Jilly D.

What happened to spring?

In Time and seasons, Uncategorized on April 5, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Tonight it’s pouring rain. Thundered this morning. Did you hear it? Wet, muddy, grey.

“I live where it’s grey,” is the lyric from a Horse Flies tune that aptly fits Ithaca, the band’s home town.

Lord, if you can’t deliver a spring, bring summer on instead. This often happens here around the shores of Cayuga. One day the last knolls of snow melt under the intense sun of late spring. Summer knocks on the door the next morning. Come on in. Bring the sun and heat on. Bring it on heavy.

Even as the night sky drips, the coyotes howl in yips wilder than a SWAT team descending on a meth house for a big bust. Tis the season for stealing the fertilizer to numb the skulls of those facing no future. But spring is late again this year. Snow buried the crocus and broke the necks of budding daffodils. Why must winter be so cruel in its longevity?

I hope tomorrow sunshine bursts through with the lightness of a change in season. I smell the earth awakening from its slumber.

Impatient every year to get seed in the ground, I would be as persistent as a puppy to get out there and dig around in the dirt.

“Too early,” Sam would say. “Besides, after I plow, I will take a couple weeks before I harrow. Then you can plant.”  I’d pester him every day about the weather conditions and the countdown to planting time.

The season of seedlings and new starts is suddenly here despite today’s weather conditions. Reminders everyday arrive by email as orders for my heirloom flower and culinary herb seeds arrive from LocalHarvest.org.

On Warren Pond Farm & Seed Company continues to send hand-harvested seeds to customers across the United States. Particularly popular is the Hopi Ceremonial Tobacco/Nicotiana. The pungent odor of jasmine from its blossoms on a moonlit night and its usefulness in the garden as a natural bug and pest repellent make it a plant front and center of any herbalist’s garden.

Sam wanted to grow it and we started it from Seeds of Change organic seed. His grandfather had given him a plastic baggie with a tobacco seed pod he’d saved for more years than I’d known him and his grandfather had died at least a decade before that. I threw those in with the seeds he carefully placed into potting soil trays and misted daily. That first year’s worth of tobacco was a field long row of six foot tall flowers competing for the corn and sunflower’s sun quotient.

This past weekend I spent time filling seed orders for calendula, dill, and cilantro with my fellow student in the art and science of herbology, Melissa Chipman. She and I have been wildcrafting and studying herbalism from Rosemary Gladstar the past year. Teas, tinctures, lotions and potions are herbal remedies I’ve learned about as natural ways to stay connected with this earth which owns a part of my soul so deep I can’t let go.

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  1. Sounds beautiful and fragrant! Would that grow in the harsh direct sun and arid climate of Southern California? I do have a rooftop space…

    • Tobacco grows in all 50 states. Nicotiana would love your rooftop spot! Lots of sun and good drainage; very tolerant of sunny California.

  2. Great to know. My only reservation is that I have no experience with plants outside of a spider plant and a cactus, the plant-to-animal equivalents of say, taking care of a cat. 🙂 How often would I need to water Nicotiana, and which kind/size of pot (red clay with a detachable saucer OK?) would you recommend?

    • Here we don’t have a long enough season to start them outdoors; we do them like tomato plants. About now we start seedlngs in trays and when they get inch long leaves they can be transplanted outdoors. I’m guessing you could take a very large (at least 18 inch wide) clay pot and fill the bottom with crushed stone for a couple inches; then add potting soil and a few seeds. At the bottom they will be about three foot wide circumference and like a pine tree taper up to the blossoms. Resembles mullein in the fields around here. The size of a human figure. Better than citronella. But if you touch the tobacco plant leaves and then touch living tomato, pepper or bean plants the veggie plants will be dead before morning. It is a natural toxin.

  3. Awesome! Let’s do it…Alex also expressed interest in some basil, chives, cilantro and dill. I will message you directly for purchasing details. Looking forward to becoming a rooftop farmer! 🙂

    • Thanks Chrissy I got your message. Rooftop farming is becoming part of the urban homestead movement here. The spring issue of Small Farm Quarterly has a cover story about what is happening in NYC in this regard.

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