Uppermost House: Rooting for the last frost

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

On Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, at precisely 6:30 p.m. (EST), something will happen that will trigger perhaps the most exciting event of my year.
It was below zero when I got up Friday morning. This is something that I am both opposed to and have grown used to. And, much like androgenic alopecia (despite what the experts say), there just ain’t much we can do about it. Fortunately, unlike the Pilgrims, we have a magic dial on the wall that makes the ambient outdoor temperature a mere curiosity. Turn the dial up and the bank account goes down; but at least I can walk around the old place in my stocking feet.
There are lots of things that need doing today, including installing a new water pump in the basement (the old one growls as if gnashing ancient bones), but most tasks have been trumped by what arrived in the mail yesterday: the 2015 Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog. Though we are trapped in the age of the speeding megabyte, it’s nice to know that there is a great company out there, a Maine-based company, that still peddles their wares from mailbox to mailbox via processed cellulose. Feels organic, even though there is a 21st century gloss to the pages.
I have been a Johnny’s fan and customer for over 20 years, and though their enterprise has grown and their catalog has mushroomed, their roots have stayed the same: they just sell the best gardening stuff and do it in the nicest way possible. A good recipe for any fruitful venture.
This year, I am going big, both in square footage and in dollars spent on seed. I dug up and prepared several more raised beds last fall and am determined to grow more and better stuff than ever this season. We’re not survivalists or food hoarders, but it is nice to eat your own beets in January. Every time I pry the lid off a can I hear the hiss and pop of warmer months, and so here I sit, thumbing and drooling and dreaming of April.
The catalog is arranged alphabetically, and I usually start with beans and head east, stopping just short of turnips, which I’ve lost my palate for in recent years.
In the olden days I used to cruise right through, checking off old favorites, but Johnny's, like everything else, has grown more complicated. As if somehow offering more choices is inherently better. Which it isn’t always and sometimes never is. For goodness sake, there are 40 varieties of “micro greens” alone! And please don’t even get me started on eggplant.
Currently, I’m hung up on broccoli, found on pages 14 and 15, and with 17 choices, searching for vigor and the best side-shoot production (aren’t we all). Then I’ll will skip over cabbage (takes up too much room), cruise easily through carrots (one early, one storage, and we’re done), and head on over to lettuce, where things will once again skid to a stop, this time for the sheer beauty and exuberance of the foliage. I grow lettuce not so much to eat as to fawn over.
I’m on the couch next to a sleeping cat, simultaneously turning pages and checking boxes online at the Johnny’s website — I have one hand in the last century and one hand in the current one, which makes me feel both old and undeniably hip. I hope I finish my draft selection before my friend shows up to help me install the new water pump.
Nevertheless, on that fateful future February Sunday, as Stephen Gostkowski kicks off (for we will be there, and we will win the coin toss, and we will defer), at the precise moment that his foot hits the ball and millions of fans begin to scream (except for those still hung up about “SpyGate”), I will hit the “Place Your Order!” button and begin rooting for the last frost.

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