Little signs of coming spring are popping up here and there, which brings hope to those who are weary of mud and winter. Daughter Patty reports that her Easter flowers are opening up their yellow heads to the sun. We’ve had two reports of spring peepers beginning their annual chorus. Son-in-law Bob heard them practicing their spring notes, but comments that they are probably burying back in the mud during these colder days.
The cheery cry of these little frogs and the smell of burning vegetation always heralded the sure coming of spring to me. Daddy always raked the old weeds and winter’s supply of leaves and debris, and set fire to them. Nowadays we use modern equipment to mow off the weeds and such, but I miss that smoky smell of burning off the garden.
We were questioned why Criss was plowing the garden so early (this from another state) and the answer is simple. Of course we weren’t getting ready to plant, but he likes to “turn the garden over” (an old farmer’s phrase) and then scatter nature’s fertilizer (cow manure, in plainer words) and let it lie until time to plow and cultivate it for spring planting. Potatoes, onions and lettuce can be planted early, but most other crops have to wait until the tenth of May. There have been times that during a warm spell, we have put out plants earlier, only to have a late frost kill them.
We had a letter from Cousin Bobby, who described the coming of spring in Florida, which said he made a mistake in his discourse. He wrote, “Daylight is shorter here than it is in WV in summer. It seems that the farther north you go in summer, the longer daylight exists. Our longest days are in spring and fall.” Norma Cavender of Florida also wrote, “I love the green of spring, especially in the trees, and believe it or not, we really do have that in Florida, along with the beautiful spring flowers.” It seems that wherever you live, spring is welcomed with open arms.
It’s hard to keep from dreaming about the garden to come, with the brightly colored seed and flower catalogs coming in the mail.
I love browsing over the vegetable seeds, envisioning early crops of tender, young beets, spicy and red, in their sweet pickle vinegar. Also the lettuce—little heads of butter crunch that describes itself perfectly, and the heartier Romaine variety that beg to be made into Caesar salad. The almanac says that lettuce can be planted February 14, if the ground is not frozen. (And it certainly is not his year.) I was told by Mom that Grandma O’Dell always sowed lettuce seed in January. I think she covered it up with panels of glass.
My thoughts go wild as I look at the pictures and descriptions in the seed catalog. Red, juicy strawberries, picture-perfect and plump tomatoes, ears of yellow corn bursting with sweet goodness, just waiting to be slathered wi th butter—somehow they never look the same in the garden as they do in the catalog. Each year we dream anew of the perfect garden.
The late Ted Kyle of Summersville once sent me some timely advice for lettuce beds. “You really need to start the year before,” he advised. “The best way to raise lettuce is to use an old discarded freezer or refrigerator with a lid, and prepare the soil in the fall.” I asked him, “Do you bury it in the ground?” and he told me to leave it on top of the ground, to make the lettuce easier to harvest. He also said, “One time I placed mine on the slope of a bank, so that I could stand up and pick the leaves without stooping.” That is very important; I am finding it is so true, as I get older.
He said to fill it up with almost any type of dirt in the bottom, adding six or eight inches of rich soil on the top. Shut the lid to keep out moisture and prevent freezing. In the mild days of January or February, the seed can be sown. Water well, and then cover with plastic or fiberglass until it comes up. He added, “You will find that you will be picking and enjoying lettuce before lots of folks have planted theirs. I got the idea from the late Dick Strickland of Harrison who raised sweet potato plants, green onions and other crops in these miniature greenhouses.”
I approached the head of the house with this idea, but he wasn’t too enthused. I wonder why a person couldn’t paint and decorate the outside of the container with bright flowers or a patchwork quilt design to perk up the surroundings. (Sounds like a job for daughter Patty!) It sounds like a great idea to me—and the image of tender lettuce leaves and green onions dressed with bacon grease and vinegar appeals even more!
February is an in-between month, spanning the gulf between winter and spring. Sometimes it leans toward wintry weather, with record snowfalls and sub-zero temperatures, and at other times, it reaches a tentative hand toward spring. This has been a mild month so far, just as our winter has been. It makes a person wonder what is yet in store for us.
As we watch the changing of the seasons, we marvel at the mighty works of our Creator. In Psalms 104, David extols the majesty of our Heavenly Father and His providence. In verse 13, it says, “He watereth the hills from His chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy works.” Verse 14—“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herbs for the service of man; that he may bring forth food out of the earth;” We are waiting for this happen, and God is faithful to make this happen each spring.