Note to readers: Dan is on vacation this week, so we saved some pages from his Spring Notebook to share with you.
Tuesday, March 18
The day again started foggy and warm. It began with the cheery songs of robins and the mellow coos of the mourning doves. Last night's temperature was 45 degrees, and a bright moon made the ground glow as though covered with frost. Today there seem to be red-winged blackbirds everywhere, and flocks of grackles fly over, clucking overhead.
The whole day was a total wake-up call. With temperatures near 75 degrees, even the honeybees were at work - every birdfeeder had 50 or more of these busy bees. They were interested in the fine, powdery residue on the corn. There must not be any plants blooming to give the bees nectar, so they take nourishment where they can find it. Warm weather has made the bees more active, even though there is no honey to be made yet. That time is just around the corner; soon the willows will be in bloom, followed by the many other trees and shrubs that put out the pollen-giving flowers that turn to fruit and nuts.
I watched a very excited and vociferous killdeer land and scurry across the bare pasture. His too is a new spring voice. He chimes in nicely with several red-winged blackbirds who are scattered along the fence line.
All day, off and on, I heard the calls of Canada geese. Their cries carry from high above; I'm not able to see all of those I hear. They can now be seen in pairs, as they claim their favorite courting spots in the back waters and sloughs along the river.
I have yet to see a muskrat in the area. Muskrats get the urge to travel when it thaws - to find either food or a new place to live. Soon after the ice disappears, muskrat houses will dot many of the ponds and potholes in the river valley.
Wednesday, March 19
At first light, while I watched the chickadees at the window feeder, a large turkey sailed by, followed by a whole flock of the big-winged birds. When they landed about 200 yards from the house, I could hear the Toms gobbling to each other.
I spent some time patching up a few of the bluebird houses around the yard. The scouting bluebirds are showing up, and I want the houses to look appealing. Now is the time to clean out last year's old nests, as well as the fluffy nests left by wintering deer mice. If you take good care of birdhouses now, you have a better chance of having a lovely pair of bluebirds spend the summer with you.
I haven't cleaned out the owl boxes yet; the squirrels are using them, and they probably have young in them. I'll do it in a couple of weeks, when the wooducks and kestrels show up looking for a place to live.
Some good friends have tapped the maple trees in the sugarbush above the house. It's a lot of work, but they look forward to doing it every spring. The sugar bush is at the top of the hill, so everything used in the process must be carried up - a real challenge when there is snow and ice on the ground. The warm weather of late has melted the snow, but the ground is very soft and muddy.
The biggest problem now, however, is that the sap is not flowing. It was dripping at a fine rate when they tapped four days ago, but when it keeps getting warmer, the maple trees stop giving. That's what happens when nighttime temperatures are too high. Days in the 40s and freezing nights give the best results.
It's mid-afternoon and a light spring rain is pattering on the tin roof of the old school house I call home. It's the first warm rain of spring, and it fills the air with a new freshness - the scent of mother earth.
Friday, March 21
Like school children let out to play, the chipmunks scamper after each other in the morning sun. They've been asleep all winter, and now they're ready to take on the world. Not fearing me, they come up onto the porch for sunflower seeds. Speaking softly, I let them know they are welcome. Spring is a good time to start friendships with all the life around me.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley