"Till last by Philip's farm I flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever." from Alfred Lord Tennyson, "The Brook" Spring is a great time to be out on or along rivers. Brimming with snowmelt and spring rain, rivers are up, sometimes out of their banks and into their floodplains. Fish are migrating to spawning places, young muskrats are searching out new territories, beavers are out scratching around in the middle of the day, songbirds are migrating through and wood ducks are nesting in hollow trees.
Carol and I are retired now and have looked forward to longer escapes from winter for many years. Tired of the polar vortex conditions this winter, we went to Florida before Christmas. We enjoyed many days fishing out on the water and hiking in the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, exploring the "Nature Coast." The Gulf Coast of Florida in January isn't very warm much of the time. It froze a few nights and the locals were chilling.
After six weeks in Florida where it was unseasonably cool but pleasant, Carol and I returned home and had to acclimate to winter again. Now we are heading back south to Belize where we have gone on winter breaks nearly every year since 1990. We look forward to temperatures in the 80s, sun, trade wind rattling the coconut trees and seeing our Belizean friends again. Of course I'm writing this with great anticipation after another below zero morning outside walking the dog and getting in firewood.
There's not a lot to do in Suwannee, Fla., that doesn't involve going out on the water and fishing. Each evening we consult the tide chart to see when the low and high tides will be the next day. We are staying on the Suwannee River-side of town so our dock is in fresh water. The tidal range is 3-4 feet. The first night we were here, our boat was pinned under the dock on a rising tide. When I went out to check it at night, water was nearing the starboard gunwale. I pried the boat out from under the dock and it flopped back to its normal floating position.
Large floodplain rivers and salt marshes are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. There's an explosion of life where the Lower Suwannee River meets the sea on the Big Bend on the west coast of Florida. The historic Suwannee River flows about 246 miles from the Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida border to the Gulf of Mexico. The Suwannee is one of the wildest and most undeveloped river systems in the country. It meets the shallow Gulf in a broad salt marsh estuary with two main outlet channels and dozens of tidal creeks, sea grass flats, islands and oyster bars.
Although we aren't freezing our faces off in Cedar Key, Florida, the northern Gulf Coast is rather chilly for this time of year. Air from the brutally cold north has found its way here. High temperatures are barely into the 60's with colder days forecasted for this week. Water temperatures in the shallow sea here have fallen from 68F last week to 54F yesterday.
We loaded the truck and boat in a snowstorm on Wednesday last week and drove on slippery roads south to Rochester, Minn. We lost the snow cover in Iowa. A 30 mph tailwind from the north chased us down to Hannibal, Mo. It was still cold with a north wind the next day when we stopped for the night in Elvis's home town of Tupelo, Miss. Pine branches were down near Meridian, Miss., where several inches of wet snow fell earlier last week. A cold north wind followed us south to Pensacola, Fla., where we stayed with friends on Perdido Key.
I've often wondered how people deny the overwhelming scientific evidence that our planet is warming, weather world-wide is getting weird and that human activities are causing it. I guess it's that many of us would rather deny overwhelming evidence than admit that we need to change our ways. But there's more involved in climate change denial.
The great jazzman and comedian Jimmy Durante was known for his schnozzola, a huge zucchini of a proboscis. He said "Da nose knows." Despite his big honker, Durante couldn't detect odors anywhere near as well as a common yard dog.
Our apple crop last year was near zero because the blossoms were killed by late-spring frosts. This year our orchard produced an abundance of apples of good quality and size. We enjoy picking our orchard and making apple juice. Our cider press is a low-tech machine with a hand-cranked apple grinder and a screw-jack oak barrel press. We set it up in front of the shop to grind and press bushels of apples.