By Diane Lockspeiser
It was an absolutely beautiful day for mid-February, 40 degrees and sunny, as I covered for Pam at the library desk. The roads in town were clear and dry as I drove home, with small rivulets of snowmelt along the sides. Even the dirt road that I live on was clear —that is, until I reached about where our property line starts. Here it was still ice and icy snow, with very little melt. Altitude, altitude, altitude. In the mountains it makes a big difference.
We had gotten two freezing rain events up here, twice covering our driveway hill with ice and turning the flat parking area into a skating rink. I had to resort to spreading the salts leftover from 3 years ago and buying even more. Close to 200 pounds of salts (sodium and magnesium) and yet there’s still lots of ice. It’s just clear enough for us to not break our derrières while walking, or crash the car or get stuck on the uphill while driving.
The swinging back and forth of the weather doesn’t help. The unseasonably warm days melt the snow/ice buildup, which has limited places to run off into with the ground still frozen. Whatever water is left standing then freezes again, even smoother and slicker than the original.
Some of this back and forth is normal, even desirable, if one appreciates the wonderful locally grown and produced syrup. I learned very shortly after moving here that the sap of the sugar maples runs best and sweetest when the days are above freezing and the nights below freezing. Northeastern North America is the only place in the world where the right conditions have existed, along with the right trees.
This year the alternating temperatures have lasted for a day or two at a time, not just night and day, leaving me to wonder how much that has affected the sap production. I hope not much.
Meanwhile, my resident squirrel has found a partner and the two of them scamper back and forth among the trees. The piles of pinecones are gone, replaced by quite a scattering of individual flakes. The chickadees have been picking at these, I guess to find seed that the squirrels have overlooked. The rabbit is gone from underneath the gazebo and the squirrels have taken over the space. I don’t know which came first, whether the rabbit was made to leave by the frisky squirrels, or if he moved on his own accord and they moved in because it was available. I may have inadvertently helped the changeover by dumping smelly chicken-pooped wood chips on the nearby garden. Rabbits are very sensitive to smells.
As the days of thawing last longer, Mud Season arrives. If you don’t already have boot scrapers by your door, I highly recommend getting one for each doorway. I got ours (pictured) at Wadler Bros. in Fleischmanns.~