I like that quote above. There is something about being tested that makes me dig in deeper, like these gnarly tree roots. Yes, I feel the normal frustrations as everybody else, but when faced with a difficult challenge, I am not usually one to throw up my hands and give up. I’ll grouse and curse, take a break, but I always come back to a difficult problem and then figure out a way through, around, over, under.
I’ve always appreciated the Horatio Alger-type stories. Someone who overcomes the odds to end up on top. I guess I’m the eternal optimist. If so and so could do this, then I can, too. Obviously within reason and physical limitations. I will never be a center on a basketball team. Nor dead lift 300 pounds. But most problems have solutions.
This week I had my credit card hacked. A fixable problem but just an annoyance. And I’ve been dealing with the changes that Facebook made to the operations of some of my pages. I watched numerous videos, consulted a helpful friend, and decided to set the problem aside for awhile. Sometimes a fresh outlook works best. And the weather is still too dang cold to spend much time outside. The temperature was three degrees (F) this morning.
There were a few other things but they all run together after awhile.
Fortunately, I was able to spend a little time in the studio this week – keeping in mind my description of how cold it can be from last week’s post. I didn’t feel like painting so I grabbed some charcoal and began another tree study. This one is of some very interesting roots on a large tree in front of the house. I love the shadows. And the quote to match settled my attitude.
I guess we all have ways of dealing with adversity. Mine is to dig in deeper. Or sometimes step back and take a break, then find a new approach. What is yours?
We’ve had some pretty warm days this past week so I thought it would be a great opportunity to plant some seeds that I’ve collected this past autumn. I had the kids help me collect a five gallon bucket of black walnuts, and I harvested all my bee balm and redbud seeds.
I took a walk up to the big woods to sow some redbud a couple of weeks ago. This is a beautiful understory tree with pinkish-purple flowers in the spring and heart-shaped leaves the rest of the year. You barely even notice the tree when it is not in bloom. It seems to grow well wherever dogwood will grow. We have lots of dogwood but no redbud except in the yard. I collected all the seed pods that I could (a two gallon bucket) and sowed half of them up in the big woods.
This week I sowed the remainder in the second-growth timber on the west side of the property. I crushed the pods by hand and just scattered them as I walked through the trees. I’m sure some will take eventually.
Also, this past fall, I collected all the bee balm seed heads that I could find. I got a coffee can full. I had noticed earlier this summer that the bee balm that I scattered along the road frontage few years ago had made a nice stand of flowers. Our pollinators always need some more help so I thought this would be a good thing. These seeds I scattered in the west second growth timber, along the lane and more road frontage. We’ll see.
The walnuts are a different matter. These are black walnuts and, as I reported earlier this fall, they can make quite a mess in the yard. Highly desired by cooks and very expensive to buy in the store, the trees can be very prolific as they were this year. We had walnuts everywhere. The trees also emit a chemical called juglone which is often poisonous to other plants nearby. Not counting the mess. I thought if I could get some to grow elsewhere on the property, then we might remove the trees close to the house. In past years, local youth groups would come and pick up the nuts and take them to the mill for money. We were happy; it helped them and they helped us.
So earlier this week I took a walk carting a heavy bucket of black walnuts and a shovel. I planted some and others I just tossed out. The squirrels do a great job of planting the nuts. An arborist friend said they do just as well to be scattered as actually planted.
So later this week, I took the remainder of the big bucket of nuts and scattered them in the woods to the north of our house. We have some oak growing there but plenty of room for more trees. We’ll see.
Looks like some cold weather moving in again so I won’t be planting any more bulbs or nuts or seeds this fall. I would be happy if even ten percent of what I sowed this fall comes up. That will make a difference. And help in my fight against the invaders of honeysuckle, multi-flora roses, Russian olives and privet.
It was nice to see that the Virginia pine trees that we planted over thirty years ago are now tall trees. But most of the white pine were eaten by the deer. Well, somebody benefits in the long run.
If you’d like to learn more about planting trees, I highly recommend the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohleben. I asked my local library to order this book last year. They were a bit skeptical and thought it would have limited interest. However, I was recently told that the book has been off the shelf ever since they got it in. Now it is in audio format, too.
Spring is in the air down here in Southern Indiana. The temperatures are warming. The spring flowers are blooming. Our yard and fields are showcasing daffodils and spring beauties.
Earlier this week I was in the woods planting some small saplings of native trees. These are free from the state DNR. As I was locating the new plants, I looked around at all the other trees in the area. In the many years of living here, my boys grew up knowing how to identify trees by bark, leaves, the wood and even the smell of the wood. But I realize that many people have never had the opportunity to explore the woods with some knowledge. So here are some of the trees in our own woods with names that will be familiar to you. By just the bark.
Let’s see how good you are at identification.
These are just a few varieties of trees on our property. I haven’t included the red and white oaks, river birch, ironwood, hazel (a bush, really), sweet gum, pines and more. What is native to your area?
These cheery yellow crocuses are the first to bloom this year. They get extra warmth and shelter near this rock wall.
After what seems like weeks of rain, wind and generally yucky weather (yes, that is an actual meteorological description in the Midwest), we finally had a beautiful sunny and relatively warm day with temps in the 50s. I couldn’t wait to get outside for a bit. This is the time of year to clean up all the winter debris. I know I raked those flower beds so where did all these leaves come from?
This is just a small portion of the area still covered by the chestnut seed hulls. I raked four wheelbarrow loads today and have as much again to rake tomorrow. They didn’t decompose much over the winter.
A big mess in the yard was our last chestnut which we cut down a week ago. We had already cut down two companions previously. The Chinese chestnut is a beautifully shaped tree with an umbrella-shaped top, large leaves, beautiful grayish bark and, of course, lots of chestnuts. These trees were very prolific. This would not normally be a problem as we have plenty of room – ninety acres, remember – and we have loads of other nut-bearing trees. Oaks, walnuts, hickory, plus fruit trees.
Chestnut seed hulls remind me of spiny sea urchins. They are very painful to handle or step on. I only use leather gloves to work with them.
However, chestnuts have a seed hull which is very prickly, like a spiny sea urchin. You can only handle them with leather gloves and they are very painful to step on. They are also very prolific. When we cut down the first two chestnuts, we thought that we wouldn’t get any more seed pods without the pollinators. That was a mistaken idea. As you can see by the debris on the ground, there was still plenty to clean up.
I spent a couple of hours raking and gathered four wheelbarrow loads of hulls. There is still as much again to do tomorrow. What I couldn’t rake will eventually decompose but it will probably be a few years before anyone can go barefoot in that part of the yard.
Chestnut woodpile. All of this wood came from one tree.
Chestnut wood is beautiful with a grayish-green color and kind of stripey. It is also very dense and heavy.
It was a beautiful day. The first crocuses were finally brave enough to pop out. I even spotted a few spring beauties in bloom. In about a month, they will carpet the lawn so it looks like snow.
One of my favorite wildflowers and early harbinger of spring. Spring beauties have a delicate pink stripe which can’t be seen in this photo. I’ll try for another shot later.
I sure was ready for lunch and a rest. And our dog Mikey was ready, too. Keeping me company and following me around was hard work.
You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside, but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel, if one can only get at it. Love will make you show your heart someday, and then the rough burr will fall off.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!