I know what you’re thinking. Dude, February is not the most wonderful time of the year. It is a major suckfest. It’s negative infinity degrees, there are big patches of crusted impenetrable snow glued to the ground that won’t go away until like June, there are no holidays to look forward to for…like…months (unless you count St. Patrick’s day, but having lived in college towns for the last 10 years, I really don’t look forward to that one). But there are two things that redeem February for me, and neither has to do with oversize teddy bears and little pastel hearts with writing on them.

1. The True/False Film Fest happens, either in late February or early March. This year, it’s March 5-8. I love T/F so much I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like if Christmas and your birthday were the same day, but instead of everybody forgetting your birthday because of Christmas they just threw an extra huge party that went on for four days. It’s a documentary film festival, which might sound boring, except it is amazing. Every year I’ve seen creative, funny, heartbreaking, fascinating films by super interesting people who are often there in person. There are a few stray non-docs that sneak in; last February we saw Boyhood there, for example, and Ellar Coltrane (the star) was there to answer questions, along with the producers. We also saw Jodorowsky’s Dune—the funniest and most heartwarming film I’ve ever seen about failure—and Tim’s Vermeer, the story of a gruff Ron Swanson-esque bajillionaire who sets out to paint his own copy of a Vermeer painting in satisfyingly obsessive fashion.

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There’s a parade anyone can march in, the March March, which brings a number of delightfully weird floats and costumes to the streets of Columbia, and a two-minute film competition called Gimme Truth! where the stories have to be either 100% true or 100% false. The whole town really gets into the spirit of things. It’s a delight. This year will be the first one we aren’t living in Columbia, which is strange, but a very dear friend is putting us up—and one of my besties (who I haven’t seen in almost 3 years) is joining us from New Orleans! I’m super excited and will have more to say after the fest.

2. As a recent Buzzfeed article said, turn up for GARDENING!! I love growing stuff. It makes me feel like some kind of serene earth goddess to eat stuff I grew out of the ground, even though I’m usually wearing a grungy T-shirt and swearing freely at the mosquitoes. Still, the moment the Baker Creek catalog turns up every November, I start hyperventilating at ALL. THE. POSSIBILITIES.

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This year, I showed some restraint (lol) and only bought 40 varieties (LOL). We’re expanding our garden, since we have the space in our backyard. The plan is to build 4 raised beds, plus two patio planters. Here’s my little map:

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So it may not look like much, but this thing represents months of obsession: reading books on square-foot gardening, cross-referencing with websites, Googling bloggers who have grown each variety, checking for better and worse companion plants, sun needs, etc. The list goes on and on. If you don’t believe me, ask my spreadsheet!

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I think I’ve turned some sort of corner here. I’m not sure it’s a good one.

At any rate, my seeds arrived on Friday and we got crackin’ today. We built two of the four beds because Menard’s didn’t have enough cedar fence pickets to build all of them at once. The first thing to go in the ground will be sugar snap peas, which according to my calculations, will go in this Saturday. It seems absurdly early to me (the crusty snow patches!!) but I’m assured they are very hardy and won’t mind the cold. We’ll see what happens! After building the beds, I came inside and started the first batch of germinating seeds: Zebrune shallots, Giant Musselburgh leeks, Five Color Silverbeet chard, Blue Scotch Curled kale, and Waltham 29 broccoli. All heirlooms, all from Baker Creek. If you’re interested in plants at all, take a look at their website. You can waste hours (or months) blissfully imagining all the stuff you’re probably going to kill within weeks.

(Just FYI, they are not paying me to say any of this. I doubt anybody there knows who I am. I’ve just had excellent results with their seeds and love the effort and care they put into their catalogs and website. Plus, they’re local-ish—from the Springfield, Missouri area—and carry weirdo seeds I can’t find anywhere else.)

I normally write the names of the plants on little flags and poke them into the soil. This time, I decided to color-code the seedlings by coloring with Prismacolor markers on the ends of toothpicks. I’m keeping a garden journal and wrote down which color is which in there. The seedlings will live in my very sunny and warm guest bedroom until they germinate, at which point they’ll move down to my fluorescent grow-light setup downstairs. More on that later.

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I made newspaper starting pots this year to save money (thanks Sadye, Erin and Rie for your papers!), since the first year of a square foot gardening setup costs somewhere between $200 and $1 billion dollars. It’ll be worth it, though (it felt good to get some dirt under my nails in the dead of winter) and it won’t cost as much next year, or the year after that, or the year after that.

I’ll update once something interesting is going on with the seedlings. In the meantime, I’ll just be hovering over them, staring and willing something to sprout so the despair of February doesn’t get to me. Of course, if it does, there’s always this face to make me feel warm and fuzzy again.

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