Joyful Roaming Through the Countryside
I heard a mighty crash down in the forest below the packing shed but I haven’t gone into the canyon yet to see which tree has fallen. Closer to the outbuildings a mid-sized mature, eucalyptus toppled over, luckily landing away from our barn, not onto it. And along the edge of our yard the old Catalpa tree that had been planted by my Great Grandfather, split into three giant pieces, and now the slope is buried in a tangle of smashed limbs. We’ve had weather; I guess you have too! But the greenhouses are still standing with their roofs all intact, so that’s good. The crops we’ve planted under cover have enjoyed the protection from the storms, and the artichokes and lemons we have out in the fields haven’t been damaged by frost, so far.
We usually elect to take a break at the end of January and into February because the winter conditions can make it hard to harvest enough to keep our veggie delivery program going. The pandemic we’re all suffering through at present turned any wish Starr and I might have had to take a vacation in a warm desert into a palmy mirage, so we elected to enjoy a “staycation” here along the Monterey Bay. The plan was to shut the deliveries down while the crops grew big enough to pick and use the down time to catch up on all the projects that had gone undone. We could spend a day weeding, planting, pruning, cleaning up or organizing, and then venture the following day for a visit to someplace in the Bay Area that we’d never taken the time to know before. Factor in taking a few days to watch the rain coming down, and pretty quick we’re over halfway through the holiday.
A hike up Mt Madonna was our first tiny trip. We had the idea to go to the tops of all the tallest hills around the Bay Area and look around to get a new fresh perspective on our local world. From Mt Madonna looking south you can see Jack’s Peak in Monterey, and looking east you see the Mt. Diablo Range. Our second trip was to the East Bay, hiking up Round Top behind Oakland to see Mt Diablo to the east and Mt Tamalpais to the northwest. The communities we are looking down on from the high points are the towns that sustain our farm. We thought we’d use our time to get to know them a little better. One of our projects for 2021 is to plant a lavender labyrinth into the field to the south of our home, so we made sure to visit the beautiful labyrinth in Oakland’s Sibley Volcanic Preserve. Volcanoes in Oakland?!
From atop Grizzly Peak Boulevard looking west the San Francisco peninsula stretches out to the Golden Gate, so after several projects got wrapped up, and we’d cleaned up the mess from the windstorm and we headed to Twin peaks and Land’s End. The tiled stairways in the Inner Sunset are gorgeous. It’s so inspiring to see these beautiful gardens and works of art tucked discreetly into quiet, residential neighborhoods. I admire the work that it took to get the stairways planned and accomplished.
And San Francisco’s labyrinth at Lands End at the Golden Gate was as cool as Oakland’s labyrinth, and yes it really is at the end of the land overlooking a cliff that goes directly into the Pacific Ocean. Life is a maze, with dead ends everywhere, but a labyrinth is more of a spiritual tool offering a calm center at the end of a meandering path. We’ll come out of this pandemic one of these days, and we’re looking forward to a time when we can have visitors enjoy the lavender labyrinth we’re planning. It’s too wet at present to dig the beds, but we’ve got trays of lavender planted in the greenhouse to transplant out when the plants get big enough and lots of great lavender to share once the plants mature.
I’ve got another 65 citrus trees to plant out once this storm passes that’s coming through now. And the tomato seed has been planted for the 2021 summer crop. I managed to get the ground worked up for the spring’s earliest bean planting just hours before the last rainstorm hit, so that feels good. Our next high points to visit will be Mt Diablo, and then Mt Tam. We’ve been hitting the nurseries in the different neighborhoods that we pass through too, and visiting the public gardens. Sometimes farming can feel heavy-like some grim, brown, Dutch painting of a peasant toiling in the mud- so it’s invigorating to see what fun gardeners can have with plants. So far we’ve checked out the arboretum at Villa Montalvo, the Elizabeth
Gamble garden in Palo Alto and the UCSC Arboretum is Santa Cruz. The Ruth Bancroft garden in Walnut Creek is next on the list, once we get a few more projects tucked away. We were also delighted to see what was left of Greg Browns murals in Palo Alto while taking a street tour though downtown. And then to top it off as we were driving out of Palo Alto along University Avenue, we were excited to see three large crow sculptures, which we later discovered, were part of a You-We-Me sculpture series residing in the driveway of the artist, Silvi Herrick.
We’ll be ready to open back up for deliveries in two weeks. Every season is an adventure of sorts and 2020 was a roller coaster ride, for sure. We’re hoping that 2021 will be calmer. So far, so good! The tables are covered in seedlings sprouting in the greenhouse for transplant out later. Almost all the beds inside the greenhouse have been planted out, and we’ll be finished with that task by week’s end. The artichokes are getting big and fluffy in the fields and drinking up the rain, and the pea plants are starting to reach out with their vines. We look forward to the new season and we’re hoping for your support. If you have friends that might appreciate the food we grow please let them know about our program. We’re looking for more neighborhoods to serve so if you can suggest a likely pick-up spot I’m all ears.
See you soon!
© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin.
Photos by Andy Griffin and Starling Linden