Today Smells of Spring

Today, with better two-cycle karma than I usually have in confronting the small-engine armada, I’ll get the tiller going in a few places where last year’s chard still hangs onto the ghosts of last year’s leafery. In those places, I’ll sew sugar-snap peas and beet seeds. And wait.

But before the seeds bear fruit, the tilled earth will grant the intentional nature-snorter a smell unlike any other– the musky odor of first tilling that ties this gardening year, by nose, to all those that have gone before.

There is actually some specific chemistry to account for this disturbed-earth smell, as there is for the unique smell of rain in the woods or after a thunderstorm. Can you conjure up those smells if you close your eyes?

I encourage you to be nose-centric as spring arrives. The pollen in the air, the fragrance of budding flowers (including the ones high in the maples and oaks that are not showy but collectively add to the olfactory richness around us) and the “geosmin” and other soil smells are easy to miss unless you turn your attention to them, expect them, and know them when you smell them.

Curious? Read “What Makes Rain Smell So Good.”  Then go plant some beets. And grab up a handful of dark earth and take a good snort. Ahhhh!

And springtime: Bring it on!!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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