Searching for spring in the time of climate change
Our beloved northland pastime of celebrating every early sign of spring is now upon us.
The sun arcs wider and higher every day, as we move away from the winter solstice of late December. Even on cold days, that sun is warmer on our faces and can be felt through south-facing windows, when the gray clouds deign to part.
I thrill to melting snow and ice, liberating us from treacherous walking and driving. Even though we know full well that we are not done with snowfalls yet, it is a joy to see the grass and farm fields again, with their promise of new growth.
Cardinals are calling in the daytime, and barred owls are hooting in the night.
The ladies at garden club exchange packets of seeds and chatter about when to start seeds in the house. It takes careful choreographing of schedules to reflect seed germination times and outdoor transplanting schedules. Plants ready too early or too late are often useless.
My two young grandsons are excited to go outside and toss easily-compressed snowballs, or stomp in the mud puddles.
New life is the most treasured signifier of spring, and our family just welcomed our newest little grandson into the world. I was honored to spend a week hibernating with my older daughter and her husband as they learned to love and care for their new baby. Coming out of that sacred indoor time is heightening my perception of the great awakening outdoors.
And yet… mid February? Isn’t this much too early for our spring transition?
Friends and neighbors are out tapping maple trees in the forest to cook down the sap into maple syrup. Everyone seems to be saying this is the earliest anyone has ever seen. The taps are gushing on warm days in mid-February, and the forecast is for sustained warmth for the next week. Will the trees be able to sustain the sap run, or will an early run ruin the longer harvest?
It clutches at my heart that our careful and joyful watching for signs of spring is being ruined by the dark shadow of climate change. The hottest years on record for the world were 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Minnesota is the second most-affected state in the U.S. for climate change, according to Mark Seeley, renowned climatologist at the University of Minnesota. Daily low temperatures are rising while high temperatures are smashing records. We have set 140 all time high temperature state records in the last ten years alone, a phenomenal rate of change. Summers now bring significantly more humidity, with dew-points above 80 first recorded in 1983, but already very common. Higher temperatures and higher humidity bring alarming summer warnings about the heat index. More tornadoes, higher precipitation, more intense thunderstorms and more mega-rain events over six inches are occurring in recent decades.
These changes bode ill for our native ecosystems, and the plants, animals, fish, bugs and birds who evolved to live here. It takes much of the fun out of watching for the return of spring.
Climate change can only be addressed by curtailing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. And that can only be accomplished by transforming the fossil fuel energy system to renewable energy from the sun, wind and biomass. Our oil-loving new President is launching aggressive policies to accelerate fossil fuels, which will only make things worse for the climate and nature. Anxiety and dismay cloud my world.
Roasted Frozen Whole Chicken
Impress your family and friends with a roasted chicken that takes only five minutes to prepare.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put a rack in a large roasting pan. Put a four-pound frozen chicken breast-side-up on top of it.
Rub the top of the chicken with a tablespoon of olive oil or butter. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. If you have a lemon, slice it and tuck in the cavity.
Put in oven uncovered and roast for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Roast until drumsticks loosen easily when jiggled, juices run clear and all meat is cooked to 165ºF according to an instant-read thermometer inserted into breast and thigh meat.
Transfer chicken to a carving board. Let rest 10-15 minutes. Carve.
Notes: You can used a thawed whole chicken and roast at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375 degrees for an additional 50-70 minutes.
Pan juices make excellent sauce or gravy. The leftover carcass can be bagged and refrigerated or frozen for making chicken stock another day.