By Sandy Neilly
Ahhhh, finally, summer 2021, following a spring that went from great to awful and back again. Spring – a time to emerge from a long, dark, locked-down winter. A time of warmth and birds and blossoms. Longer days. Sunny days. Happy days!
But wait… that must have been another year. Spring 2021 was a bit of a failure. It was better than winter – yes – it’s hard not to be better than winter here, unless you like slush, ice, cold and darkness, or spend winter some place warm and lovely with green things growing and nice places to visit.
We delivered the spring issue on time at the end of March… just like 2020… and, just like 2020, a short time later, another lockdown was declared after only a few weeks of not being in lockdown. First it was supposed to be for two weeks, then four, then six… and then I lost track. I know it started in early April and to date (it’s June 22nd, the second day of summer as I type this) we are partially open, which is pretty special after such a long time of not seeing friends and family or getting out antiquing.
You know all this. But the 2021 lockdown was different from 2020. Despite a “stay at home” order, I never noticed the traffic slowing down. Gas station line-ups were as long as ever and gas prices skyrocketed. Stores that were open last year, like the dollar stores, had aisles cordoned off. Who knew that cat toys and candy bars were essentials where socks, insoles and underwear are not? A colouring book to keep kids creatively entertained and greeting cards to show someone you care are non-essential, yet potato chips are. This made no sense, especially as I walked past the items that were within arm’s reach in a place I was already in, masked and sanitized. True, that stage is over, hopefully permanently, and I can put aside the frustration and go and buy whatever I like, even if I have to line up for it and continue to wear a mask. That feels quite normal now, anyway.
Spring 2021 had it’s glorious moments. We saw our little grand-daughter a few times and celebrated some big occasions with her and her parents. The blossoms on our apple trees were incredible. Peter (my husband) kept plugging away on our main stairway and it looks amazing. Our front porch and sun room have been painted by an incredible lady named Barb and I can’t wait to sit out on the porch and admire all that fresh, dazzling white that’s replaced the peeling, mildewed surfaces we’ve been looking at for years now. Many things were accomplished. And, although the timing ( as far as deadline was concerned) was about as terrible as it could ever be, we adopted a tiny five week old ginger tabby. The laughter from his antics have been punctuated with the word “ouch” hundreds of times as he attempts to climb our legs or bit our toes. He’s fearless and hilarious. A mighty less-than-a-pound tiger who I suspect is pretty clever judging from what we’ve seen in just a couple of weeks.
Spring 2021 also had it’s disappointing moments. Snow in May, frost in June, a heat wave in May, a heat wave in June. The heat has won out and now we’re in a drought – here in our little part of the province. I can’t think of too many springs as dry as 2021’s.
But I am saving the worst for last, and that would be the Gypsy Moth Caterpillars, aka the invasive moth species Lymantria Dispar Dispar (LDD). They really made spring somewhat miserable.
Throughout my life, I’ve seen those nasty tents of caterpillars and have often cut them down and destroyed them. I thought they were pretty awful. I was wrong. They were nothing.
When I first noticed the caterpillars I was pretty gung-ho to get out there and fight them off. I’d just planted about 18 little saplings and we’re still trying hard to get our small trees from 2018 to grow. They were planted to replace our beautiful spruce trees that Hydro removed. I picked those nasty little critters off everything I could reach, but as time has progressed I am seeing how delusional (optimistic) I was! There are areas in our neighbourhood where the trees have been stripped of every leaf and needle. There are thousands and thousands of caterpillars covering the road where we walk our dog. And when I was down at the back of our property watering one of my little saplings I could see hundreds of them making their way up the lawn from the woods that they have already laid waste to. Poplar, beech, birch, willow, spruce pine, apple pear, maple, honey locust, tamarack – even grape vine… and many more species, are being consumed before our very eyes. (I just learned they feast on over 300 species of trees!) Our beautiful summer canopy of tree leaves, home to nesting birds, provider of shade and beauty – almost gone. No rustling of leaves in the breeze, no apples or pears to look forward to, and there is no way I will be picnicking under any trees that still have leaves this year. I know they’re in them and I have picked enough off my clothes and out of my hair to last me a lifetime.
I’ve learned a lot about them. Native to Europe and Asia, they were introduced to North America in 1868 by a French scientist living in Medford, Massachusetts who thought they might be useful when crossing them with caterpillars that spin silk, which have little resistance to disease. Unfortunately, some of the moths got loose and like so many good ideas gone wrong, the gypsy moth is now a huge problem, a massive destroyer of trees. It seems that we can’t really blame the French scientist for all of the moths – they were first discovered in Canada in B.C. where it was determined they had arrived from overseas on freighters.
I am not a person who enjoys killing anything (except maybe deer flies and mosquitoes) and in the past I have probably assisted an LLD caterpillar or two across the road – not knowing its destructive intentions. I have, however, since learning about them, taken the lives of probably thousands at this point, and plan on keeping up the defence of our poor, beautiful trees as long as necessary. After all, if my sister in Florida can step on a grasshopper (locust?) the size of a small mouse, I can certainly squish a tree-destroying caterpillar – with my shoes on.
Apparently we’ve been in lockdown too long and it’s gotten to me, hence a rant about caterpillars. We’re all so tired of holding our breath and waiting for our lives to get back to normal. I don’t think “business as usual” will ever be taken for granted again – at least not for a long time. It is definitely a foregone conclusion that we all want to be able to visit and buy from our favourite antique, collectible and vintage venues. What a long, tough haul it’s been for almost everyone in the business. Just like you, I’m so pleased that things are opening again and that soon our greatly anticipated events can take place on location with some precautions in place. From what I’ve heard, even with the restrictions in place, antique businesses are experiencing a great come-back… hopefully an indication of a wonderful summer for the antique and collectible hunter and those who sell them. Soon other markets – like flea markets – will be able to open their doors, too and we can all get back to doing one of the things we enjoy so much… looking for those special things that you can only find at the unique places, shows and auctions that grace the pages of the WT.
We wish you a delightful summer, one that’s happy and healthy and packed with joyful moments – and NO caterpillars!
Please keep well, stay safe… and thank you for your ongoing support of the antiques and collectibles industry. They welcome you back with open arms!
Safe travels this summer season and God bless.