Going out at dawn this morning, it seemed that even the birds were singing it: Here it Comes! Oh yes, spring is on the way. In parts of Northern California, like Berkeley and Oakland (both with a maritime influence, and only 10 miles west of here), spring is already here. But in our backyard garden, in the shadow of Mt. Diablo, spring is just now truly beginning.
Everything in me pulls to be out of doors; yesterday morning I was out very early cutting a bouquet, and my neighbor pulled in from his night job, saw me and said "Did you spend the night out here? Didn't I see you in the exact same place just last night?" and I laughed because I can't seem to stay inside. I have piles of homework to do, housework to tend to, kids to shuttle around - but I just want to be in the garden. There's so much to do!
Part of this is the effect of the sun. We haven't had more than a day with bright sun in so long, it feels so good to just let it soak in. Would we enjoy the sun as much if we hadn't had that wintertime deluge? Probably not. There's something about being a Californian that we rarely talk about, a deep unsettled feeling that I think is suspiciously like guilt. We always desperately need rain, so we can never ever complain about it when we get it. And get it, we did, this winter. We all felt morose from the gloom, and then felt guilty for feeling morose, and then didn't talk about how morose we were, and then felt even more morose and guilty, etc etc etc. So now that the sun is out, we can actually enjoy it. We ate our vegetables, damn it, and now we can have dessert.
Because we had so much rain, there are a couple of notable things happening right now. One of those things is weeds. Whoa, I've never had weeds like I have this year. And since the water table is higher, the native plants and flowers are staying juvenile longer, which means the weeds have that much more time to gain a foothold. If you live here, now is the time to be vigilant! Get out there every chance you get and pull those weeds before they set seed. (Unless you like weeds. And if you do, more power to you.)
The other notable thing is that, any minute, the hills and open spaces are going to pop. POP, I tell you. We are going to have a wildflower show like we haven't had in twenty years. I keep seeing notifications from the State Parks about this; there was even an article in the Washington Post about Anza-Borrego! If even folks on the east coast are writing about it, you know it's gonna be a good year.
I'm desperate to borrow a truck and haul a load of compost and manure to amend all the raised beds and fill the new fire-rings (I have one bin of compost, but we'll need more. Looking forward to the day when I don't have to gather outside amendments!). We're eating fresh greens every day, as well as onions and the stray asparagus spear or pea pod. The carrots and brassicas are growing and getting strong. The tomato starts are going out on the backyard patio every day, to soak up the sun and harden off, though I won't plant them in the ground until late April/early May (they'll need another potting up before then). I can't tell you how many times I go out back to check on the chickens and I find them napping in a sawdust pit, in a ray of sun.
I sit down in the sun to do the same, and then think of a million other things that need doing, and then I'm scurrying to get them done. Though I am not a fan of daylight savings time (I was just getting used to having light at 6 am!), I do enjoy having longer evenings with which to accomplish the long list of garden chores. And I do like the thought of the long, warm days that are coming.
The bees are still mad at me for putting that Thymol in the hive to kill mites. They really don't like the smell, and many mornings I come out to find a small cluster of outliers on the landing board. It might be my imagination, but that one on the bottom left seems to be looking at me accusatorially. Sorry, ladies. You'll thank me later.
And with that, I need to get off this computer and out in to the yard. This coming Monday in class we are learning about soil - microbiology, nutrients, and how to do a soil test. This is something I've never done here because we built raised beds and filled them with our own mix. We've never tilled them, and just keep adding organic matter, rock dust, and cover crops, so I'd be interested to do a soil test and see what's happening in there. I'd also like to test our native clay soil, where all our ornamentals are planted, to get an idea what's going on there. So I'm off to take samples.
While I'm doing that, I'll notice new weeds, which will lead to pulling. And then I'll see a lizard or a newly-emerged native bee and then I'll be trying to figure out what kind it is. And then I'll notice some dead branches, and will start to cut back the native perennials. And then I'll notice the pile of mulch that still needs moving, so I'll get out the wheelbarrow.
Here's to a fabulous spring day.