Here it is the first morning of another brand new year. So far I’ve eaten no sugar, cut no one off in traffic, had a positive and grateful attitude, and kept my opinions to myself. Of course, I haven’t left the house yet so we will see how it all works out.

I am completely perplexed. I used to work hard and feel it in the body for a day or two. Now my body has betrayed me. I have aches and pains every morning seemingly unrelated to the previous day’s activities. Because the ground has yet to freeze I’m shoveling like a maniac. I am determined to have a leg up this spring when gardening, once again, begins in earnest. I have reworked all the paths between my raised beds. Last year’s weeds and chips I threw into those paths have composted nicely. I’ve tossed it all up onto the beds and hauled numerous wheelbarrels full of fresh chips to fill in the trenches. This is all necessary as I am working with heavy clay soil that was stripped of any topsoil just a few years ago. The area had been used by recreational vehicles and cycles in the recent past. The hard-packed clay has presented a drainage nightmare.

I feel up to the challenge and in denial of the elderly body’s limitations. I’ll rest when I’m dead.

Thanks to Marie’s mother, Ellie Keohane, as she gave me an article clipped from the February/March 1996 issue of Mother Earth News. It’s entitled Vegetable Self-Sufficiency by Mort Mather. Allow me to quote the forward. “Born in 1938 I was a product of the Great Depression. Ben Franklin’s words from another era, ‘waste not, want not,’ are burned into my psyche. How could people have gotten into the dreadful positions in which they found themselves during the thirties? More important, how could I avoid the same kind of pain and struggle if history repeated itself in my lifetime?” I loved the article, a real how-to from the author’s experiences of gardening in Maine for a couple of decades. He really talks about year-round eating from his plots. There are several suggestions concerning food storage. He experimented with root cellars and leaving crops like carrots right in the ground under bales of hay. I’ve done that many times with great success. A spring-pulled, over-wintered carrot is fabulous.

Once again I need to quote his last paragraph. It is exactly my philosophy. I could not have said it better. “Nothing has fascinated me for as long as gardening. There are so many variables and so many things yet to be learned; the mystery of the soil, the beauty of growth, the timing, the search for the best variety of a vegetable, the fresh air, my bare feet connected to the earth, working with nature, learning, observing, and every year tasting and being nourished by the product of this collaboration.”

There is a man I have watched for years. He used to ride around on a bicycle with a cat wrapped around his neck. I’ve always been fascinated. I can’t get my cats to do anything. I can squirt them endlessly with a water pistol and they will still get on the counter when my back is turned. Anyway, I had missed seeing him but he is now back with a new kitty who is in a chest sling as he rides along. I’m anxious to see if the new kitty graduates to his neck by spring.

Now that the light has changed, I’m dying to plant something. I usually start my perennial seeds in January on propogatory mats in an unheated greenhouse. Once they germinate they can take the nightly freezes in the plastic house. I phoned Pinetree Garden to order some onion seeds. They also need an early start. A pleasant young woman answered the phone (love that, a live human being and no annoying menu to navigate). I had misplaced my catalogue and asked her to look up last year’s onion order. Interestingly, it was on the same date last year. I ordered all the same open-pollinated varieties. I’m nothing if not predictable.

By the time this hits the newsstands, the Iowa caucuses will be over and I will have a candidate to criticize. Can’t wait. The New York Times had an article in the Home section last Thursday, Dec. 29. It was called the Houses of the Hopefuls. It showed pictures of all the homes of Republican candidates and with tongue-in-cheek comments about each one. I particularly enjoyed the description of Newt Gingrich’s home in McLean, Virginia. The style is ornate with no shortage of mirrors. Michelle Bachmann’s place in West Lakeland, Minnesota has a “grand manor roof” with no clarity underneath. Honestly, I love the Times. In the same paper there was an op-ed by Gail Collins, Feel Free to Ignore Iowa. About 150,000 people, tops, will be caucusing. This is basically a small city. Why all the hubbub?

Finally, I wonder how Newt is feeling about the Republican-leaning, conservative Supreme Court. The Citizens United decision allowed all that corporate-backed money spent by the Romney super-PAC to take him down. The negative ads were relentless the last two weeks and the Newtster lost 15 points in the polls. I hope President Obama is prepared for even worse.