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Springing into Spring

By Julia Loman, Phase I Fellow

After weeks of waiting and watching, it seems that spring has finally come to the mountain! When we arrived (one month ago, already!) there was hardly a hint of green to be found. Just two hours away in Charlottesville, where I was coming from, spring had sprung like crazy: trees were fully leafed out, wildflowers were in bloom, and the buzz of insects filled the late-April air. The mountain at AMI has just begun to catch up now, in late May: leaves are slowly unfolding from their buds; lilac, dandelion, trillium and violet flowers are in bloom; and a chorus of frog calls erupts each evening.

Bluets

Bluets sprinkle the hills and paths.

Generally, spring seems to happen so fast that I could blink and miss it - I’m always shocked to look out the window on some April morning to see an explosion of life and color. This spring on the mountain has been incredibly slow - almost excruciatingly so, at times. We’ve been watching red buds on twig-tips for an eternity, inspecting the distant fields every morning for a hint of green for weeks, and anxiously awaiting the mushrooms and flowers that surely should be here by now.

May 2 - The farm still mostly in a state of late winter.

However, as we’re firmly settled here - in this place where spring happens slowly - I feel like I’ve been able to actually enjoy the change of season for the first time. For once, I’m not burdened by busy days rushing around (we enjoy a different, more grounded version of busy-ness here at the farm) or distracted by the many new projects and ideas that come so naturally in this season. I’ve been able to notice and appreciate each new wildflower, each incremental change in the variety of plants popping up all over the meadows and woods, and the effects of every passing rainstorm on the growth of the plants.

May 13 - a few buds on the trees!

Dandelions dot the landscape under a stormy sky.

What’s even better is that we’ve been able to enjoy these changes as a cohort and as a community that is similarly coming into its own. We remark on the changes as they happen and share the joy with each other. At lunch every day, we go around and say something we’re grateful for. Usually this launches an excited conversation about some new sign of spring: the lilacs make the garden smell wonderful; we’re happy to be working under a warm, shining sun. We’re enjoying the fruits of the season together as well, both from garden and from the wild areas. Fresh greens, radishes, cilantro, asparagus and swiss chard have graced and enlivened our meals. We’ve been on adventures together: gathering spruce tips, hunting (in vain, so far) for morrells, collecting mint, dandelion, ramps and wood sorrel, and sitting perched on rocks in the stream eating rock lettuce.

The first asparagus stalk! Now, we’re gladly inundated with pounds and pounds of asparagus.

We all went out to collect spruce tips this weekend: spruce beer

and spruce syrup are in the works!

Ramps we gathered with Pen, our Farm Caretaker, on his nearby property.

This embrace and enjoyment of the current season has me eager for all that is to come as we approach summer, with many more plants to enjoy and learn from, and amazing people to experience them with.

The road to AMI is looking much greener these days.

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