DALTON >> On the first day of February I walked across the backyard without benefit of boots. There was no snow on the lawn, and the water in the birdbath was unfrozen. I looked for daffodils or pussy willows; but they have not been fooled by the spring-like temperatures. I, alone, had my head out, breathing in the cool, fresh air. What a potent elixir!

Breathing out the warm, stale, house air, my lungs were helping to energize my whole body, my whole being. Fresh air is an underrated commodity, especially in our gadget-riddled society. No hand-held electronic device can provide what a brisk stroll outside can: fresh air, bird song, and a panoramic view of clouds and trees.

Granted, my outdoor task was to refill the firewood cart in the garage. No matter how mild it was, there is no avoiding what will come sometime soon: cold and snow. But every above-average temperature day and every extra minute of daylight needs to be appreciated and celebrated. Who cares what Punxsutawney Phil observes, we are on the road to spring — a winding, twisting road to be sure.

It only takes a couple of mild days to send me searching for the seed catalogues which hit the mailbox right after the Christmas cards. Yesterday, I sent my first order to Tomato Bob in Ohio, who provides heirloom tomato and pepper seeds without a GMO in sight. I love to read the descriptions for the colorful tomatoes, which range from white and yellow all the way through purple and black.


The peppers are rated for hotness on the Scoville scale. I can't imagine who had the unenviable job of rating peppers that can scald your skin and make you cry. I stick with peppers on the mild side, and often dry the red chile peppers just for decorations. They remind me of our trip to New Mexico where dried red and green chile ristras were everywhere.

It's too early to start the tomato seeds on the windowsill; but not too early to take cuttings of the plants crowded on the windowsills. I have a lovely pink trailing geranium that has taken trailing to a new level. It's reaching up to the top part of the window on one side, while the other is crawling into the books on the first shelf of the bookcase.

Beside it, the jars and pots are topped with geranium greenery. There is even a bloom of two perfect florets curving gracefully toward the sun. Soon, I will take cuttings and root them in cups, so that by summer there will be lots of vigorous new plants to take up residence in hanging pots under the pergola.

With the roads clear and dry, and a snowless forecast for the rest of the week, we will resume our weekly back road ramblings. Last week we ventured all the way to the hamlet of Montague, just past Greenfield, and found a used book store we had read about. It's called the Montague Bookmill because it sits in an old mill building perched on the shore of the Sawmill River, a small tributary of the nearby mighty Connecticut.

This week we're going to venture north to find a new place to eat, thanks to the North County Eats program. Several restaurants offer special meal deals, and we enjoy trying new place and new food, which could easily become an eventual favorite. We might even enjoy a fabulous foray up Route 2 (the Mohawk Tail) to the breathtaking view at the Hairpin Turn. No worries about treacherous driving on this precipitous road now.

Looking down into the valley with North Adams reduced to Lilliiputian size, makes one have a gigantic sense of pride in being called a Berkshire dweller, especially when frolicking in the lengthening February days.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.