Jarvis Coffin: Off the Highway – Now, we are nearly to spring

Jarvis Coffin

Jarvis Coffin COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 02-15-2024 11:22 AM

One thing about writing a column every two weeks is that time falls away in chunks, like wedges of an iceberg dropping into the sea.

It was Feb. 6 when this column ran the last time. Here we are now with just over a week remaining in the month. It will be March when we meet again, the middle of March the time after that, by then nearly spring (officially) and light until 7 p.m., thanks to daylight saving time.

This morning, while walking Huckleberry, I heard a mourning dove. Apart from dates on the calendar, the coo of a mourning dove is my sign spring is on the way. I could drive you to the spot on Pin Oak Lane, just after the bend in the road past the Germains’ driveway (which I hurried past because those boys tended to knock the books out of my arms and trip me from behind walking to the bus stop), where I became conscious of that dove sound the first time, aware also it was February, over 40 degrees, and feeling the brunt of winter was behind us.

Every year, awakened by the mourning dove, I would be glad to stand in that spot for a minute or two.

But it is time to think ahead to the vegetable garden. I may have reported last year that we did quite a bit of work around the house, replacing the old wooden porch with a composite one and adding a bay window over the sink that calls out to incubate tomato seedlings and bell peppers, and maybe eggplant. We have two grandchildren arriving for the weekend and this will be a perfect project. We will drive to the farm store, gather our small growing pots and soil, select our seeds from the rack that spins round and round and make a mess on the new granite countertops spooning soil into pots and burying seeds one knuckle deep. Then – the best part – water it all carefully in the sink using the spray nozzle. This will require a stepladder.

Afterward, you understand, we can share photos of the progress as the plants emerge, harden outdoors and move to their final home in the raised beds. Their mother, I will point out, used to follow me to the garden when she was no more than 2. While I cultivated, she would stand by the peas, pull apart a few young pods, pluck the peas from inside one at a time with little fingers and munch away. Gardens are as good for growing children as vegetables.

The grandchildren are coming from Philadelphia because they are hoping for snow, which is worrying. As I say, it is feeling more like early spring. Pardon the pun, but have you noticed that “mud season” is getting squishy? It was reliably an end-of-March, beginning-of- April event, but I think we have had two episodes, so far, this year. The ruts in our driveway, currently frozen in place, attest to it, as do the sides of our boots and bottom of the dog. Mud season is spreading like a rash.

If you are very young and used to only sweet cherry blossoms and daffodils for spring, mud might be interesting. As another project to make up for the lack of good sledding, I will suggest making as many impressions of our feet as possible down the middle of the driveway, to be preserved by the freezing temperatures at night. We can inspect them each morning, and when the children have gone, we will have those prints as a parting gift while out for our early walk.

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So that you know – maybe you do know – it is hard to be responsible for the weather. We experienced this as innkeepers and the anxiety has not lifted. Delivering clear skies and moderate temperatures were usual guest requirements. Vibrant fall colors were a must-have. And, oh, sometimes the sad, disappointed faces. In any event, we had our backup activity plans for the grown-ups, just as for the babies, which, well, you know, were often the same.

See you again in March.

Jarvis Coffin writes fiction and essays on rural life. He is a retired media and advertising sales executive, and former chef/owner, with his wife, of New Hampshire’s oldest inn, the Hancock Inn. Reach him at huntspond@icloud.com, and keep up with all his musings at postcard-from-monadnock.ghost.io.