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Barred owl

The barred owl contributes to the cacophony of sounds that signal the start of spring.

March is the traditional beginning of the farmer’s year in the northern hemisphere.

This far north, the reason is obvious. The sun is high enough in the sky and the days are long enough that things can’t help warming up and stirring.

The sap is running in the maples. New birds are showing up every day.

And in the past week here in Lynwood, the goats have presented us with four new pairs of kids.

Between the bleating of the babies and baaing of the mommies, it sounds like a traffic jam on 42nd street.

I know. I used to drive a delivery truck in New York City.

Now, combine that cacophony with the barred owl, who has been saying “Who cooks for you!” for three-quarters of every night, the neighbor’s herd of dogs who, now that it is warming, bark like lunatics for half the night and half the day, the pulp trucks rumbling by starting at 4 in the morning, the chickens crowing, clucking and chasing each other around all morning long, and boy unit’s “hellish music” in the evening, and you’ve come to just the right place to lose your ever-loving mind.

Although, it’s not really that bad, usually.

That thing about hellish music is something that my childhood friend’s father, Latsy, who was an opera coach from the old country, would yell at the approximation of rock and roll music we were trying to make. “Stop that hellish music!” he’d shout.

It is just that winter is the quietest time of year, even with the early-morning crowing of the roosters, the late-night song of the saw whet owl, and the hoots of a few others.

Now everything is stirring, yearning and beginning to reassert itself all at once, and you can hear it.

In the winter, the owls are the ones who remind us that there is still a lot going on out there. They punctuate the silence just enough to let us know how quiet it is.

The increasing intensity and length of daylight and warmth has allowed us to remove the curtain from the big back window.

That means that these seeds that keep getting delivered in big envelopes will get a good start on a table that basks in the sunlight there.

A bucket of potting mix has been moistened, some growing containers are ready, and if we can keep the mouse away, we will soon have lots of sprouts.

As far as I know, sprouts aren’t all that noisy, and maybe that’s why the garden is my favorite spot in the summer, because plants are pretty quiet as adults as well.

Be that as it may, I am as guilty of the early spring noise-making as anyone else.

I am moving stuff, mostly compost stuff, around with my little tractor. I have run the chain saw a few times. And I have even been running the wood splitter.

Luckily, last year I put an all new exhaust system on my truck, so that is not making as much noise as it might while I drive around the block or to the school to deliver and pick up the scarecrow in this year’s musical.

I guess that means more “hellish music” to come, as nature and man wake up from their winter’s nap.

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, betwixt the chairs of nature’s orchestra. You can leave him a message at


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