January 2019: unseasonably mild and spring-like. February through March: nearly two months of cold, mostly clear weather and the ground frozen solid. Much snow fell on other islands, on other parts of the province, but here we’ve had hardly any precipitation at all for most of the winter. Not a good thing.
By the first of March, St David’s Day in the Welsh calendar, and the eve of my very first Seedy Saturday, our region was still in the deep freeze. It has been a rare winter in the coastal temperate rainforest we call home.
At the Seedy Saturday event, happy in the company of my youngest daughter F., I struggled to restrain myself. The hall was a hive of activity, alive and dense with gardeners, packets of seed, potted fruit and nut trees, herbal bedding plants, sprouts of all sorts, all manner of homegrown or handmade, garden-related products from honey to hand soap. I was in heaven for a couple of rollicking hours with one of my favourite people on the planet.
Back home on the island, the icy Bute winds continued to blow over the parched, hay scented grass. Ice was three inches thick on rain barrels that normally overflow at this time of year.
By now the days of March were beginning to flip past like pages on a kid’s cartoon calendar. As the list of springtime chores grew longer by the day, the earth remained frozen, rock hard, unyielding.
I took the opportunity to finish off the pruning of the fruit trees and ornamental shrubbery. Puttering away at this task over a couple of weeks, long armed pruning tool in hand; I can only look upwards for so long before my neck feels like it is going to snap.
March 7 marks the first entry in my garden journal for 2019. From previously saved seeds I started leeks, lettuce, sweet peas, a frilly mauve poppy, some mixed marigolds. I brought the fluorescent-tube lighting system up from C.’s workshop where it spends the winter lighting up his life, and arranged my seed starting setup in the living room as usual. Each day I’ve added more germinating seeds to this collection: cabbages, collards, broccolis, cauliflowers, onions, snapdragons, lupines, and cornflowers. It felt like gardening time even though the earth was still frozen.
Looking up from the kitchen sink on March 8, International Women’s Day, I watched as several large Canada geese came in for a landing in the backyard, a noisy fleet of winged watercraft touching down on the frozen ground.
Tearing hungrily at the dry grass, the geese, muttering to one another, proceeded to pave the dead lawn with great piles of green goose s***. This has resulted in banishment from the premises. Welcome to forage for sea lettuce on the beach, those geese can stay out of our yard!
This province continues to observe daylight savings time. So in the wee hours of March 10 we dutifully turned our clocks forward one hour, as instructed. This removed one hour of daylight at the beginning of the day and added it to the other end where we didn’t really need it anyway.
March 12: outside everything is still frozen. I saw my first robin of the season. Now, at the end of the month, there are dozens of the busy rust-breasted birds hopping about on the greening expanse of our backyard. Still no sign of the first hummingbird of the year, nor the wild, pink, salmon berry blossom on which they feed.
March 13: I spied a bee! Our hope for the future! There was nothing in sight for the poor fellow to eat, except for a few frozen snow drops. I am pleased to report that two weeks after that first sighting there are many more bees about. Yesterday I watched an entire clutch of baby bumblebees, recently emerged, crawling around together, feeding voraciously on a small patch of sunlit daffodils.
The middle of the month and “beware the Ides of March” springs to mind, though in this case it was time for the annual Words on The Water writer’s festival over on the Big Island. Off we went, C. and I, to spend a still chilly, but entertaining, weekend in town listening to a wonderful collection of writers reading from their published works.
Coincidentally, it was our anniversary that Sunday, also St. Patrick’s Day. It was almost too much! I’m not used to so much socializing and excitement. Grateful to be home again, and in slightly warming conditions; we had a day or two of much needed drizzly rain and rest.
By March 18 the sunshine was stronger, the ice all gone. I tentatively planted a few cold tolerant seeds outdoors: broad beans, spinach, cilantro, peas, mustard greens, parsley, and lettuce. Fingers crossed they all survive.
The vernal equinox on March 20 was accompanied by a super full Worm moon. What! Poking around in the garden I did see lots of pink wrigglers doing their thing, beginning to stir, making beautiful soil from the natural detritus of compost, leaf mulch, earthy decay.
March 21: official first day of spring. A good day to start the tomatoes. This year I wanted to try a new method borrowed from my friend N. All winter long I’ve been saving the spent toilet-paper rolls to use as starter pots.
The cardboard tubes, standing on end, side by side in a newspaper-lined flat have been filled with potting soil and sown with a variety of tomato seeds. When the conditions in the garden are right for transplanting, I hope to minimize the young plants’ shock by gently lifting the cardboard tube containing the young seedling and plopping it undisturbed into the prepared garden bed.
Over the past couple of weeks the weather has changed quickly from dead-of-winter-frozen days to warm-as-summer afternoons, though the nights are still cold. March has flown past! Yesterday, March 29, was special. One of my other favourite people on the planet, my eldest daughter R., completed her twenty-sixth trip around the sun. Happy birthday R.!
Tomorrow is the last day of March. In England, it will be Mothering Sunday. If I still lived there, I might find myself celebrating the mothers in my life. I think I will anyway, especially as I look and see the pages on that cartoon calendar are actually years flying past, not just days. Time really is marching on!