First Harbinger of Spring
By Lois Hoffman
It happens every January. I run to the mailbox in anticipation every day. Nothing. Then one day it is there, my first seed catalog of the new year.
For me that first catalog has always been a harbinger of spring, a promise that the earth will eventually thaw again and life will renew.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a winter basher, I do so love this frozen season. There is not a prettier sight than a pristine morning after a new snowfall. I love the pure enjoyment of building a snowman and the elated joy of rushing down a hill on a sled. It is also a quiet time to renew relationships, read a book and to reflect. But, towards the end of January, there are more cloudy days than sunny, the temperatures run more in the negatives than the positives, and the charm seems to fade.
Then, those colorful pictures in the seed catalogs tempt me with the promise of fresh produce again. It is so much fun to see all the new varieties and also see the old tried and true staples on page after page. I am not so naïve as to think that what I plant will look like the luscious produce that the seed catalogs display. Still, I remember the wonderful feeling of digging in the dirt and the sheer wonder of planting a tiny seed and watching it grow into a mature plant that will produce an abundance of fruit.
Even more reassuring in the past few years has been the resurgence of heirloom seeds. Not everyone agrees as to exactly what an heirloom is. Some say it is a variety of seed that has been grown a certain number of years whereas others insist it is a variety that has been handed down from one family member to another for generations. Hybrids, on the other hand, do have their place when growers have to be concerned about getting the most from the most. By cross pollinating, hybrids offer better yield, better color and more disease resistance.
Even though not always as practical as hybrids, I like the idea of heirloom seeds because each one planted is preserving a bit of the past and protecting our heritage. Who knows when a new use, perhaps a medicinal one, will surface for a particular variety. Once one of these strains is allowed to vanish, it will be gone forever. What a shame that would be.
Each year, too, the adventurer in me prompts me to try something totally new from those seed catalogs. One year it was peanuts. Not a good choice. One year it was cushaws (unusual-looking fruits supposed to taste like squash). It didn’t. Why didn’t I just plant squash???
Well, the wind is still howling, the snow is still coming and the temperature is still in single digits. But, my spirits lighten with each seed catalog I browse through. I think I’ll stick to the basics this year except for one new product that catches my eye – Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew. What do you think?
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