Flowers and birds are a bit mixed up

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No matter your opinion of the late but unmourned winter — since this is a family publication we’ll not offer our thoughts — it would seem that every flowering shrub, tree, bush and even traditional spring flowers believed it was the best ever.

Maybe we’re mistaken, since the winter seemed so endless, but didn’t everything blossom at once? Of course, those teaser temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s fooled them into early bloom — and us into shorts and sleeveless tops and bare feet.

They also fooled us into replacing the storm doors with screens, into hanging summer curtains, into taking up the cozy big bathroom rug that had kept our toes and Lisa’s warm since November. A three-layer-deep pile of little rugs in front of the radiator remains because that is her place no matter the season.

And then, whammo! Down came the barn doors as the cold wind blew through. The horses’ winter coats tightened up and my nightly efforts to remove all that hair had to be curtailed. Too cold for me to work out there.

All the beautiful flowers seemed to shrivel all at once, just as they came, although my ancient lilacs handled the chill well, as did the glorious forsythia. Actually, the colder temperatures will keep them in bloom longer.

The first mowing is always kind of fun, sort of symbolic, and I even marked it on the calendar. I did everything but the side yard and could not make myself do it because it was and still is absolutely purple! Purple with violets!

Those folks who use all manner of weed killer on their lawns to keep them purely green have no idea how beautiful a carpet of violets can be. I’ll wait until they go to seed and next spring there will be even more.

As children in a long-ago time, we walked to school and our path took us through woods, which in April, were frothy with spring beauties. We would pick a bouquet for our teacher.

The delicate flowers would wilt in our hands before we got there, but the teacher always thanked us profusely and they sat in a glass of water on her desk all day.

I have spring beauties now, spreading beneath the birch tree, and they so remind me of those days.

Now to the birds of spring. I had almost given up on the barn swallows. They were “due” on the 22nd and I watched and listened in vain for three days. Finally, one whirled through on the 25th, and although more have arrived, they haven’t yet set up housekeeping.

But they alight on the same wire as always and seem to feel right at home.

The perky catbird was four days early, showing up on the back porch on the 27th. Last week, I hung the wren house in its usual tree and sure enough this morning, the 29th, I heard that bubbly song. He, too, was two days late.

Certainly the peculiar and often dangerous weather in other parts of the country has contributed to the schedule changes.

Poor little Toby has had to undergo a complete lifestyle change and is most unhappy about it. I tell him it hurts me more than it hurts him. I’m sure he doesn’t believe me, but it’s true.

Because it his tendency to founder, which is the cause of his hoof abscesses and horrific periods of lameness, plus his tendency to overweight, plus his tendency to eat everything in sight all day and all night, he has to wear what is called a grazing muzzle.

This torture device is like a halter and muzzle combined, and in the bottom of the muzzle is a small hole through which he is able to pluck only a few blades of grass at a time.

Spring grass is full of sugar and some horses like Toby simply can’t handle it. I was told it is like turning a diabetic person loose in a candy store.

Dear old Apache has never had the problem, thank goodness, and when he first saw Toby with this “thing” on, he chased him all over the pasture. Now they are both used to it, and already Toby looks trimmer, which bothers me, as I have loved his chubby persona, and he is actually depressed, which bothers me more.

Opening his gate the other morning to enter his stall and let him out, the gate would barely move and I couldn’t figure out why — until I looked at the bottom and a baby rabbit had tried to crawl under it and was stuck!

Every time I tried to move it he would shriek and with Winnie standing by, I prayed he’d squirm his way loose. At last he did and went hopping out the outside door.

The next morning, Winnie kept circling the bin where I keep the horse feed and would not be convinced there was nothing there. Because of the previous adventure, I put her in the house before investigating with a flashlight and sure enough, there was another much smaller baby rabbit.

Rather than picking it up, I upturned a small plastic container over it and slowly scooted it to the open door. When I took the container off, the terrified youngster disappeared in the myrtle, no doubt thanking his lucky stars.

On the economy: since I am not a sports fan, my idea for reducing the cost of gasoline will not be a popular one and I may be tarred and feathered for even thinking it.

How about canceling automobile racing for even one month? Can you imagine the gallons saved for those of us for whom transportation is a necessity?

Suggestion: plagued by groundhogs? Purchase good old-fashioned ammonia and sprinkle it at their entrances and exits.

One last birthday hurrah: I did indeed ride a horse on April 20 and have a picture to prove it. It was the first time I’d ridden since the November before Nahli’s death in January 2007, and I was greatly pleased.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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