There have been years when our first snow surprised us, and we gleefully picked spinach and arugula from under a fluffy blanket. There have been years when the first snow came overnight and was so gentle that it melted away from the small warmth of the plants, leaving them in shallow dark circles among the white. There have even been years when I was so organized and the snow so conveniently late that my beds were harvested, composted, and covered over with a shredded-leaf duvet. But this year is a tweener: the snow is late, and sparse, but we’ve had deep, consistent freezes that forced the chard and parsley into the house. (I picture them lifting their mulchy skirts to hoist their skinny white knees above the soil line and then straggling like refugees up to the deck.) All that’s out there now is the kale (which somehow ended up in four of our six beds…don’t look at me like that) and the remaining root crops: beets and carrots. Those really need to come in soon, as our pitchfork can only do so much against rock-hard winter soil.
It’s a frustration trying to garden with children, but also a lesson in wonder — not just that things grow from tiny seeds and produce beautiful, colorful food, but also that the soil and water and worms exist as they do. We got Ezra to help us spread chopped leaves on the garden because we told him the worms need them for food through the winter. He was beyond thrilled when, four weeks later, we lifted the leaf mulch to plant our garlic, and there were numbers of wrigglers dashing for cover. Worms are for Ezra what writing is for me: alluring, entrancing, and more than a little terrifying. Also good for the world, and something we want to nurture.