Today I looked out the window and saw my first bluebird. Before I could pull out my phone and snap a picture he was gone. Disappointed that I missed the photo-op, but thrilled with the sign that the weather is changing. It is a sign that spring in Montana is starting. I am very much ready this year.
This last month in at our home in Montana we have been hit by more spring snow storms than usual. While we sit in what is usually a valley that is most often missed for most precipitation, this year every time the weather forecast said there was a winter advisory or watch that called for snow we got the maximum amount forecasted and a few extra inches for good measure. We were getting snow at least once a week all of February and so far into March. Now mind you, the snow we were getting was nothing like the Nor’Easter that the folks on the east coast have been getting hammered with, but if you live in a high plains semiarid desert like we do, this much snow is very remarkable.
The late-season snow cycle this year has also had a remarkable impact on our road. We usually have a few problems navigating our road as the frost works its way out of the ground lasting less than a week. This year we have had what can only be called as mud bogs on our road. Each morning when the ground is still frozen it is very easily driven on. By the afternoon when the snow melts, only a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle will allow you to get the last 3/4 of a mile from the frontage road to our house. This has been going on nearly a month and so far there is no end in sight. For me, it has meant that that RangerSir has been taking the truck to work and the commuter car has been sitting in the garage. You can read into that statement that I have been unable to leave home during the week to take care of things in town. I like being alone and don’t generally mind the isolation of living in the country, but when you can NOT leave home it gets a little crazy. We have been attached by the truck/ hip each weekend. You will find RangerSir and I in town doing the weekly chores, that I usually try to get taken care of during the week to allow some fun time on Saturday and Sunday. It has added to the aggravation of the back to back snow storms.
So I know that it is only March and it can and will snow again in April and May, but I am ready for the snow falls to be farther apart and the amount less each time. I know this is Montana and what I signed up for moving here, but a girl can be thrilled by the sight of her first bluebird and all that it means. Welcome spring.
It is still winter in Montana and will be at our house for months to come. We have had some serious early thaws recently as we will here every year about this time. Today it had melted enough of the snow away that it was a perfect day to open the chicken run and let the ladies out today for some free-range time.
Though it doesn’t look like much the chickens were out there eating the shoots of new grass that the melted snow provided. My chickens can be an industriousness bunch when it comes to good fresh food after the snow hiding “good eats” and being on commercial chow for a few months.
Let’s hold onto the memory of this day with sunshine and blue skies as we enter a week that is suppose to be full of show again. The snow is happening less frequently and days like this are happening more often. There is hope for spring, no matter how far away.
Working outside the home and commuting daily allows a person to notice when the days get longer and shorter. There is a consistent time piece of our daily routine when we walk out the door, get on the highway, catch the commuter bus or train by which we are able to measure our days. We noticed day and night relative to that constant migration daily to work and home again.
I feel like I have been living in constant darkness lately. Each day I left home in the dark of night with the stars overhead heading to town and came home in the same darkness. If I was going to get some sunshine it had to be during my lunch hour. This first week of January we had vicious cold snap of subzero temperatures. One day we got all the way down to -30 at our house, and that was before we factored in the wind. I was down right miserable in the cold and darkness. Yet by the end of the week, even with the nasty freezing temps, I had found hope. I was driving home as the sun was setting. In Montana twilight lasts forever, so suddenly I was driving home in the last vests of daylight. The days were still cold, but the afternoon light was giving me hope and encouragement. The hint of days getting longer has gave me optimism and hope that no matter how cold the days were yet to come and no matter how long the nights, spring though months away is slowing making its way to my neck of the woods.
Growing up in the Midwest the return of the robin was always a harbinger of spring. Here in southwest Montana a kind of sparrow like bird is always the first to return in the spring is. Following the sparrow like bird a week or so later is the bluebird. Finally there is the the meadowlark who is the last of the migrating birds to return.
I first noticed the sparrow like birds early last week. When hanging my first clothes out I could clearly hear them calling out to one another about the bounty or lack of bounty they were finding here in Montana. They were gathering and flitting about in the pastures around the house. They always seem to be on the move and just far enough away that I never capture them well with a camera.
Mountain bluebird in the snow. Taken by Betty Holling.
Monday I saw my first bluebird. I haven’t seen another one yet, but I am sure more of them will be arriving soon. Once the males have mostly arrived and check out the digs we have on the fence posts, the females won’t be far behind. We have a series of blue bird houses on our fence posts and love to watch them each year.
I looked at my blog to see when I wrote about the bluebird last time and see I saw this fella almost two weeks earlier this year. Last time we had a major snow storm with six inches just after my first bluebird arrived. This year we have woken up to snow already twice this week. It always make me think about hearty and resilient these little guys are. How far they go to return here each spring and how the weather doesn’t stop them. It is how we should all look at the setbacks we have once we get spring fever. March on it will get better.
Either you love clothes on the line or you don’t. The most common reason I have heard for not liking clothes on the line is they are not drier fluffy. On the opposite side of the argument is that no one has managed to actually capture the smell of sunshine and outdoors that you can only get with clothes hung on the line in any of those bottled smells for laundry soap or drier sheets. I fall into the camp that the smell of line-dried clothes trumps everything else.
This week it was finally warm enough to put towels out on the line. We always have a breeze and most the time have some serious wind so even though it wasn’t much above 40 my towels were soon dry. Though the first day of spring is till a couple weeks away and yes there is still snow on the frozen ground, I am not letting that stop me with celebrating a nice day with laundry on the line.
This week there was the hint of spring in the air here in southwestern Montana. We opened the gate on our chicken run and let the hens have a little free range time. They were excited and ready to run free. They are looking for the little bits of green that are starting to show up.
We still have some snow on the ground but they can work their way around it. We pulled out some straw from the coop and spread it around on the ground which is still quite muddy, to help their human caretakers not track so much around and beat what little grass we have down.
The hens thought that we were tossing the straw about to make it easier to find tasty morsels. We had to do a double take and recount the hens, because all the feathers from the molting they did this winter looked like a fox had been in the hen house. Fortunately it was a false alarm.
We are all ready for a little spring weather here. Everyone is tired of being cooped up.
We are having a warm streak here in southwestern Montana. This winter we had an unusual amount of drifting that had to be removed from the road by a front-loader to make it passable. Hence monster piles of snow currently sit alongside the road. This is now all melting. It is causing mud season to arrive early and in full force.
Once you turn off the frontage road, you best have your 4-wheel-drive engaged because you are never going to make it here without. Yesterday the UPS driver arrived with a package and now our driveway is one huge rutted mess. Today the propane delivery man decided to not even enter the drive, but stopped on the road and pulled the hose for yards to the tank behind the garage. Smart man.
We are praying for dry weather, lots of sun and lots of wind so that this soon becomes more than a sink hole of mud.