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between-our-steps-04-11-18-doubleI have mixed emotions about the weather these days. Sure, I am tired of white and longing for green, just like everybody else, but I haven't had to blow the snow. I've been able to drive through what fell. And every bit of moisture is good for the land.

Driving on the roads has been slow and slippery, however. The combination of snow and freezing rain last week was hazardous. Snow melted, making the roads slushy. Then, everything froze up again and again leaving patches of ice. In the shade of the pine trees, we've had a patch of ice one could skate on.

The fields around our house are covered again, after being bare for weeks. While the look is cleaner, the weeks of bare frozen ground has me worried. Pasture and hay fields will recover. Grass is tough, and legumes don't come out of dormancy until it warms up. But winter wheat does not like this kind of weather. This crop much prefers a snow cover that insulates it from the cold.

There was snow, but it left. Twice. And during the weeks we had no snow-cover, we had temperatures well below freezing. The ground froze, and some of the wheat will have frozen and died. A farm newsletter that just came out has a detailed discussion of how and when to evaluate last falls wheat seeding. I did not see a lot of this crop go in last fall, but some of it will likely have to be plowed down and a spring crop put in. That means more work and a loss.

Some farmers got manure spread and fields worked up just before Easter. This open ground will be absorbing the moisture that the snow brought. And we need that moisture. Sure, we had a lot of snow in a couple batches this winter, but most of it ran off into the streams because thaws came when the ground was frozen. When the ground was bare, I could see it drying out when the sun shone. We are going to need rain this spring.

Because we need the moisture, I vow not to complain if the Colorado low that is predicted for later this week brings snow or ice. We need the moisture. As I glance at the predictions, however, I know that vow will be hard to keep given that I do need to drive.

This week should be good for maple syrup producers. I know folks who boiled their first sap the last week of February, and at that time, I wondered if the season would be done the first week of March. Instead, there have been cold days when nothing ran, and sunny days when it came slowly. There was a burst of above zero days after a freeze up when the flow was steady, and everybody boiled. Then cold, again.

For those who tap with buckets, they've had to invent a way to get the sap out of the bucket to boil. For those with lines and pumps, there was more work. Many nights, the equipment had to be drained or it would have frozen, bursting pipes and damaging pumps. And one producer told me that they had to go around and knock taps back in to the trees because frost had pushed them out.

Birds have been confused too. Warm winds carried migrators north in February, but they had to subsist on seeds. Our bird feeders have been busy, with redwinged blackbirds joining the winter regulars. A flock of twenty rusty blackbirds descended on the feeders on the weekend, chasing the regulars away. Most of them moved on, though a couple are still visiting. I will keep the feeders filled for now, just to help out these critters who really want the snow to disappear.

I am ready for spring. I am ready for green and bright colours. There has been a hint with crocuses blooming, and pussywillow catkins filling out. The forsythia that I brought in and forced, bloomed extravagantly, so I expect that bush to be beautiful, soon. In the meantime, nights are bright with the ground still white. And all the mess that has to be cleaned up is hidden. I suspect spring will come fast when it arrives, that the work will need to get done all at once, but it seems I've a little longer to rest.

Cathy Hird lives near Walters Falls.


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