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Friday, 2 May 2014

Memories of Primavera

   Primavera is the word for spring used in countries whose languages originated from Latin.  In prima we hear the word "first", while vera refers to the opening up of flower buds.  The first flowers opening is just one sign of spring.  I'd like to share two memories of spring from my rural roots.
   When I was in seventh or eighth grade I would try to wake up early at this time of year (late April, early May) and go outside before eating breakfast.  I would head to the long barns housing the minks my dad raised, walk up and down the aisles and listen.  What was I listening for?  The sound of "peep, peep" that told me babies had been born in one more nest box. Each cage that housed a pregnant female had a stiff paper identification tag on it.  At the sign that the mother had given birth, these tags were moved to the top of the nest box, like a flag raised in triumph.  Before breakfast and before going to school, I wanted to be the one who discovered which females had given birth overnight.  After supper, I also loved the ritual of going around with my dad and recording in our notebook how many litters had come in that day, and how the herd was progressing in this "whelping season."  As the month of May progressed, the barns were filled with a unique spring chorus.
Day-old mink kits--blind and virtually hairless but able to say, "peep, peep"
   During another part of my life, when I lived on the site of a greenhouse operation, another spring memory involved a particular smell.  A fraction of the rose bushes in the greenhouse operation were pulled out each spring and replaced with new plants.  But prior to planting the new ones, the soil had to be steamed.  In this way it would be free of weed seeds and germs that might threaten the new growth.  The smell inside the greenhouse when the soil was being steamed is hard to describe, but my husband used to call it "cooked dirt."  If you literally baked a mud pie in your home oven, you might be able to relate to that smell.  Soon after planting the red shoots would quickly emerge.  I would take my toddlers out to watch the progress of the new plants, as the goal was to be able to harvest long stemmed roses by Mother's Day.

   Sometimes I miss these rural moments that defined my spring in days gone by.  My children are farther removed from the realities of the creatures that give birth in spring time and the farmer's field going from barren brown to lush green.  That's why making time for a walk in the woods, a trip to a family farm and taking the scenic route is so important to all of us.

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