Spring has finally arrived here in the Pioneer Valley. Hooray! I"ve begun my spring yard work — trimming bushes and picking up branches that came off our birch tree during the windy winter. The next step is raking, but it's far too windy for that today. So, I sit here with my window open, breathing in deep breaths of fresh air. Is there anything more divine that the smell of fresh spring air? The grass is turning green, the birds are singing sweetly, and the sun is casting long shadows in the early evening.
I was thinking today about how each spring in my childhood signaled the beginning of outdoor work when I was a child. I remembered that I had written a blog post several years ago about this. I found it in April 2010 and I'm re-posting it.
It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain
I love this quote; it is so true — about what to cook in the transition between winter and summer food; about clothing, when you don’t know if you’ll be sorry for what you are wearing, ’cause if you decide to wear something warm, you will be sure to roast later that day, or if you wear something summery, you might freeze your toes off; and about life in general because spring inspires you to live life to the fullest. But what does that mean to live life to the fullest — do you buy that Mustang you always wanted to own, or do you take up a new hobby such as learning to braid rugs, do you travel to someplace new in the world you’ve always wanted to visit, or do you grab some other opportunity that comes your way — perhaps something you hadn’t ever thought of before?
As I was gardening this afternoon, I realized I have the luxury of contemplating what living life to the fullest means to me. When I was growing up, I didn’t have the time nor the energy to do so. From mid-February when we started the sugaring process (see my earlier posts about tapping trees and making maple syrup) to the time the garden was planted, our days were full of activities. As soon as the buds came out on the maples, we were done sugaring. We would gather up the sap buckets, clean them, and store them in the sugar house until next season.
After sugaring it was time to dig up the parsnips and vegetable oysters (salsify) that had been in the ground all winter. We loved when Mem cooked up parsnips with new potatoes in big chunks, then when they were nearly soft, she would brown them in butter, salt, and pepper. Yum — after living on canned goods all winter, it sure was a treat to have something fresh.
As soon as the garden was dry enough to plow, Datt would spread manure on the garden, then plow it under. He would then till the soil and use a “drag” to break up the clods of dirt. Our garden was huge, and it had very different soil on one end than it did on the other. One end was nice and fine, the other seemed to always have clods, no matter how much we worked the soil.
Peas were always the first thing to be planted, followed closely by lettuce, radishes, and beans. We used a string between two poles to mark the rows, so they would be somewhat straight. We worked our way north until the whole garden was planted, over a matter of several weeks, or perhaps a month.
About the time of the early plantings, our new baby chicks would arrive in the mail. We used to get 100 of them each year. They came newly hatched, so they were yellow, soft, and downy. We would have their new home ready for them when they came. It was a little “brooder house” that looked much like a cold frame, with a cover over the top to keep them warm at night. We had an oil lantern in a little cabinet under the brooder, which kept the brooder warm. Sometimes we would end up with a cold snap after the peeps arrived. My sister, Sarah, remembers more details about this than I do. She helped Mem care for the baby chicks quite a bit, including getting up in the night to refill the oil lantern. To keep the brooder clean, we would layer the bottom of the brooder with newspapers, and as they got soiled, we rolled up one layer at a time and disposed of it, leaving a clean, fresh layer for the peeps to walk on.
Baby chicks grow up fast. They don’t stay downy for more than a few days when they start getting their first feathers. About the time they looked a little shaggy, the brooder started getting crowded. Then it was time to prepare the “pullet house.” (Pullets are no longer chicks, but not yet chickens — like adolescent chickens.) After their stint in the pullet house, they would graduate to the chicken house.
In addition to all the outdoor activities, we would also be spring cleaning the house. We would wash the walls or paint them as needed, take out all the mattresses and pound them with a broom, air out the pillows, take down the curtains and wash and iron them, wash the windows, clean out all the drawers, clean the furniture, clean all the woodwork, floors, kitchen cabinets, and finally put back the clean and freshly ironed curtains, and lay the clean woven rugs back on the floors. It was as if we were sweeping out the winter and letting in the fresh, new spring air.
Call it Amish spring fever.
Happy Spring to everyone. May you be able to find whatever it is you long for. I'll let you know when I do!
23 thoughts on “Happy Spring!”
Oh yes I remember those days. Had to put the curtains on a wooden stretcher. I love the spring time tho.
Didn’t it feel so good to put up clean and ironed curtains to put the finishing touches on the spring cleaning of a room? That was my favorite part.
I love spring too. I used to love autumn best, but I’ve come around to loving spring just as much.
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One thing my mother used to do that the menfolk didn’t like- but they always did it. And when they did it, we knew it was spring. We had a large house (7 bedrooms – and yet, I never had a room of my own!) with very large rooms. In the living room we had a huge furnace, maybe five feet tall and a good four feet around, jacketed against burns. It was brown and shiny; I liked it.
But in the spring my mom had the men wrestle that big thing out of there, through the large kitchen and onto the back porch, well out of the way of the washing machine. Then Mom would rearrange the living room furniture for summer.
I think the men were probably right- there was no good reason to move the stove out. The living room was big and we didn’t have all that much furniture in it: I remember Dad’s heirloom desk, Mom’s Singer, two sofas, a couple of small tables and a couple of overstuffed chairs. Oh, and a large “library” table in the middle of the room where we played games and did our singing on Sunday nights. That’s about it, if I remember correctly. The stove could have stayed. :)
Elva, I forgot that we would take down the stovepipe and the stove would get put up against the wall and covered in summer. I think moving it for the summer insured that the stovepipe would get cleaned out every year. And I must say, I’m with your mom in wanting the stove out of the way in the months it doesn’t get used.
I love how vividly you described the furniture in your living room. I feel like I got a glimpse into it.
Thanks for visiting.
I love the changes that come with spring. In lives like you describe, the season determines what we do, how we live, what we eat. But that seems to be rarely true for folks anymore. Nowadays for many (maybe most) people the change in season means nothing more than a change in wardrobe. But I suspect no matter how we live, we can’t escape feeling that fever. It’s probably printed into our DNA somehow.
Thanks for this wonderful post.
Thank you for this comment. I agree, the closer we are to the earth, the more we are in tune with the changing of the seasons. And when we have a childhood like that, the memory of it doesn’t go away.
Thank you for your kind words about the post. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
This brings back so many good memories of our Spring cleaning. Every Summer Mom took on a painting job or project. It was redoing all the windows that needed new putty and paint the frames. Another summer she varnished the furniture, or painted the upstairs floors their normal gray look. Mom was at her happiest during her redoing projects.
Sounds like your mom actually enjoyed these projects. My mother used to like to get them done “because they make such a big difference.” I’m not sure she enjoyed them for their own sake, though.
Katie, thank you for visiting. It’s always a pleasure.
I remember similar spring cleaning rituals. I sometimes had to miss a day of school to help. Not real happy about that!
We had two small chicken houses where we would start the baby chicks each spring. I can remember the smell of the brooder stoves, which was always such a wonderful spring smell. Our stoves could be lit rather than having to use a lantern.
Sadie, it’s great to see you here! I know what you mean about having to stay home from school to help. I had to do that a lot… I wasn’t happy about it either.
So you had chickens, too. Weren’t they so cute for the first two days when they were all soft yellow down?
Thanks for the visit. I hope you’re doing well.
As always … a wonderful post. The simplicity blended with a true industriousness is so refreshing to hear about. The way you write always brings me right there with you, Saloma. Thank you. I also love the comments by everyone, adding their own memories.
Dianne, thank you so much for your kind words of appreciation. It’s the comments that keep me writing, more than five years after starting this blog. Thank you.
Didn’t the stovepipe get painted with something that smelled just awful the first time the stove was lit in the late fall?
Carol, I completely forgot about that… but you’re absolutely right. It was to keep the stovepipe black and keep it from corroding. Goodness sakes, I wonder what it was? Who knows whether it was toxic to breath it in.
I love all these remembrances from my readers. Thank you!
Your post reminded me of our annual spring cleaning project. We had a large bookcase in our living room. Every year during our Easter vacation every book had to be removed, dusted off, the shelves washed and dried and then the books re-shelved (not necessarily in the same place). My sisters and I did not really enjoy this chore but were always glad when it was over. After the long winter this year, I am loving spring. We’ve been having the windows open or at leased cracked almost every day. The grass is green, the birds are chirping. Beautiful!
Phyllis, I love your description of spring and how you enjoy it. Absolutely beautiful! And I also enjoyed hearing about the spring cleaning project. That is something I need to do with one of my bookcases. It is so dusty!
Thanks for visiting, and for your comments.
I often think of Wind in the Willows at the started spring . As the book opens, Mr Mole has just come out of hibernation and is busy doing all the cleaning he neglected all winter. He soon gets restless cleaning ,throws down his brush,and sets out on an adventure. As I tend to hibernate from November to March ,I can relate to the sudden exhilaration that comes with spring. i enjoy reading your stories.,so very different from growing up in a town!
Sally, I vaguely remember reading Wind in the Willows with my boys. That sounds about right… once in a while you have to go with an inspiration when it hits you.
So glad you enjoy the stories. I always love hearing from you.
Happy spring Saloma! I just realised that I missed a couple of your blogs. :-)
I just finished my spring cleaning today. :-) When I was a child, my grandmother did life with us for 2 weeks or so to help my mom with the spring clean. It was always my job to help her. I cherish very precious memories of that time with her. Have a wonderful weekend.:-)
I love your description of spring cleaning with your grandmother.
May you also have a wonderful weekend!
Love reading your blog it’s been helping me come out of a terrible depression, thank you for all this lovely information I really feel like I’ve found something that can help. All of your work is simply amazing
Lucky, I am so gratified to hear that my blog is important to you. I’m sorry to hear about the depression… I know how dibilitating depression can be.
Thank you for the kind words about my work. It is so nice to be appreciated.