The sun is trying valiantly to peek out this morning, after several days of rain.
This month has behaved in true February fashion, with soggy ground and plenty of rain. The yard looks bare and forlorn; with all the snow gone, winter’s debris can be seen clearly. The occasional sunbeam reveals windows streaked by the grime that winter has left behind.
It is the dingiest time of the year, when everything looks tired and winter-weary. We feel an attack of the “spring-cleans” coming on, but it is really too early to tear everything out and deep clean. There will be more cold, and probably snow, and as long as we have to keep a fire going, it keeps the dirt going.
Later, when the temperatures get mild, we can throw open the doors and windows, wash the curtains and hang them outside, and scrub and clean to our heart’s content. Then, that is the time when we like to stay outside!
There are unmistakable signs of spring, however, that point to warmer days ahead. The little pointed heads of the daffodils stand bravely in the rain, and the tiny crocuses are appearing here and there. The song of the birds has become more frequent; soon it will be nesting time again. The spring lambs and calves are being born, and new life surrounds us. Grandma O’Dell always made a lettuce bed in February, but it would be hard to do so this year. The garden is so muddy that it would be difficult to get it in shape. Still, the time will come for lettuce beds and garden patches, and tender green onions to mix in the lettuce.
Last year’s garden was pretty much of a failure. There was so much rain that our cucumbers literally rotted on the vine. The half-runner green beans yielded one canning, and only a couple of messes for the table. Corn did a little better, but all in all, it wasn’t a very good year. We are hoping for a better gardening season this year.
Had a letter from my cousin Bobby who lives in Florida, and he writes, “I’ve observed the changing seasons here in Florida for over 20 years. I’ve found that mid-February makes a remarkable change in the weather pattern, and the 40 degree nights are 20 degrees warmer. Grass that has been mostly dormant since Hallowe’en begins a rapid growth, and new leaves appear on the trees. Yes, we have springtime here in the Deep South, and we don’t have a groundhog to tell us when it will arrive. Today’s high was 80 degrees with pure sunshine.”
Well, I wonder if they have sassafras tea to begin the springtime. It seems that February is the most unpopular month in the year, but it has some bright spots that we love. We look forward to Groundhog Day (hello, Freddie!) and Valentine’s Day, which is quite popular. February is the month to dig sassafras roots, when the soil thaws after winter’s onslaught. This year, however, I think that roots could have been dug about anytime, as the soil was not frozen.
Sassafras roots need to be dug before the sap goes up in the branches, and it is time to do it now. Criss has always declared that there are two types of sassafras, the light and the dark, but I can find nothing to back his up assumption. I do know that the big roots yield the best tea, and there is nothing more satisfying that a cup of hot, fragrant sassafras tea.
Mom always declared that it was the best spring tonic that a person could take; that it was a blood thinner. I don’t know about that, I drink it because it is delicious and I dearly love it. We’ve had a big pot of it simmering on the stove now for days, and it creates a lovely potpourri scent that drifts through the house. It can be used other ways, and I have a couple of recipes that I would like to share.
2 cups sassafras, root or bark
2 cups water
4 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter
Scrub and peel bark off roots. Pulverize them in food processor. Boil water and add ingredients, adding the root bark last. Boil and then remove from heat when it reaches 300-310 degrees on candy thermometer. Pour on cookie sheet. Store in tightly sealed jars in a cool place. It will retain its taste and hardness for a year or more.
6 roots (6” long and ½” thick)
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 ½ cups sugar
3 ounces liquid pectin
Place roots in boiling water and make a good, strong tea. Boil until water is red-brown in color. The deeper the color, the better for jelly. (This goes for tea also.) Strain out 4 cups and place in a sauce pan. Add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add sugar, mix thoroughly and bring to a boil. Add pectin and hold at a full boil for one minute.
Enduring a West Virginia winter makes the coming of spring even sweeter. It is worth the winter to watch spring unfold. No matter how many winters we have seen come and go, it is a thrill all over again to experience the coming of spring. We have it all before us, to enjoy it and be thankful for it. Soon we can say with Solomon, “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; and the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle (dove) is heard in the land.” Song of Solomon 2:11-12.
I found a clipping in my files that I think is good to share.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
There are two days in every week about which we should not worry; two days, which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.
One of these days is YESTERDAY, with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. YESTERDAY has passed forever beyond our control.
All the money in the world cannot bring back YESTERDAY. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. YESTERDAY IS GONE.
The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW, with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. TOMORROW is beyond our immediate control.
TOMORROW’S sun will rise, either in splendor, or behind a mask o clouds—but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in TOMORROW for it is yet unborn.
This leaves only one day—TODAY. Any man can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful entities—YESTERDAY and TOMORROW –that we break down. It is not the experiences of TODAY that drive men mad—it is the remorse or bitterness of something which happened YESTERDAY and the dread of what TOMORROW will bring. Let us, therefore, live but ONE DAY AT A TIME.
I’d like to add something to that: “Walk with Jesus, and let Him guide you. He will never lead you astray.”