Signs of Spring

The birds were in full voice this morning when the dogs and I went outside for a potty break. We love feeding the birds throughout the winter - they are so beautiful and interesting! - but now that the travelers are migrating back to the neighborhood, things are really picking up around the feeders.

There was a party of Blue Jays (that really is the collective noun for them and it's so appropriate) in the giant old silver maple in front of the house. They were looking for girlfriends and making the most amazing variety of noises, like purring, and a sound reminiscent of a rusty gate swinging open. One of the woodpeckers was hammering away in a tree in my sister's yard next door, and the finches that overwintered in the forsythia bush were busy coming and going. Last week I had the pleasure of seeing about 30 Turkey Vultures (Peace Eagles) migrating through. It was incredible to see such a number of these silent, gentle giants with their 6-foot wingspans wheeling East along the northern horizon heading for their summer roosts. I tried to get pictures as I stood out back for 10 minutes watching them, but my phone camera wasn't up to the challenge.

If you want to get your bird nerd on, here's a list of species we've identified so far, otherwise, skip ahead a paragraph...Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Mourning Doves, American Goldfinches, White-breasted Nuthatches, American Robins, Northern Cardinals, Red-wing Blackbirds (my favorite), Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cow Birds, Purple Finches, House Finches, White-breasted Nuthatch, Chipping Sparrow and a sparrow I haven't quite identified yet. We had a pair of Brown Thrashers that kept Joel company in the garden all of last summer and we're hoping they return.

Spring has been slowly creeping up this year, but we're finally seeing some hints that warmer weather is on the way. Last weekend was Easter, and my family's annual egg-coloring affair. Slovaks have a long history of creating elaborately decorated eggs, and our family has modernized the approach. Our creations often feature sequins, feathers, pipe cleaners, felt, lace, paper, wood; pretty anything that can be attached with hot glue. Pens, pencils, and markers are used to add details to eggs dyed with layers of color. My sister-in-law, cousin and I collaborated on a picnic theme for one of this year's projects.

Since we had last week off for Spring Break we took advantage of the one nice day of weather to do some cleaning in the garden. We moved Joel's cold frame into the row garden, added fresh compost, and planted a mix of salad greens for a cut-and-come-again source of fresh greens. The edible weeds in the yard aren't green enough to eat yet, or haven't emerged, and I'm tired of paying for something as simple as salad greens. Especially since we eat a LOT of salad greens. We wilt handfuls of kale into soups, scramble eggs with spinach, and top mixed lettuces with homemade pickled beets, 5-spice candied pecans and blue cheese. Mmm, that one is a fave! Our niece and nephew were hanging out with my sister and we happily turned their enthusiasm and curiosity into free child-labor in the garden. It's amazing how much fun it is to stack bricks when you're 3 and 5 and how much less fun it is when you're 40.

It's just nice to be getting out and about more. I'm finally starting to emerge from my winter doldrums, and I'm putting pieces in place to go back to work as a therapist and educator. I have some exciting job prospects and I'm looking forward to not substitute teaching anymore. As a welcome change from winter's listless hibernation, spring's energy is starting to sweep away the cobwebs and open the doors to new things. Time to stretch, wake up, take deep breaths and re-emerge into the world.