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In to the Wind

April 4, 2013
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

When the snow melts, and the frost is still in the ground, the rural roads, and my lane become a layer of grease on top of frozen ground. The amount of snow melt, and rain, dictates how think that layer of grease becomes.

I am here to tell you that layer has been pretty darn thick the past couple weeks. I tell visitors here you can't be timid, and have to commit to make it up the hill on my lane. I usually stand out on the front porch when they leave, so I can see their car pop up at the head of the lane. So far everyone has made it. The more timid have had to make a couple attempts, but they can't blame me for not warning them. "Commit!"

Sometimes it pays to step back and look at yourself as others see you. Our lane and the rural roads which must be plied to make a trip into town have been obscenely muddy these past couple weeks. The sides of my Jeep have taken on a tawny, tan road mud color of late. The wide tires and ample clearance under oversized fender flares has provided adequate room for a world class collection of Tama County road mud.

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When someone asked me why I hadn't washed all of the mud off my Jeep yet, I told them the robins had to walk on the mud three times before I washed it.

Now you have to understand that well phrased platitudes and twists on superstitions others offer are standard fare here in the hills of South Tama County. This one was a play on the old Bohemian wives' tale that the robins have to walk in the snow three times before spring arrives. This has been a minor subject of discussion lately. Desperate men will do about anything to hasten the arrival of spring this year, including invoking old Bohemian clichs mere common sense can debunk.

For what it's worth, a flock of robins landed in the yard this weekend.

Not matter how many times I stop at the car wash and attempt to rid my Jeep of the insolent mud, a walk to my Jeep, which is kept outside the garage in deference to the women in my life and their cars, muddies my shoes, and a trip into town muddies the Jeep. So here I am baring my soul, accepting the general impression I am a modern day "Pigpen" of a man. You know the Charley Brown character that always has a cloud of dirt and dust following him around? Yep, that's me!

Regarding those birds, it has been very entertaining watching the woodpeckers and sapsuckers frequenting the suet feeder this winter. You know, one of those cage like things in which you place a cake of suet? A cake lasts a couple days, and we have been buying them by the case.

The dominant bird in the timber this winter has been the woodpecker. It is an awesome sight to walk outside and see scores of them flitting around the timber, and taking turns at the feeder. A woodpecker will not tolerate another one trying to hang from that feeder at the same time. The large ones always win, but they do seem to take turns. One or more will wait on the ground until the one on the feeder has had an acceptable turn, and will then fly up to the feeder, displacing the one which has been feeding.

A pair of cardinals showed up a week or so ago. I watched as the male tried to fly up and hang from the feeder to feast on the suet. His toes just don't work the same as the woodpeckers. They are now content with hanging out on the ground and searching for the spoils dropped from the suet block above. Some of the larger woodpeckers will feed on the suet quite aggressively, and pieces fall to the ground. The cardinals share the same status as the sparrows-ground feeding.

I was standing in the kitchen yesterday. It was sunny out. All of a sudden a huge shadow blocked the sun coming in the window. When I looked outside, a flock of several hundred blackbirds was flying over the house and into the timber.

Another sign of spring to which I try to stay attuned, is the arrival of the bluebirds. My more astute readers will remember the bluebirds are the dominant bird during the summer here at Gilly Hollow. I heard my first bluebird this weekend. I didn't see it, I just heard it singing.

The raucous crows arrived this weekend with the other birds. Noisy, and demanding attention, they roosted in the trees at the edge of the timber and announced their arrival. Once I went outside and acknowledged their presence, they flew off deeper into the timber. I'm sure I will be seeing a lot more of them in the days to come.

I am confident now that spring has arrived. The lane and roads are drying out, and a couple more days of sun and warmth, and the frost will be out of the ground.

Until next time-

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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