I\’m not sure what happened in the rest of the country after last week\’s apocalyptic heat, but here in Vermont the all-time highs were succeeded by two nights of hard frost, which was made worse by howling northwest winds. We had plenty of warning that the cold was coming, so I asked my spouse to help me save the 2012 apple harvest by covering Freedom and Liberty, my two little apple trees, which had been lured by the hot days to impending bloom.
Fortunately for us, at the moment the trees were even smaller than usual, having just undergone my annual enthusiastic pruning. Even so, when you walk right up to it, a tree always turns out to be much bigger than you expected. We flung a large plastic tarp over Liberty, taking care not to damage the spindly end branches. But we had only one tarp, and when I unfolded the twin-bed sheet I had brought for Freedom, my spouse let out a derisive cackle.
\”O.k., I\’ll get a bigger sheet,\” I said, and went to the linen closet and came out with a queen-size sheet. But that wasn\’t big enough either. We ended up standing on the patio, being buffeted by arctic gusts as we struggled to attach two big sheets together with binder clips. This required many binder clips, and some kept coming off because our fingers were clumsy with cold, but finally we hoisted the enlarged sheet over Freedom and fastened the bottom edges together as best we could with some more binder clips. The wind was so strong that it kept inflating both tarp and sheets like balloons, and I expressed a concern that the trees would be uprooted and carried off over the Green Mountains into New Hampshire.
I didn\’t have much hope, what with the wind and the freezing rain and the two nights of temperatures in the teens, that the buds would make it, but at least my conscience was clear. I kept looking out, making sure that the covers were still on, wondering if they were doing any good. Their skinny trunks swaying in the gale, the trees looked like two enormous lollipops.
This morning, having checked that the forecast lows would not drop below 30F, I removed the tarp and the sheets. The buds, as far as I could tell, had survived.
I was standing on the patio unfastening binder clips when two Canada geese flew honking overhead. They must have come from the pond hidden back in the woods, and they were flying so low that I could hear the whoosh of their wing beats. They disappeared behind the roof, but came back and flew over me again, and then again. They were flying in circles around the house, and one of them was clearly chasing the other, though the one being chased didn\’t seem to mind. They were scrawny geese, with extra-long necks, loud and raucous: juvenile males, I guessed, feeling the season, letting off steam.