Quiz time! Your husband is out of town, you’ve been working all day, after picking up your two-year old from daycare he runs into the backyard and refuses to come inside, and the dog is jumping up and down whinnying because she hasn’t gone for a walk yet. Do you: a) Scream at the dog, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone!”; b) Bundle your son into a snowsuit and then attempt to walk around the neighborhood while the dog pulls frantically and the child stops to dig in the snow at each new house you pass; or c) Strap the two-year old to your back and the dog’s leash to your front, then head out for some exercise? If you chose a, b or c, you are wrong.
So it came to be that I was hiking through Stillwater last week, carrying my son Charlie, who now weighs more than 30 pounds, on my back. The Kelty backpack used to be so practical, but now that Charlie is older he is heavier, wigglier, and more demanding. “That way mama! Downhill. River! Bridge!” he shouted as we zigzagged our way through town. Before I knew it we were on the lift bridge, literally walking to Wisconsin. “No! Down there!” Charlie cried as he pointed urgently at the St. Croix River below. Though the ice looked firm as ever, I wouldn’t trust it for a minute. “No such luck!” I replied. “Mommy can’t walk on water.”
Though today’s thermometer may as well have traveled through a time warp from January, the subtle signs are out there that spring really is almost coming. A goose stood honking outside my office window last week, the squirrels are beginning to bound more flamboyantly, and in spots here and there, dry land has emerged from beneath the snow. It’s staying light later into the evening, and after several months of near-hibernation Charlie and the other children in our neighborhood are beginning to play outside again. Standing outside in yard reminds me that I do, in fact, have a yard and that I actually spent quite a bit of time last summer planting new gardens throughout the front and back. Did the new flowers and shrubs survive this winter’s deep-freeze?
Walking across the river last week, I remembered that the St. Croix is still there too and I suddenly wished fervently that the ice would melt so that we could jump in a canoe and paddle instead of tromp. All in good time, said the spring.
In the coming weeks, there are a flurry of opportunities for people to embrace the coming spring and the changes it will bring to our yards and our surrounding watershed. On April 7, 5:30-8:30pm, the East Metro Water Resource Education Program will hold a raingarden design course at the Family Means Center, 1875 Northwestern Ave. in Stillwater. Learn how and why to build a raingarden in your yard and then sit down one-on-one with a landscape designer from the Washington Conservation District to create a design. Register on-line at http://tinyurl.com/2014StillwaterGarden. A similar three-part raingarden design course will be held at the Bayport Library on April 24, 6-7:30pm, April 29, 6-8pm, and May 1, 6-8pm. Register at http://tinyurl.com/2014BayportGardens. Residents from Stillwater or other Middle St. Croix Watershed communities who attend the workshops will qualify for a $250 plant grant. Other Washington County residents can qualify for cost-share grants through their local watershed organizations as well.
The Washington Conservation District is also taking orders for its spring tree sale. Bare-root seedlings are sold in bundles of 25 for $35, and a bird packet, which has five each of Bur Oak, White Oak, Black Cherry, White Pine, Chokecherry, and Wild Plum, is also available for $50. Download an order form at www.mnwcd.org/land/trees. Trees will be available for pick-up on April 25 and 26 at the Washington County Fairgrounds. In addition, the Recycling Association of Minnesota is currently taking orders for compost bins ($55) and rain barrels ($69), which can be picked up on April 25 in Roseville, April 26 in Minneapolis, or May 31 in St. Paul. Order on-line at www.recycleminnesota.org.
Finally, for those interested in learning more about local and state efforts to protect and restore the St. Croix River, the 15th Annual St. Croix Basin Conference will be held on April 8 at the University Center in River Falls. Find more information and register on-line at www.stcroixriverassociation.org. Ability to walk on water not required.