After the rain

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(HOST)All the rainy weather we’ve had recently doesn’t seem to have dampened commentator Ruth Page’s spirits very much. In fact, she’s found a silver lining in all those grey days.

(PAGE) “What is so rare as a day in June; then if ever come perfect days.”

Well….? James Russell Lowell said that in the 19th century, and he had a point. But what of Vermont in the year 2006? Of course, Lowell didn’t specify how many perfect days; and we have certainly had a few – a very few – already. For me, the most spectacular so far was Monday, June 5. I took time off for a long walk just because the sun was shining and there were only fluffy summertime clouds low in the sky.

Thanks to all the rain, the landscape was gorgeous. Terrible for many farmers, awful for people near flooding streams, but downright thrilling in undamaged areas such as the hillsides and lakefront in Shelburne where I was walking.

Farmers used to call rain “God’s fertilizer,” and it was easy to see why. Every weed, bush and tree was passionately, boisterously, vividly green, and as tall and large-leaved as a blissful Nature could make it.

The normally short and adorable gold bird’s foot trefoil stood eight inches high on the roadsides; clover, both white and red, were so thick they would have carpeted the ground completely except that all the other weeds and flowers expressed the same exuberance. It was as if Nature herself were dancing. We gardeners whose plots are not in low pockets haven’t had to water anything for weeks; lettuces are growing so enthusiastically we’re all looking for neighbors to share the plenty. Tomato plants are shooting up, snap-dragons are super-tall, and the peonies have such huge, heavy blooms, folks have to pick half of them off the plants. They bring them in for display so the parent plants don’t droop with the effort of holding them.

Lake Champlain was barely ruffled that Monday, but the not-so-large pond I passed had two families of Canada geese. I tried to walk by slowly and softly, but the goslings resting in the tall grass must have heard my feet crunch on gravel. They scurried to the safety of the water without waiting for their less-concerned mom. I watched the babies skim the water, their mother following rather indolently behind them: another lovely sight.

Flowering bushes that are considered weeds, but productive, along the roadside, were already preparing to produce their elegant, edible thimbleberries. Wild asparagus was more common this year. A number of people reported seeing it among the roadside grasses.

Mentioning that causes me to remind people who shop for asparagus that it’s the thick stalks that are sweetest, most tender, and tastiest. Slenderness in asparagus is not a sign of youth and freshness; when most of an asparagus bed is producing nearly all skinny stalks, gardeners stop picking and let it build health for next year.

Constant rain can be depressing: city or country, take a walk when it ISN’T drizzling, and revel in the bursting greenery everywhere.

Ruth Page has been following environmental issues for twenty years. She is a long time Vermont resident and currently lives in Shelburne.

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