The first day of Spring has come and gone. The sap is running from the trees and overflowing the buckets. The Easter eggs have all been hidden and found and turned into egg salad. Snow still covers some shady areas and the wind still bites as it blows through the naked trees. Mud has become the color of the landscape and the road and the woods. The sky wages a daily war against the weather to change from grey to blue. Winter clutches greedily to the world not wanting to relinquish its cold grasp.
In the barnyard the animals are becoming antsy. They can feel the changes of the season. They yearn to run in the pasture. The barn is slowly becoming empty as the hay reserves grow low from the long months of frigid air and hungry goats. The shed is hidden by great clouds of steam as the sap boils its way down into syrup. The impromptu sugar shack is a sure sign that Spring is right around the corner. The workshop is a buzz with ATV's and motorcycles and oil changes and tires being aired, tractors being greased for the coming sun, and big, open doors letting the air finally circulate through the building.
As the grass fights its way from brown to green and the first buds of the season can be seen on some of the hardier trees, the yard seems to be slowly waking. The birds have returned. Wood ducks have been spotted on the open water of the pond. The new chicks have arrived to bolster the flock and increase our egg stock. The damage from the onslaught of this winter's hurricanes and storms can finally be assessed. The fences need mending, trees strewn across the trails need to be turned into firewood, and some of the drives need to be regraded yet again. There is plenty to do outside and the fresh air stirs not only the soul but the stomach as well.
Inside, baseball has come to the TV. It is a funny thing, drinking the dark, hearty beers of winter, the porters and the stouts, while enjoying a few innings. But those few remaining winter warmers will go nicely with the venison stew simmering on the stove and filling the house with belly-grumbling wafts of garlic and onion and gravy. The stove is cluttered with pots. The stew is cramped on all sides by boiling syrup in its final stages of production, adding a sweet smell to the savory scents filling the house. Mason jars of the finished syrup sit next to fresh-baked biscuits. The biscuits are torn between a bath of brown gravy and fresh stew or melted butter and warm maple syrup. We may just have to save a few biscuits for breakfast, if we can wait that long.
Though Spring may have sprung, it is the fruits of winter that have filled our freezer with meat and our cupboards with syrup. The fridge is stocked with the last of the hearty brews. Our bellies will be full and bursting and ready to fend off the outside work to be done. Though some may find the chores daunting, they are merely good excuses to be outside in the air, in the world. They are hidden gems, precious fruit, time to spend with family working together on our own piece of land nestled in the woods. The in-between seasons are the best of all. Mud and snow, cold wind and warming sun, wood smoke and open windows, the best of all seasons.