When the snow melts and the old, dead grass starts to show through the patches of white, I start to get a little stir crazy.

When I was a kid, this would manifest in me tossing myself pop flies in the yard. No ball player likes to let a ball fall to the ground, but I had extra special reasons to keep it in my glove — if it fell, it would get wet and slimy.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's Content Manager.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's Content Manager.
Since I grew up in south-central Montana, where the winters don’t stretch quite as long as in central North Dakota where I now live, these little early practice sessions would begin sometime in February, when it was warm enough that my hands wouldn’t sting for long. Here, it typically takes until March to see these early signs of spring, and I find myself even more ready to get outside.

My itch to play ball hasn’t been as pronounced since my college softball career ended. But, in adulthood, I start feeling the desire to grow something as the snow dissipates.

I grew up helping a little with my grandma’s garden and helping my mom grow her perennial plots around the yard (as long as they stayed on the periphery of the yard and not in my prime pitching area). It wasn’t until my friends and I had a small house in college that I began trying to garden on my own.

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Now, I’m no gardening expert, and I dare to say I’m not even that good of a gardening student. I try a little of this and a little of that and see how it takes. I know that I am not solely dependent on my efforts for food and that flowers can be replaced, so I probably am not as diligent as I should be. But I love to watch the process of seeds becoming plants and little plants becoming big plants and flowers erupting into color where right now there is drab, dirt-streaked snow.

This spring, though, is bringing some apprehension that goes far beyond whether I want to grow cabbage in containers.

We have written ad nauseum about the disaster that was 2019. Planting — the farm type, not the hobby garden type — was difficult for many and impossible for others. The growing season was unusual, with some facing drought and some facing excess moisture and some facing both at different times. Harvest seemed never-ending, and since we still are reporting on efforts to combine corn, it really hasn’t ended.

We had a mostly mild February, and March has come in more like a lamb than a lion. That has allowed for some slow melting, though a couple inches of snow covered the ground again while I was working on this column.

But the melting has revealed the high water that threatens to cover roads and the ruts remaining from harvest. Low-lying fields look soggy. And we’re all dreading the possibility that 2020 will look even a little like 2019.

There will be challenges in 2020. Many fields need more work than usual because of last year’s struggles. Some fields may still be too wet to plant. Some cities may be dealing with flooding. Some of us in rural areas may be rerouting our normal paths because of high water.

But, still, spring brings hope.

Spring is a time for optimism, for new life and new starts. Players report to spring training certain they can make the World Series. Gardeners pore over seed catalogs imagining rows of beautiful flowers and ripe vegetables. And farmers can still imagine a bountiful harvest, with no breakdowns, no tractors stuck in the mud and a 2020 harvest that doesn’t stretch into 2021.

Schlecht lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.