Garden planting starts in earnest around the Spring Equinox—a time also known as Spring Break in Oregon, as all of the schools have rainy, cloudy week off. The garden starts from Candlemas need to be planted out under the cold frames. Kale, cabbages, mustards, and peas are eager to grow in the new, thin, spring sunshine, but still need protection for heavy rains, probable hail, and hungry rabbits. The tomatoes need to be bumped up into four inch pots and distributed on Easter weekend. The next round of garden seeds need to be planted: collards, beets, chard, herbs, and more broccoli and cauliflower. Eager for spots of color, everyone buys primroses and pansies to gather in pots around the front steps. The season revolves around the planting of seeds in the ground and one full Saturday afternoon will be devoted to potatoes. Creative fencing abounds, as the chickens are still living on a fallow garden bed, but want to run around the yard in the afternoon. By May Day, the coop will be under the laurel tree once again and the summer fencing established.
There are two important. Rituals for Springtime: Distribute the Surplus tomatoes and Hot Cross Buns. The first occurs on a Friday afternoon in early April, when I give away all of the excess tomatoes—usually between fifty and sixty plants. Mark claims that it sounds like a drug deal as we hunker down around the plants and negotiate amounts and varieties. The plants leave home and I spend less time in the evening moving starts back inside. The other event is Hot Cross Buns, an Easter brunch involving Hot Cross Buns (obviously), coconut cream pie, winter root vegetables, and a huge salad, along with decorated eggs and a peep hunt. Some years, we gather in the dining room and listen to the rain pounding on the roof, dodging out quickly to hunt for marshmallow peeps and peanut butter eggs wrapped in raincoats. Others, we set the table up outside in the garden, watch the bunny run around the yard, and blithely toss shells into the herb gardens.
By the end of March, the winter stocks are getting low. If I am lucky, a couple of squashes remain on the shelf and the onions have not quite started to sprout. I have to spend some time brushing the ghostly tendrils off of the eating potatoes and some small tubers are tossed on the compost pile. Tomatoes are long gone. Parsnips and leeks are starting to send out seed stalks and must be eaten. The Farmer’s Market is full of raab of all sorts, as their crops also shift into seed production. Although we still have lots of dried fruit, pickles, and salsa, the vegetable stores are going away. Greens, however, are thriving. Mustard and collard leaves the size of my head fall out of the produce bag from Sunbow Farm. We eat greens almost every night and I hunt through the cookbooks looking for new seasonings. The asparagus is just appearing, so we will have small sides of it sautéed with garlic for dinner. Or I will cook it with morels and eggs, with a side of whole wheat toast for dinner.
Out at Finley Wildlife refuge, things are blooming. Fawn lilies fall down the hillside. Fairy slippers and shooting stars catch our eye, magenta in the heavy dark leaves. Toothwort, Trillium, Spring Beauty, and an occasional Fairy Bells bloom in the woods. Wild mustard and English Daisy dominate the disturbed areas. The Big Leafed Maple is also blooming, and sends a spicy, sharp scent into the air. Newts are laying eggs. Birds are building nests. Everything is turning green.
In the evening, we come home for dinner, once again in front of the fire. Spring flowered plates, chicks, and decorated eggs rest on the mantel. The table runner is a mottled, batik green with underlying magenta hints. A green and pink table cloth covers the dining room table with pink depression glass candle holders. We will eat potato leek soup, Irish soda bread, and salad for dinner, then work on finishing up a pair of hand-knit socks. It may be Spring, but the floor is still chilly.
Irish Soda Bread
2 c white flour
2 c whole wheat flour
1 t salt
1 t BS
3 T sugar
nice handful of currants
4 T butter
1 !/3 c butter milk
1 egg, beaten
Mix dry ingredients together, then rub the butter in. Add milk and egg. Stir. Knead lightly. Form into a circle about two inches thick. Slide onto baking stone in the 350 degree oven and bake until golden. Eat with butter, honey, and jam.