In a little hollow corner at the southern end of the century old farmhouse doiwn in the bottom, the daffodils have begun to assemble, riding in from the country for their annual family reunion. These are short, tough flowers, stunted by decades of harsh work and parching winds, but their reappearance late each winter is the first sign we have that things will thaw -- unthaw, as they say in Guilford County -- and the world will turn green again and another winter will be behind us.
It's a good thing to know, because a few hundred feet west and a few score feet up the altitude ladder, we're still frozen in. The ice storm that was supposed to leave us no more than 1/10th of an inch of ice was more generous than Accuweather, Weather Channel, Weather Underground or NOAA ever imagined. It coated limbs and trunks and hog wire and decks with 3/4 inch of ice that somehow managed to fall off in 6- and 8-inch hollow cylinders and jagged shards of cold glass. Some has melted, but nearly 10 days after the storm, it still coats the northern approaches to the garage and surrounds the northwestern end of the barn.
On the other hand, a storm that had first been predicted to drop as much as 18 inches of wet snow somewhere in these hills gave us a break, providing barely a half-inch of frosting on the cake hereabouts while most of its fury went on to the northeast. But it left the ground hard and cold, resistant to the blade of those who want to get into the garden and turning soil. I had managed to get the batterboards set up for the new garden shed foundation the day before the ice storm; since then the only outside progress has been cutting up the winter's limbfalls and hauling them down to the burn pile. So far the size is roughly that of one of the larger Airstream trailers; it may approach three gondola cars before it's over. A good four more trailerloads are on the immediate agenda. Then there's the shed, the new fence, the tilling, the planting. Blueberry bushes need more trimming. There are stumps to cut off and grind, more logs to cut into billetts and split and stack, bulbs to fertilize, moles to fight, possums to run off.
We're burning oak that came down in the ferocious winter of 2010, so much of it that we cut the logs to stovewood lengths and stacked 'em under tarps. Now I'm just getting to the last cord of so of that three-year-old stuff, and it burns bright on a cold late-winter's night. In a day or so Daylight Savings Time returns and and the night will only seem to shorten more. We'll still have weeks ahead of cold weather -- can't forget that sub-freezing Easter season just a few years back, when the buds froze on the canes and consumed most of the blueberries before we ever saw them. But we can see little signs that this winter -- not as cold as many, not as many bad storms as some, not as much damage as often happens -- too shall pass. Just not soon enough.