A.V. Walters


I may have spoken out of turn when I announced it was Spring in Two Rock. It’s something, but I’m not sure just what. Northern California seasons can be a little confusing, especially if, like me, you’re from areas that have real winter. I’ve been here over thirty years and I still get caught short by faux seasons.

So we’ve had gorgeous days in the 60s and 70s. We walk up to feed the emus and, from the vantage up the hill, the valley is beautiful. The daffodils are in bloom, even in Two Rock. (I say even because Two Rock is always a couple weeks behind Petaluma–and more when it comes to frost free nights.) The grass is lush, mostly from melting frost or fog, because we’ve had so little rain this season. I just barely got the peach tree pruned before the buds started to swell. A few of the blossoms have popped open like popcorn. Plum trees are in full bloom throughout the valley. Over the weekend we drove to Santa Rosa and saw them pruning the grape vines in the vineyards. The most dramatic and confusing thing is the mustard. Farmers put it in as a cover crop, sometimes mixed with rye grass. The mustard is in full bloom now. Whole fields of yellow, sloping with the contours of our rolling hills, take your breath away as you crest the hill and come down into the valley. How could it not be Spring with that display of yellow?

Three nights of sub-thirties temperatures is how. We still need to keep the fire burning to keep the house from slipping into the 50s. I’ve always thought that this mid-winter hesitation was a feature in the California winter. It’s too early to plant but you can still clean up the garden, prune (though you best hurry up on that at this point), plan, divide bulbs and generally get things ready. If you’re really old fashioned, you can clean and sharpen all the garden tools. (I always wished I could be that dedicated. Instead I sharpen on the fly, as needed, and almost never clean a shovel or spade.) My first Spring here I was chomping at the bit to plant. Elmer said, “No. We see frost until the first week of May.” Every year he’s been proved right. So I wait, leaf aimlessly through the seed catalogues and peer anxiously at the dwindling wood pile.

I worry about the weather. Though the surface is damp from the dew and frost-melt, too little rain has left the soil dry any deeper than that. I worry about the well and about whether the dry soils will be a challenge for the garden through the summer. Will this cold weather kill off the blossoms and spoil the fruit tree harvest? Can the peaches and plums pollinate so early–when the cool days and nights impede the bees? But I’m a worrier. Probably it’ll all be fine. By April I’ll be planting seed starts for transplanting when the soils warm up. In May we’ll be digging in buckets, and it will fall into place, like it does every year. In the meantime, I’d better throw another log on the fire.