Spring Snow

It’s the latter half of May and after weeks of sitting in the backyard sun, cooking out on the campfire grill, starting the garden work, and contemplating the birds, bugs, and flowers, it snowed last night.

It snowed a heap.

So much for spring. Well, for today, at least.

Of course, I stepped out into the yard and checked my trees. The apple tree was covered (no, COVERED) in blossoms and while snow does not equal freezing or frost (mind = blown?) the chill temperatures are not great for those delicate little flowers-soon-to-be-apples.

The dog on the other hand was in her glory.

Born in September, our eight month old puppy spent the first couple months of her life with her litter inside, in a heated garage, cuddled up with her siblings.

Then we adopted her, and brought her home in a minor blizzard, and set her in the backyard to do her puppy-business in a hand-depth of powder.

The first four months of her life here were bound in snow, covered in ice, and braced in chill winds. In short, she grew up in the snow covered city and will likely forever be a snow dog.

It’s probably not surprising then, that when I opened the back door and let her into the yard as the flakes began to fall, her reaction was…

Nostalgia?

Elation?

Unfiltered puppy excitement?

I didn’t think I could express this any other way than to share a bit of art with you: she ran in circles for nearly ten minutes, chased snowflakes and leapt through the patches of accumulation settling into the greening grass. She shook and jumped and played, and in the end I had to coax her inside with a treat to dry off and warm up.

At least one local was excited about the temporary change in the weather, I guess.

Backyard: Clean-Up

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

It’s always striking to me that we live in a deeply seasonal place.

I’m sure that other parts of the planet go through their own share of seasonal variation, but living in one of the more northern capital cities on the Earth also makes places us in a group where vast differences exist between the heart of winter and the edges of summer.

Today I sit in my backyard in spring and enjoy a mild temperature, barefoot kinda day.

Four months ago I hardly dared open the door to the brutal cold.

Four months from now I’ll be picking fruit and veg from trees that at the moment seem barely alive and from soil that is little more than a crusty brown patch in the corner of my backyard.

I’ve been busy spring cleaning for the last couple weeks.

Grass to be raked. Leftover leaves that didn’t get sorted out before the snow last fall were starting to rot on the lawn. Flowerpots are full of crusty dried remains of last year’s greenery. Weeds are emerging and poking through the lawn and garden beds. Winter dust and the bits of residue from the long-melted snow needs to be wiped down. And that’s not even to mention the various bits of fence, deck or furniture that need a touch of paint or a tightened screw.

My lawnmower died as well, and neither wanting to see it dropped into the landfill nor having the patience or skill to repair it myself I hunted down a guy online who takes them as donations, fixes them up, and gives them a new life. But of course that meant a big clean-up of the shed, and rearranging all the various things I’d stored in there over winter, all to extract a broken tool and roll it out to the curb.

Spring cleaning is a real thing here, not because it’s a good time to get it done but simply because the season ticks over and that it needs done becomes obvious.

The trees are budding with their baby leaves and blossoms.

The grass is turning from a pale yellowish-brown to a vibrant green.

The bees are buzzing through the air and investigating the spring-waking world.

A few weeks from now it will all be just another summer, but for the moment spring is in clean-up mode, as am I, and the passing of winter feels like a barefoot kinda day in the backyard.

Grilled Grilled Cheese Spring Sandwich

Late last year I bought a slab of cast iron from the local home improvement mega store. The idea was not to buy a quality cooking griddle, but instead supplement my outdoor grill with a reasonably inexpensive multi-purpose cooking surface.

Delicate grill items, like veggies or fish are fine on aluminum foil, but I figured an outdoor flattop would be so much better.

If I recall correctly, I spent less than thirty dollars on a reversible barbecue griddle. The one I found that fit my dimensions was meant to match into a specific model of barbecue, but on its own sits just fine atop the grill I own.

I seasoned it up with a triple round of oil and heat. Smiled contentedly at my own ingenuity. Stored the griddle in inside the grill and then … winter hit.

Yesterday at lunchtime I was working from home, as usual. As I rummaged through the kitchen I discovered a loaf of freshly baked sourdough, some leftover Easter ham, a big block of cheddar cheese, and an abundance of painfully beautiful spring weather.

Inspiration struck.

I fired up the grill. Brushed the grill plates down a little (still crusty from the over-the-winter storage). And put some fresh oil on the slab of home improvement store cast iron.

I was rewarded for my efforts with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, fresh off the backyard grill. Hot. Fresh. And in the fresh air.

Ain’t spring grand?

Season

Three months into writing daily missives here on this blog and it occurred to me that there is one particular word woven through my stories to which I have not given much thought. It is a word with multiple, distinct meanings, and that fact should have been obvious for a guy who writes about the outdoors, cooking, and cast iron cookware.

SEE - zunn

Simply, to flavour or preserve food with salt and spices.

Or… simply, to ready a cooking surface through the application of heat and oils.

Or… simply, the delineation of winter from spring, spring from summer, summer from autumn, and autumn back into winter.

Maybe not so simple?

The etymology of the word season seems to come from the Latin satio, which is itself entwined in the word to sow, or to make something ready.

One readies food to be eaten or a pan to be cooked upon.

Nature readies the world to grow, blossom, produce, and come to life …and then resets itself to make ready all over the next year.

Seasoning is an act of maturation and preparation.

It is purposeful conditioning.

To season is to make something richer and more ready.

These concepts strung together clearly form a broader theme for the things I’ve been thinking about and writing about and sharing here. Three months in, ninety disconnected posts, and some forty thousand words spent has distilled down to one not so simple word: season.

To season. To be seasoned. To welcome the changing seasons. To ready the heart and mind. To sow a space for good food in one’s home. To mellow the harsh cold iron of a skillet against the delicate organic surface of food. To flavour life as one ages one’s mind and soul against the cyclical reset of the universe. To season.