Saturday, March 9, 2019

Here Comes the Sun


We started this year’s onions while a snow-globe worthy storm flurried about outside the windows. There is something satisfying about muddying the hands with gloppy SunGrow Resiliance 360 seeding mix, painstakingly planting each 50 cell tray with our precious Yankee and Red Wing onion seeds, while feet and feet of snow pile up outside and iciceles hang from the roof. It is the consummate pleasure of faith. It is the knowing nod of a patient lover waiting for the finer qualities to rise to the surface again in the beloved. It is the little cheeky fist brandishing act of defiance which will not be conquered by months of frigid temperatures, but remembers with romantic nostalgia grass and green and leaves and earthworms.

All of our 2019 CSA gardens are contained in a box 12.5 inches long and 9.5 inches deep. The seeds seem vulnerable in their little packets. We’re soon to tear into some of them, and plunge them into their moist flats coaxing them out of their blissful dormancy into the audacious experience known as life.
Aware we are leaving the realm of human manufacturing we beg down blessings on this little treasure trove.
“Grant that no hail may crush them, nor violent winds destroy them, but may they ever remain unharmed. Be so kind as to bring them to great abundance and ripeness for the use of body and soul.”
-“Blessing of Seeds” from the Rural Life Prayerbook
Any grumbling over broken spray bottles or spilled seeds is soon drowned out by the 2 year old’s gleeful exclamations: “I love mud!”
“These are seeds! I love planting seeds! These will be plants for our garden!”  Soon she is singing a song of her own making. I know the magic she’s experiencing. The smell of the mix, the promise of new growth. The happiness of having some concrete and new task to do.
The enthusiasm is infectious. It is something to see such a small figure bent over a flat with concentration, dropping tiny onion seeds into their respective holes, dibbled with a unsharpened pencil. I could not conjure such deliberate industry with commands. The work itself pulls it out of her, reminding me again of the primary reason we are growers
Our laundry room has become a flat preparation chamber, our kitchen table the seeding bench, and our dining room bay window is now the germination chamber, perfectly situated where the flats can sun bathe by day, and snuggle over the radiator by night, helped both by the fluorescent lights hung over them, and the woodstove in the next room. We seed the onions ala’ Eliot Coleman, 5  seeds or so to a cell, planted a foot apart in the garden, they will push eachother aside for enough room to get fat, and be easy to harvest by the clumpful.
We spend the next days battling our annual doubts. To start seeds is to become a hovering parent, overanxious, scutinizing, self-critical…
Will they germinate? Is the room too cold? Did we bury them to deeply? And then comes the day when the graceful little knobbly onion shoots, folded, press to the surface, and unbend like willowy preteens, uncertain of their sudden and newfound height.  It’s always such a shot in the arm, to see the particularly luminous green of new seedlings, against the backdrop of white landscapes and stark skies behind them through the window.

Monday we will be seeding peppers and parsley, and soon after the brassicas. It Is a quiet act, slow, filled with pregnant intention and hope, un-noticed, like the tunnels the moles and squirrels are making to get to the base of our bird feeder and pack away any fallen sunflower seeds. But I write about it because every March we Minnesotans find ourselves asking perfect strangers at the grocery store whether the winter will ever end…we look at each other with pasty white faces unable to disguise our weariness with the white, the frost, the chill…I write about little green shoots growing with unmistakable confidence, faces to the sun, like arrows intent on a target, because they proclaim the promise of dirt and rain, and green again, fresh vegetables, flowers, bare-feet, and warmth. “Here comes the sun!” they sing, and soon we’re singing it with them.

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