When spring fever strikes the ranch

garden seeds

My greenhouse winks merrily at me from across the yard every time the sun comes out. We’ve had a busy week for no particular reason other than the weeks this time of year are always busy. The man of the ranch is calving heifers, there is still drifting snow from last week’s storms, and the momentum of longer days is pulling us out like the tide toward the ocean of spring chores. I’ve also been spending way too much time on my computer in preparation for the launch of my new website, and my eyes are blurry from staring at screens. The website looks beautiful, but I am almost as tired of my computer as I am of snow. All that is to say, the greenhouse is calling, but so far, I haven’t been able to answer.

Until today, that is, when I couldn’t stand it any longer. The weather was warm so we cracked open a few windows, turned down the propane stove, then left the house to air out for the afternoon. The kids wore sweatshirts, snow pants and mud boots to go slosh through the river of snowy run-off that was snaking through the yard.

“It’s a sign of spring,” my daughter said with a wide smile, thrilled to be venturing outside without snow boots for the first time in months.

Meanwhile, I pulled down the seeds collected from last year, along with the new seeds that arrived last week in the mail, and started sorting. The big question: What should I plant first in the greenhouse?

The answer kept changing. Should I start a big tub of tomatoes? Or maybe trays of salad greens? Zinnias aren’t practical, but they are so pretty! Every time I made up my mind, I pulled out a new paper seed packet and decided I wanted to start with it instead.

And then I remembered, I hadn’t started my column for this week! When I taught high school English, I was forever cajoling my students to begin writing projects early, so they had plenty of time for brainstorming and editing. “Don’t leave it until Sunday night!” I’d always say. Yet, that is just what I do most weeks, staying up late to proofread, hoping that I have not made too many grammatical errors.

“The greenhouse will have to wait,” I said aloud, and sat hands hovering over the keyboard once again. Just a few words on the page that turn into sentences that turn into paragraphs — that’s all I needed. Meanwhile, the shadows crept across the carpet; the wall clock ticked along, one second at a time. Outside Ellie, the livestock guard dog, barked into the distance.

But I couldn’t focus. I was thinking of the garden and the fields. I was thinking of how good it would feel to just start walking. I could head north up the gravel road to the pasture and the canyons. I could take the kids and cut across the draw to the dam to where the runoff was making hundreds of tiny waterfalls. We could watch the geese flying overhead in their V formations, calling to one another as they passed.

Focus, Eliza! I commanded myself, and suddenly I realized what was going on. No teacher in the world expects his or her students to get much work done the day before vacation, and the same is true on the first warm days. I had spring fever, and I had it bad!

I opened another window, then did a little more typing, sniffing the fresh air that wafted past like Ellie on midnight patrol. I heard the kids shouting in the distance, the bright, jovial tones that children make outdoors simply because they can, and I couldn’t wait any longer.

I clapped my laptop shut and stood up. Yes, it would be another late night, but right then I didn’t care. An extra cup of coffee is almost as good as an extra hour of sleep, and a romp in the sunshine is definitely as good as two.


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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.



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