Spring Slowly Coming to Northwest Alabama

Reader Contribution by Mary Carton
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Normally this time of year my peonies and daffodils are finishing up blooming. This year, daffodils are just beginning to bloom and my peonies are just starting to stick their heads out of the ground. I was worried about the wheat crop, but most fields are starting to green up and grow. I’m really worried about my baby of Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner live oaks with the coldest weather we’ve had since the 1960s. It is about 300 miles north of its growing zone but has managed over the years to grow from a 2-foot-high seedling to a tree around 15 feet tall.  Farmers are plowing, fertilizing fields and planting corn.

Winter is still trying to hang on, but Mother Nature has been very nice with the schedule. We’ll have cold during the week with snow or freezing rain and on the weekends, temperatures in the 70s and just plain nice. Last year she scheduled nice weather during the week, and hit us on the weekend with the nasty cold stuff.

The rats moved into my greenhouse over the winter, and the Hooligans have been busy. Even Levi, whom Mom keeps saying is good for nothing, caught and killed a rat. He was so proud of himself; he was just strutting around and pawing the ground. The fiberglass siding has gotten brittle and a hole developed in the west side due to the afternoon heat and sun. The Hooligans were after something and made an exit hole through the bottom panel of the storm door. The way the greenhouse was constructed by my contractor, it wasn’t usable in the summer nor winter. Since I converted my screen porch to a garden room, I plan to make a garden screen room out of it and build another greenhouse using recycled windows.

My Cherokee Purple tomatoes are up and almost ready to transplant into single containers. I need to mow the weeds and put the tiller on my tractor and get my garden plowed up. It’s time to put out spinach and cabbage and onions and corn. I have some Brussells sprouts set out in my flower beds. I haven’t noticed them lately, and need to make sure the Hooligans haven’t eaten them. 

I’ve been doing some spring cleaning in the garden. Two of my apple trees were blown over by a tornado a couple winters ago. They were loaded with apples last spring, so I hated to remove them. They were a pain to mow around and when the apples were ripe, the Hooligans had a field day and ate most of them. One day Blackie ate so many that I worried she was going to be sick with a tummy ache. I took the loader and came in from the opposite direction and broke both off. A plum tree that split open along the trunk after a hard April freeze and snow was still living, but the heartwood was rotten from weather and insect damage. One little bump with the loader and over she goes. A fourth tree bloomed last spring had fruit and suddenly died and fell over into a flower bed. I chained each to the loader and hauled all four backwards to a wild cherry tree, which broke off about 12 feet up after a wind and lightning storm. After backing in with the last one, I had my tractor painted into a corner and dozed myself back out to freedom. I’m waiting to pile up everything and burn after my naturalized field of daffodils transplanted from old home sites finish blooming.

My yard looks like a war zone right now. My neglected flower beds were taken over by hackberry trees, redbud, cedar, privet; wild blackberry and honey suckle vines. I keep wondering what purpose those hateful trees serve and why were they created. I’ve been using a rechargeable reciprocating saw and cutting off the trees below ground level and dumping out in the paths. Most were cut off before, but at the wrong time of year. As a result they formed bushes from below the cut. I’ve gotten a lot done, but still have a long way to go. The vines and privet will need to be dug out.

My Hooligans have me trained well. Blackie has this yelp, like come and help me, when she gets a rat up in a pipe that she can get to. Sunday afternoon I was trying to get some pictures of my new daffodils in bloom. Blackie was in the shed doing her help-me bark. When I walk to the shed she shows me the gate post pipe for a chain link fence. I pick up one end to drag it out in the yard to dump the contents with Blackie biting at the end on the ground trying to pull the rat out. When I get out into the yard, the rat sticks his head out of my end that I’m holding. Needless to say I dropped the pipe; the rat runs out, I’m yelling at Blackie to come to that end. She quickly dispatches of the vermin.

While not fighting hackberries, I’ve been out and about taking photographs, especially of the Bald Eagles and Ospreys near work. A friend mentioned on Facebook he had cedar waxwings at his house. I hadn’t seen any in about 20 years or more. After work I swung by his house and I estimated around 200 were going back and forth between a birdbath and an elm in the yard. Going to work early in the morning after the time change gives me a chance to practice photographing at night.

Another trip was to the ruins of the White House Springs Hotel up on Colbert Heights Mountain south of Tuscumbia. Apparently in the late 1800s it was one of those tourist mineral springs hotels. It must have really been nice. I had stairs down the side of the mountain past a rock cliff shelter, down to a concrete patio where the iron mineral water fed out of the ground. Then it flowed down to a pool. I’m trying to find out what happened to it. I suspect it was a casualty of the Depression. I was photographing the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art’s 50th birthday celebration at the Ritz theatre in Sheffield that night. While I was crawling down the side of the mountain, I kept telling myself not to fall or trip or get snake bit, as Mary Settle Cooney would kill you if you had to call her and tell her she needed to find another photographer at the last minute.

After crawling back up the mountain to my truck, I swung by home to change my socks and shoes and clean the mud out from between my toes. Next it was over to the Hurston Farm to take pictures of a stone spring house and Jim’s Belted Galloway cattle. 1879 is carved on one of the stones in the Spring House. There was a group if Irish Stone masons that were in the area after the Civil War and it’s thought they built it.

Next it was next door to Natchez Trace Harley-Davidson for their 2nd annual St. Patrick’s Day concert. I walked around for a little bit getting pictures of motorcycles, and Max Russell and the Shakedown Kings until I stepped in a hole and turned an ankle. I decided to go home and recuperate before I did something that would prevent me from going to the Ritz.

The Tennessee Valley Museum of Art 50th birthday celebration was a back to the past blast. 2014 Alabama Music Hall of Fame inductee Dan Penn best known for I’m Your Puppet, accompanied by Bobby Emmons on Keyboards provided the concert after the black tie dinner. The Harvey Tompson Trio before. I couldn’t help but think of that Andy Griffith show where Ray Hollister was Mayberry’s representative in a musical contest.  He was very comfortable in his overalls.

I feel dressed up if I’m in khakis. Comfortable is my old holey garden jeans and grass stained T-shirts. Since many of my friends hadn’t seen me dressed up lately, I had orders from several to get my picture taken. 

When I got home one day this week some of my Golden Ducat daffodil blooms were scatted about in the driveway. This is the first year in a long time that they were able to bloom without the buds freezing before opening. I asked the Hooligans who was responsible for littering. Patches sat there staring at me like a disinterested teenager and then licked her mouth. I’m not sure if that was the answer to my question or her telling me it was past time to eat. My other guess would be Blackie chasing Levi.

If you would like to see more picture of the cedar waxwings check out my personal blog Rosedale Gardens.

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