The forest trees are still bare, and I can't see any signs of imminent bud-popping on them. These are the two largest trees in my "front forest." My driveway passes between these two lovely beech trees. The clear blue sky is typical in this area of an early spring sky. In spring, when it's not raining, the humidity is usually low, the skies clear. By summer, the skies will turn hazy with humidity.
I have been clearing brush in my back forest this week. Last summer thorny undergrowth took over, and I couldn't walk behind or past the cabin into the forest. Likely, having the cabin here in the first place is what created the edge habitat that favored the appearance of the thicket. Even though my little cabin sits between trees, several trees had to be cut down to have room to build it. And that cutting created open sky and let in more sun than elsewhere in the forest. That extra sun favors the thorny undergrowth. Normally, I am profoundly in the "let nature take its course" camp, but two things happened to make me think the area was getting a little out of hand.
The first clue (that I ignored at the time) was when a Northern waterthrush appeared on my deck railing. Waterthrush are secretive birds that prefer deep underbrush with water running through it. The water, in this case, came from my basement drain after inches of rain. The fact that a waterthrush was on my deck railing was a hint that the underbrush was getting pretty thick. This bird spent several days making odd little noises and teasing the cats before moving on to another spot.
The second thing happened in August, during a dry spell. The thorny thicket was now growing up, snaking its thorny fingers between the deck fence that's a good 6 feet above the ground. Obviously, this thicket was now getting to be a fire hazard too, but in the heat of August I wasn't about to start trying to cut it back then. So I held my breath and hoped my luck would hold until the weather broke. But fall turned into a time when family obligations prevailed. Then winter came and with it work at the ski resort, also eventual snow cover. So it is only now that I am cutting down the thicket, at least enough so that I can walk behind the cabin.
The only sign of spring greenery that I have yet seen at the cabin is the buds on this thorny stuff, so I know I'm not a moment too soon in starting to clear it out. I work at it a little each night, only 20 minutes or so at a time. On the south side of the large oak tree out back, I have cleared a buffer of 8-10 feet. The north side still needs work--there's only room enough for a path so far. This is the area where the waterthrush appeared, and I am a bit reluctant to attack it with more vigor. How many people have waterthrush on their deck railings? I really liked that part.