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By Staff | May 22, 2009

Last summer, my wife and I decided to replace an old hedge that was looking like, well, an old hedge, with something more pleasing to the eye and decided on lilacs.

A local garden store made suggestions on the kinds of bushes to plant and how to arrange them for the best display. Because it was early fall, they offered a discount if we bought the bushes then instead of the spring. It would keep them from having to store them over the winter.

There was a problem in planting in the fall that we might lose one or two bushes, but for the discount in price to buy them in the fall it was worth it. We bought the lilacs and planted them following the garden store instructions.

During the winter, the snow drifted over them that we were told was good as snow was insulation. The next concern was predators, rabbits, in particular. Sure enough, we saw signs of nibbling on the bark on a few of the bushes.

I do not know when they did it, but on a few bushes, they had made quite a feast. We watched as spring moved along and a few weeks ago thought they were one or two bushes that would have to be replaced.

I looked them over a few days ago and even the bush in the worst shape has a few new leaves poking through. With a little care and all summer, the bush will be small, but it will live and take its place with all the other lilacs. I am always amazed at the determination of plants to grow despite any obstacle, be it lilacs or button weed.

The garden store told us it would take about three years for the lilacs to grow and be the showy bushes we are looking forward to each spring. My wife and I have kidded each other we better stick around and see how this turns out. It should be worth the wait.

In the midst of all this new life of spring, my good friend and neighbor, Dave unexpectedly passed away in his sleep last week at age 63. Dave was here only weeks ago with his Cub Cadet and tiller to stir the ground for the potatoes to be planted on Good Friday. Later this fall, we were going to have a meal of our fresh potatoes and Dave’s home-raised beef. We still can, but Dave will not be there.

Dave’s wife, the person he loved most in this world, died almost a year ago and there was no mistaking he was a very lonely man. Just before she died, she told their daughter she was not sure he would make a year without her. He almost did. There was no mistaking his joy in living was gone.

Dave was like that lilac bush that the rabbits nibbled the bark off it. Life was a tough start but he kept going and he always had a job, was a good provider, husband, father, and friend. Dave blossomed from a tough beginning just as I expect that lilac bush will in coming years.

In his loneliness, he threw himself into the cattle he raised and he still enjoyed a good visit anytime with family and friends. My cell phone rang more frequently at the end of the day and that was fine with me. It would take about 20 minutes for him to tell me something he thought I needed to know and then he would tell me it was bedtime for him.

Plants and people are wonderful in their desire to persevere no matter what the odds. I am going to give extra care to that lilac bush that I thought would not make it, but has a few leaves to show me I am wrong.

I am naming the lilac bush “Dave.”

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net

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