Field Notes: Early April


I saw the first crocus out front! And also some ramps I planted last year poking out, so happy in their new spot! Forsythia buds are waiting to burst, and the weather reports say we’ll hit 70 degrees on Tuesday. I predict an explosion into spring. The garden beds are all raked of leaves and many seeds have been sown. Birds sing expectantly, urgently almost, and it does seem like winter is truly gone. However, the weather has been unsettled, and the rain has been torrential, epic even. We seem to be having a pattern of a good day followed by a few of rain, which is great for the garden as long as the seeds don’t float away. I’ve planted lettuces, spinach, kale, carrots, radishes and peas. I also transplanted five Reliance grape vines that I’ve been meaning to move for years. Things are looking tight.

On Monday, I put my overalls on, and sat down in the dirt with my small hand rake (does it have a proper name?) and began clawing the ground. It is one of the best moments of spring; it’s like a huge sigh of relief and a wave of joy at once. The soil is dark and crumbly, filled with healthy fat worms, miles away from the thick clay that was there when I started this particular garden over ten years ago. It’s amazing how much you learn and how long it takes to learn. Patience is a virtue indeed. For years I have been amending that soil: with my own compost, yards of purchased compost, rotating crops, cover crops. I feel like I’ve pulled thousands of rocks from that wet dense soil. At times it seemed an exercise in futility.

When I boiled down three different batches of maple sap recently, I was rewarded with a about a pint of syrup each time. As I stood there checking on the evaporating liquid, I thought how absurd it was. I was just boiling off five gallons of liquid. Standing around for hours watching that boiling sap turn into vapor. It all felt very pointless, especially that first time, until I got to the end when I poured a thick liquid through a fine sieve, finally harvesting that pint of golden liquid. All it took was time, maybe some perversity, and a willingness to believe. You never think it’s worth it until the very end, when you have that crumbly black soil in your hand, or that pint jar of golden goodness on your shelf.

And so too, we endure the winter, even though the snow may seem pointless. Maybe that’s why we explode with joy every year when spring comes around. The payoff feels so sweet. How thrilled I was to find a small delicate hepatica, an early spring flower, blooming the other day aside the raging Black Creek! And to find a green ramp furled like a tightly rolled sail, or the jostaberry bushes studded with fat leaf buds, shimmering in green and gold, about to burst. I looked back on my photos from last spring, and there were the same exact images, the ramps, the leaf buds, the hepatica, though last year’s was purple and this year’s white. Yet the joy is the same! The waiting indeed is the hardest part, but the reward is always worthwhile.



  1. Reading this as frozen rain turns to light snow. Not enough to stick, just enough to remind me that, as Prince said, “Sometimes it snows in April.” Trying to be patient, but willing spring to burst forth!

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