When the weather is cold, and the snow is deep, the seed companies send out the catalogs. I'm always glad to see them. I don't mind the winter cold so much, but the yard looks dreary is generally improved by a good snow. Even though the early pitch to gardeners is probably mostly motivated by trying to beat out the competition on getting the first order of the sun deprived gardeners of the country, it is still a nice service to all of us.
Gardening is a funny pass time. It doesn't beckon and call you out, or even invite you to think much about the coming season until it finally gets warm. It's hard to get excited about getting the early, cool weather seeds in the ground when the weather hasn't even gotten to the cool stage yet. It seems much better to tackle an indoor project, or just goof around with a game or YouTube when the temperature is low and the wind is blowing. And after last night's storm, I know I will be inside for a while - you do have to be able to see the ground before you can do much digging.
So, on a snowy day what is there to do? Well, a couple of weeks ago when it was still dry, but we were getting ready to take down a dead tree, I thought it might be time to stop using the rototiller for a lawn/garden ornament and took it, the lawn mower and the weed whip down to a small engine repair place to be repaired. He was able to get to work on them right away, and will have them back to me in plenty of time to put them to work. Also, the tree removal people gave us a 50% off price on removing a dead locust tree because they needed the work and it was not too busy. You know that the first nice weekend in April there will be the start of the tidal wave of garden interest. The stores will be packed, the small engine guys will be over loaded and the tree trimmers will be more expensive.
We got the tree down, many of the branches converted to firewood, and the trunk loaded and transported to a friend that has a sawmill.
Another thing that I like about early spring is you don't have to do it all..... later in the year it is so much work. Work, work work...dig, plant, water, weed. Now it is cool. You can get a bag or two of steer manure from Home Depot or Wal-Mart or from the steer (if there are any in your neighborhood), spread it out on the row you are going to work on and do a little digging- you want to break up the soil and mix in the manure, then break up the clods with the rake until you have a nice seed bed, then plant the seeds, cover them to the appropriate depth and call it a day. You don't even have to water. It is kind of surprising later in the season, when it gets warm, how much you got done. The cool weather crops will be very happy, and they will grow well for you. Don't expect any peas if you plant them on June 1.
There is a lot of work to be done in the spring. Digging in the garden, especially early in the spring often reminds me of a story that Grandma told me. She probably told it only once or twice but since spending the years that we spent on the farm, it made a huge impression on me. The story is pretty short - It was that my Grandpa always used to go out early in the spring to get the ditches in shape. His ditches weren't leveled by laser, there was no concrete lining or steel head gates. They ran along the highest part of a field, and were usually sod. He would go along each spring and shape the sod, clean out the sand and silt, and shovel smaller lateral ditches to further divide the water to the rows. Grandma said that he put a file in his back pocket and would go out and shovel all day. That's the story, but this is how it plays in my mind....
I imagine that the shovel was kept almost as sharp as a bread knife - you can't cut sod with a dull shovel. So I see him out there, all alone, the grass just coming up, wind blowing a little. It's cold if you are standing around, but he isn't. The shovel flashes regularly in the sun. His arms are corded with muscle. His hat is pulled down around his ears. He works steadily, hour after hour, a break at noon, more shoveling in the afternoon until about 4 p.m. Then he comes in and forks hay to the cows, milks 3 or 4 cows, feeds the chickens, chops and saws some wood for the stove and then comes in for dinner. He sits down and Grandma and Harlan, little children then, climb onto his lap. He eats his supper in the warm kitchen with his sweet little family. He is so tired, but happy with his work and his life. They put the kids to bed, maybe they read from the Bible. They might have a radio....I don't know. But soon it is morning again, the sun up just a little earlier, milk, feed stock, take the shovel and head back to the ditches. And all without an iPod..........
I guess that is about it. Back to taxes..... Some of you have told me that you wanted a reminder of when to get your gardens started. Now is the time. Start small, make it easy. It should be a happy hobby that gives you some peace, some exercise, and some good food.