Molly Costello, a wonderful artist I just discovered (thank you instagram), asked her community this week: how do you get through winter?
More specifically, she asked, “how do you find joy in winter?” which is a very constructive re-frame.
It’s a beautiful and productive thread, and prompted me to this place: SPROUT!
Well, I was nudged as much by Molly’s question as by the $5 price tag on a head of wilted lettuce, and the price tag on a bunch of kale, which my garden no longer yields (most of it was nibbled down to stem by the deer, and anything that remained is now buried under a foot of snow) and which inevitably cooks down to a single mouthful, although any dirt I didn’t wash from it manages to expand in size in some perverse inverse leaf-to-dirt amplification equation). Plus, I was motivated by this instinct that when I make something from scratch, or see something grow, I feel stupidly happy; my kid engages more deeply in the real world, and we’re already in that constant tussle of real world versus seductive screen; also, a desire to have some greenery in the diet in the depths of winter. I already had a sprouting jar, so I pulled it out of the cupboard and carefully measured out my tablespoon of alfalfa seeds, rinsed them, soaked them in water overnight, and then begin the daily ritual of rinse, swirl, drain, sit back upside in the jar on the plate on the corner of the counter.
Then, thanks to a combination of internet-smarts, sunflower seeds and encouragement from Stay Wild (apparently, Leah’s countertop at home is covered in sprouts and micro greens), and a great book from the library, I became a micro green grower.
Farmer and micro green guru, Elizabeth Millard offers a lot of great advice, but it’s her tone that I appreciate the most:
“Winter in Minnesota is notorious for wearing optimists down to a brittle nub, but the more experimentation we did with micro greens, pea shoots, radishes and other tasty vegetables, the more we felt like we were extending summer into our house… There’s a certain thrill that comes with seeing seeds begin to pop into three first leaves, and if you’re wearing your pyjamas at the time, that excitement can feel doubled.”
As a person who works from home, being able to do things in one’s pyjamas is Mission Critical for me. It’s a flashing neon sign that says, “Lisa, this might even work for you.”
And so, following the various bits of advice I’d gleaned from above-mentioned resources, I began, with one plastic salad box rescued from the recycling bin, some potting mix excavated from underneath the cobwebs in the garage, and my little packet of sunflower seeds acquired from Stay Wild.
A few days later, my 5 year old put himself in charge of the harvest, and Mr Just-Ichiban-Noodles-for-Me, snipped and plucked and made merry with the nutrient-dense cotyledons (the initial two leaves of a seedling, that give way to the plant’s “true leaves”). He made cracker-sandwiches for us, from the micro greens, and ate his way through much of the first harvest. Hooray!
Some wins just feel too easy… I spent $3, used garbage, and my kid fed himself greens (and also introduced his meat-eating dragon to the joy of omnivorism.)
Added bonus, the micro greens made my dinner look more like the picture in the recipe book, which never happens! Wizardry. And joy.
Millard said, in her book: “Sometime around the middle of February, it always seems to hit: the weariness of filling my shopping basket with fresh vegetables from California, Chile, Mexico, and even Peru or New Zealand. No offence to the hardworking farmers, because I truly appreciate the opportunity to eat oranges during a snowstorm. But these products require, by necessity, lengthy shipping times that sap them of flavour and nutrition to some degree. Still, it’s not easy to eat local when you live in a place that requires budgeting 20 minutes every morning for scraping the ice off your windshield.”
How do you find joy in winter is a wonderful prompt, as I discovered when I read through the responses to Molly Costello’s post: cross-country skiing, running, sleepovers and dinners with friends, landscape planning and reading seed catalogues, being okay with not being totally okay, soup-making, sauna, drinking warm juice, extra gratitude practice, crafting, making art and cooking for friends, burning candles, forest walks, cold water swimming, making broth, hot baths, taking a cup of coffee outside cloaked in a huge coat, writing letters to long-distance friends and taking extra good care of the houseplants.
If you want to get more specific, you could ask: where do you find joy in winter? And happily, I can now answer: on my kitchen counter.