We’ve been busy as our bees lately — as the weather warms and the days grow longer, it seems like everything happens at once! Tomatoes and beans to plant, fences to build, weeds to pull… even with the longer days, I’m often out in the garden until it’s too dark to work. But the cool air and soft evening light are becoming a welcome escape from the increasingly hot and sun-drenched days of approaching California summer.
The chickens and aforementioned bees are happy, too, foraging their wee hearts out! With everything so green here, we have to remind ourselves that we’re looking at a record drought year in California. (Here’s a good look at what that means for local farmers, and eaters, from Dan Macon of Flying Mule Farm.) We’ve been trying out some tensiometers (soil-moisture meters) in our orchard to more closely monitor our soil moisture and accurately gauge when it’s time to water — it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on a foot or two below the surface, unless you want to dig holes everywhere, so it’s interesting to be able to chart how deep the water from rain or irrigation penetrates, and how quickly the soil dries out again. The tensiometers actually measure how hard plant roots have to work to “pull” moisture out of the soil. Cindy Fake, our local Farm Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension, helped us install a pair of meters to experiment with — we check them out, library-style, spend a couple of months learning the ropes, and then the meters will go to another farmer to try. They’re not cheap, so it’s great to have this opportunity available to us to try before we buy!
Despite the dry weather, we did get a few mushrooms making appearances this year, including delicious Spring Amanitas (the edible, non-deadly ones!) and these beautiful blewits, our favourites…
Another springtime food, this one somewhat new to me — this was the first year I picked and cooked garlic scapes from our garden! The flowering shoot of hardneck garlic varieties, scapes are delicious sautéed with other seasonal vegetables, like the snap peas and green onions I used here. They’re a bit like a cross between young asparagus, green beans, and, well, garlic. When garlic goes to flower, it diverts its energy from making a bulb to making seeds; by removing the flower shoot, you concentrate growth back down to the bulb again. The shoots, or scapes, don’t look (or taste) like the likeliest delicacy raw, but they are delicious, and beautiful, cooked:
Spring wouldn’t be complete without a strawberry-rhubarb pie, this year made with my very own homegrown rhubarb! (And Grandma’s lattice-top recipe, of course!) The inedible leaves were big enough to double as umbrellas, and made a marvelous bouquet:
One more bit of fun — not exactly farmy, but definitely Springy — I’m delighted to be shooting a music video for my good friends Dylan and Bluebird and their fantastic band Lasher Keen! It’s exciting to dive headlong into video again, and to work with such creative people in such spectacular surroundings. Here are a few snaps from the first day of shooting, in a magnificent mountain meadow under one of the biggest oaks I’ve ever seen. A little inspiration to get outside and enjoy the beauty of Spring!