Is It Spring Yet?

Winter is NOT my thing.  I can’t stand being cold, I don’t like when it gets dark at 5:30 in the evening, or the dreary grey/brown that cloaks the woods behind my house, and I hate coats and gloves.  I get restless and snippy from cabin fever, and all I can think about is summer.  I get this disdain for winter from my mother…she dislikes the cold as much as I do.  We both thrive in the heat, and shiver below 70 degrees.  In our perfect world, the yard would be filled with palm and citrus trees, and our houses wouldn’t need furnaces.  “Sweater weather” would be when the temperature dares to drop to 60 degrees.

But hey, I live in Indiana, and anyone who lives in the northern half of the US must deal with the cold reality of winter.  I was born and raised here, so this is nothing new…every November I brace myself to the fact that I’m going to be cold for the next 5-6 months.  And I suffer through it, looking forward to that first little peek of green that blesses my yard in early April.  My problem is that I want to start looking for that peek of green in early January, as soon as the Christmas tree comes down.  And friends, that makes for a LONG winter.

My solution in the past has been to drown my sorrows in a sea of amaretto-laced hot chocolate, stay in my pajamas, and look at loads of pictures from my trips to the beaches of Florida and Mexico.  This year has been harder, though, and it’s BECAUSE of the beach.  My husband and I celebrated our anniversary on December 6th by taking a much-needed vacation to south Florida, our first vacation since our son was born.  We had just moved to a new town a few months before our wedding, so we never took a honeymoon…we just didn’t feel like we could get away.  Then our son was born, I became a stay-home mother, and then we REALLY couldn’t get away. But this year, we did…and it was glorious.  A whole week of sun, sand, surf, and summer clothes in December…heavenly!

Then we came home, leaving 84 degree days and warm, breezy nights in Florida for a bitter cold snap in Indiana.  When we left West Palm Beach that sad morning, it was 79 degrees at 8 am…when we landed in Indianapolis a few hours later, we were greeted with a 17 degree snowy afternoon with wind chills in the single digits.  Not good for someone who claims to have salt water in her veins, and visions of palm trees dancing in her head…the first bitter blast of cold was quite a shock after a week in the tropics.  It wasn’t particularly cold when we left Indiana, but when we came back…yikes!  And so far, this winter’s been pretty unfriendly.

So I’m faced with a choice…I can sulk away the winter (tempting, but not much fun), or I can start looking forward to spring in a proactive way.  I love to garden…my mother has two green thumbs and 8 green fingers, and can grow anything.  She’s a fearless gardener, unafraid to prune, snip or relocate her green babies as she sees fit, and it nearly always works out.  So I grew up watching her beautiful garden flourish and thrive every summer, and even now, she is 79 years old and still grows the prettiest flowers in her neighborhood.  I have very fond memories of helping her do little daily gardening tasks.  She is my inspiration – I’ve learned so much from her over the years, and our shared passion for summertime and gardening has given us a deeper bond.

I love my flowers, yet my love of gardening has grown new tendrils over the past few years…organic vegetable gardening.  My husband and I are members of a local community garden, and the mission statement of the garden is to grow produce without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.  Since joining the group two years ago, I have learned so much about the detrimental effects of chemicals and GMO crops on the environment and the human body, and have gotten very serious about growing and preserving natural foods.  In addition, I have a beautiful opportunity to instill this knowledge and love of growing our own food as naturally as possible into my young son.  I am painfully aware that many children think all food comes from a grocery store.  Many elementary school-age children can’t even tell you that french fries come from potatoes (unless, of course, you’re talking about the ones from McDonald’s…still not sure what THOSE are made of…).

So this winter, I am dealing with the cold, grey days in a different way.  I’m thinking of it as “summer prep time”.  I’m going on line and ordering heirloom, non-GMO, and organic seed catalogs (my favorite thus far is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, http://www.rareseeds.com), and hunkering down with them as I plan a layout for this year’s garden.  I’ll draw out my garden plot and plan my planting dates, and if I order my seeds by the end of January, I’ll have them in time to plant them in my little peat pots by early March, and put them in my portable greenhouse in a south-facing window.  Then I can spend the last 6 weeks of cold weather nurturing the little green sproutlets into healthy plants.  By May 1st, I’ll be planting them in my garden plot.

Someone once told me a joke when I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work:  “How do you eat and elephant?  One bite at a time.”  A silly joke, but applicable to nearly any overwhelmingly large or lengthy task…say, like, getting through an Indiana winter when you’re a summer person.  Break it down into little, manageable tasks or time blocks, and just get to the next one.  So I’m going to try that with this winter…plant the seeds, water them, water them again, and watch them grow.  And when that’s done, I can stop asking…”Is it spring yet???”

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