Springtime Optimism

3/19/2012 7:16 PM
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The official start of spring won't arrive until March 20, but for the past two weeks, spring could be felt in  the mild weather that has been hovering over much of the country.

With the start of spring, thoughts turn to fieldwork. Here in Pennsylvania, farmers have been gearing up for the start of the season, putting the finishing touches on their implements and double-checking their seed and fertilizer orders, and their supplies. And some have already started preparing fields for the 2012 growing season.

For me, it marks the beginning of battle with my garden. Like most farm kids, I grew up with a family garden that was designed to feed us through the summer and provide enough vegetables for freezing and canning for the winter months. My mother has an impressive green thumb, but somehow her talent did not transfer to me as I am still looking for mine. However, I still try to keep a garden, and I pull vegetables from it for the summer and have some items for canning and freezing.

To be perfectly honest, by the end of a growing season, my garden is an embarrassment. It’s full of weeds by the fall, I have usually struggled with some sort of pest or another that has ravaged my plot, and there are many times through the season when I ask myself, “Why do I even try?”

Yet, as the days begin to warm, and sunset arrives later, my eyes turn to that not-so-perfect garden patch and I decide to prepare for another year and tell myself, “This year will be better than last.”

In the eight years I have been gardening on my own, it always starts out the same – with visions of a perfect garden with plants lined up in manicured rows. As work commitments, activities with my children and other farm priorities take hold, the weeds begin to creep in and eventually will get the best of me. Yet, my husband has faithfully turned my garden again this year, shaking his head as I promise myself, like I do at the beginning of every season, that this garden will be better … I will have the perfect garden.

However, as I take up my garden tools preparing to do battle for another year, it is that feeling of hope of a new year that captures my heart. I believe other farmers, as they take to their fields, will feel the same way. For many, last year was a very difficult year that everyone was relieved to put into the history books. After the trials and tribulations of 2011, there is a new hope, an excitement for the year ahead, and the belief that this year will yield a successful harvest.

While the outcome is probably destined to be the same, for now, walking barefoot through my garden in the warmth of the March sun, I again believe that this year will be a better year.

-- Charlene Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor

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