean more to me with each passing year. 

I miss having lots of flowers. I do. But it's too much work and the deer too plentiful to spend all that time so they can have a salad bowl every year. Life on the manor is a mixed bag. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

May 3, 2020

An old fashioned spring

a late dusting of snow
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, we are enjoying an old-fashioned spring. February brought lots of snow flurries, March was truly windy, April was wet with gentle rains, and it looks like our last nighttime freeze may well be mid-month. The ground has been slow to warm, but the little peeper frogs are in full voice after dark. 

As a girl, I wasn't allowed to wear shorts until after the first of May. I thought it was silly but looking back I see a certain wisdom in it. While the May breeze holds hints of warming, there is still a little bite of dampness there. 

I'm not bemoaning this slow spring. Everything is happening as it should. The trees are leafing out and the maple seeds hang heavy on the branches. Bare spots in the lawn are filling in and it's time for it to receive a last over-seeding. The lilacs are blooming, such as they do, and those blooms are lasting a long time. The ajuga and wood hyacinths cover the bank in shades of pink and purple. The tulips and daffodils have bloomed, and the hostas are mid-way to their full size. 

Everywhere I look I see something that needs to be done or will need to be done in a few days. It would be daunting if I allowed it to be. Instead, I prefer to look at it as part of my stewardship of this small part of the land. 

The peonies stand tall at this moment. They're full of buds and must be tied before the blooms open and weigh down the stalks. The lilacs will need to be pruned. Every year I make a circuit around the yard and cut back maple tree limbs that hang low enough to be a nuisance while mowing. And yes, the grass needs to be mowed. If I were able to purchase mulch I'd spread it but we remain under house arrest due to COVID-19. I am truly tired of my constitutional rights being trampled upon even as I understand the need to keep myself safe. 

It's not that being home on the manor is a hardship, but so much of what needs to be accomplished requires items I don't have. Like mulch. If this old-fashioned spring has taught me something, it's that my level of preparedness needs to be upped. Even life at the manor isn't immune to the actions of outsiders. I just need to out-think them. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor