It’s felt a lot like spring, not that winter won’t come back and bite us. But still … it’s felt like spring. The weather has been three nice days followed by about a week of rain – usually drizzly with occasional downpour. This weekend rain seemed to bring about a change, and the past few sunny days have been delightful. Looking across to Dividing Ridge, the pastures are greening up, and there’s a different look about the weedy areas. On my walk around to the south side of the mountain, I’ve seen some daffodil sprouts and the laurel is starting to bud in some places. In what is to me a definite sign of spring, yesterday a butterfly buzzed me on the deck. It was gone too fast to be sure what, except that it was an angle-wing, or brush-footed butterfly. They mate on our property for some reason, most commonly Red Admirals and American Paints. I think it was one of those, or a Question Mark, but definitely not a Mourning Cloak, another early emergent.
The big winners in the current rainy spell – which has lasted two years – seem to be the holly, the white pine, the moss, and the ferns. I haven’t seen a Virginia pine coming up anywhere. That’s good, from a property owner point of view, because the white pine seems less susceptible to the pine beetle. But as a naturalist, you have to ask why. It’s no secret that we’ve been in a long term drought situation. Two years ago, almost the entire Cohutta Wilderness, some 33,000 acres, burned. About all they could do is save the few cabins that border the area, and keep it between the rivers. As I look down into my woods, there’s still a lot less vegetation than there was thirty years ago, and still some trees dying.
One of my neighbors said the other day that this would have been a record year for rainfall in Georgia, except that it rained more in 1942. (I think he said 1942.) I haven’t been able to verify that, but the data from the Blue Ridge weather station – you see it, up on the hill above the Mercier Orchard parking lot – shows that Fannin County received 75.85 inches of rain in 2018. I’ve been given 60 inches for the average annual rainfall in Fannin County, but doubt that it has been that for the past 10 years. I think most folks would say that it’s been dry for longer than that, although it’s no secret that there was a lot more rain thirty years ago than there’s been until the last two years. Maybe. It rained a whole lot in those days ….