Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spring at Last, Spring at Last!!

Green begins to replace the white of the snow or the brown of the mud around the ranch house.
 According to folklore, Friday the thirteenth should have been a bad day; however, here on the ranch it was a great day because it was the first day of spring.  All the signs of spring were here for the entire day; no rain, no snow, no high wind, just a warm, sunny day with gentle breezes.  All the animals and humans felt it.
The day began with the birds announcing, “Today is going to bring spring!”  They began their song during the predawn hours, sitting in the tops of the pine trees outside the bedroom windows chatting away and reassuring each other that spring was definitely going to begin on that day.  After the sun came up and the day warmed, through the morning, afternoon, and into the evening, they continued remarking loudly about the wonderful weather.
The frogs were next announcing the coming of spring.  The water level on the meadow had dropped and the movement of water had slowed enough to allow pools to form.  As the temperature rose to almost 70 degrees, the water warmed, and by late afternoon and evening, the frogs were exclaiming how much they liked the new weather. These frogs are very small at this time of the year but interesting to see.  They are about the size of a quarter floating in the pools of water on the meadow.  When they open their mouths to sing, they form a sort of bubble about the same size as they are.  As the summer progresses, the frogs do grow in size to about the size of a small peach.  The frog population, however, decreases.  They are a favorite food of our sandhill cranes who visit the meadow everyday during the daylight hours and by mid-August, they will have moved their chicks from their nest in the sagebrush breaks to the meadow permanently until it’s time to migrate.
For us, spring means it’s time to move fast.  There is so much to do before the ground dries out.  In the winter, a 24 hour day is just fine to get the things done that we need to do, but starting in spring it would be nice if the day had about six more hours in it.  We begin celebrating spring by removing the plastic that we covered the windows which adds another layer of insulation to keep the cold out of our hundred year old house. Not only will this allow us to open the windows to let air circulate through and cool the house down when the outside temperatures reach 70, it also appeases the house cats that have been watching and waiting on the window sill for the past month or so for the snow to go away.  Both cats go outside, Mischief, to explore the area under all the trees and, Trouble, to chase a magpie away.
Trouble checks out the magpies.
Mischief expects the window to be opened first thing every morning from now on.

For us, the humans on the ranch, it is time to get ready for the many things that need to be done in the spring.  While it’s too wet yet to fix fence or drag the fields, it is time to get the equipment ready.  The meadow drags must be checked and rewoven if necessary and the fence mending tools (stretchers, staple pouch, post pounder, shovel, tamping bar and fencing pliers) must be gathered and supplies (wire, posts and staples) purchased.  The fencing tractor, old truck, and ATV must be made ready so that they can carry the fencing equipment.

This winter's Christmas light display.

Finally, it's dry enough to get the tractor in to get the last of the lights off the eaves.
 The last of the Christmas lights need to be brought off the eaves on the roof.  Usually this is done by the 8th of January; however, with the heavy snow and extreme cold of this year, we had to wait until the snow around the house had gone and the ground had dried enough to bring the tractor in close enough to the house to get the job done. So on Friday the Thirteenth, the last of the Christmas lights are taken down and put away into the shed which holds only the outdoor Christmas lights.

This is not just a sculpture but a useful tool.

Removing muddy boots with a boot jack.

The heavy winter clothing and boots can be put away but should we keep the boot jack handy?  I decide to keep it close because it’s certainly going to rain and snow again before summer and the boot jack keeps my hands clean when it’s muddy.  This tool looks like a brass sculpture of a long horn steer’s head.  The heel of one boot is put between the horns and while stepping on the tongue looking part with the other foot, you pull your foot out of the first boot.  You change feet and remove the other boot: all this without having to use your hands to pull off your muddy boots or finding someone who is willing to get their hands muddy for you.  

Here, in this part of the state and at this altitude, spring comes later than most places and for those higher up, they’re still waiting for spring.  It’s magical because when the green begins, it comes fast.  It’s almost like the green is waiting under the snow and mud; waiting for only a couple of warm, sunny days to cause it to appear.  The green will get richer and deeper as the season continues.  The snow line recedes by 500 feet almost every day.  The aspens on Emerald Mountain still stand in at least two feet of snow and yet there is a green tinge to the tops of the trees which is visible from here at the house.    Now, the most difficult part of spring, is to resist setting out the spring plantings.  In a normal year, we can count on only a couple of months (from about the middle of June to the middle of August) without a killing frost.  Gardeners here have to be very resourceful to grow plants and crops which require a growing season longer than 59 days.  They use green houses, plant starter kits in their homes, and my favorite, container garden using their kids’ wagons and skateboards to move their plants from the garage and back every day.  Color has returned to the high country which means that the produce section at the grocery store won’t be as crowded; people won’t be lingering over the red peppers and lettuce to get the “color fix”, they’ll be outside enjoying the real thing.
The green will get richer in just a few warm days.

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