Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Spring slowly emerges #phenology

Enough snow and ice has melted from our gravel road to let another sign of Spring show in the soft surface. One of our neighbors has been riding or walking a horse along the road. The hoof tracks were obvious today. The dogs and I noticed them during our afternoon walk.

This would probably be a good time to start watching for pussy willow catkins along the road sides and red-tailed hawks drifting north to their Summer range. I have no doubt (sometimes wrong, never uncertain) that we'll still get some plowable snow storms during late Winter and early Spring. But as the sun keeps climbing higher and shining longer each day, it becomes easier to let the snowflakes melt rather than shovel or blow them away. By the end of the month we'll be enjoying more than 11 hours of daylight and the average daytime high temperature is above freezing.

sugarbush in snow
sugarbush in snow
Photo by J. Harrington

Reports of maple trees being tapped and sap flowing keep growing day by day. It will take longer than I'd like, but I'm starting to shake off Winter's cabin fever lethargy. Walking dogs is once again becoming a small adventure instead of a Winter chore. The warmer, moister air seems to hold more, and more interesting, scents that canine noses must explore. Walks take longer than they did when the windchill was below zero.

Turkeys are more active locally. I almost "tagged" part of a flock that decided to cross the road directly in front of the Jeep yesterday. Those most in danger flew away as I braked, hard. The rest ran to both shoulders. I'm not used to playing "chicken" with turkeys and they're probably not used to playing chicken at all.

pileated woodpecker (female)
pileated woodpecker (female)
Photo by J. Harrington

At the moment, there's a pileated woodpecker enjoying what may be the last chunk of suet we'll put out this Winter. As our local fauna become more active, we'd just as soon not entice any of them (raccoons, skunks, possums) to visit the deck. It drives the dogs crazy, which, in turn, does the same to the dogs' owners.

Goddess of Maple at Evening

She breathed a chill that slowed the sap 
inside the phloem, stood perfectly still
inside the dark, then walked to a field 
where the distance crooned in a small 
blue voice how close it is, how the gravity 
of sky pulls you up like steam from the arch.
She sang along until the silence soloed 
in a northern wind, then headed back 
to the sugar stand and drank from a maple 
to thin her blood with the spirit of sap. 
To quicken its pace to the speed of sound 
then hear it boom inside her heart. 
To quicken her mind to the speed of light 
with another suck from the flooded tap.

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