If one doubts that winter is upon us--despite the 70-plus degrees of mercury showing--one has only to glance outside to see it. The sky has been mostly overcast today, that solid gray sort of overcast that seems to suck all the color out of the landscape. Aside from the green of various conifers, everything is pretty much the same shade of brown today. The wind has whipped in from the south all day, one of those rare fronts coming in gulf-side, bringing damp muggy wind.
I like these sorts of days though. I love the way our pecan trees look in the winter, their leafless branches looking like lace against the sky and today as I was admiring this effect, I spotted so many small golden mounds high up in the tree--goldfinches! A stray beam of late-day sun found its way through the cloud ceiling and reflected off their yellow breasts as they startled and flew away and I felt blessed. There was a slight scent of woodsmoke on the breeze, the hens were cooing and humming as they went about their afternoon foraging, and I spotted a lone, red leaf clinging to our dogwood tree, the sole survivor of our previous windy frontal boundary. There is so much to appreciate in this landscape, at every time of year.
I've been planting for Spring. I sowed seeds for snow peas and sugar snap peas. Will erected a stout trellis for me in each of their beds after preparing the soil for growing. A healthy sprinkling of compost and a light application of fertilizer, tilled and raked. I like to plant these peas thickly, scattering their seeds randomly yet evenly across the bed. The little plants have such small root systems and they cling to each other as they grow, eventually finding the trellis and sending tiny tendrils, like wee green hands, to grasp and support themselves along the way. All too soon it will become a burden to keep them picked. Each pea to be cut carefully from the vine at just the right stage--too soon and they lack sweetness, too late and the fibers have toughened. We'll pick baskets of them every day for weeks.
I also planted spinach. One row of 'Oriental Giant,' a sweet and mild Japanese spinach with over sized leaves that we've come to rely on for good performance. A row of 'Bordeaux,' a red-veined fancy looking variety whose seed pack I couldn't resist.
Once the passing cold front has breathed out its most frigid air and moved away from us, we'll plant more beets, more carrots, more onions, more garlic. These underground crops I like to plant on the waning moon, the above ground crops I plant on the waxing moon. This is about the only nod I give to the old ways of "planting by the signs." Some folks swear by it, I've never embraced it. But when I have a crop that fails to thrive for no apparent reason, there is that nagging question: "did I plant those beans on a waning moon?" It's enough to keep me thinking I should pay at least a little bit of attention to it.
I hear purple finches fussing over their nest building under the porch eaves, the neighbor's cattle are lowing softly as they settle for the night, and another short January day calls it quits. This rhythm seems right to me. This season seems balanced. This life suits me.