Fiddleheads Come Forth

Winters in Stonington can be harsh, and spring comes later than it does in the Midwest. But it does arrive . . . eventually.

One sure sign of spring is the emergence of the fiddleheads. Our down yard is fiddlehead territory, with lots of ferns growing among the rocks. They get wiped out during the long winter, but they are hardy plants that are used to the cold, wet, windy conditions. When spring growing season is upon us, these little fiddleheads shoot up from last year’s dead debris. Soon they will unfurl like flags to expose their fronds, and then the ferns will grow like crazy. By mid-June we’ll have ferns and their bright green colors dappling every nook and cranny of the down yard.

When the fiddleheads come forth, it’s time to start planting your flowers.

Spring Snow At Schiller

Much as I hate the idea of snow on the ground on April 21–and more snow falling, even now–I have to admit that the snow gave a pretty new look to Schiller Park during my walk this morning. You could still see some of the color of the flowering trees beneath the layer of snow, and the heavy, wet snow on the leaves brought many of the limbs of the trees over the sidewalks down low, requiring you to duck and steer between low-hanging branches as you walked. And snow bombs, with clumps of snow being shaken off the trees and falling on we pedestrians below, were a constant hazard.

As I walked, I thought the park looked different in this snowfall than it does during the winter months. It took me a while to figure it out, until the bright green, grassy circles that surrounded every leafed-out tree clued me in. The canopies of leaves were shielding the grass from the snow and holding it above. Unlike their skeletal look after a winter snowfall, the trees looked full and bright, almost as if the snow were flowering buds. That thought almost made the falling snow and the cold tolerable.

Spring Snow

The temperature started to plummet last night, the clouds rolled in, and this morning we woke up to a fresh—and utterly unwelcome—springtime snowfall, as shown in this picture from our screened porch taken a few minutes ago.. The temperature is right at 32 degrees Fahrenheit now and is supposed to rise gradually, but it’s not going to get above the low 40s today.

In short, it’s not exactly an ideal spring day.

That’s Midwestern weather for you. It defines unpredictability. April 20 and 21 is pretty late for snow, but the folk wisdom in these parts tells us that late snows and freezing temperatures at the end of April or even early May aren’t unprecedented. The prevailing view is that you shouldn’t plant flowers until Mother’s Day, in order to avoid a belated hard freeze that kills or cripples your new plantings. That little nugget of local gardening doctrine, which Mom repeated on an annual basis, obviously is based on years of harsh experience.

And this year, the folk wisdom has been affirmed once again. I’m glad I haven’t done anything in the planting arena before now. I’ll also be glad when the snow melts and we get back to a reasonable approximation of spring.

Springtime At Schiller

During the week we were out in Arizona, spring arrived in central Ohio in a big way. Trees are beginning to leaf out, flowers are showing their colors, the grass is a bright green, the flowering trees are in their glory, and there is a gentle, floral scent of spring on the freshening breeze.

It is a beautiful time of year, and there is no better place to enjoy the delights of spring than Schiller Park. The garden club has been busy, and the grounds of the park look marvelous. This morning, conditions were perfect for a stroll through and around the park, with cool temperatures and bright sunshine. I wasn’t the only person who thought this was a good idea, either; the park was packed with people, and dogs, all enjoying a romp outside in the beautiful surroundings. We’ve all got spring fever, and a great park like Schiller is an ideal place to let the fever take hold.

Ducks On The Run

This is the time of year when the ducks in Schiller Park are out and about. Instead of hanging out at the pond, as they typically do, at this time of year they clearly feel a certain wanderlust and could be anywhere–crossing the street, emerging from underneath bushes, or strolling across the lawns.

It can be a bit unnerving as you walk in the pre-dawn darkness. You’ll suddenly detect movement near your feet in the gloom and feel a surge of adrenalin in response to the unknown, and the next thing you know there are a pair of ducks waddling past, murmuring in apparent indignation at your presence. With the DuckShock over, you breathe a sigh of relief and continue on your way.

The roaming ducks always seem to be in female and male pairs, which makes me think the wandering is intended to secure a little privacy, away from the rest of the flock at the pond, for some springtime mating. I always feel a little bad for interrupting the roving of my waterfowl chums–whatever they are doing.

That Outdoor Urge

Yesterday the temperatures were still cold, but it was bright and sunny. It’s clear that we are on the cusp of spring, and I felt this irrepressible urge to go outside and do something. Not just take a walk — actually do something that would fall into the “outdoor chore” category.

So I gave in to the impulse, bundled up against the cold breeze, put on my sunglasses, and went outside ready to do just about anything. I swept out the back porch to remove all of the leaves and dirt and dust that had gathered there over the winter, swept the patio stones and the brick walkway, surveyed the trees and shrubs, and picked up leaves and twigs so that the backyard and patio would be free of debris and our little pod of grass would have the best possible spring growth conditions.

Then I moved to the front of the house, swept the front steps and the brickwork, swept the front sidewalk, and collected and disposed of the flotsam and jetsam that had emerged from underneath the accumulated pile of snow in our front beds. I even retrieved a plastic grocery bag that was blowing down the street like a tumbleweed, and then used it as I walked up and down the street to pick up some of the inevitable post-snowmelt litter, so that our neighborhood would be ready for spring, too. At the end of the process I surveyed my efforts and internally pronounced them as good.

I’m a big believer in the notion of human beings reacting, instinctively, to seasonal changes. I certainly feel that I do. The days grow longer, the sun shines, the world grows greener bit by bit, and you can feel a surge of energy after the winter doldrums. It’s a good feeling.

When The Weather Breaks

Yesterday winter’s hard stranglehold was finally broken. The temperature shot up to the mid-50s, we saw a huge snow melt that finally freed the streets and sidewalks from most of the snow and ice accumulation, and we got some very warm sunshine in the late afternoon. With patches of grass emerging after weeks of snow cover and our bushes showing their first, faint signs of green buds, it was hard not to feel a surge of optimism that spring might be not far away, after all.

The days when the weather breaks are special days, and I sat on our back porch to try to take it all in. We’ll still have some tough weather, of course, and some more snow and cold temperatures, but for now we’ll feel good that the worst of the winter may be behind us.

Last Of The 30s

It’s obviously stupid and pointless to get mad about the weather, because there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it.  We’re human, though, and we just can’t help ourselves, can we?

max-min-font-b-vintage-b-font-brass-font-b-thermometer-b-font-multifunctional-humidity-hygrometerI try not to let the weather bother me, and appreciate the crispness of a cold morning.  But when the cold morning is temperatures in the 30s in May, such that people have to put throw rugs and garbage bags and towels over their planters and window boxes to avoid the untimely demise of their flowers due to freezing temperatures, I admit that it does bug me a little.

Today, though, I celebrate.  Today, I will glory in yet another in an interminable series of unseasonably cold, clear spring mornings.  I will bundle up and don my oft-used stocking cap and gloves.  I will walk with head held high, breathe in deep gulps of frigid air, and note, again, how the chill tends to sharpen the smells as I clean up after Betty on our walk.

Because today is the last of the 30s temperature days.  It’s 34 right now, and once the thermometer rises past 40 we won’t see the 30s again for months.  In fact, the weather apps suggest that we’re going to pretty much go straight from November weather to mid-June, with temperatures getting up into the 80s by next week.

We know it’s silly to let the weather get to us, but since it’s part of the human condition, why not embrace that fact?  If you live in the Midwest, join me!  Take this opportunity to celebrate the turn and the final, long-overdue departure of the 30s temperatures.  Let’s give them a really good send-off, bid them a happy adieu, and let them know that we want them to stay away for a long, long time.

Thinking Beach Thoughts

It’s a ridiculous 39 degrees as I prepare to take my walk this morning. It was cold and blustery yesterday, and it’s supposed to be cold through this weekend. It’s kind of a dirty trick to combine working at home and sheltering in place with an unseasonably cold spring.

So today, I’m going to do my part to warm things up — at least mentally — and think beach thoughts. And when it warms up, as it inevitably will, I’ll gladly accept at least partial credit.

In Or Out?

I grew up as one of five kids in a family that lived in a house without air conditioning.  When the summer months came, my siblings and I would race in and out of the house repeatedly, through a battered screen door that would burst open and then close with a loud metallic bang.

After hearing the screen door knocked open and then clatter shut in hinge-rattling fashion for one dozen, two dozen, or one hundred times, my mother — normally the most mild-mannered person you can imagine — would say, with a decided exasperation in her voice:  “Bob!  In or out?”  That meant that you had to either come inside and stay inside, or go outside and stay outside, period.  A line in the sand had been drawn.  You could no longer have a foot in the inside camp and a foot in the outside camp.  A decision had to be made, and you had to stick with it or run the risk of Mom’s wrath — and no one wanted to risk that.

snow_tulip3_nga

This year, I’d like to ask spring:  “In or out?”

In 2020, we’ve had the most yo-yo spring I can remember.  We’ve had beautiful days where the temperature has touched the 70s, including one glorious day where I dared to wear shorts and expose my bone-white legs to the appalled world.  But for each really nice day, there have been multiple brutally cold ones.  Like, say, today, where the temperature as I prepare to take my walk this morning is a bracing 27 degrees and I’ll be bundling up like a contestant in the Iditarod.  And yesterday, as the temperature plunged downward again, it actually snowed, which was a decidedly unwelcome sight.  Few things are more dispiriting than an accumulation of snowflakes on brightly colored tulips.

Spring is normally a fickle season, but this spring has been ridiculous.  And the rank indecision has been particularly unfair this year, where countless cooped up people are yearning to get out of their houses and really experience balmy spring weather in their backyards and neighborhood parks as a much-needed break from shelter-in-place restrictions.  But spring, bless its capricious heart, can’t make up its mind on whether to arrive for good.  It comes, and goes, and makes a cameo appearance, and then flees like a prisoner on a jailbreak.  And I’ve had enough, already.

So, spring!  In or out?

A Spring Bonus

Sometimes the coronavirus social distancing rules can work in your favor. On this morning’s walk, to avoid an approaching cluster of walkers, joggers, and people with a baby carriage, I veered right rather than left, as I normally would, and was treated to this pretty tree, in full flower, with the Stars and Stripes in the background.

Spring is a gorgeous time in German Village, with lots of flowering trees, tulips, daffodils, and other brightly colored blooms in sidewalk gardens, and a perfume-like fragrance in the air. it’s a great time to get out of your house and walk — while strictly maintaining that six-foot buffer zone, of course.

Certain Spring

Spring is taking its time this year, arriving at an amble and not at a sprint. Although there is still a decided chill to the air, you can see certain signs of spring if you look carefully. Green shoots and soon to burst petals can be found in many of the sidewalk flower beds.

But our welcome floral friends aren’t the only indicators that spring is upon us. Spring is traditionally a time for cleaning, so discard traffic is also an indicator — like this impressively dead Christmas tree a neighbor put out yesterday. It’s the brownest, deadest Christmas tree I’ve ever seen, and looks like it would burst into flame at the slightest suggestion of heat.

If Christmas is finally over, and spring cleaning impulses are at work, can spring — warm, bright, glorious spring — be far behind?

Redefining “Clingy”

Spring is the time for growing things. In our back yard, the fastest growing thing — by far — is a flowering vine next to the fence. It was supposed to stick to a wooden trellis built by our landscaper, but it’s long since outgrown that. I put an iron support for a birdhouse or hanging flower basket next to it, and the vine has eagerly embraced that. Now, its tendrils are venturing out, eagerly seeking other things to latch on to, wrap around, and grip tightly. This plant is clingier than your first high school romance.

I like to go out in the morning to marvel at how much the plant has grown since the day before and try to redirect it away from our neighbor’s yard and the little tree nearby. In doing so, however, I’m careful to keep moving. I’m afraid if I stand still for too long I’m going to find myself wrapped in those clingy green tendrils, too.

The Backyard Wakes Up

Yesterday I enjoyed some outside time in our backyard.  It was a tolerably warm day before the rains and winds came, and I wanted to enjoy that point in the year where colors have reemerged after winter’s drabness and you can breathe deep of the heady scent of growing things.  Why, there is yellow back there, and green, and even a white flowering tree.  After months of slumber beneath blankets of snow, and rain, and frost, our little backyard is finally waking up.

Spring always seems to be the shortest of the four seasons, with winter hanging on much longer than it should at one end and summer’s heat eager to entrench upon the other.  That just makes it even more essential to get out and savor it while it lasts.