Winter wanes with March’s arrival

A young Amish boy gets a head start on spring plowing with his a team of draft horses during a winter thaw.

By Bruce Stambaugh

On my way to dinner with a friend, a simple yet pleasant notice brought a smile to my face. As my car turned the sharp corner, I saw the sign in front of the volunteer fire station. It read, “Baseball sign up Saturday.”

With yet another wintry storm on the way, that was welcome news to me. Just the thought of those youngsters already registering to play baseball got me through the next day’s ugly weather.

Daffodils peep through March’s melting snow.
That’s what I like about March. It’s both winter’s last gasp and spring’s first breath. That posting was a clarion call for more than little leaguers. It was a sign of hope.

Once we reach March, I feel like a new person. I know winter’s icy grip is behind us, and that spring is peeping.

I’m also old enough to know not to get too giddy too soon. March often offers up some of winter’s heaviest snows. But with the days growing longer, not counting Daylight Savings Time, you know the snow will not last long.

March is notorious for delivering some heavy snowstorms in Ohio’s Amish country.

In fact, March often delivers us a four-star package deal on weather. Wait. You had better make that a four seasons package. March is famous for thawing out winter’s clutch, teasing us with summer-like days, then bringing us back to reality with a fall-like cold front. One day we could enjoy a welcomed spring rain, and the next be dodging tornadoes. March can be as fickle as it is friendly.

Easter Sunday is March 31 this year.
This year March brings us a Trifecta of joy. St. Patrick’s Day, Palm Sunday and Easter consecutively complete March’s Sundays.

There’s much more, too. Early migratory birds begin to make an appearance. The male Red-wing Blackbirds begin to scout out their territories. American Robins come out of hiding and begin their bob, bob, bobbing along.

American Robins begin marking their territories in March.
The Song Sparrows pick their fence post perches, tilt back their striped heads, and let it rip. American Goldfinches brighten as they begin their lemony spring molt.

If the ground is dry enough, farmers begin their plowing in earnest. Crocuses and daffodils poke their pointy green shoots through the crystalized snow remnants and await the sun’s command to bloom.

We humans follow their lead. We shake off our cabin fever, and find any excuse we can to go outside. If we do have an early warm spell, dedicated gardeners will be sure to be planting their peas.

We check our property for any winter damage. Without complaint we pick up sticks deposited by winter’s frequent, fierce winds. We’re just happy to be breathing in the freshness of life, and exhale without seeing our own breath freeze in midair.

Bicycles are common on the Holmes Co. Trail on a decent March day.

Bicycles, motorcycles and fishing gear are all dusted off, even if they won’t be used right away. Winter’s smudge is washed off the windows on the first reasonably warm day. Of course, the boys of summer spend March warming up for their April to October baseball games.

High school and college men and women create excitement and celebration with their basketball March madness. We dutifully follow along even if we haven’t attended a game all year.

Much to the delight of honey bees, crocuses are often the first flowers to poke through winter’s litter.

As you might be able to tell, I’m ready for some consistently warmer weather. The fact that we have already opened March’s door confidently tells me that winter is well on the wane.

As if we had any say in the matter, March always has her way with us. I for one am ready to be under her seductive spell, and bid a fond farewell to her bully winter cousins.

Last year our yard received its initial mowing on March 23.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Dreaming of spring while dealing with reality

Bluebird on ice by Bruce Stambaugh
An Eastern Bluebird perched on an ice encrusted maple limb.

By Bruce Stambaugh

As I write this, I’m looking out the ice-splattered window watching it snow an inch an hour. The trees are once again encrusted with a layer

Icy window by Bruce Stambaugh
A northwest wind plastered ice against the window panes before the heavy snow began.

of crystal clear, weighty ice. The poor boughs of the evergreens are again bowed to the ground.

The rest of the landscape is covered with inches of yet more snow. Fierce, brisk northwest winds stymied the snowplow operators and sent them back to the garage in disgust and for safety’s sake.

I am always glad when the calendar flips to March. To me, March is a Jekyll and Hyde month, the last of winter, and the first of spring.

In truth, March in northeast Ohio is the month with the potential for all four seasons. It doesn’t always work out that way of course.

When the calendar reads March, I know winter’s icy grip is loosening, if only by time. If we are patient, though, spring will eventually win out.

Tired of winter and ready for spring, I opened my digital photo files and reviewed recent March memories. The visual variety brought a smile to my face even as noisy gusts whipped the snow outside harder still.

Horses play in the snow by Bruce Stambaugh
Horses played in the snow.

The first pictures showed exactly what the day at hand already had. Snow blanketed the landscape, but the sky was clear. The next few days revealed similar scenes. The snow remained, but so did the sunny skies. Horses romped in the snow and the days ended with picturesque sunsets.

By the middle of the month the deep snow cover gradually melted down, and green, grassy patches peeked through. People went jacketless and our first crocus bloomed on St. Patrick’s Day. The lovely lavender petals contrasted nicely with the spiky green leaves and the rich, brown ground of the flowerbed.

Honey bee by Bruce Stambaugh
A honey bee enjoyed the crocus.

The next day, I photographed a honeybee gorging pollen. This scene really instilled hope.

There were more flashy sunsets and a picture of a thin crescent moon that looked just like a smiley face grinning at us in the early evening sky. We had one like that last month, too, but it was too cold to enjoy from the out of doors.

A couple of days later the frogs from my little garden pond emerged to bask in the warmth of the bright sunshine. And more flowers bloomed equally vibrant.

Just when you begin to fall in love with March, she can deliver some nasty punches. Tornado season begins in earnest and in the past we have had some powerful thunderstorms in March. They often are followed by cold and snow. A friend used to say that it always snowed during regional basketball tournament time.

Sure enough, five days after the frogs contentedly sunned themselves, our first daffodils showed their pretty yellow faces. The next day they drooped sadly, covered in heavy wet snow.

Drooping daffodils by Bruce Stambaugh
Daffodils drooped by the heavy snow.

If there is an upside to such an early spring snow, it’s in the comfort that it won’t last long. As proof, my Amish neighbor was plowing his long field one row at a time at month’s end.

Song Sparrow by Bruce Stambaugh
A Song Sparrow sang from a secluded perch.

A sudden windy gust awakened me from my vernal dreaming. It was then that I noticed a familiar but long absent resonance. In the middle of this latest blizzard, a Song Sparrow sang as if the daffodils and crocuses already were blooming.

That subtle sound of music renewed fervent hope that winter and spring would soon change places.