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June 10, 2009

Suburbitat: Our Cruel Spring ~ via Jim Tolstrup.

Suburbitat: Our Cruel Spring

This year on February 3rd I heard the first Red-Wing Blackbirds. Three days later I heard the first Meadow Larks. Last year I was impressed when these same birds appeared, ahead of schedule, in early March. This year some birds like Goldfinches did not even migrate but hung around our feeders all winter long.

Thinking  that these feathered portents foretold an end of winter, I hurried to prune my apple tree. Two years ago, diligent about pruning my apple tree, I was rewarded with bushels of organic, locally-sourced (backyard!) apples. I felt obligated to eat every last one, as I’m a bit obsessive about not wasting food. And so, we ate fresh apples, stewed apples, apple cake, apple brown betty, apple sauce, apple pie, apple sandwiches, barbecued apples, apple kabobs (you get the picture.)

The warm weather in early spring weather boded well for our volunteer restoration project at the High Plains Environmental Center. The plan was for 400 people to come with the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado to plant 1000 native trees and shrubs on the 18th of April.

The 18th came and we were into our third day of mixed rain and snow. Night-time temperatures were in the mid to low twenties. The frost was so hard that it bit the flowers right off of my apple tree, now it will yield nothing this year except green leaves.

Needless to say we canceled our project and we re-scheduled for the following weekend. The week was pretty good and things began to dry out but we awoke on Saturday to a cold, grey drizzle. You’d think that Mother Nature would understand all the good things we were trying to doing for her and show a little appreciation, Ha! Not bloody likely.

Our volunteers however were totally hardcore, although only 200 came, they accomplished the task in less than 3 hours. Now our 1000 young shrubs and trees are thriving and green “as lovely as young girls” as it says in Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees.

Memorial Day found us huddling under blankets on our patio under a cold sky, My wife and I had not seen a memorial day like it since we left Maine, where we used to go to listen to thud of the 4th of July fireworks and imagine what they looked like beyond the fog.

In very uncharacteristic fashion, Colorado’s weather has remained cloudy and rainy. Yesterday was Sunday, June 6th and clouds rolled in right around 11:0o a.m. “Oh well, that’s good” I thought, “now I won’t have to go in to work, to water plants.”  Within an hour, 2 inches of pea-sized hail had turned our peonies into confetti but with six tornadoes blustering through the region yesterday I guess we made out alright.

Is this climate change or just Front Range weather being it’s quirky, unpredictable self. Oh well, it’s still a beautiful planet none-the-less. Got apples?

Jim Tolstrup is the Executive Director of the High Plains Environmental Center in LovelandCO. HPEC works with developers, businesses and homeowners to promote the restoration and conservation of Colorado’s unique native biodiversity in the suburban environments where we live work and play www.suburbitat.org

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