Archive for August 2012
Water is a favorite feature of the landscape for many people. On our drives we encounter streams and rivers, lakes and ponds. Thoreau, writing about his Walden Pond, said that water features are the eyes of the landscape. Reflected in those eyes are sky and clouds and the dazzle of the sunlight.‘A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows.’ Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854
This time of year, pond vegetation is lush and in bloom. Some ponds and wetland waters are alwost covered by Duckweed (Lemna minor L.), Pickerel-weed (Pontederia cordata L.) and Pond-lilies.
Pond lilies are in bloom and their flat pad-like leaves cover the water like pieces of a puzzle. White Water-lilies, Nymphaea odorata Ait., speckle the edge of almost every pond…
and the yellow cup-like blooms of Cow-lily (Nuphar variegatum Engelm.) brighten the sluggish waters of meandering brooks and wetland ponds…
Last week we drove to South Oromocto Lake in Charlotte County and stopped beside the lake outlet where there is a dam, including a water control structure and a fish ladder. The long, red stems of up-rooted Water-shield (Brasenia Schreberi Gmel.) were gathered in tangles at the control structure.
Do you have Pond-lilies and Water-shield where you are?
Copyright Jane Tims 2012
As I work on my collection of poems about growing and gathering, I am aware of the passage of time. I am in the revision stage. This means my manuscript will soon be ‘complete’. I will worry over it and list the last things to be done. I will prepare my final report to artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board), the source of my Creations Grant, and send it away to them for approval.
The project will be over, but there will still be work to do. I will have to decide what poems should go in the final manuscript, re-order them a few times, do some more revisions and them send them away, to a publisher, hoping I will be able to get a book from all this work.
Then I will be at the end and facing a new beginning, a new project. I have a few to choose from, so I won’t be relaxing for long.
In all this is the dimension of time, with its deadlines and unforgiving rush forward. Even in a project about growing and gathering local foods, there are poems about time.
A number of my poems are about the ephemeral nature of local foods. Another way to think of this is ‘eating local foods in season’. In spring, everything is plentiful – new plants arrive in a rush, so fast, you can hardly keep up. Then there is the patient waiting for berries to ripen and, again, a rush… blueberries are quickly followed by blackberries and raspberries and so on. But everything has its season, so leaves become too old to harvest, and berries shrivel and fall to the ground.
This seasonal aspect of local foods can be thought of as as a metaphor for aging, and some of my poems work with this comparison. I have poems about resisting aging, and about the ailments of age including arthritis, lethargy, forgetfulness, and aging memory.
Many of my poems on the theme of ‘time’ overlap with other themes, about ‘companionship’, or changes to ‘place’. For this reason, I find myself shifting poems around in my manuscript. I ask myself if the poems flow well, one to another.
I also find I don’t seem to have many poems about the differences between our historical use of local foods and our present day use. I have lots of source material, particularly among my great-aunt’s diaries… she loved to pick berries. So away I go, to write a few more poems about time!
Old Man’s Beard
Usnea subfloridana Stirt.
you and I
forced our ways
bent through the thicket
of lichen and spruce
caught in your beard
and we laughed
us with stooped backs
and grey hair?
found a game trail
a strawberry marsh
crushed into sedge
dusted with sugar
washed down with cold tea
warmed by rum
an old woman
lost her way in the spruce
caught in the branches
Published as ‘Old Man’s Beard’, The Fiddlehead 180, Summer, 1994
© Jane Tims 2012
Last week we went for a drive to explore some of the back roads in Sunbury County. As we drove, we encountered large boulders everywhere along the road. I know from my reading and a course years ago, these are a remnant of the glaciers that once covered this area. Large boulders were carried along by the ice and deposited on the landscape far from their place of origin.
In one place, a clear-cut lay the landscape bare and we were able to see how frequently these glacial erratics occurred in the area. In the photo, you can see the boulders scattered in a ‘boulder field’. These boulders would have been deposited here by a glacier, thousands of years ago, perhaps during the Wisconsinan glaciation when almost all of Canada was covered by ice.
It is strange to drive along the road today and know that thousands of years ago, a sheet of ice, perhaps a few kilometers thick, would have covered us.
ten thousand years it took
a glacial stream to set
the sinew of the esker –
cobbles sorted to layers,
screened by a giant hand
ten scant years to sever
esker snake from his tail –
the excavator bucket
reaching, fingers lifting sand,
pit-run, ready for road
Copyright Jane Tims 2012
Late summer is the time for campfires. We have to be careful, of course, to make sure there is no risk of forest fire and campfires are permitted. But on an evening when the fire index hotline says OK, and we have a small stack of wood beside the fire pit and a bench for sitting, there is no better way to pass an evening.
Campfires are great places for telling stories. They are also good places to dream and remember. A campfire means getting smoke in your eyes, so the images can be a little blurry. You can watch the sparks lift from the fire and ascend into the dark night. The question is, are they also watching you … ?
back crawl in amber
blisters of pitch
under mantles of smoke
blacken the stones
spurt throatfuls of fire
to the Drago sky
watch us grow small
with sparking eyes
close their lids
and sleep in flight
© Jane Tims 1998
One of the discouraging aspects of our lake property is how fast everything grows. In 2005, we bought 7 1/2 acres of field…
in 2012, we have 7 1/2 acres of alders and young trees…
I actually like the lush vegetation and we intend to always keep the forest of trees down by the lake, to help protect the lake environment. But we humans need a little room to move!!! Although we knew we would eventually have more trees than field, we always thought we’d be able to:
- keep the road and turning area at the lake end of the property clear of weeds and wide enough for a vehicle
- keep the area around the camp clear
- have some trails for walking and access to the various parts of the property
- keep our blueberries – they have trouble competing with the taller vegetation
- begin to groom some specific groves of maple and birch
- keep a small area of field so I can watch the grasses blowing in the wind.
The farmer next door was willing, for a price, to continue bush-hogging the area, just as he had done for years. But there were trees and various herbaceous species we wanted to keep, so we bravely set out to manage things on our own.
For me, that means snipping away with my shears. I get tired/bored very easily, so I am not much help. I mostly spend my time discovering new plants to protect and putting wooden stakes up to mark their position!
My husband has tried to keep back the growth with his bush-saw, and last year he was able to keep the road clear and even cut a new trail to access our blackberries. But progress is slow and within a few weeks, the alders, saplings and weeds have all grown back!
Finally, we became so discouraged, we began to think of alternatives. In the last two years, we have tried pulling the alders and I planted beans in the holes left all over the place. The deer really enjoyed my bean plants!
Now, we have the solution. We bought a rough mower that pulls behind the ATV. It is awesome! My husband has fun and is able to make huge progress. In just a couple of days, we have our road clear, there is a labyrinth of trails where we can walk, we have trimmed a selection of blueberry patches and we have our turning area restored at the lake end of the property. Notice the use of the word ‘we’, although my husband does all the work!
You can see the before and after shots of the road trimming in the three photos below. What you can’t see in the middle photo is the smile on my husband’s face as he mows! He was able to trim, in a few minutes, the trail it took him days to cut with the bush-saw last year.
Now, my husband can use his bush-saw time to work on his groves of maple and birch.
The only problem so far has been the hawthorns. We had a very flat tire on the mower after the first day. The man who fixed it said it looked like a porcupine on the inside, it had been punctured by so many thorns! Now, we are having each tire filled with foam!
© Jane Tims 2012
These days I am working to complete my manuscript of poems on the subject of ‘growing and gathering’ local foods.
As I sort my poems, I find several are about the ‘value’ of wild plants as food.
Sometimes this value is simple value for money. Every cup of blueberries I pick is one I don’t have to buy. When I pick enough berries to freeze, I can have blueberries or blackberries when they cost a fortune to buy fresh at the store. I am also bringing the warm summer and its memories forward into the chill of winter.
A few of my poems focus on the value of substitution. For example, I will never run out of tea leaves for my daily tea break. I have Pineapple Weed, Sorrel and Sweet-fern teas to make. Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, and my own little herb garden, I have a rack of fresh herbs drying, including Camomile and several varieties of Mint. If I run out of salad ingredients, I have a stash of salad greens just outside my door.
Storage is the subject matter of a few of my poems. When I was young, my Mom showed us how to collect Spruce Gum from the trees for a sticky but tasty chew. During my project, I learned that some woodsmen make little wooden boxes for the gum, to keep it for later use. I also have a few poems about making jelly and jam.
Thinking about the value of food, I can’t forget the people for whom growing and gathering local foods is an occupation, not just a ‘hobby’. I have written poems about the people who sell shad and fiddleheads and lobster from their roadside trucks, about children who earn their summer money by picking and selling berries, and, of course, about the farmer.
Last but not least, there is just the joy of finding or producing and eating your own food. I always say, the best part of a home garden is the taste of the first carrot or the snap of the first wax bean!
What do you think is the greatest value associated with growing and gathering local foods?Warning: 1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification; 2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives; 3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
© Jane Tims 2012