March 26, 2013

My Point Is...Spring into Spring?

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The groundhog saw its shadow on Feb. 2, but somehow Mother Nature seems to have forgotten that it is ‘officially’ spring.

Bundling up with layered clothing, coats, hats and even gloves has marked the first few days of spring thus far, with predictions of snowfall over the next few days. I just wonder, what happened to spring?

The winter seasons that were marked with snow, perfect for sledding, seem to have drifted into just memories. Global warming has been blamed for many weather trends over the past decade, including the lack of huge snowfalls that would cancel school for several consecutive days. But with modern technology and more equipment to clear the roadways during snow and ice, school goes on most of the time during the winter months. And we live without those beautiful six inches of snow that prohibit me from showing my grandchildren how to build igloos and snowmen.

Adjusting to the lack of winter snows, I set my sights for gardening in the spring. I want to show my grandchildren the importance of growing vegetables, relishing the taste of a homegrown tomato fresh out of the garden. There is little better than a good, ripe, homegrown tomatos still warm from the summer sun!

Since I can’t show my grandchildren how to build igloos, snowmen or how to sled, I instead set out to show them how to plant, how to cherish the growth process, and the joys of gardening, which also seems to be a thing of the past.

The ground we’ve used for a garden seems tired and growing a decent crop of corn has become impossible. Beans, however, thrive every year, as do onions and tomatoes over the past few seasons. The onions are usually no challenge, but I have to guard the tomato crop against the woodland animals who often infuriate me by leaving with beautifully ripened tomatoes with the bottom bitten off.

The one good thing about the early spring’s cold weather so far is that I managed to set out four rows of peas this year. Peas thrive in cold weather but I always seem to miss the mark to set them out at the appropriate time. Although my aunt always said to plant peas on March 17, the 2013 almanac is clear in instructing that peas be planted on March 1. Peas are usually a crop I set out with other garden seeds in April and inevitably, don’t produce well -- probably for that reason. Co-worker and gardener Carol Mills always tells me that I wait too late every year, and gives updates of how her crop thrives while my later crop withers away into just a few pods that wouldn’t constitute enough to include in a bowl of soup.

My plan for an early pea setting came by my son who took advantage of a pretty, warm Saturday to till an area for my early crop. I was determined to challenge Carol this year. Unfortunately, I let the pretty day slip by and the rain and cold that followed put a screeching halt to my plans.

The continued cold weather, however, inspired me to try the peas, although I was already past the days specified by my aunt and the almanac.

So I put on my “grubbies” -- sweat pants, sweat shirt, rubber boots, a toboggan, gloves and coat -- and let my gardening hoe rip into the muddy ground to define some not-so-straight rows that would hopefully evolve into my own bumper crop of peas this year.

But even that had its own challenge. My two small dogs, Sally and Sam, were more interested in my planting than my grandchildren usually are. They curiously watched my gardening expertise, following along and beside me as I tackled the clotty ground. It was only after I was dropping the peas into the second row that I noticed Sally was chewing on something that crunched before I realized she’d been stealing some peas as I carefully dropped three at a time at certain intervals along the crooked rows. I immediately yelled at her to stop, which was virtually a fruitless effort at that point, because apparently she likes the crunch and taste of the peas.

I’ve threatened in the past to concoct some type of screen to ward off the birds and woodland animals from my garden, but I never thought I’d have to do it because of the dogs.

And now that I have set out my peas, I’m more than ready for the global warming trend to kick in at any time!