PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
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April 16, 2019

Although it is snowing heavily as I write this (one of those last April storms that we’ve come to expect up here in the north), warmer temperatures and significant melting in recent weeks ensures this snowfall won’t hang around for more than a couple of days.

That’s good, because the transition between winter and spring is among my favorite times of year. You’re probably wondering why I’m a fan of this dull, brown, and very muddy time of year, but the reason is simple—it’s the best time of year to study and make a mental map of the land on your farm.

Think about it—the deciduous trees are bare of leaves, allowing you to see deeper into forestland. The grass in the fields has been beaten down by the weight of winter snowfall, revealing every rock, hump and dip in the land. Low areas, even subtle ones, are readily evident as they hold water and turn into muddy puddles.

In this narrow window between the end of winter weather and the start of spring conditions, when everything starts to grow again, an observant and well-prepared farmer can accomplish a lot. You can work on clearing rocks from fields because it’s easy to see where they are. You can take note of those low areas and make plans for filling them. In my opinion, early spring is the perfect time of year for these tasks because the ground will be water-logged and malleable, making it easier to remove rocks or mix new soil/gravel into low areas.

If there’s forestland on your farm, take advantage of the ability to see farther through the bare trees. Assuming you know a thing or two about your local trees and can recognize them by their bark (it’s not as hard as you might think), it’s a lot easier to take stock of your trees when their leaves are down and you can see a long distance in any given direction. Late winter and early spring is also the perfect time for cutting firewood.

Post-winter cleanup is also easier if you tackle it right away. Winter storms can spread tree branches and debris across the extent of your farm, and damage from plow trucks (in your driveway and along the road-facing side of your property) can be extensive. Cleaning up branches before they disappear into the growing grass is a good strategy, as is smoothing out the ground when it’s still wet, mushy and malleable.

In other words, when winter weather ends and gives way to the changes of spring, I encourage you to shift into high gear and start scouting out your land from one edge to the other. Challenge yourself to accomplish as much as possible before the greenery of spring begins to grow. Don’t waste a minute, because this productive time of year is unfortunately short. Before you know it, summer will be in full swing and you’ll be fending off mosquitoes.

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