Crow’s Nest: Leap-day thoughts on winter and spring

February 29, 2012

A rainy day toward the end of a mild winter has me thinking about the seasons.

Although it has been a mild winter it has not been an easy one. We have spent about a third of our time over the last four months cleaning up from October’s snowstorm. We are now within a few hours’ time of having completed that cleanup (I’d rather say we’re all finished, but there’s one more pile of brush from a hedgerow to run through the chipper, and a few more truckloads of firewood to pull out from the farm fields where trees fell.) And of course we haven’t cleaned up every tree that was damaged, only those that were along roadsides, trails, near buildings, and those that fell into farm fields and meadows.

Many of the other winter projects I had planned—pruning low branches and controlling invasives—got pushed to the back burner in order to accomplish this cleanup.

We’re have performed the winter mowing of meadows for all the ones we can—there remain two that are too wet to mow unless we have very cold temperatures for an extended period. We’ll try again next year; there’s no harm letting them go an extra year. We took advantage of every morning when it was below 25 degrees Fahrenheit to mow meadows, chip brush, or haul wood out. We pushed the limits on testing soft ground but managed not to make ruts that can damage soil structure and alter drainage patterns.

Winter isn’t over and we will likely have more cold weather—but I’m not going to count on much more frozen ground. The sun is rising higher each day and the window during which the ground is firm each morning has been getting earlier and shorter.

I have also prepared the three meadows we would like to burn this spring in lieu of mowing, though I learned today that this year Crow’s Nest will be lowest priority among our preserves for burning (the past few years we have been first on the list, and since our prescribed fire team is at the mercy of the weather and spring’s progress for conducting burns not all of the sites on the list will likely get done each year).

Don’t forget we did have some snow this winter. But it was nice not to have continuous snow cover present for a long period of time so that we could accomplish some of these projects. I have just one easement left to monitor (another task made easier without snow). We’ve serviced our mowers and trimmers. Good thing we’re on schedule—spring is ready to start.

Our small population of the invasive spring ephemeral lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) has not made its appearance (yet?). Could it be that I’ve finally controlled it? Populations elsewhere are already up and blooming.

Red maple buds are plump but not flowering yet. Bloodroot, usually our first native spring ephemeral wildflower to bloom, is not up yet.

A note about amphibian migrations:

We’ve had a few relatively warm rainy days recently but very little salamander and frog migration has been reported yet—it’s still early for the season. But it’s raining now and if it continues there could be some activity this evening. If conditions are right (evenings usually in March with rain and temperatures above the low 40’s) you may find salamanders crossing local roads tonight. Avoid using these back roads if you can and if you can’t then drive slowly enough to spot the critters.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 29, 2012.