Joyce Bupp, farm wife

Well, so much for spreading fertilizer today, I thought.

A commercial spreader wagon, parked behind a tractor and awaiting a driver to pilot it across the fields, would have to remain in place for another day where it sat parked on the hill. Despite a half-inch of rain one day earlier, bright morning sunshine and balmy temperatures had promised a favorable day for some field time.

Then, in seasonable fickleness, dark clouds rolled over the area, even as the temperatures inched upward. Soon, early arrival “April showers” textured the ponds’ surfaces and dampened roadways and sidewalks. Not enough moisture to be termed a rain, it was still adequate to slick-up field and lawn surfaces to the point of delaying any outdoor work.

Still, relatively gentle temperatures and intermittent showers over the past few weeks had worked their miracles. As someone had commented earlier in the day, “Things are really growing!”

And, the burst of growth and greenery had already delivered on the promise of April showers: flowers busting out into beautiful blossoms.

After the gray gloominess of dreary weather — albeit blessed this year with more greenness than most snow-covered winters — color began brightening our world at a time when most of us desperately yearn for optimistic signs.

In the wake of the virus-shuttered society all around us, with businesses closed, schools on shut-down, millions of workers facing unwelcome and unwanted vacations from their paying jobs and store shelves sparse — and often emptied — of staples from bread to pastas to frozen pizzas, (not to mention toilet paper!), we can all use a boost of optimism and hope in the form of lovely, colorful, spring flowers.

Dotting the perimeters of the lawn on several sides are clumps and clusters of yellow, ivory and mixtures of those two shades. Daffodils, an iconic symbol of the season, seem to have almost all opened at the same time. They nod their lovely, cupped blooms in afternoon warming breezes, an early Easter reminder, in bulb form, of the resurrection from dead to living.

Forsythia bushes are bursting out in cascading fountains of sunshiny blossoms, scattered around corners of the yard and hedgerows along neighbors’ borders and roadsides. There are even a few random blooming escapees here and there around the countryside. Several of the long, lanky stems at our various forsythia sites had dipped low to the ground through the winter, putting down vigorous roots. These volunteers are perfect to relocate to the bank adjacent to the dairy barn, where weeds springing up among the daylilies, peonies and irises are in an annual battle. The shade and aggressiveness of forsythias might at least slow the annual weed invasion on that bank.

Our forsythia shrubs also seem to serve as magnets each year for praying mantis egg cases. Mantis hatchlings rapidly power their way from tiny, quarter-inch infants to 5-inch adults, devouring a host of unwanted insect pests as they grow.

During our spring yard cleanup, I try to protect and preserve all host stems of the tough, dried glue-like case clusters for the insect fledglings that will hatch once the weather stays warm. Even when I prune branches bearing an egg case, they’re never burned or destroyed, but relocated to a brushpile at the woods, where the eggs can hatch and fulfill their destinies as natural pest eradicators.

On a sheltered, east-facing bank, a profusion of deep-blue blossoms echoes the color of the sky on a cloudless afternoon. Scilla, or Siberian squills, deliver the first blue-blossoms from bulbs of the season, a few star-shaped florets perched on each 4-inch stem. Luckily, they’ve self-sown over the years and scattered to other spots around the yard, since they mature and disappear rapidly during the busy planting season. Pink and purple hyacinths add pastel color and an unmatched, heavenly fragrance.

And, in a heavy glass vase on the hutch, fat pink blossoms of a magnolia tree opened almost overnight, after The Farmer brought me a handful of their stems from a tree on another farm. So many years, the magnolia blooms get rudely blackened with a late frost, probably less likely this warmer-than-normal season.

Springtime’s beautiful blooms are an annual reminder that, despite whatever craziness we have to deal with, the Scriptural promise “to everything there’s a season, and a purpose under heaven” never fails to be fulfilled.

Sometimes we just need a reminder of that.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.


According to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, farmers in New York had planted, as of May 10, 29% of their barley (23% in 2019), 8% corn (less than 5% in 2019), 36% oats (26% in 2019), 17% onions (16% in 2019), and no soybeans (the same in 2019). Read more