Pining On

Third base died from being girdled by all those clothes lines. We sawed it off right above the wires. That was when I was in high school. Sometime when I was gone the stump rotted off and was replaced with a post. One summer night in 1989 or 1990 during a thunderstorm the old walnut was hit by a bolt of lightning. I remember the storm because it hit in the middle of the night. While the lightning struck I swear I was elevated a foot above the bed I was laying in from the shear fear it instilled in me. The longest, loudest lightning strike I had ever experienced I thought it wasn’t going to end. I remember commenting on it to the stay at gone mom who only grumbled and went back to sleep. I only wished I’d looked out the window directly above my head and had seen the scene. It must have been one hell of a show.

In the morning the trees told the tale. According to the missing bark, lightning had traveled down the side of the old walnut in three streaks. When it had arrived at the number nine wire only one steak finished on into the ground. The other two streaks followed the wire around the triangle to the second base pine and the third base post then on down into the ground. The passing current had exploded the post, splitting it lengthwise into three or four sticks with the wire the only thing holding the upper end together. The longest wire to the east pine was no longer attached for lack of use when the lightning made it’s rounds, saving the eastern pine and possibly saving me from levitating completely away that night. I have often wondered if that is what ultimately led to second base’s demise. Or was it my nails?

I know pine trees were not indigenous to the area so their demise may have been predetermined upon planting them here. That aside they certainly flourished here for what had to be a long time given the girth and height of the trunks they’ve left behind. I’ve personally known them for over fifty years. Not counting the third base pine that we’d determined was killed by being wire girdled years earlier the second base pine was the first to show the symptoms of whatever killed the pine trees on this farm. The needles on the lower branches started to turn brown during the course of the year. At first I thought the culprit was a swing rope girdling the one branch so I sawed it off beyond where the swing was attached. Then the next one up showed the same symptoms.

Within a couple years the whole tree had succumbed to the browning needles. About that time the pine east of the house was starting to show brown needles on it’s lower branches. As was Dad’s tree up north on the hill by the headlands. Within a couple more years they were all dead. Today not a needle is left on any of the pine trees’ branches. Most of the trunks are missing bark. Owls and red tailed hawks still love to perch on the¬†trees’ upper bows¬† even without the needles and maybe because the needles are missing. Occasionally I’ll see a turkey vulture or two on the one up north on the hill in the field, aka Dad’s tree. Last winter a couple of bald eagles were spotted more than once using that often utilized perch. One snow white on it’s head the other not so white.



Winter Thaws

I had mentioned earlier how it’s been a long hard winter. By hard I mean cold. Then warm. Then colder. We’ve had our normal run of thaws, and maybe an extra one. The December thaw saw a lot of folks around here get finished up picking corn before Christmas. The snow melted off the fields nicely and I’m sure everybody was finished by the new year. The January thaw rid us of snow again and even melted down the blown snow in the road ditches.

Everywhere the soybeans were grown last year had the snow blow off into the surrounding areas. The fact that we lay a cutter bar directly on the ground to harvest the beans means there’s no upright stalks left in those fields to catch the snow like there is in the cornfields. At least the cornfields that weren’t tilled. Those tilled fields and the bean fields where anhydrous ammonia was applied had dirt, not just snow blowing off them. Brown looking snow. Until the sun shines and rapidly melts the snow portion.

The February Thaw (and any thaws snuck in between) meant that a lot of the winter we went snow free. We had cold though. Enough cold to drive the frost really deep. Maybe even deeper than the soil moisture. During one thaw I saw water running down a hill to a cow path, then along the path to a drouth crack in the ground. Then down into the crack it disappeared not to be seen again anywhere. I guess that beats having any water run clean off into a stream bed unused. Waste not , want not they say.

The March thaw is over and we’re back down in the cooler again. That is we are below normal. Which in reality only means we are below what is the average high temperature for the given day of the year. I’m in the middle of chopping wood. Not chopping really since I saw the logs with my Husky chain saw. What I’m in the middle of doing is splitting wood with a set of splitting wedges that are driven into the logs by a sledgehammer to size them down to what fits into the wood stove. I came into the house to cool down and let the sweat dry off. Wood heat, it heats you twice. Not bad exercise either.

This winter for the first time ever we have had a couple Bald Eagles hanging out here on the farm. I think it’s because the streams are all froze up and I have an old dead cow carcase lying on the side-hill I never got buried nor composted before winter set in. Add to that a couple old hags that never made it through winter and we’ve fed the eagles pretty well. Not to mention the ‘yotes, coons, and Red Tail Hawks that have been hovering around all winter. An honest to God old fashioned sky burial. And land burial. Skyland burial. I hope they return the favor if the day ever comes. The food part not the burial part. (Not that it matters all that much at that point) Friends like that could come in handy if they ever feel compelled to even the score.