'The first signs of spring are here, and it couldn't come sooner'

Brian and Jacqui's garden is showing the first signs of spring. Image: Supplied

I know it’s still quite chilly in the mornings (down here in Gippsland, that is), but at last I believe I am detecting the very first signs of spring around me.

Our lawns, which, to say the least, have been looking pretty scrappy for the past few months, are just beginning to show signs of life again, and I can see it won’t be long before I’ll have to drag the mower out of the garage. Then I’ll give it what I call a ‘service’, entailing changing the oil and polishing the body a bit with some oily rag, before firing it up and giving everything a first cut.

Of course, after sitting idle in a cold garage for three or four months, I don’t expect the mower to be in a good mood and it will make sure I need to pull the starter at least a dozen times before it will show any sign of life. And ‘sign of life’ doesn’t mean it’s purring softly away, ready to take on the densest patches of grass; it simply means that it has gone “pop” one or two times, letting me know that another six or seven pulls on that horrible rope might at last turn a pile of useless metal into something capable of cutting grass, if I’m lucky!

The trouble is, I’m not as young as I used to be and too many pulls on the rope tend to take my breath away and leave me with my hands quivering violently, so that I have to switch it off again, for at least five minutes, while I recover.

There are, of course, many other pleasant signs that spring is almost here; signs which don’t involve me in giving myself a minor heart attack. The wattles are just starting to throw their golden blankets over every roadside, like sunshine reflected off a mirror, and our friendly neighbourhood magpies are showing off this year’s clutch of two healthy young chicks. Even our two cats have almost stopped hibernating on our bed, and started sticking their noses outdoors for a few minutes each day. Before we know it, Jacqui and I may even have the bed back for our own personal use again, especially once we stop using the electric blanket every night!

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I’m more relieved than usual to see the days lengthening again; this winter has been a very harsh one, about the coldest and most miserable that I can remember since we first arrived here in 1987. We usually get one or two light frosts per winter, but this year we have woken to find really thick ice on the ground, day after day, after day! It’s been more like the English winters, which were one of our reasons for coming here in the first place, but now we are much less well equipped to handle it than we were all those years ago. I don’t think your internal thermostat works so well as you get older, so instead of just turning it up (subconsciously), we now have to pile on more clothes, to stop what heat we have managed to generate from getting away.

Some of the plants in our garden have taking a bit of a beating too, badly burned by the frosts, with some of them unlikely to recover at all. That’s really sad, because we tend to look on most of the plants as being our friends too, and you know what it’s like to lose a friend.

But as I say, now is the time to start looking on the bright side! I know that tomorrow is going to be just that little bit longer than today, so the sun will rise a minute or two earlier and set a minute or two later, which has to be good! Much needed spring rains are starting to arrive, ready to help the countryside to wake up again, and farmers are moving cattle off fallow land so they can plough it and let the moisture and the air into it, ready to plant new grass for next years feed. Even the milking will soon be done in daylight again too, just a few of the prizes the approaching summer brings us.

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If only it was summer all the time! But then of course, we’d be bothered by bugs and other nasties that get wiped out during a cold winter – there are always compensations and concessions in nature, so that at the end of the day, everything is in balance. Wonderful!

What do you most look forward to at the end of winter?