Ten Thousand Small Beauties

After a relatively mild December and January, here at the farm we now have a proper Michigan winter—deep drifts all around and the world frozen to an apparent standstill. But I promise you, underneath all that ice and snow spring is stirring.

One reliable harbinger: In less than a week I will be in the greenhouse sowing the season’s first seeds.

All the primary pieces of the puzzle for this spring are in place: the greenhouse propane tank topped off last fall, the totes of potting soil delivered early this winter and safely stowed in the barn, the seeds ordered the first week of December and all arrived by mid-January, the greenhouse clean and ready to go and well-stocked with pots and nursery flats and plant tags.

This will be my fifteenth season farming, my fifteenth time entering this long solar cycle that is the agricultural year. I remember my first season on the crew at Trillium Haven being impressed by the complexity of running a farm, by the sheer immensity of all the things to know. I remember being glad I was just the hired hand and not the farmer in charge of keeping the whole show upright and ambulatory. And here I am now, fourteen years later, responsible for exactly that.

After all that time, I find much of the job is second nature to me now. I know deep down what needs to happen when, what things look like when they’re going right, and what to watch for to keep things from going wrong. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising.

But what does surprise me is how I can still be surprised. How, out of the corner of my eye, I can catch a glimpse of glory that stops me in my tracks.

Like when the garlic first thrusts through its protective winter mulch of straw in early spring, thin green fingers of new life fulfilling the promise made late last fall when we pressed the seed cloves into the cooling soil. Or when the heat of late summer lays heavy on the evening, the drone of cicadas filling the air and the sunflowers and zinnias in full riot bobbing in the breeze. Or when stars on a moonless midwinter night spangle in the cast net of bare tree branches, all silent but for the crunch of snow under my boots as I walk. Or when any other of the ten thousand small beauties make themselves known to me in the circuit of my day.

What a world we have been given, and what a privilege we have to care for it.