It’s February 4 and 62 Degrees

Groundhog Club co-handler Al Dereume, second from right, holds Punxsutawney Phil on Feb. 2.

Days like this always lull me into a state of blissful delusion.  Well, that’s it. Winter is over.  The daffodils will be blooming any second now.  I can put the snow shovel back in the shed, get the salt washed off my car, resolve to clean and sharpen my garden tools but then fail to do so — all signs of spring!

Time to go out and take stock of the backyard.  I’m in shirtsleeves!

The ground that was rock hard 36 hours ago from the “Polar Vortex” is now thawing into a semi-marshland.  With each step my boot sinks into the brown ooze; I know I should stay out of the garden beds, but I can’t help myself.  Winter weeds: somehow they survived the sub zero wind chill looking fresher than ever, and I’m going after them.

Little rosettes of shot weed are popping up all over the place, and the ground is soft enough to pluck them out.  I move through the beds, remembering a blog I’d read last spring saying that shot weed is edible; there was a photo of a carefully arranged tuft of the weed on top of an open-faced roast beef sandwich on a pretzel roll with mustard.

I hold up one of the weeds.  A glob of mud clings to its roots.  I will probably stick with romaine, but it’s always good to know I can forage for food in my own yard should society unexpectedly collapse.

I continue to remove the shot weed, plus some dead nettle, wild strawberry, and creeping Charlie.  Hmmmm, should I be doing this?  I look back and see I’ve squashed a bunch of soil.  Damn.  Now I’ve gone and destroyed the soil structure and deprived the plants’ roots of oxygen.  What would my local extension agent have to say about this?  Nothing good, surely.  Here I am, always trying to teach the young people in my life about the virtues of delayed gratification, and yet at the first sign of spring I can’t keep myself from traipsing all over the delicate, exposed beds.

I tip-toe out of the garden bed back to some stepping stones.  The sky is turning a deeper blue, tinged with orange.  The hint of warmth that had settled into the garden at noon is quietly dissipating as the sun sets.  I pull off my mud-caked boots and head back inside.

Still a bit giddy from this blissful taste of spring, I decide to check the weather forecast.  66…50….68!!…64….hmmm, 38.  Well, that’s days away….the weathermen are probably just guessing.  After that, who knows?  Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring after all.  And nothing says science like a group of elderly men in top hats leaning in to hear the pronouncement of a giant rodent-oracle and then reciting it from a scroll.  I think that more scientific discoveries should be delivered to the public in this milieu.

Later that evening, I retire to the couch with a glass of wine and a gardening magazine. As garden activities go, it’s not as satisfying as doing stuff in the dirt under the sun, but it’s not half bad.

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