After suffering through six long months of winter, Vermonters celebrate the arrival of spring with abandon. Kids of all ages shed long pants, shirts, and coats in favor of shorts and t-shirts as soon as the sun cuts through the gloom.
Spring teases us, though, arriving in fits and starts. We enjoy a 70-degree day in February, only to have 6 extra weeks of heavy snowstorms thunder through. Given Mother Nature’s mixed messages in our little state, what are the true harbingers of spring in Vermont? How can we know progress towards warmer weather will actually continue without further unwelcome blizzard interruptions?
Having lived in this state for over 20 years, I’ve noticed a progression that, once started, keeps on rolling along. Here are my top 10 signs spring has truly arrived in Vermont.
Sign #1: Wild Temperature Swings in a Single Day
If you wake up to temperatures well below freezing and the day warms up to 60 degrees, that 30 to 40-degree temperature change represents an early indication of spring’s entry on the scene. Of course, dressing yourself and your children appropriately for this weather presents multiple logistical challenges.
The below-freezing morning temps really leave Vermont moms no choice but to send their kiddos off to school donning winter coats, hats, mittens, and snow boots. By the time they get off the bus in balmy afternoon temps, they meet me with immediate complaints of, “Mom, I’m hot!” combined with shoving a mass of random winter gear at me to carry from the bus stop to our house.
I totally feel their pain. Walking 15 minutes to work in the morning, I bundle up against the chilly air and wind. On the warmer return walk in the afternoon, the winter coat I needed in the morning serves only to roast me like a spring chicken. During this time of year, I frequently take afternoon showers to recover from my sweaty sauna slogs from work. (I bet you really wanted to know that about me!)
Sign #2: Shoulder Season Fashion
Growing up in Florida, shoulder season just wasn’t a thing. Since moving to Vermont, I learned how shoulder season impacts one’s wardrobe. You need clothes for not-too-cold and not-too-warm weather (which I hereby dub “Goldilocks weather”), clothes made to withstand those wild 40-degree temperature changes in a single day.
Essentially, shoulder season fashion equals lots of light layers – scarves, leggings, lined rain jackets, jeans jackets, cardigan sweaters, flannel shirts, and so on. Starting out in the morning, you layer up, and then as the day warms, you shed.
If you’re lucky, the rain stops long enough for you to sport that fab leather jacket for about a minute and a half.
Sign #3: Rain and Mud
As soon as it warms up enough for the snow to stop, the rain starts… and seemingly never ends… until late June. Between the snowmelt and the rain, you get mud, lots of mud, dubbed fittingly by Vermonters as “mud season.” We get the most beautiful fall foliage anywhere (arguably), so, as the universe must bring balance, we also get the worst spring season anywhere (in my opinion).
My kids endure the greatest hardships during mud season. For one, even though the temperatures merit warmer clothes, I still send them to school with snowpants, since outdoor recess involves mud. The best mud repellent for their clothes, hands down, is covering them with snowpants. Their teachers also send them outside to play daily, rain or rain. Enjoy that mud, kids. At least Mom only has a half-mile walking commute in this stuff. Happily, my daughter adores her new umbrella and jumps at the chance to use it. Great news, kid! You can brandish that umbrella for the next 8 weeks.
Sign #4: Bugs
In the brief windows of sunlight, when we enjoy our decks between rainfalls, the bugs arrive to remind us why, even though we long for summer days during half a year of winter, some unwanted pests of nature always arrive to spoil our good time. One of my first warm-weather activities of the year involves locating and destroying the hornets’ and wasps’ nests constructed behind my outdoor thermometer and under my Adirondack chairs and ottomans.
Unfortunately, those stinging buggers are the easiest pests to eradicate. When the mosquitoes come, there’s no escape and no relief. Welcome to the swarm! They scoff in the face of our organic, plant-based, DEET-free repellents. To achieve some level of comfort, I ordered Japanese mosquito coils, after trying almost every other child-safe product on the market. You, too, can get them on Amazon. Thank me later.
Sign #5: Pollen
Having lived a relatively sneeze- and itch-free existence for 18 years, allergies hit me with a vengeance the second I joined my parents in Vermont after they moved here during my freshman year of college. After laying dormant for 6 months of winter, every plant, tree, and blade of grass that grows here blooms suddenly and forcefully, shooting waves of pollen everywhere. Seemingly overnight, pollen covers everything with its evil yellow-green blanket, including cars, sidewalks, decks, outdoor furniture, and window screens. I imagine it looks similar to the aftermath of the Mount Saint Helens eruption, only with pollen instead of ash.
Grab a tissue and some eye drops. You’re gonna need ‘em.
Sign #6: Construction
On the rare sunny days peeking through the constant rain, you might say, “Honey! Grab the keys and put the top down. Let’s go for a drive!” Joyfully, you sail down the road, music blaring, to encounter a parking lot of equally like-minded folks in equally road-blocked cars.
Welcome to construction season, just as apt and fitting a name for spring in Vermont as mud season.
Construction pops up at literally every turn this time of year. To make matters even more exciting, it lasts all summer! You’re welcome. My husband and I recently received a flyer in the mail warning of construction at every intersection surrounding our neighborhood. Hey, Vermonters, good luck making it to work on time every day!
Okay, so, I’m starting to feel like a bit of a Negative Nelly here. Let’s talk about the best harbingers of spring in Vermont.
Sign #7: The Drive-in is Open!
When the drive-in movie theater closest to my house opens, everything good about my childhood fills me up to bursting. My strongest kid memories involve my parents creating a bed – you heard me, an actual BED! – for me in the back of their orange-on-the-outside with brown interior and an AM radio Volvo station wagon. They took me to the drive-in, let me watch the first feature, and then stayed for the second feature while I slept in the back. Ah, good times. I will always remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in this level of style.
A couple of years ago, I introduced my kids to the drive-in for our weekly family movie night. They LOVED it! Bathing them first, I dressed them in pajamas and off we went. (Alas, I still haven’t figured out the bed in the back thing. I assume modern safety seat requirements thwart my achieving this particular car layout.) I hope they carry these fun memories around the way I still do, even without the car bed.
Sign #8: My Deck is Open!
Everyone needs a happy place, that space you picture in the middle of a bad day when your overtaxed brain casts about for calm and serenity. For me, my deck serves as that space.
It ideally faces south and receives sunlight all day long. For this reason, when the sun shines, the temperature on my deck usually runs ten degrees warmer than the rest of my yard. In sunny weather above 60 degrees, you can find me on my deck with a book and a beverage. Sometimes my daughter joins me with bubbles. That’s cool, too. As long as everyone in my family comes outside to talk to me, we’re good, ‘cause I’m not movin’!
Sign #9: Eating Outside
My husband and I enjoy the luxury of a weekly, kid-free date night. We often use this opportunity to get out of the house, partake in a nice, interruption-free meal at a restaurant without a drive-through, and perhaps even catch a show. While we usually take turns picking the restaurant, he knows once sunny weather hits, the options shrink considerably to restaurants with outdoor seating. As for movies, well, the drive-in becomes the only option, until he surprises me with that backyard movie theater I dream (vocally) about. (Hint, hint, babe.)
Sign #10: Creemees
I add this one to the list under duress. While I thoroughly savor most desserts (cake, yum!), ice cream holds zero appeal for me, especially loose, flowy ice cream. Unfortunately, most Vermonters will argue it just isn’t spring until the creemee stands open. Begrudgingly, there you go: creemees, the final sign of spring.
What do you most look forward to (or dread) about spring in Vermont? What other items would you add to this list?
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