Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Tree-planting in the Snow

The weather’s rubbish! Today is the first day of spring, but there’s no sign of even a daffodil. For tonight the Weather Oracle predicts a frost of -10 Celsius! More snow is on the way --- no sign of spring for at least another two weeks. Do you hear me whining? Actually, the Earth has nothing personal against Scotland or the UK. This Narnian winter (always winter and never Christmas) extends from Russia through Poland, Germany, France, to all of Scandinavia. Put plainly, the seasonal changes are on hold. We’re stuck in winter. Given that the earth needs a month to warm up before anything planted in it will grow, things do not bode well for our growing season. At least for our vegetables and flowers. As for the bee colony? We're worried.

Why is this happening? The Weather Oracle, rational as always, points to the Jet Stream, located near the Spanish border. He mutters something about a “blocking high” over Scandinavia that prevents our seasonal weather from the West from coming in. It’s not much of an explanation. Far more likely is the hypothesis  that our Earth is not well. As with any sick patient the Earth has a case of the shivers. She needs to lie low until she feels better. But meanwhile, she has withdrawn her energies, so nothing is growing. Why is the Earth sick? What’s the nature of the disease? Don’t get me started on global warming, our impact on the planet.

However this is the time for planting trees, even if the land is covered by six inches of snow. Last fall I prepared planting sites for about 400 trees in our field. I scythed the long grass and piled it high on a clump, marked the spot with a cane. Upon kicking the snow away from a stake I found the grass pile, half rotten, the ground soft and rich under it. And so I sunk a shovel into the ground, opened a slot. In went the bare-root tree. I closed the hole with my foot.

For whatever reason, I found the tree planting quite exhilarating, even in driving snow. I planted an oak grove behind our hillock; lime trees went in over by the labyrinth. A grove of hazel bushes surrounds the spot for a future building. The willows all went in at the foot of the field where one day they’ll form a thicket. Pine trees, Rowan and Birch were interspersed in the upper half of the field. Maple and crab apple? Looking around I saw a clump of canes that in my mind transformed into a new maple grove.

Planting the trees went so easily --- and yet it was a momentous occasion. One day a new forest will transform the land. Maybe we’ll be gone by the time the saplings grow into stately giants.

“When did you plant them?” Grand-kids may ask.
“Well, there was this Narnian winter --- the snow kept falling and we thought it would never end. So I got out into the blizzard, shoved the snow away from the stakes and in went the trees.”

Unlike us trees aren’t bothered by a long winter here, or a missing summer there. They tend to adapt and grow, making the best of our changing climate. They have a different, slower schedule than ours.

Now – I have to make sure that Bambi stays away from them.