Grackles came to the feeder today, creaking and rasping in their rusted tones. Earlier this week it was robins, and we see them singing from the tops of tall pines at dusk. Each day a new voice emerges from the trees and brush, offering new songs to greet the season.
The property no longer looks like an arctic expanse of snow with patches of mud showing. It’s an expanse of earth, and long-buried grass, with patches of thinning snow. You can hear the melting and the dripping, the close yet distant roar of rivers loosed from their icy slumber. It still gets cold, but even at night the cold feels like spring. There is a elusive scent in the air of life, earth, and awakening that was absent in the still crystalline air of winter.
We have not seen the ground around the house since November. The first earth to reappear was our around the firepit circle and the area beneath the tree that hangs the suet feeder. The other night I put out two suet and seed balls for the birds that visit in greater numbers ever day. They were gone by the morning. We wondered what had happened for days until we were grilling vegetables and were visited by a red fox. It stared into our souls from the exact spot where the bird balls had been, and trotted off unafraid.
We visited our first farm store of the new year and visited their sugar house. The smell of smoke and sweet sap boiling and a sampling of warm fresh syrup was just the elixir we needed to chase away the clinging vestiges of winter. With spring greens for our table and a bottle of dark maple syrup, we came home with big smiles on our faces, knowing that winter is truly and finally over.
I also started preparing for turkey season in earnest. As my hunter ed course approaches and the weather keeps getting better, I will have to get to the range more. It is very important that I practice to ensure an accurate and ethical shot, and determine at what range I can feasibly take it. I started patterning my shotgun and wound up with a sore shoulder – turkey rounds kick hard. I even ordered a turkey choke and a box call, which I can’t wait to try out. Seeing the pellet holes in a turkey head target makes this feel realer than ever. When I look back on the naivete of my first outing to the gun store in December, I’m proud of my progress. But I am also humbled because there is still so much to learn.
I think it’s time to hang our little cedar birdhouse, perhaps from a big old pine. Maybe the pair of woodpeckers that have visited all winter will start their family in it. After a long and challenging first winter in Vermont, we have never been more eager or excited to welcome the spring.