Apr. 17th, 2016

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Suburban Montreal isn’t exactly the wilds of Siberia, but we live in a lushly vegetated part of the western ‘burbs, where there’s lots of interesting things going on if you pay attention while doing your chores.

Yesterday and today, I was doing basic lawn cleanup: an hour or so raking up the dead grass thatch from last year, then whacking some woody vegetation that had intruded upon the garden -- which is nature green in tooth and claw and a Darwinian exercise in survival of the fittest, since I don’t have much time to garden and mostly just encourage the flowering wild plants that have taken root amidst the original vegetation. But still, the woody vegetation has an unfair advantage, and I try to level the playing field. It’s a nicely zen activity, even though it’s more fun while the geese are still overflying and giving me an excuse to pause and admire.

So what are those little hidden treasures?

The day lilies are just beginning to poke their heads timidly out of the ground. About a thumb’s length, and the kind of pale yellow-green that seems as hesitant as the plants themselves. Thus far, only hints of green at the crowns of the grass, but now that the thatch is gone, they should green up quickly. But still: green, amidst a sea of dead grass and leafless trees.

In damper areas of the yard, the moss is greening up too. It’s hard to rake up all the windfallen twigs and final leaves from last year without disturbing the moss. Still haven't decided whether to restrict it to part of the lawn and resod, or let it flourish. Probably the latter. There's plenty of grass in suburbia, but not so much with the moss.

Flagrantly blueish-magentaish forget-me-nots have popped up all over the lawn, along with wild strawberry, whose leaves are just visible amidst the grass stubble. The violets haven't yet made an appearance. In a week or two, we’ll have flowers on the strawberries, then a few tiny fruits that escape the birds long enough for me to find them.

The rake uncovered a chestnut so vibrantly and glossy brown that it should have a dictionary entry beside that color. Oh wait... chestnut brown. But now I know why it deserves its own entry. There was a teeny little radicle protruding from the otherwise perfect nut, so I planted it. If it survives, I’ll find somewhere to transplant it. The tiny hickory I transplanted a few years ago and fed by hand (fertilizer and water) is now taller than the roof, and thicker than my arm. Surprisingly, it has a cousin that blew into a neglected corner of the yard. In a few years we may start getting nuts.

Up on the roof, where I'm doing my annual inspection to check for winter damage, there’s shiny grey lichen on fallen twigs, patches of moss in places you wouldn't expect. And a birdseye view of the neighborhood. The tar patch I put in to keep the bathroom vent water-tight is still there and looking almost professionally done. (If you look under "handyman" in the dictionary, I'm listed under antonyms.) The eavestroughs are clean again and should do their job until the fall.

On the deck, there are surprising glistening pill bugs when my brown sweeps away the occasional pile of winter debris. My favorite tribe of ants, the midsized non-carpenter-ant black ones, have begun spring foraging. It's warm enough today that I shed my coat when I came down and began trimming back the cedar hedge. Love that conifer scent from sunwarmed broken branches. I've put aside some of the branches for the fireplace this autumn.

A lovely break from the computer, where I’ll shortly return to working on the Web page that will accompany the 3rd edition of Effective Onscreen Editing. Probably in late May, depending on how fast the copyediting goes.


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