A good cool Saturday, fifteen degrees or more below normal — the temperature sign in town said 50 at noon. Cloudy but dry.

Garden day!

Ready For The Cicadas To Sing

It shouldn't be long now, and I'm ready, both because I love their song and all that it conveys...

And because they'll be singing loud enough to drown out the sound of the grass growing — which I am convinced is louder than the sound of the mower that can't keep up with how fast the grass grows.

New Year, Old Lessons

2013 begins, with all the promise and all the challenge that each new year brings.

I'm looking forward, as always, to learning — and re-learning — some of the old lessons that this land has tried so hard to teach me. I am doing so in hopes of really learning the lessons this time.

In so far as anyone ever does.

That, it seems to me, is one of the great gifts of a piece of land and all that comes with it. The chance to learn and to go on learning, the same lessons year after year, and discovering that the lessons, however often learned, and the learning itself, never grow old.

I love this little farm more than I can say. It has taught me so much, and continues to.

Good Day Rainfall

The first chill drizzle of the fall, and not unexpected.

Nor unwelcome. An opportunity for long gazes through water-beaded windows, the world beyond the panes slipping away from the shores summer and their promises and pleasures, and on into the landscape of fall with its different, more contemplative, perspectives.

A good day.

Who's Afraid of Thomas Wolfe?

October clearly on my mind — and this farm blog — I found myself writing of that great October (and all the other months, too), Thomas Wolfe on my other, more wide-ranging (or just less focused blog, Cultivating Keith.

It struck me that some of you might enjoy that piece — if you know Wolfe's work, you know how aware he was of the rhythms of nature, the power of the seasons, the promise of the land. If you don't know his work (and how it was treated), there's a glimpse in the long post I wrote about him, October, and Of Time and the River:

If you take a look, let me know what you think.

More importantly:

Do any of you read Thomas Wolfe? Of all of our great novelists, he and Faulkner had the most finely developed senses of nature. Both of course have much to say to us today, about nature, and our place in it.  


The month off to a good start, redolent of and resonant with its transitional nature.

Rain on and off all day yesterday, fog early this morning washed away near dawn by heavier rain. Cool but not yet chilly.

Fall continues approaching this little farm by way of hints, suggestions, subtleties, not yet any large portents but they are out here and they will come.

It is October.

Shear Secateurs

In her fine biography, John Fowles : A Life in Two Worlds, Eileen Warburton writes of the great novelist and naturalist's frequent walks, during which he often "plunged into the woods, cutting his way off the path, secateurs in hand. He led friends out along the cliffs, and left them bewildered, as as he charged off to examine some new discovery, moving quickly out of sight."

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Fowles's approach to the territory he explored with his typewriter was much the same as the terrain he entered with his secateurs — off the known paths, in search of discoveries. 

 The right tool, as it were, for the particular job.

And the right name — le nom juste! — for the right tool.

When I slide the latch open and use mine near the house they are pruning shears, and reliable ones that have served me well for years. They take and hold an edge well, and other than sharpening have required very little in the way of maintenance.Good pruning shears.

But when I leave the vicinity of the house and yard, the same tool magically becomes my secateurs, a lovely word for a lovely tool. With "secateurs in hand" I can press deep into the woods, and do so in at least occasional, if unworthy,  company with the great naturalists of the past.

I carry my secatuers with me almost everywhere and have used them on everything from vines and branches to rusted strands of ancient barbed wire discovered deep in the woods, far removed in space and time from any clearing that would need to be fenced..

I have many tools that I love, but this may be the tool I love the very best.

I wonder, now that John Fowles's personal library is being sold, what became of his no doubt equally cherished secateurs. I hope that they found a good and appreciative — and an owner who carries them, and a bit of John Fowles with them, at least occasionally off the easy path.

Last Seen Bearing

I've been long-accustomed to various animals crossing the drive as I go up when headed out, or come down upon my return. Deer, rabbits, wild turkey, a particularly daredevil squirrel and his or her siblings or cousins, the occasional snake, a couple of turtles. I've seen fox a few times. Brownie, my neighbor's cow, made an appearance on the drive during his one and only jailbreak.

The woods are thick on either side of the drive, and the creatures disappear quickly into the cover offered there.

Today, for the first time, it was a bear that crossed my drive as I drove home.

The black bear, not fully grown but not a cub either,  came out of the woods to the right of me, not far ahead of the car, moving fast. Very fast. I braked and stared hard but the bear was already gone, to my eyes at least, nor did I hear any sounds of his passage into the deeper woods.

Even startled and at high speed, the bear moved as gracefully and even elegantly as any wild animal I have ever seen. 

The bear was gone long before I could grab my camera, but I still got out and took a few steps into those woods -- the same woods I have walked so often without ever seeing any indication of a bear, much less the real thing.

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But I wasn't dressed for moving through the woods, not quickly anyway, and the bear was. Besides, I'd already startled him — or her — once today, and that was enough.