Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Daffodils Are Blooming
The early spring Michigan landscape is looking pretty blah. There are no leaves on the trees yet and even the early woodland wildflowers are only on the verge of showing us their beauty.

Picture of February Gold in March
Crocus and snowdrops have bloomed and now the early daffodils are showing their color.

Violet Acres has several varieties of daffodils, but only the early blooming February Gold show color in the month of March. They just bloomed this week and they certainly are a welcome patch of yellow in the otherwise drab and messy looking gardens.

Oak Leaf Blues
The "senior" brown bag lunch at the Kalamazoo Nature Center yesterday was not for the feeble. We hiked a little more than a mile over some rough hilly paths through the beech/maple forest with a naturalist guide to show us the emerging wildflowers. It was a beautiful day - in the 60's (F). Mom and I both had an enjoyable time and have signed up for the next "senior" event the last Tuesday in April.

At one point on the hike, the naturalist stopped under an oak tree. She had us each pick up a shed oak leaf and a shed maple leaf and hold them up to the sky. The maple leaf was translucent, the oak leaf was opaque.

We learned that in the beech/maple forest the translucent leaves expedite the warming of the ground in the spring. The opaque oak leaves work as insulation and slow the warming of the ground. Also, the oak leaves take three to four years to decompose and will frequently smother whatever delicate plants are trying to grow beneath them.

Picture of front yard before spring cleanup
This is a picture of our front yard. Most of our front two acres - the area we maintain - looks like this right now.

Violet acres has oak trees. Lots of oak trees. So many oak trees that I've never bothered to count them.

They drop their leaves very late in the fall or early in the spring. Spring raking is inevitable. The leaves are deep, heavy, and wet.

It's more than just leaves. It's lots of sticks and branches and acorns.

I kept track one year. It took 14 hours of raking to clear the front two acres. That does not include the time spent burning and/or hauling away.

The next year I hired a lawn service to come and do it. Two men with all the big powerful blowing equipment you could ever imagine worked eight hours. And they didn't get it done. Almost, but not quite.

As you might imagine, this was very expensive. It was also unsatisfactory. They didn't "blow" the acorns and I've been weeding out tough little oak seedlings ever since.

I've come to the conclusion the best results are obtained by raking. So the raking has started. It's a pleasure to be able to do a little every day, enjoy the outdoors, and observe the emerging plants. Unemployment has its advantages.