The Slow March (and April) of Spring

You might say things have been pretty busy lately, around here. Aside from continuing with the work of getting settled in our new home and getting to know our surroundings, we’ve also been dealing with a very unusual winter and spring indeed. March, in particular, was a harrowing experience — especially since we’re new here.

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Having had a nearly snow free January and February, March began with one of the worst blizzards on record tearing through the peninsula and dropping over two feet of snow. The storm actually rolled in while James was away, leaving me to face my achluophobia quite suddenly and certainly. I’ve always been afraid of the dark. Growing into adulthood has done little to lessen it. IMG_4869Often I find myself reaching around a doorway into a room to turn the lights on before entering!

There I was, a lonely captain at the helm of my own personal Titanic. The house, tossed by a raging sea of darkness, was doomed. As the storm wailed outside, pelting the walls with snow and white gales, I watched helplessly as the lights flickered more and more, the house sinking into darkness slowly but certainly. Eventually, in defiance, I turned out all the lights, lit my favorite trusty oil lamp, and sat at the piano and played hymns as loudly and forcefully as I could muster. While waiting for the power to go out and my fear to subside, I must have played half a hymnal… but I eventually felt better.

When morning came, I was able to see just how mighty a storm it had been. Under the weight of the deep and heavy snow, trees bowed and snapped, bringing about a complete end to telecommunications and electricity (not to mention running water). James (aka Odysseus) managed to get home, miraculously, in spite of all surrounding airports being closed. Then, for nearly a week, James and I lived like impromptu pioneer men — melting snow to flush the toilet, burying our perishables under the snow, heating exclusively with wood fires, and reading by oil lamplight.

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When you are deprived of electricity, you realize what a silent force it is in our modern lives. On those days we spent completely cut off from the rest of the world, it was painfully clear how spoiled we are and how unprepared we are for the simplest of realities. Without electricity: there are no mp3s, you must make your own music; there is no TV, DVR, DVD, reading is the quickest way to escape. How quickly the modern world disappears! The only remnants, in fact, are these suddenly useless vessels of irretrievable information — computers, cell phones, and all of their accoutrements.

The evening electricity finally rushed through our wiring, illuminating the house and reviving the refrigerator and water pump, I have to admit it brought a bittersweet feeling. I desperately needed a shower and a shave and was looking forward to eating a meal I didn’t have to dig out of the snow, of course, but I was a embarrassed and maybe a tad ashamed to be returning to the pampered existence I’d been cast out of several days before. Without the hum and buzzing of electrical machinery, the background music we play “for concentration”, or the temptation of squandering hours internet surfing, I have to admit I was much more focused in my thoughts and daily tasks. Quiet is such a precious thing and — even though I didn’t appreciate having it thrust upon me — maybe I’ll seek it out more often, now.

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Just ten days after the storm, all traces of snow were gone as the fickle winter revealed yet another contradiction of itself — temperatures well into the 70s and 80s for more than a week! You could hear the birds singing — practically screaming “What the Hell?!” Crocuses and other bulbs we didn’t know we had began popping up all over the place. The sun, searing the still naked forest, prematurely awakened all the surrounding cherry orchards. Sigh… and then as you’d expect, temperatures finally returned closer to springtime norms and a lot of orchards are now facing some very bleak weeks ahead and are expecting next to nothing for harvests.

Trying not to be depressed by this fickle winter that led to a mischievous spring, James and I have taken to the woods exploring all of the wildflowers blanketing the forest floor.

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I love the foliage of these Dutchmen’s Breeches, but I also enjoy how the flowers look like little white gnome pants hanging out to dry in the forest!

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Wild violets are popping up everywhere at the edges of lawns and the outskirts of the forest. They’re a nice break from the mostly white wildflowers of early spring.

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James and I both love trillium, so we were at first delighted to see the one on the left since we thought it was a unique specimen. After doing some research, James discovered it’s actually a mutant and we’ll have eradicate it so that it doesn’t infect the surrounding trillium colonies. The trillium on the right is what the flower should look like. Apparently, the mutant flower will continue to mutate and distort until it dies. We’ll probably go put it out of its misery, tomorrow — especially since there are some beautiful trillium nearby that are about to bloom.

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These ramps (wild leeks) are just about ready to eat! I’m excited to have the chance to try them fresh from the forest. Ramps have an onion-y, garlicky taste with a touch of “wild” thrown in. I’m looking forward to trying them in a quick breakfast omelet or in a simple salad. Now all we need to do is find a morel mushroom patch somewhere in our woods and we’ll be all set!

With the outdoors slowly coming to life and being occasionally beaten back by the pendulum swings of spring, I’ve also been busy indoors getting seedlings ready for this year’s vegetable garden. It’s been a ton of work getting all of the brush, sumac, and other debris removed from the plot area. Seeing these tiny, hopeful seedlings is a very special reward all its own.

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The onions you see in the foreground are a yellow variety I selected from Seed Savers Exchange called Yellow of Parma and in the back of the photo is a red variety called Red Amposta.

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We awoke, this morning, to a feathery snow falling from a stony sky. Snow in April. I guess you might expect that after the roller coaster ride we’ve had. Furthering my faith in a spring that will move forward and in hope of a warm and sunny summertime, last week I sowed 48 pepper seedlings to add to our little “indoor greenhouse”. The wee sprouts you see here are from a variety called King of the North. Like summer, I’m looking forward to them so much, I can almost taste it.

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~ by Jason on April 11, 2012.

10 Responses to “The Slow March (and April) of Spring”

  1. I always love your descriptions and I had no idea you had such a big storm. Northern Wisconsin had snow cover but only one big storm.

    Happy Spring!

    Grace

    • Thanks for reading, Grace. The storm was much heavier and windier than what we endured in Evanston/Chicago, last year. Of course, being out here in the country, it was a completely different experience. We never lost power in the city. In fact, aside from snow being in waist-high drifts in the streets, you wouldn’t really have noticed a blizzard came that year.

      Happy Spring to you too! πŸ™‚

  2. Even tho we also lived the pioneer life, just down the road from you, during the March 2012 snow storm, it was fun hearing about it again… NOT the living of it tho!! Oh, you write so well! πŸ™‚

  3. Love your posts!!! I felt like I was in the house with you two πŸ™‚

  4. Well, M’dears,
    As usual, I’m a bit late in reading your wonderful record of our latest weather conundrum. It was so beautiflly written.
    I’m off to Cincinnati next Tuesday to pick up my stepmum. Then to Belgium and on to a barge for a 10 day cruise upriver and ending in Amsterdam. Spring flowers…can’t wait.
    Take good care of you and James.
    Let’s try and get together soon.
    Lynne

  5. Jason,
    What a wonderful journal of those March events in the North Country. As you know, we missed the actual storm…but did get to share the dark and quiet days.
    Your pictures are wonderful. I have a recipe for ramp soup if you would like it.
    Sue

  6. I love your story about the storm and no power… We used to think snowstorms were fun when I was young. We had wood heat, and mom always had lots of home-canned food, we played games, read, and cheerfully went to bed early (to stay warm, save light, and chat!). I love how you write.

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