The drab brown winter landscape has finally given way to the color green as the week of ďleaf outĒ is here. The leaves on the trees popped a little later than last year when leaf out was on the fourth of May. Plenty of rain this year where it was very dry last spring. Itís been pretty nice now that things have warmed up giving the farmers a chance to get out in the fields and start planting corn. The green grass in the yard looks so lush and alive and visions of snow are forgotten. The early spring wildflowers are really coming on now and their lovely colors and fragrances are irresistible. Today I got grass stains on the knees of my jeans from bending down to sniff the flowerís spring perfume. I check them all with my nose, even the pretty tiny blue flowers of Creeping Charlie. The Spring Beauties group together in colonies in the yard, their pale pink flowers clash beautifully with the green grass. At the edge of the yard near the woods, several bright yellow nodding flowers of the Bellwort are in full bloom. They jump out in the green foliage and can be spotted a hundred yards away.
Each day brings new wildflower surprises and the first snow-white trilliums flashed their fancy faces on Wednesday morning. Only a few days ago the ferns had yet to break through the ground but with the help of some rain and some warm sunshine their fiddleheads were over a foot tall today. I love to watch the ferns grow and the way they shade the tiny wild flowers that grow under them. Itís easy to move the smaller new ferns before they get too big and I plant them on the north and west sides of the house where I know they will be happy and multiply.
Iím always surprised to see how fast the Bluebells seem to grow and the river bottoms are a blanket of spring and summerís first big show of blue. The blooming of the Bluebells is one of my favorite flower shows of spring but I wish they lasted longer. A month from now I wonít even be able to see where they had been because their juicy green foliage dies back and is gone till next year.
Sweet violets, sweeter than roses, covered all over from head to toe, covered all over with sweet violets. There are several different kinds of violets in bloom this week and I love them all. The little blues grow in tight beds close to the ground along the path that leads to the garden. Itís a good place where they get lots of morning sun. They are a foot tall and their light blue flowers form round scattered patches of beauty on the hillside. These violets of the prairies are one of my favorite flowers of spring and they may have been blooming in the same place for hundreds of year, proving that beauty is ageless.
Life in the Kickapoo Valley is really beginning to stir and the warm weather has many wild species moving around. The little red fox kits are about half grown and are playing in the sunshine out side their earthen den. They spend the day playing and wrestling with each other while their parents spend most of their time searching for food to feed the new family.
Some of the area turtles are moving around as they crawl from the river to the backwaters and ponds to find a mate. Itís something that has taken place each spring for thousands of years, itís a turtle thing.
A large snapping turtle must cross a country road as he slowly makes his way from the river to the marsh. He doesnít move very fast and there is no way he can out run an oncoming car. The road has become the most dangerous place he can be and so it is with all wildlife. Unnatural obstacles are always a hazard but that short distance across a road often means the end of a life. Would you slow down if it meant you could save a beautiful life? If so, do so.
Itís a trick to move a large turtle off the road but can be done by picking him up by the tail and holding away from your leg. The snapping turtle canít reach his tail with his powerful jaws but he can reach your fingers or toes if youíre not careful. The only turtle I donít touch are the large soft-shelled turtles who can bite as hard as a big snapper and he has a very long neck that can reach his tail. If youíd rather not pick a turtle up and carry him to safety, use a stick or shovel. Remember I didnít tell you to pick up a turtle, I only told you how to.
There are several birds that are enjoying the orange halves I put out for them. Today I got a good look at the usually shy, Yellow-bellied sapsucker when he came to an orange near the back porch. The Red-bellied woodpecker is another who canít resist sweet juice of the orange and today I saw the seasonís first Catbird pecking at an orange half. There are about a dozen beautiful Baltimore orioles that the oranges attract like magnets. Of course the price of oranges always seems to go up in the spring but to get a chance to see these lovely birds close-up, itís well worth a few extra dollars.
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