Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Frog is back, spring is here

Frog is back. Spring is officially here.

He’s only a medium-size bullfrog in a water garden the size of a bathtub in our front yard. Still, as far as I’m concerned, when he shows up it’s spring.

I never know from year to year where the frogs who find our mini-pond go in the fall, or if they’ll return. Supposedly, frogs burrow down in the mud and hibernate until it’s safe to come out. I just know that a couple of years, I’ve found unlucky ones layered like leaves in the ice.

I spotted Frog’s bulbous, unblinking eyes Sunday afternoon, and was thrilled. I think there’s a smaller version of him over in the corner, too. My goal had been to clean the oak leaves out of the water while the temperature and the sun were both high. I didn’t because I didn’t want to disturb the wildlife. Maybe next weekend.

Anyway, Frog showed  himself shortly after I noticed two male goldfinches in full yellow on the sunflower feeder. We’d only had one, a scout in winter drab or maybe she was a female, about a month ago. I know lots of people have goldfinches all the time at their feeders, but we’re in the woods instead of being near their preferred tall grasses with plentiful purple bull thistles. The goldfinches only show up at the beginning of spring.

Their bright-yellow-and-black would have made a striking display with the wild redbuds behind them. The birds weren’t positioned quite right, though, and anyway, I didn’t have the good camera with me. Two of our wonderful Roanoke College interns were sharing the camera over the weekend to get photos of Salem’s two largest Easter egg hunts.

See the Front Page in today’s issue and Page 2 for some of the cute kid photos by interns Kayla Fuller and Christine Winder. Look for more on the Salem Times-Register’s Facebook page.

There’s something about redbuds peeking magenta, the chartreuse of new hardwood leaves and different tiny weed wildflowers in the grass that renews my spirit. This year it looks as though the redbuds in full bloom will beat the wild dogwood by a few days, so we’ll miss the juxtaposition of them together.

It’s not a good year for most of the forest dogwoods so far. I only pray that the dogwood disease that’s affecting so many will play itself out, and new, resistant ones will take their place among the hardwoods.

Usually by now, I’m picking purple violets and white violets to put in salads, and potting some of the wild ones to sell at the Salem Farmers’ Market. Most won’t be showing color in time for Easter, though.

Asparagus grower Nan Gray in the Newport area of Craig County told me this week her local mountain asparagus wouldn’t be ready for Passover, which started Tuesday, and Easter this Sunday. It’s just been too chilly for the tender vegetables to get excited about popping out of the ground. Soon, though. She’s estimating April 24, or three weeks after the last snow.

And a friend who will remain anonymous at her request has sent pictures of the first morels, known locally as “merkels” or “miracles.” Those spongy brown and definitely tasty mushrooms are a much-prized sign of spring.

Now, go out and appreciate a redbud before the leaves come out!

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