Spring Break is here!

This week is spring break for all four of us. It's a gift of time: Time to actually accomplish the projects on the list, maybe take a nap, perhaps rent a boat on a reservoir? The possibilities are endless. However, the projects will likely get first priority, as having a considerable amount of time to complete them is just too tempting. Also, did I mention how busy it is in the garden, in spring? And with temperatures in the mid-80's over the past weekend, we got a head start on the list. We wished the neighborhood pool was open, after some sweaty working days.

a local hiking trail
Due to the warm temps, we keep a window open in our bedroom at night, and often in the wee hours around 3 am, I've been woken by coyotes up in the open space near our house. They howl and yip, and make quite a racket. I did some research and it looks as though this behavior is very common among coyote family members, especially at night. In fact, the coyote's Latin name, Canis latrans, literally means 'barking dog.' At this time of year in California, females are probably pregnant, having mated in February, and are expecting babies in April. There's still water in the hills in vernal pools, but I'm not sure how long that will last, and when the water runs out, the coyotes venture down in to our neighborhoods. They are generally not aggressive and can be quite shy, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they visit our backyard water fountain during summer nights. Which is why our animals are shut up tight after 8 o'clock every evening.

In the garden, there's still lots of greens to eat.

Pesto Chicken tart with spinach, broccoli, and peas from the garden

The kale and spinach are still producing, but the chard is starting to look a little tired, and the romaine is looking like it's going to bolt any minute. The broccoli seems to be finished, and the beets are no longer growing. Peas are being harvested daily. The garlic is starting to get a little brown in the foliage, which means it might be time to stop watering it and then harvest. I didn't expect the garlic to be ready until June, but with this hot weather, it could be ready much earlier. The strawberry wall has tiny berries and I can't wait to taste the first one. The blueberry bushes have tiny berries, too.




strawberry wall

peas, and a little friend

And, we have an artichoke coming up in the garden!

My only question is: who gets to eat it???

We eat from the garden constantly; I add greens to almost every dish I make. Tonight I was making a pasta bake, and I realized I was out of ricotta. So Tom whipped up a batch in thirty minutes. That was fun!

Preparations for Easter have commenced. I had so much fun dying Easter eggs naturally last year that I wanted to do it again this year. This project takes most of a day, but the result is so pretty, it's worth it. I used turmeric, red cabbage, red onion skin, yellow onion skin, and beets this time. Put your veg or spice individually in pots with a cup or two of water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Strain, add a tablespoon of white vinegar, and pour over hard boiled eggs. Then store in fridge for four hours. Drain and let dry.

I used white and brown eggs this year, and I have to say I like the effect on white better.

The darker ones are brown eggs, lighter = white eggs

Blue is white egg with red cabbage, bright yellow is turmeric, orange is yellow onion skin,
green is brown egg with red cabbage, red is beet, red onion skin made the brownish colors

I also spent some time over the weekend making a couple of new paintings for a blank wall. I knew I wanted to paint something from the garden, and add quotes about nature that are meaningful to me. Next time, I'd like to try a mixed media thing, with the quotes made from 'found' letters or torn out of magazines, some sort of decoupage sort of thing, though I've never tried that. Maybe that will be a summer experiment.

Artichoke and Blueberries

Do you know about the website Nextdoor? I've enjoyed being a member. Last Friday, a neighbor posted that his mother was a Master Gardener, and he had many hundreds of seed packets to give away. I responded immediately and met him later that afternoon. I scored about $100 worth of seed packets! It was like Christmas. Not only that, they were from Renee's Garden, my favorite seed house! I'm not sure how old the seeds are, or if they are even viable, but I'm willing to give them a shot. I planted a lot of the flower seeds over the weekend. I have saved the zinnia and cosmos and will plant them in a couple of months.

Flower seeds

Veg seeds

I'll store the winter veg seeds in the fridge until fall, as well.

Speaking of storing seeds, I realized that my haphazard method wasn't working. I asked Dad to build me a seed caddy, and he built one for me (that same day) out of California Claro Walnut, a special kind of wood.

It fits perfectly in the fridge!

I know I've said it before, but it sure is great to have a woodworker in the family.

We cleaned out the garage, moved some lumber, and I took some stuff out of storage. The tomato, cucumber, and pepper cages are ready for use next weekend, after I attend the Master Gardener sale. We'll need to make a few more.

I also got the bee hive ready, as the bees will be here in less than two weeks. I took the bars out of storage and put them in the hive, and made simple syrup for the bees to eat as they are building comb and starting to collect nectar. It takes a lot of energy to build comb, and I want to make sure the bees have the calories to do that. Honeybees like a 1:1 ratio in simple syrup (hummingbirds like 1:4, a less sweet concoction). 

Bars are in and tools are ready

the bee feeder is ready, just needs a mason jar full of syrup

pretty yellow simple syrup, which will be stored in the fridge until the bees arrive

Flowers continue to pop up in the spring sunshine and heat.

Harlequin flower

Monkey flower


another geranium

Plans for this week include: Building the raised beds in the North Garden, ordering and hauling dirt to fill them, buying and planting all tomatoes and peppers, and starting nearly all the summer vegetable seeds. I'll be taking winter veg out of the South Garden and replacing with summer crops. Early April is planting time. I guess Spring 'break' means something other than a break, at least in the garden.