I hear the ice dripping as it is finally above freezing after a long winter.
The hail bouncing off my coat on my morning walk has turned to rain.
On the first warm day each rain drop leaves an animal at the spot where the raindrop touches the earth.
Drip, drip, there are two otters.
Plunk, plunk, there are two beavers.
Splash there is a porcupine.
As soon as they touch ground, they start walking.
Didn’t you always wonder where they came from?
Thunk, there is a fisher cat, all you others better watch out!
The animals find somewhere to go in the rain.
They are already wearing their coats that shed water
(while we have to get ours from the store or our brother who outgrew his).
The plants do not have a choice.
They are here for the long haul,
like rocks and postal service people.
They are outdoors in sun, rain, sleet or snow.
“Makes us tougher for it,” they say.
Some refer to snow as “poor man’s fertilizer.”
So, what is rain, a poor man’s spa?
In my early days in Vermont in the late 70s, I lived behind my friend’s house in a tent
on the Missisquoi river up north in Westfield. The river was where I dunked into to get clean.
When it rained and I was in the water, I did not get wet or mind it, as there was no separation between me and the water. This is probably how plants feel all the time. As a grower of plants, I notice the delicate balance for a tree or smaller plant. If they are too hot and dry, they let us know by wilting that they need water badly.
Tomato plants can perk up from nearly being dried into dried herbs by letting their roots sit in water for an hour. Most trees will also come back from a drought after leaving a slow dripping hose next to them or giving them one or two five-gallon buckets of water.
But plants in the Ericaceae family cannot come back from being dried out. This is probably due to them not having root hairs that absorb water. Plants in this family include lowbush cranberries, lingonberries, azaleas, rhododendrons and blueberry bushes. They must be used to growing where the conditions are favorable for a plant like them. Mossy, spongy, acid soil, well drained but moist most of the time, seems to be what they like. It is very important when growing these plants to not let them dry out when they are first transplanted or during serious dry spells. Mulching with tree bark or compost or leaves is a good way to help maintain moisture around the roots of these plants.
As a boy, I remember getting stuck outside in my neighborhood on a warm summer’s day during a downpour. At first, I resisted the rain, as I had learned as a kid that you are not supposed to get wet unless you are taking a bath. Not having a choice, I got soaked really quickly and remember lying down on the warm sidewalk in a puddle, stretching out my arms and legs in the pouring rain to just feel that awesome rain all over me. I was one with the rain and I was very, very happy.
This is how plants probably feel all the time. They are just waiting for the next rain. All us two- legged ones go inside somewhere, and they get to be out there in all the majesty. Dripping wet and stretching their roots deeper into the earth than last time it rained. They keep growing from their experiences. They keep hoping we two-legged ones will also grow from ours.
David Fried is a writer and grower of fruit and nut trees and berry plants at Elmore Roots.