Whos here? she asked, looking around for someone to answer that description.
She, the man said. Winter.
Well, its about time. I knew wed been missing something. I just didnt know it was a she, as in winter.
While I dont mind the low electric bills -- although considering the mild weather it does seem as if they should be even lower (or am I being paranoid and negative?) -- I have other issues, such as scarves to wear before its time to fold them away again for next season,
sweaters to revisit and remember, collards anxious for that extra nip in the air, broccoli plants that are threatening to bolt.
I have a spirea bridal wreath tree itching to put out buds, bitty little nasturtium seedlings I planted last Valentines Day thinking its April and wondering to themselves why they never bloomed, a row of Mexican heather plants that is already sprouting new growth around the bottom. My Japanese plum (loquat) have been sporting blooms for two months already.
Dandelions, in all their spring-filled, red-balloon, e.e. cummings yellowness, are dotting the brownish, winter grass. The grass is doing the right thing. The dandelions are not.
Daffodils, bless their optimistic souls, are going strong.
Its crazy. If it werent for the nasty, cut-up and ragged banana tree leaves wed have trouble telling what month it is.
This years Super Bowl Sunday came and went and I didnt even plant sugar snaps or snow peas, which I always thought was a great time to get those suckers going. Because who wouldnt rather be outside -- sometimes in sleeting rain -- than in front of the boob tube?
But this year I kept waiting for cold weather to roust my memory to order the seeds, and it never came so I forgot.
Im still waiting for that winter splurge of lettuce and arugula, plants that depend on cooler temperatures to grow thick and compact and tasty. It must be a sparse year for greens because Im not even tired of picking them yet, which is like saying Im not tired of basil -- gag -- by the time November rolls around.
One lettuce thats going to town for me this year is something called mizuna. I couldnt identify it when it started coming up. I only knew a slight mustard taste, a bitterness.
I plant these seeds when theyre the size of black pepper and then dont remember where I put them or what they are supposed to look like when theyre all grown up. And while the package may claim 84 percent germination rate I dont get anywhere near that.
But a few weeks ago when I was out of town and doing a little fine dining at an expensive restaurant (on someone elses credit card) I spotted this particular lettuce with its distinctive feathery leaf (the catalogs and sites on the Internet call the leaves finely desiccated and agree the lettuce is from Japan).
So I asked the server and got the name. Bingo. I was growing the very same thing.
The full menu item read crisp calamari, mizuna greens, yuzu (I have no idea what that is) vinaigrette and toasted sesame seeds -- a bargain at $10.
And to think the last way I served my mizuna was at home as a bed of greenery to set off some of Krogers famous $5 roasted chicken dinner.
Hold the toasted sesame seeds. Minus the yuzu vinaigrette. I had no idea nouveau cuisine had come to 38th Street.
Whenever I have success with something, such as this years mizuna, I start to fantasize about developing my own little cottage industry. Like the summer I grew about 50 luffas (or do you say loufas?).
But then, my total marketing plan ready to go, I fail to replicate my earlier success. Farming is so unpredictable.
Besides, as with anything that turns commercial -- art or writing or crafts -- more time is spent packaging, wrapping, marketing and distributing than actually creating the product.
So the answer is: Be here now.
For the garden, that requires cold weather, winter, seasonal change.
But have faith. She might be on her way.
E-mail Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org/.