The Wilderness Came Back To Life

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

The El Nino inspired mild winter and the early warming spring temperatures have been greeted enthusiastically by the wilderness. The winds played some havoc with some trees. The combination of saturated soil and gravity didn’t bode well for them but there’s greening and blooming galore in the Hoosier forest.

First to green up is the green briar and multi-flora roses almost daring you to take a walk past them to enjoy the woods. Some hand pruners and a spritz of brush killer help keep some of the pricklies under control.

And speaking of pricklies, the wild raspberry and blackberry are not far behind their non-fruiting briar cousins. We will have to wait and see how the bloom set is before offering a prediction on blackberry futures.

While on the subject of blooming, the yellow and red delicious apple trees planted in that last millennium are blooming profusely. Butterflies, bees, and an assortment of other insects have been busy drinking nectar while pollinating. Prediction: the deer will have a fine apple crop this year. I will try to gather a few for my own use.

The early blooming trees like serviceberry, dogwood and red bud are coloring up the forest canopy.

Other woodland flowers are peeking through the forest floor: purple violets, lavender wild phlox, white Dutchman’s breeches, yellow trout lily, and a few bloomers I have yet to identify are populating the brown carpet of last season’s fallen and decaying leaves and sticks.

The Mayapples are popping up and may actually bloom in May…maybe.

But the elusive of all that woodland bounty—the morel mushroom has escaped my gaze. I seem to have more luck spotting mushrooms when I am not looking for them. So I don’t go looking for mushrooms officially in hopes that a few will cross my path.

I really think wild turkey like mushrooms because a lot of their scratchings have been in places I would grow if I were a mushroom.

And there is an ample crop of turkey that made it through the mild winter. Early morning gobbling toms are heard in all directions from the woodland homestead. And some late afternoon flocks get disturbed from their grazing and rush into the woods when I return home on the lane.

And like the turkey, the bluegill in the lake fared well in the mild winter. They already come aswimming when I tromp on the dock to throw them some floating food. And there are the tent caterpillars I clear from the wild cherry trees they want to defoliate. Their tent clings to my fingers like cotton candy and by the time I make my way to the dock the black fuzzy wigglers are trying to escape up my finger. That makes it easy to gingerly flick them onto the lake surface where multiple bluegill almost bump noses clamoring for the fresh meat.

The whippoorwill calls from the woods at night…a sound that usually is the harbinger of summer months but maybe El Nino has moved the brown night bird’s clock forward. Often the barred owl joins in the ‘whip-poor-will’ chorus with ‘who-who-who-cooks-for you’.

And with warming ground temperatures, food for me is beginning to make its presence known. The crowns of asparagus I planted last spring and allowed to go to seed are rewarding me and my guests with index finger thick spears.

It should go without saying that the grass & weeds in the wilderness are also growing at high speed and call to me to mow. I like to mow. It gives me time to think. To think of columns like this one.