Allegheny Serviceberry

I don’t even know what day of the week it is anymore. One month since being banished from corporate america and I’ve essentially gone native so to speak. Or at least my concept of days of the week is totally deconstructed.  I think I’m on day three or four, in a row, of working from dawn to dusk. I think today was Saturday. Yes, two days of building the orchard.  Then today, bank to go over some business for the new consulting firm first thing. Then off to a friend’s house to help install a lift kit on a Jeep, which really wasn’t work because I basically stood around, pointed at stuff and generally joked around. I had one beer so not all was lost. Exiting early I hastened over via Rabbit to Lowes to pick up a new electric tiller. I reluctantly purchased the only one they had available in store, as I needed one today. At least it was lime green in color so not a complete was of $169. Getting home around mid afternoon I assembled said tiller. I had a sneaking feeling it was a less than stellar tiller based on the incorrect instructions (I figured out how it should go together despite the red herring instructions). Then I was off to the orchard for day three of work.

I used the electric tiller to rough up the entire 40′ x 40′ orchard.  About five minutes in my new tiller lost it’s pin and cotter pin holding the level / transport wheels in place.  I looked but the pins were buried somewhere and I didn’t have time to look for them. Off with the training wheels and start using the tiller like a man. I was not happy with it at all but I will say, it tilled 1,600 square feet nonstop without dying so it was one up on the electric tiller I broke the day before. In hind sight I like the Sun Joe Tiller I broke, as opposed to the Greenworks tiller I have yet to really break.

After tilling I raked the area, trying to slope everything so that rain water will exit the orchard; I won’t know how well a job I did until it rains.  Over the prepared soil I spread grass seed everywhere in between the apple trees. I then watered the grass area which took forever because we have zero water pressure in our household. Well it allowed me time to meditate and raise my blood pressure at the same time.

Yay! Apple orchard complete.

With a few hours of daylight left I turned my attention to the five plants who have been waiting upwards of a week to be planted.  First up were our Allegheny Serviceberry trees. Our plan called for two specimens to stand guard at the west entry of the orchard. Amelanchier laevis look like bushes but they really are multi-trunk small tree. The have flowers in the spring and then produce berries in June (sometimes called june berries appropriately enough).  Birds love the berries so that will be nice to see birds in that part of the yard. The berries are edible for us too, so we can make pies, jam and jelly too if we were so inclined (which we are).

Flanking each of the serviceberries are two spiraeas.  The two on the left are Vanhoutte Spiraea, and those are the two we had purchased already. The other spiraea, of the crispa variety, are on order. I planted the two I had on hand to the left of the serviceberry; not digging the hole too deep as I wanted to plant them higher up.  The reason is because eventually the bed will be a “raised” bed, but for now, lacking enough top soil to make the entire bed raised I had to improvise.  I think it’ll be fine; I mounded enough top soil and native clay soil around so that the plants should be fine.

Last but not least I planted a French Pussy Willow (salix caprea).  My sons really wanted one when we were at the garden center getting our serviceberries.  The pussy willow is an invasive plant that can get unwieldy at 12′ tall and wide or larger.  I’ll keep it on a short leash and trim it back as necessary.  I planted, per request over by the playground, in a spot where it can act as a nice focal point as your walking the north path from the drive to playground. Finally I spread mulch around all the newly planted specimens.

No rest for the weary as we’re helping the in-laws move furniture tomorrow and then I’m back in the “office” Monday working on a couple prospective new projects. I see no end in sight and no light at the end of the tunnel but I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

These are long days indeed and we’re not even close to the longest days June has to offer. The last couple days have given me an appreciation for farmers and all they do. I mean real farmers, not the corporate kind, and probably not the trendy, modern, “ooo I’ll call myself a farmer” farmers (i.e. me).  And I have no idea how they farmed the midwest in the 1800’s, breaking sod by hand and hoof. I could have never done that. Despite that reality I’ve found my work the last couple days to be most rewarding none the less. More rewarding than most anything I’ve ever done. It’s going to look really nice when it’s all done someday.

As the sun dipped behind the clouds rendering the landscape milky grey I found myself walking my paths. Tools all put away, I should have gone inside…more time with the kids, get something to drink, watch tv. But of course the land beckoned so I shirked my obligation and stayed outside just a little longer.  I wandered over and sat upon a weathered wood pallet and gazed out across the freshly planted orchard.  My eyes now walked as my legs finally enjoyed their day’s reward. Hat in hand I rubbed my head and rested my eyes upon the little bushes across the way. Everything looks so orderly now; from what was once a dismal clay wasteland. I imagine the plants green and grown up. My mind stands up and wanders past bushes and trees. Sun light reappears and casts wind dancing shadows on neon blades of grass. Turning to my left I admire the angle and color of the house from my low vantage point. The cedar brown is about the only thing loving this  time of year, as even in the dim April evening light, it glows with nothing of color to compete against. I imagine where the summer shadows will fall and like to think the house will somehow guard my apple trees from the worst of the afternoon heat.

I sit still, for the first time in days, maybe weeks….god, could it be for the first time in a years? I listen and hear something.  I look to the woods: just  a series of grey tree trunks and tune my ears a little. I can pick up the faint chirp of frogs in the distance.  A sign that there is reward for hope even in this lifetime. Suddenly I collect the sounds of birds; different types of birds depending on which wood one looks towards. I feel like a thief stealing the sound and texture of life right out from beneath the world around me. As I sit on my pallet I’m in on a secret. And I think to myself, this would be a great place for a bench.

I smile a little and  deep inside I realize I’m on borrowed time.  The setting sun means someone is going to come looking for me, if for no reason than to check if I’m face down on the ground, pick ax in my hand, coughing my last breath in a tiny puff of clay dust one could barely see. Sure enough looking back at the house my office light goes on, I can see it’s filtered glow through my studio window. I access my options and figure it best to arise from my ground perch. I stand up slowly, the aches of the real world return to me as I put my hat on and try to look busy in case my studio door should open. I glance down.

Two minutes and forty-one seconds.  Not bad.” I think to myself.

Stepping in my studio door I set my hat down upon the painting table.

I was just coming out to check on you.” She says, half into her shoes.

Thanks, I was coming in. All done for tonight.” I reply with a smile. 

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