Spring didn’t last long this go-around, the mountains, valleys, and foothills were until a few days ago Kelly green, how I imagine Ireland to be. Personally, I don’t know if the descriptions of the Emerald Isles famous greenery is accurate, but if it is the early spring is how I imagine it. The cattle are knee high in heavy green grasses going about their daily routine of eating, chewing, and repeating all day, all week long. They lead a good life for a short period of time for most of them, the herd across the river repopulates itself as evidenced by the numerous calves constantly about. Free-ranging steers need a lot of pasture when fed exclusively grass. The pasture is 3500 acres supporting from my estimate 125 bovines, plus numerous calves. Hay is also fed to them every morning, after honking the truck horn from 1/2 mile away the animals begin to run towards the feeding area situated about in the center of the field. While on the deck overlooking the river with the pasture as a backdrop this is a classic pasture scene.
Haze is in the air 15 miles away surrounding the Diablo Range, it’s too warm outside for fog (90 degrees F, 32.22 C), and just right for smog. The grasses are slowly turning yellow as during each spring two weeks after the rain stops. The rain started last November, it was a lifesaver for those of us with health conditions, lest we forgot about the wildfires and the smoke that strangled all of us, which I dought. As I’m looking at Mount Diablo from the East Side it refreshes my memory of how dense the woodsmoke was. Unfortunately, we are most likely heading in that direction once again as every other year for centuries. Strides are being made to lessen the threat of them starting, the state is finally taking the huge Utility (PG&E) to task for their corporate indifference. We all have opinions, mine is that no utility should be for profit, we should not be paying dividends to wall street investors while safety is being ignored. Blaming PG&E for every fire is a bit of a stretch in my book, but enough of them are caused by faulty equipment to classify them as a major contributor, but that’s another blog.
The Pecans are the last to lose their leaves and the last to put them on, finally they have started to engulf the branches. The huge nut tree shades the east side of my neighbors’ house, all of the houses are built on stilts for flood control, that house is 60 feet tall (15.24 meters) so there is a lot to shade. Without the shade tree, the wall would be unbearably hot, for their sake (my neighbors) I hope nothing ever happens to the giant Pecan.
Baby Barn Owls are sticking their heads out of the entry hole, it’s hard to tell if they are clapping their beaks together due to hunger or if they are trying to force out a hoot or two. Squirrels make the tree home as well, a lot of them, sometimes I wonder how closely related to monkeys those little rodents are. Not being heavy or large the furry buggers can sure shake a lot of limbs while running about attacking one another, Red Squirrels are not as desirable as their cousins the Grey Squirrels. They are territorial creatures and will wage all-out war against their cousins when the larger animals decide to show up which they do from time to time. Sneaking up behind them the Red Squirrels “neuter” the Gray males, it makes me say aloud the famous quote “can’t we all just get along?” I watch the Owls watch the squirrels, everyone looks bored except the noisy furry little red dudes. Once a month one will meet its fate in the road, a job I took on is removing roadkill happily there is not much carnage in my small corner of the world.
Pulling weeds is as common to springtime as the trees donning their coats of leafy green, some still don’t have leaves on them. Gardening is a funny business, the first rule in my book is if it is a joint endeavor to make sure all involved parties understand the plan. Planning is essential for me as I have a limited space to raise the plants, the plan is in the making all winter as is preparing the raised beds. I built raised beds to enable my taking care of them from my mobility scooter, it works well but I have a tendency to tangle up in the hose, that is another issue altogether that will be a blog at some point. I don’t drive any longer either which places my wife in the position of running all of the errands, she has the list of plants to buy in her purse, or she is suppose to. Invariably she will ask on the first nice day in February if it’s time to plant yet, it’s understandable we’re both Northerners and were raised with the idea of planting soon after the snow is gone.
Six Jalapenos, Eight Tomato plants, 50 Zucchini seeds, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Squash, and Some herbs whatever she wants as she is an unbelievable cook. The plant delivery takes me by surprise every year but it’s almost exactly the same results with few deviations. 18 Tomato Plants, Roma’s, Heirloom, Early Girl, Beefsteak, you name it we most likely have em’, we will be in tomato sauce heaven later on this summer. When the fruit is ripe it has to be picked, every morning for two months I bring 5-gallon buckets full of the red treasures to the kitchen, met with an aghast look she says “More Tomatoes?”
We grow Zucchini for the masses, along with the Tomatoes a bucket of the summer squash takes up a large portion of the kitchen countertop, again with a look of horror on her face “More Zucchini? What are we going to do with it?”
“Here’s a recipe, Candied Zucchini peelings, a great summer cooler.” I read off the instructions after finding it on the internet.
Straight out of the movie “Forest Gump”with Bubba talking about the many ways to prepare shrimp, I dive into the equally diverse ways to prepare the summer squash which about the time September rolls around it is no longer one of our favorites. 20 of the green devils every day is a bit overwhelming, it’s hard to imagine anyone saying: “man I can’t wait until the Zucchini is ripe.”
Forty Acorn Squash, that’s a lot of fiber, I have become quite the Acorn Squash producer. Taking on a new tactic last year I planted 100 seeds in an 8 foot long by 2-foot wide box, the results were amazing we had squash all winter. That stuff appears to love being crowded together, this is as last year thriving, the beauty of it is the gourds will last all winter when stored in a dark cool place. Another advantage of the squash is it makes great food for the worm farm, any of the fruit that spoils is fed to them after boiling to break down the fibers. I refuse to get started talking about vermiculture, well in another blog I will.
We use a lot of Jalapenos, they are beautiful plants and I must say one of my favorite vegetables to grow. Dried and ground to a powder they are wonderful nome made chili powder, not only do they have a kick to them but the flavor of Jalapenos can’t be beaten in my book. Useful as a pest deterrent when mixed with Canola Oil it will keep the little Red monsters out of my Apple tree, bonus Racoons don’t like it either. By far poppers make up the majority of the peppers, my wife makes them all summer long, she has developed an oven recipe for them that rivals the deep fried at some of the trendy restaurants in town. Each year I work to keep some green until December, letting some turn red and others remaining green the plants make a unique Christmas decoration.
While working outside this morning my wife left her command post in and around the kitchen, approaching me she told me that the garden needed some weeding and she came to help me. Now she talks a mean game when it comes to working in the garden, but results are somewhat spotty. She is busy doing her stuff in the house I understand that and appreciate the help for sure, so for the first time ever we weeded together until 2 pm then sought shelter in the shade of a Pecan Tree. Looking into the branches making sure we would not be a target of whatever is above us, the weeding is almost done and it’s a good thing because I needed the room for more plants. “Beets she said, where are you going to plant the Beets?”
“Over there”, I pointed in no direction.
“Where?” She asked.
Pointing again I simply said, “I’ll figure something out.”
I appreciate the time you took to read my blog, like it and share if you are so inclined.
Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance