For the past several days, there's been a cold wind blowing out of the north. The spring warmth seems to have disappeared, and everybody's bringing out their winter coats. Daytime temps have been in the 40s, and nights have been down around freezing. Nevertheless, here in Southwest Wisconsin it's really turning green. Most of the trees are bursting with buds that will open into lush light green leaves in a week or so. The beautiful Towhee is a reminder of the colors of spring that abound, and all we have to do is look.
Other signs of spring's constant progression abound. Thursday I saw the first little baby bunny. This tiny creature could fit into a coffee mug. When he noticed me he darted into the grass, which has already grown to 6 to 8 inches tall and is the perfect hiding place for a little cottontail.
In spite of the crisp chill in the air, a busy House wren sings from his perch atop a clothesline pole. He takes each day as it comes, knowing in his heart that cold or not, this is spring, his prime time. Near a dead elm tree, several small gray morel mushrooms peek out from between last season's fallen leaves. It's their time to be noticed, as well.
The beautiful male red-winged blackbirds who crowd the bird feeder appreciate the sunflower seeds. When the weather gets cold, there are not as many insects for birds to eat. They all gather at once, along with several Purple grackels, and eat side by side. When their hunger is satisfied, they fly home to defend their small territories in the marsh, and their dining companions become their adversaries.
Today it's up to 50 degrees and sunny. I saw the first turtles of spring, basking on a partially submerged log in a pasture pond. I can only guess how good the sun must feel to one who has slept all winter in the cold mud at the bottom of the pond. A garter snake also enjoys the mid-day sun, stretching out on the grass to soak up the warmth.
To my surprise, a single, large Dragonfly zooms by, over my head. I try to remember if I've ever seen one here this early, but I'm not sure. I go through my old field notes a lot, so I may spend some time checking on past years.
I't s been a whole year since I've picked a batch of fresh, green nettles. They are about 6 to 8 inches tall now, and just right for steaming—stalk, leaves, and all. I like to eat them with a little Organic Valley butter on them. Nettles are one of those things that tastes like it's doing you good. I look forward to this treat every spring!
The Orioles will be coming through soon, so it's time to buy an extra bag of oranges. By putting orange halves out near the bird feeder, I can lure the first Oriole in for a closer look. They tend to be rather shy. Their beautiful whistling song seems to say, "Oh see here, see me up here, way here, way up here!" But as hard as you may look among the green limbs, you can't see him in the tree. Orange halves bring the Orioles in where you can see them. Then if they build nests nearby, they will feed on the oranges all summer.
Earth Day, April 22, has come and gone—but it's hopefully not forgotten. On that special day it was my pleasure to speak to a group of high school students. I reminded them that while April 22 is when we formally honor the Earth, there are 364 other days full of reasons to give thanks. Like organic farmers, we can take the opportunity to thank the Earth from our hearts for what it gives us every day of the year.
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