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Soaking in Spring

I’m letting Spring seep into my mind and body. 

            When I got my 2022 At-a-Glance calendar, I drew a big smiley sun face on March 20th.  Here in Middle Tennessee, Spring officially begins at 12:33 P.M. when the vernal equinox marks a time that the direct rays of the sun produce equal day and night. 

            I was taught that on the first days of Spring and Fall the hours of daylight and darkness are twelve hours each.  While that’s not exactly correct, it’s within minutes.  Here in Cookeville, on Sunday, March 20, the sun will rise at 6:50 a.m. and set at 6:58 p.m.  Until June 20, we’ll have sunshine a few minutes longer each day and I’ll track those minutes.    

            Spring brings brightness, a welcomed contrast to winter’s gray and brown.  Yellow daffodils bloom and, even after last week’s snow and frigid temperatures, many still hold their heads high. Because the forsythia bush is my favorite springtime marker and I know where several are blooming, I drive out of my way around town to see them.  Unfortunately, dandelions the weeds I hate most, also bloom so I dig up every one that is near my yard.  

            The world is taking on a vibrant green and soon we can smell the fresh cut grass aroma after lawns are mowed.  Buds swell at the ends of tree and shrub branches, waiting for a few days of warmth and sunshine to unfurl leaves.  Soon blooms on strawberry plants and blueberry bushes promise fresh juicy fruits.

            Anyone who has lived or lives on a farm knows babies are born in the Spring.  For years, my brother’s mare Pepper had a spring colt.  Another mare, a short-timer in my childhood family’s barn, gave birth to Hey Boy and then refused to let him nurse.  That’s a story for another time.

            Papa’s cow birthed twin calves the spring I was 10 and Mom picked me up from school right after lunch so I could watch the newborns come into the world.  Every March, Granny bought baby chicks and those lightweight fluff balls were fun to play with until they began to peck.

             Spring is when gardeners seriously dig in the dirt, first turning the soil to mix the organic matter and letting it absorb more oxygen and dry out for later planting.  Even that earthy, woodsy smell is welcomed. 

            Through windows, I’ve watched birds at birdfeeders all winter, and now I hope bluebirds will build a nest in our backyard bird box.  Soon I’ll hang hummingbird feeders to entice them to sip sugar water and chatter on our front porch.

            Even though it takes a few days to adjust to Daylight Savings Time, I’m happy for more daylight at the end of a day.  It gives time for front porch rocking for Husband and me and longer times for our Grands and neighborhood children to play outside after supper.

            Spring brings brightness and growth and newness. Soak it in. 

Yellow Spring Blooms – Not all good

Yellow announces spring. Forsythia, with long flowing branches covered in tiny horn-shaped blossoms, promise warmer days. If I had only one bush in my yard, it’d be forsythia, never trimmed except for dead branches and those that cross another branch.

Bright golden daffodils scream loudest. A. A. Milne wrote “A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or no the sun be shining outside.” Milne also said, “Daffodils in a green bowl – and let it snow if it will.” Maybe that’s the origin of the warning to watch out for snow on daffodils.

Some daffodils now hang their heads after enduring snow showers and freezing temperatures. A few gave up and fell to the ground promising yellow next spring. I drive out of my way to go by a house on Hudgens Street that has a bed of daffodils with orange centers. It’s my “spring fix” every day.

As much as I love yellow spring flowers, there is one I hate. A round, one-inch, flat flower grows in the center of the world’s ugliest plant. Yellow flowers that bloom at the same time as forsythia and daffodils. Yellow flowers that dot lawns and fields. Yellow flowers that become a child’s toy to blow.

I hate dandelions. Hate the sprawling ground-hugging prickly leaves. Hate the white, fuzzy seeds that fly. Dandelions challenge me to dig them up. There is nothing reasonable about how much I hate these yellow flowers. They are just a weed. A daisy’s cousin. But they spread like wildfire when those round tufts of fluffy seeds are carried by wind or someone blowing on them.

I think I blew dandelion seeds once, as a young child. Mom took the stem from my hand and whatever she said made such an impression that I never did it again. And although it wasn’t said, I knew Mom thought a yard filled with dandelions belonged to someone who was lazy and had no pride. Digging up dandelions was one of the few chores that I got paid for. I quickly learned that I had to dig up long taproots. No roots, no money.

During a weekend teacher environmental conference many years ago, I was given a bucket and told to collect my lunch from the field. A field of weeds.  Some people marveled at the tender dandelion leaves they picked. And they dug the roots to brew tea. I couldn’t do it. Why would I want prickly leaves in my mouth? (I did discover that clover is quite tasty and tender.) And I’ll stick with Earl Gray tea, thank you.

Supposedly, there’re benefits to ingesting dandelions. Improved digestion. Laxative. Relieve joint pain. But there are countless other things I can eat and drink that will give the same results. And I’d never spend $6.49 for sixteen dandelion teabags!

I treasure yellow daffodils and forsythia blooms. There’s only one good thing about dandelions: I get to dig in the dirt.

My Forsythia Bush

IMG_1808The tight buds on my Forsythia bush showed just a hint of yellow the morning that I left town for five days. Days that were warm and sunny. Days that coaxed those tight buds to open. When I returned home, bright yellow blooms screamed “Spring!’ I love my huge Forsythia. Those golden yellow flowers announce that cold weather is almost past and warmer days are sure to come.

Many years ago, I read a quote from a book published in 1849 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change!” I think of the beginning words of that quote every spring when those first yellow blooms open. What if we experienced the beauty of spring only once during our lives? We’d take pictures and tell our children stories about the miracles of spring.

I’m not a gardener and have very few blooming plants in our yard, and I’m really proud of the Forsythia that grows close to our driveway. It’s easy to grow and fast growing – one to two feet per year. My Southern Living gardening book states that no one ever asks “how to grow Forsythia.” The questions are “to prune or not to prune and how to prune.”

How to prune has created some tense conversations between Husband and me. Maybe we wouldn’t say the exact same words, but every discussion went something like this. He said, “That bush has gotten really big and out of control.”

I said, “I love it. It looks natural,”

“I’ll be glad to trim it after it blooms,” Husband said.

“I’ll do it,” I said.

“I can use the hedge trimmer and shape it up. I saw some shaped in a square,” he said.

“Some people like that. I don’t. They plant several in a row and make a hedge. I like mine free-flowing.”

“It’s free flowing, all right. How about I cut those branches hanging over the driveway?” Husband said.

“I’ll do it.”

“And it’s lopsided. Maybe even it up?”

“I’ll work on it,” I promised.

The blossoms will fall. And leaves will sprout to cover each branch. My Forsythia has to be pruned or it will take over the whole driveway.   I know that I could cut back the old growth to just inches and maybe I should. But I won’t. Every year, I cut out the dead branches and those that overlap others. I shape the bush enough that Husband thinks it looks better and I think it looks somewhat natural.

This Forsythia bush isn’t just about spring. It’s like the one that I found Easter eggs hidden under when I was a kid. It’s like the one that Mom cut branches off of when just a hint of yellow showed. She stuck those branches in a tall glass vase filled with water and within days yellow blossoms opened. It’s like the one that Dad thought should be trimmed to form a neat square and Mom wanted it to grow naturally. It’s like the one that Mom pruned and never let Dad near with his hedge trimmer. It’s like the one that announced spring when I was a kid.