Four weeks ago we started our first batch of seedlings in a friend’s greenhouse. We escaped the chill of a 17-degree afternoon for a balmy 60 degrees and surrounded ourselves with trays of emerging shoots and the promise of spring. Four weeks ago it was quiet in the greenhouse.
Yesterday we went back to a completely different scene. Our baby plants were “huge” and the greenhouse was bustling. I’m surprised that our farmer friend still generously lets us start plants in his space because my how his operation has grown over the past few years. Inside tables were completely full of plants, and dozens of trays had already been moved outside under row cover to “harden off.” As many as seven people were inside the greenhouse at once: transplanting peppers, starting tomatoes, watering, moving flats of seedlings. I managed to snap just a few quick photos when we first arrived (at the end of the lunch hour), before the hustle and bustle resumed.
We have a mini chamomile forest again (I can’t blame the girls this time; I seeded the chamomile plants myself!) as well as some new flowers that we’ve never grown before (Sweet Alyssum, Statice, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Bells of Ireland). We brought home two trays of brassicas all ready to plant in our garden under row cover (kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), and so we’ve got our work cut out for us at home this weekend.
A month ago it was 60 degrees in the greenhouse but yesterday it was over 80! Ellen suggested that we take off our boots and go barefoot.
I have to pace myself in the bright light and heat (and I no longer care that my sunhat looks rediculous). Fortunately, the girls were a great help yesterday. They worked with me to make the soil blocks; write labels for the trays; and seed many varieties of tomatoes, basil, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, parsley, squash, watermelons, pumpkins, sunflowers, zinnia, and cosmos — among others. All together we started another 400 baby plants. This is our third year starting seedlings in the greenhouse, and it has become a tradition that I look forward to all winter. So much of our garden begins here. We are so grateful to be welcome on Reid’s farm and to be part of a new growing season coming to life.
Down in the woods behind our house, along the swampy forest edge, we go searching for our favorite harbinger of spring.
The world is still painted in shades of brown down here, and it is not difficult to spot the delicate beads of fuzz illuminated in afternoon light.
Each girl chooses a small branch, following the contours of buds with her finger tips . . . drinking in the silky softness. She compare branches with her sister: little kitty sizes, shapes, texture.
In moments like this, I do believe the tiny gifts of new life are the very best gifts of all. So simple. So generous. So complete.
This is our spring.
My mom continually inspires me with her creative projects. And so I’ve decided to start a series: Susie’s Knits.
This delightful little blue bird (pattern from Itty-Bitty Toys) folds neatly inside its underbelly — transforming into a pale white egg.
The egg fits perfectly its furry, brown nest . . . where it snuggles for a while . . .
Until it’s ready to hatch back out again!
For every Bird a Nest—
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round—
Wherefore when boughs are free—
Households in every tree—
Pilgrim be found?
Perhaps a home too high—
The little Wren desires—
Perhaps of twig so fine—
Of twine e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires—
The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house—
Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?
— Emily Dickinson
In my journal last week, I copied down a sentence from Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. I’d read the book before, and I had picked it back up to read the chapter on leadership. Leadership led to parenting and then this:
“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”
Brené Brown’s book is about vulnerability—how essential it is for a full life—and how being perfect is not the goal. So, no pressure, mamas and papas! But, is it my imagination, or has Amabel become even more keenly aware of who I am and how I engage with the world since she started school? Or maybe since she turned nine? Whatever the reason, I’m sure she is taking in the essence of her mother to a greater degree that ever before. No pressure, mama.
On Tuesday I had a difficult conversation at work. Amabel wasn’t there—she was three blocks away, probably taking a math test—but as I looked out into the swirling snow and confronted whether or not to stand up and speak my truth, I thought about my daughter.
The blizzard had subsided by the time I left the office to pick up the girls from school. The sky was clear. Distracted by my thoughts, I did not stop to notice the fresh comforter of snow, but I remember the drive home and the chattering voices—so confident, so sure. Yes, I spoke my truth. It may have fallen on deaf ears in the moment, but it was not lost on oblivious children.
On Saturday we sorted through piles of seed packets from last year, taking stock of what we have left, trying to remember what grew well. Which variety of tomato was our favorite? Why didn’t we get many cucumbers? Did they get munched by insects or were the plants just too crowded by neighboring flowers, melons, and beans? I have a tendency to sow seeds a little too close together — squeezing in as much as possible. Sometimes I overdo it.
Jeffrey and I sat at the table together for nearly four hours: pouring over seed catalogs, making lists, dreaming. This year, like every year, I resolved to take better garden notes. Last spring I was diligent about writing down planting details. Then summer came, the vegetables grew wild, and I stopped taking notes. We do have photos, fortunately. And when I look back over photos from last summer, I see clear evidence of my favorite plants: those wily volunteers that sprout after an entire winter (or two) under the snow. The calendulas, the borage, the sunflowers, the odd pepper plant, sturdy kale, and scallions . . . I cherish these determined souls.
I love ordering seeds in winter. I love the promise of another season and the allure of a catalogue filled with potential for color, texture, and flavor. But I’m particularly intrigued by the mysterious seeds that sit outside my window right now, dormant under a frozen white blanket. What will come up, unbidden, in the spring?
When we drop into stillness with reverence and curiosity, we may be surprised at what we find. Yes, there may be wells of grief and tears that need to be shed. There may be loneliness and uncertainty, vulnerability and the fear of the unknown. But there’s also something glimmering underneath the winter snows, a seed of creativity, a moment of possibility that, when given attention, can be nurtured into something new: a poem, a story, a project, a recipe, a dance, a song, a painting. It’s not ready to blossom into the fullness of its manifestation, but the tiny beginning is here, and you can only hear it if you slow down enough to listen. — February: Listen for the Seed