Robin’s View of Winter & Preview of Spring

January 27, 2009

Today I woke up to more sprinklings of snow on the ground and flurries flying through the air. It was cold and grey and seemed like just another wintery Seattle day in January.

Robins Drinking & Bathing

Robins Drinking & Bathing

Then I caught sight of my namesake bird, the robin. Actually, a flock of them, gathering around an ice-water filled cauldron in my garden — the same cauldron that my great-grandparents used to wash clothes and cook. A flock of them was jumping through my beds scratching up layers of mulch looking for worms and grubs. And, they took turns hopping to the edge of the cauldron for a drink of fresh water, or in some cases a dip in an icy pool.

My mom always told me she named me Robin for the first bird of spring. (I was born a few days into spring, so her hope of naming me Spring didn’t quite fit. Though, I wouldn’t have minded the name at all!). Funny thing is robins really don’t seem to be the harbingers of spring, or at least not anymore. Maybe they’ve adapted or maybe they’ve really be hanging out in our gardens all winter and somehow we just didn’t notice. Granted, their red chests do turn a dull rusty-brown in winter, but to me, they remain distinctive — especially when they have a garden party feasting on fermented winter berries and then go falling down drunk from the tree branches, crashing to the soil, stunned in a drunken stupor.

Cauliflower Seed Germinating

Cauliflower Seed Germinating

So, if the robins weren’t my preview of spring, what in the world could be spring like on a snowy, icy day like today? Well, how about the first germinating seedlings in my 2009 vegetable garden? Yes, the cauliflower, kale and cabbage that I seeded just two days ago is already beginning to germinate. Yesterday, the seedling tray enjoyed bright, warm sunlight in a southfacing window. Today, the furnace continues to provide these babies with much-needed bottom heat, and there is some diffused wintery light filtering their way. It was a joy to see the seed casing breaking away, fuzzy rootlets pushing downward and just the hint of dicot leaves threatening to emerge. Spring, summer and fantastic homegrown food is not far into the future — even if it snowy and the robins are taking Polar Bear Club ice baths today.

Now if I can just keep my cat, Twinky, from trying to make the seedling trays into his own personal bed — stupid kitty keeps trying to lay on it and just slips off. I pray he doesn’t take the whole tray down on his next attempt. He has learned to hate the spray bottle. When I brought it over to mist the seedlings earlier today, he hightailed it out of sight. So, I’ve set the spray bottle next to the seedling tray as a warning. So far, today, so good. But, he’s bound to push my gardening buttons at some point soon.

Read more on the idea of robins as the first day of spring here.


  1. Catherine says:

    I really like the picture of your Robins. I live north of Seattle and noticed the Robins in the yard today too. I always take them as a sign of spring coming.

  2. rhaglund says:

    Thanks Catherine. It was a shame as I had to take the shot through a dirty window. I knew they’d scatter if I opened, which I did try with expected results. So, a dark day photo is just a little less than I’d hoped. Glad you enjoyed it (and the robins in your neighborhood).

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