Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter happenings

The usual activities of this time of darkness aka Winter are varied and many, most readying MuRefuge for Spring and bursting forth of the new. This calendar year past was marked "the driest calendar year on record" in all of California. And to my amazement, the Phoenix Area where my dear, long time friend, Shannon, lives got more rainfall than we did here in Sonoma County.

This Saturday past a quick moving storm deposited a mere 0.1" of rain, the first for 2014. When we left home late morning the fields behind us, plowed, disced and planted with grass seed for the Riboli organic cattle on Cunningham Road was just dirt. Upon our return late afternoon the barren fields were covered with newly sprouted grasses, looking very green! Happenings in the natural world are nothing short of astoundingly awesome!

With the daily sunshine and no rain I wonder how all the plants here at MuRefuge will fare. I must admit I have been watering this WInter: the young peach trees, the red raspberry patch, all of the Fall planted native grasses as well as all the native plants planted in preparation for the rainy season.

As Shasta napped on a Winter's afternoon 

I sat on the couch in the sun looking over the seed catalogs in my possession. Only open pollinated seeds are considered. Each year I chose a few seeds I have not grown before that look to be a good fit here at MuRefuge where there is much coastal influence: fog mornings, warm middays, then cool nights.This has been the climate in the past. With the climate change effect of this year past: no morning fog which was great for the absence of peach curl on the peach trees, moderately warm days and very little wind, and the night time temperature gradient less. The result in the food production here at MuRefuge was the highest ever in the 20 years of food growing. Not knowing what climate change will deliver I decided to stick with my usual guidelines while perusing my most favorite seed catalogs: Bountiful Gardens, John Jeavons' organization in Willits, CA; Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative in Copake, NY which provides "grower information" so the exact location of the seed can be identified; Ed Hume Seeds, Inc. in Puyallup, WA who "freshly" packages seeds i.e. seeds gathered in 2013 are sold in 2014 whereas most companies have a year lag time from gathered to packaged; and Territorial Seed Company, Cottage Grove, OR from whom I am purchasing fewer and fewer packets of seeds.

Once the seeds have arrived, the planning, using the Zodiac signs in the Moon phases, will
happen. Identifying on my calendar the dates for starting seeds, transplanting seedlings and setting out starts seems, for me, to maximize the food production as well as providing a "gardening container" with all other Spring, Summer and Fall activities happening outside of the container.

I am most interested in hearing how all you gardeners out there go about your gardening activities so feel free to comment. Also, I  would love to hear about planting sweet peas in other growing seasons. Here in the Pacific Coast "long growing" season I have had the most success with abundant sweet pea blooms by planting the seeds from the season just ended in the soil in early September. The seeds sprout with the warm daytime weather of Fall then rest when the cooler WInter temperatures occur, and as the daytime weather warms again in Spring the plants have a burst of growth followed soon by fragrant blossoms.

As those of you know that have visited MuRefuge, the vegetable beds are pretty much used year round. With so little rain and extended nights of freezing temperature the "Winter" garden struggled. I love the gorgeous dark red leaves of Radicchio which add glorious color to the otherwise just green pallet. This year most of the Radicchio had severe frost damage but cutting 3 to 4 heads provided just enough delicious leaves for the recipe below. This version is an adaptation from Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook: fresh, healthy cooking from the garden, a copy of which I received for Christmas past from my niece, Callie Weitzel.

Morro Blood Oranges, Radicchio and Oregano Salad

  • 2/3 C. blood orange juice reduced over high heat, about 5", to 2 1/2 T.
  • 1 T. very tasty organic extra virgin olive oil, I use McEvoy Ranch
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 T. chopped fresh oregano + 2 T. whole leaves
  • 3 Morro Blood Oranges (we buy 10# bags from Twin Peaks, Placer County)
  • 1 head organic radicchio shredded
Cool blood orange juice in a small bowl then whisk olive oil, sea salt, chopped oregano. If this is too bitter for your taste 1 T. organic maple sugar can be added.
Peel blood oranges, removing as much of white membrane as possible, slice thin then quarter. In pretty pottery bowl toss shredded radicchio, oranges, oregano leaves with olive oil mixture. Best served immediately.

How many of you have been honored with a visit from our Pacific Great Horned Owl? Frequently when I am out in the very early morning providing Jax with some petting and breakfast I hear the rhythmic hoo of these owl which are "large (like Red tailed Hawk) and bulky, with broad body and large head; stout ear tufts create catlike head shape" according to David Allen Sibley in The Sibley Guide to Birds. A few early mornings ago with the sun barely lighting the Eastern sky as I was sitting, a large bird swooped from the eucalyptus trees on the adjacent property into the East most Oregon White Oak just South of our property line fence. I strained from my sitting position on the floor debating whether I would have time to get binoculars. The bird crawled, much like a large cat  would, out the branch on which it was perched showing its ears. By now binoculars are at my eyes and this Great Horned Owl wowed me, showing itself to me for some while before it flew over the house Northward. This was a life altering experience or as my friend Lynette Sheppard often said about such an event, "the room tilted." In Spirit Animals by Victoria Covell, illustrations by Noah Buchanan "Owl represents introspection" asking the honored one to look within with integrity and know herself as one with all life. "Encountering Owl can also signify that one facet of your life is coming to a close, and that with inner awareness you will safely take a step forward into your next experience." During 2014 I will celebrate my 70th birthday, certainly a beginning for the next chapter.

While you muse over your comment, feel free to

1 comment:

  1. Some weather news from this blog's readers: Our 2013 was very wet.
    Roughly 60 inches of rain. And the two preceding years were very dry.
    Much love and hugs, Sandy (in Georgia)
    We had 2.23 in. of rain last yr. Ususally get 4 to 5 in. Bad drought
    down here. It's been hot (84) here. . . It should be 69 this time of
    year and we've been running 10 to 15 degrees above normal for
    2 yrs or more. The only things I seem to be able to grow down
    here are cacti or some form of succulents......even indoors!
    Love, Andrea (in Palm Springs)