Kickstarting Tumbleweed, and Other Joys of Spring

I’d rather leave spring to Nature, and be surprised.

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WindRiverSnowAvoiding the dreaded “mud and slush” season, we would always head back East about now. Just in time to see the crocuses popping above ground and the trees turning spring green.

Brooklyn positively erupts with spring, all at once it seems, the small patches in front of old brownstones suddenly cluttered with daffodils and irises planted the previous fall. The flowering trees make a bright palisade of the streets. Allergies burst forth too.

I’m not missing it. Not at all.

Staying here, I can watch as the Wind River slowly emerges from its blanket of snow. The massive drift in our driveway dwindled, day by day, to a few tiny white mounds under the gravel.

Most of my go-to hiking spots are closed to me, because the back roads haven’t yet been plowed. My old stand-by was passable this week, a combination of dry dirt road and snow-cone slush — heavy to walk on, but packed solid enough by armies of snowmobiles that are now long gone. I wonder how long it will take to disappear.

BennyRibAs we gain access to formerly snowbound spots, we make great discoveries. The dog found a whole ribcage, probably elk, that was nearly large enough for him to walk through.

Over the coming days it was pulled apart, and he later found individual ribs buried deep in the snow. I let him enjoy one of them until he had chewed it all down. It looked like it had just come out of the freezer (as I guess it had), the bone pure white and the marrow still red and clean.

My own best “find” (so far) is a shelter made of branches pulled over a fallen tree, complete with fire pit, in a tiny patch of public land near our house. We hadn’t been in there since the Great Snowfalls, because that bit of back road had not been plowed. I found the shelter when the snow shrank back enough to walk in.

ShelterandFirepitThere was no sign of charcoal on the stones, so there may have not been a fire. But I could see that those pine branches would have made a dandy hut, when they were still green with needles. And the structure is very solid. It will be interesting to see how long it stands. I’m sure nobody will be motivated to take it down.

Who built this hut in a tiny spot of forest, behind an abandoned house, in the dead of winter? Did someone actually sleep here? And why? I doubt I’ll ever know.

More discoveries await as the bare ground heaves up objects long buried by erosion and blown dirt, then covered by snow. These may be only interesting rocks, but ancient arrowheads or grinding stones might also pop out. This was once the Times Square of the West, after all, criscrossed by countless natives long before they showed the trails to the Europeans.

SpringSnow033117This morning we awoke to a typical spring surprise: A few inches of wet snow. By mid-day it was gone, and the sky was mostly blue. That’s spring for you: Nothing if not fickle.

What a difference from yesterday morning, when I walked the property lines with the dog, enjoying a heady mild March breeze and the satisfaction of walking over bare ground.

And the sudden riot of birds! The bluebirds, as bright as chips of the sky itself, out house-hunting once again. The raucous cries of the geese muscling their way past overhead, busy going somewhere.

As I completed my circuit, I noticed with a sudden sense of disgust the line of tumbleweed plants on both sides of the driveway. In summer they are a pleasing diaphanous green and purple, but by autumn they’re ugly, and prickly too. In the spring, they seemed an insult.

I kicked at the base of one, and off it tumbled, freed from its roots. I spent the next hour liberating all those tumbleweeds, giving each one a kick-start over to Nebraska. I carried them all, one by one, to a flat spot where they would blow right across the valley, rather than piling up at the base of the little ridge.

How satisfying! Good exercise, leaving behind a lovely clean border on the driveway and an open space for grass and sage to occupy. So much more rewarding than kneeling in the dirt to plant bulbs in the autumn, when all I would want to do was drink cider and eat popcorn.

I’d rather leave spring to Nature, and be surprised by the results.

© Lois Wingerson, 2017

You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.

Author: LivingDubois

I am a retired science journalist, devoted to enjoying and recording the many pleasures of life in the Wyoming's Upper Wind River Valley.

4 thoughts on “Kickstarting Tumbleweed, and Other Joys of Spring”

  1. I’ve been ‘living Dubois’ for 44 years so I delight in Lois’s evocative descriptions that allow me to vicariously hike, trek, and explore Wyoming through the eyes of a true “Brooklyn-turned-Wyomingite”! Jogs me out of complacency. Love the posts.

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    1. I get, it, June, and thanks for replying.

      I guess maybe I was helping the weeds to drop seeds where they were, but maybe if I kick-started them sooner they drop fewer seeds than when the wind is able to pull them out? Anyway, no biggie. We’ll have tumbleweed with us forever.

      As I kicked away, I was thinking about the woman I heard about on NPR several years ago who put up an ad on eBay or somewhere to sell tumbleweed, and wound up with a thriving business. I guess decorators love it as filler, and film directors for scene-setting.

      Like

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