That February Feeling

It’s the end of February, and here in Western MT, we shared the Polar Vortex with the rest of the country, but it wasn’t too bad in Missoula. It didn’t last long, and we’re more or less always prepared for bad weather, so we were ready for it. Now, I’m ready for a big thaw. We got another four or five inches of snow last night, but it wasn’t super cold, and the snow won’t last long, even if more falls.

This morning, as I was walking to work, I heard something distinctly springy: birdsongs that were not house sparrows, our perpetual feathered companions. I thought they might have been warblers, scouting the cottonwoods along the banks of the Clark Fork. Even though everything is still buried in winter, the trees are beginning to swell, the river is mostly free of ice, and everything is ready: the earth, the water, the birds, me. And yet I feel some anxiety about the approaching season and of working in the garden again.

Gardening means time and effort. Lots of it. But it’s worth the strained muscles and all the weekends and evenings my husband and I have to give. Our freezer is still stocked with much of last year’s harvest. We’re still eating our frozen strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, and currants. We still have tomatoes: frozen whole, fire roasted, sauced, and sun dried. We still have garlic. We still have tomatillo jam. We had a bumper crop of almost everything, and we’re hoping for more this year.

I ordered seeds in December to avoid the rush, which means I ordered without much of a plan. This year’s plants will include black tomatoes, green tomatoes, purple tomatoes, French, Italian, and Polish. I couldn’t decide. I also have five varieties of carrots, as well as black radishes, purple radishes, and regular old red. I ordered lettuces and kale that promise not to freeze, peppers from New Mexico, and ground cherries. I’m not even sure what those are, but they’re yellow and pretty and you wait to harvest them until they fall off the plant, and that piqued my interest.

This week, we’ll start preparing the potting soil, and we’ll begin filling the pots; we’re trying shelves and grow lights for our seedlings. Last year, we grew our starts on a coffee table and a card table and had to carry the plants from window to window, following the sun. This year, we’re hoping our shelves and lights make for less travel from room to room, and for bigger plants when it comes time to put them outside. We’ll see.

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