What an early spring we’re having.
Here at 2 Pond Farm, our maple syrup-making was shorter than usual because the maple trees started budding. It’s during that interim period between winter and spring, when the nights are still cold and the days get warm, that the sap flows. Some years, this weather has lasted for up to five weeks, but this year, in our part of the world, it lasted only one week.
As the husband is wont to say, there’s a reason why Mount Sidney’s not the maple syrup capital of the world.
Still, we did get a few gallons of syrup and now, spring is here.
Through the stand of still-bare trees, a patch of daffodils blooms in the woods. A neighbor’s yard last week was covered in purple crocus. Onion grass (delicious chopped into mashed potatoes) grows in tufts around the pasture.
The husband has planted some peas. Lots of other early-planting seeds have yet to go in. Next week, we’ll put strawberry plants in the ground, as well as some new berry vines.
Then there’s the chore of cleaning the yard: raking up leaves, pine needles and small sticks; clearing the dead growth in the flower beds; pulling out honeysuckle before it goes rampant.
The nights are warm enough now to keep the bedroom window open a crack. The breeze carries with it the all-night broadcast of Virginia peepers (thanks to our two ponds).
I found a few eloquent quotes about this annual event in a few blogs:
“And there is now a grand chorus of Virginia peepers in all the ponds and creeks around us!”
“As I drove in our nearly half-mile long driveway, the sound of the Virginia peepers overpowered my radio, even with my truck windows rolled-up. What a beautiful sound.”
When I first heard spring peepers — years ago in the holler where we once lived — I thought they were insects, very loud insects like cicadas. But if you look into the ponds during the day, you’ll see tadpoles, many tadpoles, darting about beneath the surface of the water.
In the book, “Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia,” published by UNC Press Chapel Hill, it says the scientific name for these little guys is hyla crucifer, so named because of the prominent dark X marking on their backs. They can be tan, brown or gray. They also have large toepads to help them get a grip as they climb.
The beautiful sound is a mating call. It is the male peeper calling for a female, all night long. The females come to the male, mate, and then lay eggs on underwater sticks and plants. In 12 days, the baby peepers are born.
The tadpoles eat algae and tiny organisms in the water. In three to four months, they undergo metamorphosis and become adults. Then they take up residence in the woods, where they come out at night to look for food. The list of the peepers’ prey contains some fascinating names: daring jumping spider, rabid wolf spider, horned fungus beetle, six-spotted tiger beetle and Asian tiger mosquito.
In the winter, they hibernate under logs or loose bark on trees. For their size, they are quite sturdy: They can survive having most of their body frozen.
So much for Virginia peepers.
On the farm, the next thing we’ll harvest (I think) is asparagus. The stalks usually appear in late April. But this year, who knows? It may be early.
We also have wild asparagus growing along the fencerows on the property. These are especially delicious. One plant by the “back pond” grows very thick and tall stalks, but tender as butter.
In years past, we’ve had asparagus through July, enough for ourselves, to share and to freeze.
Of course, the coming of spring this year also means getting outdoors for safely distant socializing.
Ah, Spring! All around us and in our hearts!