Friday, March 19, 2010

Signs of Spring

Officially it's not here yet, but Mama Nature doesn't go by our calendar. It's been 10 days since the daffodils opened their trumpets, the hyacinth started showing color a few days ago, and the pear trees at work burst into blossom this afternoon. Literally--this morning, just grayish buds with a hint of pink; by 4:00, floof! White cottony blooms.

Yesterday, I walked Rosie around the pond on the dark side of dusk. As we came in, I saw the silhouette of a bat flitter across the dimly lit sky. "Wow, you're out kind of early, aren't you?" I said. As we turned to circle around, I saw two of them...and then three! I was very excited; I've never seen more than two, and I wish we had more.

I didn't grow up on a farm, exactly, but I did grow up in an old farmhouse with a full-size 19th-century barn built back into a hillside. You midwesterners know what I mean: a sweep up to the second floor for the hay wagons, livestock space below. Anyway, that barn was infested with bats. Stinky, squeaky, poo-raining bats. We did appreciate their presence as far as insect control (though if they'd come out while the deerflies were still active, I'd have appreciated it a whole lot more). However, bat droppings are incredibly corrosive, so Dad fought an ongoing, losing battle against the hordes.

Connected to the barn was a long, low-roofed shed we called the garden shop. Along with hoes, rakes, the tractor and other necessities for country living, we kept the chicken and rabbit feed in there. Which meant that many a late afternoon, when bringing in tools or scooping up the Eggmaker Crumble, I encountered one or more bats swooping around, looking for the way back out.

I was quite uncomfortable with this whole arrangement, but as I grew up, I got more or less used to them. I always wanted to keep an eye on them; they did move ridiculously fast and I didn't have a whole lot of head least, that's how it felt to me. I even got up the nerve to go into the barn itself after dark--once or twice.

So seeing these bats diving around last night outside, with plenty of space, didn't bother me at all. Not even when it occurred to me that at least one of them seemed to be following us all the way around the pond. Did Rosie's snufflings stir up bugs in the grass? Was there a cloud of gnats trailing us? Or do bats instinctively know that where large mammals go, mosquitos are sure to follow?

Today I was home early enough to do our walk in daylight, and instead of bats, I saw a bluebird. I never saw a bluebird until I moved to North Carolina, and now they are frequent visitors. Must be why I'm so happy here, right? The turtles in the pond also seem to be coming out of hibernation; there were tons of them sunning themselves and popping their heads up from the water.

So I went home and finally got to do something I've been itching to do for weeks: get my hands dirty. Miss Chef finally got one of her projects crossed off her list this winter: put a wooden border around the garden to help us build the bed up (and make it easier to trim around). She also bought more bags of dirt, compost and cow manure to revitalize the soil. Which made the weeds very happy! A nice crop of them has sprouted, and I kept looking out the window at them, wanting to get at 'em with my hands and a trowel. But there was always overtime at work, or pouring rain, or a general sense of fatigue making the couch look much more inviting than weedy dirt.

Today, though, it was time. We should have had the root vegetable seeds in the ground two weeks ago, so I seized on my unexpectedly good energy and extra daylight to get started. Miss Chef is going out of town for the weekend, and I thought I'd give her a nice surprise and have everything planted when she gets home.

Except I think seeing this in the tub is about to ruin the surprise:

Dirty hands, dirty pants. Still, I can't express how grateful I am to be able to dig in the dirt this spring!


  1. OK, Flar, I really do understand how satisfying it is to have your hands in the garden dirt - I used to do that, long ago. But sheesh! When I caught my first glance of your hands, all I could think was that your post would either be a CSI-type with a decomposing body or a story about zombies in your backyard!!!

    It does look like you had a good time...

    Nancy in Iowa

  2. Guano know a funny story?

    When Larry was a young boy (little devil that he was) he and his friends would go out at dusk when the bats started to zip around the sky in pursuit of mosquitos and such. Since they operate strictly by sonar frequency, they would follow just about anything moving in the sky. Including baseballs that the boys would throw up as hard as they could. The bats would go after the baseballs even when gravity called them back to earth. Poor bats would smash right into the ground. I don't think any of them got hurt because they sensed the ground and would put on their brakes before taking a total header. Young boys have odd senses of humor. It's a miracle any of them get married. LOL

    PS: You do know what Guano is, right??

  3. Mom L is right about the decomposing hands photo, but I think it looks cool. And working in the dirt is one of the most therapeutic things ever. Kind of like mucking stalls. Seems like dirty smelly work, but really it's good hard work and a great time for contemplation. I've mucked a few stalls in my day and always loved it. Weird right? But it made me happy. Manual labor is very satisfying and being dirty means you accomplished something. Plus I got to hang out with Adrian's horse.

  4. I was walking the neighborhood with the kids the other day and enjoyin the green and purple and white poking through the dirt. Went out again last night and saw full on blooms and couldn't help but smile and smile!!

  5. We don't have dirt yet, just mud. I grew up in Raleigh and my father was a bluebird fanatic, built houses etc anything to attract bluebirds to our yard. He'd sit at the dining room table with his binoculars trying to spot bluebirds. Thx for the memory, we don't have 'em up here in Boone.

  6. Mom L and Alix--Those aren't my hands! (You can click on the picture for the source.) Rosie has not yet mastered use of the camera.

    Liz--Spring usually catches me by surprise; I was so desperate for it this year that I was paying closer attention than usual, I guess.

    Joanna--I didn't realize there were such differences in the wildlife between our elevations!

  7. I wondered how you got the photo!!! Alix - I've never mucked out a horse's stall, but I have mucked out a coatimundi cage that was the size of a huge living room. All with one one of the coatis clinging to my shoulder and nosing under my shirt looking for a cheese cracker treat!!


  8. Ok, if we're comparing, aside from mucking out the occasional horse stall, I came home from my first year of grad school and, on my own, cleaned out the old chicken coop which had sat empty (but dirty) for years. After 9 months of using nothing but my brain, I needed to sweat! And I'm sure my parents appreciated it when it came time to sell the house--it was an old milking house; lots of room for GUANO. ;)

  9. I really enjoyed your post! May I be allowed to be just a teensy bit envious that spring is on its way for you, whereas for us here..... :-( Still, mustn't grumble. My vege garden has just had a big clean up and I'm going to put in a few things including those fancy lettuces that you just pull off the leaves that you want. Fortunately they will grow through the winter here. Usually!
    Do you know, I don't think I have ever seen a bat?

  10. Bats! OMG. That would freak me out.

    But I agree with you-- It's nice to dig around in the dirt :-)

    Happy weekend.

  11. I could get my hands dirty if I went outside, too. We're got mud up the wazzooo....but no flowers, blooms or green.

    I do remember the beautiful Springtime in the Carolinas. They were my favorite part of living in Rock Hill South Carolina.

    I spent many hours each Spring visiting Glencairn Gardens taking photographs of flowers, birds, turtles, frogs, and fish. I have the cutest photos of my children playing in the grass with the gorgeous flowers as a backdrop.

    I do miss that, but I don't miss summer and the opressive heat, humidity and hordes of mosquitos and humongous scary palmetto bugs! gak!

    It's a good thing Spring lasts a good long time there. Here in our mountains, Spring lasts maybe a week and then we have summer. But summer is absolutely wonderful with cool mountain breezes. We rarely ever have to turn on our swamp coolers or A/C.

    I remember turning on my A/C in Rock Hill beginning in June and never turning it off until November! bleh!

    Oh and I love bats, too. Not so much the poop. We don't have any mosquitos here, but we do get gnats and flies, and those bats do a fine job at swooping down and devouring them. :)


  12. Me again! Thank you to Flartus for the wonderful package which arrived today. Beautiful goats' milk soap and lotion. And, I must add, a box of Cream of Wheat. (As a result of my asking what it was! Lol!)Hugs to all.

  13. Hola Flar...

    Swing by the Casa and pick up a little something in your honor, chica.

  14. The snow has melted here and I am once again hopeful Spring just might be here to stay for awhile this time! Sounds like you got a lot done in your garden. I have not done anything with mine yet.

    I also wanted to let you know that I got your package in the mail. I am a little late letting you know, hope you understand. Thank you so much, I can't wait to try the soap and lotion. I just love goat milk products like these. It was so nice to get "good mail" in the mailbox for once!


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