Whistlepig Waits for Spring

Jan 30, 2020 by     No Comments    Posted under: Highlight

At the half-way point through winter, it is only to be expected that our minds look ahead to spring. On the day that is that demarcation, six weeks past the darkest night with six weeks to go until spring, we might wonder when the season will shift. The dividing line between the winter solstice – when the sun stops its march south and begins moving – from our perspective – north again; and the Vernal Equinox when the day is balanced between dark and light, marking the arrival of spring.

The yellow-bellied marmot is the western cousin of Punxsutawney Phil – the Groundhog franchise that captures the nation’s attention on February 2.

February 2—this cross-quarter mark—is Groundhog’s Day on our popular Americanized calendar and Candlemas on the Christian calendar of Europe. It has always been an important time, when people wondered how much longer the winter might linger and looked forward to spring.

The Celts called it Imbolc, which means “lamb’s milk.” This was the time when the lambing season began. And in the North Fork it is also the time we begin to see some early hints that spring will indeed return.

Many farm animals are getting fat. And wildlife activity begins to pick up too. Soon buds will begin to swell on lilac bushes, then a crocus will appear somewhere on a sunny patch of ground, emerging from melting snow. Looking at averages, in Paonia the temperatures (for February 2) are slowly warming – ranging from 21°F to 39°F but rarely below 8°F.

Growers in the North Fork watch temperatures in this season with some concern, we want it to warm but not too fast. We still need good spring storms to keep padding the mountain snow-pack, and our fruit trees should not blossom too early – because it can always freeze through April. That’s why most wise growers here who plant outdoors wait until after the next cross-quarter day, in early- or even mid- May, to put in their tender crops.

As the days get longer, and plants begin to awaken, the mood shifts in the natural and human world to welcome spring. But we don’t wish the winter to hurry off too quickly. So for now, grab that new seed catalog and curl up by the stove – because it is only February after all.

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