Filed Under (my country home, rural life, rural living) by admin on 06-03-2008

Only two days ago, four inches of snow covered most of the secrets in my yard.  With the snow gone, a couple of unfinished jobs have become apparent, and the first flowers of the year have appeared.

Two days of rain nearly melted off all the snow. It also revealed secrets: reminders that last fall, I left some projects for the spring. With the snow off the lawn, I see the grass is quite long. My son had stopped mowing in the fall when a cable popped loose on my mower. I’ll need to get that fixed before the turf thaws.

I see that both garden hoses still slither through the grass—well-entwined no doubt because we rolled them out after the last mowing, and left them as the grass grew over them. Oddly, a spray nozzle sits on the grass rather than in it, and I wonder if I had taken the nozzle off and tossed it aside when I gave the dog her last bath of the season.

The leaf pile my kids raked together in the fall has become a massive dead spot on the front lawn. Believe it or not, I wanted the leaves to kill the grass there—I plan to plant Zoysia this spring (a patch I planted three years ago now lives up to the claims in advertisements), and it’ll be easier to cut the plugs into bare ground than it is to cut them in through growing grass.

I’m not surprised to find other items kicking about the yard: there are a few lawn chairs, a jump rope embedded in the lawn even deeper than the garden hoses, a spool that’s supposed to hold one of the hoses, many golf balls frozen in puddles left by the rain, and a basketball half-covered by the forsythia bushes.

Just two days ago, the entire yard was beneath four inches of snow. Today, there are puddles standing on frozen turf. Until the sun struck them, those puddles were iced over. Still, there are daffodil sprouts in the garden, and on the south side of the house, one crocus blossom peaks out from under the leaves. Yard work has become inevitable.

I get no pleasure from doing yard work, but I stumble through the minimal to keep my neighbors from complaining. I did some serious rationalization and procrastination in the fall, and winter snows hid my secrets. The thaw has laid them bare.

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Filed Under (rural life, rural living) by admin on 05-03-2008

A small creek runs through Lewisburg’s most elaborate park—the bridge in the photo spans the creek’s normal width. On dry, warm days, the playground area is busy with preschoolers, and you might find folks playing basketball and tennis. When we have enough rain, much of the park goes under, and the township closes nearby roads. Ducks enjoy the park under any conditions.

Yesterday’s flood watch stretched into this afternoon. The rain finally stopped overnight, but flooding often follows hours after the last raindrop. This thawing rain proves it. By the time people headed into work this morning, low-lying roads were closed all over central Pennsylvania, but flooding rivers and streams won’t crest until tomorrow.

Floods turn so many of us into gawkers. Most days, the local rivers and streams look lazy; you can wade safely in many of them. How cool it is, then, when 24 hours’ rain and accelerated snow-melt turn them into raging rapids. On these days, “river watchers” take up posts where they can see the water rise. Today, they reported the Susquehanna River deepening by a foot every hour.

In the aftermath of a hurricane when I lived in Boston, I once saw a car nearly submerged in an underpass that had filled with water. Amazingly, that’s the worst flooding I ever saw there. The sewer system in the city must be sensational to provide drainage for even modest rain storms… there’s almost no place for water to soak in in a city, so if there weren’t massive powerful rivers underground, the streets would often be under water.

I noticed an odd change in my basement office today: the floor is so cold that it seems to radiate coldness. The floor is never warm, but neither has it ever been cold as it is now. I guess the rain and snow melt have raised the water table to my house’s cement slab, and they’re acting as coolant. All winter, socks have kept my feet warm in here, but today I’m wearing shoes as well and my feet are still cold. It’s a minor inconvenience when I consider the hours that commuters have lost due to closed roads, and the aggravation many of my neighbors will experience as the water recedes and leaves their homes and businesses soaked and muddy.

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Filed Under (rural life, rural living) by admin on 04-03-2008

Water gathers on the edge of the shingles before dripping into the rain gutter. Dark skies and the sound of rain on the roof sometimes make me envy my dog’s schedule: up at dawn, and back to bed an hour later.

When the weather service announces a flood watch, it’s likely there’s going to be rain. Lewisburg sits in a river valley, so we can see flooding even when the rain falls elsewhere. Today’s flood watch, however, has come with a dark, overcast sky and a steady cold rain.

When I’ve grown weary of winter, a dreary rainy day can actually raise my spirits. While there are several reasons, one really stands out: If it’s raining, chances are the snow is melting.

As long as the field across from my house is covered with snow, winter is in charge. There’s no planting the spring garden (lettuce, spinach, peas, and some herbs don’t mind cold, but you can’t work the soil when it’s under a blanket of snow); there’s no soccer on the grass; there’s no golf.

Around here, the snow is usually gone by early March… and I’m poised to bolt for the outdoors. But late-winter snow—and rain melting it away—means lots of early-spring mud. So, while the rain melts the snow and raises my spirits, at least this year my favorite outdoor activities seem destined to start late.

In the meantime, the flood watch does provide entertainment. Ponds will appear where there usually are none. Drainage ditches that are dry most of the year will run deep with water, or even overflow onto roads. There will be deep puddles to spray with the car’s tires into people’s yards. There will be ducks swimming in some of those yards. There will be one kid—the same one as always—wading knee-deep in the runoff when I pick my kids up at school.

Inside, the dog will seem a little cuddlier than on most days (and she’ll probably sleep more soundly)… but she’ll reach a nadir of popularity when she demands to go out—without a fenced yard, when she goes, someone must go with her.

It’s a small inconvenience; spring is almost here.

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