11 signs of spring in Alaska.

thThe first shot in the dandelion wars has been fired: Over the weekend I pulled up a fledgling and chopped its leaves into my pot full of garbage soup. Take that, Taraxacum officinale!

Not really a war. In fact, I think dandelion blooms are cheerful and last year DF made homemade soda from them. It wound up fermenting and tasted more like a hard cider than a soft drink.

(Acted like one, too, which made DF pretty cheerful as well.)

Even if I hadn’t seen the dandelion greens I would know that it’s spring. Real spring, not calendar spring (March 20, my boot-clad foot), although some refer to it as “breakup.”

How do I know? Let me count the ways.

1. Vanishing snow piles. On today’s walk I had to pick my way past the remains of a  pile that had been plowed into an alley, and patches of snow still linger in shady spots. Mostly it’s a thing of the past, although some pretty impressive mountains of the stuff persist in the city’s various snow dumps.

2. Nighttime temps at freezing or better. The other day it was 23 when we got up, but generally the overnight temperatures hover in the low 30s.

3. Daytime temps in the 40s. When you’re in the sun that feels great. In the shade, or when a north-facing breeze smacks you, still a little chilly. But you couldn’t prove it by…

4. The way people dress. Kids in shorts, flip-flops and hoodies. Women in capris and short-sleeved tops. Men wearing baggy jams and, I swear to God, tank tops. And this was a couple of weeks ago, before most of the snow had melted.

Waking up the world

5. The activities. Raking the furry gray fungus known as “snow mold” off the lawn. Washing cars. Taking down bird feeders (they attract bears). I watched a couple of little girls in dresses and rubber boots turning cartwheels, not seeming to care that their hands made squelching sounds when they touched earth. One street over I saw two guys pitching horseshoes toward stakes with old pallets as backstops; the iron, too, had splash landings.

6. Hints of green. No leaves yet, but buds are starting to swell. Most lawns are brown with big patches of that gray fur, but you can see the beginnings of green-up.

7. The ice cream truck. I wonder what Beethoven would think if he knew his “Für Elise” is being used to sell Popsicles? Guess it’s better than “Turkey in the Straw” or “King of the Road.” When the truck turned the corner one of the cartwheeling girls shouted in joy: “I have a dollar!” Not sure anything in that truck could be obtained for a buck, but her optimism was charming.

8. Operational hoses. On Sunday DF hooked ours back up and washed the car. Starting to see them plugged in here and there on neighboring streets as well. Some people use them to melt the last bits of snow on their lawns, grinning fiendishly as they do so.

Not a normal place

9. Plant starts. Yes, he knows he jumped the gun – he’s already had to pinch back the peas – but DF couldn’t resist getting his fingers in the soil. He’s got squash, turnip, beet, spinach, lettuce and pea seedlings sitting by an open window in the coolest room in the house. Any day now he’ll have to repot them, because we can’t plant out for another couple of weeks.

10. Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb! The back yard is squishy and the low areas are actually under water. The raspberry canes look spindly and sad. But we counted five rhubarb stalks peeking up through dead brown plant material. Can’t wait to see it grow tall enough to cut; last year we made a refrigerator pickle with rhubarb, sugar, balsamic vinegar and cloves that was just wonderful. My mouth was dripping as I typed that.

11. Loss of time. After supper you tidy up, pick up that half-done New York Times crossword puzzle, go to visit a friend and…suddenly it’s 11:40 p.m. You know this because you glanced at a clock, not because it got dark. I don’t think most of the world would consider that normal, but it seems appropriate. We’re shorted on light in the winter, so it’s just payback.

Readers: What says “spring!” in your neck of the woods?

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  1. Carolina Cooper

    Here in New Hampshire we have “ice out”…the time when there is no more ice in lakes and ponds, or at least not enough to hold up the ice houses that some folks use in the winter to fish from! If one is not paying attention, and we get a few warm days, ones’ ice house can fall into the water and it is a MESS to haul it out of the drink.

  2. Carolina Cooper

    Just thought of another New Hampshire sign of spring—motocycles. when spring comes to northern New England, they are EVERYWHERE!

  3. Spring started showing signs in February with daffodils breaking through, just an inch of green, but it was heartening.

    I truly envy your rhubarb. I am almost too far south for it. But, a guy is bringing some to his work for me. I will plant it in various places to see where it is happiest.

  4. Holly S

    Sorry Donna. You get no pity from me at least this year. Metro Chicago had a MUCH harder (colder) winter than Anchorage this year.

  5. Mirabella

    This year in Southern California, spring was actually cooler than this past winter, which was the driest and warmest it had ever been in recorded history.

    • Yes, so bizarre. You can’t get your closet organized as the days temperatures have been running from jackets to sleeveless tops.

      Not that I’m complaining. (very much)

  6. lostAnnfound

    I’m out in Western Mass and I have not seen an ice cream truck here yet! But have seen plenty of my people out in shorts and t-shirts, flip-flops & sneakers

  7. rhubarb pickle recipe please??! yum. thanks in advance 🙂

  8. Lisa O'Brien

    The kids in the neighborhood are out and playing 🙂

  9. Catseye

    When there’s finally enough grass in the yard to make it worth mowing. Spring is my favorite season.

  10. Here in the Midwest, it’s warm enough to schedule that first mani-pedi of the season (or so say all the girls/ladies at the adjacent table at yesterday’s lunch). Midwesterners never schedule a pedi unless they can show it off by wearing open toe shoes or sandles!

  11. I was just at the cheap produce shop and spotted them selling dandelions which made me chuckle – I don’t think I’d see any normal big box grocery store carrying what most people now consider weeds. I do wonder what kind of flavor they add?

    (Something to learn from old posts: I had leftover potato flakes from the days when I had MASSIVE tooth pain, never thought to toss them in a thickener for my soups but I will now.)

    • Donna Freedman

      Dandelions are a money crop in a town near where I grew up in South Jersey. They’re strongly flavored in the wild unless you pick them young; not sure what the domesticated versions are like.
      In the soup I made they just melted into the whole. No specific flavor imparted.

  12. Cathy in NJ

    The first signs of spring are yellow and purple. Daffodils and forsythia, violets, crocuses and flowering purple trees. Shortly after the beautiful blooms comes the green pollen slime which is everywhere:)

  13. Lady Meow

    Winters in Anchorage are often warmer than winters in Minnesota, Chicago, and New York. Heck, I remember more than one time being warmer, at 44 degrees, than parts of Florida.

    However, the REAL sign of spring in Anchorage is when they re-stripe Dimond. Real lane markers once again!

    • Donna Freedman

      Some days are definitely warmer than winters elsewhere (especially when a williwaw blows off the roofs). Then again, many winter days in Minnesota, Chicago and New York are noticeably warmer than Anchorage.
      No sign yet on re-striping Dimond, as they’re still washing all that gravel off the roads.


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