The Calm before the Storm

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The bright sun and blue skies have disappeared behind the front edge of the approaching winter storm (I think it is silly to name winter storms, don’t you? Just another way to get everyone hyped up). This is the second time in less than a week that the northeast is again preparing for a huge snow storm. We only got 7 inches here last time- not even enough to close school so I am not going to fall into the trap of panicking and rushing to the store to stock up.  It will already be crowded with Superbowl shoppers so why do I need to compete with them, as well as those who are worried about running out of food before the snow is cleared?

Instead I decided to take advantage of the one “warm” day (if 25 can be called warm) before the frigid air moves back in. My husband and I grabbed our snow shoes and headed out with the dogs.

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The sun gave off enough warmth that we soon had to peel off extra layers. The snow was soft and fluffy and the dogs loved rolling around in it and sniffing or marking in their favorite places. By the time we got back, our legs begged for a rest so any thoughts of reconsidering that trip to the store were gone.

I assessed my pantry and refrigerator to confirm what I already knew.

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We have eggs, milk, cheese, coffee and bacon, yogurt, fruits and vegetables. Plus with all the staples, like tortilla shells, beans, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes and brownie mix we have plenty of options should we have to stay inside tomorrow. Maybe it won’t be fancy, but I can think of plenty of things to do creatively with what we have. Quesadillas, chili, omelettes, soup and salad will keep us satisfied for days.

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So as we get ready to hunker down with our fire and watch the game on tv, I am glad we got our quota of fresh air and exercise, instead of stressful shopping in the crowded store. And now I have tired dogs to cuddle with as the snow falls outside.

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When Mother Nature wreaks havoc, make a wreath

The day before Thanksgiving, Mother Nature gave the northeastern US a large dose of heavy snow. It was so thick and sticky that the trees all bowed their limbs under its weight.

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Some were strong and resilient; but many succumbed to their white, fluffy burden and snapped- leaving some without power and many with a lot of cleanup. Fortunately, neither of those happened to me, but my neighbors had piles of pine branches lined up at the curb.

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What a shame to let them go to waste.

At this time of year, I usually support the local farm and buy a decorative wreath to hang on my door. This year, I decided to make the best out of the messy situation and do some recycling instead. I grabbed my clippers and carefully cut select boughs from the discarded limbs. Then I clipped some wild bittersweet and sumac from the nearby bushes and snipped some holly and tall grasses from my garden. I meticulously tied them together with garden twine and added a red felt bow I had saved from last year.

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My apologies to anyone who thinks the perfect wreath looks something like this;

 

but I am very pleased with my handmade, salvaged from nature, symbol of the seasons. Happy Holidays!

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Spring has Leapt into Action

Today is officially the first day of Spring. It seems hard to believe, given the fact that we have record-breaking warmth in the northeast. The progress of my garden is way ahead of schedule. I have been wearing shorts and t-shirts outside lately, which is normally something only high school students do in March.  I spent the weekend raking off my flower beds. 

Typically I would have waited until April, but when the plants are growing at such speedy rates, it is best to keep up with them. 

The Ides of March is when a big winter storm usually hits this area, but our evening lows have been warmer than our average highs and no storms have been on the radar for days. I surfed the web for a last possible ski run but everything seems to be shutting down for the season- the winter that wasn’t. It was bad news for all the ski resorts, hotels, restaurants and businesses that rely on snow for their livelihood. However, as much as I  try to embrace winter activities, I am ready to turn in my skis for my gardening gloves.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, we should not sow annuals until mid- May. My green thumb is itching to get started, though.  I was so excited when I saw these beautiful pansies for $.99/each, that I immediately grabbed some for the deck.    I don’t care if they freeze; I am in the mood for flowers!

At the risk of jumping in before frosty evenings are officially past, my husband grabbed some seed packets for hardy greens: lettuces, spinach, parsley, bok choy and arugula.  

We have a protective cold frame where he plans to start things early. If we have a setback, who cares? The excitement of getting an early crop of Spring salad far outweighs the hassle of starting over.

We uncovered our deck furniture, which had been sitting under a tarp all winter. Since our unofficial snowfall for the season was about a foot, it turns out it wasn’t really necessary.  We set up the volleyball net and practiced our bumping and setting skills in anticipation of some family games. 

Later my husband put away the snowblower, which never got used this year, and tuned up the lawnmower. The grass is already turning bright green and will probably require mowing soon.

In celebration of his birthday, my husband bought a Weber grill. On Saturday he initiated it with our first barbecue of the season. He smoked ribs and sausages slow cooker style, which meant we could smell the tantalizing aromas all afternoon while we worked in the yard.  

Later that afternoon, we had friends over for a drink and he got to show off his shiny new gadget.

I spotted the first crocus of the season on Sunday and today my daffodils have begun to bloom!  

My forsythia has rebloomed despite its confusion in December and the leaves on my bushes are starting to pop out.

When I was walking the dogs, we passed a swampy area where the Spring Peepers were loudly chirping away. I usually don’t hear them until April, but they were already forming a raucous chorus to greet the season. Spring has not just sprung; it has leapt into action!

When I taught preschool, we usually spent the month of March comparing “Lion” and “Lamb”days. According to the proverb, nice weather is like a gentle lamb and indicates spring is coming. Stormy weather is like a lion and is winter’s way of saying it will not go away yet. If I were counting days with my class this month, I think we would be hard pressed to find one we could call a lion. With 11 days to go, I hope we don’t see him make a big comeback at the end.

Plants wrapped in 6 mm (0.2 in) of ice. Severe...

Plants wrapped in 6 mm (0.2 in) of ice. Severe ice storms, which may occur in the spring, can kill plant life. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)