Missing Winter

February 13, 2011

Five days ago, the air outside was dangerously cold, so cold that just minutes outside would cause frost bite to exposed skin.

Today, it felt like spring. It was mild and breezy, refreshing and new. The shovel scraped snow and dog dirt from the patio as I pushed it into the flower beds. I shaved ice and slush into the gardens, leaving a pile of immovable ice in the shady corner. Tony reminded me that it will melt this week.

The ground is soaked, saturated and filled to the brim. I hope that gravity is doing its thing, sucking all that water down down down, so my plants don’t drown. The firepit is filled with water, up to ground level. Bright white when the sun hits it, brown and sooty when it does not.

I took down the torn seed sock and removed all the cardboard bird (really squirrel) feeders, throwing them in the yard waste bin. There is still thistle seed everywhere, with Damn Rabbit scat mixed into the party. The snow is still so high that I was walking inches off the ground, level with the rim of the flower pots. When I passed under the arbor, I brushed my head on the top railings. I felt like Frankenstein.

I crouch on the bridge to make a photograph and feel the warm air, enjoy the sun and pause to consider for a moment. We are on the downswing now, firmly moving out of winter and hurtling into spring, just 5 weeks away. There are just 34 more days of winter, 34 more days of this project.

With my newfound Master Gardening knowledge, I take a good long look at that honey locust and see that another branch will have to some down this spring, the lowest one closest to the house. All this looking up and considering pruning cuts opens my eyes to a growth the size of a baseball in the crotch of the tree. It’s brown and shiny, like something that oozed out of something else not too long ago.

After pruning, the tree will look unnatural, a long naked trunk with a top heavy swing of branches on the north side only. (A stunning example of stupidity – this is planted only 12 feet from the house, when it has a spread of 35 to 40 feet. The only tree is 25 feet away – perfect!) I’m going to print out a photograph for Nancy and ask her opinion this Friday, but I’m starting to mentally prepare myself for a thumbs down. This ruins the hammock location completely.

My mind starts to consider alternatives. Do I buy two beams, like those for building a porch, and sink them into the ground and hang it that way? Do I find a frame so we can move it all around the yard – catching sun and shade as we (well, me) desires? Do I get steel posts that can be hammered into the yard but removed each winter – or as the mood strikes?

On the side of the house, I analyze where I envision the three step compost bin and pace it off. Yes, there is a generous 9 feet between the air conditioner and the first pine tree but – ack – there is sprinkler head right in the middle of where all the action would be. I sigh and think again, consider moving the fir tree now over 6 feet high. I make a mental note to tell Dominic to dissemble the lacrosse net; it is used so very seldom anymore. AH! The lacrosse net! Where that sits must be an easy 9 feet across and when I pace it out -yep! That’s my compost bin spot for next summer, and it’s more accessible than the original spot.

I love it when problems are solved!

Water sits on top of the sprinkler system boxes, which means it’s not draining anywhere. There is Damn Rabbit scat everywhere, which makes me wonder where it is all summer long. I see it along the top of the berm in warm weather, but not everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, like it is now.

Maybe unbridled access to thistle seed causes unruly bowel movements in the Leporidae world.

I continue my wanderings and perusing, comfortable in the temperature. I know this is just a wicked moment of warmth, a ersatz window into spring that will slam shut shortly. The cold will descend again. After this week’s melt down, another round of snow will pack us in. It is unseasonably warm today and unreasonably cruel. I know winter is not over, but something strange has happened this year. Because I’ve focused on the garden, because I’ve made a point to get outside and look around and notice wonderful things, I have not noticed how quickly time has passed. I have not whined about bad weather or counted the days without sun. I have enjoyed each snowfall, each gust of wind, each blast of arctic air. I cannot fathom how, by the calendar, we are halfway through February already – my attitude still thinks it’s early January. Winter is just not sinking in at all.

Which means when those daffodils start humming underground in next 3 weeks or so, I’ll miss it completely.

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