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February offers false promises of spring.

Despite the cold, signs of spring apparent

February warm spells just a tease

Signs of spring begin a tenuous, tantalizing procession in early February. Temperatures the past few days pushed into the mid-60s in northeast Tennessee, a blessed occurrence following last week’s Polar Vortex that pushed the thermometer to single digits and me to write my annual complaint against cold weather.

I know these balmy winter days will vanish as surely and as swiftly as the last vestiges of last week’s snowfall seeped into the soil and trickled into the stream that runs through the pasture behind our house.

Those who believe in the prophetic powers of groundhogs rejoice that the visionary rodents in both Philadelphia and New York predict an early spring. I tend to rely on science and nothing I’ve heard or read tends to support any notion that these spring-like days will last more than a week or so. In fact, latest report I saw indicated a return to sub-freezing temperatures by the weekend.

I see other signs, however. A pair of bluebirds are taking stock of the house we installed in the backyard last year. The brightly-hued male goes first, apparently to make certain no danger lurks inside before the modestly dressed female enters. I find it interesting that the male mostly just stuck his head in, took a quick peek and backed out. The lady was more thorough in her inspection. She disappeared into the tiny apartment for several minutes, and I could imagine her turning this way and that, inspecting the corners, the cleanliness, the suitability for raising children.

A rain shower this morning smelled like spring rain. I can’t describe the difference adequately but noted a subtly different bouquet.

Buds are popping out on the lavender bushes near the back patio; the pear tree also shows maroon buds beginning to break. A few hardy pansies are showing some color.

Finally, calving season is well under way in the pasture visible from our back deck. The past two weeks we’ve seen spindly-legged black calves transform into energetic playmates, chasing each other across the hillside. And we hear the warning mooing of a concerned mama cow when her frolicsome offspring wanders too far.

I’ve counted five calves so far and see several cows that can’t be far from giving birth. I think I recall a dozen or so new calves from this small herd last spring.

I also know farmers across the Sunbelt are anticipating another planting season, completing purchase of seed, fertilizer and early season chemicals; they are performing final maintenance on planters, sprayers and tractors. Many are working their books, looking for opportunities that offer a tad better chance of making a profit. And some — too many — are still working with lenders to secure funding for one more crop.

Spring, a season of change, of some anxiety, and hope that this crop may be the best one ever.

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