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Wilmington, Vermont
Much of our life is triangulated between Wilmington VT, Charlemont  MA and Greenfield MA, the place where we hang our hats most nights. In the last week, we've been as far north as Manchester VT, as far south as Springfield MA, west as Lee and east as Auburn, just outside of Worcester. 

No matter which route we take, spring seems to follow us back forth over he border, one day here, the next day somewhere else.

While the middle of the country and the South were pummeled, we’ve been warm, hot, cool and cold, sometimes all in the same day. One glorious day it got up to 84, then turned around and snowed the next.

There’s no middle ground in the Northeast in the middle of April. If you’re not careful, you can miss spring entirely.

Piles of stubborn snow persist but so do little clumps of bulbs, often in the oddest spots. Easter will be cold, but I’m betting on a warm Memorial Day.

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Charlemont, Massachusetts

 
 
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I’m told it’s spring. Around here that means two things – mud and sugar.

Let’s start with mud.

For the next four weeks, the back roads of New England will be off limits to anyone who doesn’t own high-top boots and/or a four-wheel-drive vehicle. See that dirt road? You don’t even want to think about driving on it.  

Although daytime temps are moderate (30s and 40s) there’s still snow sitting around, and they’re even talking about “unsettled” weather at the end of this week. I think that means the weather forecasters haven’t settled on the number of inches, yet.

The sugar part is what makes life bearable in this non-season. The smell of maple vapor, the buckets and  lines running through the woods, and the chance to get together with friends for breakfast at a sugarhouse for pancakes and all things sweetable --- this is the stuff of winter dreams! 

Ahhhh!

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 
And bathed every veyne in swich licour 

It’s enough to make me want to break out in song, nay poetry (!), in Middle English, no less. 

Thank you, Geoffrey Chaucer. And thank you to whatever English teacher it was who made me memorize this thing. I hated it then, but love it today. 

 
 
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Smith College Annual Spring Bulb Show
Northampton, Massachusetts
March 7, 2011


 
 
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Spring crept in a little early this year in New England, then took a return flight back to wherever it comes from, letting the cold air drift back in over us.

By March 20, the first official day of spring, the snow had cleared enough for us to pick out a spot to plant a lilac bush. By last week, the lilacs were available in nurseries, so we bought two different varieties and one low-bush blueberry (for the bears). 

By May 1, all the white stuff had melted, even pretty far north of us. On Mother’s Day, however, we awoke to fresh coating and icy windshields. Imagine! 


All that being said, here are a few things I noticed over the last few weeks that tell me spring is here to stay:
The sugaring season came and went, as it always does.
At least a few salamanders made it across roads to vernal pools for mating season. I saw them (cross the road).
Morris Dancers danced on May 1.
Young people stripped down to the essentials for a picnic on the first warm day. 

Water rushed over the falls, as the snows melted up north. 
Bulbs burst forth with colorful blooms. 

Teenagers took out their guitars for a folk concert. 
The earth greened up all around us.  
There were kids in church! And kids played with kids in church!  

 
 
The hilltowns are still covered in snow and in the valleys dirty piles of old snow remind us it’s  March, not May. But in Smith College’s conservatory and orangerie, the bees hum while you soak in the smell of hyacinth and gardenia. Glorious spring has arrived!

 
 

This is how I spent my birthday -- surrounded by blooming bulbs (and other plants). How lucky to be born on the first day of spring! 

 
 

This is the time of year when people in snowy climates start losing their minds. We’ve had enough of the cold and the white stuff, yet there could be more snow well into April, even into May.

When the days are above freezing---here, they’re in the 30s and 40s---and the nights are below---in the teens and 20s---the sap starts to run in the maple trees. The month-long sugaring season gives everyone something to look forward to, just when cabin fever really starts to set in. Wood fires abound and, if you step outside on certain days, you can smell the heady mix of wood smoke and maple sugar.

Once you start boiling the sap, you must keep it going or lose sap to evaporation. It takes roughly 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, so every drop counts.

Anything as labor intensive as this requires many hands. Sugar masters make the chores as pleasant as possible. They organize potluck meals, and ask people to bring along their musical instruments, children and dogs. There’s nothing like a party to make the work flow.

Here are some photos I took a few years ago of a sugarhouse operation. Dave helped gather and stack wood. I helped chronicle the event with pictures. We both enjoyed the people, the music and the food. 

Click to enlarge any photo.

 
 

Like most aspects of life, there's a good side to the combination of long days and strong sun, along with the possibility of a disaster. 

Daytime temperatures are in the 30s and 40s, nighttime in the 20s, which makes it easy for river ice to melt during the day, then freeze up a little at night. 

We don't want it to melt too quickly, for obvious reasons. A nice slow spring is a good spring.

You have to remember that, not only do we have a ton of snow and ice here waiting to melt, but we're downstream from a glacier up north that could bury us all. Whoa baby, you don't want that stuff coming down on your head!

Stay tuned. If I show up on one of your doorsteps, you'll know why. 



 
 

June sent these two photos of Spring creeping into Delaware, at least coming to her yard. Even though they had enough snow there to close schools last Friday, the tropical air is back, and it brought spring blossoms with it. Aren't these beautiful flowers? I think I can smell them. Thanks, June!


Karen posted a response to the Ah, Spring post, and sent along these photos of her flower and vegetable gardens in Southern California as proof of her green thumb. Be sure to read her comment.

Karen, you've made believers of us all! And, we'll be right out for some salad! Set another 24 places at your table, please.


 
 

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick holds a bear cub in his jacket while another is weighed in a hat Friday.

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Cub scout: Fisheries and Wildlife officials take Gov. Patrick on mission to meet Whately bear, make a happy discovery

The Massachusetts governor came out our way yesterday, and went on a wildlife hunt for bear. Found him a few. To read the entire story, from the Greenfield Recorder, follow the link in the headline above. 


What a refreshing story for these depressing times!



Here's a photo from the Springfield newspaper, and  a link to their story and video. It's worth a look if you like bears! 

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/02/gov_deval_patrick_comes_to_wes.html