A wet, sticky week. Nesting season. Signs everywhere.

Just this morning, Wednesday, on our daily romp, the dogs and I bumped into an average-sized snapping turtle of the most ornery countenance in a shallow puddle not far from a beaver pond. Chubby found it, knew better, barked and kept his distance. Lily really didn’t bother with it. What amazes me is that neither dog has earned any kind of diploma certifying their ability to process such decisions. Once I knew it was a snapper, my only words were, “Leave it!” They listened.

I had been greeted the previous morning by a pair of red-winged blackbirds performing a magical midair love dance as I drove through the hayfields on a double-rutted trail carved out by tires, greenhouses to the left, flat-picker Norman Blake singing his doleful ballad “Green Light on the Southern,” playing loud, of course, in my truck. Ah, yes, that time of year, the way it’s meant to be, the drab female feigning fear and appearing quite indignant — yeah, right! — as the colorful male rode high tide in hot pursuit, repeatedly colliding softly in erratic flight. Wouldn’t it be nice free as a bird, living by nature’s laws instead of those written and enforced by wolves in sheep’s clothing, that suckling, law-and-order flock committed to protecting your liberty and mine? Well, that is if you’re on their side. Otherwise, forget it, they’ll deny your freedom in a jiffy to the throng’s delight. Those mating, nesting birds fear no uniformed enforcers, just live by natural law, right and just, which cannot always be said of the laws enacted by courts, legislators and — horrors! — special wartime commissions. Our founding fathers knew this better than we do, at least those who called themselves old revolutionaries, later Anti-Federalists. But these patriots were defeated and so were we when the bankers and businessmen grabbed the reins, still no end in sight.

Enough of that, though, back to nesting season, glorious indeed. I suppose there are times when all of us fantasize we are wild field birds fluttering in ecstasy over rich, fertile meadows, be they high or low or somewhere in between. The other day, down on the lower piece I call Sunken Meadow, bordered by a swollen Green River flowing with robust springtime passion, virility and a certain dignity, I found a robin’s nest tucked head-high between two branches protruding from the thorny shaft of a seven-foot Christmas tree. The nesting hen must hear me approaching daily from a distance, the telltale sounds of my whistle, silly dog chatter or whatever preparing her for my impending intrusion. When I get within five feet, where I could literally spit into the nest were it not protected by dense needled branches, that angry, noisy hen bursts into flight and flitters north, hovering low and loud, scolding me and the dogs, both flush-and-retrieve Springers in hot pursuit, alert, half-docked tails wiggling, absolutely no chance of catching their fascination. The chase provides me just enough time to check the nest of four pretty, colonial-blue eggs, the color of a priceless old cobbler’s chest or Queen Anne pipe box. I intend to check that nest daily. Who knows? I may even photograph it and its inevitable hatchlings, either to illustrate this space or maybe for an email enticement to dear grandson Jordi, better than two hours north in Vermont ski country. If he visits, I’ll tell him we can’t handle the nestlings. Why stress-out the mom? He’ll understand.

Meanwhile, the folks atop the hill behind my home say they’ve already seen hen turkeys with broods, very early for such a sight. I can’t say I doubt it. It’s been an early spring, at least three weeks by my calculations. This rain and humidity popped my bridal-wreath bushes into full bloom, typically a June 10 occurrence, according to my wife. She’d know. She tracks those bushes, claims our yard is never more beautiful than when they’re in bloom. To me, those delicate white flowers indicate something else entirely: that is, strawberry season. Yes, native strawberries, always a sweet, salubrious treat with morning cereal, hot or cold. First rhubarb, which came weeks ago, again early, then strawberries, blueberry blossoms signaling another tasty treat is near, along with raspberries. Yum. I love walking out into the morning sun with a bowl of cereal and dropping fresh berries on top before returning inside for almond, oat or soy milk, a new twist for me, but delicious, especially the vanilla-sweetened variety, better than skimmed milk any day.

It seemed this soggy week that I could hear the grass growing, even when returning home from work in the dark of night. The rain did wonders for a little project out front by the flagpole, on the island of lawn surrounded by the driveway. It was getting quite ratty looking, bare spots front and center in spring before crabgrass covered them, then again in the fall, after frost killed the crabgrass. I have tried unsuccessfully to solve the problem without help but finally surrendered. They don’t give away grass seed, you know, and my attempts failed. So this year I decided to bring in Steve Higgins of “Higgins Hydroseed.” I had seen his ads in The Recorder, passed his work along the road for many years, was impressed with the quick results. I finally decided to give him a call, got an estimate and hired him for the little job. It appears to me that his visit and my own subsequent “GrubEx” application has solved the problem. Good news. One more project in the rearview, many others remaining, more than I want to think about. In fact, old pal Mike Denehy is expected today or Friday, promised he’d arrive once the weather clears to repair a woodshed roof. Ah for the joys of home ownership. But what are the alternatives? Nothing that interests me at the present time. You just gotta grin and bear it, I guess, and find the money somewhere.

Before my refreshing walk this morning, sitting on the La-Z-Boy reading a tedious novel I will not finish, I discovered that supper would be my responsibility, nothing new or annoying. I enjoy cooking. Working odd hours for most of my married life, I typically had the evening meal on the table for my 9-to-5 spouse when the kids were home. So when I asked from that La-Z-Boy if she had anything planned for supper and she just gave me that vacant look and said, “Um, how about fish?” I got the message. I’d go to Foster’s and pick something up, as well as the salad stuff she said we were “getting low on.” So  Foster’s it was. Consider it done, I promised. Foster’s has a good feel, local economy, right up my alley. Truthfully, I wish someone would firebomb those big-box stores of Ronald Reagan’s America. Talk about eliminating too-big-to-fail enterprises, nothing was big enough for old Ronnie Ray Gun, a pejorative nickname coined in the Sixties. Yup, in came the Republican saint, a B-rated Hollywood showman, and out went the local economy I grew up with — no more small pharmacies, hardware stores, restaurants, meat markets, and gun and tackle shops owned by the kid next door’s father. No sir. Now we must shop at Walmart and Walgreens, Home Depot and Dick’s, eat at the 99 or Chili’s, Ponderosa or Applebee’s, with their glossy, colorful menus filled with the best meat, fish and veggies money can buy, bagged and freeze-dried in Texas or Kansas or Missouri, where they grease the slaughterhouse inspectors’ palms for turning a blind eye to floor and butcher-block filth. Those places gag me. At Foster’s, I picked up a big swordfish steak, an equal mix of six small summer squash and zucchini, three packets of hot peppers, three types of salad greens, hothouse tomatoes on the vine, one bunch of native asparagus, and two fat-free salad dressings. Cha-ching, $50.77, expensive to eat healthy these days.

When I got home, I figured I’d prepare everything before sitting down to finish this column. That way I could just throw it in the oven around 4:30. Not surprisingly, it started bad. First of all, the sink was clogged with dirty pans, dishes and silverware, making the garbage disposal totally inaccessible and telling me the dishwasher likely needed emptying. I opened it to check and, oh yeah, full of sparkling pans, dishes, Tupperware containers, and silverware. Twenty-eight minutes later, I had everything put away, the sink emptied, the counter spic and span, the vegetables sliced and jammed over the swordfish steak in a covered Griswold chicken frier, a tiny dab of coconut oil on the skillet floor under the fish. I squished the pan onto a refrigerator shelf, ready for later transference into a preheated 425-degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. Try it sometime. It’s easy and delicious; healthy and spicy, too. If you want noodles or rice with it, that’s fine, but I’ve learned to do without. You can’t beat those old self-basting cast-iron skillet covers, literally worth their weight in gold, keeping whatever you’re cooking moist and tender, even pan-fried steaks or chops. Check the price sometime. I went looking on eBay for a cover to fit my circa-1920, No. 14 Wagner skillet and found only one available. The damage? Four hundred bucks. I was tempted but didn’t bite. I’ll find one cheaper. Trust me. Patience is a virtue.

But, getting back to turkey hunting, my buddy stopped by to chat briefly Friday on his way out. It was too late for me, a devoted crack-of-dawn man, but this guy is no clock-puncher, bless his independent soul. He knocked on my porch door at 9:30 a.m. and wanted to talk before setting up in a popular spot atop the hill that’s familiar to both of us. He’s informed me before and reiterated in an almost scolding tone that a man doesn’t have to rise early to kill a turkey. A mutual friend told him he shoots most of his turkeys after 10 o’clock. “Fine,” I thought, “you and he can have it. I love the predawn woods and streams, as close to the altar as I get.” But chew on this for a moment: A couple of hours later, the man was back in my driveway showing me his dead 16-pound jake. The bird was one of five yearling gobblers that had come in at just before the noon deadline. He “took care of business.” His words, not mine. Which reminds me: I’m getting nervous about my prediction that this will be a record season, our second spring harvest of 3,000 or more. I’ve changed my opinion. The weather hasn’t cooperated. I think it’s been too rainy to attract the necessary hunter pool for a record kill. But you never know. From my observations following our mild, snowless winter, there are more turkeys out and about than ever. Just Tuesday morning, again after 10, my buddy went to a spot that gets a lot of hunting pressure and immediately spotted a monster tom from the dirt road. He drove up a farm trail right past the long-beard, set up above it and immediately got another tom gobbling behind him. He didn’t kill that lusty tom but was able to lure him to within 75 yards before he turned stubborn and demanded the caller come to him. So, we’ll see what happens with the harvest. There’s a week left and hunters could indeed kill more than 3,000 for the second time in the modern era. I can’t say I’m still expecting it, but I won’t be surprised.

Oh yeah, before I go, a quick trout-stocking and anadromous-fish report, both annual events nearing their end. Memorial Day always signals the conclusion of spring trout-stocking season. Well, the upper and lower Deerfield River and the Millers River are due for stocking this week, along with the Green River through Leyden, Colrain and Greenfield. The Western District did Clesson Brook in Ashfield last week and expects to hit Ashfield Lake for the second straight week. Other local lakes and ponds ticketed for fish this week include Upper Highland Lake in Goshen, Lake Mattawa in Orange, Lake Wyola in Shutesbury, and Forestry Camp Pond in Warwick. As for the shad and salmon spawning runs, with Connecticut River temperatures holding at below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, 121,000 American shad and 15 Atlantic salmon have thus far been counted in the river system. The runs should pick up when the temperatures rise above 60, then slow down to a trickle at around 70. Who knows what to expect? Safe to say it won’t be anything extraordinary. Sad but true. Don’t blame global warming, though. ExxonMobile execs and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe say there’s more research needed on that topic. Fools actually believe them.

Whew! That’s all I’ve got this week, and I didn’t even get to French pacifist Jean Giono and that novel, “The Straw Man,” I got some 300 pages into before surrendering, bored silly. The writing was good, the plot weak. Maybe I’ll touch upon that work another day. That and surveillance, which has me stirred up these days. It seems the “silent majority” thinks Smart Meters on our homes, and tiny cameras on telephone poles, traffic lights and city buildings are OK in the name of “national security.” Not me. I find it disturbing to see how many satellites are peering down at me every time I turn on my hand-held, DeLorme GPS unit. I bought the handy little gadget for hunting and discovered that I am the hunted.

Visionary Englishman George Orwell, a fascism foe, saw it coming. Now it’s here in our cradle of liberty. Yes, Big Brother is watching, and he may just find those ornithological, midair, meadow dancers to be morally unsettling.

As to how much is too much freedom, it all depends on the judge, frightening.

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