Thursday, February 21, 2008

Honeylocust, Sticks, and Frozen Dirt

Even though there was a dusting of snow yesterday morning, I was able to work the soil. But alas! The temperature plummeted last night, so the ground was iron-hard and undiggable again this morning. It was too cold even to sulk around outside wishing for Spring.

As long as the weather cooperates, I plan to spend an hour each morning before work turning over the new vegetable beds. Digging turns out to be a comfortable sort of exercise for me while pregnant, at least for now. My alternative is Chris’ rowing machine, which is all well and good; I just prefer exercise that also happens to get something done. Maybe because I spend my work days in a dark room at a computer, but I love manual labor outdoors, even in the cold or the wet or the heat.

Last weekend in desperation for a thaw I started moving sticks around in the woods. It was really just an activity to cure me of the fidgets, but there was something about rounding up the deadfall that made me feel like I was laying claim to our bit of woods. It did hammer home that Winter is really the one time that all of our backyard is fully accessible. Once the plants start to green up, various parts of the woods will either be too muddy, too dense and tic-filled, or too full of poison ivy or poison sumac to venture into.

I discovered a new type of tree while lurking about back there: honeylocust. There are two saplings back there. They appear to be suffering from a fungus, unfortunately, but hopefully with a bit of trimming they’ll recover. Honeylocust is a native tree whose wood is sometimes used in furniture-making and as firewood, but it isn’t common. In fact, it looks downright exotic, because it is covered in two-inch-long thorns. I’m guessing the thorns are what prevent it from being planted much as an ornamental, because they are capable of puncturing tires as well as feet. They also have a particularly short lifespan for a tree: 120 years or so. But they are excellent in city sites, because they do well in poor growing conditions, apparently, which is why I’ve only ever seen them growing in downtown Providence.

I love learning this stuff.

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