The season cycled over the weekend – officially it is not quite spring, but in fact, spring now has a toe hold. Even if it goes back to chilly or even snows, the ground is too warm for it to last, by the end of an unusually warm week the grass will be green and the soil dried enough to move forward. That doesn’t mean my (optimistic) plantings of peas and bok choy, spinach and sweet peas may not stagnate or my fruit tree blooms get caught by frost (we can’t even say a late frost, it is two months to my last frost date, and anything can happen in upstate NY and usually does), that the boys in shorts and t-shirts might not go back to cords and sweaters – but you can’t turn the season around.
This is the earliest spring I’ve ever seen in upstate NY, after the warmest winter – a friend recently moved from California confided she was pleasantly surprised by winter – it really didn’t seem that bad. I don’t think she believed me when I told her that the greening of spring is often a full month from now.
The peepers began their peeping on Friday, and yesterday, at Eli’s 12th birthday party, we found garter snakes sunning themselves, frog eggs and minnows awakening. The crocuses are blooming, More than a dozen happy children from two to thirteen swarmed the creek, climbing trees, dancing back and forth across the fallen log that serves as a bridge, building short-lived dams and dipping toes into cold water. No one could bear to go inside the house – except when filthy and exhausted they trooped in to drain glasses of lemonade and devour their weight in cake before revisiting the sun and water.
Spinach, kale and leeks all have overwintered without cover here – not that unusual, but something that only happens one year in three normally. In a week or two there will be spinach to harvest, and the kale leaves will size up yet at as well before they bolt (I hope ;-)). While saving spinach seed is no real challenge, biennial seed saving is always a challenge here so a good warm year with a mild winter is quite an opportunity.
The rhubarb is up an inch, the sorrel a bit more – it will be a week or two before we have any real harvest here, but the hope lingers. We’ve crossed the rubicon into spring, and it is only a matter of time now. That it is a spring that really belongs to a place 400 miles south of me is worrisome – but it is hard not to glory and kick up our heels.
Dandelion greens will fill the pot soon, and nettles. Sorrel will mix with tender spinach and bitter dandelion, tossed with the abundant eggs of spring. There’s a reason why they used to say that nothing is as sweet as that first mess of greens – there’s something in our bodies that with the return of sunlight calls out for sour and bitter, sweet and mlld together. There will be frittata and omlets as the season of greens and eggs comes together. Bibim Bap made with wild greens and a broken yolked egg dusted with sesame seeds will make an appearance, and gnocchi, delicate and creamy green. The first sprigs of rosemary, mint, chives parsley and and thyme will make a sauce for duck eggs, mixed with lemon and spring onion.
Later there will be rhubarb sauce and asparagus, eventually there will be strawberries. But first there will be greens to go with the already abundant eggs, and it is the greens that call to us with the siren call of spring.