The romance of spring

Romance is in the air.


Love children of cottonwood trees float forlornly down the valley, parentally abandoned, carried wayward by each breeze, then dumped on the doorstep of anyone who will have them. I guess the trees believe in tough love, because they follow not their offspring, nor do they take them to baseball practice or ballet. They show up at everything just the same, tumbling on the wind willy-nilly, clustered like kids on a kindergarten outing. They pile up like dust bunnies wherever they stop and get busy sprouting ASAP.

One took root several years ago in a pot of wild yellow irises in the center of the garden pond. Still a slender sapling with only a hand span of leaves, it thrives, no matter how harsh the weather. A few more lodged down at the intersection of the driveway, whence they must be removed pretty soon. They are lovely things, with sweetly pattering leaves, rustled and riffled by each passing breeze. I'll miss them, but they love to reach out to touch passing traffic and cottonwood trees are hard on paint jobs.

Fruits of dandelion assignations float about in much the same manner, though they are peripatetically singular rather than clumpy like the cottonwood seed. I wonder if young folks still send them puffing, with warm, sweet kid breath, bright-eyed in wonder, as they bob and weave away.

The spicy clove scent of the apple blossoms is fading now as they fall like feathers, carpeting the ground beneath the trees like some late snow, tinged with tree-heart pink. There is, I think, a great deal more romance in the clouds of luscious flowers than in the little green marbles that well-loved trees soon brandish, but come fall, they will be just as sweet and even more welcome.

As the apples are passing their best, the seductive fragrance of lilac love sweetens every breath you take. Bees make a note; there is romance all around you. Paris in springtime has nothing on a lilac grove.

Then as the purples and pinks fade and fall, leaving knobby green seed heads in their wake, the locust trees and the river bank grapes send their wild, sweet, love call off on the wind. Those are the best days, when every walk to the barn, every trip to the garden, every patrol with the old dog, is made perfect just by breathing.

But then there are those dratted pigeons, filling the eaves of the cow barn with nest building clutter, and cooing up a storm. The males fluff and puff and parade and chortle and think they are surely hot stuff. Ours seem to change each week, sometimes a couple of almost black ones sail around like kites that slipped their strings; a few days later, spotted white ones arrive to quarrel and complain about the accommodations. They are all consumed with thoughts of love and noisy with it dawn to dusk. Is there anything uglier than a baby squab? Nah, I don't think so.

Taken suddenly slender, a barn cat strolls by, smug with her amazing secret, the result of a recent romantic interlude that she has hidden somewhere away. We knew that darned gray tom from elsewhere in the neighborhood was up to something when he showed up six weeks or so ago. And now we suspect that another few weeks will provide us with more tangible results, tumbling up and down the mangers and getting underfoot. For now though, Miss Catriona, or maybe we should call her Missus these days, keeps herself to herself and those hidden kittens that way, too.

Romance is no stranger to the farmhouse either. As the rhubarb in the old garden patch slowly shakes off the doldrums of winter, unfurling banners of lush and succulent green, the farm wife heads out with knife and grocery bag. I was raised to pull the slippery, squeaking stalks rather than cut them, and then to trim the ends and leaves away and lay them under the plants as mulch and fertilizer. It seems to work, as the patch looks better this year than ever.

Though rhubarb is perhaps the sourest substance known to man, or to child running through the garden, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and a few other such ingredients do stupendous magic. Rhubarb crisp soon bubbles and pops and turns crunchy brown in the oven. Not long later the hordes descend, and mom is the most popular person on the farm. Of course it's only cupboard love, but these days I take what I can get.

Though there isn't much glamour in flat tires on tractors, calving cows with designs on jumping the gate and heading for the high country, or the whole crew getting sick with some sort of late-spring plague, the romance of springtime in the country is simply irresistible. From the green carpet on the hillside to dramatic sunrises that come earlier each day, and tranquil sunsets that ring with the late day songs of robins and orioles, it is a great time to be alive.

It's also a great time to help us name a new calf. Her mama's name is Asaki. About five years ago, we had a name the calf contest for her and the winner suggested that if we used that name we could introduce her as, "my cow, Asaki." She is now one of our best and most favorite cows, a sunny, little, red-and-white Holstein. Her calf this year was sired by our old milking shorthorn bull, Checkerboard's Magnum Promise. Baby is bright mahogany red, with random splashes of white on her back, legs and face. Suggestions so far include Iris, Asagi, Arlo, and Abunga, as in, "this is my cow, Abunga."

I encourage you to send suggestions via email to We will eventually pull a name out of our trusty naming hat and should your name be chosen it will be announced here and put right on the baby's registration paper as well. Thanks.

Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS

is a regular columnist. She blogs