There is no question that spring is upon us. The sandhill cranes passed overhead yesterday; their croaking and cooing song pulled my head skywards searching for their threadlike formation stitched across the sky. I looked back down at the soil where I was sowing seeds; it breathed a moist sigh of relief bidding winter adieu.
Each time I scrub the dirt from under my fingernails or greet the busy worms that writhe in the freshly turned soil I praise the lord. Spring around here feels like a Baptist Bible Convention. Hallelujah!
My dad just visited for a week. When we weren't off skiing in the mountains, our time on the homestead was more of a working vacation, and boy can my pops work. We started the day with a breakfast of french toast topped with butter, honey, goat cheese, and apricot jam. Outside, we turned compost into one of our new garden beds. Our cheeks were red from the sun by noon. He then set to work pruning, carefully researching each plant on his smart phone before hacking them back to the recommended length. By four, I started to poop out, but Dad said that's the time to push harder and get through it. He was right, and by the time we headed indoors, at 7:30, I didn't care about dinner. I was ready for bed.
We walked my neighborhood together and I pointed out each sign of spring. The brilliant mountain blue bird, the budding fruit trees, the newborn calfs stiffly romping in the fields like rocking horses with bucking bronco aspirations. Surely we will be without an apricot harvest with this early spring. In a few weeks the trees will blossom, on a Sunday perhaps. It will undoubtably freeze that Monday, and by Tuesday the blossoms will be wilted and burned by frost, never knowing the soft touch of pollinators like the honey bee.
Early as they may be, these signs of spring kick my butt into gear. Each springtime arrival corresponds with a step to get things ready in the garden. This is called phenology, the study of events that occur in regular cycles in the lives of plants and animals. Things like temperature and day length influence who shows up when. You can use these cycles as hints that tell you when conditions are suitable for planting. So, when our chickens started to lay 20 eggs a day, their maximum production, I knew it was time to start onions in the greenhouse. When the Robin returned, I planted parsnips. And when flies started buzzing around chicken poop in the yard, that was a sure sign to sweep the patio.