Monday, May 02, 2005

Crazy weather, alders, more music

It's the second of May, and the thermometer read 25 this morning, with expected highs in the 40's. Yesterday, May Day, was windy, with skies alternating between cold sunlight and dark clouds laden with sleet and snow. We did get outside for a while; Russ has been clearing alders behind the horse pasture and the kids and I worked on stacking the branches in brush piles. I can't find much good to say about alder. They grow low and brushy, their narrow trunks slumping low to the ground, creating an impassable mess. When cut, they leave uneven stumps that can chew up truck tires if you back over one while unloading hay. Ask me how I know. The wood rots too fast to be much good as firewood, although I've heard it's good for smoking meat.

Russ has cleared back to a small pond, about 50 x 20 feet, that was surrounded by alders. The pond was probably excavated when this land was mined for gravel; I found a depth of 2 feet close to one edge, and it's probably even deeper in the middle. The pond is between the horse pasture and the creek. Previously it has been difficult if not impossible to walk to the creek without going out to the road. Now with a little more clearing we'll have a nice trail to the creek. The kids and I discovered a nice spot along the south bank yesterday, where the old logging railroad crossed. The trestle is gone, but the mounds of earth are still there, grown over with birches and spruces. The creek narrows at this spot before opening up into a wide, deep pool that probably holds more than a few brook trout. The sound of the water rushing over rocks there is very soothing. I've been coming to this land for ten years now, and we still haven't discovered all of the magic places like this. Joe asked me this morning if we could go to the stream again; to a three year old boy that was a big adventure!

I planted another flat of tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos yesterday. My first flat of tomatoes has been doing the darndest things lately. At first I thought nearly all seedlings were lost to damping off disease; they were so spindly with tiny little leaves. Some varieties sprouted only one or two plants, and some none at all. Then some of the plants started looking more robust, and they are now doing quite well. And now, a month after I first planted, some of the seeds are beginning to sprout! I've never seen such variability in tomato seedlings.

I can't get enough of playing music lately, and I feel like I've never sounded better. I went to Fred and Missy's house for a while Saturday afternoon while Nina was at a birthday party in town. Fred and I played a few songs, then Joel, the banjo player in their band, showed up. It turns out Joel and I are college classmates; we were even in concert band together. Small world. With Fred on mandolin and Joel on banjo, I ended up playing guitar a lot more than I have in a while. I've never really tried any flatpicking solos, but when it was my turn for a break I picked a few notes, some of which started to sound like the right ones. And I sang a few songs; for some reason my voice just flowed smoothly, not shaky or tense at all. I was given the ultimate compliment when Joel said it reminded him of Iris DeMent, then later Fred told me Missy thought I sounded like Emmylou Harris. Wow! Russ has told me I sound like Emmylou before, and let's face it...I secretly want to be Emmylou! But seriously, I feel like there's a reason I'm going through this musical awakening and finding people to play with. It's a part of me that has been in the dark too long, that I've ignored or downplayed. I feel like I have a gift, and I need to use it to the best of my ability.

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