The sun is trying valiantly to peek out this morning, after several days of rain. This month has behaved in true February fashion, with soggy ground and plenty of rain. The yard looks bare and forlorn; with all the snow gone, winter’s debris can be seen clearly. The occasional sunbeam reveals windows streaked by the grime that winter has left behind.
It is the dingiest time of the year, when everything looks tired and winter-weary. We feel an attack of the “spring-cleans” coming on, but it is really too early to tear everything out and deep clean. There will be more cold, and probably snow, and as long as we have to keep a fire going, it keeps the dirt going.
Later, when the temperatures get mild, we can throw open the doors and windows, wash the curtains and hang them outside, and scrub and clean to our heart’s content. Then, that is the time when we like to stay outside!
There are unmistakable signs of spring, however, that point to warmer days ahead. The little pointed heads of the daffodils stand bravely in the rain, and the tiny crocuses are appearing here and there. The song of the birds has become more frequent; soon it will be nesting time again. The spring lambs and calves are being born, and new life surrounds us. Grandma O’Dell always made a lettuce bed in February, but it would be hard to do so this year. The garden is so muddy that it would be difficult to get it in shape. Still, the time will come for lettuce beds and garden patches, and tender green onions to mix in the lettuce.
Last year’s garden was pretty much of a failure. There was so much rain that our cucumbers literally rotted on the vine. The half-runner green beans yielded one canning, and only a couple of messes for the table. Corn did a little better, but all in all, it wasn’t a very good year. We are hoping for a better gardening season this year.
Had a letter from my cousin Bobby who lives in Florida, and he writes, “I’ve observed the changing seasons here in Florida for over 20 years. I’ve found that mid-February makes a remarkable change in the weather pattern, and the 40 degree nights are 20 degrees warmer. Grass that has been mostly dormant since Hallowe’en begins a rapid growth, and new leaves appear on the trees. Yes, we have springtime here in the Deep South, and we don’t have a groundhog to tell us when it will arrive. Today’s high was 80 degrees with pure sunshine.”
Well, I wonder if they have sassafras tea to begin the springtime. It seems that February is the most unpopular month in the year, but it has some bright spots that we love. We look forward to Groundhog Day (hello, Freddie!) and Valentine’s Day, which is quite popular. February is the month to dig sassafras roots, when the soil thaws after winter’s onslaught. This year, however, I think that roots could have been dug about anytime, as the soil was not frozen.
Sassafras roots need to be dug before the sap goes up in the branches, and it is time to do it now. Criss has always declared that there are two types of sassafras, the light and the dark, but I can find nothing to back his up assumption. I do know that the big roots yield the best tea, and there is nothing more satisfying that a cup of hot, fragrant sassafras tea.
We’ve had a big pot of it simmering on the stove now for days, and it creates a lovely potpourri scent that drifts through the house.
Enduring a West Virginia winter makes the coming of spring even sweeter. It is worth the winter to watch spring unfold. No matter how many winters we have seen come and go, it is a thrill all over again to experience the coming of spring. We have it all before us, to enjoy it and be thankful for it. Soon we can say with Solomon, “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; and the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle (dove) is heard in the land.” Song of Solomon 2:11-12.