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Dear County Agent Guy

By Staff | Mar 6, 2020

-Submitted photo Jerry Nelson shows some of the first signs of spring happening on his farm, in the form of an indoor, small herb garden kit his wife recently purchased.

At this time of the year, most people are ready for winter to be over. Winter has become like an old college buddy who dropped by unexpectedly and ended up staying for several months.

It was fun at first. Getting reacquainted, recalling those adrenalin-charged sled rides down Busted Skull Hill. Guffawing over memories of that night when you secretly installed a snowman the size of the Jolly Green Giant in the atrium of your dorm.

But your erstwhile pal has long since worn out his welcome. You no longer believe his vague assurances that he’ll leave next week, or the week after that at the very latest. You notice that he’s become increasingly grungy, with months’ worth of sedimentary grime and empty beer cans beginning to show at the edges of his shrinking faade.

More than anything, you want him to just go. He doesn’t take any of the subtle hints that you drop such as when you recently observed, “Ben Franklin once said that houseguests, like fish, begin to stink after a few days. Wise man, that Ben!”

This has no effect. You can only watch, helpless, while he wallows on the couch and changes all the presets on your cable TV box.

Here in our neck of the woods, the seasons have entered their quasi-winter, quasi-spring phase. We heartily welcome the warming weather. Not just because it’s shrinking the snow, but also because it gives us new topics – slush, mud, and muddy slush – to complain about. Many of us are beginning to think about tuning up the lawn mower even though we know that we might yet be slammed by a late-season blizzard. Or two. Or three.

The official First Day of Spring doesn’t mean much around here. It’s more of a suggestion or a nebulous, unachievable goal. It’s like telling yourself that you’re finally going to lose those 30 pounds and enter the Ralph On Your New Running Shoes Triathlon.

The lengthening days and teasing hints of balmy weather causes us to become impatient. My wife is a good example. She recently purchased a small kit that contained potting soil and a variety of herb seeds. She planted the seeds and put their pots in the east window. Tiny green sprouts have begun to emerge mere inches away from the thin, transparent wafers of glass that are holding back the deadly cold air.

This is the time of year when farmers begin to think about germination. Back in the era when corn was open pollinated, Grandpa would go down to the corn crib at about the first of March and select the largest ears. He would shell off some of the grain and put the kernels in a sock. The sock would be placed in a pan, soaked with water and placed in a south-facing window.

A week or so later, Grandpa would examine the sopped sock and count the number of seeds that had germinated. It wasn’t much of a system, but it was better than wasting any of the precious seeds which had cost him oh, yeah. nothing.

These days, germination data is just a mouse click away. We have corn hybrids that will do everything but pick themselves and haul the grain to the bin. We’ve come a long ways from Grandpa’s “by guess and by golly” seed selection technique, which is primitive compared to my “heads or tails” decision-making system.

There isn’t a single artistic bone in my body. The only successful art project I completed during my childhood involved germination. And no, I don’t mean sprouting new ideas regarding how to cause my teachers more grief.

That art project began with an egg. The top of its shell was carefully hacked off and its contents dumped out. The shell was filled with dirt and oat seeds were placed atop the soil. A dash of water soaked the seeds.

I was then instructed to use a crayon to draw a face on the shell. I was able to accomplish this mainly because the shape of the face was predetermined by the outline of the shell. Usually, when I draw a face it looks like the product of a tragic steamroller accident.

My eggshell face wasn’t very artistic. It was, in fact, downright goofy. This goofiness was heightened when its green “hair” began to grow. My classmates got a hearty chuckle when they saw what appeared to be a constipated lunatic who sported a tangled, emerald-green coiffure.

I have been carefully monitoring my wife’s little window garden. Spring is coming and it looks like it won’t be long before we’ll have fresh basil for our scrambled eggs.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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