Category Archives: Around the Ranch

Our Waning Pinnacle Days

Parsons Farm Flower Field

In the middlest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, I have a name for this season-within-a-season. These are our Pinnacle Days of summer.

There’s no set start date or end time for Pinnacle Days. You sort of know one day, typically around mid to late June, that we have settled our globe’s rolling-rocking year. Now there is a time for things to grow and to look fuller each day. Until the wane of Pinnacle Days.

Now we approach that time. The “Clock Tree” on US 20 will tell me when our Pinnacle Days have ended, and we will segue into the Harvest Time. Actually, these two may overlap a bit, as harvest begins in the Pinnacle Days. Strawberries first, and Swiss Chard, followed by peas and beans, tomatoes and potatoes, then finally sweet corn. Now we just wait for the pumpkins.

We don’t notice much when things stay the same. Day by day, our summer ticks along. Each day we rise to T-shirt temperatures, go about our business without care. We can leave the windows open, park the John Deere where we please. If you don’t remind yourself that these are the Pinnacle Days of summer, you might not notice until you wake up that foggy morning to a later sunrise and the need for a light wrap.

People are like that. We notice spring because it’s a change. Something different than the day-to-day snow. Snow, snow, snow…then BANG!..flowers, flowers, flowers, and birds (and mud, of course).

We notice autumn. How could you NOT notice autumn? The crisp morning air, warm afternoons, and then Mother Nature’s Fall Fashion Show, as she paints every hillside in temperate zones with dabs of hue and intensity that make every painter envious.

We notice the first flock of Canada Geese headed for Mexico in the fall, or Hudson Bay in the spring. We see “the first robin” as a harbinger of summer, and we await the return of the tiny Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you can’t help but notice the subtle turn to the seasons-within-seasons. This year’s fawns growing bigger, readying for their first winter. Wild Turkey are fledging a second batch this year, they’re roosting in the pines now. At Quiet Creek, the water slows to barely a trickle.

You can know without clocks and calendars the time of day and the season of the year. Black-eyed Susans begin to wind down. Milkweed has spent it’s blooms and now holds pods of feathery seeds, hanging on until after the turn. They’ll fly with the snow. “The down of a thistle” can now be seen, clinging, letting go, flying away. Chicory and Asters bloom in shades of blue, and cattails form their furry brown heads.

And so, September is now upon us. Seasons are not static, there are no defining lines or dates, just the profusion of growth followed by a fullness, and finally, a settling, a slowing. Our Pinnacle Days wrap up, leaving us so many warm memories of the warmest season. We set our sites on the next set of seasons-within-seasons. Frankly, the most breathtaking.

And I will tell myself that I will not shoot a thousand photos of the same tree I took a thousand photos of last year, and the year before, and the thousand-or-so years before that.

Reflection Of Fall

Next thing I know, I’m sorting a thousand snapshots while watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

The Cottonwoods

Barn & Cottonwood

See that big Cottonwood tree on the left? I planted that tree. When I did so, it was a little twig no longer than my arm. Now, about 25 or 30 years later, it stands about sixty feet tall, as you can see in reference to the barn.

Everyone should plant a tree. Somewhere, sometime, whether on your own piece of land or in a park or wild forest. The thrill of climbing a tree you planted!

Originally, there were 7 or eight. Forming a line along the north edge of our property. Two did not make it past the critical “wonder years” for trees, and died off rather young. In their places we tried a little maple one of the kids brought home from school, and in another spot some blueberry bushes given to us by neighbor friends. The little maple also failed to thrive (or was cut down in its “childhood” by a careless mower.) The blueberry bushes are doing fairly well. Who knew it took ten years for a blueberry bush to mature?

When I ordered the Cottonwoods from Gurney’s, I selected “Cottonless Cottonwoods”. The same as other Cottonwoods, but bred to be sterile, and not produce the cotton. If you’ve ever known or encountered a mature Cottonwood, say, in June, you would be amazed and bedazzled and maybe overwhelmed in a literal sense by the bushels and bushels of tiny floating seeds, each wafting about on their own cotton pillow.

I remember going to the Utica Zoo on Kerry’s class trip, Kindergarten or First grade. The zoo was great, but everywhere we went there were foot-deep piles of cotton dander drifting along the walkways, settling into corners. It was a mess, but a magical mess. I knew I didn’t want this all over my yard (and in the house). So “Cottonless” was for me.

One of them did not get the memo. Of all the trees I planted, this one, now big and strong and tall, with graceful sweeping branches that reach nearly to the ground, goes into molting season with all of its little Cottonwood friends. And, it just so happens, it would be the Cottonwood that is perched twenty feet from the only place in the yard where we can put a pool (level ground and not too far from a power outlet for the filter).

So every year we have a pool, I spend eight weeks skimming Cottonwood catkins and dander from the top and bottom of the pool. It will clog the filter basket in a single day. The Cotton blows all over the yard, and when you mow, the cotton invariably flies at your face, goes up your nose, chokes the air intake of the John Deere.

Chuy & the Cottonwoods

A few years ago, the power company came along and said they were putting in lines for the neighbor. My Cottonwood, “Number One”, the first I planted, was in the right-of-way, and had to be removed. Killed. Chopped down. Felled. It wasn’t exactly like losing a pet or an heirloom, but there was a little twinge when I first saw that broad stump at the corner of the yard, that patch of blue sky where yesterday there were thousands of dancing green leaves. Not just a tree, but my tree.

We went to Newport, Rhode Island one year, visiting family between Plymouth and Providence. We toured the “Mansions of Newport”, former denizens of the last century’s American Royalty. They’d hop on their launches on the docks of Manhattan, and motor up the coast to the boathouse at Newport. Check these out on line, or go visit if you can. They are truly remarkable, real mansions to equal those in Europe. Imported marble, dozens of rooms, huge verandas, views of the sea.

At one such mansion, in the side yard, I spotted a familiar-looking tree. It was indeed a Cottonwood, probably near a hundred years old by then. Its branches draped outward and downward, as if it were resting so peacefully, and the tips of the branches reached all the way to the ground. So curious, this tree, like my own, would spend all those years growing, growing, taller and taller, ultimately to reach back down to the Earth from which it grew.

It was at that moment that I fell hard for the lowly Cottonwood tree.

When the summer breeze wafts down the lee side of Victory Mountain, and comes to call at the Crescent Moon Farm, our Holiday House, tens of thousands of leaves rustle a little golf clap for the beautiful weather. When storms roll through, the trees wave their arms, swing low their branches, as if to protect me. After Hurricane Irene, bits of Cottonwood tree were scattered throughout the yard.

Irene at Engleville- flooded road and neighbors.The felled Cottonwood #1 lies at the base of the new power pole.

Hurricane Irene-Bits of my Cottonwoods

On a quiet morning, as the sun throws its light over the barn, the trees are filled with birds. This morning I listened to an Oriole call out. The trunks are dotted with the neat, even rows of drill holes from the Northern Flickers.

Our Cottonwoods provide lovely shade in the yard where there once was none (save the front dooryard under the massive Maples).

Number two sports a wild-growing climbing rose, now reaching up through its host to a height of twenty feet or more. The main cane has a diameter of about four inches. As big around as a coffee mug. From number four hangs a tire swing, going on nearly twenty years, probably. It has swung my children, their friends and their children.

And that old number three, the one with all the catkins?

She’s still going. And this year, it looks like, and I hope, that slow-growing, graceful sweeping drooping branch will reach its goal. It’s only inches away now, and we are kindred, as we ready ourselves for the time we will reach down to our Mother Earth, and touch her once again.

And to be welcomed in a way only a Mother can.

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz