Forget the weeding. That was an anomaly. Back, sort of, to the real February. I say “sort of” because yesterday and today the temperature is hovering a bit above freezing, which is on the warm side for February around here. (Average high for the month is 30F, and my outdoor thermometer registers 35F right now.) More importantly, the sun was shining gloriously all day yesterday. Don’t ask me how to explain this, but it was spring sunshine. I don’t know the science behind it, I only know that there was a different quality to the light than there had been in weeks past, and I had to be out in it. Had to.
What kind of gardening can you do outdoors when the soil is frozen like iron? All right, yes, I concede I could have just gone out for a walk; there’s no law that says one has to be productive all the time. I did one better than a walk: I went on a pruning walk.
Most of you have figured out that we live in the country, and some of you may already be aware that we have a system of paths threading through our mostly wooded 15 acres. What I did yesterday could be called trail maintenance. Pruners in one hand and loppers clutched in the other, I started walking the paths, looking for errant branches that might conceivably whack foreheads, poke eyes, or scrape the knuckles of the wonderful person operating the brush mower–the one who, let’s not kid ourselves, really maintains the trails.
There were a few occasions where I had to drag fallen branches off the path, which had been knocked down sometime this winter either by the weight of ice and snow, or more likely, by the terrific wind we had last Friday. (Unlike Sign of the Shovel, we didn’t lose power–though I had expected to.) But for the most part I just kept my eyes open for anything that looked like it might grow into the path come spring. I either followed the branch back to the main trunk and lopped it off there, or I cut the twig back to a bud that faced away from the path. Which pruning cut I made depended on a lot of factors, such as how thorny the tree or shrub was, how fast I thought it grew, how ornamental I felt it to be (Juneberries are coddled; hawthorns are dealt with severely, and brambles are cut to the ground) and how wide the path was at that point.
Calming, meditative work. Glorious sunshine. Ah, gardening in February!