Stirrings of spring

Get cozy! These chairs came with our house... Love 'em? Local? Make us an offer... we've got a stuff surplus. Oh yeah, and they swivel!

While the nights still hold enough of a chill to warrant a small cheery fire (and the weatherman wants a bit of snow this Saturday), we’re currently enjoying a stretch of glorious warm and sunny weather… that is, warm for February in Chicago. The air is crisp, the sky cerulean; the swelling buds on the trees cut a striking outline against this clear blue backdrop. Sap is running, bulbs are bravely breaking soil and poking up their green-cloaked nascent flowers. The raspberries and roses got some much needed pruning yesterday, and I spent the better or worse part of an hour picking up trash at The Factory Farm. I was rewarded for my bravery by finding a whole solid dollar among the refuse! I think I’ll deposit it in the karmic bank.

The bees are back! They’ve been buzzing around their hive entrance the past two days, getting some fresh air and sunshine before returning purified to the warmth of the hive. I’ve missed them. I am very much relieved to see that they have thus-far survived the winter, mild though it has been!

I went on a two-hour long tree identification walk at the Conservatory this morning, led by Jim from the Treekeepers program. Picked up some pointers on identifying common Chicago trees by their bark, buds, and branch structure, and enjoyed the fresh air immensely. I learned that native hawthorns only keep their thorns when they are immature, and on lower branches and suckers, as they evolved them to protect against the browsing of deer, but that African hawthorns have thorns the whole way up (giraffes are much taller than deer). I also learned the difference between a tree and a shrub… to a dendrologist (someone who studies woody plants) the difference is purely semantic- there is no real dividing line. To Illinois case-law, however, “a tree can be climbed by a ten year old boy”. Who knew?

Invasive buckthorn... makes a great impenetrable hedgerow (they even stopped tanks in Europe during the second war) but birds spread their seed widely and they crowd out native understory species.

Gnarly! (the buckthorn, though that beard is also rockin'

I'm pretty sure this one was an ash tree... native to floodplains, they do well in our compacted, often poorly drained soil. Unfortunately, they don't do so well with the Emerald Ash Borer.

The bark of this ash shows scraping marks where the arborists have been checking for signs of ash borer activity.

The geese keep the lawn nicely cropped and *ahem* very well fertilized. Landmines everywhere!

Whenever I start to wonder why we live here, I need only to walk or ride a few blocks and step into the Conservatory and all is right again with the world- it’s a lush, humid, tropical oasis I can visit almost anytime for free. Such riches!

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