John Harrigan: Jumping the season (well, only a little ...)

JOHN HARRIGAN February 01. 2014 8:20PM

Seasonal notes as the sun climbs higher in the sky:

-- Old-timers, not including me just yet, say that by the end of January you should have half your woodpile left. No, wait - no more than half your woodpile should be gone by the beginning of February. This would be in a normal winter, but of course there's no such thing. Friends and neighbors tell me they're burning up their firewood like Washington burns tax dollars. In both cases, I blame a lot of wind.

-- At about this time of year, the snow-line that crept south begins to creep back north. Birds of prey like to hunt the fringe of this, which means that in six or seven weeks, hawks and eagles and their like from Labrador and the Maritimes and other far north places will be sailing and soaring above us, hunting their way home. This is why late fall and early spring are die-hard birders' favorite times of year.

-- Scatological formula: (A) dogs, plus (B) a January thaw, equals (C), which is that if you want to go out strolling around the suddenly open back lawn, you'd best be looking down.

-- Even though it might still seem like deep winter, it isn't, and the sun is over the yardarm. It's only six weeks to the Ides of March, Caesar's bad day at the office. It's also about the time the deep snowpack goes "whump," and settles into corn-snow cement, which if you're careful to avoid small softwood saplings, you can walk around on. If you make a mistake and get too close to a softwood sapling, you can disappear to China.

-- And this (when the snowpack settles) is the only time we can snowmobile, towing freight sleds into camp making a pre-emptive strike as General Westmoreland would say, to get, for instance, a full cylinder of propane in and an empty one out. At all other times of the year, everything has to go in and out on our backs. Sorry, a 110-pound tank is too much for mine.

-- Rumor hath it that some people in the southwestern part of the state actually had a run of sap during the incredible extended January thaw. Hard to believe, but they'll be out tapping trees and checking lines for sure by the end of February, just three weeks or so away - in the south, that is. The advent of sugaring, like the snow-line and the birds of prey, makes a steady but slow march north.

-- Moose in a river? Nothing to get too excited about, just another job to do. Which Warner firefighters did, using a chainsaw to cut a channel through the ice and help a moose that had fallen through at mid-stream gain the shore.

-- Here I am prattling on about spring being nigh, when I know full well that Mother Nature is fully capable of throwing two or three more good punches. Most of us can remember big snowstorms in March, and I remember getting a new bicycle for my birthday, April 22, and not being able to ride it because of a foot of new snow.

-- A sure sign of spring is log piles appearing alongside major highways. This is a strategic move by loggers and truckers against the certainty that pavement on lesser roads will become too soft for heavy trucks as the frost goes out, and the road bans, which prohibit them, will go up. But major highways are for the most part just fine.

-- Finally, crows as harbingers of spring. My brother Peter and I had the rear bedroom in our family's home in downtown Colebrook, and the window looked out across Beaver Brook swamp to Pollard's slaughterhouse on Cooper Hill. When we heard offal-loving crows cawing, we knew spring was here, because crows migrated south. No more - they're here year-round, another sign that things are changing, and (to me) accelerating as the years go by.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook NH 03576, or

John Harrigan

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