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The last days of winter in Delaware are gray, wet and windy, and this is a time for reflecting and for planning the future. It’s also the time that my mailbox explodes with glorious seed catalogs, fictional promises of sweet red strawberries, plump persimmons, juicy apples, and a rainbow of kiwi, mulberries, rosy-cheeked peaches, and luscious apricots. The illustrations feature full-color images of thornless blackberries the size of a baby’s fist, grapes bursting with flavor, and pecans falling like raindrops from a lush canopy. And that is just the fruit and nut catalogs. The seed catalogs selling garden vegetables are another story.

I want them all. But I will be ruthless. I know that if my cherry trees produce fruit, the birds will likely eat the most of them, or we will have a week of heavy rain just when they ripen. The squirrels will devour my walnuts and pecans, and I will fight a constant war with insects and worms to protect my apples and peaches. This is not my first rodeo. I know that the likelihood of me growing and harvesting berries or figs as luscious as those depicted between the covers of that seed catalog is about the same as me digging a hole to plant a pear tree and finding buried treasure.

So I will take the middle road. I’ll make a list. I’ll buy only what I cannot live without. I will take a leap of faith because I know that spring will come again, and I know that children will tumble and laugh and chase one another through my orchard even if I only harvest a single apple or a handful of walnuts. I know the squirrels and the birds and the deer will come. I’ll follow the pied piper of hope and I’ll plant this year as I have every year, because working the soil and waiting for rain and watching the miracle of life warms my heart.

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