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Tug-of-war time

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We are in the tug-of-war time between seasons. Yes, we know who will win. As the ground thaws out, the sweet, mucky scent of the warming earth will arise. Spring will drag winter through the glorious mud.

But winter puts up a good front. Winter refreezes the ruts in the road overnight. Winter refreezes the pond. The knobby, sculpted snow drifts hang on in the shelter of walls and rocks. I have to scrape the windshield of the car again.

Still, last week I found the new shoots of skunk cabbage coming up along Old Route 17 in Hancock. These may be our first wildflowers of the new season, pointing to the awakening of plant life in spring.

More news of spring’s victory came this morning when I awoke to an exciting email from my friend, Becky. She had found hepatica blooming in the woods along Klondike Road. The delicate, slender stemmed sharp-lobed Hepatica acutaloba is also one of the first wildflowers of spring to bloom in local woodlands.

I drove over to see if I could find them myself, but it was a cold, dark morning. I hopped the bank and sank into some oozing mud—I am not as agile as I once was. The tiny plants, which have pale, pastel-hued flowers, were hard for me to spot. No doubt their buds were tightly closed due to the cooler temperatures last Thursday. Hepatica, like many early spring flowers, blossom first before their leaves grow from the ground. Without their green, tell-tale lobed leaves, they can be harder to find. There were, however, the mottled leaves of trout lily shooting up, and I also saw some fully bloomed coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) along the warmer roadside.

 The sunshine yellow of the coltsfoot flowers, which resemble dandelions, is another welcome spring discovery. These stubby, rough-stemmed flowers also come up first before their large leaves appear in summer. I’ll take it. Glowing coltsfoot: the only spring wildflower I could find that day.

 On my drive home, the sun itself appeared. I noted a few eastern bluebirds flying about, tentatively checking out birdhouses. There has also been a phoebe at large checking out the eaves of our house.

All these sightings of wild birds and plants give me hope. Our home is situated in French Woods, NY along the highest point of Route 97 (1,836 feet in elevation). Winter lingers here. There are times when we seem to be stuck in a snow globe, while a few miles south in Long Eddy there are crocus and daffodils.

 So I say, here’s to the mud season—bring it on. Happy Spring to all.

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