The sugar maple in our backyard and I go way back.
When my wife and I purchased our current home 33 years ago, only three trees graced the acre and a half. That had to change for several reasons.
Trees provide so many benefits to any property, urban, suburban or rural. Trees add both an aesthetic and economic real estate value.
Besides their beauty, trees provide practical purposes, too. In summer, their shade serves as a natural air conditioner. They prove a reliable windbreak against harsh winter winds. As a bird enthusiast, I wanted a mixture of trees that would supply a nice habitat for a variety of birds year-round.
The sugar maple that now dominates the middle of our backyard was just one of several trees that I transplanted from our property near Killbuck, Ohio to our current residence near Mt. Hope. I did so in the fall, the optimal time to transplant since trees are dormant.
I dug the tree out of our hillside woods. The soil was so loose and gravely it all fell off. I wrapped the bare-rooted maple in burlap, and headed east. By the time I had reached our soon to be home, it was dark. I stabbed the ground with the pointy tree shovel, pulled the earth back, slipped the roots into the moist ground, stamped it closed and left.
Later in the light of day, I trimmed all of the limbs and the top third off the tree to let the roots take hold the first year. And did they ever. In three decades, the little sugar maple has grown into a full, mature, shapely tree. It is the jewel in the leafy crown of our modest domain.
Over the many years it has endured a lot, including serious damage from the remnants of a hurricane, a severe thunderstorm gust and an ice storm. Each time I carefully patched the exposed flesh as if it were an injured child.
The sugar maple has hosted innumerable bird nests during its life, birthing many different songbird species. Other birds and animals big and small have sought sanctuary in its embracing arms and expansive, dense canopy. Most were wanted. Others, like the family of raccoons that raided the bird feeders, were not.
Backyard birds use the tree as a launching pad to the nearby feeders. Nuthatches and woodpeckers wedge sunflower seeds into the crackled, flaking bark to crack open the shells to get to the sunflower meat.
My verdant friend hosts free entertainment, too. Late spring to early fall Ruby-throated Hummingbirds take turns waiting in ambush on a favorite perch for other hummers coming to the sugar water feeder that hangs by our kitchen window. It’s pure joy to watch them chase and chatter after one another.
The sugar maple tree is a beauty in any season, but particularly in October. With each bright sunrise, a warm orange glow streams through the windows into the house. The tree’s crown blazes high above the rooftop, contrasting nicely with the backdrop of the evergreen of queued white pines against the stubbled cornfield.
The sugar maple paints a new autumn scene each October day. In less than a month, the leaves of my stately arbor ally turn from rich emerald to glowing gold, and all too soon drop in feathery waves.
Even leafless, the sugar maple freely shares its generous hospitality, attracting birds, critters and humans. Spring, summer, fall or winter, my old friend says welcome home.
A week by week pictorial record of the changing of the leaves on the sugar maple follows.
I feel a touch sorry for the budding leaves of the many varieties of deciduous trees. My sympathetic compassion isn’t confined to the recent series of frosty morning temperatures either.
As my wife and I drove home from Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley after visiting our daughter and her family, we were in awe of the rainbow of colors that exploded before us at every turn. Traversing the old wrinkled mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, there are more turns and twists than in a pretzel factory. In the spring, the mountains are loaded with colors.
The most obvious were the amazing redbud trees, which were in full bloom, a lavender testimony to spring’s arrival. Against the dull gray, brown and black trunks of towering oaks, maples, wild cherry and ash, the diminutive redbuds’ beautiful blooms radiated glory on the steep hillsides.
We drove for miles and occasionally only saw a loner blooming as robustly as it could, like a child demanding adult attention. Without warning we would round a corner or top another hill and a burst of redbuds greeted us on both sides of the highway, as if a purple curtain had been drawn for us to pass.
As much as I appreciated that kindness, I couldn’t help but notice streaks and blotches of background colors, more muted, but rich nonetheless. After months of dormancy, the leafy buds of stately hardwoods were just beginning to unfurl.
Though subdued and understated, they too added to nature’s ever-changing paint palette. Hints of lemon, lime, russet, auburn, scarlet, gold, orange and brown were bursting forth. At wood’s edge, the branches reached out from top to bottom. At the thick forest canopy, the trees stood as freshly dabbed artists’ bristles awaiting application to canvas.
In the valleys, the dogwoods and wild apples were beginning to compete with the redbuds. They added a lacy texture to the purple hue where the species cohabitated. In towns and villages, ornamentals were well ahead of schedule in blooming their reds, whites and crimsons.
The further north we drove the trees and flowers were less showy, but still emerging. Buttery daffodils and jonquils were in various stages along our route, from dying in Virginia to perfect bloom in Ohio. Every now and then, congregations of coltsfoot and dwarf dandelions lined either side of the road brighter than the yellow centerline striping.
The flowers of spring get photographed, picked, and adorn coffee tables, bringing the outside inside. The unfolding leaves, rich in their own hues, tend to take a back seat to the flora extravaganza. For me, that’s the injustice.
It’s the fall when people generally start to pay attention to the kaleidoscope of colorful leaves. It was intriguing that these emerging spring beauties mimicked the same colors exhibited in the fall.
Just like autumn, the spring’s natural art display will disappear all too quickly. Only instead of falling, the leaves magically transform to various shades of green.
I was fearful these picturesque landscapes would go unnoticed or even unappreciated. I need not have worried.
When friends of ours arrived for a visit shortly after we returned, they proclaimed, “Did you see the leaves coming out? It looks like fall.” Yes indeed it does.
We awoke on the first Saturday of November to a skiff of snow on the roofs, grassy areas and glued to the trees. The driveway and the road in front of our house were just wet.
Since the temperature hovered right at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, I figured we probably had had more than the dusting that remained. Not one to quibble with the weather, I simply inhaled the beauty as a drab dawn broke.
My wife and I were ready to head for our cottage for a post-election weekend retreat with some friends. After the tiresome multimedia blasts of campaign negativity, we needed a quiet place, and the cottage was it.
Just a few minutes down the road, we caught up to the menacingly low clouds that were still spitting snow. During the 75-minute trip, we were amazed at just how spotty the snow was. We drove in and out of the white stuff several times.
In some places, the snow was two or three inches deep. In most, the ground was bare. The snow had fallen in various depths in a long, narrow band stretching northwest to southeast from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
When we pulled onto the long steep lane that leads to our cottage, an inch of fresh, fluffy snow welcomed us. Initially the lane goes uphill. At the summit, the road dives into the woods, and quickly curves right, down a steep, straight slope.
Just as I began the decline, the car stopped out of respect. It couldn’t crush the beauty before us, not at least until I had taken some pictures of the virgin snow.
The limestone on the lane must have been warm enough to melt the snow on impact. Everyplace else, the snow stuck undisturbed, beautiful, mesmerizing.
With the concealed sun unable to lessen the early winter grip on the landscape, the panoramic scene seemed basic black and white. The only variation came in the clay colored clouds.
I snapped a few photos and returned to the vehicle. I guided it ever so slowly down the straight slope, around the hard left-hand curve, under slow laden white pine bows, toward the lake that reflected the steely sky.
We made the final zigzag up the lane and into the drive to the cottage. This last leg of the trip adds a faux remoteness to the location. I had brought along a leaf blower to dispense with any remaining natural litter on the cottage deck. I should have tossed in the snow shovel instead.
The combination of the snow and the cabin’s chill called for a fire in the impressive sandstone fireplace. I obediently responded.
With the fire underway, I cranked up the chain saw and headed out into the morning sharpness. Each time I exhaled my glasses steamed up.
There is something about snow, especially the season’s first, that exhilarates me. I have to plunge headlong into it.
The chain saw, which had not run in months, must have liked the snow, too. It purred right along, and the two of us accomplished our woodcutting goal in less than an hour.
The snow was still in place when our friends arrived late morning. They wore the same smiles as my wife and I. I don’t know if it was the snow, the blazing fire, the setting or the combination there of.
No matter how long you live where it snows, there is just something extra special about that first snowfall. This one was breathtaking.
For the second time this summer, tornadoes caused significant damage in Ohio’s Amish country.
Shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16 a powerful tornado touched down on the south edge of Wooster, Ohio along Prairie Lane. The tornado, which the National Weather Service rated an EF2, proceeded east destroying businesses and homes, and crossed Madison Ave. onto the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, a division of The Ohio State University.
The tornado caused extensive damage to campus buildings, including some historical homes used as offices. It also destroyed the machine shop and heavily damaged parts of Secrest Garden and Arboretum, where many people love to walk and relax among the roses, ornamental shrubs and old age trees. The tornado clipped off dozens of the huge trees 20 to 30 feet above the ground.
The Wooster Twp. Fire chief reported that only one person was slightly injured. But she refused transport to the hospital.
The tornado continued on an east northeast path destroying and damaging several other homes and farm buildings. It did considerable damage to the Riceland Golf Course on U.S. 30 south of Orrville. Altogether, the NWS reported that the tornado was on the ground for 12 miles and reached wind speeds of 130 m.p.h. It left a path of destruction 200 yards wide.
Around 6 p.m., an EF1 tornado hit near the rural town of Farmerstown, Ohio in Holmes County about 25 miles south of Wooster. Several homes and barns were destroyed or damaged there. But again, no one was injured, although some farm animals had to be put down. The tornado was on the ground for three miles and reached a maximum speed of 100 m.p.h. It ranged from 50 to 75 yards wide.
As a Skywarn severe weather spotter for north central Holmes County, the Cleveland office of the National Weather Service asked me to photograph the damage at the OARDC. This was prior to knowing of the tornado in Holmes County. No tornado warning was issued for Holmes County.
I arrived at the OARDC shortly before 7 p.m., which left me a little more than a half an hour to take pictures before dark. I shot as many pictures as I could, but due to darkness, was unable to make it entirely around the campus. As I walked back to my car, parked in the arboretum a half mile east of the damaged OARDC buildings, I cut through open fields. I found several places where debris had hit the ground, leaving large gouges in the fields and grass.
The first tornado of the summer hit Holmes County and continued into Tuscarawas County on June 5. The EF1 and EF2 tornado caused extensive damage along its 10 mile path.
Green is not my favorite color. But I’ll make an exception, especially now when every plant and animal seems to be greening up in some way.
The most obvious change is in the grasses. They all transitioned from bland dormancy to verve seemingly overnight. Once relieved of their heavy snow burden, then drenched with intermittent rains followed by warm, sunny days, the grasses grew emerald uniformly on natural cue.
Whether front yards or rolling pasture fields, the green on green effect is stunning. It may be the greenest green I have ever seen, or maybe the winter was simply so long and so hard, that I forgot what true green really looks like.
Nevertheless, it’s marvelous to see the countryside covered with such a luscious, vibrant carpet. Only problem is mowing will commence shortly, if it hasn’t already. But it will be nice to inhale that fresh cut fragrance again.
In preparation for that initial trimming of 2010, many of the yards in Amish country have already been rolled and fertilized. That was part out of necessity, and part out of relief that winter was finally over. Yes, we had one nasty, last snow that left the roads the slickest of the winter. But my bones say that ammunition has been spent.
Grass isn’t the only vegetation to go green. My wife’s tulips, daffodils, crocuses and lilies have all displayed their various leaves at different intervals. Of course, the crocuses have bloomed and faded, and the daffodils were primed for Easter.
In the woodlots, colts foot were the first to unfold. The giant hardwoods hovering over them have swelled their buds, anxious to let their leaves unfurl. They’ll wait until it’s safe from certain future frosts, unless coaxed open by an extended warming spell.
The evergreens have no such problem. They have already transformed from the deep, mature green of the hibernation months to a lighter, brighter green that mirrors that of the grasses.
Things are greening up around my little garden pond, too. The moss and lichens, long covered by two feet of snow, now look like splotches of paint and bristle brushes, respectively. Water lilies are shooting their first leaves to the surface.
Both the variegated water plant and the variegated reeds are coming to life, with the former having a huge head start. Its bulbs are pushing their pale green and russet pointy leaves profusely, fighting through some soft, velvety grass that somehow homesteaded over the winter.
I would eliminate the grass altogether, except that the pair of resident bullfrogs prefers its lush softness for their sunbathing and bug collection. The frogs’ color, too, has evolved from the mucky blackness of the bottom of the pond to more their natural camouflage.The male tries to woo his mate with his deep throated croaking both day and night. From nearby wetlands, choruses of spring peepers erupt. It’s all music to my ears.
High on the neighbor’s pasture where Holsteins and draft horses grazed earlier in the day, deer come out of hiding at dusk to nibble at fresh green sprouts. By night, they clean the corncobs at my birdfeeders.
Really, just airing out the house with open windows and doors that invite refreshing breezes brings you closer to mother earth. I also glory in the secondary benefits, the simultaneous serenading of birdsongs and echoes of children playing.