Sunshine and warm breezes… and even a mosquito’s unwelcome bite conspired, today, to assure us all that summer is just around the bend.
Leap-frogging over spring, the balmy - even hot - 26 degree weather of Monday April 23 inspired summery thoughts. There was a blustery, desiccating wind; just the thing to set my laundry a-flap on the line. No more drying inside; surely this is one of spring’s greatest promises.
Yes, there are many indications that summer is just around the corner:
For the last couple of weeks we’ve been digging last autumn’s parsnips from the vegetable patch. Winter has done its work, starches have made their subtle, significant change to sugar. These roots are sweet and tempting, deliciously announcing in their particular way that spring is in full bloom.
Speaking of blooms, daffodil buds are swelling, and their first welcome blossoms nod in the sunshine beneath the white birch. Crocus open their petals in the midst of the day, allowing the sun’s rays to reach their brilliant orange stamens. Bees buzz, and while nudging the stamens aside they cover their legs with pollen.
Tree buds swell, too, and our large-toothed aspens are sporting fuzzy catkins. Soon enough they’ll drop onto the ground below, requiring that late spring activity: raking. But for now their woolly tails waggle in the breeze, swelling in the day’s heat.
Meanwhile, on the forest floor, life stirs: Hairy mauve-coloured hepaticas thrust from last autumns’ dense layer of leaves. Fuzzy fists of wild ginger raise themselves from this matt, emerging from the brown, papery sheath that has protected them during winter.
In the wetland, pussy willows shine silver in the sunlight.
And while wild nature stirs, shifts and stretches, likewise does my perennial bed.
Resembling emerald licks of flame, iris shoot greenly from the earth; scarlet tips of peonies poke from the soil; wrinkled leaves of primula await their more gloriously coloured flowers.
Spring has come to the Pontiac.
But what of the sounds of spring?
Whirring in the sky, the common snipe accomplishes its aerial display - again and again. From the woods comes the nasal “tszeet, tszeet” of the woodcock. Across the Steele Line, Canada geese honk as they practise their slow-motion descent and take-offs in my neighbour’s cornfield.
And the insistent if not repetitious “Phoebe! Phoebe!” song of the little flycatcher that takes the name of its own call, fills the air around my home.
But it’s not simply birdsong that greets me as I step outside.
From the western field’s pond, a froggy chorus beats its own rhythm and, try as we might to tread softly, when Eric and I approach their waterhole, they stop their singing. Almost simultaneously the chorus cease; surely our footfalls must reverberate through the soil, warning them of potential danger.
Sounds and sights are by no means limited to birds and reptiles. Mammals stir, too: Deer slip out of the sheltering woods, eager to taste spring’s new growth of clover, grasses and alfalfa. They don’t welcome us either: If we venture too close they melt back into the woods, spying our approach even in twilight’s gathering gloom.
Groundhogs clamber up fenceposts to bask in the rays of sun, scampering down and with fat rippling, they bound to their burrows at our approach. Squirrels dash hither and thither along tree branches in a frenzy of passion, chasing one another, tails whirling in circles.
And always, always, the call of the redwing, reminding us all that summer will soon follow after this headlong rush into spring.
Ah, the promise of summer is here to revel in and enjoy.
And it’s not just human beings that appreciate the change… horses kick up their heels, cantering in their meadows, nipping at each other in play; calves gambol about else enjoy siestas in pools of sunlight.
Even our two cats appear to be celebrating spring’s arrival.
In the lawn, meandering depressions made by voles intrigue our two wily hunters. The vole’s winter protection has vanished: snow that recently formed the tunnels ceilings has melted, exposing their own peculiar lawn aeration technique for all - including the cats - to behold.
Eagerly they two await the voles’ misguided forays along their concave depressions; inevitably the cats pounce and gleefully trot off with their latest catch. Come night-time they return home, full of mice and voles, another day’s successful hunt completed. Twitching in sleep, they dream of tomorrow’s bounty, yet to be discovered, only imagined.
This morning, Tuesday the 24th, the amazingly drawn-out, musical song of the brown thrasher invited us to step outside and discover the day. Welcome back, migrant!
Such is spring in the Pontiac, here on our farm… How about yours?
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer based near Quyon.