Monday, April 13, 2015

A walk in the woods

The jet stream managed to climb north of us for a few days, so we finally got some of the warm air the rest of the country has enjoyed for weeks. It climbed to 60 F yesterday, and was hot enough to work outdoors in a T-shirt, although except for the usual Sunday chores, I did no such thing.

Instead, Aimee and I took a drive with Roo and the dogs over to the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust's Great Farm Preserve. This is about fifty acres of forest and trout stream, of which Aimee is the official "Steward."

Most recently the land trust had a logger in to clear out some brushy lumber and let in more light. SLRT is a working land trust and doesn't believe in keeping land locked up from agricultural and forestry use, so some of their plots get logged.

Unfortunately, this particular logger did a miserable job. In particular, they blocked the trail for many yards with small trees and brush. It will have to be cleared, probably by hand. The land trust board is going to be pretty upset when they hear about it. Aimee took some pictures.

In the meantime, the good citizens of Jackson, Maine, will not be able to hike the whole length of their forest trail. That's going to put a damper on our local FrogWatch this year.

For the record, even when damage is done to trails, there's a big difference between this kind of logging where the intent is to grow the trees back, and the kind of clear-cutting for agriculture we've begun to see around here. Logging for lumber, pulp, or firewood can be sustainable, if the trees are left to grow back. Logging can even improve the carbon sequestration of soils and trees. In this case, part of the intent was to remove small brushy conifers and replace with hardwoods, which would have let in some light and improved the biodiversity of the forest floor habitats. This much was achieved, despite the trail mess.

Logging for agriculture on the other hand, whether for palm oil in Indonesia, beef in the Amazon, or farming in Maine, replaces what was a forest with an agricultural landscape that is no longer capable of sequestering carbon to the same degree.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A slow start to spring

Photo: One of us at least isn't too bothered by mud season. Roo, delighted with a Big G's Deli eight-inch whoopie pie, the Maine state treat, no less. Don't worry, she was only allowed a little tiny taste of it!

It's April, and we still have a good foot of snow on the ground on most places. Everywhere else is mud. Frozen mud on the colder nights, or just plain mud. Or dooryard looks like a quieter section of the Battle of the Somme.

More snow fell yesterday morning, just a dusting, but to add insult to injury. Aimee's vegetable plant starts are growing like weeds under their UV lamps in the south facing window of the den, but there won't be anywhere to put them anytime soon. Normally they'd be able to go out to the greenhouse during the warmer April days. We'd carry them out every morning until risk of frost had passed. But we can't even walk over there without post-holing. I'm worried that by the time it all melts, the tomatoes and peppers will be taller than the shelves they sit on, all spindly and bent double.

School has but four weeks to go and we're well ready for it to end, mostly so we can get on with the job of raising baby Roo without interference from the toad work for a few months at least. It's been hard to juggle work and caring for a baby, even with two of us on flex-time, or the equivalent. We still put in well more than forty hours each, but until May, many of those hours will continue to be late at night, early in the morning, or on the weekends. I found myself editing a document at three am the other day, just because it had to be done and I couldn't sleep. Thursday night found me so tired after six or seven "contact hours" without a break, I felt as if I was catching the flu. It's been a grind, and we need it to end.

Neither of us has much elasticity left, work wise. If we lost another hour or two we'd easily fall behind. We have to do what we have to do. But we're determined to be there for her these crucial months, so she's our priority, and she gets the best of our attention. Neither of us wants to miss out on anything big, like first steps or first words. There are only a few hours a week when one or the other of us, or both, isn't with her, which is when she goes to our friend Eileen's house for a regular play-date/childcare session so Aimee and I both be at work at the same time.

When she naps during the day, though, we tend to collapse with her now.

In the fall, hopefully by then walking and talking, she'll be old enough for daycare. Life will be easier then, we hope.

Our vehicles are covered in mud and salt, and I long to get my automotive lift working and get rid of all that crud with the pressure washer. I hate vehicular rust with a vengeance and don't wish to see us waste thousands of dollars allowing it to take hold. But the weather isn't cooperating with that scheme. There's the remains of a sizable snowbank still on the lift pad, where all the snow came off the back roof, a good three-feet of it. Which admittedly is much less than the four or five it was, but still disheartening. I'll also be glad to get the plow off the Rover, so I can use it for regular driving again.

It won't be long now until spring really takes hold. There's a moment in the Maine climate year when the ground thaws out and all the meltwater starts to drain properly. Mud season ends and the grass starts to grow, a green show, first in the bottoms of ditches, and then fields and lawns. Dirt roads become more passable, and frost heaves on macadam roads begin to subside. Driving becomes much more pleasurable and garage sales begin to come to mind.

I would guess we'll experience that moment sometime in the next two to three weeks.

I can hardly wait. But in the meantime, our April showers are snow showers today.

By the time Memorial Day comes around and the first tourists begin to show, the braver ones who either haven't heard, or aren't afraid, of blackflies, they might be excused for imagining we never had a winter at all.