A spring with little bounce
Hints of spring arrived early this year but the season itself seemed to be in the slow lane because rare was the week when back-to-back sunny days warmed the tired winter soul.
The daffodils and jonquils did arrive in mid-March and then waved away for almost a month before a quick burst of late April heat convinced them to shed their yellow coats. Some of the waving, I reckon, might have been them trying to stay warm on several gray, 40-degree days and a couple of freezing nights.
The tulips foolishly tried to keep up appearances and took a peek at 2016 far too early. A frost twice nipped them as a warning but, being the garden showoffs they are, up they came anyway.
Their abrupt end, however, came not by cold but by critter. Early one morning about a month ago I glanced out my office door to see three mid-size rabbits mowing through wedges of tulip salad for breakfast.
Worse, 30 or so feet behind the herd of piggish vegetarians, a brown gunny sack of a groundhog was attacking another tuft of tulip greens like a starving horse.
To the right of all these al fresco diners stood a red fox squirrel that, comically, appeared to be waiting patiently for a tulip table to open up so it, too, could feast on the tender shoots.
Shoots, shooting, and shots did cross my mind. The instant I nudged open the sliding glass door, however, the brown herd fled to the nearby woods faster than a pack of racing cheetahs. Even the groundhog, a rolling wave of fat atop flying feet fore and aft, moved with astonishing speed.
Robins, like the daffodils, arrived early, too, and, once or twice, March sleet found them as they patrolled the farmette’s worm-less, half-brown acreage. They are tough birds, though, and most spent the slow spring building nests on every open rafter, joist, or branch they could find.
Now, with the days warmer and sunbathing worms all about, robin life if good and most just sing their “cheer, cheer, cheer” song from dawn to dusk. There’s a lesson in that, I reckon.
The slow, cool build-up to spring made for fine grass growing and the neighbors fired up their riding—anyone own a walk-behind anymore?—lawnmower before most had put away their snow shovels. Many mowed twice before the end of March, an unheard of act in these parts.
Not me. The grass in my unfertilized yard took another four weeks to green up. When it did it wasn’t so much green as yellow. Dandelion yellow.
Years ago, I turned yard care over to Mother Nature and she happily sowed thousands of dandelions that now spend most of spring winking at the neighbors’ less yellow lawns.
So, too, does the purple chickweed, white clover, and creeping red fescue.
When I finally did mow the yard, the old Dixon twice coughed huge clouds of black, oil-burning smoke. Uh oh; what’s 20 years of lawnmower life in human years—40? More? Maybe the faithful, three-bladed old beast, like its owner, is feeling its advanced years.
The farmette’s trees, too, have been slow to leaf. The apple trees went white a week ago and the redbuds finally pulled on their red suits just a few days ago. Three front yard black walnuts, however, still appear completely dormant. Unlike most springs, none of ‘em seem to be in any kind of hurry.
Well, if they’re not, I’m not. If nature wants to go slow this spring, we’ll go slow. After all, slow is beginning to suit my nature, too.
The Farm and Food File is published weekly through the U.S. and Canada. Source material, past columns and contact information are posted at www.farmandfoodfile.com.