Is it spring yet?

It’s very hard to wax enthusiastic about outdoor events when spring seems like it’ll never get here. Just a short trip outside is a slap in the face from the surly arctic wind buffeting you over slick ice patches onto snow pockmarked with more hard, slippery ice. If you can find a sheltered spot, perhaps you might notice the sun is higher in the sky and stronger. The days are definitely lengthening, but unlike in milder winters past, there’s nary a sign of crocus or forsythia. I pray the tips of the emerging daffodils didn’t get so frostbitten they won’t bloom — maybe their snow cover is providing insulation. Yes, spring cannot get here soon enough to suit me. Although big winter storms aren’t unheard of in March, I remind myself that the snow doesn’t hang around the way it does in January or February. Gardeners are itching to get their hands dirty although we know better—we scratch the itch by starting seeds indoors and pruning things that need it ‘til the danger of frost passes.

This can be a tricky month to plan ahead for outdoor activities, so if there is any question about the venue due to weather, check the website or call ahead. Most don’t require much if any advance planning. And we’re all hoping there’ll be plenty of blooming daffodils, forsythia and maybe even some early blooming redbuds at the end of the month on the drive out.

Starting Saturday, March 7 the point to point season gets underway (weather permitting) in Berryville with the Blue Ridge Hunt point to point at Woodley Farm. For information, call (540) 550-7015 or (703) 509-4499; www.blueridgehunt.org Racing comes to Fauquier County March 14 at Airlie near Warrenton, with the Warrenton Hunt race meet. General admission tickets need not be purchased in advance, although reserved railside party spaces do require advance planning. The good thing about the early meets is you don’t really need to reserve a spot in order to have a grand view of the track nor to access the prime areas near the winners circle. The Warrenton Hunt point to point post time is 12:30 pm for the 8-race card of steeplechase races over hurdles, wood fences, walls and flat land. For reserved parking, general or weather-related information, call (540) 347-1888 or 347-5095, or visit: http://www.warrentonraces.com.

The following Saturday, March 21 racing moves to Upperville, with the Piedmont Fox Hounds annual point to point meet. The Salem Farm course is about 10 miles west of Middleburg on Rt. 50. Hunter pairs races start at 9:30 am; post time for the steeplechase races is 12:30 pm, featuring the prestigious Rokeby Bowl. Genera parking is $20 for a carload; for reserved parking and tickets, call (540) 687-3455.

If you’d rather go fly a kite than watch horse racing, Three Fox Vineyard in Delaplane is hosting its 6th annual Go Fly a Kite festival on Mar. 22. Competition starts at 2pm (Winery is open 11am – 5pm). Bring your kite and join in the fun in the skies above Three Fox Vineyards. The vineyard always has great breezes in spring for kite flying and encourage you to take advantage of them for some early springtime fun. They offer prizes for the following categories: Best in Show, Most Time Aloft, Most Creative Kite, Youngest Kite Flyer, and Youngest at Heart. 1:00 – 3:00 pm; judging begins at 3:00. For more information, call (540) 364-6073, or visit http://www.threefoxvineyards.com.

If you’d rather watch dogs run, there is a retriever hunting test at Shady Grove Hunting Preserve near Remington on the weekend of March 28-30th. This American Kennel Club sanctioned event is open to all retrieving breeds, and offers realistic duck hunting tests for dogs at the junior, senior and master level. Except for junior dogs, all dogs work off lead and are judged on style, memory and ability to mark and retrieve multiple birds, as well as take handler direction to retrieve hidden game. Although most of the dogs are Labradors, you’ll also see a few Golden and Chesapeake Bay retrievers and possibly a few of the rarer hunting dog breeds such as Boykin spaniels, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retrievers, Irish Water spaniels or even poodles. It’s free to attend, but leave your own dog at home: AKC rules forbid non-entered dogs on the grounds. Dress appropriately in dark or camouflage clothing and bring a chair as well as a snack; although several fast food eateries are nearby. Testing gets underway rain or shine at 8 am all days. For information or directions visit www.shady-grove.com

For impatient gardeners, the Blandy Experimental Farm near Berryville offers a seminar on March 10th to learn and share tips and tricks for successfully starting your garden indoors. It promises to cover seeds, soil, lights, temperature, timing, and more. Bring materials, supplies, or tools you use. Cost: $ 12; make reservations online at blandy.virginia.edu under Programs and Events or by phone at (540)837-1758 ext. 224.

Written by: Julie Reardon

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