March is a time for dreaming. It is the in-between time that is not quite spring, though some days feel like it, and not quite winter, though many days feel like that as well. It is a time when the world is transitioning from one season to the next, seesawing between winter and spring on an almost daily basis.
Spring is so close that I can almost taste it. The weather warms up to fifty degrees and children start wearing shorts, their spindly white legs desperate for a taste of sun and fresh vitamin D. Warm mornings have that delightful earthy spring smell in the air. Cold mornings seems to suck that delightful spring smell out of the air, leaving it feeling empty and tasteless.
March is when summer projects start to become a reality. Seeds arrive in the mail, tiny packages of dry blobs that will soon sprout and create food for the summer. To make that happen, I have to create more vole fencing to protect peas and beans from the ravages of these tiny herbivores that nip off the sprouts at their bases. Maps need to be created to figure out what plants will go where. The cold frame needs to have a new top. Some old raspberry canes need to be removed to make more room for new growth. There are lots of projects in the yard.
This is also the year to renovate the perennial garden. Flowers that will be kept need to be marked, dug up and potted, while the rest of the garden is dug up and either composted or re-homed. There are also a roof to redo, painting, and other projects.
The other side of spring dreaming involves the fun planning. There is a whole summer coming up that can be filled with adventures. Will the kids go to a day camp this summer? What weekends will be set aside for camping? When will that trip to the ocean be and what new adventures can happen that week?
My wife is reserving campsites for long summer weekends. We were gifted a new bike rack for the car that is large enough for the whole family’s bikes, but now need to plan for new, larger bikes to go with the new adventures. Websites are being searched for the best bike trails in the area and campgrounds that are along bike trails. The bike rack will expand the world considerably beyond the bike trail in North Warren.
Expanding the world may be one of the biggest joys of spring. It seems like so many people shrink their world during the winter into a box of going from house to store to house, hopscotching from one warm space to another until they are so sick of seeing the same places that they are going stir crazy. It is nice to think of expanding that world to new places and different trips.
This is the time of year when all the possibilities are on the table, before the realities of work, schedules, budgets and other restrictions come into play. Will this be the year we finally take the kids on a backpacking trip? I hope so. How about a visit to the caves near Penn State or a trip to see the Pennsylvania elk herd? Will traditional trips to visit Jakes Rocks, Rimrock and Gardeners Rocks still happen? Where will we go swimming if Chapmans Dam still has no water?
What time of year should we visit Chautauqua Gorge or visit Presque Isle State Park to swim and bike?
Spring really is a time for dreaming. There are some days when I walk outside and hear Spring Peepers singing, hopeful for a spring soon to come. Skunk Cabbage, the first spring flower, is already out and blooming in swamps across the region. Others, like the more delicate Spring Beauty and Wood Anemone, have sprouted. They lurk under the leaf litter, waiting for a persistent warmness before breaking through the fallen leaves to bloom.
I feel that way too, sometimes, like a wildflower waiting for the right conditions to thrive and bloom. Spring is the time for dreaming, of summer adventures, projects, and prospects. At this point, it is all still on the table.
Jeff Tome is a naturalist with the Audubon Community Nature Center.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.