This last week was a really hard week. Winters in Minnesota are so long that to get through them you create a psychological dependence on how the season should progress. January, particularly the end of January, is the coldest part of winter. As February moves along one expects the days to get noticeably warmer. When I say warmer I mean warmer for us, typically temperatures during the day fluctuating between 30 to 40F (-1 to 4C). This year, that is what January was like so you can imagine everyone expecting February to be the same or, dare we hope, even warmer. But February has been what January was supposed to be. This last week we had several nights in a row below zero (-17C) and today as I type this in the late afternoon, the temperature is -1F (-18C). The week ahead is forecast to be much like the week just past. Most of the people I know are walking around like zombies; we’ve mentally checked out. Our bodies might be here but our brains have flown off to warmer climes. When we manage to talk coherently, we speak mutually reassuring words about the weather getting warmer soon and encourage each other to hang in there.

Green ferns - good for the soul

Green ferns – good for the soul

In order to forestall complete psychological breakdown, Bookman and I went to the conservatory this morning and spent nearly two hours getting high off the smell of paperwhites and stargazer lilies, being mesmerized by the riot of colors the swarming and hungry koi made in the pond, and listening to the trickle of water while thawing out and imagining ourselves in a ferny glenn. Good for the eyes. Good for the heart. Good for the soul. Even if we had to walk back outside into the tundra afterward and were half-frozen by the time we made it to the car.

Prior to visiting the conservatory we went out to breakfast at our favorite cafe and talked about chickens and garden plans and all kinds of other things while eating and drinking copious amounts of coffee. I’ve been doing research on chicken keeping and sharing it with Bookman. Currently his only concern is how much work it will be to take care of them. My chicken class is coming up on Saturday (28th) and I expect I will find out an answer to that question there.

I also got to babble on about things to plant, things I’d like to try, what we can possibly do with the space at the back

A pretty mystery plant

A pretty mystery plant

of the garden when we no longer have a garage and the huge concrete slab is gone. We talked about what we wanted from our garden. We talked about Amy Pond and the raccoon problem it creates and what we should do about it. And finally we talked about starting seeds. I discovered a few days ago that we need to start our onion seeds by March 1st. This week we will be making paper pots, locating our plastic seed trays to put the pots in, finding the leftover seed starting mix from last year and figuring out how much more we will need. And, by next weekend, be ready to plant some onion seeds.

Then two weeks after that it will be time to start all the various kinds of peppers we got seeds for. Two weeks after that it will be tomato time.

The fact and activity of seed starting combined with today’s visit to the conservatory has done quite a lot to lift me out of the exhausted funk I had slipped into. I have things to do! There is a garden to prepare! And by the time the tomato seeds are stubby sprouts it will be April and the plant sale catalog will arrive and I can get lost in that for hours. Not to mention that as soon as the ground thaws in April there will be new beds to dig and existing beds to prepare for planting cool weather vegetables at the end of the month.

These are the things that get me through when winter is doing its worst. Oh and books. There are always books!