Ramblins’ from the Hills & Hollers: Spring arrived in February, along with the floods

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Our seasons can become so wonderfully mixed up in southern Appalachian and Tennessee. This year, February became a memorable month for weather and the change of seasons. Not only did we record more than 13 inches of rain, spring arrived.

Not officially, of course. But for most careful observers, the shift from winter to spring occurred around Feb. 1. My journal shows the week it started and the progression of natural signs and events which cement the fact that calendar dates are insignificant. Spring occurs whenever it decides to happen.

Humans have no say-so, only the Lord. He decided to get started earlier than I have seen before, and—except for the flooding rainfall and a related headache—I have enjoyed the end of winter’s cold and dreariness.

Here are a few of my journal excerpts, showing spring’s early arrival:

Feb. 3—The loud humming in the water maple tree was the sound of honeybees working in the flowers. This huge old tree usually blooms during the first week of March. It is almost a month early! Seeing so many bees is a good sign, too.

Feb. 5—Frogs have started singing in the vernal pools and flooded hardwood bottoms. This seems early, but the chorus frogs and peepers are putting on quite a performance right now. Hope they do not get frozen out.

Feb. 6—Observed bunches of daffodils blooming along a roadside bank. First of the year!

Over the next several days, the temperature plunged from highs in the 60s and 70s to the 20s and 30s. I feared the frogs would be wiped out, fooled by the warmth of faux spring, but they croaked, peeped and squeaked bravely through it.

The Creator imbued them with the ability to actually freeze but come back to life, due to glucose levels in vital organs. On the coldest nights of Feb. 8-9, the amphibian orchestra continued as thousands of frogs refused to be silenced by skeins of ice on the water’s surface or sleet falling from the sky.

After the cold snap, the spring telltales continued. Small wild flowers started to bloom in the woods. Wild turkeys gobbled and strutted in the back pasture. The first of March was still half a month away and spring equinox not until March 20. The world, at least in much of Tennessee, was awakening.

The worst of the heavy rains came Feb. 23. For the first time, my basement flooded, and we had wind and water damage upstairs when straight-line winds of 45-55 mph drove water sideways through window framing where the caulk had weakened.

But on Sunday morning, the day broke bright with sunshine; the skies were blue; and the birds sang. It was choir time in the woods and around our house, a tuneful but varied praise that anyone abed at daybreak would have missed. I had been up for hours, pumping water out of the basement and drying floors and ductwork.

Tired as I was, the birds’ greeting of another spring-like dawn was glorious. The music of cardinals, jays, robins, bluebirds, wrens, finches, wild sparrows and dozens of other species echoed over acres and miles.

My peach trees started blooming before the flood subsided. Technically, hunting season for several types of game animals and birds had not ended, but clouds of pink blooms covered the same trees on which, the week prior, I had found the fresh scars of an antler-rubbing young whitetail deer buck.

The last week of February brought on my symptoms of pollen allergies from early blooming vegetation and hints from my wife that the lawn needed to be mowed. I adamantly refused, citing the fact that weekly mowing would not resume until April 1. No way would I cave on this date, early spring or not. I explained that my battle with grass lasted three-fourths of the year, and I would not add another month to it.

The final sign of winter’s demise occurred a few days later when a grumpy old man—I am not admitting to anything, only relaying what my wife said she witnessed with much personal satisfaction—mounted his lawn tractor and cruised back and forth in his yard, performing the first cutting of wildly growing grass due to the heavy rain and warm temperatures.

I can attest that the old man, in this case, was very disgruntled by the arrival of an early spring. The words he uttered over the racket of the engine and cutting blades were not meant to praise Mother Nature, and the auspicious date of first trimming the verge in 2019 was not recorded in his journal.

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