April Tuesday

Woke to a damp, dark morning. 

Asian Pear

Didn’t look like much hope of sunshine, but it’s Spring, so there’s always hope. Had two new visitors walking awkwardly up the hill. Could not t first identify them: smaller than turkey vultures, larger than crows, wrong coloring for turkeys. When they took flight to the smokehouse and a post overlooking the garden, thee rush of wind under their white-tipped wings was quite noteworthy. Black vultures!

Vulture on Apex of Smokehouse, c.1819.

Black vulture on Post at Garden Gate

Worked on my essay to submit for a contest deadline. The theme is Utopia. I finish and go to the webpage to enter. It has been canceled due to the pandemic. Oh, well. Now I have another year to dream on my utopia.

Talked with a lady from the Department of Forestry. It is frustrating that so much of the government and the land grant schools with agriculture and viticulture programs are subsidized by herbicide companies. I cannot get the answers I need.

Finished turning over a plot in the garden big enough to plop in the rest of my garlic bulbs, a few remaining carrot and radish seeds and packets of beet and turnip seeds.

Mowed a bit around the property, stalling on a slope as I have yet another existential crisis over the tiny blue flowers ahead. I look over my shoulder and realize that I have just neatly beheaded some buttercups and I wonder how others do this. 

Tinker around inside the cabin, performing small repairs which turns out to be a disaster. The crazy glue did not hold the broken fish on the wine cork I got at the Hundertwasser house in Vienna. Friedrich Hundertwasser is a personal hero. There might be an article about him somewhere on this blog. I threw the wine stopper away. The glue may or may not have worked on the other broken stone object, but I still don’t feel like touching it. Five minutes of repair and an hour and a half trying to get the glue off my hands, acutely aware the entire time of the California prop 65 warning on the label and the open wounds on my hands from splinters. I drew a Farm Use license plate to attach over my Janis Joplin one on the Cadillac when I drive it down Pig Run and out into the world with my gasoline containers. And I attached yet another temporary tag to the Subaru bought in February; evidently the Virginia Department of Transportation is operating in slo-mo these days. Swept off and dragged in the twenty-four-foot ladder to wash down the chimney rock. The ladder kept sliding and I didn’t do a very good job.

Then headed out to clear the outer perimeter of the garden for my live fencing project, coupled with using the debris for Phase II of the bonfire project. The live fence project involves planting a tall perimeter of amaranth, a beautiful tall edible grain which also makes a gorgeous red body paint at harvest time (are you wondering just what you’ve been missing in your life?), sunflowers of many different shades, planted close together, these two plantings are intended to discourage deer from entering an area they cannot see. At their feet I will plant marigolds, which allegedly discourage rabbits as well as certain vegetable-loving insects. Rabbits should not be able to hop over my fence but the marigolds evidently signal the warning “Don’t even try.” I am at a loss to envision the testing that resulted in this finding and question both the sanity and the ethics of the tester as well. Even if this is not abusive animal testing in the conventional understanding, who goes out of their way to mess with a rabbit’s head? I do believe the theory that deer are reluctant to hang out too long near fragrant blooms as they want to be able to detect a lurking predator, so a million flowers in and around the garden are helpful. Toying with the notion of turning an acre over to plant zinnias and sell as cut flowers this year.

Then I cart the debris, the piles of brown oak leaves that have blown against the fence and the dead grass matted in clumps beneath them down to the burn pile I hope to torch again soon. Will haul up leavings from bush hogging the lower field too as burning the field has proved too laborious a project. My recent scare with the giant bonfire has me exercising more caution when I burn which means for one, moving slower and burning smaller areas at a time. However, I don’t have a million years to fool around with the lower field and am trying to safeguard my respiratory system which that project was definitely compromising.

So much depends on a red wheelbarrow...

Plenty of charred trees left to burn at the bonfire site. Sooner or later this copse of felled trees will be cleared and I will plant, am thinking weeping cherry to surround a private shady grove for the hammock again.

Bonfire Project Phase II

Looking up from the garden project to this tree. Do you see that it has mistletoe in the top branches? You could pick a bouquet of dogwood flowers (look left) just before you get there. Just sayin’. The frogs are out; soon the lightning bugs will be here to join them. All quite enchanting. I hear a frog in the woods beyond the studio and go hang out to listen. I want to imitate this frog’s call. I wait, lying on the grass stretching to get my back in place and release some of the tension I store in my shoulder blades, especially the right one. Perhaps if I lean more to the left? Lol; how much further left can I lean? My (Republican) father once commiserated with a new acquaintance because his son ‘was like me.’ My father chuckled disdainfully: “He straps himself to the front of Greenpeace boats.” I was honored. The frog is silent. I wonder why I don’t hear the peepers from the pond behind the old c.1819 farmhouse at the edge of the lower pasture. They can be deafening, but I have not heard them at all this Spring. Finally, the frog calls. It is a low bass rolling lalalala with a resounding echo that brings it all together into a fat chuckle. I do a pretty good imitation.

Sunny now. Removed the tarps from the woodpile for the summer and laid them out to wipe down and dry.

Ran around the house chasing carpenter bees with a badminton racket. Like to do this when my hair is down so I look particularly crazy with it flying behind me as I charge in fury.

Decided to get a cold beer and go see what’s going on down at the pond. Find out what’s up with the peepers. It's a bit of a hike down to the pond.

Turns out to be a magical adventure in the understory there, better than a trip into Narnia. Several springs push above the ground near the old farmhouse. I have a few enclosed in my Springhouse, but several more are simply free-flowing across the meadows and through the dark understory, joining together there to head down to the pond and eventually Pig Run. I’d like to harness the ones in the front of the farmhouse and build a lake in the lower pasture, surrounding it with tall pines. Pines grow super-fast here so it is feasible. Look at this beautiful pine growing super-fast.

Pine near the Studio

Anyway, it has been too boggy to bush hog down there and the evil autumn olives have spread ...choking off any reasonable ingress to the pond, so one must stoop into a glorious netherworld of mountain streams and flowering bushes for quite a ways before reaching... well what used to the be the pond but is now a shimmering wetlands of felled cattails.

Broken Cattails

The earthen dam holding the water back has crumbled and the water flows on through. No ice skating next winter unless I adopt yet another project. The water is clear and the watercress will be excellent for sandwiches.


The edge of the pond where the dam once was is a little creepy though. A barbed wire fence divides my property from my neighbor’s. My side is clean, but the other side I cannot reach is littered with old whiskey bottles and rusted cans. The water is milky and murky here and the spot just has a bad vibe as though there was a deadly dispute here once. I pick my way back through the swampy clods of grass and venture up to the overgrown vineyard, wishing I’d win that essay contest and could excavate the autumn olives from the vineyard and start over. I’d erect a tall round oak reservoir like the one on Petticoat Junction at the top of the hill and run the overflow up from the springs below via a solar pump and just use drip irrigation to water the vineyard. The Petticoat Junction reservoir would have a shelf around the interior for towels and beer. It would be a lovely spot for stargazing.

On the way back home I feel confident that I have at last found my tattoo blossom. I have been doing a serious survey of blossoms on the farm this spring (see earlier post Spring on the Farm) to find the perfect one for a tattoo. Check this out: I am thinking apple blossom. This is a bit more profusion that I want, but part of it might be excellent.

Apple Blossom

 Truth is, in all fairness I must wait until the blackberry bushes blossom before I make me final decision. This is for the following three reasons:

1. Blackberry Blossom, Norman Blake

A million marigold seeds from a friend! I tried to photograph the excellent job she did drying them but couldn’t capture the beauty through the plastic bag. I wonder if the coltsfoot leaves I sent my niece and she has yet to receive are moldering in a mail truck somewhere between here and San Francisco.

Back to the house and I want to take a close-up of the dogwood blossoms. They are very cool sprinkled about in the woods as they are here in Virginia, looking like sheets of lace but they are also pretty up close. The prisms hanging inside flicker cool lights: blue, green, pink and I spend a silly amount of time trying to catch these in the photo on my iPhone, unsuccessfully.

Remove my muddy clothes and leave in a heap on the porch. Smile affectionately at the blood orange through the dark tree branches that the sun has left in its trail.

Evening came fast again today. Pulled a bowl of leftovers from the fridge: a curry concoction of potatoes, carrots, peas and sausage. Bit into a stink bug. Cursed and spent fifteen minutes swirling around various concoctions in my mouth. Too tired to fix anything else. A bowl of Cheerios it is. Did you know Cheerios provide 70% of the minimum daily requirement of iron? Good thing.

Haul muddy clothes to the washer in the basement. Hot soapy shower.

Too late for screen time. Stare out the window at the stars. So many.

Haul a heavy book into bed and fall asleep before I open it.