The Pleasures and Challenges of Spring

Walking our roads in the past few weeks has been, well, interesting. The gravel seems to have been entirely swamped by mud, alternating with ice and ruts. It is hard to watch my feet though, as there is so much to see and hear and smell right now.

The cold weather until recently caused the ice on the lake to continue its booming, vibrating expansion. There was the occasional loud zing, as another pressure crack provided more room. Two weeks later however, the colour is changing rapidly from silver to dark grey and it no longer looks safe. The next big wind may give us liquid waterfront once again.

The Robins and Redwing Blackbirds arrived in hoards heralding spring.

The males come first, battling and complaining. They joined the squawking legions of Blue Jays and the nearly silent, diffident Mourning Doves near our feeder. The Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers (Don is convinced we have an ‘Uppy’ too) enjoy our homemade suet cakes from range-fed pork fat, as does my grandsons’ dog Diego, who comes to lick the bottom of the container on rainy days. I get chills from the wilderness sound of the geese gossiping in their V’s overhead; spring returnees.

The deer regularly come near the roadways, gleaning food.

We occasionally have grain spills on the north side of the barn, when we auger our grain mixture from various bins into the hopper on the tractor, or the ‘snacker’ pulled by the ATV. (That’s a royal ‘we’ there – Don and Chris do almost all of the grain feeding.)

Each morning Christopher reports deer, fox and rabbit tracks in the snow – now in the mud.

One morning I was about to set off for a walk, but paused, so as not to scare the 3 deer, calmly enjoying the treats of a grain spill. Soon they will disappear again, as more food become available in the woods.

As I’m writing this, a pheasant just took a stroll across our yard, then posed peacefully under our grapevine. (I tried to sneak up behind our old sauna to get a picture, but no luck.)

Drainage here in spring is a constant problem. We’ve put in a lot of labour and money, trying to deal with the fact that the gardens and barn and barnyards and our shop are downhill from the land.

The wool and sheepskin products in the Wool Shed (also available online) are threatened by the spring flooding.

I’m told that the culvert is frozen solid, so our careful drainage efforts have resulted in water flowing in the south door of the barn, mainly freezing solid, then trickling out the north door. Don has rigged an ingenious siphon, which has made quite a difference. Sump pumps in basements are working overtime.

The sheep and dogs are thriving this winter. We just brought the main flock of ewes back through the woods from the wintering grounds. We constantly battle hoof rot, so want them to be on higher, dryer ground. Hopefully they are all pregnant, due to birth starting the first week of May. We’ll be shearing all the sheep on the farm in the last week of April. More on that later.

The scent of warming earth stirs the yearning for the garden within me, giving the necessary boot to get me sorting last year’s seeds, putting in a new seed order, and starting the first flat of ‘plant them indoors and early’ types. Finding indoor space for them all will be the next pleasant dilemma.

Meanwhile the snowdrops are in full bloom.