Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring in the Country

by Annette Dashofy

I’ve lived my entire life surrounded by pastures and farmland and I suspect that life here has a few differences from life in the city. I could be wrong. I previously posted about the presence of coyotes and learned that they have encroached on town dwellers, too. So my musings on life in rural USA on this first day of spring may only serve to teach me that we city-folks and country-folks are more alike than not. Following are a few experiences from rural Washington County.

1. We’ve been awakened on several occasions by the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker pounding on the outside of our log cabin. Usually the feathered beast chooses the wall by the head of our bed. Not sure why. But let me tell you, woodpeckers are loud! And they leave a neat little pile of sawdust under their work areas. My hubby, the Great Hunter decided that the one little woodpecker (along with some assistance from a swarm of bore bees) was going to eat our entire house. He tied an old-fashioned mouse trap to a string and hung it outside our bedroom window at a site where the bird chose to frequent. He only intended on scaring it away, imagining the snapping trap would send it looking for bugs elsewhere. I, on the other hand, had visions of a flopping woodpecker stuck in a mousetrap tied to our house and me, the animal lover, desperately trying to free it. Instead, it moved to another part of the house and took up its search for a meal there.

2. I’m pretty sure those previously mentioned bore bees are not solely country pests. If you’ve got a wood house, you’ve likely got bore bees regardless of location. For the uninitiated, bore bees are those large, generally slow moving bees that sound like a military helicopter buzzing past. They drill precise holes in wood and deposit their eggs in them. Wood preservative does not deter them. Insect repellent only makes them mean. Once again Hubby AKA Great Hunter fears they will destroy our humble abode. His weapon of choice? A tennis racket. He’s creating a new sport called Whac-A-Bee. Similar to Whac-A-Mole, except the goal is to swing the racket, make contact with one of those buzzing menaces and send it, if not into outer space, at least into the next county. That would be Allegheny, so if you Pittsburgh folks notice an influx of large buzzing insects, blame my hubby.

3. With the arrival of spring also comes the arrival of spring peepers. These tiny frogs with very large vocal cords begin serenading me at this time of year. They usually start with one brave (foolish) peeper before being silenced by a blast of snow and/or cold. But they return and before long hundreds of voices fill the night air with their song of “Knee Deep.” Surely you’ve heard the ages-old question “How deep is a frog pond?” Peepers supply the answer. “Knee deep.”

4. I hate to admit it, but this time of year my shoes are always muddy. Just walking from the front porch to my car in the driveway entails two or three steps through what will be grass in another month or so. Right now with the melting snow and the early spring showers, it’s mud. If I need to look pulled together and must wear dress shoes, I carry them to the car, my feet encased in Muck Boots. If you don’t know what Muck Boots are, you probably live in the city. But mostly I have mud on all my sneakers and boots and shoes. If you see me anytime in the next month, don’t look at my feet.

5. Besides the spring peepers and the abundance of birdsongs, my favorite sound of spring is the call of baby calves to their mama cows. Baby colt whinnies are even better, but since we no longer have horses, I’m stuck with the neighbors calves. Newborn calves are adorable. And their adolescent “Maaa!” brings a smile to my face every time. Unless they’re “Maaa-ing” in my back yard. You see, baby calves by their very nature are small and curious and tend to find the tiniest breaks in the fence that have occurred over the winter, but no one noticed. Adult cattle didn’t find the minute holes…if they had, they’d have worked at them and made them big enough to escape through themselves. But the youngsters find them and end up in my yard with no clue how they got there or how to get back. Rule number one about cattle: they never return through the same hole in the fence from which they got out. Rule number two about cattle: they will not return to their own pasture through an open gate, regardless of the number of farmers or the amount of coaxing, swearing and herding. They prefer to make a new hole and squeeze through it thus creating more work for the cattleman.

Anyone have any urban spring tales to share? Suburban? Anyone else from the country want to add to my list?

Happy First Day of Spring everyone!


Anonymous said...

This city resident/suburban worker is thrilled when he sees his first cardinal (two weeks ago, male and female, chirping away in a tree outside the office) and his first red-tailed hawk (refurbishing the nest in another tree outside our buidling). At home, I look anxiously at the ice-tinged edges of the daffodil and tulip shoots in the backyard, wondering if they're going to bloom after the nasty winter weather of February. Your accounts, Annette, take me back to my youth growing up on a farm in York County. Don't be surprised if you wake up one day to find me camping in your back yard! I love the sounds and excitement of Spring in the country.

Anonymous said...

I've not seen any bore bees around (knock on wood) but the woodpeckers seem particularly LOUD this Spring. Or is it just me?
And I think there's something about how the sound resonates. I was walking to the bus this morning and hear a deep bass tapping that was the loudest I'd ever heard. I looked up to find the culprit, but couldn't spot him or her. That made me wonder about the acoustics of tapping. Does it have to do with tree size and/or density?

By the way, Ted Andrews says woodpeckers are about dancing to your own drummer (or tapper, as it were.) I'm not sure what he has to say about bore bees.

Anonymous said...

Annette, you make me remember the summer morning my little sister and I woke up to discover two of the neighbor's ponies had foaled during the night in the pasture behind our house. We took our cereal bowls to the fence and sat in the grass watching them try to stand up for the first time.

Annette said...

Mike, we've had cardinals all winter long. The worse the weather, the more of them gather in our trees around the feeders. As for camping in my back yard, no problem. The camper is parked behind Ray's workshop. Stop in and I'll give you the keys.

Tory, not sure about the acoustics, but I do love my woodpeckers, as long as they're not eating my house.

Nancy, the last foal we had born here came when I was babysitting two of my nephews. They got quite an education that morning!

Joyce Tremel said...

We've had cardinals all winter, too. We also get a lot of woodpeckers--they like the sunflower seed and the suet we keep out year round.

For living in the suburbs, we get a lot of wildlife through our backyard, but no cows unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

We get wildlife at our house, too. Right now, we have something living under our deck that we think is working its way into the house. The scratching in the ceiling of our downstairs basement is making us nuts.

At the house we lived in previously, we had a problem with bees living in the wall. Oh, what fun that turned out to be.

Yeah, I have a lot of experience with critters.

Cathy said...

On this, the first day of spring, when the sap rises in the trees, and everything comes to life, I got a communication from an old boyfriend. The plain white envelope had been ripped open by the mail carrier (no markings--he drove by). This guy who dumped me like a hot potato wants very much to hear from me. I think I'll email him a wedding picture.

Spring has sprung.

Anonymous said...

We have critters in the suburbs. They're called children. They pound basketballs all evening and since their parents are all too lazy and cheap to plant trees, there isn't anything to act as a sound barrier. My poor trees can't handle the burden alone. Also, our neighbors keep their trash cans outside and go out and dig in them often, which vibrates my family room wall. Then there are the nerdy accountant types with the super loud motorcylces and muscle cars that take up half of their garage all winter, forcing their wives to have to scrape their cars in the morning before carting the brood to day care. The rumbling noise they make at night while imagining that they are impressing the chicks in high school who wouldn't date them is deafening and also rattles my walls. Perhaps I should have built a bunker. yeah. spring. whatever.

Anonymous said...

Well, I almost ran over a robin on my way to work this morning . . .