Written by Art Petrosemolo
This is my third spring in New Holland since arriving at Sycamore Springs with Tina in late December 2016. It had been 40 years since I had lived in Lancaster when we returned and I had no idea of what spring would bring in 2017.
Our first spring here, we were mud city all around the new Sycamore Springs homes and it reminded me of my seven years working at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire and what we called the “mud season.” My second year at Dartmouth, we hosted the NCAA skiing championships at Canon Mountain and I was handling all the press (primarily from the West). Having come from Lancaster when I remember we got (some kind of) spring in March, I wondered how we could run the ski championships in mid-March. I had not realized that spring doesn’t arrive in the North Country until May (if you are lucky) and we had plenty of snow for every event.
Arriving here in 2016, I had come from 20 years at the (New) Jersey shore outside of Red Bank and all our weather was influenced by Sandy Hook Bay and the Atlantic Ocean so it was not a true test of spring. Many times, we got our biggest snowfall in March and it was gone in three days.
My most vivid memory of the 2017 spring here was walking between houses in the mud wearing Crocs, getting my feet stuck and having to step out of the Crocs and sink into six inches of mud to get to the driveway. I think I took a photo of those pink Crocs and it is somewhere in my file.
But I digress!
In 2018, I tuned into the Plain Community weather forecasters. What I mean is, if I saw an Old Order Amish or Mennonite farmer with his team, plowing the fields, I hoped he knew more than I did and that good weather was not far away. Sometimes they were right, sometimes not!
In any case, I am always looking for photographs to send to my friend Steve Seeber to run on the front page of Lancaster Farming. I take particular pleasure in seeing my work in a publication that my New Jersey friends say “right!” when I talk about it!
So on the Monday of the last week of February, I was driving Mr. Hoover (of the Reidenbach Old Order Mennonite Hoovers) to what he called “the tinsmith” (what you would call a metal shop) to pick up a contraption for the top of his coal stove flue. As we drove past a farm I saw my first tandem team of Belgian Draft Horses pulling a plow. Wouldn’t you know it, the man was a “Hoover” and a relative of my friend, Mr. Hoover.
We stopped and I talked to Lamar (a rugged 30-something farmer) about the weather, the team, the task and whether he was cold. Amish friend Mike Fisher had laughed the week before and said that we needed a month of 50 degree temperatures and 20 mph winds to dry out the field for plowing and planting. Well that day, the temperature was in the 30s and the wind in the 50s, but apparently it was dry enough to plow.
I asked Lamar if he would allow me to photograph and I did. Since Monday, I have seen at least six other teams, including the Hoover sons on Reidenbach Road, plowing.
So take heart, Spring is coming.
On Thursday, after seeing all the fields being plowed I got to wondering about flowers. I wrote about spring flowers two years ago and made friends with John Lapp and his brother Ivan on Linden Grove Road. They own the Choice Flower greenhouses and have both a wholesale and retail business.
The Lapps own the big greenhouse complex behind Shady Maple that you probably have visited. John and his family moved upstate to a religious complex called The Haft this winter so I stopped at the Linden Road greenhouse to look for Ivan. He was not to be found.
However, I wandered into the greenhouse looking for wild color from blooming flowers to warm me up on a cold day. I was disappointed until I realized it was February 28.
The flowers are there and just starting to bloom but it will be a few weeks, at best, before we start seeing planters for sale. But just seeing things growing gave me hope that indeed spring is on the way.
So I rushed down to see Mike Fisher again. Mike is building trellises for me to hold my vegetable plants and I wanted to see what they looked like. I was pleased. I also stopped at the store to pick up some stuff for my (5 gal) containers that I also use in the garden.
Tina and I are away for half of March on a long river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam—our second European trip in the last three months. I have high hopes that when I roll back into Sycamore Springs on March 28, the weather will indeed have turned, that Scott Weaver will have the community garden here plowed and that I will be able to spend time in my garage rocker every morning after I return from the pool. I will be absolutely done with winter when I return and I want to be greeted by Lancaster County spring.
Well, I can hope, can’t I?