Yesterday I participated in Vermont’s annual Bald Eagle survey, as I have for several years now. My route is the Winooski River, from Waterbury to Lake Champlain. I drive along the river, stopping at several spots to watch carefully, and watch less carefully as I drive from point to point. I did see one eagle, in Williston, and otherwise had a day of it watching a beautiful river that gets forgotten or taken for granted or often just not thought about.
The day was warm, relatively, just above freezing. In some past years I have done the survey with temperatures below zero. There was no ice at all yesterday, although there was fresh snow in the hills. The water was high and powered over the dams and ledges, less tame than last year. Here is my most recent portrait of the river.
I have been busy enough with work lately that I have not wanted to go birding early during the week, even though it is the season for it. So on Saturday I don’t want to give up the chance. Friday night the weather looked good for some morning exploring, so I planned to go. Saturday morning, however, brought light rain. Rain? Seriously? But I went anyway. It was bound to stop soon.
It kept raining. I turned on the windshield wipers. I went to a local nature reserve–it is fairly new and I had not seen much of it. I parked along the road where I thought a trail started. It sort of did start, in the woods, then fizzled when it opened onto a field. I went the way I thought seemed most likely, but it wasn’t much of a trail. I got to the wetland but then was stymied.
By then it was hardly raining, but it hadbeen raining. That meant the tall grass though which I meandered was a bit wet. Dripping, really. Soggy. Soaked. In my haste to leave the house I had put on pants, to avoid ticks, but they were cotton pants. That was dumb. By the time I walked back the way I had come and got to my car, those pants were most definitely not dry.
But there had to be a better access point to this wetland. I drove up the road and found it, hidden in the trees, no parking except along the road. Yes I was soaked but it was Saturday and I did not want to give up and what’s a little cold and wet? So up the hill into the woods I headed, then down the hill in the woods I went, until it opened again in tall grass. There was a clear path but it went both left and right. I went left.
And that way was just as wet as my first attempt. I got even more wet, even though the rain had passed by now. That grass can hold some water. I had a better view of the wetland, saw some ducks, heard a gallinule calling, listened to an Alder Flycatcher and a couple of Veeries singing. I turned around again and thought I would try going right. This was was less wet but the rain started to fall again.
I did find some birds, although not as many as I might have on a clearer day. Back in the car I polished off my warm coffee, waiting for me in the cup holder. I drove home with the wipers on, those cotton pants wicking all that grass water the whole time. I arrived home wet and chilled, satisfied that I had tried and at least had a good walk in a beautiful place. After a hot shower I got some sourdough bread started. I had a day ahead of me yet.
It has been nice enough that I have slept out on the porch several nights in a row. But it rained a couple of nights ago. A lot. In the dark hours, thunderstorms arrived. Flashing. Booming. Pounding rain. One lightning strike was so close it yanked me from sleep and I shook like a fish pulled from a pond. Can’t help but laugh at yourself for that.
All that rain filled the rivers. Right here, the river overflowed. Water filled the fields. The road stayed above it but you could take a paddle out on the new lake. Some of our neighbors did. My wife took a walk and found a family of raccoons in a tree surrounded by water. Later they were gone. I guess they decided to swim for it. My son saw an otter.
This is why we shouldn’t build in flood zones. The river needs some place to go when the rains come. It still rushed past the bridge. It stays in the channel. It just needs to also take some room in the fields, at least temporarily. The cows moved up the hill. The Kingfishers were fine–their nest in the river bank was high enough. And the ducks don’t care. Nature adapts. It is just us humans that have trouble with change.
It rained more today. The water in the fields is receding, however. More thunderstorms are forecast so it could be a bit before the fields dry out. Lake Champlain has been at flood stage for days. This rain will keep it there for a while yet. I plan to sleep out on the porch again tonight. I need to trust that the thunder claps won’t scare my pajama pants right off.
A few days ago it was warm, so warm that rivers ran high and snow melted and we had lots of water. I walked down to the bridge to see the fields. The river gushed under the bridge. The fields had become a lake. The snowmobile trails were a wash. Just recently we finally had enough snow for snowmobilers to buzz around on the local trails. That afternoon they would have needed a boat.
Last night the temperature was in the single digits, as it was the night before. Yesterday morning I went for a run. Where a week ago I was dodging mud and puddles and piles of slush, yesterday I ran on frozen dirt. A dusting of snow made the ice patches hazardous. It was a different landscape.
Winter came, then spring came, then winter came back. As I have said, I prefer snow. As many have said, if we have winter we might as well have snow. The sun shines today. The temperature might rise to the twenties. It is too cold for sugaring now, although some sugaring happened just last week. In a couple of days the temperatures will rise above freezing and stay there–too warm for sugaring. Hopefully things will settle out so the sap will run this month–below freezing at night, above freezing during the day.
In a month we will have spring for sure. Today I plan to reattach the birdhouse that fell off its post this winter. I want it up by nesting season. Who knows when that will be there this year? Red-Winged Blackbirds have been back for a week, so it could be here in a few days.
We might get another snowstorm. Would love that, but I’m not confident. Tomorrow morning I will get out and run again. Maybe we have mud. Maybe we have ice. Either way I look forward to getting out there again. Winter and Spring can duke it out. Regardless, I am going to do my thing.
Rain. That’s what we’ve got. And plenty of it. It started raining last night just after dark. And it kept falling. All night, all morning. It is still raining. I sat in a morning workshop for a few hours today and I kept looking out the window. I was distracted by rain. It fell hard and never let up. My umbrella got some use, as did my windshield wipers. And my boots. It is wet.
It is snowing up high. The road up the way is flooded. The road up the other way will likely be flooded by tomorrow. A bit of a mess. The frogs love it. It replenishes the water table. We won’t run out of water in the house any time soon. My water bottle will be full.
Yesterday I worked at a school. Students dumped quarters into the vending machine slots to get water. Right next to the water fountain. Right next to the restroom with running water. They washed their hands with water clean enough to drink, then spent money to buy water. Then tossed the empty plastic bottle in the trash. What gives with that?
People from across the thought spectrum in the United States talk about “common sense.” And then we spend millions of dollars on bottled water. Common sense? I’m not so sure of that. And we throw away the bottles. Again, is this common sense? No way Jose.
I have a colleague who feels bottled water is totally fine because “I always recycle the bottles.” Good for you! But if you did not purchase the bottled water to begin with you would save lots of resources and money and energy. And your purse would be fatter.
The rain falls and falls. Free water. Clean water. Healthy water. If you on board with understanding the tragedy and the scam of bottled water, then I’m glad to hear it. If not, then consider watching the Story of Stuff video about bottled water. It might enlighten you.
It isn’t raining at the moment. Well, maybe it is raining a little, but barely. The sun is setting and we have that rare light when the bright sun shines under the clouds, coloring them steel gray and blasting the green hills with brightness. It won’t last long. The distant mountain tops are bright and I can see that rain falls there, and the shadows are creeping.
It has rained for a couple of days straight. I planted flower seeds with the children on Tuesday afternoon, before dinner. Then it rained. And rained. It is Friday now, about the same hour we planted the seeds. Three days of wet. I think they have gotten enough water to germinate.
I have not needed to uncoil the hose to water the garden. In fact, I have been afraid that the garden has been getting too much water. Last summer we had a wet spell that ruined some of our crops, including carrots. They rotted in the ground. Nothing I planted is so advanced that it will rot but this rain might keep some seeds from starting as I would like. We’ll have to see what happens.
A hermit thrush tosses out its flutey voice over the wet trees behind the house. It is an unassuming bird, what you might call an LBJ, a Little Brown Jobber, so similar to so many other bland birds. Its voice, however, stops me at times. Milton and Shakespeare and all those other dead English bards wrote about the nightingale, another thrush, whose voice trilled through the woods with sweetness. I am sure they would have written their odes to the hermit thrush had they lived in Vermont.
We will likely get more rain showers over the next couple of days, but I am hoping the sun will come out to feed the new leaves on our squash plants and to warm the soil so the flowers will grow. But that won’t happen until tomorrow. Right now the land quiets. The air is still, filled with moisture, heavy. A robin adds to the thrush’s song. Spring peepers and wood frogs sing out from the pond over the hill. The light grows grayer.
It is not raining, but the rain has set the scene for a perfect early evening in spring. Time to slide on some boots and head out there to smell it and feel it.
I had a few minutes on my way home today to stop by the local nursery, Red Wagon Plants. If you like plants it is hard not to like a nursery. This place is a good one–lots to choose from, right around the corner, everything is healthy and bursting with greenness. And the folks there are friendly. I had been thinking about buying some herbs, plants this time. Starting from seed takes longer and I have to admit I have been ready to get cracking. So I picked out a few small plants.
The woman who swiped my debit card in exchange for these plants asked me with a laugh, “Are you a good cook or do you just shop like one?” It was a most excellent question. My answer: “I suppose that depends on who is doing the dining.” Eighteen bucks allowed me to truck home rosemary, thyme, chives, and two sage plants.
I planted the rosemary right away. We had a plant that made it through our first winter and then kicked it after winter number two. It put it in that same spot. It worked last time, right? Then I worked on the chives we already have. I use lots of them when we have them but I am always afraid of cutting too much. I split that clump and replanted the chunk I dug up. Then I planted the new one near it. The thyme, planted next door to the chives, will complement those visually when everything grows bigger.
I saved the sage for later. I had to make dinner. This was a good dinner, by the way–black beans with red peppers and onions, some of those chives, extra-sharp cheddar cheese (is there any point to using any other kind?) wrapped in tortillas and baked golden brown. It was not as fresh as it might have been but it was a winner. The sage scented the air in its four-inch pots while we ate on the deck.
Later in the day, after the sun ducked behind the knoll and shadows covered the garden, I took up the hose with my daughter and we watered. The black flies were out. I had conveniently forgotten how hard it is to stand with the hose and water the garden when the small biting insects are hungry for the blood flowing through my bare legs. The kid didn’t stick around too long. The price one pays for fresh food…
I watered the new herbs as well. The sage still waits for tomorrow. In a couple of days I will add to what I have planted so far. The garden needs to be filled with seeds–too much empty dirt at the moment. The onion and leek seedlings are waiting to stretch out in the sun. And the melons will need lots of time to produce fruit. Memorial Day weekend is the traditional time to plant hereabouts. I’ll be taking advantage of that extra day.
It is raining. Not a warm spring rain, but a cold rain. It is damp. Chilly. It is getting dark. We have a fire in the stove. Our house is cozy.
The ground is saturated. The streams and gullies are full. The lawn has pools. The children have fun jumping in the drainage ditch next to the driveway. It is wet.
Yesterday it snowed. We woke to white, on the ground and falling. It came down heavily for a while. By afternoon it had melted. We got mud. The roads were wet when I ran. Soggy. I got dirty from splashing muck.
A few days ago we had fog. Rain, snow, mud, fog. Things are wet all over. The ground has thawed out for the most part. It won’t be long before things start to dry, but today we have moisture.
It’s Sog City. I am glad to be inside. It will feel good to crawl into bed tonight. I might just do it earlier than usual. Read a good book and conk out. That way I can get up early and run. Or not. If it is still raining, I just might stay under the covers, safe from all the water beasts.