Sunday, May 22, 2016


A near miss--toppled white spruces, one day after
    It’s been more than a year since I’ve updated this blog. In early November of 2014 I heard the sound of climate change, embodied in a horrific snow and windstorm that came while the ground was soft and wet. Trees all over the island split in half or toppled from the snow. The sounds of the snapping and falling trees were ominous. Many spruce trees fell, and some apple trees did as well, including the oldest tree on the property, one that according to a pomologist was about 150 years old. 
Toppled Milding apple tree after some limbing
One that was not much younger than that (an old variety called Milding) also toppled over, but after I limbed it back severely while it was on the ground, with a neighbor and his backhoe we managed to right it and prop it back up, and last fall it bore fruit. Another apple tree, not so big or old, a Stayman Winesap that I had planted 30 or so years ago, also fell over, but this one was not so hard to push back and prop. 
Stayman Winesap on the ground after the storm
   The electric power was out for seven days, and I lost a lot of vegetables that I had frozen from the garden, for winter use. The following year, the spring, summer, and fall of 2015, was very busy for me with a great deal of travel. Before retirement, while teaching during the academic year, I could not get away nearly so often. In 2015 I counted eleven trips, some for public lectures, conference keynotes, and other presentations of my still-developing ideas concerning sound and ecology. Some of these ideas have been published (see my other blog, Sustainable Music, for links, as well as my page, for some of the essays). But because I was so busy, I neglected a number of things. Not the vegetable garden; but this blog. 2015 also was an outstanding year for apples—the trees were heavy-laden—but I did not have time to pick and press them and make cider wine. 
     I had another excuse as well; early in the summer I wrenched my back trying to lift a window in a motel room that had been nailed shut, and instead of resting it I continued to do the physical work required around this place until I had to see a doctor, who told me in mid-August to stop everything that involved twisting or lifting  anything heavier than a bag full of garbage. After consulting the doctor, and doctor Google as well, I opted for a course of physical therapy rather than back surgery. I have been doing these exercises twice daily ever since, and although my back still hurts from exertion, I am resilient and able to recover quickly and thus able to do what needs to be done around this country house, whether wrestling with the two-wheeled tractor, wielding the chainsaw, and so forth. 
     Besides, in the spring semester of 2016 (January through early May) I emerged from retirement to go back to teaching, holding the Basler Chair at ETSU, giving a series of public lectures, hosting a symposium on music, sound, and environment, and doing a number of other things in Johnson City, Tennessee and environs. One unexpected pleasure was meeting some outstanding musicians, Roy Andrade and Corbin Hayslett, who played guitar duets and trios with me, on the fiddle tunes I’ve been adapting to slack-key guitar. With the end of the semester in early May, I was able to return to New England and experience a second spring. 
Row of onion sets after one week
     Here now for about ten days, I’ve been in the usual opening up mode, moving things in and around, cleaning inside and out, repairing winter damage, making the garden ready, working in the orchard, that sort of thing—nothing out of the ordinary. Because I was in Tennessee for so long, I could not go in time to Fedco to buy the usual onion sets and seed potatoes, so I had to settle for a different variety of potatoes (Red Norland instead of Red Gold), from a local vendor, and a different brand of stuttgarter onion sets.  I’ve grown Red Norland before; they are good early red potatoes but they don’t have the exquisite taste as Red Gold, nor do they size up as well for fall harvest. Local knowledge suggests planting the tubers when the dandelions are out in full force; I was able to follow that advice but I couldn’t plant the onions as early as I like (early May). Onions are day-sensitive; they grow best when the days are longest. Cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, and various greens are in now, some transplants, some seeds. Brussels sprouts should be transplanted out later, so say the garden books; but very local knowledge (my own records) indicates that they do best when transplanted out at the same time as cabbages and broccoli, so they are in the garden now. It has been fairly dry, but also rather cool. The moon will be full in a few days, and (again) local knowledge suggests that it is all right to transplant tomatoes and put in bean seeds after the last full moon in May. The soil is still a little too cool for bean seeds, though not wet (their worst enemy); tomatoes are set back by nights that are below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so I will be monitoring the temperature and checking my weather apps (which seldom agree exactly on high and low temperatures).
   Apple trees are blooming surprisingly well after such a good prior year; usually they are biennial, and besides, this past winter was mild, which usually means fewer blossoms. But the trees apparently did not listen, and have bloomed as if expecting another season of harsh weather. The Prima is in full bloom now, others earlier or (like the exquisite-tasting Golden Russet) later. 
Prima in early bloom

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