My neighbour has been dead now for two years. He was the most gentle man, always full of hope and encouragement. Deeply thoughtful. Fully supportive of what we are about here. One year we were forced to bale hay in the snow by the Manitoba government – they said that they needed an accurate record of what our land produced and would prosecute us if we did not do so. So we did. The bales weighed so much that two men could barely lift them. But this neighbour came and bought them all for his cattle before they could mold. We said that he did no have to pay…that it was a relief just to be rid of them. He did not have to; he just did. And he showed up from time to time with loads of gravel, just because he could. He’d dump it and smile and say, I’m sure you can use it somewhere! And of course we always could. And when he was razing the barn that had been on his property from before his childhood – all leaning and falling over – he phoned to say that there was a lot of very good and useable lumber in it and why didn’t I come over and see what I could salvage. And that grand, now-120+ year old spruce still shows up in my projects from time to time.
Prunus pensylvanica – pin cherries. They are a small tree, Straight trunk. Foliage is thin and meagre. Flowers are individual in small groupings. Five to seven in a cluster. Sparse. Delicate. Exquisite. Extremely sensitive to herbicide they are all gone on land that borders anything agricultural here. But here they are protected. Isolated. Peaceful. Cared-for. Growing in a community.
My friend used to say that pin cherry jelly was the champagne of jellies – his favourite. And he is right.
This winter was horrendous. Bitter. Extreme wind. Little snow. Isolating. We were blown in – cut off – for weeks. And we are dry from last summer. Winter has gone directly into heat; from snow banks to 30C degrees dust. I will again water our orchard today. We still await our first rain. But just this week our pin cherries are in full bloom, which mostly takes years in the making. Subtle. Full of promise. I see them from our orchard. They stand out like a white flag against the aspen. The flowers are the favoured food of…butterflies.
Oh. Did I mention that he also played the organ at church?
In him was joy. And still is.