there is no more snow in my parents' backyard. that didn't stop it from snowing though, on this grey and cold day. it was just a flurry and if i wasn't outside, i would've missed it. later in the afternoon the sun came out a few times behind thick clouds.

i continued looking for spring signs. the emergence of the fuzzy pussy willow catkins is another vernal harbinger.

some mysterious green perennials have sprouted in the garden area next to the faucet. i did a quick check of my records from last year and i don't know what they could be. whatever it is, there are 3 clumps. they've emerged so early, they'll probably flower soon too so i'll be able to figure out what they are.

in the mescluns patch from last year have sprouted some maroon colored lettuce looking things. i don't know what they are either. i should set up some kind of barrier though. last year most of lettuce were taken by what i thought to be slugs, but now looking back, i think it was probably rabbits which i've seen occasionally in the backyard. i need to erect some kind of cold frame.

i passed the word to my father yesterday that we needed to prune the backyard maple tree. end of winter is supposedly the best time to do such things, but i was afraid we were already getting dangerously close to early spring. even if we wanted to we couldn't have done it any earlier because the backyard snow had only disappeared a few days ago. the problem with pruning a tree in early spring is the sap tend to bleed from the fresh cuts. wait even longer, and the leaves and flowers will be out, creating an even bigger mess to clean up.

the backyard maple had just been pruned 2 years ago, in mid-april of 2009. at the time it was getting so large that it managed to block out most of the sunlight in the backyard, seriously crippling the vegetable garden. we pruned it down to the main branches, reducing it's size by 2/3. originally we wanted to chop down the whole tree, but left it alone in anticipation of chopping all down the following season. however, in the course of just one summer, that tree rebounded back, and we decided to keep it after all.

as for the vegetable garden, the return of all that missing sunlight brought back a gardening renaissance the past 2 years. the backyard seemed just a little bit healthier now that it was no longer overshadowed by the maple tree. even the flowering quince bush started to produce an abundance of fruit, something it never did before.

it's amazing how much a tree can grow in just 2 years though. all the branches we took down today were the same length, which made sense because they all grew out at the same time. all of them were neglected suckers (i'm referring to the botanical definition, not casting any unwarranted aspersions), approximately 10 feet in length. that meant that maple tree managed to grow 5 feet per season.

this wasn't the first time we pruned a tree, so we had all the necessary equipment: manual pole pruner, electric pole pruner (basically a chainsaw at the end of a long pole), electric chainsaw, pruning saw (not pictures), and a bypass pruner. we also could've used a pair of loppers but couldn't find it. my father scrambled up a ladder with the pruning saw and bypass pruner while i was on the ground directing which branch to cut and clearing the debris once it fell to the ground. soon we worked our way to the power tools, mainly the electric pole pruner. it worked fast, but made messy cuts, so it was better to use the manual version, even though it didn't have as long a reach and required more dexterity to operate.

up on the tree with a ladder, it was clearly evident how bad a shape it was, with rotting overhead stumps and large branches with wounds that never healed. not much to look at at this point, but once the leaves come out everything will be hidden from view. the tree is very much diseased, which explains the rampant powdery mildew the past few years. it really should be put out of its misery, and in its place, a few flowering fruit trees (that was the original idea back in 2009).

we finally stopped pruning by 6:00 (dinner time), even though it was still daylight outside. the tree still needs another pass, probably with a pair of loppers. hopefully we can get that done before it begins to flower.

even though i already had a pair of tea eggs for lunch, my mother fixed me a bowl of xue li hong (mustard greens) noodles when i arrived in belmont after coming back from the backyard with the dog (who left a pile of chewed sticks on the lawn). my sister made a blueberry cake with coconuts. it was good, with a lot of crust, and i had two fresh-from-the-oven slices while watching newsradio reruns on the reelz network.

after doing some pruning work with my father we had a 5 course meal for dinner (although 2 dishes were leftovers from yesterday). i rushed back home hoping to beat my roommate but he was already back. there was some NBA basketball games which i watched with victor: heat vs. spurs (miami won), and lakers vs. magic (lakers won). during commercial breaks i asked him questions about spain or answered questions about life in the US.