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Roger Barbee: This season of much

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By Roger Barbee

So much, it seems to this observer, is celebrated during this season of the year. People are almost giddy with the prospect of spring's brightness after the dark of winter. The longer days offer more warmth, blooming flowers, fresh air, trees coming into leaf, and grass that is green not dull, winter brown. Indeed, Red Hill seems to have taken on a new life after the cold of snow and ice and dark.

One task of this time in the seasons is to take stock of plants, trees, and shrubs. Each needs to be inspected for winter damage, and this is one of the unfortunate aspects of spring - discovering what plant is not sending out new shoots of growth. This knowledge gives spring a mixed note of sorts. Yes, as birds frolic, hunt for nesting sites, and blooms emerge despite the lingering cold of early April, I found that the two Lyda rose bushes had suffered greatly during the winter. In fact, one had not only suffered, but had been killed by the harsh winter.

About 10 years ago I ordered those roses along with one other that did not survive my initial clumsy planting of a rose. However, over the years these two roses had grown and seemed to adjust to my awkward skills as I learned to care for a rose. In fact, Mary Ann and I have come to mark our calendar by their blooming and have kept track of their long season of delightful and fragrant flowers of soft pink and white with a yellow center.

We had come to expect the soft fragrance of their blooms as we walked the pathway to the shop or sat on Bob Moore's bench. Not only were they lush and fragrant, their blooms lasted well into the fall, a continuous delight that needed just a bit of pruning and dead heading. Now, one will be dug up and discarded unceremoniously into the woods and the other will be severely pruned back in hopes of salvaging it. Two more plants will be ordered, and if they last as long as these have, I will be most 80 years old.

However, it is impossible to remain sad when so much of new life is going on. Here at Red Hill, the tulips stiff-arm the lingering cold, and grape hyacinths, which sprout where planted by squirrels, rush to announce the new season.

The winter-killed grass has turned a lush green and has already been cut twice. On the front bank, in the warmth of the southern sun, the forsythia is holding onto its bright yellow leaves, and the privet hedge is slowly coming to life as is the autumn maple that Ken planted for us five years ago.

All of the ancient boxwoods, planted by Lemuel, are free of ice and snow damage and are home to a myriad of small fowl, especially the returned brown thrashers that have moved into one of them. I see them, paired, busy on the ground doing what they must do for their new brood.

One day this week there was a flurry of activity as newly arrived swallows had returned, but I have yet to see a nesting pair in the box by the driveway used the past several years. One of our bluebird boxes has been taken over by a pair of sparrows. We have so enjoyed the bluebirds these past years that nested there, but this year it seems the sparrow has won rights to the box. I do wish the bluebird would put up more of a fight -- after all, I built the box with him in mind.

The plants we installed in the raised boxes last fall have faired well. In fact, I have seen none that suffered winter kill, including two roses that Terry recommended and sold to us. So, this new project will have its first full season for tending and pleasure. Also, a new resident has arrived amongst the raised boxes - a young rabbit is living next to them under the corn crib. Mary Ann and I debate its breeding - she thinks it is an escapee while I think it is a wild rabbit - but it is thriving and the beagles have yet to disturb its morning and afternoon ventures for food.

As I sit here looking out this window early Easter Sunday morning, I look to Short Mountain with its skirt of green on its lower fringes and have to remind myself that before too long, almost without noticing, the entire mountain will be greened.

And as I look southward toward Mount Jackson, the land has a soft hue that seems to announce the change that is coming. I look and realize that the poet so long ago knew of what he wrote: "To everything there is a season."

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at redhill@shentel.net.



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