Exhilaration of Spring

Spring in Vermont

Spring in VermontSpring in Vermont is short lived, but its sweetness makes up for the lack of duration. I consider both spring and Autumn to be little buffers on the two main seasons in this Northern part of the country. Autumn eases us into winter, while spring eases us back out, and fills our minds with euphoric thoughts of glorious Vermont summers.

But spring isn’t just about preparing us for summer. There are many qualities inherent to this season of beginning that are unique to the few weeks it graces us with its presence. Spring gives us animal babies, the return of birds, and the emerald green grass that begins sweeping its wide brushstrokes over the mountains, valleys, pastures, farms, and rolling hills with the most vibrantly tranquil hue known to man, woman, or animal. Spring also means maple sugaring here in Vermont. Just about any property owner has at least one Sugar Maple tree ready to be tapped. For many families in Vermont, tapping trees and making a few bottles of their own syrup is a wonderful family tradition. Visitors can see (and taste) first-hand how this process works by visiting any of a number of Maple Sugaring farms throughout the state. They are easy to find, and watching the process of turning sap into syrup is both educational and fun. Plus, you’ll get to try Sugar on Snow for the first time. I am not going to tell you what it is…this is one tradition you should try for yourself.

Of course, the first few weeks of spring give us the sense that nature is a bit confused, flip-flopping between 80 degree days full of sunshine and cold afternoons dusted with snow. Thankfully, this is only the beginning of spring. By late April, the lush green hills, flowers in full bloom, and fragrant, sunny days, make thoughts of snow and winter coats seem a distant memory. Late April and the entire month of May are quite possibly my favorite time of year. The weather is usually warm and sunny, evenings are pleasantly cool (perfect sleeping weather), days are rarely stifling hot, and the bugs of summer haven’t yet descended upon us. The landscape is more beautiful than at any other time, and the pace of life seems to be peacefully relaxed. Spring is an exhilarating time to be in Vermont!

Spring has Sprung!

Spring in Vermont is a uniquely invigorating experience. We love our Vermont winters, but by the time March is coming to a close, the occasional sunny and sixty degree day, birds chirping at the break of dawn, and the much less frequent snow showers, are a welcome respite after a long, white winter. Not to mention, there isn’t much that beats spring skiing followed by deck beers at General Stark’s Pub or Castle Rock.

April can still bring snow and cold temperatures, but the sheer knowledge that summer is right around the corner is usually all it takes to fill our minds with thoughts of swimming holes, camping, gardening, and outdoor BBQs. By May, the sometimes scorching summer heat hasn’t yet made an appearance, but the days are often warm enough for shorts and tank tops, flip flops, and picnics along the river. Bon-fires keep us warm at night; roasting marshmallows and hot dogs, sitting out until late hours, telling stories and enjoying the company of our friends and family.

Spring in Vermont means Maple Sugaring. Drive in any direction, and you will see the telltale steam rising from sugar houses in every town. Many commercial sugar houses are open to the public, allowing families to see the process of boiling down sap into the sweet, pure Vermont Maple Syrup we all enjoy. Maple syrup tastings are hardly different from wine tastings, as you sip each different level of syrup while your guide explains in detail that particular syrup’s color, sweetness, body, and texture.

Spring is appreciated for more than just what it offers. It is appreciated for what it helps usher in; fresh vegetables, beautiful flowers, lush green trees, sunbathing on rocks, cliff diving, kayaking, bicycling, and simply being outside for more hours than we are in. Spring is washing off the outdoor furniture, putting away the snow boots, wool gloves and hats. Spring is the birth of a new season.

The Wonder of Winter

When you live in a ski town, winter is a particularly celebrated time of the year. There are many universal reasons to enjoy winter – hot chocolate, skiing, sledding, building snowmen, snowshoeing, decorating for Christmas, and eggnog (with rum, or without). It seems that every person, regardless of their love for winter — or lack of it — can find one thing about this season that is special to them.

For many of us, there is a long list of cold weather pleasures. Certainly, few can deny its inherent beauty. After a fresh snowfall, a thick, velvety blanket covers the ground, silencing the earth’s vibration beneath it. The purity, before any footsteps or paw prints etch their way across the great expanse of white canvas, is breathtaking. But no matter how much we embrace winter, there are always parts of the season that we’d like to trade. Fresh, local fruits and vegetables are scarce. Going to work in the morning means defrosting your car and scraping ice. Roads can be treacherous. And heating bills rise. So, in addition to the winter activities that are most broadly revered, I like to take comfort in the actual preparations. Preparing for a long, cold winter can become a tradition as enjoyable as cutting down the Christmas tree or baking holiday cookies.

This time of year I like to spend a few dollars on comfort items like fuzzy knit socks. And, if you’re frugal, Vermont’s multitude of consignment shops have an amazing selection of funky, knit socks, hats, gloves and scarves to keep you warm and cozy all winter long. Another fun — and healthy — winter tradition is signing up for a winter Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA). Here in Vermont we enjoy an abundance of wonderful programs. CSA’s allow members to buy shares in a community farm for a relatively small fee. Local food can often be more expensive than store bought items which originate from anywhere across the globe. But many CSA’s are very competitively priced. Every Wednesday, we pick up a bounty of fresh local vegetables and other local products. The vegetables are grown in greenhouses all winter long. Winter vegetable CSA’s are heavy on root vegetables, such as turnips and rutabagas, and they have gotten my family to start eating things like beets, kohlrabi, kale, and Pac Choi on a regular basis. These more exotic items, in addition to fresh local bread, cheese, raw honey, buttermilk flour, and fresh eggs, are a wonderful surprise each week. We never know what we’re getting until we pick up our share. Winter CSA’s are a wonderful tradition that promote healthy eating and encourage experimenting with recipes and lesser known foods.

In the winter, I also like to reflect on my ancestors — 100 years ago, even 200 years ago or more — contemplating the preparations that they had to make to get ready for winter. Today, comforts are so commonplace that it is nearly impossible to imagine what our ancestors had to go through — hunkering down, sealing the house, stacking wood, and canning food. Although we still engage in many of these activities, they are almost always by choice rather than the necessity of years past. Before television — even before radio — when restaurants were not on every corner and cars didn’t exist to take you to them, people spent virtually all their time inside or on their own land. They spent evenings tucked away inside their homes, talking and playing games by candlelight. The sense of family during these months was so much greater than at any other time.

All of this togetherness and tradition can still be a part of our lives today. Let winter be a time of year when we enjoy the obvious snowy weather pastimes like skiing and sledding. But let it also be a time when we focus on nurturing our family, slowing down our lives, and quieting our minds…as the fallen snow quiets the ground beneath our feet.