Spring in the Catskills, Nothing like it!

Most folks define spring as a date on the calendar or some other thing like that. I am not one of them. I define spring by the weather, because for me, spring means I have to start shifting gears to do other things, and FAST. Just as Fall means winter preparation, spring means getting a jump on the warmer weather work because the warmer weather is when a lot of things need to be done and it is also when folks (potential or existing clients) start to think about things they need done and begin calling.

Every year for me, so far, has been different. My first winter in the business I spent almost all my time in the shop except for the things I had to do outside like snow removal, etc.. This past winter I worked outside of the shop more than I have in any recent decade I can recall. My fall ran late and I didn’t hit all the deadlines. I was behind on milling work and some of those orders are still waiting on me, so I pushed it as far as I could into December and January until it got downright unpleasant and things were freezing up as I worked. It wasn’t too long after that when I began to get mushroom log orders from the go-getters that wanted to get a jump on it. So that found me out in the woods slipping and sliding around in a foot of snow trying to fell, buck, and haul logs out without getting the machine stuck in a drift. The weather played an hourly role in my planning and sometimes I managed to get the trailer load out of the landing just as the bigger snow came in to shut me down for a few days. this winter also found me helping out on clearing storm damage trees up from that early February ice storm that shut the area down for almost a week. Working in pretty ‘unpleasant conditions’ sometimes. Just a few weeks ago, in pursuit of more logs for the ‘shroomer folks, I found myself on a logging job chasing chokers behind a skidder between sessions of bucking and stacking logs for later removal. That was fun hard work, but the 10 inch deep mud in places tended to take a bit of the ‘fun’ out of it. At the age of 66 years old I finally bought a pair of rubber chainsaw boots. At about 5 pounds a boot, I never thought I would need them, want them, or buy them, but apparently so. I can’t believe I spent 2 weeks deciding if I should get calks (spikes) on them or not, but there I was. (I chose ‘no calks’.) Size 15-1/2 to fit my size 11 feet. It’s like walking around in leaden clown boots. BUT…that’s the job.

I was always one of those guys looking out the window at work and wishing I was outside. I know everybody does that from time to time. It’s a nice warm afternoon in May and you are in your office or workplace and the lawn care folks show up and are running all around the outside of your workplace in T-shirts enjoying the 70 degree temps and sunshine. Yeah everybody wishes they were doing that then. Few folks look out the window in January when sleet and freezing rain are falling and wish they could be working outside, but that’s me. Now I have my chance and I am taking it. I can’t say it’s very pleasant to be running the sawmill when it’s 20 degrees, cloudy, and the blade lube tank keeps freezing up and I can’t feel my right foot, and the boards are freezing onto the log before I can get them off, but it’s still better than sitting in a meeting listening to people talk ad nauseum about subjects they don’t even understand and making stupid decisions you know are wrong and won’t work. Everything is relative.

Spring, here in the Catskills, is a very special time. It starts in spurts or false starts, but once it kicks in, things happen really fast. 2 weeks ago I thought it was spring and the deep cold was done, so I hooked up my rainwater collection tank because I need that water for blade lube at the sawmill. Dips into the 20’s on some nights would not hurt it as long as the daytime temps hit around 40 during the day. Well, I got fooled and we had warm weather and rain enough to top off the 350 gallon tank, then the cold came back and didn’t get above freezing for 10 days or so with many nights in the teens or less. The tank froze solid and I couldn’t even open the valve to drain some of it. I thought I might lose the tank, but it stretched enough and I got through it. Nothing broke. I think I will wait another week before I put the pump on it, freezing that pump will cost me more than I can afford. But I digress. For decades I enjoyed hiking these mountains and the wonders one could observe in spring were greater than in any other season. Hiking Slide Mountain in April in shorts and wishing you had pants and a sweater when you reached the top, where there was still ice may give you an idea. The flowers and plants are coming alive and things are happening fast. Going out for just a weekend gives you a snapshot, but not the whole story. These days I am getting more of the story and it’s pretty neat. I have time to observe.

This year, being out all winter and spending a lot of up close and personal time with the trees has allowed me to watch a portion of their cycle that I was largely unaware of. Most folks think a (deciduous) tree goes dead dormant thought the winter. Well it really doesn’t, not for long anyway. Yes, in the fall the leaves die and fall, and the sap heads for the roots, then the bark get very tight on the tree, but it’s not very long until buds begin to pop out in VERY tiny balls. The they get just a little bit thicker each week, very slowly, then they wait until the weather is just right and they really begin to swell and pop. It’s pretty dang neat to observe. The difference in the bark between January and April is also striking as the sap begins to flow back up the tree. The difference in log handling is huge between June logs and January logs, like two different species.

Likewise, all the critters change their habits, habitat, and travel routines based largely on food sources. Places where you see no wildlife in the dead of winter will be teeming with those critters come April and May. I have gotten to observe the same game trails in winter and summer and those that are barely traveled in January will be like super highways by May. In April and May doe’s begin dropping their fawns and they are great fun to see in the woods as they figure things out. Two years ago I was bucking firewood in the woods and spent about 1/2 hour watching two twin spotted fawns play and romp over each other, prancing and jumping in mock battles and chasing each other. They could not care less that I was sitting on a stump watching them. They were just killing time until Momma came back for them. Spring brings all these wonderful gifts for the observant soul.

Some folks say Spring is a time of re-birth. I think of spring as a time of awakening because all those things were always there, waiting, through the entire winter season of survival and self preservation, to become active and productive as soon as the weather will allow it. It always raises my mood on a daily basis, gives me hope of better days. allows me do to more work with less discomfort, and allows for longer working days.

All I can say is, I am very happy that once again, Spring is here!

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