Tag Archives: spring

Loud Stomping

Crocus

I woke up this morning to an irregular tapping and scratching on the roof.  I ran through my list of the usual suspects:  Rain?  Nope.  Roof rats again?  Ugh, I hope not!  Racoons?  Broken tree branch?  Alien space ship? The sound continued, surprisingly loud.  Curiosity finally spurred me out of bed and into shoes and coat.  As I rounded the back corner of the house, I had my answer.  It was a Steller’s Jay, hopping and pecking around industriously in the moss on the roof over my bedroom.  Such a loud stomping ruckus for a bird!

I have a flock of Steller’s Jays that live in my yard.  I suspect they nest in the rhododendron hedges as well as the tall pine trees.  They look like crows in blue jackets, and at least five or ten of them often strut and flit and chatter around the yard eating worms and doing whatever else birds do, very busily.

Steller's Jay

I’m not a lover of birds exactly and I only know that my blue flock is Steller’s Jays courtesy of my friend Linda, who identified them for me a few years ago.  But I enjoy their bright plumage and self-sufficiency.

I wouldn’t have said that spring is here.  It’s just as damnably grey and rainy as ever.  But maybe the jays know something I don’t.  Something has signaled the birds that today it is time to start picking at the roof moss and rootling in the rain gutters and they’ve been at it all day.

And while I was out there, I noticed that a few crocuses are up.  Crocuses aren’t so much a sign of spring as a reminder that eventually winter will be over.  There are stages to this thing and we’ve reached the last one.  The crocuses signal that we will need just a bit more endurance, but there is hope.

Crocus

Starting Seeds

I don’t make my living as a farmer.  The pace of my work days is not determined by the seasons.  But life does get busier in the spring, as I try to fit a bit of gardening into my already full schedule.  Planting time won’t wait, even if I happen to be in the mood to lounge around with a book or go out to lunch.  As the weather starts to warm up, and the trees blossom, I start seeds–some indoors, then others directly in the ground.

Scooter loves to help with starting seeds.  I’m not sure what the allure is, but he is fascinated with seed packets.  He hears the rattle of the seeds in their paper packets and comes running, to roll on them and bat the packets around the floor in a cat frenzy.  In spite of his help, I manage to get the early crops started in seed flats, where they will bask by the windows until the ground warms up a little.

Chard, kale, spinach, lettuce, cilantro–the greens are the first and last crops of the growing season.  The warmer weather crops such as green beans, zucchini, and tomatoes flourish only for a brief time in mid-summer.  The potatoes and carrots are patient slow-growers.  I have to remind myself in the spring that it will be worth it–the cold dirt under my fingernails and on my knees now will be worth it when I can pluck fresh carrots from the ground in the evening on my way in the back door after work.

As a gardener, faith and persistence are needed to continue to nurture the tiny shoots that grow so slowly in the cold spring until they finally bear fruit–if they bear fruit.  It’s a gamble every year.  I bet my time and money and effort against the vicissitudes of the weather.   When it pays off, it pays off big.

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Spring Fever

It’s just a tease, I know—not a promise.  But when the weather suddenly turns beautiful in February, as it has here in Seattle for a few deliciously warm sunny days, I can’t help it.  I get spring fever.  I know we’ve still got a long haul until spring is here to stay—months of cool rainy weather to get through in fact—but this weekend.  Oh, this weekend.  I felt the sun on my bare arms, and put my sunglasses on for the first time in months.  The sailboats went scudding around Lake Union and everyone in Seattle seemed to be at Greenlake on Sunday afternoon.  I opened all the windows and let the breeze blow through the house.  I stepped out into the garden to pick the last scrunchy curls of winter kale before I start planting again, and thought about seeds and steer manure.

And how could we not go to the UW Farmer’s Market and stroll around in the sunshine, talking to farmers and looking at eggs and grass-fed beef and honey and pastries and jam and…well, I get a little giddy when the sun comes out.

So maybe the spring fever was responsible for the all the Aperol this weekend.  An Italian aperitif, Aperol is a pinky-orange cousin to Campari.   I first tried Aperol just a few weeks ago in a cocktail with champagne and absinthe.  It was, I must say, quite drinkable.

Then I saw a recipe for a dessert called Arance all’Aperol on delicious days, just about the time the sun came out.  The combination of oranges and blood oranges soaked in vanilla sugar, lime zest and Aperol beckoned with a promise of utter simplicity and a glow of brilliant colors– the impossible pinks and oranges of a Caribbean sunset, or a bouquet of spring tulips.

I knew this had to be the next installment in my dessert initiative.  And after my oranges had soaked in their pretty bath, they became something surprisingly delicious.  A little sweet, but more complicated than that, with a dizzying array of flavors dancing together like a taste of spring.  The recipe suggested adding whipped cream or custard, but it did just fine on its own.

But there was still a lot of sunny weekend left, and a lot of Aperol left in the bottle, too.  Somehow, in the course of a few warm days, I became a devotee to kombucha.  I’d been hearing about this fermented tea drink in magazines and all over the internet, so I decided to try some and I fell madly in love with its hints of sweet and tart, its whisper of fizzy fermentation.  I had to get more from the store as soon as I finished the first bottle.  Now, all of the health claims made about kombucha may not be true, but it certainly is delicious.

And just like that, inspiration struck.  I looked back and forth between the bottle of Aperol and the citrus flavored kombucha.  A lightbulb turned on over my head, and I mixed a half ounce each of vodka and Aperol with a wine glass of kombucha.

The color of the Aperol was muted to a rosy peach.  And this ice-cold cocktail tasted of spring itself—of picnics on lush grass next to a slow-moving river, of whispers and giggles, croquet and Easter dresses and pink toenail polish.

As soon as you see the sun, do not hesitate.  Mix some up and share it with your girlfriends, or your sisters, or your book club.

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