Every year at this time, just as we’re enjoying favorite outdoor activities after having been bundled up, hunkered down or cooped up all winter, a Pandora’s Box of stinging, blood-sucking, destructive, disease-spreading insects...
The Good Book Has It Backwards: To Every Season, There Is More Than One Thing
Forget about what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says (and Pete Seeger sang) about "To everything there is a season.' As far as I’m concerned, it’s always the right time for fun and adventure.
You want to jump into the ocean on New Year’s Day? Go for it! Kayak in a snowstorm? Bon voyage. Ski in July? Hit the slopes!
Of course you have to take precautions and make some adjustments: Make sure you have a towel and dry clothes handy; paddle with friends who are trained in cold-water rescue; strap on roller-skis.
During these changes of season it’s not just our recreational activities that overlap; feathered and furry species also cross flight patterns and paths. This week I watched a red fox trotting merrily along not far from a garter snake ill-advisedly sunning itself on warm pavement. I chased it off the road to the safety of a stone wall.
I also potted a pair of loons and a bald eagle on the lake the other day, lingering at the end of their annual visits before migrating back north. That same day I watched osprey, recently returned from its southern retreat, diving for fish.
Meanwhile, woodpeckers, blue jays and peeper frogs have been particularly noisy lately, rat-tat-tatting, shrieking and chirping to beat the band. Even the squirrels, which hang around all winter, are making quite a racket. While sitting on our deck trying to read one sunny afternoon the cacophony was louder than a construction zone.
Unlike snowbirds I stick around New England much of the year and have learned to enjoy running, hiking, kayaking and other outdoor activities in all seasons. In fact I’d much rather run when it’s 10 below than 90 above. As for swimming, I’ll admit it’s a lot more appealing in late summer than in mid-winter, but just for the heck of it some friends and I have made it a habit to dive in at least once every month.
Our January and February plunges were rather brief, best summarized by one word: “Aaaagh!”
A couple weeks ago we kept our streaks alive by diving in after a morning run on March 31. Truth be told, the water did not seem to have warmed up much since the first of the year.
During this week’s warm spell we knocked off April with an impromptu immersion, and I was able to thrash around for about 1.7 seconds before stumbling ashore. From now until November, of course, our post-run swims will be a piece of cake.
This week also marked a red-letter day in our household, an eagerly anticipated annual holiday, of sorts: the end of wood stove season. I don’t care if a weird polar vortex plunges the temperature into the teens for a day or two; my wife and I have vowed not to light the blankety-blank stoves again until late fall.
That means for the next several months there will be no more waking up for a 3 a.m. stoking, no more lugging logs from the woodshed, no more shoveling ashes, no more constantly sweeping sawdust.
The end of wood stove season does not, however, mean the end of firewood season; this has always been a year-round chore: cutting down trees, sectioning them into logs, splitting them and lugging them to the woodsheds. This past week I’ve nearly finished filling the second of our two sheds, each holding about six cords. I also have another couple cords stashed in the driveway that eventually must be hauled uphill, and a few other cords cached in various locations around the property.
All told I have enough seasoned wood to last at least another four years, but I never allow myself to rest on my laurels, so to speak.
Next week I pick up 200 tree seedlings that I ordered from the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District. Over the decades I’ve replaced the trees I cut for firewood with thousands of new trees. I’ve already made room for this new batch in a makeshift nursery after transplanting about 100 pine and spruce that I put in last year.
Speaking of planting, the other day I also started the garden with kale, lettuce, onions and potatoes. More than 200 garlic cloves I planted last fall already are about 6 inches tall. Tomatoes, peppers and squash will go in next month, just as the blueberries are starting to ripen.
We may be able to swim in January or roller-ski in July, but Mother Nature keeps a stricter schedule, so the next few months are preordained as far as the garden goes: Constant weeding, watering and mulching before the harvest.
Even with all that work, though, there’s always time for play. The best months of the year are upon us.
With our son, Tom, back home in Connecticut for just a week from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, we’ve tried to pack in an abundance of such favorite activities as whitewater kayaking, frigid plunges in the lake and running with...
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