Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Kate Crowley
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Going Nature's Way


April can be a difficult month, because we have so many expectations for it. It is a month that is a mix of anticipation requiring great amounts of patience. It is also a month of discoveries, as the newly exposed ground reveals dog toys and dog doodoo – both that need to be picked up. Here, on the sand plain, it is a month with no small amount of anxiety. This is the time when the ground dries out and grass fires become a regular occurrence throughout the county. Ever since the peat fire in 1987 that started in Willow River, I have been more conscious of the potential fire hazard that exists in our front yard. It is a tall grass prairie and though the grasses are now flattened, they are highly flammable when dried out. Most years we just live with hopes that the rains will come and douse the fire danger, but some years we take preemptive action and burn part of it ourselves. This is in fact a good way to manage and fertilize the prairie.

In April, the garden catalogs pile up on kitchen tables as gardeners of all abilities page through these beautiful displays of wished for vegetables and fruits. Our imaginations fill the raised beds long before we actually put any seeds or plants into them. It is an adult version of the Sears catalog that we poured over as children, dreaming of the toys we were sure Santa would bring us. This ritual is long gone and one that our children and grandchildren never got to enjoy. But if all goes well through the generations, they too will one day find themselves engrossed in the annual ritual of planning the new year’s garden.

I don’t think I’m alone when it comes to the temptation of pots of pansies that appear at various store fronts. The snow is gone, so our desire to see green and other colors is intense. Even as our climate is changing and warming, we really can’t count on frost free nights until well into May. There may still be some flurries that fall in April, though the days when temperatures reach the 60s only reinforce our urges to plant. Patience, patience and more patience is the command we must give ourselves.

Better that we focus on the birds that are returning to our region. At the beginning of the month it is a gradual realization that Red-winged Blackbirds and American Robins are back. Their cheerful songs are the ringtones of springtime. As we move into the middle of the month, the earliest of the Warblers (Yellow-rumped) and Sparrows (Chipping) will appear in some of our yards. You might even hear the call of a Loon in flight as the vanguard of this species looks for open water and good nesting territory. This is when some of the first frog songs will also be heard as the ponds, now ice free, begin to warm up. By the third week of April, some people will see Tree Swallows and Purple Martins fly around the nest boxes designed just for them.

Speaking of nest boxes - now is the time to open the ones that have been closed and clean out any old nests or nests made by mice over the winter. If the opening of the nest box has been chewed by the rodents, you may need to make a new door with the appropriate size opening for the species you’re trying to attract. Then you can sit back and see who comes to investigate the local real estate.

I guess it’s best to keep our expectations low for the month of April and then we can be happily surprised by the beautiful spring-like days that will appear, but not be depressed when winter-like days pop up. The sun and the calendar are in our favor, so take a deep breath and live in the moment.


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