This past autumn was very weird indeed. The leaves turned colour on one side of a lot of trees, and there was a lot of very bright, but almost translucent yellow. In the evening sun the trees that line the next street over seemed to have their own internal light source. It was eerily beautiful. A lot of trees turned a kind of soft brown, like milky tea, and the leaves stayed on all winter.
I love winter. I am mostly fine with the cold, and it can be very cold, although it seems less cold than the winters of my childhood. I remember long stretches of -20 and -30 and -40 were not unusual at all. I can't remember the last time it was -40. We did have a few intermittent weeks of nearly -30 this year. If it is cold it is usually sunny and bright, and if it is not, we can have everything covered in a glittering coat of hoarfrost, which is really beautiful, even if I never do seem to get a picture of it. But winters can be long, sometimes getting underway early in October and lasting until April. And we are all tired of it by then, no matter how much we like to ski or snowshoe.
Spring some years makes the winter worth it. Some years it is spectacularly colourful and fragrant. Two years ago it even drowned out the smell of the pulp mills. Instead of sulphur, you smelled apple blossom when you went outside. I don't remember that ever happening before.
This year winter and spring are having a hell of a good time with us. Spring has started two or three times already. Four weeks ago we went out to my parents and shovelled 3 feet of snow off the north side of their roof. It had been melting at the top, but the melt water was cooling and freezing by the time it got to the north overhang. Under the 3 feet of snow was a 12 inch ice dam. Three weeks ago we had 3 feet of snow in the yard, and then the temperature rose to 11 or 12 and the snow receded a foot from the edge of the sidewalks. Then it snowed for 3 days. Back and forth for three weeks. Yesterday I had a tenacious little bump of snow around the trees in the front yard and bare lawn. My vegetable gardens are completely bare and begging to be tidied up. This morning I opened the door for the cat. He saw this:
He gave me a look and a noise that I am quite certain was, "WTF?" and went back to bed.
Two weeks ago we started the tomatoes, which look like this this morning:
I don't suppose they are going outside in any hurry.
One of my favourite harbingers of spring are the Seville oranges that turn up in the grocery store. My grandmother always made marmalade in the spring, and my mom does too, occasionally. I made marmalade once a few years ago. Its a big job. Slicing all that fruit nice and thin takes a long time, and a Seville orange has nearly as much mass in seeds as in peel. It needs to be soaked, then reduced, then mixed with sugar and cooked. Nothing much happens in the cooking for more than half an hour, the whole thing is just reducing. But after 35-40 minutes or so, the caramelizing is obvious, and if you don't watch it it gets too dark and rubbery. That was my first batch. I still thought it was delicious, even if it was overcooked. This year I spent nearly 2 days on a whole batch. I'm happy with it.
Just as the first of our short warm spells started, I finished these
plus a second pair of the striped gloves for my mom, and we all laughed that it was good I was finishing up the gloves and mittens just in time to put them away for the year. I guess winter got the last laugh on that one.
I know the first day of spring is in March, but it is almost never "spring" here then. Today is my parent's wedding anniversary (50 years!) and in the 36 years they have lived in their current house, this is one of only 3 years that the snow is not gone entirely from their front yard by their anniversary. This day is always the beginning of spring for me. Have a happy one.