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Dave Lansing called to say that the most recent blood drive at the Essex Firehouse brought in 21 donors. Dave pointed out this is a very high number given our small population. Blood drives are held every three months throughout the year at the firehouse, so this spring, instead of letting the black flies have all your blood, donate some to help a person in need.

I stopped over at the French's new sugar house this morning to see how the early season is going. The first runs have produced a fair amount of high quality syrup and Bradley and Michael have been boiling late into the night. The sugar house is roomy and comes equipped with comfortable seating, congenial neighbors and a popcorn machine. The aroma inside is sweet and smoky, with shafts of sunshine splitting the steam in the rafters.

Amy started our onion seeds this week, using a special heating pad underneath and strong fluorescent lights overhead. The snow is rapidly disappearing from my garden and soon it will be time to get some lettuce seedlings going. This year I'm going to plant lettuce and spinach in raised beds covered with a special black plastic that admits infra-red light for heat but prevents weeds from growing. We'll see how this experiment works out.

Ravens are now building their nests. Ravens favor tall pines and use dead pine branches still attached to the tree as nesting material. Using their weight, the birds break off the branches and add them to the nest. If they drop the branch, they ignore it and look for another to break off. I guess ravens don't have a five-second rule the way I do for food that lands on the kitchen floor.

Signs of spring, not all welcome, are abounding. Right now our house is crawling with cluster flies and lady bugs, one of which I ingested involuntarily on a piece of toast. If you eat a ladybug first thing in the morning, nothing else evil will happen to you the rest of the day. It's a taste that lingers. These insects are just trying to get outside and Amy suggests cracking a few windows to let them go. Ginny is shedding her winter coat, leaving clumps of white dog hair around the house. If I open the car window when we're riding along, clouds of white hair fly out.

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