The seed catalogs are a sign of spring


“The snow holds for what seems to be forever in the valley and in the far pasture. As I plan my garden once again, we find our patience being tested as yet another snowfall is predicted. One day, we will see the finches and know that we have survived yet another winter. For now, we wait.”

— Rachel Peden, 1955

We watch with great anticipation for any sign of winter giving way to spring. This has seemed like the longest winter on record, and I am so weary of it. This morning, though the wind is blowing and the temperature sits at a very brisk 19 degrees here on the farm, at least the sun is shining brightly and blue skies offer us a reason to feel optimistic.

One day, hopefully soon, we will see all of the signs of spring in all its splendor. I look forward to it with great hopefulness. I will welcome the blue birds, the bright yellow finches, the tiny and energetic wren families and our wide variety of swallows.

Last year, we put up a bat house in hopes of keeping the mosquito population down, though I am the first to tell you I am not one bit crazy about the idea of flying bats any more than I am thrilled with the thought of flying rats. Gives the old shudder up the spine, doesn’t it?

Beautiful seed catalogs

Now that March has arrived, so do the beautiful seed catalogs. Isn’t it amazing how absolutely beautiful the plants appear on the pages of the shiny booklets? None of these beckoning pages show even so much as a hint of coddling moth or cedar rust. There is no mention, not even so much as the breath of a thought, of borers or bugs.

The fruits are amazingly placed on the page with such perfection that we can almost taste the velvet of the raspberry, the tang of the plum, the juiciness of the brightly colored apples and grapes.

We are hopeful the strawberry patch we planted last year will have wintered over well, and the raspberry plants we placed nearby will continue to grow and thrive.


I recall the year we planted hills of watermelon. I would have still been quite young, because my great-grandpa Charlie was in on the planning and the planting. It was he who chose the exact location of the little watermelon garden, far from the house.

He had been walking the farm with my father one day and kicked up the soil way back in what we called the round field, blessed with an incredible depth of good, rich topsoil. “This would be perfect soil for growing watermelons,” he commented. Dad agreed to give it a try.

The Jerome Fork flowed nearby, so if a dry spell came up, we could haul water to the seedlings. As it turned out, it was a perfect growing season, and we ended up with a bumper crop.


It was a thrill to ride in my great-grandpa Charlie’s bright red Studebaker truck to the round field. He plunked me on the open tailgate and picked a watermelon, cutting it open with his pocket knife. He handed me a juicy chunk of bright red watermelon, then he joined me on the tailgate. I remember the juice dripping down my fingers and on to my lap.

We started spitting seeds, and the joy of the two of us spitting and eating and chuckling will stay with me forever. To me, it was the best crop we ever planted.

The day we picked and hauled the entire watermelon crop from the field to the house, storing what we could in the cellar and sending some home with Grandpa Charlie, was a big day.

I remember asking Dad if we could do this every year, and he told me watermelon didn’t pay the bills like acres of corn did. I had no idea what he was talking about. Bills? What bills? How could bills be more important than juicy watermelon grown in abundance?

Try new fruits and veggies

Each year, I have the hankering to try new fruits and vegetables when I see the presentation of the plants in the newest catalog and read the description of the finished product. This year, I am sure, I want to start a small herb garden as I enjoy cooking with fresh herbs more and more all the time.

It can be difficult to close these catalogs and set them aside because they bring us such hope of spring and a prosperous summer season to follow. It is the sound of the furnace kicking on yet again that brings me back to the reality that we must keep working to pay the heat bill.

Like it or not, I have come to know a thing or two about those bills my father was talking about.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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