On April 1, 1957, a worldwide BBC broadcast told of the early harvest of an especially abundant crop of spaghetti from trees that had sprung up with great vigor in certain villages of the Swiss Alps overlooking Lake Lugano. Spirits were riding high on the balmy breezes of a warm spring, after what had been a particularly mild winter.
Reporters described in great detail the anxiety felt by the spaghetti farmer, should there happen to be a late frost, which would put a quick end to the bounty. They went on (to sounds of mandolin and folk accordion playing in the background) to show the different harvesting methods employed by various family-run spaghetti orchards.
The BBC’s April Fool’s Day report of the “Swiss Spaghetti Harvest” was so convincing that telephone operators were flooded by calls from excited viewers ringing in to ask how they might grow their very own pasta trees. The operators responded, saying simply: “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce (sorry—to-mah-to), and hope for the best.”
It was, after all, the first of April. A day legitimately slated for harmless pranks and humor. Much innocent fun has been had and still is, on this day all over the world.
The First of April some do say
Is set apart for all Fool’s Day
But why the people call it so
Nor I nor they themselves do know
—Poor Robin’s Almanac, 1823
Here in the Berkshires, it will be another solid month and more before it can be safely said that Old Man Frost has put his icy fingers in his pockets and will keep them tucked away there, for a while.
In the meantime, my thoughts for this year’s garden are like a crowd of eager children waiting at the door. After too many long hours spent cooped up at their lessons, they gather in a lively, wriggling line, each one wanting to be first, laughing and chatting in excitement. They push one another closer as they wait not all too patiently for the bell to finally ring.
For now, I can try to start some seeds indoors, and by sinking my fingertips into a deep bucket of seed starting mix, hope to vicariously bring up that incredibly satisfying feeling of sinking a digging fork into the earth.
There is nothing like the aroma of warm, rich, soil hitting your senses on that first legitimate day in the garden to finally really put the lid on winter.
Then there comes that inevitable morning when you walk through the neighborhood and find that numerous trash cans, which the night before had been lined up at the curb obediently waiting for the early morning pick-up, have been knocked over unto their sides. Lids that were not fastened tightly now gape open, spewing their contents over freshly raked lawns and recently swept driveways.
The neighborhood bear has woken from hibernation and has taken his growling stomach out for breakfast, sampling the offerings from street to street. He is not too particular this time of year, with his groggy, though ravenous, appetite! By next week, those who do not compost will have devised all manner of ways to keep their garbage contained. A fascinating burst of creativity will be on display, via bungee cord and rope and chain, by pick-up time the following Thursday.
Squirrels have now settled into a slightly less frantic sanguinity, as they realize they no longer have to rely entirely on memory to search for buried nuts. Their acrobatics never cease to entertain, as they run in crazy circles up the trees and flit along cables and tops of wire fences, chasing each other in circles, bushy tails flicking rapidly.
There is a congenial welcome burst of lightness and humor all around, in the springing of spring, this first week of April.
I think I won’t attempt the planting of spaghetti trees, for now. The growing season here just isn’t long enough to support a decent pasta harvest. I will be satisfied enough to know that the to-mah-to plants will surely get planted by the end of May.
For now, I will take lessons from these April Fool’s shenanigans by adopting a lighter approach toward daily challenges. And while the weeds have not poked through the ground yet, I can work on pulling out the thoughts that hinder growth inside. So that, as Shakespeare says, in Hamlet, I “Do not spread the compost on the weeds.”
Tonight, as I get ready for bed, fond memories will come back. Of my sisters and I attempting to put on our nightgowns the night of a childhood April Fool’s, only to discover that the sleeves had been stitched shut. While in his room my brother would be having a similar issue with the pant legs of his PJs.
I’ll remember clearly how the dimples at the sides of my grandmother’s smile got decidedly deeper, as she chuckled through our animated struggle. And my mother laughing while she took the stitches out, and tucked us in for the night.
Cardinale Montano is a freelance writer living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She shares her creativity with good friends, family, and eager learners, and celebrates daily the blessings of nature in the beautiful Berkshires. She is the founder and designer at LineflaxAndRoving.com