April Fool.

In my mind, spring begins with the early March time change, pulling us forth into longer days and heavy, wet snows. The calendar tells us that Spring begins at the Equinox, with the sun rising at due east and setting at due west. But in the wild and wooly mountains of Colorado, Spring comes much, much later than even that. Which is why I generally find April so hard to bear…. It seems as though the longer days and warmer weather are here to stay, the trees start budding, the birds start singing, then a cold snap comes and crushes our dreams of an early summer. And yet I fall for it every year….Every. Year. I’m starting to think there may be a little more weight behind the term ‘April Fool.’

In early January of every year, I start to receive seed catalogs in the mail. I peruse them for weeks; reading profiles, imagining flavors, mapping out the garden. I place my order. By mid February, I get nervous if I don’t have a few seeds in the starting mix indoors. I always start my peppers and tomatoes first. Once they have germinated and grown large enough to transplant into individual pots, I get moving on some indoor herbs and spring mix. Then the time change comes and the Equinox passes just as the Brassica go into the starting mix. It’s usually about now, mid April, that I start to get that ‘in-over-my-head’ feeling….

The tomatoes are large, so I transplant them into the final container before they will go out to the garden. I have placed the largest tomato plants into their permanent homes in several Earthboxes, they are growing fast this year. I start to wonder what I will do with the other twenty tomato seedlings I have still under the lights. I have also placed the largest of each type of pepper plant into an Earthbox to grow for the season. The remainder of the pepper plants need more time, they are fragile and slow to bulk up as usual. The early spinach and spring mix I’ve planted is getting closer and closer to the clipping stage; not quite a full meal, but a fine and delicate addition to our hearty winter fare. The herbs don’t need much time under the lights, they fan out with ease, pleased to have the sun on their cheeks. The Brassica always germinate in a quick, leggy show of voluptuous energy just as I realize that I am running short of it.

This is also the time when I should be getting the outdoor beds ready for the cool weather veggies, checking my wall’o’waters for holes and tears, and trying to talk myself down from starting the Cucurbita too early – something I am apt to do. Just as I start to get overwhelmed with the rotation of the seedlings under the lights and the delicate balance of watering and promoting air circulation, I then realize it is almost time to start the maddening process of hardening off. To top it off, I am completely out of room in the house: the window seat, coffee table, dining room table, kitchen counters, even the couch….they are all occupied by seedling trays and Earthboxes. I shovel dirt, fight the damping off, shuffle the plants, uncoil the hoses, lock the cat in the bedroom when I can’t keep my eyes on her, shuffle the plants, transfer the seedlings, plant more seeds, shuffle the plants….

…I think this may be the very definition of the ‘April Fool.’ I sense the warmer weather, yet I have to beg myself to wait, to continue this dance until May. Just a couple more weeks. Just a couple. more. weeks. Then busy will turn to busier, which soon becomes busiest, then hectic, then batshitinsane. Before you know it, actual Spring will hit and we’ll be digging, planting, mulching. Then summer will arrive and we’ll be watering, fertilizing, weeding. Soon to be followed by the harvest season and all the canning, freezing, drying. As the cupboard shelves become full we will be silently praying for frost, yellow leaves, first snow. Then the cycle repeats itself, season to season, year after year. Hurry up and wait for the mad dash which lies just ahead. I guess I could almost consider myself lucky at the moment…..almost.

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