Looking back and forward

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No this isn’t January anymore, the month named for Janus, the Roman god with two faces, who could look back and forward at the same time.

But it seems to make sense to me, during this back and forth season, to cover a little of late winter as well as spring.

After the work on the coffer dam was completed and when the snow had melted off the new land built out into the millpond, I was walking by and a thought occurred to me that made my heart leap up within me: I realized this new land, made of gravel, may be perfect for turtles laying their eggs. Every June female Snapping Turtles leave the safety of the water to find a place where they can dig, deposit their eggs and carefully cover the nest. Appropriate spots in Millbrook are very scarce–grass is difficult for them to dig through. Fingers crossed! And I will report back in this column.

During the first days of the thaw on a rainy morning I was braving the Medd’s Mountain Trail (still very icy in spots and it became obvious to me that rubber boots did not provide adequate traction!) when my attention was drawn by rocks in the path. The ground was still frozen but the rocks appeared to be sunk a couple of inches leaving air space around them. I’d seen this before but never really stopped to think about it. Farmers are well acquainted with rocks rising in their fields, brought up by frost every year. But these were sinking not rising, or were they? I wonder if the explanation lies in that soil and rocks heave at different rates and the soil had actually heaved higher than the rocks. If that’s the case then the soil must settle even further, thus the rocks work their way up.

Has anyone else heard mysterious sounds emanating from the frozen millpond? And no, these are not the usually sounds from frozen lakes: booms or cracks. This was an odd sound that seemed to be coming from the shore of the island. Or was it from the new coffer dam? Could it be that the boom around the coffer dam is causing this sound? I am at a loss to describe the sound.

Even though this very changeable and uncertain spring seems to be continuing, look out for these signs of the spring in the coming weeks.

Frogs and toads will soon be active and ready to create the next generation. Spring Peepers are the kind that most people think of. Their characteristic peep-peep from wetlands at night is a joy of spring. Other varieties of frogs and our only species of toad will soon become vocal too. Listen for them and spare a thought for the good they all do in the food chain.

When the trees begin to bud out, do keep your nostrils open. One of the bracing scents of spring comes from a species of poplar/aspen. In Medd’s Mountain Park I can never get enough of the rich, clean smell that Balsam Poplar gives off. Another point of interest with this tree is that it grows in at least a part of every province and territory in Canada.

And finally, there will be flowers soon. Look out for the first colour of the season when the coltsfoot open its starry yellow daisy-like flowers. Look for them in places where the soil has been disturbed such as the shoulders of roads. The flowers appear before the leaves. It is plentiful although not native. Also yellow, Marsh Marigold will soon be bursting into flower in damp areas.

Yes, this spring is proving erratic, but there are still things to make your time outdoors enjoyable. Get out! And enjoy!

By Glen Spurrell

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