Summertime

Summer is not my favorite season by any stretch, yet in spite of unprecedented weeks of heat here in the Pacific Northwest, this summer has been filled with charm and simple luxuries.

The creek is at what neighbors say is a record low for this time of year, and I believe it. But it still offers burbling pools for swimming, and a multitude of wonders such as impromptu crawdad boils and a reprieve from the scorching afternoons.

The wild berries are bountiful, and my daughter and I spend much of each day picking– and she eating. The variety is astounding here. The common blackberries are just beginning to reach ripeness in greater quantity than could ever be picked, and the cooking and canning finally shall begin.

DSC03577

We’ve dug the first row of potatoes– 17 pounds– and the garlic and shallots, which were small due to late planting and infrequent watering. Fortunately they yielded a good handful of delicious scapes, or as I always knew them, whistles.

Our great friend made an impulse purchase of two Muscovy ducks and brought two for us in exchange for keeping them here. My husband was quick to day “I told you so” when I conceded that they’re great– adorable, easy-for-now to care for, and will eventually be a good meal that led a happy life in the grass and water. Long-term, we intend to dig a pond in the pasture area, partially for run-off management, and then raise more ducks.

Our rabbits were successfully bred, and delivered ten of the most adorable babies: tortoiseshell, black-and-white, and all-white rex-New Zealand crosses. I’m pleased and relieved that all have survived and thrived, whereas in the past these mothers have struggled.

We took in our male rabbit, who I believe is a black-and-brown rex, several months ago after losing our buck. I hoped to have colorful pelts for a variety of uses. However, my plan backfired: these bunnies are way too cute for food, my husband insists. Some will therefore be sold, some will be eaten, and we will be purchasing an additional New Zealand buck.

The garden is filling out, which feels slow but good. I’ll be prepping fall beds this coming week and planting brassicas, as well as more beans on the pea trellis after we harvest the stunted shoots for salad tonight. This incredibly hot summer has had no sympathy for our late plantings.

This is the first year in many that I’ve been filled with visceral euphoria in anticipation of fall. I suppose it’s because I’m back home. And here, I think we will enjoy the most sumptuous fall of any, and I can enjoy these sweltering summer days for their promise of eventual cool and falling leaves and rain.

Advertisements

Rain Means Puddles (And Happy Toddlers and Waddlers)

???????????????????????????????

In nearly four years, we’ve had few enough real rainy days that I can count them on my ten fingers. The drought has been aggressive and draining. But when it does rain here, the episodes are torrential. The clouds grow dark as they turn and flex. Then they open up abruptly and dump cascades onto the arid, tightlipped Earth.

California rain differs from Oregon rain. My hometown in coastal northern California accrues nearly as much annual rainfall as Eugene, Oregon, but in fits and spates relatively rare to the Pacific Northwest. The misty drizzle of so many days in Oregon is foreign to its southern neighbor. It’s that perpetual cooling dampness that draws the verdant abundance of the land, feeds the fantastic fungi, and soothes my soul. It also makes spring sunshine a worthy celebration.

Tule Fog

It was an apt enough morning to awaken with a sore throat. The tule fog lingers heavily over the grass, and light was slow to spread into the day. We all stayed in pajamas and socks. The aroma of chicken stock for soul-soothing, cure-all spicy garlic broth will soon fill the air.

Staying Warm

As we listened to stories of kayakers in Healdsburg’s parking lots and highway closures in San Francisco, as my mom complained that she thought her windows might shatter behind the wind and rain in Sonoma County, and as local people scrambled in the path of the anticipated “megastorm,” we went to bed last night under a gentle drizzle.

We had prepared to cook by candlelight, perhaps in the fireplace with the Dutch oven. We’d gathered flashlights and moved the penned goat to a stall in the barn. And when it appeared nothing would materialize, we were disappointed if not surprised.

In a place, and a time, where even clouds are a rarity, I’ve come to use my imagination to enjoy a cozy winter hunkering-down. Even on warm days if the clouds roll in I turn on lamps and keep a pot of chili or stew simmering on the stove. Just to enjoy the feeling of warmth, of desiring warmth.

So yesterday, excited but skeptical, I bundled up and donned a hat and scarf for my drive to work.

My drawer of handmade winter accessories have hardly been touched since we left Oregon and I miss them. Making new ones was my way of welcoming the fall. I’ve kept my husband and me in more hats than there are chilly days for, and my daughter’s supply is growing. Soon enough, they’ll once again be essential.

This morning at 4:30 I got up to make coffee and noticed lights glimmering off the front field as if it were a lake.

It’s still too dark to tell the extent of the flooding, but on the flat, drought-hardened valley floor, rain backs up quickly. The old, old house groans overhead, and I’m enormously grateful that we managed to remove the dead trees from our backyard earlier in the week. Today will be a first, and likely a last before we leave the Valley for good.

After The Rain

Most people probably don’t give grass a great deal of thought or attention. At least not usually. I’m sure I didn’t before we moved to the Central Valley of California.

It always gets hot here, topping 100 degrees for great stretches of the long summers. I remember visiting my grandfather as a child and marveling at the porch thermometer that read 92 degrees at 10 pm.

But we moved here just as this historic drought settled over the state, so it’s not just the heat. It’s that we haven’t seen rain, not more than a sprinkling or a rare ten-minute downpour, at any time of year. The ground is cracked and hose water just rolls into little black snowballs in the dust.

Over the past few weeks, there have been two or three momentous smatterings, so light and brief as to warrant little attention if they weren’t so unusual and so desperately needed. I didn’t think they could possibly ignite life.

The lack of grass, or weeds or wild greenery, has a more profound effect on life and attitude than I would have expected or had ever considered. The dull gray earth here, accentuated by the widespread use of herbicides around the abounding agricultural crops, is numbing. It’s ugly. It’s sad. Our free-range chickens leap into the backyard to eat every green morsel from our garden, and the sheep and goats mope dumbly between feedings.

Last year, in late-winter, a light rainfall extracted a comparable and fleeting flash of green, so I know it won’t last. That’s okay. Our new home will provide us with rain and grass and mushrooms sooner than any California rain will.

And in the meantime, there’s this.

I’m stunned and thrilled that the wild onions held a spark of life all this time. In a few weeks, they’ll be pickled with rosemary and honey.

If the mustard persists, we’ll be enjoying fresh greens soon.

Even an opportunistic squash seed seized the moment of satiety.

And one more survivor I did not expect, a calla lily whose flowers are enormous, dark purple curiosities with large black stamens. It’s been dormant– I thought dead– for two years.

A Winter Hat

The cooler weather has begun to move in, and in spite of my little one’s resistance to wearing anything resembling a hat, I knew it would eventually become imperative that her nearly bald little head have some insulation.

I haven’t picked up knitting needles or a crochet hook since before her birth– the longest interlude I’ve taken from crafting, ever. I miss such projects desperately, but so often my hands are full with things more pressing (like a squirming toddler). But with a rising urgency to get her Christmas stocking underway– I feel terribly guilty that it wasn’t done last year– I needed to get back on the creative horse.

So I grabbed a few balls of yarn for our last three-hour drive over to my mom’s house and crocheted a little beanie. It’s not my finest workmanship, but she makes it look good. If I’d taken more time I would have done a patterned edge.

Best of all, she seems to like it and leaves it on. Just in case, it can be tied in place.