The sun is racing to beat me out of bed in the mornings, a sure sign that spring is hovering around the corner.
Other signs are cropping up as well.
The kids are riding their bikes until dusk and coming into the house with jeans so caked with mud that they barely bend at the knees.
My memory has a temporary lapse as I forget about hot July winds and look optimistically at the seed catalogs, mentally designing my garden and flower beds.
The neighborhood sheep are white once again, a year’s worth of dingy wool shorn off in anticipation of lambing. I slow down as I drive by their pasture. My mind wanders back to a childhood of springs spent searching for newborns in the corral, holding slimy legs in my hands and hoisting them to the barn with a bleating new mama following close behind.
Snowbanks wear a coat of dirt blown across them with the inevitable wind of spring. Every third day the wind changes, bringing a temperature change of 40 degrees in either direction on the thermometer. Rain one day gives way to snow the next, but the wind is reliable.
The sunshine gains intensity until it actually warms the soul, and its permeating rays bring a sense of peace that counteracts the sense of urgency that spring brings to the farm. As the snowbanks recede and the fenceposts lean, the softening of the soil beckons the farmer away from the livestock and into the fields.
Calves buck their way to the top of the manure pile, daring their cohorts to push their way to the top and challenge the king. Their mothers, once expressing a snorting concern over this boisterous behavior, are now too preoccupied with finding a hint of green pushing up through the bleached remnants of last year’s grass.
A quick glance out the window has me wondering about the gestation period of barn cats.
Flyers for auction sales, chemical representative meetings, and bull sales fill the mailbox. Swimsuit catalogs remind me how glad I am that my kids have all graduated from the Moms and Tots swimming class and can go in the pool unassisted. The local co-op is advertising branding supplies, and the coffee shop is abuzz with speculation about who will put down the first seed of the season.
The five-year-old asks for an empty jar and returns to the house triumphantly displaying the first captive beetle of the year.
The savory soups of winter lunches give way to crisp lettuce salads and grilled steaks.
Firing up the barbecue grill elicits questions from the kids about when we can go camping. Other moms start inquiring about a convenient time to have the Little League planning meeting, and the kids are humming the music they will perform at the spring concert at school.
And then one day, when the signs of spring have been converging over a period of a week or two, I look out the window and see snow flying by. Sideways.
Over cups of hot chocolate, we watch the temperature dip below zero again, and we reminisce about yesterday when the kids emerged from the school bus without their coats.
The surest sign of spring for me is the current state of my porch. Snowboots lie in a tangle with mudboots. Snowpants are heaped on top of sweatshirts, and winter parkas comingle with windbreakers. Baseball caps are hanging next to fleece hats, and amidst it all is a melting pile of snow, a hunk of muddy manure, and a dirty calf bottle.
Spring is here.