I bought a new hummingbird feeder yesterday because I needed a tangible sign in my house that spring and all its wonderful things are around the corner. I am already plotting its position in my flowerbeds for optimal sighting of my favorite flutterers.
    I smothered my little unfurling rhubarb leaves with a layer of horse manure. According to some expert rhubarb grower back in my family line, horse manure does the best job. It really disturbs Cora though, who is certain that the rhubarb will be inedible after this.
    I have been tempting my visual taste buds by paging slowly through my favorite perennial flower books. If one could force spring to come by sheer will, we would be looking out upon tulips after all of my wishes this past week.
    I think I have grown up with dirt under my fingernails. There are photos of me hugging a doll trailing after my mom in a flowerbed at the ripe old age of three. Upon opening my trusty guide to perennials, I note the inscription on the front page; ‘1997, To My Daughter Jacqui, for your love of flowers.’ I was a mere 17 years old.
    This book, Pictorial Guide to Perennials (and a more recent version by the same name) by M. Jane Coleman Helmer, Ph.D. and Karla S. Decker Hodge, B.S. has served me well over the seasons of flowerbed growth in my life. The descriptions note the light needs, the spacing requirements, the zone where it grows best, and the color photos are so enticing. It also lists the plants by their scientific names, but includes the more common names underneath. Helpful for a girl that knows some plants by different names. What I grew up knowing as ‘Pot-of-Gold’ is actually a primrose.
    While it seems that 1997 was eons ago, my love for flowers has only become more cultivated over the years. Now instead of plunking in flowers willy-nilly, I take into account the height, the sun requirements for best growth, the chance of it spreading and choking out other flowers, among other things.
    I also try to think seasonally; my goal is to have color blanketing my yard from those early daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips to the last days of fall with a variety of sedums and grasses.
    Another focus is cutting flowers: the ones that hold up well in bouquets. The coral bells, astilbe, fern leaves, delphinium, black-eyed Susan’s, phlox, and, though not perennials, zinnias. I love nothing more than to be able to walk my yard and fill my arms with a vibrant display of things I grew myself. Whether it is to brighten every corner of my house, or gift to a friend, the happiness that grows from a bouquet is one that fills my heart as well as many vases.
    I also seek out flowers that draw in those magical hummingbirds. By setting my sights on them, I tend to make other pollinators happy along the way. From columbines in early spring, to a variety of coral bells, bee balm, trumpet honeysuckle, to the dainty flowers of a hosta, and the tall liatris over the course of summer, all provide nutrition for hummingbirds and other pollinators. In my yard they seem to prefer the lavender, orange, and red flowers. As I visit nurseries in the spring, I scan the plant tags for that little hummingbird icon to indicate they are a meal favorite. Then I plant it and cross my fingers.  
    They say that hummingbirds come back to the same place to nest yearly, and I believe this to be true. It never fails that I will be at the sink up to my elbows in suds when my little zooming friends come to the window as if to say, ‘We’re back!’ It is a most welcome sight after their long absence. The feeders get filled pronto, and as they dine with the orioles, my dishwashing time becomes more entertaining.
    Once, I was outside pulling weeds in a red sweatshirt and had a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds zoom so frighteningly close to my head I thought I would be impaled by a beak. Their chattering fills the yard and always makes me smile. Go outside during a summer shower and listen to their songs. They do not sound like a typical bird, but there isn’t much these petite creatures do that is like a regular bird anyhow. One would think they couldn’t hold their own against birds three times their size, but we have footage of one mother protecting her nest from an intruder that would amaze you.
    I’ll keep wishing for spring and rejoicing in every blade of green grass I spy. Perhaps if enough of us send our wishes for green grass and blooming flowers to the universe it will arrive sooner than later. If I close my eyes I can taste all of the rhubarb desserts that my little patch will provide, hear the sweet songs of my long lost hummingbird friends, smell the wonderful scent of freshly turned dirt and feel that glorious grittiness of dirt beneath my fingernails. Ah, Spring, we need you.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (toddler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.