Baltimore oriole

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(HOST)Commentator Edith Hunter has begun planting her garden, and she’s been eagerly awaiting the return of one of her annual garden companions.

(HUNTER) I always look for my Baltimore Oriole when the flowering quince is in full bloom. This usually happens about May 8th.

This year I began my watch early. Since the garden was rototilled on April 30th, I began planting on that date.

The leek plants that I ordered from a nursery came on April 25th and because the garden wasn’t ready, I just left them in the cool shed in the box in which they had been shipped. On the morning that the garden was tilled, I plunged them in water to soak until I could put them in the ground that afternoon.

On May 1st, I planted the peas – snow, snap and telephone. As I sat resting between the plantings, I scanned the skies for signs of my bright orange friend. I listened for his distinctive song. An unwelcome sight were numerous tent caterpillar nests in the black cherry trees along the stonewall.

On May 2nd I picked the first asparagus, and put in some chard, lettuce, beets, carrots and arugula. Still no oriole, but lots more caterpillar tents.

Then we had a couple of days of rain. Although I can see the flowering quince through my kitchen windows, I saw no orange and black among the wide-open pink blossoms.

Susan was out late on Friday, May 5th, planting the two long rows of onions. The thermometer had shot up into the high seventies, and she had to do battle with swarms of black flies.

On Sunday afternoon, May 7th, I went out to mark the rows for the twenty pounds of potatoes that I will plant on Tuesday. I have already cut them up and they’re healing over before I plant them.

I picked asparagus for Susan and Graham, and pulled some witch grass that was already coming up in the bed. I also picked some of the narcissus that, years ago, Aunt Mary had planted along the edge of the asparagus bed. I will put them in a vase by my kitchen sink.

Walking back toward the house I noticed that the peach tree is covered with pink buds. It had no fruit last year. We almost lost the tree in a wind storm, so it is propped up with two by fours and guy wires. But it looks promising.

I sat down beside the dormant sandbox which, covered with a tarp, is waiting for great-grandchildren or small visitors. I saw that the ferns in Aunt Mary’s fern garden are unfurling. I saw that the apple trees are showing a little color.

And, in the arms of the Northern Spy, a flash of orange, a familiar sound – my oriole had arrived.

To recall the words of Emily Dickinson:

To hear an oriole sing
May be a common thing,
Or, only a divine. —

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.

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