June 23, 2018
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Spring? What spring?

By By Julia Bayly, Special to the BDN

It would appear Mother Nature never got the memo, or if she did, she chose to ignore it.

So let me offer this as a gentle, yet sincere reminder: It’s April “showers,” and quite frankly, any precipitation falling from the sky really should not be frozen or piling up six to eight inches in my yard.

Goodness knows I did my part. Never one to tempt the fates, the studded tires remain on my car, the shovels stand at attention against the garage, all my winter coats and boots are within easy reach. Heck, I hadn’t even put away the dog sleds yet.

Certainly those of us living in the northern tier of the state are no strangers to long winters, and we’re used to hearing things like we have two seasons — winter and the Fourth of July. Or, conversely, that we have five seasons — summer, fall, winter, mud and spring.

My personal favorite adage refers to our having nine months of winter and three months of rough sledding.

And darn it, up until yesterday there were signs of spring, even this far north.

There were reports of robins bob-bob-bobbing along patches of ground newly freed of snow; I had spotted a raven flying overhead with nesting materials; migratory geese were on the wing; streams and rivers are free of ice and flowing madly; the days are certainly longer and there have even been one or two wherein I’ve not had to build a fire in the wood stove.

If all that did not add up to the promise of spring, it certainly heralded in the always anticipated northern Maine time of year known simply as “mud.”

We are all pretty much in agreement in the north there is nothing fun about mud season. It’s that time of year when any attempts to keep domestic animals, vehicles or the feet of small children clean are nothing more than exercises in futility.

Judging by the layers of dirt on my car and the animal tracks on my floors, full mud season had arrived in the St. John Valley last week.

But that was OK, because mud means the warmth of spring is just around the corner. Then again, so too are potholes and frost heaves, but they pretty much dissipate with the drying of that mud.

Of course, there are always those who push the seasonal envelope, often with varying degrees of success.

Take my friend Kim, for instance. Several weeks ago she gathered together planting boxes, seedlings and dirt and soon had rows of happy tomato seedlings lining the sunlit shelves and window ledges in her living room.

It was looking like a great jump-start on the gardening season right up until her four cats — bored by the lack of outdoor diversions — nibbled the tops of each and every one of those seedlings right down to tiny green nubbins.

I guess I’m just as guilty of the wide-eyed optimism sparked by increased sunlight, only I take it to the outdoors.

There is a period of time in the north woods wherein conditions are really not favorable for snowshoes, skis, dogsleds or even snowmobiles.

But if timed properly, outdoor enthusiasts can tramp the woods unfettered by foot attachments on hard, frozen crusty snow.

It was with that in mind I and two dogs set out on a recent day to explore some new trail routes on the farm.

Now, crust walking is all well and fine, so long as you are home before crust walking becomes crust floundering.

Because that’s exactly what happens when the warmth of the day heats the snow pack to the point it can no longer support human body weight.

On this particular walk that point arrived just as we were making our way up a particularly steep side hill. A challenging climb made more so when wading through knee- to thigh-deep snow.

On the upside, though it was a walk that would have benefited greatly from the use of snowshoes, it was one heck of a workout.

Thanks to yesterday’s record snowfall — according to the National Weather Service the total of 5.9 inches in Caribou broke the old record of 3.3 inches for April 20 set in 1978 — there is again plenty of snow to play on, plow and shovel.

More than plenty north of Caribou with reported totals of 8 inches in Fort Kent, 9.5 inches in Madawaska, 7.5 inches in St. Francis and 7 inches in Van Buren.

Enough that my friend Penny, who today is lamenting the disappearance of her robin and the invasion of northward bound migratory birds who are taking up residence at her feeders, would welcome the sight of some mud right about now.

But not enough to get me out in it.

Instead, I plan on drafting a stern letter to Mother Nature asking her to get on schedule and trying to comfort myself with the weather wisdom of my late husband who every year about this time insisted, “You need a new snow to make the old snow melt faster.”

To be honest, I don’t think he believed it any more than I do.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer, who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbaylybdn@gmail.com.

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