Rain gauges, irises and asparagus: three certain symbols of spring

Three things in my backyard that I value every spring are my rain gauge, my iris flowers and my asparagus.

They’re all classic parts of spring in much of the Upper Midwest. I look forward to all three during our long Minnesota winters.

I like rain gauges because they’re simple and practical. There’s no need to monkey around with a machine. All people have to do is lift up the gauge, hold it at eye level and find out how many tenths of an inch of rain fell in their exact location.

Spring is normally a wet time of year. Sometimes we get too much rain like in 2022. If we get almost nothing, everyone starts to worry about a potential drought.

In 2023 it’s been about right for most locations I’ve heard about. It seems as though everybody has at least had something.

The rainfall totals can vary widely, even within individual townships, so it’s always interesting to compare results from all the rain gauges.

The gauges are very dependable, so we can rest assured that everyone has an accurate measurement. When there’s variation, we know that it’s just the way weather systems work.

I bought a brand new gauge this year. They’re affordable. A good standard one retails for less than $10. I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.

It’s fun to know how much rain I had after a thunderstorm or steady showers. It’s something to talk about with others.

My irises had a usual good year. I planted them when I moved into my house five years ago, and each year I’ve had a nice row of purple and gold plants that bloom earlier than most irises.

This year I have a bonus. Two larger iris plants bloomed for the first time. One has a really nice white flower. A scarlet one also looks promising.

I’m not surprised that the irises have done well. They came from friends who have an acreage in Limestone Township, Lincoln County, between Ivanhoe and Minneota.

My family had a group of small gardens in my parents backyard, but irises are somerhing we never tried. I often enjoyed what was a regionally known iris show in Minneota, but didn’t consider growing them. They seemed too short-lived. I wanted season long color.

I’m glad I finally gave irises a chance. Their short spring burst of color is part of what makes them special, part of what gets the growing season off to a good start.

Asparagus does the same thing as a vegetable. A have it behind my garage, and also remember going down gravel roads with my dad to look for it growing in the ditches.

It still grows wild. My nieces and nephew had opportunities as children to hunt for asparagus with my dad when they visited Minnesota.

It’s good that they experienced a family tradition. It’s something they can tell their own children and grandchildren. They might even bring them back to the Marshall area once or twice to have the same experience as part of a trip to see family history.

The asparagus from my backyard pretty much tastes the same as the asparagus we went out and found. It’s much easier to have it growing at home.

It still takes some attention and timing. Asparagus is fast growing. It needs to be picked soon after chutes emerge to prevent them from growing out and becoming unfit for eating.

I managed to get enough this year for three sizable meals. They’re great alongside any kind of meat or fish, and work well with pasta or rice.

My backyard spring favorites demonstrate the need to appreciate the little things in life. In the busy 21st century, some people might think they’re insignificant. They actually provide substantial simple pleasure.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent


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