April is supposed to be the harbinger of spring, with the first shoots of the perennial bulbs and plants peeking through the soil and the shrubs and bushes begin to show a little green along the edges of the buds that formed late last fall.

As I write this column, it’s Mid-February. I have my doubts that this is the plan for Mother Nature this year in my neck of the woods. I can’t even see the garden spot as the snow is almost waist deep yet and the greenhouse door has a huge snowdrift halfway up.

We have been blessed with an abundance of snow this winter, and if it isn’t almost waist deep around the buildings. In places the snow has been scraped away there is solid ice. I have had ice cleats on the bottoms of my barn boots for the last eight years and won’t set foot outdoors without them unless the ground is completely bare.

I know from personal experience that I ‘break’ when I hit the ground.

Someone remarked ice cleats are expensive. That depends on your point of view. I paid $25 for my ice cleats and they lasted for 8 years, which equals out to a little over $3 per year. When I compare $3 to the cost of a broken back, arm or leg, a lengthy hospital stay, surgery, therapy and all the other expense associated with a broken bone, I think my ice cleats were pretty cheap.

When I went to the chicken house a little while ago, I startled over a half-dozen deer out in front of the house near the grain bins. They are eating the kernels of corn remaining on the ground after the last grinding.  We also have an abundance of other wildlife as well. We have 40 to 50 wild turkeys pass through the yard each day looking for something to eat.

I don’t usually see so many wild critters around the house, but the snow is so deep I think they are having some trouble finding food. The rabbits sort of nibble around the edges of the plum and chokecherry bushes, and they don’t seem to be afraid of me. I talk to them as I walk, so they know I’m approaching. Most of the time they just move off to one side instead of running away.

We also have an abundance of coyotes lurking around. I hear them howling during the night (the coyote chorus). I’m worried about calving time and the new babies, vulnerable to a coyote kill.

Last week several flocks of cranes and a couple large flocks of geese were heading north to their summer nesting grounds. Mother Nature is starting to move critters around again. In spite of the lousy weather, life goes on.

I have decided to let the greenhouse sit empty for a couple more weeks. I have a big woodpile, thanks to a group of college boys. I also have a pile of new seed catalogs to look over. I don’t buy many, but I always like to look and see what is new and maybe even try a couple of different things. My garden isn’t nearly as big as it was when I was feeding a bunch of people, but I still enjoy growing things.

Last year, I was all set to plant sweet corn and a neighbor came over and ran the tiller through the big patch for me. I let it set for a few days and then went out with the seed packets, only to find the ground covered with tiny, freshly hatched grasshoppers. I put the corn seed away in hopes this year will be better.

Maybe the snow will take care of the ‘hoppers this year.  I had thousands of grasshoppers in that patch all summer and the pests even took the leaves off the trees. I’m hopeful the rhubarb and asparagus survived the moving mass – only time will tell.

I live on the edge of the badlands, so I can’t set plants out until the end of May. This is a good time to plan some maintenance projects in the house. Caulking cracks in the cement in the basement and painting on a coat of water sealant is a good project to tackle right now. I started this project last fall until an invasion of houseflies took refuge inside for winter. I applied a coat of paint on around 8 feet of the wall and headed upstairs for coffee break. When I want back downstairs, the wall looked like it had been sprayed with peppercorns.  Thousands of flies were stuck in the wet paint. I let the paint dry and used a wire brush to knock the ‘remains’ off the wall.

Wouldn’t life be dull if it weren’t for surprises?


Tips for April

Chair Ease
A gentleman from church told us his wife was having difficulty maneuvering the lever on her reclining chair. His solution? A piece of PVC pipe slipped over the lever. The pipe made the lever longer, which gave his wife, who is very small and has back problems, enough leverage to move the footrest up and down. The PVC piping cost him nothing since he already had it.
(tip submitted by JS, SD)

Free Grease For Baking
Save butter wrappers in the freezer. When you need to grease a pan, just grab a wrapper from the freezer. Works great!
(tip submitted by JP, FL)

Easy Nail Polish Clean Up
If you spill nail polish on the table or the floor, just pour some sugar over it and let it set a few minutes. The sugar clumps the polish so you can just sweep it up.
(tip submitted by JW, SD)

Put a pencil eraser on the end of a corsage pin so it won’t slip out of place. You can easily cut one off of a pencil with a kitchen knife.
(tip submitted by TP, NE)

Recycled Plastic Kiddie Pool
If your kids have a plastic kiddie pool that has developed a leak, just fill it with sand and add some toys from the kitchen, such as spoons and old bowls.  The kids have a blast playing pretend ‘cooking’ and it doesn’t cost a thing – and you did some recycling too.
(tip submitted by BW, NE)

Entertaining Baby
When the baby is fussy and cranky – tired, teething, etc. –  put them front of a large mirror to view themselves. Yes, they get handprints and slobber all over the mirror, but it really keeps them busy trying to play with that ‘other baby’.
(tip submitted by OT, IA)

Ease the Burn
If you get splattered with hot grease, use some vanilla extract straight from the bottle, dabbed on the site of the burn. It takes away the pain and doesn’t hurt a bit.
(tip submitted by GF, MN)