Signs of spring?

A robin in the snow.

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the flowers is? This brief, anonymous rhyme was often quoted by my mother this time of year to try and brighten up my day whenever I was disheartened by the good old New England weather. Whenever it snowed in the springtime she would refer to the falling flakes as poor man’s fertilizer or corn snow to try to convince me that I should be happy for the farmer’s lot despite the fact that I couldn’t play baseball with my neighborhood chums. Now at my time of life I recall these adages quoted by my mother and I tend to smile after having grumbled about any crimps put in my outdoor plans by our inclement Northeastern weather patterns. Realistically, a slight covering of snow or seemingly endless days of rain are normal for our part of the country in the spring, we just tend to forget the facts sometimes.

Another sign of spring I noticed but luckily did not feel, was a small swarm of black flies buzzing around my head. I, as an avid trout fisherman, choose to look upon black flies as a good thing, because their appearance indicates that the river waters of the area have warmed up enough so that trout have overcome their state of semi-hibernation and are able to move about and eat with much more gusto. And remember, you don’t have to shovel black flies as you would snow, usually. 

The sighting of a robin can be a sign of spring, but I have spotted robins in my yard as early as the last week of February and thoughts of an early spring flitter through my mind until I remember that some robins are known as deep woods birds and actually live in New Hampshire year round.

Another adage used this time of year is “April showers bring May flowers.” I put forth that this is fake news and the saying should rather be “May showers bring June flowers.” When quoted this way people wouldn’t be given false hopes and have their psyches impinged with a false narrative.

Often this time of year motorcycles can be spotted on the area highways regardless of the air temperature. I suspect that when a motorcycle is seen being ridden by an intrepid rider when the temperature is below 50 degrees, that the machine is new to the owner and that they are determined to play with their new toy in spite of the fact that they are going to freeze their tookus off. 

Ice out on Lake Sunapee is another indication of spring, but that can happen from the end of March through the first part of May. In 1972 the ice-out date was May 9 and that was the year a few of my fishing buddies went to a remote trout pond in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine. They were able to navigate the tote road into the pond, most of the way, with a Ford Falcon, but had to hike in the rest of the way after the car bottomed out in a mud hole. When they finally arrived at the pond they found much to their chagrin that it was still frozen over. So much for fly fishing on that excursion.

I remember working on a masonry job up on Youngs Hill Road in Sunapee a few years ago at the end of April. The mosquitoes were buzzing around my head being a nuisance, and then it started to spit snow, but the mosquitoes just kept at it, and I thought,”Man, these insects are sure tough up here, they must be wearing little fur coats.”

Another portent of spring for me is the smell of fresh cow manure as I drive through the eastern section of Claremont. I usually don’t mind the smell, as I grew up next door to a dairy farm, but this odor is very strong and you can almost taste it. I recall an occasion when riding on a bus to Norwich University in northern Vermont with the Keene State rugby team. We were traveling through a pastoral area and we got a whiff of cow manure when one of my team mates blurted out, “This is God’s country” which another team mate from the big city replied, “It smells more like God’s bathroom!”

I spied a dandelion blossom a couple of days ago which reminded me of the time I was chatting with an elderly neighbor lady on her lawn years ago. She had quite a few dandelions growing in her yard, enough for a good feed and she mentioned that she was going to harvest some for her supper. She asked me if I would like some of the greens after she cooked them and I said, “No thank you, dandelions greens are too bitter, I don’t care for them.” She immediately replied, “You sissy!” in the most cackling voice. I don’t mean to say that she had a wart on her nose, but it wouldn’t have been surprising if she did have one. And just to appease my present neighbors, that conversation occurred when I was living in Croydon.

It is now mid-morning on May 13, as I write and my house is getting chilly so I am going to fire up my wood stove. The weather forecast is for snow tonight, Sheesh! Oh, I meant to say poor man’s fertilizer. Let’s not forget about those poor farmers. 

At least we won’t have to worry about black flies for the next few days.

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