Forget The Cold And Grow A Garden


As the first of the year settles in and the celebrations subside, it is now that time of the season to turn our attention to what is really important. This year we elect a president of this country once again and the state caucuses across the land are becoming a “you said/he said” sort of affair. They are important, but not what we all really wish to talk about at the beginning of January. It’s not like we haven’t heard all of this discussion since last summer and it is becoming somewhat the same old thing. I don’t know if we can hold out until yard sign days of summer or not.

The really important item of discussion this time of the year is something much more important than an election. It is the first thing uttered from a visitor’s mouth and the main topic at the country store. Bankers say it in conversations, preachers include it in sermons, farmers don’t like it, kids ignore it, old folks dread it, wood cutters work for it and the list could go on for a good length when you try to define the first extreme winter cold snap of the year.

It happens most Januarys and has been doing so since the beginning of time in these parts. It becomes a major topic of discussion and I use to enjoy carrying on those discussions myself until the last few years. That is until I found my secret weapon a while back and now I allow my mailbox to handle these cold periods and see me through until spring.


As temperatures drop and snow threatens to fall this month, most of my nighttime reading chores before the fire involves publications promising spring. Winter has never been one of my favorite seasons, and since the holidays are over, it only seems appropriate to have hopes of an early spring or at least a mild winter.

Usually when days seem the coldest, those who produce seed catalogs know that somewhere out there a person like me is needing a reminder that spring is not that far off. I really enjoy going to the mailbox and finding a large number of brightly colored seed catalogs and tractor company offers. It warms the cockles of my heart (whatever they are) just to get a catalog of this year’s hottest lawn mowing machines. Not meaning I’m going to buy one, but when you have cold cockles you need them warmed every now and then.

I know the new way of looking at these items is by the Internet, and I do some of that, but something about holding a seed catalog while looking at it is more personal than moving a mouse around and pointing. I was taught not to point anyway and the seed catalog is more in the right direction when dreaming about spring.

Last week I got tree, seed and tractor catalogs all in one day. That night and several nights after, I planned numerous gardens that would never be planted and crops that will never be harvested. I forgot about the 18 degrees outside and enjoyed thoughts of warm summer sun on my JD lawn tractor, setting outside under wraps, just waiting for the grass to grow.

New tomato varieties, dwarf apple trees, and pumpkins galore seemed to call my name as the maple firewood crackled and popped in the fireplace at my cozy winter cabin. I love to garden from my easy chair and the winter months afford me that luxury even more.

However, the other night as I scanned through my catalog collection, a strange packet of materials had made its way into my treasure trove. There amongst the Burpee and my Farmers Almanac collections was an advertisement package of income tax information. At that sight, my cockles soon turned cold again and spring seemed to be not that pleasant of a thought. April 15 does come in the spring and it is one day I had just as well forget. But, being an American citizen, I do receive the opportunity to participate in this annual event and I guess I will just have to make the best of it.

While going through some other materials in my stack of catalogs and papers, I ran across some very timely information that just seemed to come to my attention. No author was given and it was one of those filler/information type articles you find in tabloids, so how correct it is I really don’t know. Here is what I learned that frosty evening.

The Gettysburg address is 269 words, the Declaration of Independence is 1,337 words, and the Holy Bible is only 773,000 words (I don’t know to which version the author was referring). However, the tax law has grown from 11,400 words in 1913, to 7 million words today. There are at least 800 different tax forms, each with many pages of instructions.

As I pondered those anonymous facts, I immediately knew that winter’s evening that the seed catalogs were more exciting than the packet of income tax ads that had hitched a ride in my “spring-dreaming” library. As I gave the packet a fling to the trash, I also gave it a Scarlet O’Hara reply of, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

Now, which tomato variety am I not going to plant tonight?


– Pettus L. Read may be contacted by e-mail at