I think this is the first winter in years–or maybe ever–that I can truly say I’m ready for warm weather.
There is a certain beauty in the frost flowers that form at 7° F, but I’m yearning for real flowers: jewel-like violet flowers peeking out from under heart-shaped leaves, calendula blossoms sticky and bitter, and yellow dandelion flowers opening and closing with the sun. The colors, the smells, the joy of new life erupting into flagrant display. For now, however, I’ll have to content myself with the return of the green.
Today is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, and in the Celtic agricultural calendar February 2nd marked the beginning of spring. I like thinking of the seasons this way for two reasons: first, most of my ancestors were Scots-Irish so it gives me a connection to the experiences of my farming forbears and second, it keeps me in tune with what’s actually going on in the garden versus what the calendar (or Punxsutawney Phil) says. If I waited until the “first day of spring” listed on modern calendars–March 21st, the vernal equinox)–to begin my spring gardening, I’d be very, very behind! Likewise with the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox.
In any case, thinking of February 2nd as the first day of spring doesn’t mean I expect it to be blue skies and fair weather from here on in–on the contrary, this is just the beginning of the seasonal transition. Statistically speaking, we’re most likely to get snow in February, and we won’t be free of the danger of frost until April 15th or so. But now our seed starting can begin in earnest, and the plants and trees will begin quickening with new life and growth. The days will grow longer and the sap will start rising. I’m even hopeful that the cold winter will result in less insect pressure this year. (I’d be even more thrilled if the bermuda grass creeping around the garden took a hit from those bitterly cold nights…time will tell.)
The cold weather made some tasks difficult for most of January–we had maybe one good weeding day in the last two weeks–but it gave us the chance to do some of the indoor cleaning and organization that often gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. This past Tuesday, when temperatures dipped back into the high 20s before it started snowing, Katie, our first WWOOFer of the season, and I took advantage of the warm temperatures in the seed house and gave it a good cleaning. We wiped down all of the ballasts and bulbs, cleaned up the space heater and A/C unit, and swept vigorously.
Our bulb onions, leeks, and bunching onions are already up and growing in there–they’re ready to transfer to the greenhouse, in fact. As soon as they vacate the premises, the seed house will play host to trays and trays of seeds–mostly culinary and medicinal herbs that don’t mind cooler temperatures, to start with–and we’ll be in the thick of it again. And if anyone needed further evidence that my chickens are spoiled beyond belief, we’ve got three flats of microgreens growing for them in the greenhouse!
On Friday we had a chance to completely re-organize the approved kitchen. We’re discontinuing our herbal baked goods in favor of spending more time on herbal salves, soaps, and balms. This was a difficult decision to make because the focaccia and shortbread have been so popular at the market for the past two years, but we feel it’s the right move in light of some of the other changes that are taking place on the farm (more to come about those as the season unspools). So all of the baking supplies made their way to the upper shelves in the big cabinets while the soap-making supplies took center stage. Best of all, this freed up a lot of space on my side of the cabinets, where all of the essential oils had been living. Now I’ve got an extra shelf’s worth of space for jars of dried herbs!
So now the stage is set for all of those flowers that are on their way. Soon they’ll fill baskets and then racks in the dehydrators…and then fill jars that will keep them beautiful and potent until I need a colorful ingredient for a tea blend or material for an infused oil. This year, I’m welcoming spring with open arms. And maybe I’ll even learn to embrace summer too instead of dreading its fierce heat.