Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Spring Solipsist

There is astronomical spring, meteorological spring, and Punxsutawney Phil's spring.

Astronomical spring begins with the vernal equinox "the day on which the sun shines directly above the equator, making daylight and nighttime hours roughly equal in both hemispheres: about 12 hours (equinox means 'equal night'). This phenomenon occurs again on the autumnal equinox in September.

"Weather doesn't follow the astronomical calendar to the tee. Meteorologists have found it easier to classify seasons by changes in temperature and precipitation. Meteorological winter consists of the coldest, most wintry three months of the year, on average -- December, January and February -- and meteorological summer consists of the warmest months of the year -- June, July and August. Spring and fall are the transition months between the two."

And Phil's spring may or may not occur six weeks after his annual forced search for his shadow on February 2nd, "Groundhog Day".

One of the good things about being a gardener however is that you can ignore all this hoo-ha and make the spring season begin whenever you want -- within reason. So forget all that stuff about equinoxes and solstices -- and listen instead to the "Spring Solipsist".

In Wethersfield Connecticut, U.S. Growing Zone 5, "within reason" means among other things (1) the likelihood of a snowstorm is minimal, (2) the rain that has replaced the white stuff as the principal precipitation has not turned your yard into a total swamp, (3) the sun is shining and (4) the weather is somewhere above the mid forties Fahrenheit.

On Saturday March 14th, 2009, I declared spring to have occurred.

In past years the event that signified this seasonal transition would have been the turning of our vegetable garden. Last annum however Mars and I decided to spend more time supporting our local farmers and less time fighting cucumber beetles so, with the help of some castoff shrubs from one of our town gardens, we converted the annual vegetable patch into a perennial plot -- albeit still with room for several tomato plants.

As a result the six-by-thirty foot plot no longer needs to be tilled. Henceforth, beginning yesterday, the official rite of spring at our house is the unburying of the front Hosta bed.

This cleaning exercise is not at all to be confused with the official spring-cleaning of the yard, which will, as it was last year, be outsourced to the landscaping team of M and his father.

Although I have the time and, if spread over enough days, the energy to complete this task, I do not possess the equipment to make the job easier and faster, nor the means to dispose of the massive amount of leaves and sticks that have accumulated on our property over the past twelve months.

With Mars' urging I approached the one who turned out to be "the father" last year while he was blowing debris from my across-the-street neighbor D's yard. At the time he had an industrial strength leaf blower on his right hip and a lit cigarette in his left hand. I asked him about performing the same work on my lawn. He told me in halting Italo-English that his son would come to see me. Which he did that evening. While the father is about five-and-one-half feet tall, M is over six-feet in height and speaks without an ethnic accent and with the rhythm and style of a used car salesman. We quickly agreed on a price and shook hands.

A few days later they returned to do the work. Each armed himself with a leaf blower roughly the size of a Smart Car and proceeded over the next two hours to blast every piece of loose vegetation off our property and into the bed of their truck. The father worked non-stop, smoking continuously. M likewise chain-smoked his way through the job but periodically shut off his device in order to take or make a call on his cell phone.

At the end of the job I gave M a check for the agreed-upon amount, we shook hands, and I told him we would be looking to use them again -- which we hopefully will in a few weeks.

The only cleanup work I wanted to do on Saturday was to expose the incipient Hosta buds to the sunlight from which they were being blocked by that autumn's intentional accumulation of dead leaves, and to cut down all of the dead stalks that I had left standing over the cold season. I had piled the oak and maple leaves there in order to provide some warmth and protection to the shivering shrubs. I didn't prune back any of my perennials last autumn because, if left standing, some of the plants will provide winter seeds for the birds while others produce colorful foliage and/or nice textural contrasts to the surrounding white snow.

But even without those legitimate rationalizations I would still leave them around anyway just so I could walk outside with the sun on my back during the last days of winter, uncover something alive and green, and publicly declare, "Spring is here!"

No comments: