It’s gross outside: bits of brownish gray chunks create mushy ruts in the roads. It’s cold. My usually-hyperactive dogs roll their eyes and nuzzle into their beds when I inquire about taking a walk. The snow has been here a while: so long that it hasn’t been white for many days. Chunks of ice on the sidewalk are dyed a light cerulean. My guess is a teaspoon of de-icer on a sheet of 2 inches of snow-turned-ice isn’t sufficient. Don’t ask me about shoveling off the roof. Seriously. Don’t ask. I am getting to the point where I am over winter in the worst kind of way. I can not wait until Spring. No. That’s not fair. I can not wait until
And yet summer is so far away
Can I just tell you what I love about Summer? I promise I won’t list everything, it’d take the rest of winter for you to read.
…soaking my feet in the dog pool
In the dead heat of summer, I take hot showers. Never one for icey water, even on the hottest of days, I love sitting in my ultramarine-painted adirondack and dipping my feet into a baby pool we keep for the dogs. After I’ve spent the day in the richness of the thick air, while the daylight that permeates late into the evening lingers, I love soaking my feet in the tepid pool water. “Gross,” is the most common response I get from this fact. To me, this doggy pool water is summer.
Tip: Throw a mosquito dunk in a kids pool to avoid changing the water as often.(You can also do this in a livestock watering trough! They are perfectly okay for animals to consume.)
…the scent of soil
When I’m utterly sick of this winter weather, I pour over seed catalogs. I tip last year’s seed packages out, and the little beans and kernels cascade into my palm. My carrot seeds are the smallest. If I were to sneeze while holding them, they’d all toss themselves into the air, never to be found. When I press them delicately into dirt each year, I first mix a bit of dry soil with them so they spread more easily. My little white envelopes with “Danver 126” inked in smudged black letters are dirty. When I finger these tiny bits across my palm, there’s a strong smell of dirt. That’s my favorite part of gardening: the dirt.
Tip: If you’re curious about last year’s seeds germinating, dampen a paper towel. Spread several seeds out on half, and fold the paper towel on top. Put it in a plastic bag. You’ll know within a week or so if those seeds will sprout in your garden! This might also keep the winter gardening itch at bay.
…the sound of my neighbor’s sprinkler
My neighbors have a beautiful garden. They do everything I preach against. They don’t rotate their crops. Their tomatoes are always in the same row. Their tomatillos? Right beside them, each year. They till their soil every April, even though it’s heavy clay. They water from above.
And what I do? I rotate my crops. I’ve planned out the next 4 years of my garden so that I don’t overlap my nightshade crops. I abide by no-till methods, using cover crops and layering countless blankets of compost, and cow and chicken poop, and straw. I don’t overhead water; my soaker hoses (frozen, now) are submerged several inches below my organic material.
Ask me who has a nicer garden. Ask me whose produce is so much tastier, more beautiful, and more plentiful. No, actually, don’t ask me. I think you know. It’s not me. Luckily, my neighbors are kind people who share so much of their goodies – tomatoes and tomatillos included. And in the early mornings, while I’m checking on my 2 radishes and hand pollinating the one stalk of corn that seems to have made it, I can hear their loud sprinkler watering their lovely plants, splashing the zucchini leaves with spatters of droplets.
Tip: Grow some radishes on the kitchen windowsill in January and February. Easy to grow, you can still have a bit of freshness when it’s well below freezing outside.
Winter, I think I’m ready for you to leave
These are the things I think about on these murky winter days. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear the sprinkler right now.