Planning the plantings and watching the clouds

The lingering Winter makes it hard to believe that many of this year’s Bluecircle tree seedlings will be planted over the next 4 weeks.  The Chief River Nursery Co. of Grafton WI and the Berrien County Conservation District will again be my chief suppliers.  The conifers  will be scaled back both in number and variety to Scotch Pine, Black Hills Spruce and Red Pine.  I expect these to be more drought-resistant than White Spruce, and the new well stands in reserve.  However, success or defeat depends largely on timely rain.IMG_0912

For the first time this year we will supplement poplar cuttings from hybridpopular.com with some from the Bluecircle, more on that in later posts.  The early failures of the majority of poplar cuttings last year may have been due to premature emergence of leaves, so for the first time these cuttings will be sprouted on the Farm.

For the first time red oak and sycamore will be added to the plantings, albeit in small numbers.  Some of these will have the additional protection of nursery pots so drip irrigation can be added if the clouds fail to deliver enough moisture.  Both species represent investments in the next century inspired by the still-standing stumps of native oaks that graced these fields 100 years ago.

Near the Conservancy

Near the Conservancy

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Winter always ends in March madness

Whether it’s the abrupt swings in temperature, or gusty winds that bring snow one day and inches of mud the week following, March brings an uncertain mood. The frozen lake and icy woods of February were predictable, and the lake winds yielded only a few inches a day of snow. No trace of green emerged from the frozen sand. But now, almost mid-way through unpredictable March, sunny spots yield a few tiny leaves. On the sunporch late mornings provide a surprising warmth. Should I set out pots of poplar cuttings, or will another week of colder-and-wetter-than usual weather lead to complications? If we order seedlings will the weather co-operate or will the ground still be frozen and infertile when they arrive? Risk abounds.
Comparing a basketball tournament to celebration of the Greek Olympics may be a reach, but the Gods of March (and Olympus) must enjoy our focus this month on a game that has “Cinderella teams” upsetting those with far more consistent winning records.  A game that can be won in 50 seconds (or 5 seconds) by fouling at the inbound pass and reducing the outcome to a simple game of “horse” from the free throw line  is wholly consistent with the March madness that surrounds us this time of year.

A bucket of tree flags retrieved from the Bluecircle plantings at year’s end is a reminder that success comes from advancing despite risk.  The uncertainty of the season will not prevail or block a forward path.

Markers of the fallen