Spring

I am listening to the birds greet the morning. The temperature is already over 40 degrees and should make it over sixty today. The grass is turning green. The days are getting longer. It is impossible not to feel the seductive flavor of spring fever. Of course, I’ve had a case of the condition for some time, but regular snow storms put a damper on the mood. This time, however, it feels like spring really is in the air and on the ground.

Spring, of course, means that there is yard work to be done. The carpet of pine needles needs to be raked, the gutters need to be cleaned out, the garden needs attention. I don’t mind yard work, but I have a schedule that sometimes doesn’t allow quite enough time for domestic chores. And there are things I enjoy more than others. Dealing with pine needles isn’t my favorite of chores. And for those of you who haven’t raked up pine cones, they’re no great pleasure, either. Fortunately our city has a good yard waste recycling program and we have a good place to take the loads of stuff we rake off of our yards.

And I do mean loads. The pine needles on my yard will fill both my pickup and my trailer. It is amazing how many there are. They biodegrade very well and, of course in the forest, they simply make humus beneath the trees. But for a lawn there is a problem because they are so acidic that the soil isn’t good for growing grass with too many pine needles. And putting them all in my compost pile has the same effect, the garden needs other things in the compost pile and if I have too many pine needles, the dirt produced doesn’t grow the food we like to eat. I know, I’ve tried composing my pine needles. You get a really big pile, without enough other plant material to mix in. Part of the problem is that I like to mow my lawn. Even though I allow the grass clippings to stay on the lawn and mulch back into the soil, the pine needles overwhelm the grass clippings. My neighbors have part of their yard that they don’t mown and from which they don’t remove the pin needles and the grass thrives in that area. The result presents another problem. Each late summer and autumn, the fuel loads in their yard present a real fire threat. I sleep better knowing that my yard is short trimmed grass and less prone to wildfire.

Spring always brings lots of thoughts to mind. Of course, I know that there is open water at the lake and I haven’t been paddling yet. I’ll have to do something about that very quickly, perhaps today. I’m really late compared to my usual, but this has been an unusual year. I guess we say that about every year in the hills.

Most of the indigenous peoples of the plains counted a person’s age by counting the number of winters survived. Winters were harsh and illnesses were more common during the cold months. Food was more scarce and more people died during the winter than any other time of the year. Having made it to spring with one’s health was always an accomplishment. By that standard, I’m getting a good collection of winters. I’ve collected more in the Black Hills than in any other place, and our winters are milder than the open country of North Dakota, where I collected seven winters. But all of my winters have been lived in colder climates: Montana, North Dakota, Idaho and South Dakota plus four winters in Chicago, which experientially felt every bit as cold as the other states.

I haven’t become a snow bird, spending winters in souther climates and I don’t feel the attraction of such a lifestyle, either. I like a bit of winter. I think that I actually prefer shoveling snow to mowing grass. I’v no desire for a home in a place that doesn’t experience all four seasons.

We know that spring can be a long season and it can be a short season around here. We’ve seen springs that quickly became summer-like in terms of temperatures and precipitation. But those make for problems for the rest of the year. Here in the hills we are dependent upon spring’s moisture to fill up the reservoirs and get us through the year. On that score, the recent weeks of snow have been good for us. May and June can be wet months as well and we hope that they will be that way this year. 2017 had an exceptionally long fire season and we have no desire for a repeat.

So far, so good. The forecast calls for rain this evening to keep things moist, but that is about all that we can expect this week. Temperatures are forecast to reach the mid seventies by the end of the week. In our neck of the woods that kind of weather will bring out the motorcycles. We all need to give a little extra care and look twice and three times just to make sure that we are aware of all of the other people who are out to enjoy the spring weather.

We’re five or six weeks out from new deer fawns but it is beginning to be the season to start watching the does. It doesn’t take much studying to know which ones will be delivering. It isn’t just their appearance, but also their behavior.

Spring is a delightful reminder that the earth is constantly renewing itself. New life is emerging and the exuberance of life cannot be suppressed. The warmer temperatures invite us to spend more time outdoors and the fresh air renews our spirits. A little physical labor makes sleeping easier and waking to birdsong begins the day with a prayer of gratitude. We are indeed fortunate to live in this place and experience this wonder.

Happy spring!

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!