World literature is filled with allusions to spring — with good reason. It is the springtime of the year that brings a rebirth and rejuvenation to the things around us. It is the time that we walk outside and hear the male songbirds singing gaily in effort to attract a mate for the season, or in some cases, for the rest of his life. It is the time of the year that the woodlands are teeming with new baby animals of all kinds — from soft furry bunnies to yipping coyote pups. It is the time of year that we can drive down the country roads and see farm pastures filled with baby calves next to their grazing mamas and long-legged foals running and frolicking around.
In the world of gardening, it is also a time of rebirth and rejuvenation. We have spent the long winter months looking through seed catalogs and dreaming. In most cases those dreams have led us to take action to purchase seeds that we want to grow in our gardens. Some of us take stock of seeds that we saved from past harvests. In many cases we plan even further and plant some of those seeds inside the warmth of our homes in order to get a head start on the outdoor growing season. Of course, I am referring to the Baker Creek world of gardening, and my world of gardening here in the Missouri Ozarks. I do understand that some of you in other climate zones can actually do your best growing in your mild winters, and you have planned accordingly.
As we cheerfully bid goodbye to the winter’s ice and snow, we welcome the thawing of the soil that will allow us to plant seeds. We plan for the good food that we will grow to nourish our bodies and for the beautiful flowers that we will grow to nourish our inner sanctums. Each little seed that we so carefully put into the ground and cover to just the right depth gives us hope of good things to come.
While my farmstead is not totally self-sufficient, I do grow much of my own food that I eat fresh as it produces and that I preserve for future months when fresh fruits and vegetables are not readily available. Sometimes people ask me why I work so hard to grow and preserve my own food when I could purchase it in the grocery store so much more easily. Thinking about that question, I realize that I do it for different reasons than my mother and grandmothers did it.
I was fortunate to grow up in a family of 7 just down the country road from my paternal grandparents. I grew up watching my grandmother and my mother spend long hours in their hot kitchens without air conditioning preserving foods that would not otherwise be available in the coming months. “Back in those days” if they didn’t preserve it, we didn’t have it. That isn’t the case with me. I may live 8 miles from the nearest small town, but it doesn’t take long to drive into town and buy a sack of groceries from the local chain store. But then I think about what I would be buying: lots of processed chemicals in the commercially preserved foods, or produce that has been shipped from all across the country or even from some foreign country. That simply is not the food that I want to put into my body on a regular basis.
As spring approaches, I look for the first robins hopping around my yard gathering nesting materials. I look for the first green blades of grass emerging. I impatiently wait for my garden soil to get dry enough from the winter’s participation to work the soil and get some seeds planted. Then I wait, even more impatiently, for those seeds to germinate and send those first little shoots of green above the soil. Each morning I rush out to my vegetable garden with excited anticipation of what I might see growing. Radishes are usually the first spring plants to show their green above the ground, followed quickly by lettuce and other salad greens. From then on, my garden takes off growing wildly. Before long, I’m eating beets, peas, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, okra, and so much more. I eat all that I want, I preserve for future eating, and then I still have plenty to share with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.
Whatever trials and tribulations this winter has dealt you, I hope that you have found time to look at seed catalogs. I further hope that you have dreamed about and planned for your garden. Lastly, I hope that spring 2016 brings your best gardening experience ever and supplies you with good food that is healthful to both your body and soul. I wish you blessings upon your garden.