The spade and the snow-shovel

Image Source:  Johnny Seeds

Image Source: Johnny Seeds

The weather is tinged with enough warmth these days to coax the first early risers up from their beds, eager to look around. The muted shades of winter slowly giving way; the grays traded for greens.

The perennials come up proudly in defiance of the stubborn wind and snow. Spring is cool and shy, but many an eager farmer and flower are there to flatter her along.

The soil is broken, the first seeds planted.


The packets of seeds laid out in front of me reminded me of my favorite youth hobby of collecting baseball cards. The glossy pictures on the front, the stats on the back. I swear I felt a bit of lust come over me.

Sadananda told me that every year he buys more seeds than he needs, and this year was to be no exception. It made me laugh to think that the most modest man I know, still has his indulgences. Sadananda is a sucker for all things beautiful.

The weather and other obligations had delayed my plans by a week or two. It seemed that when I was ready to work in the soil, the snow was ready to fall. In the early part of spring my car became a portable wardrobe. In the back seat were tee-shirts and jackets, boots and sneakers, wool hats and baseball caps. One day It would be snowing, the next I would be sweating.

Little by little I was able to trade the snow shovel for the spade. The first days of work had me cleaning out the old beds from last year. Uprooting the ghosts of last years tomatoes, and then mixing the soil with rich compost.

Now, I am not a destructive man by nature, but I must admit that I found great satisfaction in whacking and weeding my way through those beds- working my way foot by foot until nothing was left but a bare patch of earth.

Once the beds were cleared, and the soil mixed through with compost I got around to planting the seeds. The first thing to go in were the snow peas, Oregon Sugar Pod II's (Pisum sativum). Snow peas are so named because they can be planted even when there is still snow on the ground. In truth it would have been better to get them in a week or two earlier, but as it was, April 1st seemed like as good a day as any.

That next day I put down the radish seeds. The radishes (Raphanus sativus) were in the same bed that used to house the tomatoes, alternating rows with the snow peas. We planted 3 types of radishes, Sparkler White tip, Icicle short top, and Champion.

That same day April 2 we planted our beds dedicated to our greens. Nestled safely between two of the 3 bee hives tucked to the left of the shed I planted a mix of lettuce greens, mustard greens, arugula, and spinach. Half of the seeds were saved for the second wave planting.

With the first seeds planted I breathe a deep cool breath, lay out my warm boots for the snow storm that is on it's way for tomorrow, and make plans for the "double-digging" that will take place over the weekend.

By Shaw Lathrop (Alandi Ashram groundskeeper)