Spring has finally burst forth from the mountains like an awkward fledgling. Snow has been recorded historically in every month of the year, but mercifully not this month. Garden equipment has begun sprouting outside Ace Hardware and True Value, the nursery greenhouses are overflowing with gallon pots, hanging baskets, decorative pots, seedlings in 4″ pots, fruit trees, annuals, perennials, and cement bays spilling top-soil and compost. Gardens are spilling over their fences as white and purple lilac bushes burst forth in an overwhelming display of vivid color and intoxicating scents. Green has come at last to the mountain slopes and an onslaught of wildflowers can be seen ascending the hillsides in an onward marching torrent of yellow as they strive for the snow-capped summits. The red cliffs and canyons around the house contrast sharply with the deep green of the new growth. Near to our house, federal land is leased by livestock ranchers and in mid May we were greeted by the bellows and grumbles of cows as they were turned out onto summer pastures.
The lengthening days provide for extended mountain viewing. Every hour shows a new face to the hillsides – whether shrouded in a cold and hugging rain or blinding flashes of yellow and gold as the contours of the earth are sharply contrasted as the evening sun sets behind the mountains, casting deep shadows along the dip of the smallest hill slope and illuminating the ridges in a highlight of brilliant green. Sunset stretches to infinity and dusk lingers until 10:00 pm as the sun climbs northward toward the summer solstice. The approaching summer brings changes to the valley as well – new birds are frequenting town as well as my bird feeder, vibrant shades of green, yellow, and purple swath the pastures dotted with grazing cows; mares and their young foals. My bird feeder has seen an assortment of new visitors as well – Bullock’s oriole, Baltimore oriole, Lazuli bunting, to name a few. Robins and meadowlarks have begun announcing the rising and setting of the sun, and Mountain bluebirds are nesting in the nest box on our fence.
As the weather warms, the tourists begin to thaw and move about town in increasing numbers. Memorial Day marks the start of the tourism season in the land where snow is sometimes seen on the ground until the middle of the month. To the south of town lie two historic mining towns, founded in the late 1800’s when immigrants traveling the Mormon, Lander, and Oregon Trails settled when gold was discovered along Cottonwood creek. Atlantic City and South Pass City still stand today, though their populations dwindle compared to the once booming metropolis’. South Pass City boasts 40 residents (most are not year round) and many of the houses are renovated cabins from the historic mining days. The town opens its Historic Site from Memorial Day to Labor Day and visitors can tour the historic cabins, mercantile, post office, bar, and jail house before moving up the road to Atlantic City for prime rib at the historic Miner’s Grubstake Restaurant and Saloon. Every other Saturday, the Miner’s Grubstake holds a whiskey and bourbon tasting event, followed by dinner and dancing.
I have been aching to get out in the garden and Memorial Day marked the start of gardening season here in the North. Furtive consultation with knowledgeable nursery staff and experienced neighbors led me to conclude that nothing should be planted outside until after Memorial Day, so May 25 dawned with a trip to the nursery and myself joyfully digging holes all over my garden. Raspberries, strawberries, melons, pumpkins, six varieties of tomatoes, sunflower seeds, hops, and clematis all made an appearance in my garden plot. I struggled with my drip irrigation system which seems to loose pressure after the first 50 feet, so I laid out an odd pattern with a long length and coiled it at the end of one of my beds – secured by stakes – while a second and shorter line of irrigation tubing criss-crossed to water everything the first had missed. Blue flax – a native wild flower – lends a nice back drop to my garden, as does the purple salvia and mint which have established themselves nicely among the rocks. Honey bees and mud daubers have appeared in the past few weeks and what was once a quiet place to sit on the deck is now nearly deafening as bees rummage through the flowers and birdsong echos across the valley.
As the days lengthen and the sun thaws the soil, I look forward to the changes as spring turns to summer. The daily change is imperceptible, but every so often I look at the hills and notice the golden line of wildflowers has advanced another few degrees toward the ridgeline and the cows are making their way higher up the mountain side – their bellows and mumblings floating down the valleys in the evening light as the meadowlarks bid farewell to another day.