Signs of Spring: Tremulous Eyes, Like April Skies

April 9, 2019 | Ann

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(Subtitle is from the poem, "The Miller's Daughter" by Lord Tennyson.)

Is it still chilly outside? Can we safely assume that temperatures will continue to rise? Is it reasonable to store away our scarves, hats and winter coats? These questions go through the minds of many Canadians who are familiar with long, cold winters.

April can surprise us with its bone-chilling breezes. But as Ontarians, we still sense a change of season happening. Look no further than the images in this post, all from Digital Archive Ontario.


Maple Syrup Harvesting

This time of year marks an increase in the flow of tree sap, which calls out for those of us with a sweet tooth to harvest this precious commodity.

In the photo below, a young girl shows pure delight as she tries tapping a tree.

It's maple syrup time again -- tapping a maple tree in the Albion Hills Conversation Area in Caledon  1971
Albion Hills Conservation Area in Caledon, Ontario, 1971. Toronto Star Photograph Archive.

Want to try to recreate this scene? There's a list of current events for the Albion Hills Conservation Area on the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) website.

In this next photo, the conversion from maple sap to syrup has paid off for public school students from Bolton, Ontario on their field trip to a farm in Stouffville, Ontario.

Bolton Public School children tastes the sweetness of spring on a farm near Stouffville, 1975
Farm near Stouffville, 1975. Toronto Star Photograph Archive.


Vegetation in Bloom

Signs of spring include the fresh smell of new earth, the growth of new vegetation, new life and new beginnings that sing through the air. The rain swoops in to wash away the unforgiving remnants of snow that Ontarians have endured all winter long. Buds form, open and unfurl the new foliage for the year on naked tree branches.

Some trees may need human intervention to begin their spring budding. Tearing off last year's old twigs to bring out this year's new branches was Warren's job in the apple orchard in the photo below.

A lofty job -Warren Gobbles trims apple trees to improve harvest
Winfields Farm, 1992. Toronto Star Photograph Archive.

Perhaps a well-written book, The Guide to the Trees by Alice Loundsberry, would help us embrace the new season. Beautifully written with feeling and awe on the majesty of trees, Alice captures the readers' attention on the attributes that trees offer to humans.

Trees have so many gifts for us: cool shade to nap under; cleaner air to breathe; resources for building; paper to write down our daily interests; and, of course, sap for making maple syrup.


Outdoor Recreation

As snowbanks disappear, meltwater can intensify rivers and streams. Once the water level, it may be a good time to venture to a nice spot near the water, cast a fishing line and see what nibbles at the end of the hook — just as three boys are did in this photo of Oshawa Creek in 1987.

Three boys found an old tree root in the Oshawa Creek to be the ideal perch for a little Spring fishing  1987
Oshawa Creek, 1987. Toronto Star Photograph Archive.

If you're lucky, you might witness some more unusual outdoor activities. Below, Jo Scarfone effortlessly launches himself midair over the hay bale as part of a wheelbarrow race at an agriculture spring fair in Richmond Hill, Ontario. The warming temperatures and bright sunshine definitely lifted his spirits (and his wheelbarrow) as the photographer snapped this mid-air feat.

Ontario Digital Archive: Jo Scarfone in barrow race Richmond Hill's agricultural spring fair
Richmond Hill's spring fair, 1994. Toronto Star Photograph Archive.

Spring promises warmer and kinder temperatures no matter what century we live in. As the land grows lush with green foliage, this may be a good opportunity to visit Niagara Falls and take in the scenery.  

Niagara (1830) by William James Bennett lithograph on wove paper
Niagara Falls (1830) by William James Bennett – lithograph and water colour on wove paper.

Hopefully the April showers will change to May flowers. Also, prepare yourself for those noisy lawn mowers!



Want to explore vintage images of Ontario, of spring and beyond? Visit Digital Archive Ontario.