The Shawnee News-Star Weekender March 28 2020 Becky Emerson Carlberg What to do?  This time of social non-contact and temporary closings has forced us to improvise or even relearn ancient skills.  One is repainting every room in their house and another has rediscovered the kitchen after far too many restaurant meals. Then there are my […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender March 28 2020

Honeybees visiting Holly

Becky Emerson Carlberg

What to do?  This timeof social non-contact and temporary closings has forced us to improvise or evenrelearn ancient skills.  One is repaintingevery room in their house and another has rediscovered the kitchen after fartoo many restaurant meals. Then there are my neighbors.  Their only skill in mowing.  The grass is barely green, the pollinatorsare hungry, and these folks cut down the small spring flowers without a secondthought.  Perhaps they should think.  Maybe the destruction of nature has somethingto do with the rampant diseases coursing through our over-populated world.  Could discovery and working with nature bethe remedy?

If you doubt the importance and vibrance of nature, justlook around you.  Nature has brought youspring.  Time to go outdoors and soak upthe world as it comes alive.  You shouldhave no worry of anyone coming close.  Theworld is safe while you walk, mark out your garden, plant your little seeds, ortransplant those plants you've meant to for years.  You now have time to go through all thosespring plant catalogues you've neglected, buried under the mountain of mailyou've intended to sort. 

The coronavirus can't keep me indoors.  It is something else. Not the usual contingency of cardinals, red-winged juvenile blackbirds, blue jays, sparrows and other birds which gather at the feeders before the sun rises.  Usually not the personable opossums who wander up rooting for tasty morsels.  Possibly the squirrels when I stop to watch them drop out of the sky from overhanging tree branches or easily shimmy up metal poles of bird feeders.  Is that a hawk perching quietly in the poplar tree? It's dangerous when the cottontail bunny, which has grown brawny and bold, hops wherever.  But everything stops when then the big birds come, and they're not from Sesame Street. The turkeys are here.  

Rafter of Turkeys

Winter flocks of over fifty turkeys spent this winter inacres of woods and fields to the north of my house.  They have now sorted themselves into smallerrafters of more females and fewer males. Rafters?  Another name for a groupof turkeys.  The name comes from theirhabit of perching on barn rafters.  Aroundmy house, the turkeys occupy redcedar branches. Would they be called branchers? 

This spring the turkey family who periodically visited the bird feeders last year remembered the ground buffet and showed up last week. They are now full-grown turkeys.  Is their mother still with them?  I can't tell.  Five or six pretty fill up the area.  This Tuesday a single female was merrily pecking away at seeds below while one industrious squirrel hung precariously from the feeder above, grabbing or dropping all the sunflower seeds it could.  So, you see, I can't go out.  I'll just settle into a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and a book.  What a delightful way to be socially isolated.

Hanging in there

The Bradford pear. I've tried not to go there but. this Bradford pear has been sneakingits way to heaven the last few years while hiding behind the blackjackoak.  I carried my wood zig and pair ofsnips out to do battle with that pear, its little friends and the Japanesehoneysuckle.  The treacherous vinescrisscross the ground and were coming dangerously close to the nativehoneysuckle.  Each spring I choose anarea of the yard for some intensive invasive removal.  I'd like to say the pesky meddlers are gone,but they are clever and conniving and will try to return again and again.

Because the soil was so moist, the honeysuckle came away with many roots.  The Bradford pears were cut to ground level.  I surveyed the small mountain of vines, leaves and the Bradford pears, scooped them into my arms and carted the surprised plants to the rubbish bin.  The lid was flung back, landing behind the bin.  Things were going so well.  Then the largest Bradford pear, with revenge on its mind, somehow pivoted itself under the lid and brought it forward just as I was dumping the rest of the debris inside.  The lid slammed down on my nose. After my eyes uncrossed, I threw back the 'darn that was heavy' lid and jammed the nasty Bradford pear deep into the depths of the bin.  Take that, you despicable devil spawn.

Sky over Lake Arcadia

My poor nose had previously been broken while we were livingin the UK.  It was dusk.  Good old Joe Barnes left Lidgate Church onhis bicycle with no light and was building up a head of steam going down thehill on the sidewalk, not on the road. Didn't see me until it was too late. Iwas struck from behind and flew like a bird in the air, landing on my face andknees.  I limped home. Chipped a tooth, mylips had swollen, eyes were puffy and bloodshot (they're usually green), and thebleeding nose had an interesting bend to it. After a collective gasp, mysympathetic lot quipped if I won the fight, they hated to see what the otherguy looked like.  Deviated septum andsurgery.

Good thing this time the nose remained strong.  It is sore and now has a red scrape down thebridge.  See, Bradford pears are not yourfriends.

The increasing daylight, warming temperatures and recentrainfall has excited the female American holly (Ilex opaca) in front of myhouse.  The ends of her stems are nowcovered in small incredibly fragrant greenish-white flowers, each with fourtiny petals.  Behind the floral display onthe same stem are last year's red berries. Hollies are dioecious, with male and female plants.  The male holly lives nearby, assuring fertilizedflowers and future red berries aided by hundreds of honey bees, bumble bees, fliesand other pollinators now swarming the holly. My uncle remembers towering 100-foot-tall holly trees growing in the riverbottoms of southeast Oklahoma. My fifteen-foot lady holly in central Oklahoma mayreach forty feet.

Hollies are immensely important wildlife trees, attracting bluebirds, thrashers and at least sixteen other species of birds, squirrels, deer, red foxes, box turtles, bunnies, raccoons, and 39 species of butterflies and moths. 

Spring Beauties with friendly Henbit Bunny and Angel

At ground level the ephemeral but vulnerable 'Spring Beauty' (Claytonia virginica) is adding its pink cast to the landscape and buzzing with activity as well.  This totally edible 6' tall spring flower is also called the fairy spud, because of its tasty sweet 2' long underground tubers (corms).  Harvest during bloom-time, but return the smallest 'tater tots' back to the soil to regenerate the flower patch.  Those pink stripes on the flower petals?  They are landing strips that guide pollinators of 23 different species to the nectary glands at the base of each petal.  The little Spring Beauties may be here only briefly, but they offer so much.  Learn to appreciate nature.  Mow with discretion, not thoughtlessness.

'The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgement.'  Wayne Dyer