It seems like overnight urban wildlife and fauna have started to wake up from their long winter slumber. As I took a tour of our yard this morning before the rain resumed I observed crocuses opening, found a quite beautiful fungus growing on the logs that make up the raised asparagus bed, was surrounded by chickadees after filling the empty feeder hanging in the big pine, and startled a snake. Usually one of us wakes up the snakes before they’re ready, overturning a rock to uncover a family one year, taking a tarp off a sand pile to send a dozen or more slithering away the next. This one is lucky I’m being overly cautious walking right now and was looking straight down instead of examining the vegetable plot, otherwise I fear I would have stepped on it, lying in the middle of the walkway.
Our neighbor across the street gave us our newest tulips, spent bulbs he got from the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens last year, and they are one of the first things to emerge in the garden this year. Always exciting in spring when you spy anything coming up while there’s still snow covering parts of the ground, especially new plantings.
As the swelling in my fingers continues to lessen and I’ve been getting used to doing things one handed, I’ve started venturing out on walks again as long as it hasn’t been raining — aside from my first day in the cast, when we were pelted with mini-hail (or grapple, perhaps?). Spring so far has seemed more like winter but there have been glimpses of the new season here and there as the feet of snow that has accumulated over the past few months has started melting. This morning, after admiring an explosion of crocuses across the street, I was inspired to venture into our soggy yard a bit to discover our own little bits of green scattered here and there: crocuses just starting to peek out under the smoke bush (which will be one of the last things to wake up in our landscape). Copious amounts salad greens in the concrete raised beds. Primroses. The lenten rose remains buried but a few leaves have appeared, a startling emerald green against the dirty white scrim of ice that has yet to melt, hidden from the sun most of the time by the house’s foundation. Although the sun goes away again as I write this and the wind brings the temperature back down into the thirties, it seems as if spring is making her way known anyway. Stubborn, persistent. Meanwhile, I’ll try to summon patience waiting for the rest of the snow in our yard to melt. And try not to get too muddy in my over eagerness to explore the new season which awaits.
Fellow gardeners: please read Sherrie Flick’s wonderful essay from the Winter 2014-15 issue of Ploughshares and find yourself laughing in recognition during these cold depths of winter, with sunny days so frigid your nose refuses feeling and overcast ones warming up pleasantly but reminding you of winter’s place with ice cold drizzles. I found myself laughing out loud in every twist and turn of the narrative as I recognized so many familiarities at times I felt I was reading about adventures in my own urban yard in the Northeast. From the volunteers sprouting up in both welcome and not so welcome places to the cheering on of the demise of bunnies we can’t carry out ourselves but can’t admit we feel particularly sorry for when an unfortunate moment may arise. (I don’t have a neighbor who undertakes this for me, like Flick, but I do have numerous roaming cats who I chase from the birds while encouraging them to go for the rabbits instead – and we have some big bunnies in this city…)
At the same time, I, too, harbor tender feelings for the ladybugs that thrive in the hundreds in my massive dill each summer, so that I’m careful about how much I’ll weed out of the main veggie patch. I, too, both cringe and delight at the sight of a particularly large spider and it’s hopefully huge web that glistens in the morning dew between bamboo poles set within the tomatoes – not all garden critters are bad.
But I pity the creature that dares set foot in the asparagus again. My four year old plants promise a good harvest this spring, if we continue this wet weather….