Brown and Green December

We had snow. Then it melted. That usually happens. And usually I am disappointed. It is mid-December, and snow lingers only in the shady spots. At least it isn’t all gone. The mountains are tipped in white, blanketed even. Here in the valley, however, it feels like spring.

The sun hasn’t shown itself much, but yesterday it came through. And the temperature climbed over the freezing mark. It felt like March. With the last of the snow melting, it looked like March, too. Clouds came in. The Geminid meteor shower was a bust around here. It hoped we might get one more shot at seeing some shooting stars last night, but those pesky clouds…

The grass is showing again. It is mixed in with the brown of fallen leaves and dried shoots, but it persists.  Squirrels pluck seeds, fallen from the bird feeder, from the lawn. They seem to be navigating the grass just fine. No mistletoe or ivy needed around here. Green lies around right outside the window.

This is pretty typical these days. Not that long back our December days had little green and lots of white. We shoveled out many a day. Our snow shovel sits unused on the porch. I have to hope we get some more snow before Christmas. I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I can say I’m hopeful. 

The temperature has creeped up again this morning. Winter seems to be trying to emulate spring. Just be yourself, winter. You are beautiful the way you are. Let spring be spring. I want to see your snowy self. Be glorious. Be icy. Be cold. But no pressure. Next week will do. Just don’t wait too long. Christmas isn’t far off.  

Dude, so dang gorgeous

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For the past week or so I keep repeating various takes on the phrase “Good god it is beautiful around here.” I mean, it is just stunning where I live this time of year. You have your pink apple blossoms next to red barns, white trilliums carpeting forest floors, rust-colored maple buds. Leaves creep up the hillsides. Grass is suddenly knee high. Green and yellow are everywhere. My eyes keep popping.

Peepers sing as the sun sets. Snipes whistle their ghostly whistles in the darkness before the sun rises. For the how-many-I-can’t-count time I say aloud something like, “I can’t believe how different it was just two months ago.” Two months ago it was cold and frosty and quiet. Now? Lush. Cacophonous.

Fiddleheads have unfurled into ferns. Wild leeks have started to dim. Colt’s Foot’s yellow flowers are faded. Now the dandelions and maple leaves take their turn. Summer has packed it’s bags. It will be here any day now.

Looking Good Around Here

Self portrait. 6:00 AM.

Self portrait. 6:00 AM.

Spring is pretty much here at this point. A lot of folks are saying it is finally here but come on. It is here. That is enough. Here, where the field slopes up from the river, the fields are greening. The flood waters have receded, at least this far from the lake. The house wren is back, happily singing in the old Christmas tree farm. White crowned sparrows are pecking away at the remainders from the bird feeders. The sun rises earlier each day.

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In some places, daffodils have faded to brown. Ours are just blooming. We still have apple blossoms and lilacs to look forward to smelling. We were in California recently. In Santa Barbara we smelled a garden full of thousands of roses, of scores of colors and shapes. It was an olfactory delight let me tell you. Roses won’t be blooming here for a while. Green has just arrived, yellow in its heals. Other colors are on the way.

Savannah Sparrow enjoying the spring day

Savannah Sparrow enjoying the spring day

Each day things get a little more beautiful. Rain has fallen the past couple of days. It has not fallen all day but on an off. Things get wet and the sun comes out and everything shines. Then it rains again. Water hammers the porch roof, then the solar panels start making kilowatts again. Then drips fall off my hat brim. Rain gives me a lens to look through–real and metaphorical. Wordsworth said “The world is too much with us,” that, when it comes to nature, we “are out of tune;/It moves us not.” But the savannah sparrow singing over the new grass, and the rings of raindrops in the puddles, and the buds bursting from the maples, all those, as he put it, “make me less forlorn.” I keep my heart yet.

Green and Yellow

Sunflower Finally Blooming

Sunflower Finally Blooming

Those were the colors of the morning–green and yellow.  Our one sunflower bloomed a couple of days ago and this morning it was big and bold as we walked out the meet the schoolbus. The seeds were old.  We got them, if I remember right, at a wedding. It was a nice touch for the wedding.  I wonder of the seeds handed out actually were planted.  There were a dozen seeds in the little brown envelope when I planted them at the end of June.  Only one grew.  It is, I have to admit, quite the flower.  My hope is that it will go to seed and we can plant the seeds next year.  As there are few sunflowers growing around here right now, however, I am not sure it will get pollinated.  I’ll find out if it has any seeds in a couple of weeks I suppose.

White Pine Needles

White Pine Needles

The other colorful item on this short walk was the pine needles.  The yellow ones are shedding and dropping to the grass, so we had yellow on green on the ground.  Of course, the trees themselves are decked out in green and yellow as well.  My son said this:  “I like it a lot better when the trees and green and yellow, not not just all green.”  It was rather striking this morning.   Perhaps it was the light–low clouds but the sun low as well–that made the colors stand out.  Fall is here, right on schedule.  With more colors to come.

Full On Spring

Not Turkeys

Not Turkeys

A few days ago I noted that, from a distance, some newly installed culverts looked like turkeys.  I went and checked them out today and, as you can see, they are not turkeys.  They are not, as I also suggested, made of metal.  They are full on plastic.

Leaves Unfolding

Leaves Unfolding

The trees around here are not leafing out in all their spring glory.  This tree at the end of our driveway has been busting green across the blue sky.  The orioles seem to like this one in particular.

Flooded Fields

Flooded Fields

It rained like stink last night and yesterday afternoon.  We drove home from Burlington My great-grandmother in-law’s 90th birthday celebration)  in the rain to meet our babysitter. The children were asleep, lulled by the drops tickling the windows.  This morning the fields around and about were flooded.  The beavers and the geese are loving that.

Laplatte River Running High

Laplatte River Running High

The river was full this morning as well–more than your usual CFS flowing under the bridge.  Our friend Kathy came for the night but she had to leave before we took this walk.  She arrived just before 2:30 AM from a late flight to the Burlington airport.  She left about 10:30.  Only and eight hour visit and most of that asleep.  I trust she enjoyed the fine spring day with her daughter when she got home to the Upper Valley.  It would be hard not to enjoy this day.  It was full on spring and, I am pretty sure this is true everywhere, was plain old beautiful.

Tomatoes Up

I planted tomatoes in foam cells a few days before we went away for a few days.  I was hoping they would be popping out of the dirt when we returned.  They were not.  They were still buried.  Pokey seeds.  I was worried they might be duds.  The next day was eight degrees plus.  They started to rise then.  I guess they like it hot.

No peppers have risen yet.  I planted those at the same time as the tomatoes.  Pokier seeds.  The leeks and onions are doing fine, curling all over.  I had to give them another haircut tonight.  That smelled pretty dang good.  In two or three weeks I will plant all this stuff in the ground.  I am looking to plant other things earlier–peas, lettuce, carrots maybe.  Pumpkins.  We’ll have to see about the weather.

I planted an oak tree from an acorn with the children last June.  It was a father’s day gift.  I never planted it and then winter came.  I thought i would plant it this spring.  When we returned from our trip it was dried out.  I thought watering it would help it bounce back.  It isn’t dead but it is still pretty limp.  I guess you shouldn’t treat your trees like dirt.

The tomatoes are pretty wiry at this point.  I’ll need to bury them deep so they grow well.  I decided not to repot them this year to see what happens.  I thought maybe I wouldn’t lose as many that way.  Last year I repotted once, the year before twice.  I’m all about efficiency.  I still need to prepare the garden.  It is in pretty good shape but the lawn keeps encroaching.  Too bad we can’t eat that.  Tomatoes are tastier.

Things are greening up all over the place.  I am again amazed at how winter turns to spring and then all of a sudden it is summer.  I can’t imagine ever getting tired of that.  I say “wow” a lot this time of year.  I watched a vulture swoop low over the field tonight.  My son and I said “wow” together.  It was in the eighties again today.  That is a wow in itself.  We watched snow fall last month.

So things are growing.  Hopefully I can translate that into some food and some beauty in our garden.  I can almost taste the tomatoes and lettuce and onion sandwiches on homemade honey oat bread with Cabot extra shart cheddar cheese.  Oh crap, I just drooled on myself.  Keep growing tomatoes.

Firewood on the Deck

We have a pile of firewood on the deck.  That isn’t where we keep the firewood, mind you, but there it is.  It came from under the big old spruce tree.  That isn’t where we keep it either.  It migrated to its spot under the tree from the pile next to the garage.  We usually keep the firewood in the garage, not next to it.  The pile is smaller than it was a while ago.

We got a load of firewood delivered last summer.  We let it sit in a pile, near the garage but not right next to it, for several months.  Once it was clear that winter would not hold off any longer, I moved it into its neat stacks in the garage.  I ran into a problem, of course.  The logs that were against the ground were muddy, gunked up with our clay soil.  So I took those pieces and made a smaller pile as I worked.  I ended up with a pile of muddy chunks.

I left the mud encrusted heating fuel there all winter.  I thought I might move it once it got dry enough to move under cover.  But it never got dry enough.  Then the logs got frozen.  And it snowed.  And I left them there.  When spring arrived and the children started to muck about outside without snow, they decided that firewood makes excellent building material for houses and other imaginary buildings.

That is how the wood found its way to the spruce tree.  New construction, using recycled materials, were used for the new building on the deck.  It was not as practical a building as they might have built, but I was proud of my children for their sustainable building practices.  The building has fallen out of use, and its remains were piled up.  I am waiting for the clean up crew to manage the debris.

The muddy wood pile is now fairly dry.  The mud has fallen off.  I need to move that pile out from the flower bed.  Leaving it there could become a problem soon.  The children will need to find other sustainable building materials.  I am going to burn these.