Monday, March 16, 2015

10 signs that spring has sprung

Okay, maybe spring hasn't sprung completely yet, but at least it's in the process of springing. Here's how I can tell:

1. The snow is almost gone from our yard. The 4-foot mounds of snow on either side of our driveway—to which new snow was being added just 12 days ago—have diminished to just a half-inch coating of icy slush on one side. We can walk from the back door to the shed without sinking in past our ankles. The garden beds are completely clear of snow, and there's a clear, if rather mushy, path to them from the house. Granted, there's still one little patch of snow by the cherry bushes and another behind the garden, where our new hardy kiwis are...but hey, they're hardy; they can handle it.

2. It's currently a balmy 41 degrees out, heading for a high of 58. Yeah, that's not what you might normally think of as a warm and pleasant day, but given that less than two weeks ago we were snowed in, venturing outside only to beat back the accumulation with our shovels, this feels positively tropical. We're not ready to ditch our coats yet, but at least we can occasionally venture out in our lighter-weight spring coats instead of our heavy winter ones.

3. It's First Washday! The fleece sheets we stripped off the bed last week are now fluttering merrily on the line. They may still need a quick touch-up in the dryer tonight to get them completely dry, but at least they can spend most of the day basking in the sun instead of an hour tumbling in a metal box.

4. Brian rode his bike to work today, for the first time since fall. There were actually several days last week that probably would have been warm enough for him to ride, and with Daylight Savings Time now starting before spring has officially begun, the light level wouldn't have been a problem either—but he wanted to wait for the snow to melt at least mostly away before braving the roads. Getting up and down some of those hills was hazardous enough in the car; he wasn't prepared to cycle down roads still heavily obstructed by mounds of snow.

5. All the seeds for this year's garden are now started. The tiny parsley, leek, and broccoli sprouts whose progress I noted here three weeks ago are now large, healthy seedlings, and they've been joined by newly started marigolds, brussels sprouts, and three varieties of tomatoes. (The fourth type we're planning to grow this year is Early Girl, which we're planning to buy as nursery plants from the Rutgers garden sale this spring.)

6. My gardening gloves are out of the shed and resting on the windowsill of the downstairs room. (Side note: Brian thinks that this room, which we had so much trouble coming up with a name for, should now be called the playroom, because that's what our two new kittens seem to think it is. And we use it mostly for playing games, so it works for us too.) I pulled them out yesterday to spray our rosebush, which has been suffering for the several years from blackspot that ends up cutting short the blooming season and denuding the plant of all its leaves by midsummer. Last year I tried spraying it every week, starting in March, with a widely recommended baking soda solution, but the black spots showed up anyway. Eventually I tried a commercial fungicide, but that didn't work either—perhaps because by the time I started it the fungus was too well established. So this year, in a last-ditch attempt to keep the dreaded black spots at bay, I'm starting with the big guns. I'm planning to spray with the fungicide every week, starting now, when the first leaf-buds are just beginning to be visible. And if that still doesn't take care of it, then I think it's time to put this rosebush out of my misery.

7. Our rhubarb plants are just starting to poke their little rosy heads up out of the ground. Just in time, too, as we just finished the last of last year's rhubarb that we had stored in the freezer. Brian offered to make me a rhubarb pie with it to celebrate Pi Day on Saturday, but as he'd already made a pizza pie for dinner, I thought we could compromise and do a rhubarb crisp instead, which is a lot less work. And since rhubarb is informally known as "pie plant," last year's crop could hardly have had a more fitting end than to grace our Pi-Day table. And now there's plenty of room in the freezer for a whole new crop.

8. We've already acquired our supply of matzo for Passover, which is now just a few weeks away. Although we generally go through only about 3 boxes' worth during the week, we find it cheaper to buy a 5-pack, since they go on sale in March and April for far below their regular price. (One of our supermarket sales fliers also included a $4-off coupon for a 5-pack of Streit's Matzo, which our local Stop & Shop was advertising at $5 a pack, so in theory, we should have been able to get five boxes of the stuff for one measly dollar. But as it turned out, although the Stop & Shop was selling 5-packs of other brands for $5 each, the multi-packs of Streit's at the Stop & Shop were only 3 boxes, so the coupon wouldn't work with them. So we ended up getting our matzos from the Shop Rite instead and paying $4, which is still a dollar less than we'd have spent on another brand at Stop & Shop—and waaaaay less than the $15 we'd have paid buying individual boxes at the regular price.)

9. In addition to the matzo and other Passover paraphernalia, local supermarkets are offering sales on such springtime treats as fresh asparagus and cut daffodils. Admittedly, they're probably flown in from warmer climates, since they're definitely not producing yet in New Jersey—but at least it's a sign that things are blooming somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. (Stores are also prominently displaying Easter candy and other Easter-related goodies, but that hardly counts as a sign of spring, since they always put up those displays the minute Valentine's Day is over.)

10. The flowerbed in our front yard has its first blooms: two tiny purple crocuses. Of course, crocuses usually bloom in February, but this year, under all that snow, we wouldn't have been able to see them if they had. So these two little blossoms, emerging in the wake of the snow, are officially the first flowers of spring. No sign yet of the perennials from the wildflower mix we planted last year, but that's okay; it'll give us a chance to get some stakes into the bed first and, with luck, prevent a repeat of last year's flower flop.

For lo, the winter is almost past, and if the rain isn't over and gone, at least it isn't more bloody snow.
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