Spring’s Promises

Friday Dawn


Ernest and I are heading west on Interstate 70.

It is Wednesday, April 12th.

I’m mostly going for a “field trip” on a beautiful spring day.

This week, the wooded roadsides and medians are dotted with blossoming redbuds, also called Judas trees. I think that is what my Alabama mamma would call them. I like legends. I think they were mankind’s attempt to deal with unexplainable phenomena. To make sense of the things around them. Maybe they added spice and interest to their difficult lives. Legends could also be a form of living history that could be passed from generation to generation. Here’s one of the legends of the Judas (and dogwood) tree.

They and the dogwoods always bloom around Easter—which was last Sunday.

It is time to do some garden surveys. Most things are up or in leaf.

I found one of my store-bought redbuds had died. I think a rodent had dug into the soft soil around the root ball, exposing the roots. By the time I discovered that last fall, the tree was ailing. But there are 30 or so growing in the gravel along the long steep paved driveway. Some are getting to be 4 feet tall or so. I need to get them out of there. They can’t be allowed to mature that close to where my cars need to pass.

Oh! Here comes the footbridge for the Appalachian Trail.

Washington County Appalachian Trail Footbridge

I guess that is something I’ll never get around to… yet another thing. I was never that interested in the whole shebang, anyway. I have done some short hikes on it.

The store looks great. When I think of the mess it was in prior to COVID… I guess you could say COVID “cured” the three big bookstores. We met last week, and sales were up nicely at all of them over March 2022, 2021, 2019. Of course, they were closed for much of March 2020.

Why the growth in recent years—after two decades of decline and then stagnation?

Good and caring people running them.

A public that has re-embraced the physical bookshop—including younger people. It is anecdotal, but when I visit the stores, the demographics seem to be 50% or more under 40—many with children accompanying them.

It is a joy to recycle and offer affordable children’s’ books. Biblio-evangelism. I learned in Greece that the roots are far different than today’s spin on the word. It meant angels spreading the word—the good news.

Spreading the printed word—without any prejudice. Booksellers are modern-day angels.

Books sure made a difference in my young life.

What else…

Hard work.

There is joy in hard work. It is healthy for many kinds of people.

People… even at this point in my life, I wonder at the differences. I spend most of my time around “book people”, so my sample is tilted. Staff (so many now!), customers, friends, family.

It is early Friday morning.

Dawn is lovely today—like most days up here.

Friday Dawn

I added no filters to this image.

All the redbuds below the house add a carpet of color until the view opens up to the valley and then the horizon far beyond.

I planted most of those trees. Some were put in by the man who lived here before me—a master carpenter who built the house from the ground up. How lucky I am that he did.

I did a survey of the 50 or so redbuds I’ve planted in the last few years. COVID was part of the reason, but a desire to leave a legacy was another. Maybe 10 were store bought. The rest were seedlings I transplanted from hopeless locations to give them a chance. This place will be glorious in ten years. But some are already beginning to set out some blossoms. I’m already anxious for next spring!

Last night, I did a survey of the trilliums. Most are out of the ground. There are groups of seedlings in several of the colonies. I marked them with by spreading composted manure around them. That way, I won’t accidentally step on any. I’ll transplant many of those—because they need more space—to try to establish more colonies. I’m proud of the success I’ve had propagating trilliums. They are so fragile and rare.


What’s that?!

Trillium Babies

Three trillium babies growing in the top of a boulder! I wonder how the seeds leaped up there? That might be a delicate operation extracting them. I’ll have to prepare a very soft spot and then carefully loosen the leafy mulch that nature chose to plant them in.

They won’t last long growing on rock.

The trilliums I bought through the mail are not looking great. They arrived as little hairy tubers last fall. Some are up—looking a little frail. About half are not. Did I do something wrong?

I’ve transplanted a dozen or so healthy bleeding heart plants. Their seeds love jumping off the garden wall to plant themselves in the gravel patio.

Bleeding Hearts

I’ll take three to friends on the way to work today. I’ve learned the best way to get them out of the ground is to strike about six inches behind the plant with a pickax. A shovel just won’t go through the stones. The point will drive below the roots. I push the handle forward, and the fleshy roots lift out with little or no damage.

Merry and Pippin are enjoying spring as well. I think they enjoy life all the time. They are the happiest creatures. So full of energy. Occasionally, I’ll play “find the golf ball in the briar patch.”

The brush pile I’ve built from deadfalls and pruning is about ten feet high now. (There are no briars in it!) I toss a ball into the heart of it, and one of them rushes to pile. (I remove their collars, so they don’t get snagged.) They circle and whimper, anxious to get at their quarry. The ball is impossible to see. I think they use scent to hone in on the prey. Eventually, they climb into the pile and worm through the tangle and emerge with the ball. They were bred for activities like this. Ratters. They will persevere until their goal is attained. And then beg to do it all over again.

This search took about three minutes—too long to post here.

But here’s the finale.

Of course, the week was filled with books.

I acquired this book.

Taft's Our Chief Magistrate and His Powers

It is signed by President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Taft to Edward White—another Chief Justice. It is written by Taft as well, and the subject is Our Chief Magistrate and His Powers.

How cool an association is that?!

Well, it got cooler. I was doing “my thing”—flying through carts of old books, separating the wheat from the chaff, and I found the same book! This one in a nice dust jacket!

It made for a (DJ) “marriage” made in heaven.

There was a large signed and numbered Dali lithograph.

Someone’s Paul Bunyan collection.

I’d never seen some of the books in that collection before. (And I’ve seen lots of books!)

There were thousands and thousands more.

There always are.

It’s what we do.

Book rescue.

I think there will be no more fires this season. The forecast is for warm days going forward. Those days heat the house enough that there is no reason to get the woodstove going to add heat.

So, that ritual, discipline, is done til next fall.

At the warehouse, some strong winds toppled a blooming crabapple in the parking lot. I went and inspected it. It had no roots.

I cut it up. The branches I took and added to my brush pile #2. The firewood will be stacked in the barn for next season.

Warehouse Crabapple

One evening, I gathered a lot of the wood I’d cut up last fall. Now I need to cut and stack it.

Wood Load

The supply is good until 2025, I think.

Wood needs to be dried before you can burn. “Green” wood can get you with smoke—i.e. it doesn’t burn clean.

Copper Kettle:

“Copper Kettle”

Get you a copper kettle, get you a copper coil
Fill it with new made corn mash and never more you’ll toil
You’ll just lay there by the juniper while the moon is bright
Watch them jugs a-filling in the pale moonlight

Build you a fire with hickory, hickory, ash and oak
Don’t use no green or rotten wood, they’ll get you by the smoke
You’ll just lay there by the juniper while the moon is bright
Watch them jugs a-filling in the pale moonlight

My daddy he made whiskey, my granddaddy he did too
We ain’t paid no whiskey tax since 1792
You’ll just lay there by the juniper while the moon is bright
Watch them jugs a-filling in the pale moonlight

When wood dries, it cracks inside—gets “checked.” Like this.

Checked Wood

I did put in another jagged garden bed.

Jagged Garden Bed

I used stone from the building site—stone that had likely been beneath the earth for millions of years until the excavators dug down for the foundations of the new buildings. I will fill it with soil and composted manure. Then I will plant… I don’t know… where serendipity leads.

The new warehouses? Progress is rapid. The infrastructure will be added soon. Electricity, plumping, sprinklers…

Merry approves.

Merry and New Warehouse

It is amazing how far (some aspects of) civilization has advanced. Technology, for certain. Clark got me an Apple watch that can take my EKGs (and do 100s of other things.) I had a stress test this week. They injected me with a chemical to induce stress. (As if I needed that.) They found something irregular. I think it may have been induced by the test. Things were normal before that. And it is normal now, according to my high tech wristwatch. It wasn’t that long ago that the Dick Tracy TV watch was science fiction.

Anyway, now there’s something else to worry about. To test. To threaten mortality.

6 Comments on Article

  1. Lauren Baker commented on

    Incredible picture of the trees and sunrise. Almost – “A whiff of plum blossoms
    And up pops the sun –
    Mountain path”

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I am very lucky to have that constantly changing but eternal view each morning.
      Thank you for reading and writing and Basho.

  2. See below commented on

    Hi Chuck, the interesting thing about Taft, for me, he was Chief Justice after being President. No one else can say that. And yes, the redbuds are great. Rick

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks Rick.
      It is so cool to “touch” history
      Great to hear from you.

  3. Jeff commented on

    Chuck, as the coordinator of a food pantry in the rural corner of Montgomery County, thank you for your April food drive. Our organization isn’t a recipient of the food you collect, but the need has increased drastically in the first quarter of 2023, mostly because of the increased cost of food and the end of Covid-era assistance programs. Some people probably don’t think it means much to drop off some chicken soup with their coupon when they’re buying books or DVDs, but honestly, as I told one of your great Frederick employees, right now every can of food makes a difference.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks Jeff.
      We’ve been doing this for several decades
      I don’t know how many cans we’ve collected. Half a million? Quarter?
      Wonder Book is proud of this innovation.
      It makes giving back so easy.
      Thank you for writing!

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