A friend of mine used to say “spring always comes.” That sentence is loaded with meaning, of course, and the comfort that comes with that simple statement goes deep and far.
Happily Roger was proven right again this year and spring dawns in the northeast as usual — as usual…
Just that phrase. Since 2020 nothing has felt “usual” – but spring has come, *as usual*, thank the gods. Snowdrops have come and gone, crocus and daffodils are up, tree buds are visible and I’m thinking about summer porch furniture. As usual.
Some other usual things … the mailboxes of our hometown after a winter of (not much) snow plowing:
Year after year we marvel at the ingenuity of people’s solutions to this perennial problem. People are very creative!
Yes, the comfort of the usual, maybe not entirely predictable things. Welcome, spring.
Yes, we’ve entered egg season. Not just because it’s Easter time and every store features chocolate eggs of every color and size, and marshmallow chics, but also egg production is in full swing here. We started to find small eggs during the last week of January, which really surprised me, but now! We have tons of eggs every day.
I got these new chicks at the end of last summer – a little late to be getting chickens, actually, bug they grew fast and by the time the cold New England nights set in they were pretty well grown.
Now our girls, based on my advanced math (number of eggs – number of chickens), produce more than one egg per chicken on some days. And even though I love to cook and bake– and I really like scrambled eggs with fresh chives from the kitchen garden and flourless chocolate cake– that is just too many eggs for us to eat.
So now I have a small overstock business.
Besides producing a million eggs, chickens are miraculous. They are beautiful – their feathers are so soft and colorful. They have downy fluffy bloomers:
That is serious chicken porn in that picture. They make lots of manure that is awesome for my garden (a little tough to shovel but you can’t have everything). And they have so much personality. Each one of them is an individual. The chicken in the photo above, named Summer, greets me every day at the door when I enter the henhouse.
A final word on chicken eggs. They are a little like a box of chocolates. You never really know what you’re going to get:
Above, a hedge of lavender next to my driveway popped into glorious fragrant bloom in June. I don’t know who was more excited – me or the bumble bees.
I can never bring myself to cut the flowers while they are in full bloom – the sun on the flowers is too glorious. But when they’ve passed their prime they still cut beautifully and are wonderfully fragrant.
When my son’s girlfriend saw my giant pile of cut lavender she immediately thought of lavender lemonade, and took a handful to make lavender syrup. It was delicious.
Easy to grow and easily available, lavender will grace your garden, attract pollinators, and is truly a sensory joy. Lavender is drought tolerant, does well in zones 6-10.
I don’t know anyone that likes weeding. It’s back-breaking, necessary work. Sure, there’s some satisfaction in a weed-free garden bed but it’s short-lived. The weeds are back almost immediately, it seems.
So today was weed the garden beds day. I didn’t get them all weeded – I only managed to weed two of them. It was overcast, which is good weeding weather, and it had to be done.
And it’s fine. Pulling weeds from around the lettuce and knowing I’d be eating it in a salad later created a sense of calm and purpose. I took a break around noon, cut enough lettuce to fill a big colander, pulled a couple of radish, and came in to enjoy a nourishing lunch. It’s the most basic luxury to have to pay attention to when it rains (or doesn’t) and to know that aside from the nutrients in the soil there’s just water and sunshine in your food. And no plastic waste.
Back to weeding… I always joke with my husband that grass only grows where I don’t want it to. It never seems happy to grow on the designated lawn area, it much prefers my garden and our driveway.
Other “weeds” – verbena, squash, and tomato that self seeded, were spared. It’s tough to pull plants I’ve actually bought/planted just because they are growing in an inopportune spot. I dug out some verbena and put them in a spot near the kitchen window where I can watch the monarch butterflies visit their vivid purple flowers this summer. And the squash and tomatoes… I have a suspicion the squash is actually pumpkins. Last year they took over the garden because I felt bad pulling them out. In the end they crowded out the butternut squash, which I won’t let happen twice.
And then there are the pretty weeds, like the wildflowers that grow in our fields. These pretty daisy-like flowers pictured above, buttercups, purple, red, and blue flowers… we mow around them.
I’ll leave you with a photo of our cat, who really enjoys watching all of the activity at the birdhouse you can see pictured. It is nestled in a giant beast of a climbing hydrangea that has taken over one wall of our garage and is adjacent to a raspberry patch that is trying to take over the west field. Smudge (the cat) may be aware that there is a nest with baby birds … and the constant coming and going is the parents feeding their little ones. Or maybe not.
Many would say that the months between and including December and April are too damn cold in New England. On most days I am among those people, saying to anyone who will listen that New England is no place to age.
But then May comes.
Along with the trees bursting to life in bright spring green, pink, white, red and yellow, the lilacs appear. For a couple of weeks the air is fragrant with them. Lilly of the valley perfume the air at night, a sweet, haunting, beautiful scent. And (where applicable) strawberry flowers open delicate white petals to the new sun.
And the forget-me-nots, chives with their globes of purple flowers, bleeding hearts– all of this after the famous bulbs. It’s like having a baby – you forget the pain of childbirth when you hold a baby in your arms. A similar thing happens here in May. The discomfort of winter fades and softens, replaced by wonder, joy and pleasure. Also lettuce, snap peas, radishes and rhubarb. 🙂
As I write this I’m sitting on the porch listening to crickets. The last of the day’s light illuminates the sky in periwinkle-gray, the trees make dark silhouettes and the last intrepid birds are still singing — calling home family members that have stayed out too long, perhaps. A flash of pink lightening in the sky.
Today we had some sun and warmth; May is variable in New England and this week was chilly, so it was nice to see the sun. I wandered out to the garden with a hand trowel and a few zucchini plants I bought at our friends’ farmstand up in Stowe, dug out some compost from the bottom of the pile to mix into the garden bed, and popped them in to the soil. Hallelujah.
There’s something really calming about gardening. If you let yourself just be present for it, it has a therapeutic affect. Since starting a new job last June I’ve been pretty fully immersed. I work long days– from home, luckily — and thoughts about work creep into the hours I’m not working. But when I’m in the garden the smell of the soil and fragrant flowers, the sound of the birds and the breeze in the leaves of trees, and the feeling of my hands in the dirt has a way of holding my full attention.
Today it was just me and my son Tristan at home. He has a summer class this evening (calculus, which, it turns out, is better to take when you don’t have other classes competing for your attention and energy) and when he spotted the radishes I brought in he selected the largest one and popped it into his mouth. When he was young I grew radishes on a tiny plot we had at an apartment we were renting– two squares of the garden in the backyard came with the Cambridge apartment. It had raised beds and walkways made of brick. Tristan would pull the radishes I grew out of the ground and eat them before I could wash them. It was pretty great.
So now, about 18 years later he’s still eating the radish I grow. There’s something very cool about that.
A couple of weeks ago the radish and lettuce looked like this …
With so little in the world to feel sure about, the idea that I can grow radishes year after year gives a certain comfort. I think it’s comforting to Tristan, too.
Yesterday Inga texted to tell me she was in trouble at school and the principal was really mad at her. I didn’t panic but my heart sunk thinking of her in principal Bottomly’s office, missing class. I texted back “what happened?” Fortunately she didn’t leave me worrying for long before declaring the text an April fools joke.
I won’t write much here tonight except to note that along with April fools the crocus came and went, the chives are up. It’s amazing how plants that are so tender can weather 17 degree nights like the ones we had this week.
The hellebore are blooming. They are absolutely gorgeous. The photo here is from the last week in March:
The garlic and rhubarb, likewise, have emerged and the peonies, hyacinth, and bergamot are just starting to reach up through last year’s fallen leaves. I can’t wait for the lilacs to bloom. AND we’ve been getting eggs for weeks. 4 today.
We stopped over at the local feed store and they had adorable chicks for sale. It was so tempting to bring some home; Jon remarked it is rather cruel of them to leave such irresistible chicks right by the door, impossible to pass by them without cooing and having to fight an urge to scoop one up.
It was a kind of magic to wake this morning to the site of grass and the earth uncovered. When the sun set last night everything was still covered in snow.
But even more magical today were the snowdrops.
Over breakfast I told Jon that I was going to go out to look for them today. He said – ‘Really? We had snow on the ground until last night. Do you think there will be any?
Well… yes! I did find one just emerging in the lawn this morning. And during our afternoon walk – voila! Jon actually spotted them first.
For me, these are the first true sign that spring is here.
I’ve recently begun to ask myself what one thing I can do to make myself happy today and making an effort to do that thing. This morning the answer was to take the time to go out and look for snow drops.
On the way back toward the house I passed the kitchen garden and noticed the first chive shoots are reaching up out of the ground … freshly clipped chive with scrambled eggs! And the hellebore are pushing up and unfolding. I can’t wait to see them.
It’s exciting to think I’ll be turning compost into my spring garden beds and planting lettuce and radish in a month or so…
Winter is well and truly here at the farm, just in time for spring!. Today we are having a blizzard – gusts of wind up to 60 mph, snow flying. The birds are hiding, everything has disappeared under a blanket of white.
But the girls started laying this week. I found two frozen eggs on Thursday, a reminder that the old calendar of holidays was in tune with things. We are coming up on Imbolg, the old pagan celebration of light and fertility- our first sight of spring. The chickens know it. And of course seeds start to stir around this time in the northern hemisphere because the days are lengthening. It’s time to start thinking about this year’s garden.
Asparagus. Strawberries, Rhubarb… all perennials that will emerge this spring. The garlic I planted last fall – too early, I think; planted in early October and was sprouted and starting to grow before the temps turned consistently cold – we will see how it fares.
And what happened with the food as medicine experiment, you ask? It was a success, even in the face of starting a demanding new job in June. It was successful not because of the diet, but because I engaged my own intuitive healing. Seeing Henri and changing my eating habits was a turning point; I realized more concretely than I had before that my state of mind was driving everything: what I saw and experienced — and my health. I realized I have the power and responsibility to change what I focus on. I wound up returning to a more “regular” diet, cutting back on dairy and wheat, and taking up a daily meditation and yoga practice. The result: my hypertension is much better (not gone, yet, but I’m optimistic it will fully resolve with more meditation :-), and my arthritic ankle is much better and still improving. I’m looking forward to a year in the garden on it.
May the white goddess bless you with sweet dreams.
Last week I went to see Henri Balaguera, who is a doctor of functional medicine (he is also a traditional doctor of western internal medicine). It seems everyone I know has heard of functional medicine. Before this appointment, I hadn’t; I was there on a referral from my husband Jon, who knows Henri from the Lahey Clinic, where they work together.
Luckily, there were leaflets in the waiting room so that I could familiarize myself with what might happen after I entered Henri’s office.
Henri spent a few hours with me, talking first about my familial relationships before discussing my symptoms, which include an arthritic ankle, hypertension, back pain, and episodes of depression. What struck me was how much time Henri spent talking to me about my relationships and how they affect me. His intuition, together with an obviously genuine interest in helping me heal and a kind of wisdom I don’t often encounter made the appointment not just affecting… it was life changing.
So much so that I went there saying “I won’t be doing any crazy diet or changing what I eat. I eat a very healthy diet.”
And here I am changing what I eat. The reason for this is simple. Henri diagnosed me with dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability. That translates to leaky gut syndrome. Not arthritis. It was like getting a new lease on life.
And he is confident that once I deal with my leaky gut my arthritis will cease to plague me. He also mentioned I had some work to do on my relationships and that my spirituality, which for so many years was a bigger part of my life, needs to take priority. He thinks my hypertension will benefit from this advice since my anxiety will decrease with a more accepting perspective on the things that people close to me do and have done.
Functional medicine is a kind of holistic medicine, so Henri was treating all of me. Not just my hypertension and my ankle, though he assures me both will benefit from a few adjustments to my habits and habits of mind.
So far, it’s been 5 days. I have given up coffee, wine, gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs … there has been a great deal of complaining and whining. Jon jokes that we are eating twigs. He has decided to do the diet with me and has not complained. I am doing all of the complaining for both of us.
A few days in, I have more energy, I feel lighter, and the pain in my back seems to have stopped. My ankle still bothers me and my blood pressure is still up. But it’s only day 5.