col What's a good sign of spring? At this stage, we're not too picky

Spring is in the air -- I think. At least according to the calendar, which says March 20 marked the official beginning. Hopefully, by the time this column is printed a warm breeze will greet you as you step outside. At this writing, it is already April but a northwest wind is blowing and winter wear is still quite appropriate.

Yet, many is the year when we have literately skipped spring and gone right from mittens, scarfs and freezing temperatures to bare feet, shorts and sweating.

Spring might make its debut to different people in different ways; and if you were to ask 10 people what signs of spring they look for or what is the first things they do, you would probably get 10 different answers. Yet, most agree that after months of the colors brown, black and white, they're ready for some green.

One of the most common sights we all look for are the first tulips poking through the ground or the yellow daffodils that seem to cheer everyone up. My own personal and favorite visible thing to watch for about this time of year are the emerging of the fuzzy buds on the pussy willow bushes; and I can't let the year go by without picking at least one bouquet.

Thank goodness we now have a bush in our own back yard, which was not the case years ago. Those were the days when I would stop along the roadside and, with barn boots on, carefully make my way through a wet ditch to pick some. You can't believe how much traffic there can be when you don't want anyone to see you!


Another of the more common sights we all look for is to see our friends, the birds, returning from warmer climates. As a child I can remember trying to be the person in our family to see that first robin hopping around on the lawn or a flock of geese noisily flying overhead as they headed north. We would proudly make the announcement to dad and mom, and they would then obligingly hurry to the window to take a look, even if they had seen them weeks before.

I also remember that even if we didn't see any by April 1, this would be the subject of our yearly April Fool's Day joke. Come to think of it, when we became parents, we were subjected to this same scenario; and just like my dad, my husband would take a look and say, "Why sure enough, spring must be here!"

I do believe farmers and city folks look with anticipation to spring in different ways. As I drove through town on several balmy winter days this year, it was not unusual to see joggers in shorts out doing their thing. I couldn't help but wonder if they weren't slightly chilly and a little ahead of schedule.

Yet on one of these same days I called one of our farmer daughters who, as we spoke, began laughing. Said she, "I wish you could see this, Mom."

She was watching her husband through the window as he backed around their entire yard with his bobcat, bucket down and tipped, attempting to level the frozen ruts and smooth it out. I'm not sure just what he was accomplishing. Just slightly ahead of schedule, and itching for spring.

Yes, we all look for signs of spring. But it is not uncommon to hear someone say that "it even smells like spring out" or that it "sounds like spring."

Now I'm not exactly sure what is meant by these terms. Perhaps it is the smell of freshness after that first rain, or even the sound of a first thunderstorm; needed according to most farmers to "get the frost out of the ground."

To others it is the long-awaited smell of lilacs in bloom or that first newly mown grass. And depending on where you live -- rural or city -- you might know spring is here when the animal waste lagoon has thawed open and that fragrance comes through an open window! Good or bad, all signs that old man winter is gone for another year.


But, to most everyone, spring is a sign of a new beginning. It brings new life and hope to a dismal world.

Bianchi is a retired farmwife from New Ulm, Minn.

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