Spring Almanac

By Ash Alder

And here is the serpent again,” wrote the late poet Mary Oliver, “dragging himself out from his nest of darkness . . . looking for the sun.”

Three decades after she wrote it, Oliver’s “Spring” slides into consciousness. Oh, how you’ve missed these sunny mornings. As soft light filters through the kitchen window, consider the snake, moving “like oil” over pine needles, tasting the air with its tongue.

Spring is here, and as an owl cries out from its distant nest, taste the glorious poetry of the season.

Pink blossoms against leafless branches of the saucer magnolia.

Pink squirrel babes, blind and wriggling in their drey.

Pink rain jacket left hanging on the porch, pocket full of pine straw, bluebird flitting in and out of periphery. 

Fitting that the spring equinox and World Poetry Day arrive in tandem. 

As you gently scoop the contents from your jacket pocket — a beautiful tapestry of needles and grasses — you think again of Mary Oliver, and of the delicate treasures she wove with nature and light.

Thank you, bluebird, for starting over.

Thank you, black snake, winding round the rising grass.

Thank you, poet within all of us, for acknowledging the beauty that is always waiting for us, like sunlight after a long, dark winter.

Amethyst Falls 

I once heard someone dub wisteria the “evil overlord of the plant kingdom” and, for better or worse, have never been able to shake it. If ever you’ve battled with wisteria in your backyard, perhaps you’ve given it a comparable name. But if you’re still reading this. . . if ever you’ve wished to make friends with this intoxicatingly fragrant vine, consider introducing a native cultivar, amethyst falls.

Less aggressive than its exotic Asian relatives known for choking out trees and, yep, swallowing houses, amethyst falls blooms on new growth, making the vines easier to prune back and train. Although the leaves and cascading purple flowers are smaller than the common wisteria you may have given a less-than-kind name, an established amethyst falls plant can climb 15–20 feet per season.

Bonus points: It’s drought tolerant and deer resistant.

different mushrooms on a white background

Happy (Devilish) Easter

Spring is a procession of wonder: Flowering redbud. Rising asparagus. Row after row of tulip and daffodil.

Pick-your-own strawberries.

Wild mushrooms.

Spinach, radish, turnip, kale.

And, praise all that is deviled and holy, Easter supper.

My younger brother has single-handedly cleared a tray of deviled eggs at more than one Easter supper. That’s why I was particularly stunned when he told me that he was adapting a vegan diet. No more deviled eggs? Well, not exactly. But when he told me about Thug Kitchen, a vegan cookbook peppered with language that would make our granny’s jaw drop, I understood. Inside: a recipe for deviled chickpea bites. Although we can’t print that here with its profane, “Thug Kitchen” interjections, check out this equally scrumptious vegan recipe from Whole Foods Market. Tender roasted baby potatoes topped with spicy yolk-free filling. Brother approved.

Set of potatoes isolated on white background with clipping path

Deviled Potatoes


A dozen baby potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds) 

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil 

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise 

1/3 cup drained silken tofu 

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 

1 tsp. sweet paprika 

1 tsp. turmeric 

1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt 

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper 


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut each potato in half crosswise. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with oil and place cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
Using a melon baller, scoop out center of each potato half. Combine potato flesh, vegan mayonnaise, tofu, mustard, paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse just until smooth. Scoop filling into potato halves. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 2 days) before serving.

Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh parsley before serving. 

Potted pepper plant and red peppers isolated on white background

Gifts for Mama

Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, May 10. I think of my fourth-grade teacher, who asked us to bring in one of our mother’s high heels. Yes, just one. We spray-painted it gold, lined the inside with floral foam, and proudly stuck a dozen plastic flowers inside. Happy Mother’s Day to all. May you walk in beauty.

Here are a few seeds of inspiration for the beloved mother-figure in your life:

Daylily bulbs

Mexican tarragon for the herb garden


Ornamental pepper

Wax begonia

A new pair of shiny gold shoes

Ornamental pepper

Wax begonia

A new pair of shiny gold shoes

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