Between seasons

Just now it was snowing. Wind waves around the bare branches. Earlier it rained. Yesterday the temperature rose into the 50s and, with some healthy rain, the waters rose. The river topped its banks. Across the road, the fields ripple with wind-blown water.

There is a feel to driving on a soft muddy road. Steering turns mushy. The car slides one way, then the other. Then the road turns solid again. It isn’t like a snowy road, where the road feels solid the whole time, but slick. In mud the car sinks, then rises, floating. It can even be fun if you don’t bottom out.

Mud has begun, after yesterday’s warmth. The curve of our road collects water underground, so it predictably gets muddy. Robins poke at the soft spot. The car gets painted with muck. It isn’t the prettiest time of year.

But the sap is finally running. Steam wafts from the sugar house. We just ran out of maple syrup. I wanted to wait for a fresh batch, but I gave in and bought some last weekend. Last year’s run was a good one. I bought a dark and sweet gallon. The folks who run the sugar house up the road offer free maple cotton candy. We might have to stop there and get some.

I had planned to go for a run this morning. But it is cold–cloudy and windy and just above freezing. I was looking forward to a little warmth, maybe even shorts. I might wait. I might just brave it. The red-winged blackbirds are back. They seem to handle the weather just fine. I should take a lesson from them.

But they can fly. I will need to watch my footing when I go out. That mud can suck one in. I’ve seen worse, for sure, but still, I’d hate to wipe out in a mud patch. That would be unfortunate, even if, like the blackbirds, it is a sign of spring.

April Rain and Mud

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It rained all day. Roads got muddy. Sky were gray. April. A cold rain. Not the kind to spend the day in. Not a summer rain that ends in sun. At night, after the rain stopped, it froze. Mud got icy.

I walked to the river. It ran high. Water gushed under the bridge and under the extra culverts installed a few years ago. Spring rains would flow over the road. They don’t now. They flood the field on the other side.

The fields all along the river were flooded. Shallow ponds formed. Geese and ducks swam and fed. They avoided the river. It flowed too fast. I tried to see what kind of ducks they were. I saw some mallards. The rest hid behind vegetation.

Despite the rain, song sparrows kept singing. I could not hear them as well as other days. Rain muffled their songs. I had a hood on. My boots sloshed on the road. A phoebe, finally back for spring, tried to sing as well.

When I turned back, rain hit my face. There was not much wind, but I walked into it. I pulled my hood lower. Rain fell harder. I looked down again toward other flooded fields. A kestral perched on a leafless ash tree. Its feathers were soaked. I would say it was not perturbed but it seemed to be waiting. I walked past.

I hung my rain jacket to dry. I listened to rain pelting the roof. The lawn, not yet really awake, oozed. Snow lingers in the shadowed spots. It won’t last long. I picked up a book and disappeared.

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Sneak Peak at Spring

Blue Sky Day

Blue Sky Day

We’ve got Camel’s Hump and the waxing moon and a little snow and blue sky, not to mention 41 degrees. That is your fine spring scene for you. The road was a bit muddy–really muddy on the edges. I got sucked in a bit when I was forced over by a passing truck. No matter–I cleaned off my boots in the grainy snow.

I walked out to get some air and to see what I could see. The afternoon was stunning, I tell you. I unzipped my jacket. I took off my gloves. I watched a red tailed hawk soar out over the fields and catch dinner. I was feeling pretty good. At the river I stopped and examined it for a bit. I saw lots of ice with water pooled on top, animal tracks criss-crossing the wet snow on the surface, and just a small area of open water. Soon there will be beavers and mallards and kingfishers here.

Not much open water right now

Not much open water right now

Almost back to the house and I heard something I haven’t heard since fall–the echoing call of a killdeer. I thought I might have been mistaken. Perhaps it was just a robin behind some trees, the sound twisted by the landscape? So I listened. I heard it again. Then I spotted it way out there–white and brown moving against the white and brown. I tromped over the snow and ice and dried grass until I got close enough to see it well. Then I heard another and spotted that one, too. Then another. Now that is a sign that spring is just about here.

Killdeer here early

Killdeer here early

Tomorrow it is forecast to snow. A lot. We might get a foot or more by the time it stops. The annual battle between winter and spring seems to have begun. We will enjoy the snow–sledding, skiing, digging. I imagine the snow will not stick around long. Then we will enjoy spring. Winter and spring both offer a lot to amaze me. I can’t go wrong this time of year.

Signs of Spring

Over the past few weeks I have seen lots of signs that spring is on the way. Yesterday being the first full day, astronomically at least, of spring, it seemed apt to post a list. The first was three weeks ago, when I saw a red winged blackbird perched in the sugar maple where we hang the bird feeders. It was hunkering against the onslaught of snow. We got two feet of snow that day and I couldn’t help but anthropomorphize that bugger and make him ask “Why couldn’t I have waited a few days at least?”  Here are some others:

  • The other morning I went for a run and heard a woodcock doing its spring dance over the field across the road. I am always happy to hear woodcocks in the morning. My heart leaps up, as Wordsworth said, when I hear that bizarre “peenting.” The thing is, however, that the field across the road was covered in snow and ice. It had been flooded so it was like a frozen lake covered in snow. And the woodcock was doing its best to attract a mate. What boys won’t do to get some.
  • Recently there were five different types of birds in the same tree–the same as the one with the blackbird: blue jay, cardinal, chickadee, robin and bluebird. It was a colorful site. The bluebird kept hopping from branch to bird house. Nesting on the mind.
  • Mud. There is a spot up the hill on our dirt road that makes for a woozy ride. It doesn’t look muddy but the car slides back and forth every time. I love driving that way. The car, of course, is pretty much filthy.
  • Sugaring in on full force. It looks to be a productive spring for sugar makers. Good news for those of us who like love the stuff.
  • Yesterday we had a few good blasts of snow. OK that sounds more like winter, but those wet spring snow storms that look like winter is desperately trying to stick around make me realize that spring really is just about here.
  • Turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks are circling the meadows.
  • Yesterday I drove to work without boots. I just wore plain old shoes. The transition from wearing boots and switching to shoes inside, to forgetting the boots, has begun.
  • Crocuses (croci?) are popping up. Those puppies are sturdy. They had started to pop up right before that two feet of snow. And they are still green.
  • Kids walk to school in shorts and a T-shirt. I keep seeing that. I know that the young set has and will continue to parade to school without appropriate attire for the weather. This seems a right of passage (although I am proud to say I never felt the need to express my coolness through the acquisition of hypothermia) but dude, it isn’t that warm. I mean, we had snow yesterday and today. Wear a jacket dumbass.

And there will be more. Leaves haven’t budded out yet. I haven’t smelled a skunk. But in time. Before I know it I’ll be digging in the dirt and planting seeds. I can hardly wait.

Stuff I’ve Noticed Recently

I hung up a bunch of old CD’s recently  over some garden beds, to keep out the birds.  This morning I looked out the window to see a robin pecking at the dirt at the edge of one of those beds.  Then it hopped right over the bed.  It nearly got clocked by the spinning disk.  It worked last time.

Our dishwasher has a whole slew of adjustable bars and rods, the better to efficiently stack all one’s dishware and cutlery.  One of them seemed to have lost its adjustability recently.  It flopped.  I removed it today to find that it had rusted right through.  The little rod was pointy, yet crumbly, with rust.  I took out one half and wrestled with the second for a while before deciding to leave it for tomorrow.  I figured a dishwasher is for lazy people anyway so I had good reason to be lazy with that task.

Our neighbors have a small pond, just over our property line.  What its intended use what I can’t say.  It doesn’t seem to get much human use at all–no swimming, no irrigation, no livestock watering.  It just sits there, leaking onto our side, home for ducks and frogs.  The bullfrogs are especially loud these days.  The groan and croak at all hours, but seem to especially like the hours just after dark.  All of us pretend to respond to them now and again.  Cracks us right up.

For Father’s Day I got a book of crossword puzzles.  I am pretty hooked on crossword puzzles and have been working my way through a book of 200 of them from the New York Times.  This new book is a little different.  One of the clues was this:  Royal mistake maker.  The answer?  Dumbshit.  Cracked me right up.

We have been watching old science fiction movies lately.  You know, the classics.  The Day the Earth Stood Still, for example.  Last night we watched the original 1950’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  It was pretty well done, eerie and even a little scary, but not gore-filled.  All of these movies have the year listed on the sleeve from Netflix.  Last night’s said 1956, but when the film opened it said 1955.  The other films have had this same one year discrpancy.  My guess is the the film posts the copyright date and Netflix notes the date the film actually was released.  I guess they used to do things a little slower back then.

We went up the road this afternoon to pick up our share of produce.  This was given to us as a gift again at Christmas.  Great gift.  As we walked out to the field to pick strawberries, the children found a mud puddle.  Well, maybe puddle isn’t quite right.  It was a mud puddle and had become a thick bowl of muddy paste.  The children were wearing mud boots so of course they slopped about in it until their footwear was gray and wet.  They had a blast.  Then they sat in their dirty boots and ate all the strawberries we picked while I picked some daisies to bring home.

The cucumber beetles are starting to hatch.  I have been slow to attend to them.  I hope to get some Neem and see what that does.  I have heard good things about it, that it makes the beetles go away.  I want them to go away.  I picked one off a pumpkin plant today and slayed it.  They are beautiful little bugs.  And I want them to live far away from here.  I want some cucumbers this year, dammit.

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.

Mud and Plastic

My daughter had the idea over dinner that we take a family walk down the road.  When your kid asks to do something outside as a family, it is awfully hard to say no, even if you have your pajamas on unaccountably early and the hour has crept beyond the usual one for dinner.  So I donned the jeans once more, slipped on mud boots with my children, and off we went.

A month ago, the ditch lining the road was deep with ice.  We would walk across with nary a step down.  Now it is muddy, running with melted snow.  The children tossed rocks, some of which made the hoped for splash, some of which stuck impressively into the mud.  They stomped and squished.  The shouted and laughed.  We had a hard time getting them to turn around so we could get home for bed.

We picked up a crazy amount of trash a few weeks ago, but there is more now.  Some of it has peeked out from the ice or snow, but some of it is new.  I can’t get over the amount of new litter to be found in those few weeks.  I want to believe it is just an accident, that each new piece bounced from a truck bed my mistake, but there is too much of it.  People are tossing that crap out the window.  It can bring one down, seeing how someone cares little enough that they will leave it to others to pick up their empties.

We generate enough trash as it is.  Americans generate about 4.6 pounds of solid waste per day, per person, and only about a quarter of it gets recycled, even though we could recycle about 3/4 of it.  A large percentage of that 4.6 pounds seems to wind up along the road.  I picked up two aluminum cans this evening–one whole and filled with mud, the other squashed flat–and one flattened plastic bottle.  I will recycle them.  At least, I will take them to the transfer station to be recycled by someone else, but that is more than my untidy neighbor, whoever he or she might be.

The kids are happy to help me clean things up.  I guess they do understand the importance of cleaning up, even though they left a huge mess on the floor this evening before they went to bed (it got too late to push that one).  They were dirty enough that I told them to leave the rest of the plastic bottles, half buried in the winter’s layer of sand, where they were.  I can go get those later at some point.

I had to do some boot rinsing when we got home.  We were a tad muddy.  I tossed what I was carrying into a blue recycling bin, cleaned some footwear, washed my hands, and headed to the kitchen to clean up that mess.  Sometimes it feels like I spend my whole day cleaning up messes.  But what fun would life be without messes, right?  As soon as I am done here, I think I will pick up all the toys on the floor.  I should probably make the kids clean up their own mess, but I need to be a nice guy once in a while.  Maybe tonight will be that once.