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home : columnists : tina hinchley July 20, 2017

4/10/2017 1:14:00 PM
Signs of spring

Tina Hinchley
Farmer & Columnist


Spring is finally here. We had a nice warm up in February and again in March, but this time the season seems to be spring. I know this because of the many signs I watch for as the days fly by bringing us into April.
At the end of February, I saw a robin. I couldn't believe it, but it was on the grass in our front yard. We didn't have any frost this winter and grass in the yard was still in green patches. I would like to think there were some worms for the bird to eat.
Not long after, I watched the Canadian Geese fly back. They have a stop-over in one of our fields that floods every year. They land in the water and graze on the corn stalks, gleaning the field and getting the energy to take off in the following morning.
For several years, we have had a pair of killdeers that lay their eggs in the gravel by the freestall barn. It was the middle of March when they returned with their young. I heard the bird call and saw all four of them flying by the end of the bunker silos, looking for this year's nesting spot.
Then came the Sandhill cranes in flocks using our winter wheat field as a stop over point. Usually, we have a few of them pair up and nest in the wheat and in the corn sprouts. Tonight at dusk, there were two of them calling to each other. One walked right across the highway.
The warmer weather always brings out other critters that do not make it across the road. Coming out of hibernation looking for something to eat; raccoons, opossums, skunks and woodchucks lay flattened where they took their last step. Were they looking for a dead deer? Plenty of carcasses and bones that have been hit by vehicles throughout the winter are no longer covered by snow, are thawing and getting a little stinky. That could lure many hungry animals to venture near a busy highway.
These all tell me spring is here. But, the clues that give it away inside our house make it a positive prediction.
Asian lady beetles magically appear by our light over the sink every spring. They fly sporadically without control, landing on me. I've tried to vacuum them, but they have a smell that stays in the vacuum for quite a while. They seem to die fast on their own, and I can wipe them up with a wet paper towel.
Another spring announcement is boxelder bugs crawling around. I am amazed they can climb anywhere. They get the vacuum treatment, and if I put carpet deodorizer down I can't smell them.
The biggest declaration for spring are the ants. Little red ants that march around the window frame to come down on the counter looking for treats. The parade starts with just a few ants on a crumb of bread. Next time I walk by the number has tripled, and there is a fiesta on the crumb.
I know there are products that bait the ants to take the poison back to the queen. I have a hard time watching them persist in returning for more poison. I have taken the killing of these ants into my own hands with any spray cleaner I have. They die quickly, and then I can wipe down my counter. Until they return again the next day with reinforcements. More ants looking for another crumb, drop of jelly from my toast, or the orange juice that didn't get rinsed down the drain when the glass was left in the sink. This time it has become the biggest ant convention. I don't believe any of the poison got to the queen, and they communicate well with all the other ants to join them in my kitchen sink. Spraying repeatedly will take care of them.
During the first few days of spring, this ant attack annually occurs. As it persists, we get better at being proactive and making sure we don't have any crumbs or treats for the ants to be attracted to. The ant bait is out, the perimeter of the house is sprinkled with insecticide and the ants retreat. Well, that is until we see them next year.
Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 120 registered Holsteins and farm 2,500 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wis. They have been hosting farm tours for over 18 years.





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