Looking to the New

“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.” ~~ Vita Sackville-West

It has been — it is still being the strangest of winters.  We had virtually no rain through all of December and January.  We had several weeks of freezing weather, which is most unusual around here — we get scattered nights with below 32 degree temperatures but they are few and far between..  We soft-living Californians were like hot-house plants suddenly thrown out into the cruel cold.  These freezing weeks were immediately followed by two or three weeks of such balmy warmth that we walked around in shorts and flip-flips. While that might be somewhat normal for southern California, this is northern California — no sandals here in January! On top of that we are now officially in a drought — yet it is raining outside today — glorious rain! — the first real rain we’ve had this long winter.  Last weekend we even had snow in the hills around us!  Again, a pretty unusual happening — something that comes maybe once every four or five years. ….. A very strange winter!

Here in Ray’s garden, almost nothing is blooming — the paper-white narcissus and the old-fashioned purple iris are the only winter faithfuls doing their job right now.  And so, clean-up and planning for future additions is about all that’s going on here, but goodness knows, that’s plenty.

cutting corners

Here they are “cutting a corner” — actually repaving a spot that a delivery truck destroyed one day.  While the location is often mistaken for a home, this is a business, and very large trucks come through making deliveries.  After the third or fourth time this corner was flattened, Ray wisely decided to cut it back and give the trucks more space.

The major remodel however is happening in that back area where things get dumped that you don’t want seen — every garden has a space like this.  This one has been cleared out and has some lovely new paving in place.

mud path

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“Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold so forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday’s dusting of snow.
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock springs sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow.”
~~ Nelda Hartmann, January Morn  

The grapefruit tree once stood where the paving now lies, and the persimmon and pear trees are just around the corner.  The grapefruit, which was always in an awkward spot, has been moved to a back corner and we are all anxiously watching to see if it will survive.  The existing trees are now to be joined by a Mission Fig, an Italian Prune, and a Fuji Apple.  (That’s the heavily-pruned grapefruit under cover in the back corner.)

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Now we wait.  These are the waiting weeks.  Clean-up has been done.  Pruning is finished for the moment.  The beds have been cleared of excess growth.  Everything is clean and bare — and now we wait for what this very strange weather-year will bring us.  And we dream of bright blossoms and fresh new fruit.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.” ~~  Andrew Wyeth  

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One Year Ends …

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be. ~~ Douglas Adams

This seems the perfect quote for a gardener.  In spite of all our plans and hard work, a garden has a tendency to go where it wants to go.  I know that I have never once achieved the garden I saw in my head as I did my winter planning.  Sometimes it’s fallen short of my image and other times it has turned out to be much better.  It is always it’s own thing.

Things are quiet now in Ray’s Garden.  We have been having strange weather.  Much too dry — we are starting to worry about another drought year — and unseasonably warm for December – even though the warm spells are interspersed with spells of freezing temps. lower than anything I can remember around here.  A very odd year indeed.

Looking back over the year that is now passing, it has been a profligate year in the garden.  The flowers never really stopped last winter and really exploded in spring and summer.  In the fruit and vegetable sections, the tomatoes bore more than anyone could keep up with, the strawberries were abundant, and the grapefruit were so plentiful they pulled the limbs down to the ground.  My favorite part of Ray’s garden each year is watching the full cycle of the fruit-bearing trees — from new leaf to blossoms to set fruit — to ripening and harvesting.

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persimmons 5

Persimmons are an especial favorite because they not only provide delicious fruit, but a season-long display of changing leaf colors …

Persimmons leaves

But — as does all good fruit — this is where they finally arrive …

Persimmons in box 2

… harvested and ready — along with some equally beautiful pomegranates — for eating, out of hand, or baked as cookies or muffins or, in this case, Persimmon Chocolate Chip Bread!  Oh, yum!

Persimmons bread

Happy New Year, everyone!  And may your New Year be blessed with an abundance of green and growing pleasures!

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. ~~ T. S. Eliot

BRR-R-R-R-R

Within the circles of our lives
we dance the circles of the years
the circles of the seasons
within the circles of the years,
the cycles of the moon
within the circles of the seasons,
the circles of our reasons
within the cycles of the moon.
~ Wendell Berry

Well … it seems I’ve been absent from here for way too long a time.  I last posted in early December and it was never my intention to take such a long break, but life sort of got in the way.  First, the holidays and then the New Year’s rush … and then the flu.  Somehow time to blog seemed to keep getting bumped to the bottom of the pile.  But, we’re back!

It’s been the time of pruning and re-digging, raking and composting.  Even here in California the garden has been largely bare — the leaves have fallen and the last blossoms dropped away.  But then there is the winter garden — this year’s experiment — new and different winter vegetables!  Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and kale in incredible colors!

winter garden

The sun is riding so low in the sky that the harsh cross-lighting almost wipes out the color some days, but the colors here in the small patch of experimental garden defy even the high-contrast sun.  It has to be investigated every day to see what new shades are appearing in the emeralds and rubies and amethysts.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
~ William Shakespeare

But then the unthinkable happens — maybe only unexpected here where our coldest days rarely break the low 30’s.

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Temperatures drop into the low 20’s and stay there for two weeks.  Yes, I know, this doesn’t sound so unusual for many of you, but this is California, not northern Michigan!  We simply are not geared to temps like these.  And all those beautiful purples and crimsons – what is happening to them beneath the ice?

purple

red kale

Well, as it turns out, nothing so very terrible, after all.  The young plants are still there, strong and beautiful and tasty!  Ready for creamy soups and hearty stews.  Even the grapefruit are snug and well within their plastic sheeting.

grapefruit

All is well and we relax once again and plot and imagine and dream of Spring and new growth.

All winter long
beneath every snowing
guess what we saw!
—- beneath every snowing
a thaw
and a growing,
a greening and growing.
~ Native American song