We faced a somewhat icy winter here on the North Carolina coast. While we managed to thaw out at the end of January and actually started seeing some signs of spring in early February. The blooming crocuses and daffodils punching through the mulch did not mean the end of our cold seige.
By the middle of February, the only things keeping us on our track to spring were thoughts of what we might do when it really does get warm. The highly unusual dose of ice around Valentine's Day made many of us think that the weather had forsaken us.
Spring on the coast is a funny thing and takes practice to enjoy. The post, Spring on the Crystal Coast, is a pretty good summary of the differences between spring and regions stretching back to the mountains. However, I have learned a few more things since then.
There is no doubt that spring rushes up the mountains in Virginia and sometimes almost imperceptibly sneaks up on us here along the coast. Think about it. In the mountains spring weather can be tricky and it is not unusual to get more than one spring snow. Most folks in the higher elevations are ever vigilant for any sign of spring. They watch like hawks for that first crocus or daffodil.
As I write this, it is the third week in February here on the coast and we have enjoyed crocuses and daffodils blooming in sheltered spots for weeks. Yet no one is hailing the beginning of spring.
In the mountains and hill country of North Carolina and Virginia, the grass can be green most of the winter. It is not unusual to mow your grass in December even in the Virginia mountains and then to have to mow it three months later. Not only is the grass green, it is growing so fast by March that you often have to mow it two times a week just to keep up. Our grass on the coast turns reddish brown in October and if we are lucky, we see some light shades of green in April. If we see any green grass in our yards in March, a late frost usually turns it brown again.
If you live in the southern part of the land bordered by Interstate 95 and Interstate 81, winter does not come in November and stay until May like it does up north. Instead of being trapped by unrelenting ice and snow like Pennsylvania and areas further north, you spend a couple of months trying to escape persistent cold weather. More often than not by February, you just try to shake off the vestiges of winter. In the back of your mind you know snow can really come almost at any time from February through April but you know it will only stay a few days. However once the grass turns green, spring starts creeping up the mountains. Then eventually the slow progress turns to a rush up slopes. Even a late snow will not delay the arrival of spring by much in Virginia and North Carolina.
We lived in Canada for years and once had some Canadian visitors during one of those magnificent springs that engulf the mountains and Piedmont of Virginia and North Carolina. The couple repeatedly asked us to explain why we ever moved north when we knew about places like Roanoke, Virginia, that are so beautiful in the spring. They could not fathom why we wanted to live in the Canadian Maritimes where spring is truly a season of mud. I felt moved to share our springs and it prompted me to write a post, inviting Canadians to visit during the spring.
Watching an Appalachian spring unfold is something everyone should enjoy a few times in their life, but a coastal spring can be just as rewarding. However, some of the elements do not last very long. While Bradford Pear trees can bloom for a couple weeks in the mountains, sometimes they go from blooms to leaves in two or three days here on the coast. We have so many pine trees that we do not watch the trees leaf out so much as the pine trees explode with their pollen that turns everything including some of the water yellow.
The reality of spring for me on the coast is the water. I love the brief splash of color we get from flowers but it is really the warming of the water more than the warming of the land that sets life loose here. Spring weather has it all here on the coast, but the change in water temperature is what causes our explosion of life and sets us free of the land.
Most winters our ground never stops growing things, and for a while it seems to be harder to find a willing fish than a defiant green plant. It is normal for me to plant my tomato plants the middle of March, but it seems we always wait another month or two for the water to warm and the spring winds to die down and for the fish to really arrive. Then it often seems like summer is just around the corner and the water is alive with all sorts of creatures.
I enjoy watching the marsh grasses turn very slowly green here on the coast but it seems to take forever at times. Sometimes it is taken so long, you forget when it sarted. However, I am happy that the grass in my yard rarely needs mowing even once a week until the middle of summer. When the coastal waters finally start to really warm for the season, I know that our coastal spring is on track and it will not be long before I slide the kayak in the water and or head down our big coastal river with our skiff to the big water over by the ocean. We are just a little different here on the coast. After all some of us consider a blooming dandelion to be a winter flower.
If all this tweaks your interest in the area, I have recently put together a collection of posts from the last few years which talk about why we live here and some of the experiences that we have enjoyed.
Many locals will tell you that there is no better way to see the area than through my eyes and the lenses of my cameras. If you would like to see some of those pictures of the spectacular scenery in our area, check out our just published $2.99 Kindle reader book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year. It is worth clicking on the link just to see the free sample of seven pictures. I picked the 100 pictures from the over 40,000 that I took last year. Kindle reader software works on just about every platform including iPads and iPhones.