Saturday, December 24, 2011


A cold air dump from the north has given us a couple of super-cold (for us) nights. Last night's low was 22 degrees F, the night before 21. Tonight will be just a couple of degrees warmer for Santa.

The cold has caused no damage here. Fabric and lights have kept the citrus from suffering any significant ill effect.

And, on the upside, the change in pattern has, for now, banished the fog. We have sunny days, with this afternoon likely to hit 60.

More troubling is the continued lack of rain: December is poised to go down as the fourth driest here in the historical record. The temporary fence above, coated in ice, encloses a patch of ground that will be corn next summer and protects the cover crop seed from the accursed turkeys. But no rain equals no cover crop, and I'm not desperate enough yet to resort to irrigation.

Friend Hank reports from Gustavus, Alaska that they've got 40 degrees, the snow has melted, and it's raining. He comments that "The world is on its head."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

winter cheer

The lettuces greenhouse-started in August and planted into the garden in September continue to reward. The large, sweet heads - each a salad for 12 - go limp in the frost each night but then bounce back to vigor as the sun warms the beds. These green and red romaines became the perfect contribution to a holiday potluck.
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Thursday, December 8, 2011


We're stuck in a series of slow-motion weather sequences. Thanksgiving was buried somewhere deep within 10 days of fog, with day and night temperatures oscillating within the 40s and the sun mostly just a theory. The siege of gray was followed by a wild interlude of wind which blew away the fog (and much more) and sucked in a mass of cold air from the north. Days and nights have been since then clear but cold. We enjoy sunshine, pushing temperatures to 60 or so. We have starry nights, dominated this week by a waxing gibbous moon. And very cold temperatures in the night and early morning hours. We've seen 26 for the past few early mornings.

Hard frosts necessitate protection for the citrus, which I assure with our version of holiday lighting - colorful floodlights at the base of the most sensitive varieties, and fabric covers over most. The effect is festive, but only by chance - it's the colored lights, not the white ones, that get marked down for the January sales!

The experts say we've got another week of this to look forward to, at least.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011


Rain hung in a band to the west this morning, holding off just long enough for the rising sun to etch a rainbow. Starting small, the arc of color expanded as the sun rose, ultimately becoming a vast double rainbow that served as portal for several large, loud flocks of sandhill cranes.

It was a jolting reminder to pause and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, and I thought, among other things, of the sequence of wwoofers who have sequentially "occupied" Kingbird - singly and in pairs, and occasionally in 3's and 4's - throughout 2011. Amazing, wonderful people all of them, bringing a refreshing diversity of experience and outlook to our small enclave, and making possible much that would otherwise not happen. Typical was Lynne, above, energetic and cheerful, who proved indispensable in October, seen here weeding a winter onion crop, now thriving.

My thoughts turned in gratitude to all of the other "occupiers" as well, and their efforts to spark an awareness of just how far we've strayed as a nation from the fundamentals of justice and sanity.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hank makes a return visit

Mimicking the birds we love, Hank Lentfer flew down from Alaska and spent a few days at Kingbird this past week. It was a return trip; Hank was here in 2005 to better understand where cranes go and what challenges they face on their wintering range. That experience, and much more, formed the raw material for a very remarkable new book, The Faith of Cranes. Hank was here to keynote the annual Lodi Crane Festival and for book-signings at a couple of local shops.

The Faith of Cranes made me laugh and cry. It's been a while since a book has touched and challenged me so profoundly. Buy it. Read it. Gift it.

Alaskan cuisine has, per Frank, a profound seasonality, as in a riot of choice in the summer and venison and potatoes from October to May. It was fun walking the orchard with Hank and sampling the late-season offerings. We laughed at the contrast - I'm dancing with the risk of a hard frost and hoping to protect my citrus, while his Gustavus, Alaska landscape is in a deep freeze. The birds know where it's at.

Hank was a persimmon virgin, but we fixed that and I enjoyed watching him bite into a crisp fuyu and inhale a gooey, sweet hachiya. Carry-on baggage was a small sampling each of apples, asian pears, persimmons, quince, and pomegranates, which he promised to share with Anya and Linnea. Let's hope they got their fair share. A few transitory Kingbird molecules in Alaskan bodies. Read the book.