The dogs and I headed to the farm early this morning (well, early for me – around 8am). After seeing the bear on Rangeline Road the other day, I now drive slowly through the woods, well under the speed limit of 35 mph, unless another car comes up behind me.
The slower speed allows me to scan the woods for wildlife. I do see several deer in the trees. There are so many of them about, seeing them now is not unexpected. But the surprises of the day are found along the road. A sweet little red fox saunters across the pavement in front of the car and I come to a halt. She stops and defiantly looks me firmly in the eye before trotting off into the woods. I continue down the road, and minutes later a large buck with a magnificent set of antlers steps out of the trees and stands statuesque as I roll past.
Even Luke and Lucy seem to have reverence for these beautiful creatures. They observe them both through the car windows and never move or make a sound. So out of character for Lucy, who’s barking frenzies whenever we pass a deer, a dog, a jogger, or any other being, are more like uncontrollable epileptic fits.
Once at the farm, the dogs and I head into the orchard. The dogs play elaborate games of chase, while I carryout my task of manual pest control. Two to three times a week I walk the trees looking for worm tents as they are just forming, and remove them from the trees before they cause damage.
The beginning tents are just leaves stuck together, either folded onto themselves, or in twos or threes. I circle each tree, scanning for these anomalies. It takes a special talent to spot them amongst the other leaves. Walking the rows of trees is like meditation. There is a peaceful rhythm and flow to it. Often I walk barefoot in the grass, feeling the connection to the earth through the soles of my feet. Today I am wearing shoes, as the ground is wet from overnight rain. I gently caress the leaves and branches when I spot a possible tent. Removing infested leaves must be done with a gentle tenderness. If the tent is higher up, the branch may be bent to bring the problem into reach, but not bent so hard as to break it. The bark must not be torn when removing the leaves, as for the tree this like an open wound on skin, vulnerable to infection.
I realize how little I know about tent worms. I know nothing about the insects that cause them, or their life cycle. I must research. Better understanding will help the trees. A line from the Game of Thrones books keeps crossing my mind, “You know nothing, John Snow!”
There are bugs in the trees. I find several types of caterpillars. These I remove from the trees. Sometimes there are ants at the end of branches eating the tender new leaves. These I probably should do something about, but don’t know what, so leave them alone. “You know nothing, John Snow!” There are occasionally tiny gems of iridescent beetles – round-bodied beetles in a turquoise blue and oblong shaped beetles in emerald green. These too I leave alone. “You know nothing, John Snow!”
I come across a spider’s web glistening in the sunlight. The spider is about the size of a quarter, white in color, with a round center that looks almost like a small marble. She has captured a honeybee and has it wrapped in silk. This cocoon is translucent and I can make out the bee’s color and markings through its veil. I notice that the spider has made a lair in the leaves above the web. I watch as she attaches a line of silk to the wrapped bee, climbs up to the lair, and then pulls the line and her treasure up behind her.
At the end of each row of trees I stop to fully experience my surroundings. I close my eyes and listen. In the early morning the loons call a haunting, wavering tremolo. Later the drill of woodpeckers is prominent. The air on my skin changes as the morning progresses. It starts out cool, raising the hairs on my arms. Within an hour the air is heavy and my skin is damp with sweat. The sun is hot on my scalp and I wish I had worn a hat.
I look down and see the green grass mixed with flowering clover, wild daisies – white with yellow centers, and red-orange hawkweed. Bees flit between the flowers and ants scurry across the dark earth beneath the grass. A small orange and brown butterfly sits on a daisy. One set of wings lies flat against the flower, the other stands straight up to the sky. This pair seems to have a row of fringe along its edge. What type of butterfly is this? “You know nothing, John Snow!”
I look up. White puffs of clouds float across the blue sky. The skies here appear transparent. Reach your hand out and it seems it would go right through – so different from the saturated blue skies of New Mexico that look solid to the touch. Birds cross overhead. Once a blue heron, oh so graceful; next, an eagle soaring high; and then a goldfinch flashing his bright yellow with every flap of the wing. I take a deep breath, smelling the trees, the grass, the flowers, the dirt, and the dank of the surrounding woods.
After two hours, my job in the orchard is done for the day. The dogs are lolling in the grass, content and tired after their play. We get into the car and head back home, riding in a shared serenity.