Thursday, March 28, 2024

Oh my gosh, Fruition!

Fruition is on my mind lately as I observe this 3.5 acres after almost 14 years of restoration and watching the nonhuman lives return. Our hearts truly beat faster, recognizing what is happening here; what sharing space gives nonhuman lives and what they give us. It seems too good to be true...that there is hope, that there is action that leads to this hope. Can we laugh or yell or smile too-big together?! If we were together I think I would rush around and hug every last one of you and perhaps we might even jump up and down!

Vernal witch-hazel, Hamamelis vernalis, offers the most seductive, intoxicating scent I've yet experienced in my 45 years of life. I think Steve would agree, but I am writing so I will use my age. He looks my age anyways, so why not? I can't not walk by these blooms and inhale. Sometimes the fragrance wafts west, sometimes north, always carried by the winds of the day. North is when I can't forget they are there because the trail passes by. I walk by, I have things on my mind to go and do and then the plant re-commands my mind. It is suddenly the most important part of my day. The blooms tell me they are there and they have something to give. I go inhale and inhale and inhale. I even start to smile. Sometimes I choke up and shed a tear or two. The joy and awe is that real! When I am deep in the plant inhaling, I notice the small bodied invertebrates eating and how they spend the night tucked into the blooms. I wonder what it might be like to tuck myself into a bloom of riches like that? 

Common hazelnut, Corylus americana, blooms and fruits in the circle drive and did so in February. Steve found many pieces of hazelnut shell tucked into the wood pile this winter; all the husks were chewed into and the tasty nut was gone, making another life anew, offering winter sustenance and an assurance to survive another day. Death may come, but not by starvation. I held the nut shells in my hand and I felt the power in those nuts. We have big plans for hazelnut and of course it involves planting many, many, many more

The male catkins adorn the hazelnut and shed their pollen..

wind blown to the receptive female flowers. It's a challenging time of year when temperatures are cold then warm then cold then warm to rely on cold-blooded insects for pollination. I lay in the sun on the days when the sun is out and always I think of the invertebrates and the reptiles and the amphibians. Powered not by warm blood, but by warm sun or warm temperatures. Fueled by warmth, I feel kinship and I feel deep respect.

Part of our land tending is thinning abundant staghorn sumac here and there to allow diversity to thrive. The sumac stalks needed thinned and we needed a protective fence for chard and beet greens so we made a dead hedge. Two tasks accomplished with nothing purchased; that's the kind of labor we enjoy! The dead hedge made out of soft pithed sumac will offer many nesting sites for native bees and we look forward to watching their excavations and contentment at finding shelter for their young.

Sunny days invite us outdoors and so we unearth buried pots of American persimmons and planted cuttings of elderberry. The elderberry cuttings came from trimmings of a plant overhanging the path by a lot. Half of the unearthed persimmon bareroots are tiny and were sorted out by me and placed in the compost pile by Steve, buried even so I couldn't see them. I thought of them all night during my sleepless hours and woke to tell Steve we better plant some of them. He didn't disagree and seemed quite ready to unearth their potential once again. He soaked them all day to rehydrate their roots. I stuck them as a very large bunch into soil to keep their roots safe until warmer months arrive. 

Our first American toad observation happened right in the area we walked unearthing plants, planting plants and building the dead hedge. Steve saw them first and freaked out for almost stepping on them. He marked their location so as we worked we could be mindful. All day we worked on the sumac dead hedge and checked on the toad. The toad eventually dug themself a very nice divot into the earth and rested till dark. The next day we checked and they were gone. The night they left was warm and moist. Did they go to the pond? To another spot to tuck themselves back into an earthen chamber to wait for more consistent warmth? I sat down next to their empty hole and I stuck my fingers in there. The soil was loose, but with structure, cool, but warm. I rested with my fingers in there and thought about this toad with a whole entire life that is theirs and not mine.

A brown thrasher spent the first part of winter here; our last sighting was the very end of February when the temperatures warmed and the birds transitioned. For a few days no dark-eyed juncos, white-throated sparrows or tree sparrows were here. The red-winged blackbirds and rusty blackbirds moved on. The fox sparrows arrived a few days later with more juncos, more white-throated sparrows. The thrasher must have left when the birds felt the call to push on. It was bittersweet to say goodbye, but this land that wants to hold life, offered sustenance to a bird that usually doesn't winter here. The fruits and seeds we laid our hopes and dreams on came to fruition. Others still have yet to come to fruition, but they are growing and they tell us they are working on it. To give them time and space. Time. Time. Time. Space. Space. Space. 

While the weather swung back and forth and birds came and went, Steve worked on the Countess in preparation for our seasonal habitation at Persimmon South. This field station will offer us access to more areas to explore, more land to tend. The space is small and mostly furnished with material goods we already had. It's a funny thing, being able to make a second space to live out of with things we already have. We spent a weekend there not too long ago working on cutting in our first trail. It's so very exciting! This trail will offer us a place to walk and tend without smashing little ones under our feet. We worked on the north facing slope first because we are planning on planting back all those woodland plants that should be there and that will thrive there, but that aren't there for many reasons. I can hardly think of anything else right now other than those woodland plants. Susan Leopold of United Plant Savers (one of our most favorite nonprofits!!) and Lyla June both presented talks and commented how it's almost as if or is that many of these plants need us humans. They need our tending. They did evolve with us. How can it be any other way? This adjustment in our thinking is changing everything. There will be much more on this in the future via our videos and writings, I am certain.

Hiking miles with Steve, immersing ourselves in nature, is where we regenerate. It gives us something to give. Hiking gives us body movement, space, observation of many other beautiful lives. Hiking brings to fruition our dreams in the cleansing and clarity always offered. It always brings us outside ourselves. What might it be like to be a carnivorous lacewing larvae, disguising ourselves with lichens and mosses to find dinner? To have shelter on a tree?

What might it feel like to be a bumble bee queen, newly awakened and still wet, but on the south warm side of a tree?

Wisdom we do not have, but this mighty, old Red Maple at Knox Woods State Nature Preserve offers much. We enjoy spending time with them and basking in the fruition of their size, of their life, of our lives, of plants bearing their riches.

Thanks for following along with us all these years and taking such significant action in your own way to safeguard this place we all call home. We appreciate you more than you will ever know!