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Season One: Spring Gardening Adventures in Green Country

The weather here in Green Country has been its typical fickle self, making each of my tromps out to the garden a different experience than the last.  Many people (normal, sane people... ahem) wait for nice, sunny days to get out and start playing in the dirt.  But not me... no sir, I fancy myself an urban food gardener, unafraid of a little cold and wet... 

Or I could just be a fool... the jury's still out.

Last Sunday loomed chilly and overcast with intermittent drizzle spritzing through the air.  This signaled to my overzealous mind that it was the perfect day to sow some lettuce seeds...and some spinach...and why not some onions while I'm at it?  So, I suited up in my jeans and sweater, coat and gardening gloves (which are so small they're nearly kid-sized to fit my tiny hands) and headed out to the yard.

And it was...really, really nice.  Yes, it was definitely chilly (it didn't clear 45 degrees that day, and in my world that's chilly), but the chill fell away as I set to work and my body started moving.  And it was quiet.  There was the random shout of a neighborhood kid now and again, and the occasional bird call, but otherwise it felt like the clouds had swallowed up the developed world and told us all to hush.

At one point I noticed a flock of birds gathering in the pecan tree above my head.  Were those starlings or crows?  They were too high up to see clearly, and I'm no master of bird calls.  They seemed to be having an important meeting, however, and I watched them for a time with reverence.

Our entire garden plot is covered over with hay mulch.  We uncover the rows as we plant them, and use the remaining hay as borders and walkways.  I set to pulling off the mats of recently unbailed hay to get at the soil below.  When I did, I saw what I initially took to be a very large earthworm curled up in the dirt.  Hooray! I thought, knowing earthworms are a gardener's best friends.  But then I paused and looked closer.  Curled... coiled is more like it, and the brown is a little flatter, a little scalier than the skin of your typical earthworm.  No, my friends, this was a very small, very brown snake.

I picked it up (remember, I had on my gardening gloves--otherwise I never would've had the nerve) to relocate it under a patch of straw that wouldn't be disturbed for awhile.  I thought I would have to move quick, that it would slither and fight, but it hardly moved a muscle.  It was asleep, dormant from the cold.  I could only confirm it was alive when i tipped my hand to release it to its new bed.  Then it woke up and slithered away, deep under the mulch.

Now, I'm going to assume this was a harmless garden snake of some sort, because I didn't have the heart to kill it (would you believe me if I said I thought it was cute?), so I let it live blissfully asleep under the straw... and because, as I went along, uncovering and planting, uncovering and planting, I found two more. They were each just as cold-dormant as the first, and just as obviously alive when the vertigo of being tipped over signaled their brains to wake up.  I let each of them go unharmed, showing them the same courtesy as the first with their new, snugglier garden accommodations under the hay.

So, please, if anyone sees these pictures and happens to know that, hey, WAIT! Those are baby copperheads!  Or any other creature with a similar reputation, do let me know, will you?  I have no desire to be maimed or murdered for my benevolence toward my serpentine brethren.

This weekend, on the other hand, was in the 80s and uncomfortably warm.  But no snakes this time (I assume they went hunting or something... I don't claim to know the minds of serpents), and it felt like real spring, and my onions and spinach had started to sprout, so I didn't complain.  Spring is a crazy, crazy time.  Mysteries abound and real food is around the corner.  Next weekend, finally, I'll be able to go to the farmers' market and buy food from real farmers, those experienced professionals who know how to get something out of the ground (or the greenhouse) before May.  I will watch and learn, friends.  And, of course, I'll tell you all about it.  

Sarah Franz-Wichlacz  – (April 4, 2011 at 9:22 AM)  

can't tell you about the snake, and well, starlings are good mimics so.... i'm contemplating lavender this morning.... and discovering it's supposed to be zone hardy for here, although i'm a bit concerned we might have too much humidity for it.... oh how i love it so... i want to cover every inch of my yard in it!

Emily  – (April 4, 2011 at 9:52 AM)  

i can't say for sure but those look a lot like rubber boas. totally docile and harmless, and they'll be great for natural pest control this summer. i'm actually jealous, i wish i had some rubber boas in my yard...i have a few garter snakes and they're great too, but they're not as sweet.

Devouring the Seasons  – (April 4, 2011 at 11:37 AM)  

Sarah - you know that I also share a deep fondness for lavender (not least of which for its headache relieving properties... :p) Are you trying to grow it from seed or baby plants? I've never had much luck growing it from seed, but if I remember correctly, it's one that they advise refrigerating the seeds for a day or so before trying to plant them... wakes them up out of their dormancy or something... but if you can get it to take, imagine the lavender bushes! Heaven. :)

Emily - rubber boas? THAT sounds exotic! Hopefully you're right and they'll be friendly. Thanks for the input!

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