Today There Was a Little Boy In My Greenhouse…My Son Was There Too.


Today is the official start of spring.  No, don’t run to your calendar or pull one up on your i-whatever.  I’m not talking about the calendar’s take on spring.  I’m talking about mine.  The first day of spring is the day I start planting seeds in seed blocks, thus continuing the endless circle of life and death.

The current outside temperature (even in the sun for crying out loud) is 21 degrees F.  I’ve waited as long as possible, put it off as long as I could but I can’t stand it anymore.  I’ve got to plant something!  Luckily, I have a way.

My nearly four year old son and I traipsed out  to the cathedral (which is what I call my tallest hoop house) this morning in the hope of alleviating cabin fever.  When I asked if he wanted to come out to the cathedral and help daddy make soil blocks, the answering cry of ‘YES!’ was accompanied by the immediate scattering of transformers and legos, forgotten and dismissed mid-galactic war.


Upon entering the hoop house he went right for the trowel and asked what he could do.  As I was scuttling around preparing to plant onion seeds I was taken by the fact that this is one of the few things for which I feel I can truly relate to my son.  I don’t understand the occasional tantrums over the wrong flavor toothpaste.  I don’t understand his maddening insistence that spinach is the devil and I don’t really relate to his desire to swing a plastic sword at everything in sight.  That last one I understand.  I know I did the same thing when I was a kid.  I think it’s universal.  But I don’t remember doing it.

But this, the need to dig in the soil and play with crumbly clods of Earth, I remember that.  I remember it and I still have the innate need to continue.  And I started to wonder if it ever goes away.  I hope not.


While my boy was playing in the soil, my inner boy was doing the same thing, albeit a bit more productively (I hope).  Today I began the growing season as I do each spring with the planting of the year’s onions from seed.  In the above photo you can see my method.  I use the Johnny’s Hand Seed Sower for nearly everything I plant into blocks, (in my experience it doesn’t work well on spherical seeds like broccoli and kale) and it’s dead useful.  The catalog and website show a person using it with one hand.  I’ve tried for nearly a decade.  Can’t make it happen.

Everything you do, whether gardening at home or commercially, should be documented.  It’s incredibly easy over the course of a growing season to lose track of what this or that plant is and then how do you know if you want to buy it again next season?  Man, these onions lasted forever in the root cellar…what variety was that again?  You get the idea.

I have a pretty ingenious garden labeling system.  Regrettably, I cannot take credit for it.  I got this idea years ago from the Fedco Trees catalog.  I use the back of discarded vinyl siding.  If you write on it in pencil it will last through mud, snow, rain, sun and the errant finger doing its best to smudge your writing.  But you can erase it.  It’s amazing.  I have mine filed alphabetically so each year I just have to grab the ones I need for whichever variety I’m planting and erase the date.  All other information stays the same.

Here's a shot of my notes from this time last year.  As you can see, I already had a lot more going on!

Here’s a shot of my notes from this time last year. As you can see, I already had a lot more going on!

After planting I make a paper record.  My affinity for paper and pencil/pen is akin to my affinity for playing in the soil.  I think it hearkens back to childhood.

I don’t know what this season will bring.  I don’t know if this snow will ever melt.  I don’t know if the sun will warm things up enough so the maple sap eventually begins to flow.  But for today at least, I’m pleased to know that I’m carrying on and living through traditions that have persisted since the dawn of agriculture.  If you need me, I’ll be out in the hoop house playing in the soil with my son.  Local Food.  Eat well – be well.


Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.