There is a tree to which I have not given proper attention. On, I had a seat built around it on which to sit and watch the sky, evenings. And I had a cheese drying house, made like the ones sometimes seen in the French countryside hung from one of its branches. And I've tossed some sweet cicely seeds under it. They did take. And raked up its pinecones with which to start a fire in the wood stove. That would seem to constitute noticing it. But it doesn't.
A day or two ago I was checking the wooden fence near the long border to see where the goats could be most securely tethered. The grass was thick under the great pine tree so I decided to lie down under it for a few minutes viewed from a distance it is a single triangular tree. A Christmas tree shape. Straight forward. No subtlety there. However, lying under it revealed its most astonishing complexity. Huge branches curved downward only to bend up again in a massive U shape. Others with equal mystery bent and then turned in directions not evident when simply looking at it, every day as I do, outside of the kitchen window. I used to write papers under it, the year or two I was in college after first living here full time. I must have looked up sometimes. But time has passed and the tree has attained complexity. When did it decide to change the direction of its branches? What happened in it that created the symmetrical outer shape by convoluting its inner form? It is a wonderment to me.
I love the willow by the carriage house in another way. It, too, was an old tree when I first came here. It seems to be dying. Coming to life again. And dying a little more. Some dead branches have been removed lately. Pruning has often given it new life. I've watched that tree from my studio window each spring as a faint blush of green slips across its branches. One of them provides a hand hold for me going down the stone steps to the yard behind the carriage house. But it is more than its practicality that I love about it. Its branches sway with the wind that address it from the north, light dancing across the leaves. Morning, they gleam with a faint touch of gold when the sun breaks over the hill. This year, fuzzy pale green pussy willows covered the branches. A lace shawl. Every spring I wait for the first signs of life. And worry. Will it come back again? It may have once been two trees, twisted and grown together as one. There is one tiny fern under it. And a number of sweet cicelys have sprouted. It curves one great arm across a stairway that I keep swept, that leads to the backyard of the carriage house.
It has only been a couple of years since the last debris from when the barn wall came down has been removed from that yard. Last week the sheep fence at its outer edge was rebuilt. And this week a sturdy, inspired, new barn gate was built and installed. The old one had caused me grief on a regular basis. It never latched properly. The sheep knew how to pry it open. And people, including this shepherd, sometimes didn't close it securely. "They're out! They're out!", would go the cry. And I and anyone else visiting here would rush with the dogs to bring them back inside.
There is an oddly charming little house at the east side of that yard, straddling the stone wall that is holding up the bank for about four feet above the barnyard. When I first came here it didn't have a floor. One was installed. Chip board. I didn't know any better. There was a square screened hole in the roof. Said roof didn't have to leak. The leak was built in. And so after the winter the ceiling and roof collapsed. John Hillis, who has been the miracle maker here of late, is going to rebuild the roof, get some cedar shingles left from the dining room project, and make the necessary repairs this June. I hope. It had been used as a playhouse, or was to have been used as a play house by my grandson when he was a child. However, I've often thought what a nice little place it would be in which to write. And so, that is what it shall become. Pale pink walls and ceiling. I'm not certain what the floor shall look like yet. I've found a design that will be the perfect pattern to stencil on the walls in Benjamin Moore's new gold paint. The same stencil for the ceiling. Along one side shall be a bench wide enough to sleep on that can be dropped on hinges to lie flat against the wall. I shall love having that little house become mine.
There is still another tree of note here. A weed tree, of sorts. It grows immediately outside of the dining room window. I've watched that grow as well. But this tree, because it is a weed tree, grows quickly. It reached the window sill of the second story room a few years ago. Soon, quite evenly proportioned, at that, it passed the first row of lights, then the second. It is a choke cherry tree, covered in tiny white blossoms in spring, and garnet colored tiny cherries in summer. The first year I was able to reach out and pick some with which to make jam and syrup was a delight. This year saw a quantum leap in the growth. Now, beyond the fourth row of lights, in a minute or two, it shall reach the quarter round window above. It is covered, at the moment, with tiny white blossoms. I hope this morning's hard frost did not destroy their berry bearing potential. If they become fruit, I'll have an abundant supply this year.
From the same window is a view of still another tree worth noting. Also, quite a substantial tree, it is, I think another bush or Siamese tree. An apple tree, or two, however one decides to look at it. The apples are huge, round, pale green and honey flavored when cooked. When slightly less than ripe, they make my son's favorite pie. They fruit well in alternate years. But lately have produced only sparsely for the past two. I have high hopes for this year. The blossoms were no less than spectacular. White with a pale pink color. More flowers, it would seem, than leaves. It made me want to rush to the root cellar to whitewash the walls of the apple storage shelves in anticipation.
The last tree of note are trees. That is, they were expected to be trees. But in fact were, are, bushes. They were to be a row of quince trees lining the south edge of the driveway. Neat. Orderly. Trees. They didn't look like trees when they were planted the first year I was here. I told the horticulturist who sold them to me that they looked like bushes. "Oh, no", he denied. "Trees they are." There were twelve. On the twelfth I found a tiny label. He had removed them from all the others. Japonica, it said. An ornamental. "Come take them out", I said to the expert. He never did. They sport a flashy colored flower, a little too shockingly coral for my taste when they first bloomed, an emerald green pasture setting them off. However, one summer Heinz Kathmann and I built a New England picket fence behind them. I painted it a very dark green called Charleston green. Suddenly, the coral against the two greens became suitable and fitting. It worked, in other words. And I love them. All twelve. Even if they haven't given me anything but an occasional dark green hard as a rock fruit that has neither visual nor culinary merit.
How are things here on the farm? Difficult, I must say. A little more than usual. Mother Nature has not been on friendly terms with us farmers, for one thing. And there have been several other problems as well. However, a remarkable farmer has turned up to do some building and mending here, of late. And that has provided me with a great lift to the morale. Some things have been done, repaired, resolved or newly created that visually and practically make this seem like a different place. Nicer. A more professionally looking farm. I felt a little disoriented, at first, when some improvements were made (and sorely needed) that I hadn't requested. The new fence gate and neglected vegetable garden plot, are an example. It shall be for beans, bush beans and climbers. With a border of Moulin rouge. Sun flowers at the edge of said new fence. And so goes the farm.
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