My poor hellebores are struggling to recover from the big freeze a few weeks ago. Hence the reason this weirdly warm February could be cause for a bit of alarm. The plant was blooming happily and now is still barely recognizable.

In ordinary times, we would just now be beginning to warm and welcome the increasing light.

The Weather Channel reported that the month of January only had one day (not night) of temperatures below freezing.

One unmistakable sign of late winter is the already-in-full-bloom witch hazels. Often they are confused with the later-blooming forsythias as they are the same cheerful yellow and a similar shape. There is an enormous one at Brookside Farm on Middle Road, right opposite the entrance to the Mermaid Farm stand.

Last week I mentioned that lettuce seeds germinated on 60-degree propagating mats in my unheated greenhouse. The seedlings are coming right along but I did leave them on the mats. The bottom heat is probably welcome.

This week, after just five days, the onions and leeks also broke through the soil. I will never cease to be amazed at the potential of life in a single tiny seed. Often they will germinate after years in proper storage conditions.

I heard that Kamut wheat was found in a pyramid. Who knows how long ago the seed was put there. It germinated and is now a popular variety.

I have raised my own meat chickens for nearly 50 years. I have never been able to make peace with the conditions in our national meat industrial complex.

At any rate, I raise about 25 to 30 birds a year. That’s chicken almost every week. This past week, Reuben spent the entire day smoking one of them in a small wood-fired smoker. Needless to say, it was beyond wonderful and a real treat.

As I was making a nice, smoky, flavorful stock, I noticed several dried cobs of corn in a fall arrangement. I grew the aforementioned corn last summer. It was called black Aztec. We ate some fresh while it was still a pale yellow.

As it ripened it turned a maroon black. It dried on the stalk and remarkably was unbothered by the usual corn pests.

I used them ornamentally but the stock seemed to call for them. After a quick rinse, they bubbled along for hours.

Naturally, after straining, I made an out-of-this-world corn chowder. I had carrots, onions and potatoes of my own, just a simple purchase of some frozen packages of cut corn and voila!

Hopefully in the next few weeks, some interesting garden news will emerge as spring gets underway.

I was thinking about Jimmy Carter this week, with the news of his failing health. There have been several one-term presidents in my lifetime: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump. With the exception of the latter, all left some sort of positive mark on our history.

None have matched the legislative record of LBJ with Medicare, civil rights and the War on Poverty.

Betty Ford removed the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction.

H.W. and Bill Clinton used their post-presidencies as partners in foreign humanitarian aid.

Then we come to Jimmy Carter. What an amazing human being. He continued to serve his fellow man for the nearly half-century after leaving the White House. I see him getting a big “well done, Jimmy” as he walks through the pearly gates!