A farmer’s ode to the season change

By Charla Burgess
Current Contributor

I have missed the afternoon ritual of hiking out to the maple bush to check the taps. Each step a dance between winter and spring; a deliberateness to this sun. 

It is always the trees speaking to me of my next moves. When their sap runs, when each kind buds, when leaves drop—all a signal. Now they give us signs that speak of bigger callings. 

So I find solace in following their day-to-day biddings. 

The cold crops jump in with such admirable fearlessness and fortitude when sap starts singing the heart rhythm: drip drip. From there, I listen and breathe and wait to hear the command to guide each different seed to the earth to do its thing. The trees, the forsythia, the lilacs, on down to the dandelions growing at the feet of my ancient maples—
they instruct me. When? How? Now. 

I am a carrier, allowing this magic of nature to happen, as best I can; as best as I have learned by what my plants and elders have taught me in the years that stack up behind me. 

One must listen. 

These gray days of mud and pestilence drag heavy, but each germ of life I place in the dirt is the note of a song which will move me—my entire being—under the sun. Music and sustenance and healing of this farmer; all of which I can share with others.

In that I have faith.  

I look to the sun. To the future. 

Take this time of quiet distance to listen. To be guided by what the world around you is trying to say—the sap flow, the owl hoot, the buds unfurling in loud quiet. 

The day to day will show you these deeper meanings;will show you how to grow. 

Charla Burgess is a flower farmer in Frankfort. Visit “Sow She Grows Flower Farm” on Facebook, @sowshegrows_flowerfarm on Instagram, or online to learn more. During the growing season, bulk and/or custom orders are available for everyday fun, weddings, baby showers, memorial services, and much more. Call 231-352-6998 or email for more information. Read our Q&A with Burgess from December 2020 in The Betsie Current’s online archives.

Phenology is the study of plant and animal life cycles and their relationship to weather—for farmers, that means planting by the signs/the cues that nature itself gives us that the time is right.

For example: 
• Plant peas when forsythia blooms.
• Plant lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and cabbage crops when lilacs show first leaves or when daffodils bloom.
• Plant corn and beans when elm or oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear, when apple blossoms begin to fall, or when dogwoods bloom. 
• Plant cucumbers and squash when lilac flowers fade.
• Plant beets, carrots, and potatoes when the first dandelion blooms.
• Transplant tomatoes, peppers, and “hot season” crops when daylilies begin to bloom.

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