You know what first convinced me that spring is coming -- it's the mallard ducks. On an afternoon that felt like summer in North Adams and windy March at Cheshire, when ice still covered half the lake deep enough for a goose to walk on, I saw my first ducks of the new year. A male with a damp green irridescent head paddled in a marshy place across the trail, in real mud.

It's something to hold onto. This time of year, the time warp begins to set in hard. Here we are, a week from the last snow, and the grass still isn't sure whether or not to turn green -- and I'm swimming in calendar listings for outdoor concerts in July.

My dad calls me to tell me the bloodroot are in bloom, the winter aconite have almost gone by and his camilias have survived the winter in their blankets. My parents' lawn will be blue with scilla by now, and his flower beds bright with young bulbs. I haven't yet seen a single crocus. And I'm recording corn festivals in August.

Don't get me wrong -- I love all of it. I love April, all it's newness. Everything is stirring and I wouldn't miss a day of it. Who would wish a flower's life shorter? I love the summer magazine, too, and the head rush of getting in shape for the busy season. All I want is to feel the time I'm in, while I'm in it.

So, this weekend, I'm going to do what I usually do when I want to feel the season changing. I'm going to a farm. Something in the solid beams and sweet grass smell of a hay barn, the kid goats rubbing my knees, the snow drops my grandfather planted along the stone wall before I was born, feels solid and reassuring.

I can recommend it. You might find a local farm (and call ahead first, unless you know they're set up for visitors) and stop in. Get a fresh gallon of maple syrup. Let a calf lick your elbow. Walk through Hancock Shaker Village and watch the ducklings.