I think, in the years before I knew him, my grandpa had a bit of an outdoorsy streak — just like lots of other red-blooded American men.
He wasn’t the sort to swim in icy lakes at dawn, or shinny up a mountain bare-handed.
But, given the opportunity, I think he enjoyed a bit of roughing it out in the woods every now and again.I believe he spent most of his life in city settings — not among skyscrapers per se, but in closely developed neighborhoods — so maybe that explains why he liked to go get a few lungfuls of fresh air from time to time.
Give him a rustic cottage, and a rowboat, and a fire to grill over, and he could enjoy nature happily enough.
Living in Stamford didn’t give him quite the same opportunity to commune with nature. Sure, there were places he could go to enjoy the great outdoors. But the neighborhood where he lived was pretty well built-out and paved over.
Perhaps that was why he deemed a couple seasonal reminders of Mother Nature worth including on his calendar, 50 years ago this month.
If there’s a backstory here, and skunks were a regular part of life on Hope Street, I don’t know it. Perhaps my grandpa encountered one traipsing across the back yard and saw fit to record it.
Or maybe he read this factoid somewhere and decided to lift it for his own calendar. It does sound kinda like something you’d read in the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Wiki, for what it’s worth, says that striped skunks don’t really hibernate so much as they go semi-dormant. And they can start breeding as early as mid-February. So this date doesn’t necessarily represent when skunks start to emerge. More likely, it’s when my grandpa first took notice of one.
As it happens, the smell of skunk is one that I used to associate pretty strongly with Stamford. The drive from one set of grandparents’ house to the other took us through some wooded areas, and it was common to pick up a couple snootfuls of skunk along the way — especially when we made the drive at night.
I don’t mentally connect that smell with Stamford quite so strongly as I used to. But my childhood association of skunks with Stamford (and trips to the grandparents) may be one reason why I have always liked the smell of skunks.
(From a distance, that is. The smell of a skunk close up is ferociously nasty.)
So, yeah. What other natural phenomenon was capturing my grandpa’s attention in March 1963?
The spring maple sap run is a wonderfully New England thing to put on your calendar.
(The time of the sunset, while not specific to New England, is pretty sweet too. The days, they’re getting longer.)
I do not believe my grandparents actually did any maple sugaring or syrup-making. I can’t recall any mention of that in family history.
Plus, if I’m not mistaken, it’s messy work that requires the collection of a lot of sap — certainly more than the trees on my grandparents’ lot could muster.
Thanks to the blogosphere, I now know that it is possible to make maple syrup in Stamford, even if my family didn’t.
The excellent OmNomCT food blog, based in Fairfield County, recently wrote about the annual maple sugar weekend at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Apparently you can go there to learn about maple sugaring, buy locally made syrup, and even help judge a cooking contest in which local chefs put the syrup to creative use.
(Well, OK, you can’t do it this year, because the event happened March 2 and 3. But you can put it on your calendar for next year. I would if I lived there.)
Only about two weeks after the maple sap entry, my grandpa would have noted the formal start of spring on his calendar.
I wonder how long it took him after that to start daydreaming about grilling some burgers and hot dogs.