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It’s been nice to listen to the birds singing. Last weekend, the dog and I were sitting in a parking lot, waiting for a bus to arrive, and some bird was singing a beautiful song from a little tree.

Dog Unit couldn’t get enough of it. She tilted her head and stared and listened. It really was a beautiful little aria.

All winter we have been hearing the chickadees, nuthatches, juncos and owls. This songbird, whoever it was, was not here for the winter. Its song sounded as luxurious as the tropics it had recently arrived from.

The only winter rival, the only one who really would catch Dog Unit’s ear, was the barred owl. But her vocalizations are more of a call than a song. And if it’s a song, she sings of the winter and the long darkness.

Still at night, Dog Unit would sit by the window staring into the dark, listening to that eerie call.

The owls are stealthy hunters and warriors, intelligent and solitary in the winter.

The songbirds of spring come with renewed growth and life, gathering the bounty of nature and seemingly rejoicing in it.

For all the spring tidings, Dog Unit and I are not walking deeply into the woods. The snow is still deep enough to hinder travel, although bounding through it doesn’t seem to bother the dog at all.

The amazing thing is we are still collecting sap. There is no sign of a bud run yet. The syrup is finishing up as a light amber, the kind most people favor. My father favors the darker syrup of the late sugar season.

This would normally be the late season. In the 30 years we have made maple syrup up here, we have never kept going after April 15, the tax day deadline.

Perhaps this year we will.

I would like to get the whole thing done mostly so I can start getting fences in good repair.

The goats want open ground. They can see it on the other side of the road. Right now, except for near constant vigilance in the afternoon, it is difficult to keep them from running across in a great herd.

I am going to move the whole crew up the hill and further away from this road, because things are out of hand. I’m fairly sure this is what happens with goats, because all who have kept them sympathize.

Spring is always difficult with livestock. They are just as sick of winter and snow and ice as we are.

I don’t want to go through this ever again, however. If I can’t manage to keep my fences goat-proof year-round, I’m going to rethink keeping and milking goats, no matter how satisfying it can be.

When the snow clears, I will be able to keep the electric fences in repair, and all other fencing for that matter. It won’t take long to accomplish.

The transition to spring is still taking place on the edges, though. I did turn the soil on the edge of a garden next to the stone wall. There was no frost, and the top soil, built for nearly three decades, was three feet deep.

Thus gardening begins, the birds sing and spring continues her journey from the tropics to our warming land.

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley. You can leave him a message at


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