Woodcocks and Skunk Cabbage

moon phase Week of 04/02/2006 Poor days for planting.

The Spring Equinox is observed in much of the world as Earth Day. As I welcome spring, I hold an extra special reverence for the Earth in my heart. My most sincere Earth Day wish to everyone is to think of the Earth and how important it is to us, every day.

Woodcocks and Skunk Cabbage

The snow is nearly all gone from the landscape in the valley, and I'm thinking the sight of a little greenery would be nice. A spring near the creek boasts a patch of bright green watercress. Each time I walk by I sample some of the fresh, crunchy, spicy hot leaves. There's not much else green other than the watercress, but that can change in only a few days. The willow buds are swelling, as well as those of the maples, and it won't be long before the ground too turns from beige-brown to green.

Last night, just after sunset, I heard my first woodcock of the year, peenting and peenting from his dancing ground in alders near the river. Hoping to get a glimpse of him, I crept low through the alders, to find the place where he does his courtship ritual. Unfortunately, I wasn't wearing boots and the ground here was wet and spongy, keeping me from getting very far. As luck would have it, though, I heard the whistling whirr of wings that told me the woodcock had taken to the air. I watched him fly past me and spiral high into the dusky pink-and-blue sky. Around he went, making a 100-yard circle over the center of his 10-yard dancing ground below. Satisfied that he had caught the attention of any lady woodcock in the area, he descended with a flutter and twitter to his special place on the ground. I could just make him out as he dropped down behind the alder branches. As I heard him start his strange, nasal peenting noise, I could picture his dance in my mind's eye. He slowly bobs his head as he struts over the dry grass. Every 4-5 seconds, he give out his low, nasal buzz, or "peent." I've taken the opportunity to watch the woodcock (also known as "Timberdoodle") many times in springs past, and each time it's a new adventure.

It was getting kind of dark to see, so I headed for higher and drier ground. As I turned, I caught sight of a glimpse of green. There at my feet was a new skunk cabbage, peeking up through the wet ground. Like the courting of the woodcock, the plant was on schedule to start again the circle of life. It will grow quickly as summer approaches. The scent of Skunk cabbage is like fresh onion—fortunately, nothing like the animal that's its namesake.

Speaking of skunks, I've only seen the tracks of a skunk once this year, but believe me; you don't have to see him or his tracks to know that he's around!

This morning just after sunrise, I looked out the window to see a woodchuck in the middle of the yard. He must have just woke from his long winter sleep, and his hunger sent him out looking for food. He seemed to be finding something as he sniffed along, nose to the ground. I could tell he was nibbling on something green, but I couldn't see what it was. Woodchucks are vegetarians, and after going months without eating, I expect just about anything green would do for a meal.

I've got quite a menagerie in the yard now that things are thawing out. The woodchuck joins the opossum, two rabbits, a few early chipmunks and a ton of gray squirrels.

There's a whole new world opening up right now, of sights, sounds, smells and even tastes for you to enjoy. The days are getting longer, so welcome the spring by getting outside for a walk down nature's trail.

Naturally yours,

Dan Hazlett

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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