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between-our-steps-04-25-18-doubleWhen the snow started on April 14th with a blasting east wind, it felt like winter had us in its fist. By morning there was a smothering blanket of snow. And it started again with freezing rain and ice pellets. Checking radar that Sunday afternoon I zoomed out to see the whole, massive storm. A plume of moisture poured north from the gulf, rain through the US, turning to ice in southern Ontario and a spreading umbrella of snow to the north. We were caught in winter's grip.

The next morning was a struggle with heavy wet snow that had to be moved but was difficult to budge. It piled like boulders where it got pushed. Slowly, over the course of the week, it soaked into the ground and melted in the sun. Roads cleared to bare, though yards and fields were still covered. Our lane had two bare tracks the width of our truck with deep snow between and beside.

During the week, bird feeders were busy. Multiple species made space for each other. We had a squirrel for a couple days join the purple finches, wrens, sparrows, mourning doves, woodpeckers and more

Then, this Monday, dawn was greeted with bird song, but no one ventured near the feeder. Our lane was bare, and grass started to show. By afternoon, there was more grass than snow, and it was green. Crocuses popped. Daffodils shot up with a flower head that started to look yellow. Flies buzzed along the ground.

When I went to check the garlic, one of the barn cats kept trying to grab my hand. She had struggled with the snow last week. Early morning was okay, when it froze into ice. But by afternoon as the snow turned to slush, the poor thing sank in up to her knees. She complained bitterly, and I had to agree that a cat shouldn't sink in like that. But this week, she and her companions are out exploring and enjoying the sun and bare ground.

Once I got to the garden, I didn't want to go back inside. Much of the garden was still covered with snow, but there were several patches where I could clear last year's debris and start weeding. I pulled grass beside the garlic patch and got the trowel to dig weeds with deep roots. I spread a little of last year's lettuce seed where I cleared the ground. It may sprout--the ground is moist and the sun had melted and warmed it. If it grows, I'll have fresh greens early. If it doesn't, no great loss.

Winter released us like a fist letting go. The birds were set free to go back to their own routines. The redwinged blackbird that sat on top of the bird feeder glowed in the sunlight. The other blackbirds are somewhere in the swamp trees, no longer tied to the ignominy of a human's feeder.

It feels like spring will come quickly. The pussywillow catkins were small a week ago, and on Monday were full and plump. The weeping willows are a greenish yellow as the buds are starting to burst. The first crocuses that bloomed in early April did not survive the snow, but the next are a cheery purple. The tulips are growing right before our eyes, and the daffodils are racing toward yellow.

Other growth will take longer. And the freeze thaw pattern of the winter will have consequences. I worry about winter wheat others planted. I replanted some garlic in the patch because I am pretty sure some of it was killed in January when the ground froze solid without any snow cover. Next year, I will likely just plant garlic in spring as I hate to lose the crop to these unpredictable winter seasons.

Spring tasks await. I swept gravel off the lawn where the snow blower put it. A few days and it would be buried in growing grass. And I'm going to have to get the mower ready quickly. Dirt tracks on the road show where farmers have been in the fields. Winter has lost its grip, but spring is about to grasp us. Though welcome, with its warmth and sun and growth, it is as relentless a season for those who work the land, the yards, the gardens.
Cathy Hird lives near Walters Falls.


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