No Ice, No Snow and Now No Whitewater

Usually about this time every year I'm launching my whitewater kayak in a favorite fast-moving river – either the Shetucket in Baltic, which eventually empties into the Thames; the Wood in Exeter, R.I., which converges with the Pawcatuck; or the Salmon in East Hampton, which flows into the Connecticut, and where, if I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I can shoot over a broken dam and navigate a tricky set of rapids.

Alas, our snowless winter had combined with a virtually rainless early spring – today's (Saturday's) showers notwithstanding – to make this the worst whitewater season I can recall.

The last I checked we're about 8 inches below normal precipitation. And since there's no runoff from melting snow and ice, instead of roaring rapids we have tepid trickles through rock gardens. You might just as well try to paddle down Lantern Hill.

As for the winter that wasn't, I'll admit not minding having to wake up almost every 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, and only burning about two-and-a-half cords of wood all season instead of my customary five or six.

But this was the first winter I can remember never putting on ice skates, and only getting out once near home on cross-country skis.

Sigh.

Normally about this time of year I'm also starting to transplant hundreds of pine and spruce seedlings that have been growing in a makeshift nursery behind the house, but I may hold off until we get more rain. The ground is starting to look like the Kalahari Desert, and I don't want to draw down the well during a day of planting.

In a couple of weeks I'll also be picking up 200 more seedlings that I ordered from the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District. They'll go in my nursery for a year or two, and then be ready to transplant.

Over the years some of the trees I've planted have grown more than 30 feet tall, and strolling in this maturing evergreen forest fills me a joy that transcends dark thoughts about environmental disaster some people feel is imminent.

Ranting about global warming gets tedious, and though all evidence seems to point to dramatic climate change – record high temperatures, furious storms, droughts and other extreme conditions – the sad reality is that even if everybody on the planet drove a Prius, stopped drinking bottled water, grew organic soybeans and wore hemp Birkenstocks, we may already have gone beyond the tipping point.

But hey, what's the point of being cynical?

Might as well enjoy the warm weather, even if we're going to hell in a hand basket.

Once the trees are in I'll shift my attention to the garden. I should have planted peas by now but can still sow them in the next week or two.

I'm also thinking about reconstructing, for the 20th time, the deer fence, having observed what appears to be a superior design that can be fitted with overhead netting that also keeps out freeloading birds.

I spend half my life, it seems, trying to fend off invasive plants and animals: Bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, slugs, cutworms, Japanese beetles, wooly adelgid, rabbits, mice …

So much for living in harmony with nature.

Anyway, here's hoping for a rainy spring to replenish our streams and rivers, water our gardens, and make us appreciate the upcoming sunny days of summer all the more.

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