Casaubon's Book

At the Edge of Spring

Red Winged Blackbird.JPG

Spring is a trick of the light – it should be, after all, since ultimately the shift of seasons is about angles and sun. At some point in March the light changes – a new “certain slant of light” and thus, spring is here. It will be a while most years before the green and the daffodils or even the spring peepers arrive in upstate NY, but in the meantime, the sky and the air and the angle of sun says spring.

Seed starting is in full swing now and I sometimes feel I spend far too many of my days elbow deep in potting soil – but the smell of moist compost is energizing as well. It is sometimes hard in February to feel the connection between pressing small seeds into soil and the ripe eggplants of August, but if you can’t feel it, you can still draw on ancestral memory to know it is there.

I’m behind of course – which is the nature of spring. The entire experience of springtime for me is “not yet…not yet…gack, hurry, we’re late!” Maybe it is because that’s how spring happens here – an aching incrementalism where it feels that it will never turn green, those last patches of snow will never melt, the flowers will never bloom – and then an all-at-onceness that happens far to fast and disappears. The spring workload flows the same way – a cold spell puts us back and then all of a sudden it all has to be done – the barn cleaned, the babies birthed, the eggs hatched, the seeds planted, the ground tended….

It wasn’t much of a winter here, so I anticipate things will burst upon us earlier than usual. Already the red-winged blackbirds and the geese are back. A predicted warm spell next week will likely awaken the peepers and send the apricots into bloom. That means the press of work is higher than average – gardeners are optimists and nothing will stop me from trying to plant everything too early.

Our first wintering over of the bees couldn’t have gone better (as I said, it wasn’t much of a winter) – the honey bees have been out foraging on warm days already. As I groomed an angora rabbit yesterday on an unsually warm day, several bees hovered consideringly nearby, trying to decide whether there was any hope of pollinating the unusual bunny flower.

Hens are brooding, ducks are grumpy that we’re messing with their nests (I don’t really need more ducks, and the eggs are fabulous in the baked goods we make for Purim), the first does are heavy with kids and everything is in a gestating sort of mood – including the world at large.

We moved the rabbits back out-of-doors yesterday, a morning-long project that was satisfying and messy – they wintered on our sun porch, and it is good to have them back out in the fresh air. The winter was so mild that we had a February litter (we don’t normally breed for the darkest part of winter), a cross of our Cinnamons and American Blues that produced 7 beautiful little black rabbits. More babies are anticipated momentarily in a slew of colors.

Eric’s semester break comes next week – as is often the case it in no way coincides with anyone else’s vacation, but it does come at a good time – so the cleaning of the barns will commence, and the making of new garden beds, manuring of the old and raking, levelling and other maintenence that really should have happened in autumn but didn’t. I’ll be watching carefully for signs that some of my more delicate perennials survived the flooding last fall and the non-winter. Paradoxically, the warmer winter in some ways may have been tougher on the plants with no snow cover to insulate them from extreme cold (on the rare occasions it actually got extremely cold) and because of the wide temperature fluctuations.

Yesterday we had a taste of spring – temperatures in the high sixties put us in t-shirts and sent the kids out splashing in the mud and racing around as they haven’t for months. The pale sun hit bare skin for the first time in months, the indoor games that have obsessed them were put away, and we went and admired the roaring creek and the tiny bits of green arising along the road. Today we’re back to winter again, temperature-wise and there are even a few lazy flakes of snow meandering down, but it won’t last. The light has shifted, and the sun is back, and lo, the winter is gone and past.



  1. #1 Louise penygraig
    March 9, 2012

    “not yet…not yet…gack, hurry, we’re late!” That sums up spring for me too. I felt like spring was never coming, but now I’m realising that the shallots should have been planted in February and the bed’s not ready yet, same for the broad beans and peas which are in pots in the greenhouse. Spring is my favourite time of the gardening year though, full of promise – this year I will grow … whatever. Soon the conservatory will be full of seedlings and I’ll get so attached to them I’ll not want to go out!
    The other side of the Atlantic from you and warmed by the gulf stream our daffodils are just starting – in the valley bottom about 400 feet lower they’ve been out a couple of weeks. I love the way spring spreads slowly up the hillside which seems to prolong it. Saw my first dandelion and daisy the other day too.

  2. #2 Nicole
    March 9, 2012

    We’ve been enjoying the first flush of spring for a few weeks. Alas, a “flush” is usually all we get before summer shoulders her way in and decides to stay for half the year.

    I don’t like winter much, so when spring starts to peek around the corner, my thought is always “bring it on!”

  3. #3 Greenpa
    March 9, 2012

    You’re ahead of us; of course. We had our first flock of redwings show up 2 days ago; and I still can’t pull the stakes of the electro-mesh fence for the sheep; they’re frozen hard down there. But- maybe today.

  4. #4 Greenpa
    March 9, 2012

    Hey; by “hens brooding”, do you mean you have hens setting on eggs already? With the intention of hatching/raising chicks that way?

  5. #5 DennisP
    March 10, 2012

    Today, finally, we get a real taste of spring here in central Wisconsin. Went out for four-mile walk in the face of gusty westerly & southerly winds. Looks like we will have 60-degree temp’s all this week. Redwings not back yet – didn’t see any today – but I’ll be surprised if they don’t show up this week! Along with the Horned Larks. We are just getting started with the seed starting, since I’m planning on May 10 as the frost-free date for Central Wisconsin, no matter what kind of winter we had! And my chickens are just as happy as girls can be at the change in weather.

  6. #6 Stephen B.
    March 11, 2012

    Peepers are peeping in eastern MA!…..I thought I heard them Thursday or Friday, but tonight I’m sure.

    Never, upon never, have I heard them so early in these parts.

    I want to think this is a good thing, but I know better.

  7. #7 Lori
    March 12, 2012

    Alas, we are still stuck in winter. The snow is still deep enough that our kids’ trampoline frame is completely buried. It did get up to 26 degrees today, though, so there is hope it may start melting soon. Now that the sled dogs are well north of us, it seems appropriate for the snow to melt ­čÖé

    Lori in Alaska

  8. #8 Sharon Astyk
    March 13, 2012

    Yup, we have hens setting – ducks too. And we’re not as much ahead of you as all that – we only were able to pull our fence up the day I wrote this.

    No peepers yet (it is about 2 weeks early here), but I’d bet by the end of the week.


  9. #9 ismek kursu
    March 13, 2012

    ├žok ├žok muhteyen bir hayvan hele birde ku┼čun avlanmas─▒ harika. ┼čisinde burda ol┼čuna suca bak─▒nda ismek hayvan evcil hayvanlar─▒n bak─▒m─▒ kursu a├žm─▒┼č 2012 y─▒l─▒nda hizmeter soktuc─č─▒u bu e─čitimle ki┼čelri e─čiteyor. istanbulun beledisene ba─č─▒l─▒ oluarak ├žal─▒┼čan bir birim e─čitim geli┼čim hizemetleri sunuyor.

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