Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Desert or the Flood

Pictures of New Orleans have burned through all our retinas by now. Which is worse --the toxic waters or the toxic politicians that swam to the surface of the roiling waters Katrina left in her wake? Some strange species emerged from the muck.

Meanwhile, here in our little neck of the woods everything is dry and brown. The last significant rain was August 26th. September 2005 was the second driest on record. Now, in October,the weather is lovely: typical October days in the 70's, sunny, warm and dry. Oh so dry. It is dispirting to crunch across the brown chaff that used to be our lawn, to see the dogwoods shrivel as though they'd been burned. They are grey and limp, waiting for moisture.

I've long let the annuals go, hoping to save some of the larger perennial specimens without running the well too long. But even some of theose will have to be planted again when normal weather returns. The dwarf astibles will likely not come back next year, nor will the bleeding heart I put near the holly. Also, the wild geranium -- cranesbill -- is no doubt going to die off. Their roots are so shallow anyway, they don't do well in prolonged dry spells.

We are seeing more wildlife in the yard, too. It must be that the woods are dry and not producing their usual seeds and fruits. There have been several turkey flocks, and the deer have come out during the day to eat the ivy. You know things are bad when the deer will do that. Ask any extension agent, they'll tell you deer don't eat ivy. Unfortunately, ours seem to find it quite palatable.

I'd planned on putting tulip bulbs in this Fall, but when the dry weather settles in here, the red clay soil begins to resemble the bricks it is used to make. You'd need a pick to dig those holes.

One bright spot, though: the tree man came today to begin the long procrastinated job of pruning the oaks and removing the trees and limbs that might come down in a storm. In less than half an hour he had that sixty foot wild cherry topped and dropped. Amazing. He left it in two long sections for a cabinet maker we know to come and get them for his wood working shop.

Pruning the oaks takes longer. One is mostly done and the result has opened up parts of the east side of the house to much more sun. Perhaps the red currant tree can grow straighter now that it's out from under the shadow of that huge oak branch. And we can rest easier knowing that the other large branch is no longer hanging over the roof, waiting for a good storm to take it down.

In one of my first summers here we had a storm so severe I wondered if the house would hold. The rain came down so fast and furiously it filled up all the window wells and ran into the house, down the walls and across the floors. Ball lightning flashed in the kitchen outlets and the cat and I tried to figure out the safest place to be until the darkness blew over.

When the Baron came home from his landscape painting we talked wonderingly about the intensity of that storm. The Baron said the tree must've made a tremendous noise when it fell. Tree? What tree? Why, the oak out back...I looked. That huge oak, one of three that must be at least sixty years old or more, had simply fallen over. And in the sturm and drang of that noisy storm, its fall had been muffled.

Never mind the tree falling in the forest. The tree falling in the storm has no one to hear it fall, either.


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