Monday, April 11, 2011
Three Saturdays ago the 15 acres of hayfields just few hundred feet from the Blue Ridge escarpment were still gray. Two Saturdays ago there was a hint of color. Last week you could tell what that color would be. And two days ago it was verifiably if not thoroughly green. The daffodils down by the old homeplace -- shedding its skin on the southeast corner where a winter wind had gnawed away at its weathered siding -- were in full bloom; 150 feet up the hill on the site of a long-gone dairy barn, the first asparagus tips were peeking through the ground. By the end of this week Fran Strickland, 88 years old an a veteran gardener, will have to cut it every day. If you've ever grown asparagus in a fertile garden, you know what I mean. It'll practically jump out of the ground. You have to keep up with it.
There are 23 bushes in Hal Strickland's blueberry patch, and for the first season in more than 40 years he won't be around to tend them. He passed away in December at age 97, barely four weeks after he had shoveled more mulch around the 18 veterans and the five younger plants he had cared for. A few years ago we all pitched in and put up a complicated angle-iron frame work and spread black plastic netting over it to keep the birds and other small critters from eating the berries. A single ice storm two Thanksgivings ago brought down the whole shebang; last year we just shared with the birds.
I cranked up the tractor and scooped up 15 bucketloads of mulch, dropped it into an aging 4x8 trailer and trundled it down one hill and up the other to provide another layer of mulch. It's still cool at night up there in the blueberry patch, but young green shoots of weeds and something that looks like spring onions are already poking through.
Up there at 3,200 feet, spring rolls in a good six weeks after it slides up through Raleigh and Greensboro. I've yet to see the first firepinks, but the may apples are starting to show, and somebody pointed out the other day where the bloodroots are coming up along a path we were hiking.
We're keeping an eye out to see what comes back this year. After a big fire last June, a forester told us we'd probably lose the big poplar on one side and the big maple on the other, even if they came back the first year. Those old sentinels had become family friends, acquiring names in a quaint Southern Appalachian tradition. Archy and Mehitabel, we called them, after characters created a century or so ago by a New York newspaperman named Don Marquis. Mehitabel looks like it's showing buds up there near the top; Archy is still sleeping in. We're holding our breath, and watching for the green.
Posted by Jack Betts at 3:39 PM