Artful Land Care

Willow

In Poetry on May 13, 2018 at 10:00 am

 

Rooted willow stands outside
Front window.  Morning twilight.
Neither light nor dark.

Black trunk and branches
Rise. Sillohetted against the
Dark light blue sky.

Small branches wing out.
Tips loose themselves in
Lighted dark blue sky.

Willow without one leaf
On one branch.  Rooted
Lightly in dark ground.

 

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Craned Neck

In Animals, Landscape on April 29, 2018 at 10:00 am

A warbling trumpet sound wanders across the valley.  Must be mid-March for the sound can only mean the Sandhill Crane has returned.  Having left the warmth of the south for northern places, the valley provides rest and food and thoughtfulness.

The arrival of the crane means it is time for spring tilling.  Scattered tractor engines belch black smoke after their winter idleness.  Then settle into smokeless back and forth movement across fields.  Few in number this early in the season means the sound of a single tractor working the hop field a mile to the north can be distinguished from one disking a cornfield half mile to the east.  Over the low growl of engines, a sound without equal encourages eyes to wander the sky.

Two factors work against your first glimpse of spring cranes.  Their trumpet sound is heard for miles and by the time you hear it they’ve traveled a good stone’s throw from where they spoke.  Then, the March sky is the gray of rain.  Delineating between their gray bodies and the undulating grays of clouds takes persistence.  However, the payoff is worth persistence and close listening.

A first spring sighting of a Sandhill Crane flock is a view one hopes will linger into that era after life is lived. Their over-reaching wingspans slipping across the sky is something of the ancient.  And as a flight of dozens glide through the valley as if they are floating upon unseen swales, one experiences a gift.  Of the ages.

Twenty-three settle upon the north end of the west pasture.  It’s the first week of April.  As soon as they land they point their bills south and begin feeding.  Guards with long necks, regally straight, walk with an eye toward the strange and predator.  Others feed. Soon there is a a changing of the guards.  Guarders drop necks to feed and feeders rise to guard.  The constant change from guard to feeder to guard is a communal act of safety, family survival, and natural relationship.

The eating Sandhill walk is as graceful as it is odd. Leaning forward over ridiculously long legs with backward knees seems it should come across as awkward.  However, the lean comes with the long neck bent into a double U, one U upward the other downward—not unlike the p-trap under the kitchen sink—which gives the observer a natural sense of balance.  This stance also places their bill perpendicular to the ground.  Ready for feeding.

Step by step they feed across the field.
Without sound.

A tractor a few miles to the west fires up.

Of Spring and Dandelion

In Seasons on April 15, 2018 at 10:00 am

Wait for the right moment: Length of day.  Temperature.  A drenching spring rain.  Two days. From the ground they spring, abundantly, with fortitude.  Their numbers shout, no-matter-what-you-do we will out populate your work and survive and win.

Prior to rain, one rises, here and there, and tells all who’ll listen of what is soon to transpire.  Rain turns prophesy to reality.  By the hundreds dandelions are everywhere.  The abundance of flower is such that it is impossible not step upon one during a morning walk across a dew watered field.  Their abundance changes the spring greenscape into a landsky of yellow stars.

Dandelions fill the valley, but true abundance comes in the place of disturbance.  Native ground allows seed to settle and have life here and there.  However, pastures and hay fields where soil is opened by hoof and harrow sanctions exceptional seed to soil contact.  The yellow of hundreds of pasture dandelions extinguishes all doubt winter is of yesterday and spring is of now.

Being a wholly edible plant, one would think the dandelion virtuous and desirable.  Perhaps it is our local food store privilege.  Perhaps it is simple laziness.  Perhaps it is desire for an immaculate monoculture green lawn. Whatever the reason, the yellow dandelion flower raises the ire of many.

No ire for the goat though.  Dandelions are a goat’s plant of wonder.  Entering a pasture after dandelion flowers have risen is a goat moment not unlike that of a child spilling their candy upon the floor after a Halloween outing.  Such good life is unbelievable.  Such good fortune!  The low-lying flower is especially theirs.  While sheep will eat dandelion, they have little enthusiasm for its bitter leaf. The low lying character of the dandelion holds little interest for cattle because the distance between nose and teeth is greater than the height of flower and leaf.  But for the goat.  This is the flower of the gods…mmmm.

The spring dandelion is a bold reminder of life after a long winter.  The audaciousness of the lion’s yellow tooth smile beside its gift of total edibleness brings vivacity to sight and belly.  Winter is gone.  Spring has come.  With the pluckiness that comes with others thinking it a lowly weed, the dandelion is nothing if not confident enough to sidle up beside the daffodil and claim William Wordsworth’s poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud, as its own.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils