Rain and storms and wind and hail and thunder, and more rain keep buffeting the landscape around Molino Creek Farm. At the same time, we welcome the new moist spring and its seasonal phenomena: wandering cats, amorous coyotes and ravens, ribbiting ponds and puddles, roaring ridges, gushing creeks, re-leafing trees, emerging forest wildflowers, and smiling tree tenders returning to their work.
Storm after storm, trees have been snapping off and tipping over, both live and dead, previously burned trees…trees on ridges and trees in valleys, young trees and old trees.
This most recent two-eyed cyclone had the weirdest winds! Automatic reverse 911 alarms rang out: “SEEK SHELTER!” They told us to go into the middle of our houses where no hurdling window glass would cause injury. But, hours before, the weather service told us it was ‘just another’ atmospheric river that would scuttle down the coast and mainly impact southern California. Suddenly, they changed their story, we tuned into radar, and saw a west coast hurricane spinning and spinning with its center(s) stalled right over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Three giant power polls out at the ocean overlook snapped off – PG&E technicians have seen those types sway widely back and forth flexibly under higher winds, but the latest storm must have had vortexes and twisters and the like. Silver dancing sheets of rain that normally come from one direction in storms are beautiful to watch against the dark redwood canyon background. But with this last storm, that changed: my eyes bugged out, I gasped, and I saw sheets of rain passing one another in opposite directions at high speed (>40mph) in just the few hundred yards across the farm. Such things had seemed impossible!
Lake Molino is rising for the second time and the farm is WET. Every low point burbles and flows with runoff. Even days after one of the storms, the ground bubbles and burps with muffled underground light-tinkling rumors of streamlets flowing through gopher runs. Footsteps go squish….squish…squish; there is no moving fast without slipping. Roadbed puddles splash, mud-spattered vehicles advertising our country living to the urban folks. Many, many young avocado trees are tipping over in the wind, but we are staking; their rhizospheres have been freed of drought-accumulated residual soil salts from irrigation – fresh soil for an era of vigorous fresh new growth.
Roots and a Moist Rhizosphere
Rhizosphere is a good word: it means the area of soil in the vicinity of plant roots. I envision plant roots doing a different kind of foraging for nutrients washed past them during the deluge. Biomimicry of this deluge foraging phenomenon would replace your walking down aisles of food at the market, with your plopping down on nice comfy padded benches instead: food parades past, and you grab what you want when it comes within reach. For plants, rainwater is washing nutrients through the rhizosphere, presenting the smorgasbord to each plant….slurp, gobble, and grab the next nutrient molecule….yum-yum-yum…what a way to eat!
Plants are leaping skyward so fast and lush and wet that they are toppling over like couch potatoes after a(nother!) gluttonous pizza fest. We’re going to have some nice cover crop biomass, even if it grows sideways a bit. Cover crops are all about enriching the rhizosphere.
Spring Animals’ Behavior
Here’s to all the humans with November and December birthdays! Spring was in the air….As it is now with All Beings around the Farm.
Maw and Caw are bowing and nuzzling, sitting closer together and eying each other amorously. The bigger burly white saddled male coyote trots happily behind the coy, lithe female on their head-tilting then pounce-filled rodent forays.
From spring wanderlust to mewsing about the treetops: whether from antsy fierce neighbor dogs or from slyer more untamed coyotes, a farm neighbor’s domestic cat spent some nights in a tree (since rescued!).
Swallows are Good Americans – emissaries seasonally crossing geopolitical boundaries of North and South America. Flocks of these graceful songbirds knit together cultures, carrying news between the geographies of Panhispanism/Bolivarianism movements and the (likewise proud but oft-repressed) anti-capitalist bird conservation movements in the USA. Pay no attention to the mist netters…
Last Friday March 17, barn swallows returned to Molino Creek Farm from Central or South America. Meanwhile, we watch for the return of the antagonistic cliff swallows, graceful tree swallows, and other species that follow this arc.
(BTW, Golden Crowned Sparrows do not yet dare venture North, meanwhile they gorge on forbs, fattening on rain drenched salads)
The gloomy drizzly weather helps the wildflowers stand out. Bright yellows and deep purples grace Molino’s well-tended wildflower ridge. In peak flower are footsteps-of-spring, purple sanicle (aka satellite plant) and buttercups. The first tulip-sized poppy blooms are emerging, opening for the (rare) hour(s?) of sunshine. In the woodlands, houndstongue is huge – its bright blue borage flowers keeping fresh with the abundance of rain. Forest understory milk maid flowers are attracting the large white butterflies that feed on the plants’ leaves as caterpillars and the same species’ nectar when adults: beautiful near flocks of white butterflies flutter around the forest! On another of our farm ridges, 2’ tall star lilies in full bloom! And then there’s the dreaded French Broom…just starting to blossom. A better shrub and one in the dark forest is the subtle, pendulous, deep-maroon-petaled woodland currant, currently in full flower. It’s a good time to get to the forest with its drippy mosses, flowing drainages, and tipped over trees.
Farmers can do one thing on these early spring days when the ground’s too wet to do anything with the soil: pruning! The Two Dog Farm chardonnay vineyard is as tidy as can be: pruned up and weed-whipped down. The Community Orchardists have spent too few, but quite energetic sessions pruning many a tree: we’re half way done increasing the tidiness that we have been moving towards, together, for many years. We have taught each other pruning and the orchard reflects that loving care.
This blog also simultaneoulsy published at the website for Molino Creek Farm