Signs of spring

I begin with a reminder that the equinox came and went more than a week ago. Joanna has reminded me that there have been years warm enough to allow swimming in the pond by this date. Winter has been slow to relinquish its grip. I write by the wood stove, we have steady rain and 43°F outside. The top layers of soil have turned to mud but frozen ground remains. It wasn’t until this week that the ice went out on the pond. Although our supplies of hay and wood are quite low, our need for both remain constant. The Maple buds are swelling and the bark of the Willow has turned yellow but one needs a good measure of imagination to discern even the slightest hint of green across the pastures and hay fields. We have had mild days followed by overnight temperatures in the teens. Lambs were expected fully two weeks ago with no sign of them yet. Our good news is that the bees made it through this very cold, very harsh, seemingly endless winter, and we are pleased. We will feed them up, add an excluder and a super, and perhaps we’ll have honey by the solstice. Between rain showers Joanna and I took a walk up the hill and into the woods, looking for hints of the coming season. They were few and far between. On our way back we stopped to scan the living depths of the upper pond. To our delight we saw quite a number of Red-Spotted Newts (Notophthalmus). It’s odd that the red of red-spotted is the color of the sub-adult, terrestrial and quite cryptic, form of this common amphibian. What we saw was the mature, aquatic, and seemingly gregarious form. As poikilothermic ectotherms (a biologist’s way of describing organisms whose body temperature, and activity level, varies dramatically and directly with the temperature of the environment in which they live) they were quite sluggish but still fun to watch. The re-emergence of newts and bees, and the increasing number of Robins around the place, give us confidence that spring is most definitely, and at very long last, here.


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