Crocus, Frogs, and Bees! Oh My!

First Crocus
AHHHHH! The first crocus! The first sounds of frogs! The trumpeter swans returning – and the obvious increased chatter of everything from songbirds to eagles calling to each other across the fields! What a difference a month can make! The longer daylight hours are quite noticeable and much appreciated. We work between systems that roll in off the coast to get our winter pruning and cleanups done. Those of us in the Pacific Northwest, admittedly spoiled compared with our buried-under-snow Nor’easter counterparts, know that here, the weeds never sleep. The grasses are wide awake and taking full advantage of the jump-start they get before the perennials peek out to see whether it’s warm yet. It doesn’t take long before the weeds are forming seeds, so anything we can do now to curb that dispersal will save us a whole lot of work later on – maybe even years of work (a frightening thought at my age!).

But truly, sometimes we just have to sit back and take note of the beauty around us. We always know it is a beautiful day when the bees are out – and today was one of those days. And what’s this??? They are bringing back pollen! So wonderful to see them waddling into the hives with their hind legs packed with the golden dust!

Where are they finding it? Alders? Maples? Firs? I am not seeing dandelions yet. However, we ARE seeing the catkins on the Hazels. Love the way they dangle in the breeze, almost luminescent in the sun! We are also seeing the Purple Deadnettle, which will soon be taking over some areas of the garden. Even though I am eager to plant other things, I am always reluctant to pull them because the bumblebees are so appreciative of this early season food source. Also already quite abundant: chickweed – a nutritional powerhouse and something we have been able to wild harvest and add to salads all month. We could add them to soups, too, but I really feel they are at their best when they are fresh, crunchy, and oh-so-succulent right at a time when you are craving something other than kale! The leaves on the willows are starting to emerge; and I see cardoon, artichokes, hollyhocks, daylilies, Cornelian cherries – and need we say – GARLIC! – already showing early leaves.

Is it earlier than usual? Are we having a flip-flop in the weather that is a harbinger of drought and pestilence in the months to come? The snowpack is alarmingly low, but it is still the end of January. I am hoping a cold snap doesn’t bring an early end to those that emerge too soon; heavy frost-covered fields in the mornings, a cold wind from off the water in the afternoons, and a still-early sunset are sharp reminders that we are still in the midst of winter, and in their own way, are life-saving.

Farewell, January. Thank you, Mother Nature, for this sunny break that has brought us all a few smiles.

(And I am so thankful the garlic made it through the winter so far!)

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