Its nearly spring here. I can tell because two days ago I watched a Cardinal make sweet sweet love to himself in my van's side mirror. He hopped up there, as he had the day before, pecked and fawned over his own reflection, until he was sure the foxy bird staring back was picking up what he was laying down. It was quite a show, tail feathers lifted, bobbing and weaving. This was an
R-rated hoochie-coochie dance that was, frankly, starting to work on me. My side mirror he had at hello.
Last week, when I took Lily down the driveway to the bus, the grass was all crystalline with frost and the sun shone down on it making the whole yard look like the emerald city. Across our road, in the orchard, ten dear froze at the sounds of us, then shot off into the woods, tails flicking white as they ran. Its all very miraculous and Walt Disney , and if mushrooms could sing I'd really have something.
The downside of spring here in Ohio is that everything is laid bare in the melt. Seven months of McDonalds wrappers, beer cans, road kill and rot has been indelicately plowed under, and now that the snow has melted the scourings are revealed in muddy heaps on the side of the road. Everything is brown and flattened and soggy. Winter winds have blown our asses sideways and we have to begin the tentative process of rebuilding a fair season life.
This is not an easy process. Not when you live on five acres and not when you grew up in a high rise in New York City. Spring here is a lot of work. You don't just jump outside in your skort and prance around optimistically; that would be an amateur move.
You have to harden off, like a new green shoot. Start by taking off your scarf and hat, but don't go storing them away. It can snow in April, and it may well do that tonight, though is was 70 degrees here last week and 60 today. Don't plant anything, not outside and not until May shows up after about seven weeks of April. This, if you know what's good for you.
Get a good rake. Metal. That plastic thing is fine for your postage stamp in Glendale, but it ain't gonna cut it here in the hinterlands. There are about three inches of pine cones under that leaf hummus and those plastic tines don't take kindly to the bulbous nodes and small branches that have fallen under the weight of winter.
A power washer is not optional. You ever want to see those lawn chairs again, you're gonna have to blast about 2200 psi of hose water at them. Gasoline fueled. You need enough power to blast the bad attitude off your soul and electric is pure weenie; your soul is very very dirty and its going to take some fossil fuels to get it clean.
Prepare to shovel some gravel. The snow plow will have shoved that to either side of the driveway in long drifts of rock. You'll have to get that back on the two-track, or you'll be picking it out of your bent lawn mower blades before too long.
Spring is wet and your septic system is overtaxed, so hauling a few bales of hay in the van is a good idea if you want to stay on the top side of planet earth. You need to sprinkle that around to create a little terra firma from the yard to the front door.
Anything you built last spring out of wood, you'll need to rebuild this spring out of a complex polymer. Raised beds, stair treads, trellis - start thinking about materials that will withstand a nuclear winter, because that's next.
Your gutters, filled with pelts of flora that peel out like sod, will be hanging off in places. You'll need to get up on the roof with some big aluminum gutter nails - try not to slip off the shingles covered in the green slime of decomposed tree droppings - and bang those fuckers back into place.
Pick up a lot of windblown trash, move a mountain of leaves over there, throw away your "perennials", plant something else, straighten your mailbox, pull a few trillion weeds and maybe by July you'll be able to sit down and enjoy a glass of lemonade before you have to start cutting wood for next winter.