A Really Wet Spring

It doesn’t seem possible that I was complaining about drought last year, but I did (see Unexpected Drought Consequences for details). Our spring has been incredibly wet with rain coming every other day (or, more often, several days in a row). It has been so wet that even trying to cut the grass has been a chore. I finally resorted to using a hand mower and a weed whacker to do the job—the garden tractor was hopeless, it either lost traction and got stuck or the deck would become filled with grass and refuse to do anything more. At least we’re not flooding (yet).

Our main concern at the moment is that the garden still isn’t planted. Yes, it has gotten quite late and some items wouldn’t have a chance of producing anything at this point, but many other items will still produce something for us. The problem is trying to till the garden to loosen the soil. The other day I took out my spade to see how things were progressing. The soil in one part of the garden simply stuck together as a mud ball. Digging in another part showed water in the bottom of the hole. Obviously, any attempt to use the tiller will be futile until the garden dries out a little.

At least one reader has heard of our predicament (possibly being in the same state himself) and chided me about my comments regarding global warming. I stand by what I have said in the past—global warming is a reality. Global warming doesn’t necessarily mean things will be hot (although, the global average temperature is increasing a small amount each year). What it means is that we’ll see more extremes in weather, such as this year’s really cool and wet spring.

As with anything, I try to find the positives. I reported on one of those positives recently, our woods produced a bumper crop of mushrooms. Those mushrooms sell for $25.00 a pound if you can obtain them directly from someone who picks them. Morels are in high demand because they’re delicious. If you pick mushrooms to help augment your income, this is your year. We simply enjoyed them in some wonderful meat dishes, which is a treat considering we usually make do with the canned variety.

However, for us the biggest plus is that we’re going to be buried in fruit. The apples, cherries, plums, and pears have all produced bountifully this year. The trees are literally packed with fruit. I imagine that I’ll need to trim some of it off to keep the branches from breaking—an incredibly rare event. It has only happened once before in the 18 years we have lived here. So, for us, this year is the year we pack the larder with good fruit to eat, despite the fact that our garden will produce dismally.

Of course, we really do want a garden. At this point, my only option is to go out there and dig it up by hand and then smooth it over with a garden rake. I’ll this task right alongside of mowing the lawn using the weed whacker. We’re talking some heavy duty hours of some incredibly dirty work. Well, someone has to do it. At least I’m getting my exercise, which will help improve my health.

So how is your spring going and what do you expect from your garden this summer? Are your fruit trees literally bursting with fruit as mine are? Let me know what is happening with your orchard and garden at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Bounty and Beauty in the Woods

Anyone who knows me knows that I spend a lot of time in the woods. There is always something to see there, even in the dead of winter. In reality, there is quite a lot to see that you’ll never find unless you know where to look. Some hidden items bespeak the bounty of the woods, while others tell of the beauty you can encounter there.

Recently I went up into the woods to look for morel mushrooms. Our damp, cool spring seems to have produced a bumper crop of them. In fact, normally I find just a few, but this year we ended up with a bowl full of them. What surprised me most what the size of these mushrooms, they were a lot larger than usual. Here are a few of the larger ones I found:

WoodsBountyandBeauty01

Fortunately, size doesn’t diminish the wonderful taste of these mushrooms; you just get more of a good thing. Rebecca fixed them up with a roast, which was absolutely delicious. The mushroom season is extended this year and I hope to find a few remaining morels on a venture into the woods today (weather permitting, of course).

Sometimes beauty is also hidden. While wandering through the woods, I noted our may apples (sometimes spelled as mayapple, without the space) are up for the year. When you walk through the woods, you see a nondescript bit of vegetation that is slightly reminiscent of palm trees when viewed closely. Some plants have one leaf (first year) and some two leaves (second year). The second year plants will produce a beautiful blossom (just one). I picked one for my lovely bride to enjoy as shown here:

WoodsBountyandBeauty02

The single flower has an extremely light, but pleasant smell. The may apple is actually a useful plant, but most people haven’t even heard of it. The leaves, when boiled, produce a natural insecticide that you can spray on a variety of plants. The insecticide washes off cleanly with the next rain. You can also dip seeds in it to prevent a variety of problems.

The native Americans used the may apple root as a medication. It’s used as a laxative and also a purgative. In fact, it may surprise you to find that some modern medications, such as podophyllin, also rely on the may apple.

There is some discussion about the fruit because most people have no clue as to when to pick and eat it. The fruit must ripen on the plant or else you’ll get poisoned (not enough to die, but you’ll wish you had). It has a subtly lemon taste and is absolutely delicious. Most sites tell you not to eat the seeds, which is good advice. The seeds won’t make you sick, but they do tend to have a laxative effect when you eat enough of them.

This is also the season for springtime flowers. While the may apple might be a little on the self-conscious side, most flowers are quite showy. This year we’ve been blessed with an abundance of cranesbill geranium as shown here.

WoodsBountyandBeauty03

Most of these patches are relatively large and the flowers are knee deep (sometimes deeper). Our moist, cool spring seems to have brought out more than the usual number of these delightful flowers and it’s hard to go very far without seeing a patch of them. They do spring up each year, but this year’s display is astounding. The eye catching beauty of this group of flowers hides the may apples and other plants that are also part of the picture.

The woods tends to hide things from the casual visitor and the presence of showy displays tends to make discrete displays even harder to find. In order to see both the bounty and the beauty, you must look—really look—to see all that resides within. Let me know about your latest experience in the woods at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Chickens in the Woods

We let our chickens run about as they want. Yes, they have a run so that they can stay in a safe environment when desired or they’ll have a protected place to run if something chases them, but chickens do need the freedom to wander about. Besides, letting the chickens run around doing what chickens do best, eating insects, helps reduce the tick population in the woods. So, it didn’t surprise me the other day to see chickens in our woods while I was working on a relatively large log. However, I thought that they’d maintain their distance because my chainsaw does make a frightful amount of noise.

As I worked along, I noted that the chickens were getting closer. As soon as they saw me looking at them, they curtsied. Now it may sound quite odd to hear that chickens curtsey, but ours do quite regularly. The move their wings out in a manner reminiscent of a woman holding out her skirts and then they do a bit of a bow legged dip. It really is quite humorous to see. Our chickens curtsey when they want us to pick them up and hold them. Normally, this is followed by some amount of petting and us telling them how good they are. Our birds truly are spoiled in grand fashion.

Since I didn’t want to stop cutting the log up, I ignored the chickens and kept working. I felt that they would probably head back the other direction due to the noise of the chainsaw. So, it surprised me quite a lot to look up and see that they had gotten closer still. When they saw me looking again, they curtsied yet again—looking quite annoyed in a chicken sort of a way. I could almost see them huff and they were quite annoyed that their human just hadn’t gotten the idea that they really needed to be picked up and told what good birds they were.

Not taking the hint, I decided to continue working on the log. Certainly, they’d get the idea this time and go in the other direction or possibly stop to watch me for a while (something that chickens do relatively often because they really are quite nosy). When I looked up the third time, the chickens had gotten dangerously close to my logging operation and I decided that I really must get them to safety. Seeing me look again, they not only curtsied, but squawked quite loudly in order to better attract my attention.

So, I shut my saw off and went over to the two birds. I picked a bird up in each arm (good thing there weren’t three of them). Now, I’m walking down this rather steep hill, one chicken under each arm, hoping that I don’t fall. All the while I’m telling the chickens what good birds they are. Eventually, I get to the coop and let them inside. I go inside with them and tell them what good birds they are again and give them some pets. At this point, I closed the run door, got the rest of the birds inside, and then went back to work.

Lesson learned? If your chickens really think they need to be petted and they take the time to curtsey, don’t ignore them. I have to admit, they really did make my afternoon better. I laughed about their antics all the way back up the hill where I finished my log, loaded it into the cart, and dumped it down the chute. Feel free to share your favorite humorous chicken story with me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Animal Control

Self-sufficiency involves a certain level of animal control no matter where you live. A weasel, raccoon, or opossum (amongst others) can make short work of your meat chickens, laying hens, or rabbits. Unfortunately, literature on animal control is lacking. Even when you review many self-sufficiency books, it’s as if the authors purposely avoid the topic. When you do find information on the topic, it’s often biased or outright incorrect. Our experiences when we first moved here were frustrating in the best of times because we lacked animal control experience. When the deer weren’t eating our trees, the raccoons were feasting on our chickens.

We do have some significant animal control issues at times because we live next to a relatively big wooded area. Even though the woods look empty quite a bit of the time, there are animals galore in it. Of course, we have many of the same animals that appear in city parks, such as squirrels. Except for chewing holes in our bird house and occasionally through the siding on our home, squirrels present few problems. However, there are other animals that are much harder to control and they can cause serious damage at times.

Many sources recommend live trapping animals and moving them somewhere else, which sounds like a fine idea until you consider the repercussions of such a decision. Of course, there are the consequences for the animal, who has now been made homeless and may be in some other animal’s territory. In some cases, moving the animal is a death sentence at the hands of a larger member of the same species who will simply do away with the interloper. The consequences for someone like me are also unpleasant because your problem is now my problem. In short, live trapping and moving an animal seldom solves the problem unless you can be certain that the animal will end up in a friendly environment far enough from humans not to cause trouble.

Generally, we try to shoo animals away when we can. If you make the animal feel unwelcome enough, it’ll go somewhere else. Some animals will simply ignore you. Skunks are an obvious example and personally, I stay as far away from them as possible (not that we’ve ever had a serious problem with skunks, except for the time our dog got sprayed by one). Opossums are generally inclined to ignore humans as well. However, a few nips from a dog generally convinces them to go in some other direction.

Sometimes shooing doesn’t work, so then we try barriers—either physical or scent. A fence around young trees or blueberry bushes will generally keep deer away. However, rabbits, mice, voles, rats, and other animals will simply burrow under the fence to get at the delicious young plants unless you bury the fence about foot or so deep in the soil. Scents also have a powerful effect on animals, but you must reapply them regularly, especially after a rain. Soap does work for deer, while human or other barrier scents work for rabbits much of the time.

Passive barriers might not work in all cases, so then you have to resort to active barriers. To get our grapes to grow, we actually stationed a dog next to the young plants one season. It was an extreme sort of barrier, but the dog seemed to enjoy the change in duty and the grapes have now grown so that none of the local animals have much interest in them. We always station a dog next to our chicken tractors because racoons and weasels aren’t easily dissuaded from enjoying a chicken dinner. Even with a dog stations next to the cages, you need a strong cage to avoid predation by hawks and other larger predators.

Most of our efforts at animal control involve deterrence of some kind. We’ll keep experimenting until we find something that that animal doesn’t like. Unfortunately, sometimes there is nothing else to do but to get rid of the problem by killing the problem animal. It’s always our last option and we do it with a great deal of remorse. The other day I encountered a situation where an opossum had chewed through our rabbit cage, partially eaten the rabbit inside, and was busily working at getting to the rabbit in the next cage. (The same opossum had eaten some of our eggs the day before, so it was a repeat offender.) Shooing the opossum didn’t work and it didn’t seem to want to play dead either (a state in which you can move the opossum out of harm’s way). So, I ended up killing it. We use the fastest, most humane method possible. I offered the opossum to our local fox at her den in the woods (wasting anything is against my personal beliefs).

Animal control requires experimentation and a good deal of thought. The animals aren’t pests; they’re simply trying to earn a living in the only way they know how. Deterrence is always preferable to killing, but sometimes you do need to kill an animal because you have no other choice. Let me know your thoughts on animal control at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Splitting the Dreaded Elm

I’ve read a lot of truly awful comments from wood cutters about elm trees online. Yes, everyone admits that they’re quite pretty and the vase shape produces an amazing amount of shade. Elm trees are popular in cities because they can grow quite well in the pollution. The elm tree’s twisted internal structure means that even when the tree is hit by lightning, it often doesn’t split apart and cause significant damage. Of course, elm trees are susceptible to a number of beetles, including those that spread Dutch Elm Disease (DED). Wood cutters of all sorts now have experience with the twisted internal structure of the elm because DED has wiped out so many trees. This structure makes it incredibly hard to split the tree. In fact, some wood cutters will refuse to cut down an elm for wood simply because the tree is so incredibly hard to split.

Elm does have some redeeming features for someone who needs wood for their stove. Unlike my favorite, black locust, you don’t have to mix elm with other woods to keep your stove temperature under control. Elm will burn at a moderate rate for a long time. In addition, elm produces a lot of heat for the amount of wood you get, it isn’t hard to start, won’t produce a lot of sparks, and doesn’t produce an overwhelming amount of ash.

A friend recently helped me cut down two elms—one of which was threatening my house (the other would have threatened at some point if it had been left in place). These are mature trees that have the the classic signs of beetle infestation, but don’t appear to have the fungus associated with DED. Even so, all of the wood from the two trees will find a home in my wood pile at some point.

One way to deal with elms is not to split them in the first place. Most people think you have to cut trees into the classic log shape. I’ll cut elm into short logs that fit flat into the wood stove instead of as a log. You can continue cutting the tree up like this until the diameter of the log begins to exceed the depth of your wood stove. So, I’ve ended up with a number of logs that look like this, rather than the usual round shape.

SplittingElm01

At this point, I can see you scratching your head. You insert the wood like this into the wood stove. The height of this piece matches the height of the wood stove opening—the diameter is less than the length and depth of the wood stove, so the piece will fit just fine, even if it isn’t in the normal orientation. All the wood stove needs is a piece of wood that’s the right size to fit and it definitely doesn’t care anything about shape. The piece will burn just fine in this direction.

Warning: You may need to insert felling or bucking wedges to keep the cut open when working with thinner cuts like the ones shown in this post. Never use splitting wedges for this purpose. If the chainsaw chain hits a metal splitting wedge, the chain will likely break and could cause personal injury. Always use plastic or fiberglass felling or bucking wedges designed for use in holding open cuts instead.

The trees had a 20-inch diameter, which is just a bit bigger than my wood stove will allow, no matter how I want to orient the pieces. I chose to split the pieces in this case so they look a bit more like standard logs. However, elm is so tough to split, that just hitting it with a maul or an axe won’t work. I have a 20 pound maul and it simply bounces off the top unless I really want to pound on the log, in which case, I get a nice dent. To split this wood, you need splitting wedges. I used three wedges to split the 20-inch diameter pieces from this tree. When working with elm, you can’t have too many wedges. To start the process, create a stress line across the log like this.

SplittingElm02

What you’re seeing is about six hits with the maul to create a straight line through the early wood. Notice that I purposely avoided the late (heart) wood. If you try to split the heart wood, you may never get the job done.

After you get the initial stress line created, pound in your first wedge. Given the size of this log, I chose to place the wedge about 1/3 of the way across to ensure the log would split all the way down the side. Again, you really want to avoid that heart wood if at all possible.

Some people like to wait until elm is completely dry to split it. What I have found is that elm continues to harden and the interlocking becomes worse as it dries. I prefer to split the logs when the bark has come off, but before the tree is completely dry. Normally I see some wetting around the wedge as I pound it in as shown here.

SplittingElm03

Even with the lubrication provided by the moisture, getting the wedge all the way down can prove difficult. The first wedge is the hardest. Splitting the wood in sub-zero weather will give you a small advantage in some cases—it depends on how interlocked the fibers are. I chose to split this wood in warmer weather because I want it to start drying out.

After I get the first wedge all the way down, I pound in a second wedge 1/3 of the way from the other side. I end up with two wedges in the first end like this.

SplittingElm04

Warning: Make sure you dress your wedges properly! The two wedges shown here have been used to split a number of trees and are mushrooming out at the top due to being hit by the maul. The maul is made of harder metal than the wedges, which are designed to mushroom out like this as they’re being hit to reduce the risk of shattering (metal hitting metal). At some point, little pieces of the wedges will break off and could cause physical injury. Dressing the wedges using a grinder will keep the mushrooming under control and reduce the risk of physical injury. Of course, you should always wear the proper safely equipment when using a maul, which includes safety goggles (an OSHA approved face mask in addition to the safety goggles is better), long sleeves, heavy pants (adding wood cutting chaps is better), and heavy gloves.

As you can see, even with two wedges in place, this log refuses to split. At this point, you turn the log over. Create a stress line across the log using your maul that reinforces the current split. If you’re really lucky, you may be able to get the log to finish splitting this way, but don’t count on it. In my case, I needed a third wedge, so I put it in like this.

SplittingElm05

I now have a crack from top to bottom, but the crack doesn’t go all the way through the log and it still isn’t split. At this point, you turn the log over on it’s side and break the center by striking it with the maul. Make sure you hit directly in the middle and not on either end. If you hit the ends, you’ll also hit the wedges and dull your maul. When the split is complete, your log looks like this.

SplittingElm06

You can remove the two wedges at this side now. What you have is a split side and a hinge (connected) side. All you have in place in the second wedge on the top of the log at the hinge side. Turn the log over so that the bottom is up and the hinge side faces you. Use the maul to break open the bottom of the hinge as shown here.

SplittingElm07

This action should free the third wedge. At this point, you can place the top end up and finish the final split with the maul. You now have a split piece of elm as shown here.

SplittingElm08

In my experience, only elm splits this horribly, which is why many people avoid it. Yet, the wood does have some good characteristics and if you handle the tree right, you can get by without splitting most of it. Let me know about your elm splitting experiences at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Maintaining Your Chainsaw

It’s wood cutting season and I’ve already been in the woods a couple of times. Nothing is quite as nice as a fresh breeze, wonderful scenes, the feel of nature, and the smell of freshly cut wood. I choose the wood carefully, as described in Choosing Wood Carefully. However, no matter how carefully you choose the tree, the task is only as easy as the condition of the tools you use. The tools must be the right size, fully maintained, and inspected carefully. Of the tools I use, the one I worry about most is my chainsaw. A failure of my chainsaw at the wrong time could mean death.

I know a lot of people maintain their saws personally. However, given that my small engine experience is limited, I normally take my saw to a professional for its annual maintenance. This includes everything from cleaning the air filter and changing the fuel filter, to making sure the saw is clean and has a sharp chain on it. This annual workup is enough for my needs because I’m not using the saw professionally. I cut just enough wood to meet my heating needs each year, plus stock up a bit of emergency wood.

However, I do perform certain types of maintenance every time I go out to cut wood. This frequent maintenance may seem like overkill, but I really don’t want to end up dead due to an equipment failure, so I perform these checks absolutely every time I use my chainsaw:

 

  • Clean the exterior of the saw.
  • Inspect the saw for damage.
  • Check the sharpness of the chain and replace it if necessary.
  • Clean the area that houses the chain when I have the chain off.
  • Verify the chain is at the proper tension.
  • Grease the bar sprocket.
  • Fill the chain lubricant reservoir.
  • Fill the gas reservoir.
  • Check my safety equipment, which includes safety glasses, hearing protectors, and heavy gloves.


Even performing all of these checks, it’s possible that you’ll have an equipment failure, but it’s a lot less likely. If you’re smart, you’ll continuously check for potential problems while you’re working in the woods. Make sure you check the saw every time you refuel it and always ensure that you add bar chain lubricant when you gas up. It also doesn’t pay to be cheap in this case—use high quality lubricant and make sure your gas is fresh and has the proper two-cycle engine oil in it.

It often amazes me that people don’t take more care when they prepare to go into the woods. Even though I feel that the woods are one of the most beautiful places on earth, I also give them the respect their due and you should too. Let me know your thoughts on chainsaw maintenance at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Enjoying the Night Sounds

The country has its own set of unique night sounds. Unlike the city, where the sounds of traffic and people talking in whispered tones are pretty much mundane and expected, country sounds vary night-by-night. In fact, the noise of scurrying, shrieking, chirping, and trilling all add to the appeal of a night in the country. Of course, everyone knows about the crickets, but I assure you that the country has much more to offer than that.

The night before last, we hear the songs of coyotes. Some people get this picture of Wile-E-Coyote, super genius, and that’s not even close to what a real coyote is like. Even though they have been known to kill farm animals, we’ve never actually had a problem with coyotes. It’s far more likely that a raccoon, fox, or weasel will kill our chickens. Coyotes yip, howl, and produce a sort of sing-song chaotic sound that’s interesting to hear. We can listen to the coyotes for hours and only become a bit concerned when they get near, which they seldom do.

Sometimes we hear a rabbit’s shriek when a raccoon, fox, or weasel manages to sneak up and get it. The first time you hear the shriek, you wonder what could make such a horrible sound—high-pitched and chilling to the bone. The sound is meant to be piercing and warns other rabbits in the area to get away. A smart predator gets the rabbit without allowing it to make a sound so that it can get other rabbits in the same evening. When we hear the shriek, we know that it’s an unlucky hunter, or perhaps a young one.

Last night, we heard an entirely new sound. Never before have we heard the mating calls of owls. Yes, we’ve heard the terror inducing scream of the screech owl or the harmonious hoot of a barn owl, but never a mating call. It took a while for me to realize what I was hearing. The male started things off with a quick repertoire of hoots that sounded more like Morse code than an owl—dot-dot-dot-dash (the number 4). As the sound got closer, I heard a female reply with a more standard (and less frantic) set of hoots. However, even the female provided hoots in sets, rather than singularly as is usual. The two kept hooting at each other until I could hear that the loudness of the hoots was the same, then the couple flew off to parts unknown.

Our woods are packed with wildlife, much of which comes out to play at dusk. The night sounds tell us that the woods that seem devoid of much life during the day really do have a considerable host occupying them. All these sounds of life keep us entertained and some make us wary. There are times when our dogs warn us of intrusions we must investigate carefully. The night is when our world comes alive with life of all sorts. What kinds of sounds do you hear in the night? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Woody

Woody my friend,
has met his end,
amidst leaves and briars so cold.

Never to pound,
the woods to resound,
looking for his next luscious meal.

He’ll never again spy,
as I pass him by,
to cut down a tree or two.

Our talks I’ll so miss,
as he filled me with bliss,
just seeing that red head of his.

While others do fly,
away in the sky,
as I invade their sanctum so rude.

Woody was there,
as near as my chair,
cut from a tree stump I hewed.

So goodbye my friend,
my heart you do rend,
I’ll think of you each morning dew.

Dedicated to Woody the pileated woodpecker.
Copyright 2012, John Paul Mueller

Enjoying the Flowered Woods

I always find the springtime woods inviting. All of the flowers are amazing! Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of every flower out there, even though I’m sure that someone has named them at some point. Every spring does bring back a few friends, such as the cranesbill geranium:

WoodlandFlowers01

The berry brambles produce a riot of flowers too. The gooseberries, black caps (black raspberries), and red raspberries have already bloomed and set fruit. However, the blackberries are only now putting out blossoms and the initial burst of flowers portends a wonderful summer of berry picking.

WoodlandFlowers02

I can taste the berries now. Our entire woods is packed with berry brambles. There are times when I can pick two or three gallons of berries in a single day. In fact, the limiting factor is usually the amount of time I have to pick, rather than the number of available berries. Everyone eats the berries during the summer months, including both birds and squirrels (oddly enough). There is no doubt in my mind that other forest creatures benefit from the berries too.

Sometimes the woods offers up something special. In times past, I’ve encountered bloodwort (bloodroot) and mayapples. Both plants were used for medicinal purposes in the past. The mayapple fruit is edible in small quantities as long as you know when to pick it. The fruit must ripen on the plant and must be completely yellow. The leaves can be used to make an effective insecticide when boiled, allowed to cool, and then sprayed.

This year we were treated to something special, a jack-in-the-pulpit. It showed up right above the rock garden at the very edge of the woods, so Rebecca was the first to spot it. I must admit that it’s a bit hard to see. We’re fortunate that this one came up so close that we can enjoy it each year. In fact, Rebecca plans to extend the rock garden to include our new addition.

WoodlandFlowers03

Of course, there is a lot more to see in the woods and I hope to be able to take time to enjoy it all. Do you have a woods near to you? If so, do you ever get to enjoy all of the beauty it contains? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Spring is on the Way

It would probably be hard for most people to accept the fact that spring is on the way, especially when they look outside on a snowbound day like this one:

SpringOnTheWay

However, the fact of the matter is that spring really is on the way. It’s going to be an early spring, in fact. There are several things that tell me this. First, and possibly most important, the tree sap is starting to run again. In fact, the people around here who tap maple trees to make syrup have already done so, which is extremely early. I noticed that the trees in the woods also have sap running in them—at least the ones in our woods. I’ve never seen the sap run this early. (My uncle, who has lived a few years more than I have, says he has seen spring arrive this early in the past, but he wasn’t quite sure when, which tells me it was quite some time ago.)

Anyone who lives in the north will tell you that the air takes on a different quality in the spring. It has a different odor to it, or perhaps a different texture. I have yet to find a good way to quantify the difference, but the difference is unmistakeable. You take a good deep whiff and the air simply doesn’t quite smell like winter anymore. Perhaps there is the faintest hint of fresh greenery or some other element that looms at the horizon of human perception—present, but hard to identify. I smell it every spring and every spring I fail to pin down precisely what has changed.

Of course, most people want something a little more substantial than tree sap and odd smells, so there is also  the birds to consider. When we were trimming the trees the other day, we definitely noticed the springtime songs of birds. No, it’s not the wild kingdom effect—the raucous early morning expenditure of energy that birds have later in the spring, but it’s a gentler prelude, as if the symphony is about to begin.

There are going to be other signs. None of my flowers have started bursting through the soil as of yet. The buds on the trees are still shut tightly as well. However, it won’t be long and I’ll start to see bud swell, and then, one day I’ll look at my flower bed and see just an inkling of the springtime flowers peaking through to see if the coast is clear. Spring is most definitely on the way—the signs are all around for anyone who wants to look. What are your favorite indicators of spring? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.