by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
The start of March brings the promise of Spring and is a very significant month in the countryside calendar. As the old German poem which translated – no, only the first lines, don't worry – goes “In March the farmer harnesses the horses, he restores his fields and his meadows...”
March is a time of beginnings and of endings. It is the time when winter transitions into spring and the spring equinox later in the month sees the equal balance between light and dark before the light gains the ascendancy in the endlessly shifting battle waged between the two. Though, as we all know, winter will still battle for a while with spring before it finally gives up and spring will succeed.
It is a time of new life, with woodland flowers emerging, birds nesting, bees and butterflies on the wing once again and the expectant arrival of newborn lambs in the coming weeks.
But it is also the time when the woodland tasks of coppicing, woodland restoration and tree planting, as well as hedge laying, come to an end until autumn, when the cycle begins anew.
Also March is the month when the clocks, at the end of it, go forward to summer time (not that farmers generally would agree with it being a good thing), lengthening the evenings in a single giant step, while making the mornings darker again though only for a while. However as, apparently, a Native American chief has said “only the white man would think that by cutting off one end of a blanket and sewing it to the other he would get a bigger blanket.”
For the gardener and the farmer March is the beginning of new planting and then of ongoing maintenance for the rest of the growing season, followed by the harvest, while for the woodland worker it is a period of little activity in the woods. This would have been the time, in the years of old, however, where he would have turned some of the wood that he had hewn during winter into products for sale and the wood that has been left laid up from the winter before. And, for those of us who work with wood from coppice woodlands it is also not a season of idleness nowadays.
So, a happy March to all and let the land sing with the promise of Spring and our hearts too.