Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Coming Out of Hibernation

In the middle of August, a 45-degree day would have me running for my fleece jacket and the thermostat. In the middle of February, however, when we've been through extremely cold weather and still have a lot of snow everywhere, the recent spate of 45- to 50-degree days feels balmy.

For the first time in weeks I wanted to walk because the ice on the streets and sidewalks was gone. I threw open windows to let in fresh air. I could shovel away what was now slush (instead of a cement mixture of snow and ice) and liberate the last branches of the yew hedge before the deer destroyed it.

I am hearing birdsong now, too. As the days get longer (light after 6:30am until 5:30pm), I have been hearing all sorts of birds for the first time in months - pileated woodpecker, flicker, redbelly, mallards, Carolina wren, house finches and white-throated sparrows.

Driveway and snow wall, February 2014 (Margo D. Beller)
After ignoring my garden because of the snow drifts, I can now see just how much work I will have to do to repair what winter destroyed. With the snow down to more human levels, I discovered the deer have been back to their old habits - one found a weakness in my netting system, ripped it apart and ate a good hunk of two bushes. This happens at least once a year, and the bushes grow back. But it doesn't make me any less angry.

This year, however, I also see the bushes the deer couldn't reach are brown, and I fear they were done in by too much polar vortex.

And I saw a chipmunk this morning - joy. This is the one mammal that can easily get behind my netting and dig huge holes, knowing the larger predators aren't going to get at it. The little bugger reminds me how much work I will have to do if I really want to protect my garden from destruction above (deer) and below (chipmunks).

But that's later. Right now I see more of my roof and my neighbors'. I hear the crash of ice and snow falling to the ground. I see older people taking their walks again, shaming me for using the car of late to get the morning paper. For the first time in over six weeks, I can empty my compost containers into the large composter because what is already in there has defrosted enough to shove aside for this new/old stuff.

This taste of spring won't last, of course. It is, after all, February. More cold and possibly more snow are expected, and soon. For now, I am glad my muscles have finally recovered from all the shoveling (at one point we had three storms in one week dumping significant snow), the recent rains helped the melting along rather than turning my street into a raging river and I had some time to get the stale air out of my house.

But next week it will be March and that means spring is just around the corner.

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