Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 18th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg A year to the day of March last year, the Bradford pears burst into bloom. How consistent.   I did not even have to see the bundles of dense white blooms because the hum of the busy bees gave the tree away in the backyard.   Many are […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 18th 2018

The Old Chevy DUCK Truck

Becky Emerson Carlberg

A year to the day of March last year, the Bradford pears burst into bloom. How consistent.   I did not even have to see the bundles of dense white blooms because the hum of the busy bees gave the tree away in the backyard.   Many are European honey bees.   I guess this may be the one benefit a Bradford pear provides.   They become disguised as giant white lollipops in the leafless winter scenery.   Clusters of the much smaller sand plums are beginning to display their delicate white blossoms.  The elms are blooming.   Not long until the plums, redbuds, peaches and other trees come on board.

This is the time of year I monitor the cherry blossom development at the Tidal Basin in Washington DC.   Pinning down peak bloom time can be dicey.   Right now the National Park Service is guessing April 1st may be peak time, give or take two days before or after. The Yoshino cherry trees were gifts from Japan; a few of the trees are over 100 years old.   The National Cherry Blossom Festival not only celebrates spring but the bond of friendship between the United States and Japan.   Cherry blossoms last but a short time.   In Japan the cherry blossom represents how beautiful but fragile and short life is.   Yes.

When you think about it, most blooms make brief appearances.   Spring is on the way and flowers are signs of hope. Despite the threat of surprise frosts that can pop up through this month, in Oklahoma it is amazing how many blooms actually stay attached to the trees because of the winds.

It is quite a challenge to be a tree in this area. In yet one more field where deciduous and redcedar trees were bulldozed down and scraped into large piles, I noticed how the water ran off the pasture during the last rains.   When the trees were still living and rooted along the runoff path, the speed of water was reduced as was the amount of silt and clay carried along.   Last week the fast moving dirty water cut deep into the soil surface, washing away everything in its path.   This will eventually develop into a gulley as the erosion increases.   The same happens along road slopes when the trees are cut or removed.   With little to hold the soil in place, the land erodes.   The ditches that border the roads become wider; the edges of the asphalt tumble away with each rain.   The running water fills with debris, soil and organic matter.   It costs good money to maintain roadways and pasturelands.  The trees do their part to keep the soil in place, be it in a field or next to pavement.   Think before cutting the tree that took years to grow up into the air and down into the earth.  It offers so much more value than you realize.

The past several weeks large equipment rolled in and out of the eastern side of our yard.   Water was filling the septic tank from an unknown source.   The septic tank was once again emptied, the lateral system re-examined, the rural water line inspected for leaks as were the toilets, and the indoor giant tube with calcium carbonate checked for additional water usage during the back-flush state.   It turns out the problem may have been a mal-functioning toilet.   A new throne now resides in the bathroom and we wait for the next heavy rain to see if problems reappear.

The staging area for all this activity was my wild flower patch I so carefully planted after the septic tank had been pumped and a new lateral system installed one year ago.   What was left of my fig tree now leaned strongly to the south.   Before this I had been worried about the little tree last fall after deer had eaten the lower branches.   Perhaps the Ficus carica has seen its own mortality and will grow like gangbusters in the spring.    Several native perennials are now buried deep in the clay and my Indian blanket patch was scraped clean with a tractor blade used to level the uneven terrain.

Two hazelnut trees have gone missing, but they were rather small.   Tuesday I planted two more hazelnut seedlings sent from the Arbor Day Foundation in January.   For many weeks they had been stored in my dark cold closet but were beginning to break dormancy.   All of 8 inches tall, the little hybrids were planted and surrounded by pine branches that had come away during the little ice storm.   The hazelnuts (Corylus species) are products of crossbreeding of two North American native species (Beaked and American) with the European hazelnut.

Scalped ground sets off the blooming Bradford pear.


Next may be the construction of a small fence as the afore-mentioned deer, rabbits and squirrels, not to mention the opossums, armadillos and possibly raccoons might investigate the hidden miniature forest.   The trees are part of the Arbor Day Foundation Hazelnut Project designed to transform agriculture in the US by creating a system of agriculture to supply food from woody perennial plants"a great idea.

Have you noticed spring garden prep is like housework?   For hours you tidy and clean.   At the end of the day you straighten up and admire your handiwork.   Next day, you do it all again and so it goes.

Piedmont, Winds of Progress

Last Saturday I was on a Master Naturalist mission and gave a talk/presentation at the Piedmont Oklahoma library about gardens and garden soils.   It was DUCK week in Piedmont.   Cool, they must have a great interest in birds.   No, DUCK stood for Doing Unselfish Charities for Kids.   Since 2004 chosen recipients with terrible health problems are helped from money raised through the school, pancake breakfast, fun run, flea market and other venues.  Last year they brought in $200,000.

As one enters Piedmont they are greeted by a historical series of windmills.   Some were ancient Dempsters made in Beatrice Nebraska eons ago.   When we left Piedmont, a vintage black Chevy truck had just been parked at the edge of town advertising the Duck flea market the next day.   The friendly man invited us to come check it out.   Good things were happening in that open, wind-swept town of Piedmont.