Just a few short months ago, I was bracing myself for the long, cold winter ahead. In those golden, fading evenings of October, it just seemed too cruel to think about the world turning all cold and frozen. Frankly, it made me a little nervous.
Luckily, November dumped snow all over everything, effectively squelching my dithering about impending winter. With that first sprinkling of, oh, a foot or so of snow, I was forced to buck up and deal with the beast that is winter. It really is amazing just how quickly those winter driving skills come back to you. . . .
Now, in January, I’ve fully accepted the snowy state of the world. Still, we’re far enough from the spring thaw that I don’t truly believe I’m ever going to see open water and green leaves again. Yet every afternoon I relish the extra minute or two of daylight that’s managed to wriggle noticeably into the day. In that extra minute of sunshine, I find the promise of spring that sends me poring over seed catalogs and poking through WTIP’s Northern Gardening website, searching for just the right variety of carrots to plant this spring.
This Christmas, we got a bag of seed starting mix and trays for seedlings. An aunt gave us two bags of black soil her bed of composting worms. These tokens of springtime seem like peace offerings for the silent war so many of us wage against Old Man Winter. And they give me all sorts of ideas.
In the late winter months when our summer’s gardens are just germinating in the corners of our minds, it’s easy to have really, really big garden dreams. More nights than not, I reach for a small notebook where I make lists of vegetables to plant and plot out what will get planted where. I know these lists and graphs will bear little resemblance to what and how things will actually get planted, but I find quiet comfort in garden planning process. I wonder if I should try planting purple beans. I search for the perfect salsa recipe for the bumper crop of tomatoes we’re sure to have come August.
When it’s the middle of January, so far removed from the actual process of getting dirt under my fingernails and dealing with the often heartbreaking realities of gardening, I can convince myself that this summer, we’ll experience only gardening utopia. This year, I think, this year, we’ll conquer the lackluster topsoil at the cabin. This year those awful west winds won’t rush down the length of Seagull Lake with the sole intent of wreaking havoc with my onion tops. This year, the chipmunks will be content with their own woodland bounty and stop taking a single bite out of each one of my ripening tomatoes.
Whatever this summer’s garden brings, I can already taste those sharp, pungent first bites of spring -- rhubarb relish, arugula salad – on the tip of my tongue, just out of reach.
They tell me the day’s coming, but it still feels like a hazy fantasy. The day when the winter garlic I planted in the upper garden this October shakes off its snowy blanket. The day when the air stops smelling of falling snow and wood smoke and instead adopts the musty, wet smell of thawing ground. The day when evening brings lazy moments on the porch among the flowering pepper plants in the setting sun. In just a few short months, they say, we’ll kiss the snow and ice good-bye.
Until then, I’m dreaming in seeds.
Airdate: February 7, 2011
Photo courtesy of Fir0002 via wikimedia.