Sunday, March 05, 2006

Shopping excursion

My bag balm was close to running out the other day; in the Northwoods winter, running out of bag balm is painful, and certainly something to take seriously. I learned about bag balm in the Peace Corps (right up there with Where There is no Doctor in terms of life utility, I swear), and I've been a big fan of both ever since (along with Tevas).

So I took advantage of Saturday to run to the store on a shopping excursion. Of course, it's for veterinary use only (hey, it's for the cows in the back yard /nod), so you have to choose the appropriate store (but don't worry, they come in all sorts of handy smaller sizes, in case you have, um, small cows, yeah, small cows, or cows with small udders, or something), the farm store! If you live near stores called Farm King, you know exactly the kind of store I'm talking about. These are a dream store for me, with everything you could possibly desire in a store--hardware, clothes, food, snow survival gear, shovels, animal food, lawn chairs, garden gnomes, you name it, you can find it at this store, including bag balm.

I got my bag balm (they have three brands, but the others don't seem to work as well for me), and then wandered through other the store. New, freshly-dyed denim smells just perfect, and for me evokes college life. I love jeans that have been washed three or four times, and are fuzzy and darker blue than before or after, and still have a hint of dye smell. (I quit wearing jeans while I was in the Peace Corps, because they're really impractical when they stay wet for weeks at a time, but my habit reformed.) Hardware, bright, and shiny, leather work gloves, grills the size of small rooms, small tractors and riding mowers, horse tack. I love wandering the store; it's even better than those huge mega home improvement places.

And then I saw the seed and bulb display. Yes, dreams of spring. I gawked, and stood admiring, picking out first one package, reading the back, and putting it back.

Another woman was also looking at them and had already chosen a small handful. She asked me about starting them indoors, and I confessed that I'd been hoping to ask her about seeds, since I was clueless. So we talked about the planters on my deck and her ever-increasing garden, about my need for vines to disguise the neighbor's offensively ugly HUGE white plastic fence, and about the gardening she'd done to prepare for her kid's wedding last summer. We talked about my back area, a hill covered in weeds, and about how many flats she'd had to get last year, and why she wanted to start from seed this year. We talked about luring hummingbirds and bees. We talked about spring, and how we yearned for flowers and green outside, and rain and warm days gardening.

As I was leaving, I realized that I had almost an identical conversation with another woman in the grocery store earlier in the week, while admiring a much smaller seed display. Winter simply lasts too long here, and we're all impatient for some warmth and growth. Standing at the seed display, we become comrades, the displaced academic and the born and bred grandmother.

I finally settled on five packages, Purple Cone-Flowers, Black-Eyed Susans, Bee Balm (balm seems to have been the theme of the day), Cardinal Climber, and a Wildflower mix. The Black-Eyed Susans can be started inside, 4-6 weeks before the last frost, so if I start them in a couple weeks, they should be good to go by May sometime. Still, I don't go out to the farm store all that often, and they have the best seed choices around, so I figure I saved myself a trip of sorts.

Last week, I took a couple Amaryllis I'd forced into the department office because they're on the verge of blooming, and I spend more awake time there than at home. And this afternoon I potted up the last of the bulbs I refrigerated this past fall, a few left-over tulips, which should be starting up and flowering in a couple months. (Because, really, who can grade adequately when bulbs need to be potted?)

I'm SO ready for spring.

Today it's snowed pretty much all day; some friends and I went out for a brunch, and it took about an hour to make what's normally a 20 minute drive, and it was unfun, slippery slow driving all the way.


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  2. Three cheers for Bag Balm!

  3. Bag Balm, I buy it at the co-op in a huge white plastic tub. It's perfect for my itch that I get when I touch anything green. The thing for your fence, Boston Ivy. It will attach to anything and can live and stay green in the coldest and hottest weathers. Plus, it is pretty and easy to train to stay on the fence. Bag Balm, I thought I was the only one who used it. Imagine that.

  4. Jake and Zelda1, thanks for commenting.

    Yes, NEVER underestimate the power of bag balm!

    Hmm, Ivy's an interesting idea. I was thinking about some dogwood things, since they're interesting in winter colorwise, and also beautiful in spring and summer. What do you think?