Oh April. Hello again, old friend.
On the surrounding hills and ridgelines, early spring flowers are opening. First the buttercups, followed by the spring beauties, and then the sleepy blue bells and shooting stars — spring’s opening act before the big show: the arrowleaf balsamroot.
While picking up our dinner from Linwood Restaurant, Ashley commented on the warm weather and spring flowers. I responded with a sigh and confession to feeling overwhelmed by all the new chores revealed by the melting snow. “I know,” she leaned forward as if to share a secret, “It’s the dog poop, am I right? ALL the POOP.”
She’s not wrong. Winter’s reprieve was just an act of procrastination: 4 feet of snow in the yard is a convenient excuse to put off today that which can pile up for tomorrow. I had optimistically wished the weight of snow and corresponding meltwater saturating the ground would dissolve organic material already in a state of decomposition.
Missing from my equation were two growing puppies eating four times as much food than our older dogs ever consumed. The result of all the eating and growing was an increase of 10 times the output.
Two items in the backyard are always a surprise: the fish and the bees. Did you expect “the birds and the bees?” No. Birds, unlike puppies, are predictable. Spring migration brought a host of colorful winged creatures to the yard: meadowlarks, bluebirds, thrushes, nuthatches and tanagers.
The fish in the cattle trough pool are always a surprise. Even though they survive the winter every year, I’m always surprised to see them swimming around each spring. For years I tried to keep a large cattle trough full of clean water for a cool soak on hot summer nights. The task was impossible as one dog insisted on using the clean water for her bath every day. After a vigorous roll in droppings — generously provided by bears and turkeys — she took a running leap into the trough to splash and romp with unbridled joy.
Around 2014 I gave up trying to keep the small pool clean. I threw in more dirt, along with a couple of lily pads and cattails and a bag full of goldfish. Those initial dozen fish multiplied to about two dozen and have stayed at roughly the same population numbers every year, with garter snakes dropping in to the sushi bar each summer.
The bees leave me a gift each spring. I always hope for the pleasant surprise of seeing them in their hive each spring, but ever since the Carlton Complex fires, I open up the hives each spring to find nothing but honey. We suspect they move into one of the many dead trees left behind from the fire. Despite all my best hostess efforts, I cannot make them stay when a more tempting home beckons them. But, like all good-mannered guests, they leave behind a sweet gift: honey.