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When Maple Leaves Are as Big as a Mouse’s Ear

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As we are heading toward Earth Day, it is a joy to know that Antioch College has always had and still has more than its share of “earth children.” Campus and the Glen are about as wonderful a place to be as anywhere on the planet once spring gets rolling. It is a great place for people who like the earth. There is a constant parade of wildflowers on the lawns and in the woods. First dandelions and violets, then white and pink spring beauties, and then the appearance of carpets of sweet-smelling clover. One spring, many years ago, a staff person who worked in the AV department, Flo Lorenz, chided a maintenance person who was mowing the flowery lawn and just about ran after him as he mowed that flowery carpet!

To know what is in the woods under the forest canopy, a botany book or course are always possibilities. I am sure that many Antiochians have kicked off their shoes and sunk their feet in on the soft grass and clover on the front lawn. Some folks may even forsake shoes at times for seasons. I arrived in a summer quarter, and as a New Yorker, I really enjoyed all the grass and the Glen. I did try going somewhat barefoot for a few weeks until a bee stung me between the toes in front of Main Building. Those shoes went back on straightaway. Others, of course, were more “earthy” or hardy. They went barefoot in varying seasons. Every now and then Joe Cali, Antioch’s quintessential librarian, would in his own charming way quip to some of those barefoot first-year types when they first entered the library…saying, “Hey you, you’re getting the floor dirty!” (With quite the twinkle in his eye too!) Newer students didn’t quite know Joe yet! They had just met someone they might never forget!

We have had great biologists and botanists and more, and people who make their careers doing green things The list is almost endless. I would bet you know some of them.

A year or so before we suspended, students used to run the Blue Earth Flag up the flagpole. On the lawn people read still books (now might be laptops one guesses) or played frisbee. Eventually the University Administration totally removed that flag. To me, the Blue Earth Flag seemed so much like many of us. If you look at Co-op and AEA, EFP…well Antiochians do cover a lot of the planet sooner or later, so the Blue Earth Flag seems like many of us. Taking care of it, the planet, is part of our collective victories.

In 2010 as Earth Day came, there were still only three buildings on campus that were open and functional. The Olive Kettering Library, South Hall, and the Coretta Scott King Center. As it was the time before students returned in Fall 2011, South was the center of most action, with some occasional village community Friday Forums at the CSKC. The Library stayed open to the village and to serve the entire state through OHIOLINK as we are a net lender in a consortium (that is how good that 169-year-old collection is).

The flower bed on Livermore was looking pretty sad as Earth Day 2010 approached. Then suddenly, on that Earth Day when the weather suddenly decided to be really hot, Julian Sharp ‘08 (director of Volunteer Services) appeared with an army of really young children from the Antioch School and flats of spring flowers. It was joyous yet total pandemonium. Much laughter, happy frenzied energy, and planting followed by servings of ice cream and then everyone suddenly went back to school. After the children had departed, it seemed like all the “starts” were planted on just one edge of the flower bed, so Julian and I had to do some replanting, then find a hose long enough to run from the Coretta Scott Center. The only outdoor water line at the time, to keep the starts happy in the sudden heart. That early sun seemed to bounce off the cooper turrets of Main Building.

For some reason, as April 2021 has arrived, maybe because I had my vaccinations and wanted to make the 25-mile pilgrimage, I came over to check out the Antioch Farm. It was also spring break and the campus was just about totally empty. Of course some folks say that early Ohio weather is like Powerball numbers. In a week’s time everything randomly happens from 22º to 80º! I came by on April Fool’s day and it was snowing. A week later, the homing instinct again hit me, and I also wanted to chat with Eric Miller ‘81, as we are both Antioch lifers. So we sat 20-feet apart on the ends of some concrete farm compost abutments, even though we are both fully vaccinated. We talked about life in general and then took a stroll through the Farm, which grows much of what the students eat…so it was our farm-to-table tour. The sun, however, seemed to be back from vacation well before the students. We were roasting! In a week’s time the upper 70s and lower 80s have already come knocking for the first time (sans humidity). The hoop house had some great early lettuces. There were rows of gourmet potatoes planted and garlic galore! In a few weeks the rest of the menu will be added. Eric and I ended our visit with a walk through the “Food Forest” between the farm and the Arts and Science Building (the old Science Building). There were raspberries, blueberries, and many more edibles. The sun was waking them up already!

As an earth child, I have my own little garden in NW Dayton. Probably a passion that the College planted within me. So every year around April, I get all frenzied until I get some plantings done too. This year at home arugula, kale (which is your campus mascot), and spinach wintered outside with no protection other than sporadic snow. Guess these greens can laugh at some snow and zero and then say I am still here.

In SW Ohio there is a folkish saying, “Best to plant the start of your garden when the maple leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear.” So I do watch those maples every year, and after maybe after four decades of Ohio gardening, I’ve found that those mice’s ears used to arrive around the last week of April. The last number of years those mice’s ears seem to arrive about a fortnight earlier. Perhaps some of the current students will join the army of green Antiochians and earth children out there to find out why these mice’s ears are behaving the way they do now….maybe they can start by taking Kim Landsbergen’s Field Botany Course and maybe put in some student hours on the farm. I have seen chickens and beehives too…so one still might want to wear those shoes at times.

Here’s to hoping that the Antioch Farm produces much tasty produce, and also if you are an earth child, your garden will be going gangbusters no matter what those mice’s ears seem to be doing. The College has also come so far from that other Earth Day in 2010. Wishing you a Blue Earth Flag-kinda year. Be sure to stay in touch and down the road, who knows?

Photos from around the Antioch Farm taken by Steven Duffy.

“A Buffalo Grazing” is a regular feature by alum Steven Duffy ’77, known to many as the Buffalo or simply Duffy.