It was a beautiful week to end Marchóall we could ask from the month that is the most fickle. The temperatures were in the mid 30s with some lovely sunshine and very little wind. It was perfect weather for raking out flowerbeds and cleaning up last yearís debris in the garden. It took most of the day on a ladder to strip the dried runner beans and morning glory vines off the wires that run up the side of the house. The fresh air in my lungs and sunshine on my face were a big part of why I love gardening. Itís the simple things that give us the most lasting pleasure. Spring reminds us of these simple pleasures.
By Friday, my aching bones and sore muscles were proof that I didnít just sit around all week. Iím glad I didnít procrastinate doing some of those jobsóit feels good to have them done. Besides, if I wasnít outside, I wouldnít have heard the return of the first phoebe in the valley. It was a strange coincidence that I was standing on the ladder on the side of the house with last yearís phoebe nest under the eve above me. I heard the little flycatcher call his name just as I was thinking about him. I guess the timing was perfect, ďPhoebe, phoebe.Ē These hardy birds are the first of the flycatchers to return and they are very vocal in the early spring. I often wonder how they can make it when the temperature drops and the insects arenít around. Insects are what they eat and there arenít many around in March.
The frost has left the ground and I could have planted some Canna lilies and potatoes, but I donít get around to it yet. The earthworms have surfaced and the ground mole has followed them up to the top soil. There are several new, mounded mole tunnels that cross under the grassy path to the house.
Thursday evening I took a walk along the meadow creek. The water sang a babbling tune as it rushed over the rocks. Every time I hear the creekís music, Iím reminded of how blessed I am to live so near its magical presence. A few water striders skipped across the still water where it settles into the wide pools. Soon, the frogs will appear, and by then there will be plenty for them to eat as the insects return.
Of all the birdfeeders in the yard, the suet feeder is the center of attention for many birds. From my window I can watch all the different birds that peck at the suet cage and I donít have any trouble getting pictures of them. There are some wild birds that are very difficult to take pictures ofóthey just donít seem to cooperate. Thursday morning a different bird paid a visit to the suet feeder. A little Brown creeper caught my eye as he scooted up the tree trunk. These busy little hunters are very hard to get a picture of because they just canít stand still for more than a second. They also have a mottled gray-brown plumage that blends them into the bark on a tree. They always seem to be alone and are seldom seen. They are constantly on the move, always searching for food. Like a nuthatch, the creeper moves up and down the tree trunks in search of insect larvae, spider eggs or whatever they find edible in the cracks of the tree bark. There are twenty acres of mature woods where I live, bordered by hundreds of acres of younger woods. I wonder if there is a single tree that the Brown creeper hasnít visited. I doubt it. Their subtle beauty is a mystery to meó dark, tiny eyes and a down-curved bill. None of the wild birds pose for their picture but the little creeper is a constant drifter who has made friends with more trees than anyone. Heís too busy to stop and smile for the camera.
The grandmother maple tree in the valley below the house looks quite elegant even without leaves. Sheís even wearing a necklace of mushrooms. She is too old to tap for maple sapóthose days are behind heróbut her stately beauty keeps on giving.
Well, the week started with bird tracks in the snow, but that quickly turned to bird songs and dried grass. Sunday morning I took my little pail of tools and cleaned out the rest of the birdhouses. Itís a job that has to be done early before the bluebirds and wrens get back. I know that a birdhouse that doesnít get cleaned out is a birdhouse that doesnít get used. If you havenít cleaned out your birdhouses yet, now is the time if you live in the Midwest.
A single raccoon walked slowly through the dried leaves in the woods. Even though it was mid-day, he was searching for something to eat and kept raising his nose to the breeze, checking for any scent that might mean food. He looked very thin and seemed to be on a mission to survive. Finding something to eat was all that was on his mind. His nose led him to one of the bird feeders, and as he climbed up he ate his fill of sunflower seeds before wandering off through the woods. I had a feeling that I would never see that skinny raccoon again.
There was a little light rain Monday morning, but thatís okay because April showers bring May flowers.
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