Wasn’t it something to wake up Monday morning to temperatures in the upper 40s? And the forecast is for almost 60° by the end of the week. Maple sap will soon be running in earnest, and the streams that have been more ice than water this year will start flowing loud and high. But what really lets me know that winter is starting to turn—ever so slightly—to spring is…dead skunks.
I saw my first road-killed skunk this past weekend, and another this morning. Poor things, although not true hibernators, they remain dormant most of the winter except when the males stir themselves from warm dens about this time of year to mate. They’ll range quite a bit in search of females, who often den in groups.
Granted, I’m often guilty of anthropomorphizing, but when I see those little bundles of black and white fur along the roadside, I can’t help but think of them as groggy and cold, hungry at a time of year when their natural diet of grubs and roots is locked in frozen ground beneath the snow, but forced by instinct to wander in search of a mate. I’m sure a few more become a meal for their one true predator, the great horned owl, as well, which the owls must look forward to after such a cold winter when many of their prey would be inclined to stay to their dens.
It’s a sad notation for me to make in my journal each year, when I spot the first one, but sad or not, it is still a sign of the passing seasons that I like to note, as much as when I first notice snow fleas in the snow around the base of trees where the sun warms the bark or when the first turkey vulture appears floating in the skies above our valley.
So. Winter’s on the wane. And we’re all rejoicing, right? Well, sort of. I’d be happier if I had more done. I still need to prune the fruit trees, start my onion seeds, and get my garden calendar made up. At least my seeds are (mostly) ordered.
But I have to be honest, although I listed those three to-do items like they’re a regular part of my gardening year, I’ve had fruit trees in the ground for going on 4 years without ever pruning them after the first “prune before you plant.” I have at least 3 years’ worth of really interesting onion seeds that I’ve never managed to get started in a timely fashion (so I end up buying sets or someone else’s starts). And although I first read about the idea of a garden calendar a couple years ago, if I get one done this year, it’ll be my first.
My great idea this year is to write about these 3 chores as I do them. Nothing like a waiting audience to give one a little push! And you all have my permission to ask me about them if you don’t hear about them…soon.
How about you? Anyone else marking time by watching the natural world? Or getting your mid-winter chores started? I’d love to hear about it!