From blustery and cool to only slightly breezy and hot. Today might have been 80F and tomorrow will be, too, but the nights will cool down so we can open the windows and cool the houses. Big big waves blown in from some massive storm way way out there; the beaches were swarming with daring surfers this evening at sundown.
The crickets have been chirping for the last week or so. As usual, the black field cricket is the first to sing. Their brethren the grasshoppers have an early start with fat large adults flying around already.
On the land at Swanton Pacific Ranch today, just over the hill from Molino, I saw a 18” terrestrial garter snake, a 2’ gopher snake, and a 15” yellow bellied racer as well as fence lizards galore. Alligator lizards are around, too. April is always reptile month- and this time around is no exception. Time to see snakes! The gopher snake’s body was bulging in three locations- well fed and recently shed- very shiny new skin.
Real, honest to gosh birders are surveying the Farm these days. Storey La Montagne and Martha Brown were roaming around this morning when I woke up. They reported yellow rumped warblers (“getting ready to leave”) and had good words to say about the numbers of western blue birds. Storey’s been owling here and confirmed our regular farm friend the pygmy owl. When they were here this morning, there were just barn swallows. And then, when I went down to Swanton the day saw increasing numbers of violet green and maybe other types of swallows- from 5 to 50 over the course of the morning. Welcome back swallows, almost goodbye yellow rumped warblers and golden crowned sparrows! I neglected to discuss with them Maw and Caw who curiously had one of last year’s offspring visit them this evening: and then there were three, all friendly as can be.
Little to no predator poop- few bobcats, coyotes, or fox. Only very rare sightings of deer. A bunny here, a bunny there- not many. Dead woodrat in my yard- neck strangled, dropped…gone to the turkey vultures a couple (stinky) days later. Mowing is revealing a plethora of mice, including many of those most tiny and cute harvest mice- must be having a good year. Field mice are probably having a particularly good year for all of the gophers that erupted through the last year, after the population crash of voles. The voles are coming back- beware gophers! The first vole trails are getting mowed and populations are on the rise again.
Forage and Fruit
The apples are in peak bloom right now, as of the last 2 days- there’s a few more days of peak bloom left, including this Saturday’s gathering. Pink! White! And, if you get there early or late in the day, you can be tricked into thinking the apple blossoms smell like lupine as that scent settles through the orchard from not far away. Limes are getting ripe and the Orchard Collective members are up to their eyeballs in lime-i-ness: lime juice frozen in ice cube trays…limes peeled and sucked on by Milo…lime drinks…what more?? And, we’re eating pea shoots from the cover crop, but nothing really much more coming in from the fields just yet. In the eternal irony of farm life, the Spring is the time of food shortage, the longest time since the last meaningful harvest of Most Things. And so, we eat the canned things and forage on Spring Greens like miner’s lettuce and baby this and that volunteering from last year’s greens seed crops. Oh, and arugula.
It All Happens At Once
On the hillsides around the tilled fields, the normally staggered blossoms of shrubs are all happening right now. Bush lupines, California lilac, sticky monkeyflower, lizard tail, oso berry…all blooming now. There’re not many lilacs of blooming age, just yet- most burned- but, the few missed by fire are weighted down with big wads of blue flower clusters that are quite magnificent. The bush lupines, too- what magnificent lavender displays! It would be delightful to be a bee right now- food everywhere.
Farm work means mowing and irrigating right now. All the fields are shorn except the orchard areas, which we are hitting post haste most days. In the vein of ‘it all happens at once’ we had to fix up irrigation a month early and just finished our first full pass of watering trees. It takes ~7 hours of microsprinklers to rehydrate the soil this year…it dried down too much before we started the watering. The solar pump is running constantly for the first time since last October. Soon, the farmers will put hoe to ground and start planting seedlings…
-this post copied from the original location at my blog on Molino Creek Farm’s website