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March brings with it reflections on winter and longing for spring

After the seemingly interminable brutal cold and wild winds of the past couple of months, I welcome any sign of spring, even if it’s only visible as the date March 20 on the calendar hanging on my kitchen bulletin board.

Two Golden Retrievers run on  a gravel road with snow and ice on the side.
Nova and Casey, who don't mind the cold, went on a walk-run with Ann Bailey on a frigid February day. Bailey, who prefers warmer weather, is looking forward to spring.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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It’s still cold and snowy outside, but the calendar says it’s March, and I’ll take that.

After the seemingly interminable brutal cold and wild winds of the past couple of months, I welcome any sign of spring, even if it’s only visible as the date March 20 on the calendar hanging on my kitchen bulletin board.

I know my memories are short, so won’t claim this is the toughest winter I’ve endured, but even without comparison to others, this one has been rough. In my corner of the state, there have been 11 blizzard warnings, the most on record, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, North Dakota. That’s one more than the infamous winter of 1996-97.

The high winds, which have resulted in wind chills of minus 40, have required a major undertaking that requires almost as much time to dress for taking the dogs outside as it does for them to do their duties when we get there. The winds also frequently drift our roads closed.

Though, the snowplow almost daily removes the snow from the roads, they still get blocked so we have to find alternative routes A couple of Saturdays ago, for example, winds whipped up a series of snow drifts on a township gravel road that is the quickest way to the highway that leads to Grand Forks, our destination that day. We were about a mile on our way when we saw the drifts and had to turn around, backtrack to our farm and take another, longer way to Grand Forks.

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At least that time we actually could reach our destination, in contrast to the many times this winter I’ve had to cancel interviews because the blizzards made travel from Point A to Point B impossible. I joke that a sure sign that a blizzard will hit on a certain day is planning an interview.

I acknowledge that the travel delays and interview cancellations aren’t major problems in the big picture of life. However, they are irksome and one more reason that I’m looking forward to spring.

Besides the March 20 calendar date that heralds the first day of spring, there are other signs that point to its pending arrival and which improve my winter-weary spirits. Farmers are advertising in Agweek for labor for the upcoming production season, high school track and field practice is underway, and stores are featuring sales on swimwear, T-shirts and shorts.

Outdoors, though it’s hard to see them beyond the piles of snow that obscure my vision and only in the single digits above zero, the sun’s rays are warm enough to melt the icicles on the side of our overhanging roof. Meanwhile, the sun is rising earlier and setting later.

The added light definitely is a day brightener for me. Even when it’s cold, I enjoy going outside and walking around the farmstead or down the road. Now, I can eat supper and still have time to get outside before dark.

As time passes, I’ll look for other signs, some welcomed, others not. I’ll be happy when I see the first geese flying overhead and swans swimming in field ponds, but disheartened if the ground under our basement can’t absorb the water and it pools in our basement. After the snow melts off of our garden, I’ll enjoy seeing the black dirt, but won’t like trying to avoid slipping into the ditch while driving on muddy gravel roads.

I know that, especially in the northern Plains, the “real” spring — one in which the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and I’m mowing grass — could arrive as soon as six weeks or as long as two months. Last year, it was the latter, but more often, it’s the former.

Challenges ahead and all, I’m looking forward to spring whenever it arrives. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for hopeful signs.

Opinion by Ann Bailey
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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