by Curt Kovener
There are signs that the wilderness is returning to life after a winter slumber.
The birds at our feeder are changing into their bright warm weather plumage…all except for the cardinals that seem to have brighter red feathers against the winter snow. Gold and red finches are staring to brighter up their feathers.
The bluegill in the lake are seen as dark shadows near the warming surface of the water so I tossed them some floating fish food. Their rapid movement towards me tells me they remember the dinner bell sound of the food hitting the water. But they are slow in eating telling me the water is still winter cold.
The softwood trees are budding out their early blossoms and means we will begin the grass and pollen allergy season in the wilderness. The dogwood flower buds are swelling showing their time to bloom is later this month. The crocus and daffodils have them all beat as they are offering hues of yellow along the wilderness floor.
Paw paws are the earliest wild fruit trees to bloom, showing their bronze bell shaped blossoms, usually in mid-April. They almost always bloom early before any pollinators are flying about and that results in fewer paw paws in late summer.
The forest understory is beginning to green up. My experience is that it is the briars and invasives (green briar, wild grapes, multi-flora roses and Japanese Honeysuckle) that awaken first to get a jump on the flora I prefer to have growing.
While I have power equipment, I prefer to work quieter in the forest to hear and observe wildlife. Long handle pruners and my 12-volt sawz-all take care of the grape vines. A weedwhip does enough damage to the honeysuckle and prickly plants to delay their advances. And the bending, stooping, and swinging of man-powered equipment gives me the stretching and cardio vascular exercise my doctor says I should be doing.
But my back, knees, leg and arm muscles let me know the next morning that they are not used to the rigorous movement.
There is always plenty of cleanup from the winter storms. Sticks and branches litter the property. Particularly the front yard and porch where Emma the Great Pyrenees brings up what she considers prize-winning sticks for us. They were welcome in the winter for fireplace kindling but now are just something else to throw on the burn pile for a summer wiener roast.
We had a visit from Greg, a DNR forestry consultant, recently. He returned to the wilderness to collect data on some trees he marked and measured five years ago. His GPS led us to the approximate location and then his tablet (ain’t technology in the wilderness grand?) told him what trees he had previously marked and measured. I left him to his work and returned to the house. When he came back to his vehicle he thanked me for leaving him alone. “I appreciate property owners’ cooperation but their questions always slow me down,” said forestry guru Greg. “Looks like your trees have grown from 1.1-1.7 inches in circumference these past five years.”
Greg chuckled and agreed when I replied, “Well, that’s less that our waistlines have grown over the same time period.”
The warmer weather lets me know that it is time to get the mowing equipment tuned up for spring usage. But the warm weather is to be enjoyed in other ways on this day. I sit in a deck chair watching fish feeding slowly about the lake while basking in the welcomed sunlight and contemplating it all was an attitude adjusting adult beverage.