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Diggin' It

In Vermont, spring is finally here

Signs of spring abound in Vermont. Some are traditional and some are decidedly untraditional.

By Karan Davis Cutler / April 18, 2011

Once the snow recedes, spring wildflowers such as bloodroot, Sanquinaria canadensis, appear. Its common name alludes to the orange-red sap contained in the rhizome. Bloodroot is a plant of 'special concern' in several states and should not be transplanted from the wild.

Courtesy of Karan Davis Cutler

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Many gardeners already are having summer weather, but I just hauled a lawn tractor to the John Deere dealer, an sign of early spring at our house in Vermont. On the way I saw more evidence of the new season: highway frost heaves receding, workman disassembling the ice rink at the elementary school, redwing blackbirds congregating at wet spots, and farmers spreading manure on their fields.

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On the radio Mark Breen, the chief weathercaster at Vermont Public Radio and director of the planetarium at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, was inviting listeners to submit their signs of spring. His annual appeal is such a tradition that it is a sign of spring in itself.

Natural harbingers of spring

Many listeners report the traditional harbingers, such as crocuses and daffodils; bluebirds, phoebes, and barn swallows; displaying male turkeys and grouse drumming; maple sugar buckets; and laundry blowing on the line. (Not to mention beautiful early-spring flowers such as bloodroot and snowdrop. See the two photos above.)

Also submitted are less traditional indicators: ticks on dogs and muddy paw prints on kitchen floors, bears gorging themselves at bird feeders, sailplanes back in business at the Hartness Airport near Springfield, and, of course, skunk and woodchuck pies on the roads. Not all harbingers are beautiful.

Red Sox and flip-flops also signs of spring

What better way to know spring is here than the reopening of the local Creemee Stand. Or seeing Middlebury College students in flip-flops, and Cora, the owner of the Halfway House Café, wearing shorts.

Last night I heard the spring peepers for the first time this year, a signature event that coincides with the annual plea for volunteers to help frogs, toads, and salamanders cross roads safely in order to reach their vernal pool breeding grounds.

The ice has just gone out on Lake Champlain, and our property is dotted with miniponds, a legacy of winter’s heavy snowfall.

And Major League Baseball is back on the radio. So far the Red Sox aren’t doing much to help New England celebrate spring. The 2011 seed catalogs will have to be enough to hoist spirits until the Hose improve, and the Green Mountain State is green once again.

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Karan Davis Cutler blogs regularly at Diggin’ It. To read more, click here. She's a former magazine editor and newspaper columnist and the author of scores of garden articles and more than a dozen books, including “Burpee - The Complete Flower Gardener” and “Herb Gardening for Dummies.” Karan now struggles to garden in the unyieldingly dense clay of Addison County, Vt., on the shore of Lake Champlain, where she is working on a book about gardening to attract birds and other wildlife.

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