Tag Archives: winter

Staying healthy in the throes of winter

shoveling snow, Ohio

Finished shoveling.

By Bruce Stambaugh

February is upon us. Hopefully, winter in northeast Ohio is nearing its peak.

We don’t know what that means regarding the weather ahead. We simply long for milder days when we can be outdoors without the clumsiness of thick coats.

Most of us senior citizens avoid the nasty weather by staying inside or fleeing to warmer locales. In the process, we tend to overfeed February’s cabin fever. That’s not good for our health at any age.

I have a rather restricted diet due to some inherited genes I’d rather trade away. Of course, I can’t, so I am careful about what I eat. My loving wife goes out of her way to create the food that my body can handle.

For me, though, eating has never been a top priority. I’d rather be out and about, even in the harshest weather. After a measurable snow, you’ll likely find me outside pushing and shoveling the white stuff from the sidewalk and parking pad.

When I was younger, I’d take it as a personal challenge to shovel the entire driveway out to the county road. If the snow was heavy and wet, I took my time. Neva often joined me, along with our daughter and son, if they weren’t already off sledding with friends.

Amish buggy, snowy day

At rest.

Those days are long over. After this winter’s first measurable snowfall, I was out in it as usual. I bundled up in my typical fashion, hoodie, stocking cap, insulated coveralls, warm gloves and gumboots.

Snow removal isn’t a fashion show. It’s hard work, especially for someone pushing 70. For whatever reason, that thought blew into my head like the cold north wind. I remembered to take plenty of breaks and to pace myself.

During my frequent breathers, I observed crows sail through the still falling snow, and heard a state plow truck’s discordant rumble echo in the frosty air from a mile away. I stopped shoveling after I had cleared the sidewalk and turnaround.

I didn’t want to be a statistic, a seasonal casualty to stubbornness. I knew my limits and decided not to push them. When the snow is too deep, my good neighbor rescues me with his pickup’s snowplow.

The amount he charges is a whole lot cheaper than the negative consequences if I try to exert myself beyond my physical capacities. No one needs that heartache.

northern cardinal, snow, bird feeder

Beauty in the snow.

I’d rather pay the pittance charged than incur the repercussions. My inflated male ego has to take a backseat to my bodily well-being. It’s that simple.

I know I need the exercise, but braving winter’s harsh elements at my age can prove counterproductive. I look for other options to stay physically fit though some would question whether I have ever been in that condition.

I like to walk when I can, but that isn’t always a year-round option in northern climes. Other exercise options are easy to find.

My wife and I enjoy doing yoga regularly either in our home or at class. We have found it both physically and spiritually healing. The good Lord knows I need both.

I do simple stretches daily to ease my tennis elbow pain and to loosen my tight hamstrings. Those simple practices do wonders for me.

I’ll continue to be mindful of both what I eat and the portions I consume. I’ll continue to intentionally workout my body and mind daily.

Every new day is a gift. I must do my part to welcome another tomorrow.

farm lane, winter in Ohio

I’m glad my drive isn’t this long!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Spring’s arrival doesn’t guarantee spring weather

Amish buggy, first day of spring

First day of Spring 2014. © Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Spring has arrived, finally. Didn’t we say the same thing last year at this time?

A year ago after a long, cold, snowy winter, we looked forward to spring’s promise. It was long in coming.

Well, here we are a year later, virtually in the same situation. We’ve endured an even more brutal winter with record-breaking extreme temperatures, dangerous wind chills, and snowstorm after snowstorm.

East of the Mississippi River, it was a winter of biblical proportions. Where three or more gathered, complaints, exasperations, and unmentionable utterances about the lousy weather could be heard far and wide, even in church.

Amish farm, early spring

Waiting on spring. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Schools closed or delayed opening for a multitude of reasons a multitude of times. Local businesses suffered financially.

Even when it wasn’t snowing, the long string of gray days coupled with the dark, frigid ones weighed heavy on people’s spirits. It got so bad that rumors circulated in the statehouse that the all-knowing and all-seeing state legislature was ready to adopt a new motto for Ohio. “I can’t take it anymore” had its second committee reading when Old Man Winter’s grip finally loosened.

Thanks to the second consecutive polar vortex, snow, ice, cold and stinging winds affected folks not used to such stuff. Winter reached far into the southeastern United States.

Snowbirds got their feathers frosted a time or two. Wind chill advisories reached all the way to the southern tip of Florida. Even Key West wasn’t spared.

Amish farmer, plowing

Plowing the snow. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

With the air temperature in the 40s and the winds blowing off of the ocean at gale force, it was cold. Floridians aren’t asking for or expecting any sympathy cards, however.

It is prudent to focus on the passing of the vernal equinox and hope upon hope that the spring weather of 2014 will not repeat this year. My farmer friends need no reminder.

Spring a year ago lasted as long as the frigid winter had. Fields were unapproachable, and crops couldn’t be planted on schedule, not even by horse drawn machinery.

The first cutting of hay for some farmers didn’t happen until early June. I think that was when the last of the snowplow glacial piles finally melted. That’s how cold and wet April and May were a year ago.

Keep calm sign

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Let’s hope that there is no replication of that weather pattern this year. Everywhere this winter’s weather pounded, good people are ready for a regular, normal springtime. Nobody can blame them.

It’s nice to see sunrises and sunsets straight east and west morning and evening. I’ll enjoy their slow inch north, and hope that clouds, precipitation, and cold fronts don’t weaken the sun’s warming influence.

Spring will arrive. Forsythias and azaleas have already reached their peak where frost and ice briefly ruled in the south. Crocuses have already bloomed in southern Ohio. Our turn will come.

crocuses

Crocuses. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I’ll keep my excitement subdued when the buttery daffodils trumpet their glory. I have too many memories of enjoying their sunny spirit one day, and watching them droop from the weight of heavy, wet snow the next.

I hope that doesn’t happen again this year. I also hope that spring behaves itself and brings us the weather we should get.

I realize that severe thunderstorms, hail, lightning, tornadoes, frost and flooding are all part of that package. I also know that daylight will linger longer, and temperatures will gradually warm to near normal.

To get there, however, we’ll simply have to be patient and hope that fairer weather will prevail.

rural sunrise, foggy sunrise

Foggy sunrise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Don’t let the gray skies get you down

gray day, dreary day, Bruce Stambaugh

Gray day. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s not easy living in the third cloudiest location in the nation. Like it or not, that’s just what the residents of Northeast Ohio have to do.

That’s not good for people with Seasonal Affective Disease (SAD). Recurrent gray days negatively affect their daily outlook. Folks with SAD have to suffer through as best they can. I can’t imagine how they do it. It’s hard enough to wake to one gray day after the other without that affliction.

I speak from experience having been a Buckeye all my life. Strung together like a necklace of discolored pearls, these series of overcast, dull days, can get us all down if we let them. We shouldn’t.

I will be glib and say there is good news anyhow. Minute-by-minute, daylight is increasing. That’s little consolation to all those overcome by the seasonal dreariness.

Winter mornings in Ohio seem darker and colder than ever. A minute of daylight tacked on a day at a time isn’t all that inspiring, helpful or meaningful.

We can always hope for an Alberta Clipper to roll through with a few inches of snow and frigid temperatures. The passage of the front usually brings clear, crisp days.

eastern bluebird, songbirds, Bruce Stambaugh

Songbirds like this male Eastern Bluebird can help cheer up any dull day. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015.

In addition, the fresh coat of light, fluffy snow brightens the dull, dormant ground. A million diamonds sparkle day and night, as long as the moon shows its face. Even if it is cloudy, I find a certain joy in the crunch, crunch, crunch of each step to retrieve the mail or fill the bird feeders.

Indeed, these dreary, damp, cold days are what they are. They don’t have to keep us from keeping on. We have to remember that each day is a gem of a gift to treasure all unto itself.

For me, that is an important reminder. The start of a new year means we enter winter’s hardest times. The season’s coldest temperatures, harshest weather, and often the worst storms are likely yet to come.

All things considered worse scenarios than depressing weather abound in this world. Can we look beyond our personal life space to see them?

A friend of mine has terminal cancer. He unabashedly asks others what they think about each night before they go to sleep. Do they believe they’ll awake in the morning? Are they ready to pass on?

Those are blunt, but necessary questions for each of us at any age, healthy or ill. At the end of another day, what do we contemplate? Can we accept dismal skies or broken relationships, or unsatisfying vocations?

Will we wake in the morning to a new day or a new world? None of us, regardless of our situations, knows. I do know this, however. Time is fleeting, gloomy skies or clear skies.

How will we use each day we are given to the benefit of others no matter our personal station in life? Will we let the weather get us down, or will we radiate sunshine that warms and enlightens others?

Regardless of where we live, that is always a challenge, isn’t it? I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. But at this stage in my life, I only want to be helpful to others, those in my household, my family, my community, and even strangers I encounter in my daily duties.

My personal challenge this New Year is not to let the gloomiest weather dim the day at hand. What’s yours?

Amish farm, fresh snow, rural landscape

A fresh layer of snow helps brighten rural landscapes. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015.

© BruceStambaugh 2015

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Spring’s first day: Winter coat to no coat

springssunrisebybrucestambaugh

Spring’s sunrise.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Winter just wouldn’t let go, even on the first full day of spring.

The day dawned with glorious anticipation. A rosy sunrise filtered through the cumulous clouds hanging low on the eastern horizon. It was down hill from there for much of the rest of the morning.

After the welcoming daybreak came the discovery of a horseshoe nail in the sidewall of a relatively new tire. It’s just one of the hazards of living in Holmes County, Ohio.

Next came the snow, which the weather forecast seemed to have overlooked. By the time my wife and I had reached our morning’s destination, nearly an inch had fallen.

plowinginthesnowbybrucestambaugh

Plowing in the snow.

A former student of mine had invited us to view his maple sugaring operation at the southern end of the county. It had been a long time since I had seen Elmer, a quiet, studious youngster when I taught him in fourth grade. That was 44 years ago.

Elmer had called earlier in the week to tell me he’d be boiling sap. Unfortunately, this day wasn’t one of them. Instead, we had a very nice visit with Elmer and his wife, reminiscing about those long ago school days.

After a while, Elmer’s mother joined us shortly before we needed to leave. By then an overcast sky had replaced the springtime squalls.

thinningskybybrucestambaugh

Thinning sky.

Up hill, down dale, around curves left and right, the further north we drove towards home, the stronger the sun became. At lunchtime, with the heavens still hazy, the sun hung overhead like a bare light bulb trying to illuminate an entire gymnasium.

I had a couple of appointments to keep in the afternoon, which required further driving. I enjoyed my visits, and was pleased to see no line at the usually busy carwash. I needed to clean off the mud from the morning’s foray.

When I returned home, my workaholic wife was outside cleaning up the yard and flowerbeds. Out of chivalry and my own desire to enjoy the remainder of the day, I donned a light jacket and joined her.

I needed to do my part in collecting winter’s litter. When you propagate a mini-forest of various deciduous and evergreen species, a lot of dead leaves and windblown sticks need to be gathered.

This surge of warmth and sunshine had energized me. I decided to trim some of the wiry lower branches of the jumble of trees and scrubs I had planted over three decades.

afternoonshimmeringbybrucestambaugh

Afternoon shimmering.

I knew when I had snipped a sugar maple limb. The sap dripped like a leaky faucet. Right then and there I decided I would head back to Elmer’s sugar shack the next day. I definitely wanted to see his outfit in operation.

All the while, the afternoon sun grew stronger and stronger. It was good to be outside again enjoying the sights, sounds and odorous whiffs of the springtime countryside.

Every few minutes, the song sparrows let loose a few bars of their cheery chorus. Not to be outdone, the cardinals called, too, first from a fir tree, and then they flitted to the bare branches of the oaks and maples.

I was enjoying myself so much, I pitched my jacket altogether. In a matter of hours, it had gone from a winter coat day to a no coat day.

I was glad that winter had finally let go its hoary hold, even if it was only a brief interlude on spring’s first afternoon.

farvervalleybybrucestambaugh

Farver Valley.


© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Who knew being grandparents would be so much fun?

grandkidsbybrucestambaugh

Nana engaged our grandsons while our granddaughter entertained herself.

By Bruce Stambaugh

“Who knew it would be so much fun?” That was an email reply to me from a grandparent friend. Indeed, who knew?

Though we have always lived many miles apart, we have tried to be involved with our three grandchildren as much as time and distance allowed. First it was Texas, and now Virginia.

Our daughter, whose husband works for a university in Virginia’s lovely Shenandoah Valley, asked if we would care for her trio of children while they spent the school’s spring break in Florida. We didn’t hesitate. We rearranged our schedules and headed 350 miles southeast.

Like her mother, our daughter is extremely organized. She had the week’s agenda outlined day by day. Of course, life has a way of upsetting the best of plans.

littleshovelerbybrucestambaugh

Even little Maren wanted to help shovel snow.

The upheaval began not long after our daughter and her husband headed south. During the night Davis, the six year old, got sick. Monday it was his big brother’s turn. At first we thought Evan just missed his parents. When the school called to say Evan was ill, we realized he wasn’t just being overly sensitive. The next night little sister, Maren, woke up sick, too.

With the weather cooler than norm for The Valley, we kept the woodstove stoked overnight. Once, though, the smoke detector suddenly screamed. The woodstove apparently was a little too stoked, its temperature needle reaching the danger zone.

multitaskingbybrucestambaugh

Garbage trucks were converted into snowplows to help clear the roadways.

Halfway through our weeklong mission a major winter storm stirred. Harrisonburg became the bull’s eye on the official snow accumulation chart. A total of 15 inches of heavy, wet snow piled up, cancelling school for two days, with a delay the third. Retrofitted garbage trucks morphed into snowplows to help clear the roads.

Fortunately, the sicknesses lessened as the snow depth increased. Sledding and snowman building became the focus of activity. Neighbors loaned slippery sleds that zoomed the bundled up kids down the steep hill behind their father’s office building. They were fearless in their swooshing, especially the youngest.

During down times between sledding excursions Maren kept us busy with her favorite activity, playing a memory card game. No matter how many pairs of cards we laid out, she skunked us all. To watch her consistently recall where the matching cards were, and hear her glee at winning was worth the licking Nana and I took.

We also made good use of the snowy elements. Nana whipped up a yummy batch of snow ice cream using nothing more than vanilla, heavy cream, sugar and snow.

hideandseekbybrucestambaugh

Maren found “hiding” behind the sweeper.

Maren kept us all entertained playing hide and seek her way. She would tell us where she was going to hide, and then insist we close our eyes and count to 10 before beginning the imaginative search.

Sweet Maren had to keep track of her folks, too. At least three times a day she followed the route her parents took from their home to Sarasota on a Google map I had created on my computer. After a while, I merely pointed the curser, and she recited the travel log.

The grandkids enjoyed seeing their parents a few times via Face Time using Nana’s computer on our end and a smartphone in the Sunshine state. Those opportunities seemed to allay any apprehensions the grandkids had about their extended separation from

facetimebybrucestambaugh

Technology helped soothe the distance between the grandkids and their parents.

their loving parents.

For Nana and I, this was one more chance for quality time with our creative and energetic grandchildren. Who knew it would be so much fun?

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Winter wanes with March’s arrival

winterplowingbybrucestambaugh

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.

pushingthroughbybrucestambaugh

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.

marchsnowbybrucestambaugh

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.

eastersundaybybrucestambaugh

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.

americanrobinbybrucestambaugh

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.

earlyridebybrucestambaugh

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.

crocusesbybrucestambaugh

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.

marchmowingbybrucestambaugh

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

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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The long shadows of winter have begun

winterforestbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

I was driving along a country road recently on an unusually beautiful day, especially for Ohio in December. The sun was shining. It was near 50 degrees and yet officially winter.

When I rounded an easy curve heading east through a stand of trees, I saw them. The long shadows of winter had arrived. With the sun at its most southerly declination, the naked trees cast long, dark shadows across the roadway and into the stark, fallow fields that I could see ahead through the glen.

Perhaps it was passing from the young woodlot into the open fields on either side of the road that caught my attention to this most common occurrence. Sun and shadows equal cause and effect.

The stand of trees was too big to be saplings and too small to be considered a forest. Proof of that came in their failure to deflect the brilliant afternoon sunshine. Instead, dark, irregular fingers splayed across the roadway, jumped the barbed wire fence and settled upon the elephant grass that had ransacked the helpless fields.

winterwoodsbybrucestambaughIt was as if I were driving over a corduroy road without the ridges. With the certain winter wind frolicking, the shadows used the tan clumps to wave to me as I passed by. I took notice, but didn’t return the gesture.

That moment in time got me to thinking, which isn’t always a good thing. I slowed down as I approached the next curve, also guarded by trees, lots larger this time. They cast much more impressive silhouettes, in part due to their size, but also because of their geographic disposition.

These virile hardwoods hung tight to the northern slope of a humpbacked hillside on the south side of the road. They impeded the blessed sun much more efficiently than the previous tunnel of trees. In all my years of driving, I have never enjoyed passing through alternating stripes of sun and shadows, especially when they cross your path for a quarter mile or more. I tend to slow down just to be safe.

At least no snow covered the ground. If it had, the contrast between dark and light would have been even greater, making it all the more difficult to navigate. Unless, of course, it would have been a starlit night casting softer, more poetic moon shadows.

I came out of my dreamy trance as the road straightened and the fields became productive once again. Corn stubble graced the left and pastures the right. The only trees visible served as fencerows, too far from the highway to trip me up.

treelinebybrucestambaugh

I pondered what potentially lay ahead for the New Year’s winter. Would we have a substantial, sustained snow cover or would the winter of the old year be repeated? Or would we simply have a little of each?

The answer of course was simple. There was no way to tell. We would have to take one day at a time, and accept the weather as it arrived. We like to control as much as we can in our 21st century lives, especially with all of our highfalutin technology. The weather, fortunately, eludes that realm.

The long shadows of winter are upon us. Whether on dry ground or crusty snow, one thing is certain. As the days slowly grow longer, their span will shorten, even if it is at the minuscule pace of minutes a day.

longshadowsbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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At winter’s end, it wasn’t much of one

Cold creek by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

Here we are at winter’s end. Spring officially arrives March 20.

In reality, winter here in our area has hardly been winter at all, especially when compared to the past two. In case this mild winter has dulled your memory, the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 were bears, both fit more for polar bears than humans.

All of Ohio, and much of the Midwest for that matter, got dumped on. We measured snow by the foot instead of inches. Schools were closed, factories shut, roads declared impassable.
Patriotic snow by Bruce Stambaugh
Several snowfall records were set all across the Great Lakes region. They were winters of which children can only dream, and adults refer to, accurately or imaginatively, as snows like “when I was growing up.”

The snows were relentless. Once the snow from one big storm was cleaned up, another and sometimes bigger snow buried us again. Those winters never seemed to end. They began in November with below normal temperatures and above average precipitation and lasted into April.

Frozen crocus by Bruce StambaughEven the springs that followed were damp and cold. It really wasn’t until we had reached June in northeastern Ohio that spring’s fair weather had begun in earnest.

This winter, on the other hand, was indeed a different story. Old man winter never really showed his face. Yes, we had snow, but only a few times did it deposit enough to measure in inches, and even then, it was often a half an inch here and a quarter of an inch there.

Records were broken for precipitation this winter. The moisture was mostly rain, driven along by strong winds.

Those who cherish the winters of the previous two years had to hate this one. Snow skiing, ice skating, sled riding were all shelved for the most part. In Wisconsin, the vehicles of desperate ice fishermen sunk into a lake because the ice was so thin.
Birds galore by Bruce Stambaugh
The previous two winters brought birds galore to backyard feeders. This year, the birds were far and few between, preferring their natural foraging to human offerings. Sure the usual faithfuls appeared, but not in the numbers or frequency of harsher winters.

earlycrocusesbybrucestambaughThis winter was so mild that the first crocuses bloomed in February instead of March. The long slender stems of the weeping willow trees showed their pencil yellow early too. I even heard of one woman who planted sweet potatoes in February.

All the rain kept the dull, ugly brown of dormant yards at bay. Instead, lawns stayed some shade of vibrancy all winter long. From the looks of things, moles may have enjoyed the winter most of all. Their unsightly mounds dotted the prettiest of landscapes indiscriminately throughout the area.

Busy bee by Bruce StambaughAt my age, I was ready for an easygoing winter, although a weeklong cold snap would have been nice to help keep the insects in check. I’m fearful of the buggy consequences of not having a sustained cold spell. Perhaps the flycatchers, swifts and swallows will thrive if such an outbreak does occur.

I hear people saying that we may pay for the mild winter with a cold and snowy spring. That could happen, although the National Weather Service has forecast a warmer and wetter than normal March through May.

We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, we can rejoice that winter’s end is near, and that spring, whatever she may bring, is at hand.

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Anticipating spring from on high

buggyandsnowbybrucestambaugh

Horse and buggies braved the weather no matter what it was.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for spring. It’s been a long, long winter.

True, this year residents of Ohio’s Amish Country avoided the huge snowstorms of last winter, and overall we didn’t compile as much snowfall as last year. Instead, ice, as in freezing rain ice, predominated the snows. The nasty combination made the lesser snow amounts just as slippery and difficult to maneuver in as the previous year’s foot-deep accumulations.

Ice sparkles by Bruce Stambaugh

Ice sparkled in the morning sun.

Last fall, my wife and I made a major decision that we thought prudent. We had our home’s original windows and spouting replaced. Since the house was built in the mid-70s, both were overdue to be changed.

After all, building materials had greatly improved in the last three decades. Windows were manufactured to be tighter and more energy efficient. Spouting became seamless long ago. It was time we caught up.

With our rural property full of trees, and a dense deciduous thicket not far to the south and west, leaves and pine needles tended to clog our gutters and downspouts year-round. It’s amazing how much debris gets blown around long after the trees have dropped their foliage.

If a storm was forecast during any season, I would trudge to the garden shed, take down the eight-foot wooden ladder, grab the stepladder, and head to the roof to clean the gutters and downspouts. I used the bigger ladder to access the garage roof, and leaned the stepladder next to the stubby brick chimney to climb onto the house roof.

I really didn’t mind this labor-intensive exercise. Heights never bothered me either. I enjoyed my periodic roof excursions. The views were great. I could see the neighbor’s faded white barn a mile to the east. Belgian workhorses and chestnut buggy horses intermingled in the pasture with the Holsteins.

The north afforded the best scenery, a panoramic landscape of hills and valleys miles away. I peered over roof’s edge at the back of the house to spy on the school of goldfish swimming carefree in the little garden pond.

As I aged over the 31 years in this home however, I realized my balance wasn’t what it used to be. With safety in mind, I decided to quit the climbing and go for the new gutters with leaf guards.

The guards installed were u-shaped channels with tiny perforations that would allow the water to enter but nothing else, not even the thin, burnt orange pine needles. I was more than contented with this overdue addition until winter’s initial ice storm.

Icecycles by Bruce Stambaugh

Ice cycles hanging from the spouting were the first signs of potential problems.

The first glaze of ice sealed the pinholes of the gutter guards. With the freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw cycles of the storms, thick layers of ice easily accumulated on the new gutters. Ice cycles dangled the full length of the gutters on the front and back of the house.

When I realized what was happening, out came the ladders again, and back up on the treacherous roof I went. Given the series of storms with their mixed bag of precipitation that we experienced, I kept handy the rubber mallet and metal scraper needed to break loose the stubborn ice.

Icy gutters by Bruce Stambaugh

Ice clogged the gutters more than once this winter.

If for no other reason than saving my own neck, I for one will be glad when the vernal equinox says goodbye to winter and hello to spring. Just to be safe, I probably won’t put the deicing tools away until June. It is Ohio after all.

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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.

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