I like Spring Ahead because it gets me up before sunrise and I get to see all the wonderful sights of morning. Morning had been getting ahead of me lately, the sun already waiting when I stuck my head out of the covers. Now I’m looking at that pitch black canvas again, waiting for the first swatches of color to run across.
Yesterday I took a cup of coffee out on the patio just as the first streaks were smoking up out of the east, and as I sat there watching the sun spread across my lawn, I became aware of some tiny creatures in the grass. A little flock of house finches was eating the seeds off a patch of puffy white dandelion flowers, eating every last seed, one by one, until there was nothing left but the thin green stalk. They chattered happily as they picked and hopped from flower to flower.
A few minutes later I heard a tiny pecking over my head – a nuthatch was making his way along the underside of a huge oak branch, examining every crack for tiny bugs. Peck peck peck. Meanwhile a mockingbird was taking up his post on the fence near a privet hedge that was allowed to bloom last spring, leaving him a nice cache of privet berries to snack on. I’ve heard privet berries are not very nutritious but I know Mocker will fight for them. He spends a couple of hours every morning sniping and jawing at a pair of blue jays that try to horn in. He also likes to bully the flickers and robins who work the yard every morning for worms and ants. Flicker is so shy for such a big bird, he makes this sad little cry when Mocker comes charging at him, and scurries out of the way. Robins are funny – they jump up but land in roughly the same place, going right back to their business of turning over dirt. Robins are funny little birds, they seem cheerful all the time.
The strangest thing I’ve seen in my yard lately is a pair of Stellar’s jays. (see Enterprise Record, http://www.chicoer.com/20150315/birders-excited-to-spot-out-of-place-flyers-in-butte-county) I saw them briefly last year – a pair of small, dark-blue-almost-black birds with a pointy head. I finally got a good look at them the other day, right after I’d read an article with pictures. They must come down here to look for food when the hills are stormy I guess. I see them as low as Forest Ranch, but not as frequently as you’d see them up at Lassen. They are the resident panhandlers at the Lassen Park Chalet. They aren’t so bold here, but they stopped by a few days running to snoop around.
These Spring mornings give me a chance to think about my day, try to remember what chores I am supposed to do. Today I will resume work on my lettuce patch – yeah, maybe it’s just my imagination, but after we doubled the amount of nutrient solution in the reservoir, I think the lettuce plants are already bigger.
I’m also working on propagating my aloe vera plants – they have babies, and you have to separate them, or they choke. I’ve been trying to figure aloe vera out for years, and finally I seem to be doing something right. I actually have enough that I can go out and cut a big leaf off every morning and scrape the pulp into my smoothie. You can buy the juice in a bottle, but it’s a lot more expensive. After I scrape most of the pulp into my smoothie cup, I rub the remainder on my hands, which take a beating this time of year. It feels great. If it does the same to my insides I’m happy.
I’ve been putting them in containers, they have never worked in the ground for me. I’ve been trying all kinds of containers, plastic and terra cotta, to see which kind of pot they like the best. Of course, the best container I ever used was this old bicycle basket lined with a dog food bag. They like light soil, and they don’t like being fenced in too close.
I gave up on putting lettuce outside. I think I would have to nuke the bed with pesticide first, and I don’t want to do that. Instead I’ll put some herbs in there – herbs like basil and cilantro seem to stand a better chance with the bugs, and of course, it’s nice to be able to snip your herbs from your garden instead of having to buy them in a lump in the store. Basil does well in a container too, but it’s so hardy, you can sow it into any available dirt patch that is easy to get with a hose.
One herb I’ve had almost too much success with is oregano, which is very hardy and almost pushy and makes a great ground cover if you remember to mow it in the fall. It’s very invasive, and you might find yourself yanking it out to save your other flowers – my son and his girlfriend had it trying to get in their apartment door, so finally had to dig it off of their front step and put it elsewhere. They just ripped it out of the ground, plopped it in a shallow hole and watered it a couple of days. You’d never know it hadn’t been in that spot all it’s life. It will flower soon, beautiful pink flowers. You can snip the young flowers and leaves off in stalks, wash them and hang them in a bunch in your kitchen to dry, then you just snip them off and grind them between your hands into whatever dish you want. I used to rub it into a plastic container for convenience. My husband and I use oregano in almost every dish we make.
Ah, the first signs of life coming from the freeway in the form of a cop’s siren. Time to go outside, watch the ribbons of color roll across the sky, see the day start up.