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Last week a Facebook friend shared with me a lovely little poem by Sudie Stuart Hager. Born in 1895, Hager was Poet Laureate of Idaho from 1949 to her death in 1982.He Knows No WinterHe knows no winter, he who loves the soil,For, stormy days, when he is free from toil,He plans his summer crops, selects his seedsFrom bright-paged catalogues for garden needs.When looking out upon frost-silvered fields,He visualizes autumn’s golden yields;He sees in snow and sleet and icy rainPrecious moisture for his early grain;He hears spring-heralds in the storm’s turmoilHe knows no winter, he who loves the soil.Reading these simple, imagery-laden lines, I felt an immediate connection to this sentiment. So often, friends and family members have commented to me, “Oh, you must be so happy now that the weather is finally warm,” or “now that “winter is over,” or “now that spring is here.”They mean well, of course. I’m just never sure if they understand when I tell them that I love winter, and why. The truth is that gardening is hard work! Delightful work, of course. But — to borrow a word from the poem — there is nonetheless a certain amount of “toil” involved. Even using power tools, such as a rototiller, there’s no getting around the fact that keeping a reasonable-sized kitchen garden takes a good amount of hands-on work and a lot of time.Hager’s poem also reminded me that February is half over and that I have a stack of seed catalogues that have been trying to get my attention over the past month. It is definitely time to take a look, see what’s new, what’s still available, and decide what I want to grow this season.One new vegetable I’m eager to try is Honeynut Squash. Honeynut is a cross between the butternut (Cucurbita moschata) and buttercup (C. maxima) squashes, that was developed at Cornell University. I came across it last fall at my local Kimberton Whole Foods store. I love regular butternut squash, but this little one was irresistibly adorable — I just had to bring one home with me.Most butternut squash grow to be about ten to twelve inches long and weigh in at about two to three pounds. Cooking one of those is a commitment. The diminutive Honeynut squash grow to about half that size, and tip the scales at anywhere from eight to sixteen ounces. That’s a lunch for one, or a quick side vegetable for two. Plus, at their lighter weight, it should be easier to let Honeynut squash clamber up a trellis, saving space in the garden.The rest of the appeal is simply in the taste. Butternut squash can be a bit bland, Honeynut, on the other hand, has a deeper, richer, sweeter flavor without any add-ons. And, it has a very thin, edible skin. To prepare, simply cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and pulp, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.“He knows no winter, he who loves the soil…” That line continued to resonate in my mind. But it wasn’t until I thought to substitute “she” for “he” throughout the verse, that it really came home to me. (I’m not trying to make a particular statement, I just found that using my pronoun makes the words and the sentiment more personal to me.) Assuming that Hager’s poetic self would appreciate the pronoun change …“She knows no winter, she who loves the soil,For, stormy days, when she is free from toil,She plans her summer crops, selects her seeds…”That’s what I’m doing right now.Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to [email protected], or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots.” Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon, along with her companion field journal, Explore Outdoors, at Amazon.com/author/pamelabaxter.
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