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    2/19/2017:00:00 First Stirrings of Spring  by Barb

The smallhold is waking up! Days are longer and warm days are more frequent. Today was 57°. Ground is thawing and the pulse is picking up. All of the white crocuses are blooming, others are out of the ground. In the sun and the breeze, I got out to do the first garden work of spring – rake the deep leaf cover off the flower bed. The fluffy leaves of last fall have compacted under the snow and what was protection in the fall becomes a barrier in the spring. Plants in my garden may need protection from sub-zero, but not from 20s, so the mulch comes off! When I clear off leaves, I rake them onto a 10x10 tarp to which I have attached a tow rope and drag them away. I took two big loads off of the beds and those wet leaves were heavy! As always, this first bit of exercise is felt as much as an entire mornings worth of work will be felt later in the summer! After I hauled away the second tarp load, I was ready to put things away for the day. I knew there would be new growth struggling under that barrier and I was right – crocuses, hyacinths, foxglove, daisies, grape hyacinths, and daffodils already struggling for the light.

I checked the fruit trees today and despite the warm temps, they are still tightly budded. I want these warm times to be interspersed with some cold days and nights to keep the buds tight until spring really gets here. (This isn't it!) Other creatures on the smallhold are feeling spring. The squirrels are chasing each other around. I have seen a couple of chipmunks out of hibernation. The birds are beginning to call and check out nest sites. They are also getting testy with each other at the feeders. As always, the sparrows are first at the nest tree out front. The starlings would love to have it, but no matter how hard they try to wedge themselves in, the nest hole is too small for them. I will be putting a cover on the entrance to one of the two bluebird houses today. If I don't cover one until next month, the sparrows will have moved into both boxes by the time the bluebirds get here. However, if I cover one, the sparrows move into the open box and hopefully when the bluebirds arrive next month they will move into the other box. Nesting birds will drive off any birds of the same species that try to set up housekeeping too close to them, but they don't seem to mind if birds of another species nest nearby. I use this to protect my bluebirds. The sparrows in the first box drive off other sparrows who try to nest in the second box, but leave the bluebirds alone.

Come to think of it, another sure sign of spring is when I join into the mix and get out to do my rites of spring!

First a howling blizzard woke us, then the rain came down to soak us and now before the eye can focus - Crocus.
Lilja Rogers




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