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Pondering the Puzzlement

Farch is a pain, at least at the beginning

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

February, the second longest month of the year, March being the longest. Both months are unpredictable. Warm weather, tempting gardeners to plant onions and peas, is not unheard of. Nor are snowfalls measured in feet, or temperatures below zero "F" accompanied by nasty biting winds. In my mind there is only one month encompassing this 59 or 60 day time period- Farch. My pagan friends have a different name for this time but I never remember what it is. They also have celebrations I don't attend, as it's usually too blasted cold, or muddy and miserable for me to venture out onto their hill with its circle and altar. (I'm unlikely to ever be a Nature worshiper.)

Farch is a pain, at least at the beginning. I've usually long settled my garden seed orders and have mapped out the next season's gardens (though they never end up as I picture them in January.) The meads are refusing to clear if they've stopped bubbling at all. The one bottle I have ready to sip is promised to a friend who is bigger than I am so I'm left sipping commercial wines which Wanda complains I'm spending too much money on. (Mostly she complains when I buy one she doesn't like.)

Once Farch has settled in, it's a fine time to heat the oven! I start building breads to fill the house with yeasty aromas and moist warm air as the breads bake golden brown on their stone. Homemade pizzas become more common as I can't find one for sale anywhere that suits my tastes. Homemade egg noodles, dried on their mahogany and maple rack, end up in soups that also fill the house with fragrant warmth. Nontraditional lasagnas are suddenly on the menu here! Made in a Polish dish we bought from our friends at McKesson House in Fairfield, we layer meats, rice and/or egg noodles, tomato sauces, dried tomatoes and cheeses no true lasagna lover would dream of using!

Wanda and Raiza take to watching movies while they crochet scarves, blankets and caps. I make runs to the library for books on gardening, jewelry making, Bushido, and of course bread building! The Post Office is always a stop on route to the library. Every day I expect seeds, or books, or tools and materials for the cottage industry I'm struggling to get off the ground. Some days I get cool stuff like a coyote skull and a rattlesnake tail along with pounds of seeds from a friend in Texas. (She's promised me an armadillo's skull as soon as she manages to kill one digging in her garden.) A friend in Minnesota sometimes sends homemade balm for my work-chapped hands, or soaps she's made for the coming garden season.

When we can't take being cooped up we run over to York to a farmers market we've been using for years. We stock up on our favorite veggies and meats, buy breakfast or lunch from our favorite vendors and go home by way of route 234, a pleasant drive through PA farmland. This year I started shopping a little Asian seafood store next to the farmers market. It has a good selection of seaweeds I use to make my lunch soup!

When the weather is too uncomfortable and no one feels like cooking, routines begun in January flow into Farch. We'll call a take-out order in to Smokehouse Alley. As I tend to be the one who has to pick the order up, I'll swing by Paul's Pit Stop for a bottle of wine on the way to the restaurant. Such meals are an event made more enjoyable if the Mad Bulgarian and my cousin Luke happen to be visiting. Talk ranges over politics to business to the home the Mad Bulgarian and Luke plan to build someday. We talk of our lives in this place and hear stories of Luke's adventures in Europe and the Mad One's life under communism and how her people struggle with freedom while she sees Americans losing it. Gardens are planned, books discussed, jokes told, glasses lifted in kinship. Winter is griped about!

I despise Farch, but recognize it as a necessary downtime for not only my garden but also my family. We are in each other's company now more than we will be any other time of the year. Like the garlic I planted in October, we over-winter to grow strong and productive come the warmth.

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.