I hesitate to say it’s really spring. I know there are parts of the world still reeling from late snows and cold temps, but at my house I think it’s safe to say we’re past that. The jonquils are just about done blooming and the Bradford pear trees are in full bloom. The redbuds are coming out, in all their vivid glory, and the dogwoods are just starting to make themselves known. Whew! It’s about time!
With spring comes one of the biggest challenges in my quilting life. Do I stay in and sew, or get myself outside to dig in the dirt? For some of you, there may be no question. For me it’s a tough call. It’s an already busy time of the year for us with three birthdays, Easter, a formal dance for The Boy, a trip to Paducah, and the end of the school year (not that we ever really end our school year, but there is record-keeping to attend to).
I love the beginning of new vegetable and herb gardens. There is nothing quite like seeing those tiny little seedlings push their heads up through the soil, with all the promise of future yumminess. But right behind the yummy things come the not-so-lovely weeds. The first little bits, once I recognize that they aren’t what I want, aren’t too bad to pull. There comes a day, though, when a whole army of crabgrass marches in and takes root between the wee plants. The only real solution then becomes a hoe. I hate to hoe. There, I said it. At this point, gardening stops being fun. I start to see that if (big if) we can hold the weeds at bay, there’ll be gallons of tomatoes to can, bushels of beans to pick, and zucchini to…well. Zucchini. The gift that keeps on giving. And giving. And giving.
Flower gardens are fun in spring too. I have lilacs and peonies to look forward to (ants and all), heaps of irises (all progeny of the ones I remember fondly from my grandmother’s yard), and the surprise of finding columbines and other self-sowers that crop up in the most interesting places. The best thing about the flowers, though, is all the color they bring to a world that has been dressed in brown, gray, and tan for several months. Soon I’m seeing all that color and thinking about fabric. Look how nicely that yellow plays off the deep blue of the irises. Sunflowers. All those shades of green! Do I have enough green fabrics? How can I combine them to get that same continuity that I see in the garden? Inspiration overload, right?
I start to resent having to hoe and smack mosquitoes while I would rather be inside making something beautiful. I can hear you now, saying, “So why bother with the garden at all?” There are days I would certainly agree with you, especially those when I get up to find my kitchen floor littered with buckets of tomatoes that have to be processed now. But. We eat from our garden. A lot. I can, freeze, dehydrate, and store most of what we grow. It might seem silly, but have you ever tasted home-canned heirloom tomatoes in the middle of winter? Opened up a package of peaches you froze at the height of the season? Ah, there is nothing like it to bring some joy to a cold, gray evening.
I’d like to tell you that it saves money too, but I am not always sure about that. What I can tell you is that there is something infinitely satisfying about putting supper on the table with food that we planted, we sweated over, worried over in bad weather, and picked and put up ourselves. We know exactly what’s in each jar.
But still, I want to make things. No, not pickles, jam, or juice. Quilts! I want to make quilts! I taunt myself with the notion that I wouldn’t have nearly as big a mess to clean up if I were sewing. Yeah, a few bits of thread on the floor. Psssh, that’s nothing compared to a bucket full of tomato peelings. I remind myself that I could be sitting down at my machine instead of standing, behind-up, checking the zucchini for squash beetles. When I’m in the workroom, I don’t listen for the sound of snakes sneaking up behind me, or watch for Japanese beetles coming in to eat up the beans.
So far, every year the garden has won. I dig in the dirt, go to bed so tired I can barely think, all the while dreaming of the quilts I’ll make when the season is done. I sew when I can, just enough to feed that part of my brain. All of the work is a gift, and each has its season. So for now, I know that winter will come again. And when it does, we’ll be well-fed.