We farmers like March. The sap is running, the snow is melting, the draft horses are shedding, the red-winged blackbirds are hollering.
The only sorry thing we see in March is the woodshed, which is looking mighty roomy right about now. Some years, in fact, we are out of firewood altogether by March, and our house hovers around fifty degrees. Not quite warm enough for comfort, but not quite cold enough for us to turn the ancient oil furnace higher, which is painful to both our green consciences, and to our not so green pockets.
Happily, March boasts one more wonder for New Hampshire vegetable farmers: it is time for our tropical vacation!
It doesn’t take us long to pack. It doesn’t take us long to get to the tropics, either, maybe thirty seconds, give or take a few. We thrifty farmers know how to save on airfare, not to mention tourist guilt, jet trails, and jet lag. Our vacation begins about twenty yards from our front door.
We stand poised for a moment, on the threshold of bliss, surveying the New Hampshire landscape. Snow, not all melted yet. Or ice, not melted yet. Or slush, or freezing rain. We shiver. We run.
Then we fling open the door to the heated greenhouse! Then we fling it shut! We’ve arrived!
Actually, we’ve almost arrived. Before we strip off our hats, our mittens, our coats, our wool shirts, we have to travel a little further: We go through the temperate zone; the unheated section of the greenhouse, at 60 degrees, is already a welcome improvement over the normal March atmosphere.
Then we duck behind the giant plastic wall that encloses our private tropical island. This is a highly exclusive resort, measuring thirty by sixteen feet. Minimum day and night-time temperature here on our propane sponsored vacation is sixty-eight degrees. If the sun is shining too, we can work up a sweat in March just by standing around admiring the lush greenery.
The flora here is stunning, hundreds of miniature, brilliantly green plants, some just curling their way out of the unique soil of the area. (It is remarkably reminiscent of the soil mix that we use to start our seedlings at home, but it seems unlikely that such a fine small local business, Ideal Compost of Peterborough, New Hampshire, would ship so very far away.)
We breathe in the fragrance: a heady mix of moist, warm soil, and the almost onion-tomato- eggplant-basil-sweet-pepper-like aromas of the foliage. We marvel in the fauna too, or more precisely the lack of fauna, including the insects and reptiles: no fierce garden predators such as deer and woodchuck here, no black flies, no horse flies, no giant pythons, all so typically found in the tropics.
Next we dabble our fingers in the warm coastal waters, beautifully heated by the blazing sun (in a sixty gallon white plastic barrel, formerly a Coca-Cola drum, used to water the seedlings). Then we lie on the beach, soaking up the rays, working on our tans. (Ah! A little March nap in a greenhouse pathway! How delightful!)
Waking, we farmers on tropical vacation find ourselves almost feeling overheated. We glance at the thermostat, prominently displayed for the pure enjoyment of our Northeastern sensibilities. Good glory, it’s almost ninety degrees in here!
We leap up! Hurry! Open up all the doors, and turn on the fans! Before the beautiful flora suffers, wilts, dies an unhappy death! All our precious CSA garden seedlings must not be broiled by this tropical sun!
Cool air (an ocean breeze, we’re sure) rushes through our island resort. We farmers smile on one another. Here we are, enjoying our tropical vacation, in March, with a little help, of course, from our (green? oh, maybe not completely green, but greenish) friends: Propane, Plastic, and the Power of Positive Thinking.
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Mar 20 – Mar 26, 2013