Spring is rife with symbolism.
The season unfolds in the Northeast jaggedly; revealing herself in starts and bursts bookended by blankets of tiresome snow. She pokes her head out the proverbial window to throw fruit tree blossoms and shoots from bulbs, only to retreat again back under the refrozen ground. We sense her just out of reach, as days grow longer and quiet shocks of warm air no sooner sweep over our uncovered heads than another chill breaks through.
The farmers and gardeners know this dance well. Going back through logbooks at Better Farm, I see the dates of asparagus poking up through the loamy soil from years past and know we’re just a few weeks away from such excitement. The peas are ready to go in the ground in a few days. Indoor germination has commenced for Brussels sprouts, artichokes, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli. Even as the snow falls outside, there is this sense of stirring. Of waking up.
Mapping the property is one of the final pleasures of winter for me. Slippered and seated in front of the wood stove, I chart all that we’ll be planting this year. Over large maps of Better Farm’s property, I begin to draw and label. I mark which plants will go in what garden beds and rows, careful to rotate everything’s location from the year before in order to continually enhance the soil. I select the fruit trees I want to plant in our fledgling orchard, and map out where we’ll be planting native bushes and grasses for a bird habitat sanctuary we’ve been working on for the last several years with the Audubon Society.
As I sketch, my imagination runs wild. I envision tendrils of vines climbing along fencing. Tulips, gladiolus, and lilies unfurling bright flower petals of every color. Blossoms of peaches, apples, raspberries, and squash. And so much green. It’s easy to get lost in the anticipation.
Researching and listing all the flowers and ornamental plants being added to the roster this year creates a buffer between myself and the grey, stubborn chill that refuses to let go a moment sooner than it pleases. We’re bound for the rebirth of a new season, carrying with it the hope and optimism of sun on our skin, warm breezes through the hair, open water as far as the eye can see.
It’s the hopefulness of fresh starts after the stagnation of winter in a cold, isolated place. The promise of different experiences, hard work, and time well-spent on front porches with best friends, along the shoreline at a cookout, or in the woods around a bonfire. It’s all coming. Soon enough.
Until next time, better be.
Nicole Caldwell is an author, journalist and editor in Redwood. She is also co-founder and CEO of Better Farm, a sustainability education center, artist colony, animal sanctuary and organic farm. Learn more about Caldwell at www.nicolecaldwellwrites.org