Today marks daylight savings time and it is barely two weeks until the first day of spring – the spring equinox, when the earth is basically straight towards the sun and the time of day and night are approximately the same. From then on the days will grow longer until the “first day of summer” or the summer solstice, when the earth is tilted as far forward as it will, and then the days begin to shorten as it leans back away from the sun. We are told hat daylight savings time gives us an extra hour of daylight. Daylight savings time has nothing to do with the length of the day, although it might seem that way due to the shift in hours. DST only gives us a sense of control. All for nothing.
With the coming of spring come a lot of thoughts.
This has been a tough winter season with record cold temperatures and the continuance of higher that average precipitation. The ground began to get saturated back in November and is still waterlogged. With the coming of spring and warmer temperatures, the trees and grasses and other plants will begin taking up this extra moisture, and along with evaporation, the soils will become workable again. For that we still need to endure what is historically a rainy March.
The cold wasn’t a big deal, at least for me. It does make taking care of the animals and doing other outside responsibilities more challenging at times, but it doesn’t really change much. Banging ice out of buckets is the biggest challenge, and the animals do require more feed and hay to keep warm. Its just more trips to the pens and barns, but it’s also an excuse to spend more time with the animals!
The worst that happened this winter was Pat’s diagnosis of DSLD – degenerative suspensory ligament disease. I described it in the last post so I don’t need to go into details again, except to say that so far all the treatments, hoof trimming, and extra care has proven successful. Pat is moving considerably well and he doesn’t seem in pain. He spends most of the day on his feet, rather than laying down. Through January, he had to lie down for an hour for each hour he was up, but now he only lies down occasionally which is more normal. Some days are not as good as others, but these “off” days are not as often. With growing improvement and stability, our hopes are growing that he will be pasture sound and enjoy quality of life for a long time to come.
For a time, I thought my three hives would survive the winter, yet it didn’t quite work out that way. One hive died off early in January before things got harsh – I think the bees just left at the last minute. The hive was full of bees and honey stores in late December. When I took apart the dead hive, the honey was all there but there were only a few hundred dead bees. I have no clue what happened to the thousands that were there weeks before it collapsed. Something made them leave.
The other hive I lost was very recently. It was a weaker hive and I didn’t think it had a chance to get through the winter in the first place, but since it was still going in mid February, my hopes were high that it could. A week after checking on it and feeling pretty confident, I found it dead. I think when we had a warm day that week, the ball disbanded and the bees spread through the hive. We then got an arctic blast and the bees, separated, didn’t get back into a cluster in time to keep themselves warm, so froze. I think this because of the weather, and when I cleaned out the dead hive, dead bees were on every frame, scattered randomly, rather than in a cluster.
I have one hive left…and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will get through the next few weeks. I checked it today and it looked ok, but I have learned that appearances don’t always translate well, especially with honey bees.
Lately I have been seeing bald eagles over the farm and gliding to the north over the Tuckahoe River. They have been too far away or circling too high for my lens to get a good shot, but there is no mistaking the wing silhouette and the flash of white head and tail. Last year the state confirmed a nesting site a mile from here and maybe the two great birds that I am seeing almost daily is that breeding pair.
There has also been a Coopers Hawk hunting along the wood lines along the farm borders for the past few months. The other day I was lucky enough to see the hawk waiting on a low branch for a mouse to pass underneath, and then rocket downward, talons stretched, to take it. The hawk took a few seconds to clutch it tightly and then took off to a tall red pine further back in the wood lot to eat. There have also been red tails and sharp shinned hawks around, but as of yet I have only seen them passing over, but not stopping by to hunt here.
I think that this coming weekend I will begin planting cool weather crops in the hoop house – arugula, radishes, lettuces, and maybe some early kale. For me, putting my hands in the soil for the first time in the new year is the first sign of the coming spring and the solstice...dst really means nothing to me.