Time Is Short and Flying Fast

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I am always amazed at how quickly time can get away from you, especially at the end of winter. For the past three months, outside work has been at a standstill. First the Holidays kept us busy, and cheerfully so. Then, winter crushed the landscape in full force, bringing cutting winds and subfreezing temperatures, ice and snowfalls, one of which carried a record-breaking 31 inches of the white stuff. Later, winter softened its grip and temperatures eased enough that I could begin planning my late winter maintenance tasks at Life in the Fast Lane.

There are some tasks that need to be done in the winter, when everything is dormant. Fruit trees need to be pruned before they quicken into bloom, but they cannot heal cuts made when the wood is frozen. Scion wood needs to be gathered for future grafting to make new trees and preserve antique varieties. Cuttings of small-fruit bushes must be gathered in the proper time to allow for shipping to trading friends across the country. And all this needs to happen before the Forsythia blooms, heralding the start of the lawn care season and time to spread corn gluten meal. But that’s another task, and another tale.

I live situated along the East coast flyway of thousands, maybe millions, of Canada geese, Snow geese and Tundra swans. Some Canada geese stay here year-round; there are two different hunting seasons for them here, resident and migratory. Before you ask how a hunter is supposed to know whether the goose he’s sighting in on is a migrant or a resident, I should tell you that resident season is scheduled before the migrants arrive. Someone asked me just that question once; sarcastically thinking it was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard — until he heard how it works. All he had to say then was, ‘Oh, I guess that makes sense,’ before quickly changing the subject.

Snows and Tundras, on the other hand, are strictly transient here. We’re just another layover for them. That’s okay; I love to see them when they arrive in mid February. Stately Tundras travel in pods of 10 to 30 birds, hooting and trumpeting their presence. Snows, on the other hand, arrive in hordes, blanketing fields and the lake of a neighboring wildlife preserve. When they launch en masse, they validate their name in an unexpected and unintended fashion — they perfectly resemble TV snow.

Their arrival heralds the perfect time to unlimber the pruners and saws. They had been in the area for about three or four weeks, now, and they are suddenly, conspicuously absent. Also, it would appear that spring is making an early appearance — with a vengeance. Last week, we were shivering through temperatures in the twenties and low thirties. Today, the mercury reached the seventies, and I’m nursing a sunburned scalp. Yep, I forgot my ‘lid.’

More troubling is the buds beginning to push. How did it get so late? What happened to my window? Clearly, I was lured into a false sense of time security. I thought I had all the time in the world, until I didn’t any more. Saturday and now, today (Wednesday) were spent pruning an apple tree and three pears, and gathering scions. Tomorrow will be taken up with pruning gooseberry bushes and (hopefully) collecting some cuttings to share, as long as they haven’t begun to swell. Lord knows, the pussy willow buds have broken a week ago, fat and furry, full of the promise of warmer weather still to come.

When that’s done, I’ll be picking up about 300 pounds of corn gluten meal for a much-needed lawn feed. Soon, we’ll be firing up the lawn mowers again (sigh). It was so nice not having that on the billet every week. Next weekend is my organization’s (BYFG) grafting workshop, where we will share scions of over a hundred different apples and pears (more apples than pears by far) and teach grafting to new friends while we catch up with old friends we haven’t seen in far too long.

Where did the time go?