Surprising signs of spring

Wee narcissus blooming in my wee flower garden.

Wee narcissus blooming in my wee flower garden.

Spring begins this coming Monday, and this year the season has not been quick in arriving. I feel like in Oregon, we often see signs of spring well before the equinox that marks the season on our calendars — crocuses and forsythia can both bloom in February, bringing welcome color to what can be a bleak winter landscape in our gardens.

But this year, the season has been waiting. And we have been waiting too — for more light and for more color (thankfully here in Oregon, the green never disappears, so we always have that to comfort us).

Even as late as last Monday, we had snow here in the Willamette Valley! And frigid temperatures for much of that week.

Finally, however, this last weekend we started seeing and feeling the impending arrival of the new season. Here around our house, the daffodils and narcissus are blooming, bringing their brilliant splash of yellow to our lives. They mostly end up in our house, brought to the door by small eager hands, and I put them into jars on the kitchen windowsill behind the sink so that Casey and I can appreciate them while we cook and wash dishes.

And, of course, the temperatures have risen significantly over the last few days. Last night I woke up too hot in the night because it was 70° in our bedroom! We ran out of firewood a few weeks back (thanks to the cold winter!) and have been using a space heater in place of our woodstove, and we’d just left it on out of habit, leading to an unexpectedly warm house! It was, after all, 57° outside when we got up this morning. It doesn’t take much to heat the house to comfort zone when that is the starting point.

The warmth is so welcome. Even with the continued drenching rainfall, the outdoors feels more accessible than it did when it was 37° and raining. Casey immersed himself in the mud on Tuesday as he installed a new length of buried mainline on the farm into a very wet trench. He had to rinse his clothes out in the laundry sink before putting them in the wash!

But, the most exciting signs of spring for us came farther away from home. We made a very quick trip back up to Holden Village this weekend, leaving the house at 2:30 in the morning to catch the boat in Chelan on Friday. We stayed for just three nights, during which time Casey worked on some plumbing projects for the village (they don’t have a plumber right now and that used to be his job there). The kids and I played around (and went sledding!) with old Holden friends who also went up with us with their similarly aged children.

This image doesn't look like spring, and yet we felt spring's arrival while in this winter-y scene for the weekend.

This image doesn’t look like spring, and yet we felt spring’s arrival while in this winter-y scene for the weekend.

You wouldn’t expect to feel spring in the air when at a remote mountain retreat center that has received almost 300 inches of snow over the winter (with six feet on the ground)! But, we did feel and experience spring there, quite profoundly, in the form of avalanches. When the weather warms up in March, compacted snow on surfaces begins to slide under its own weight. It becomes a dangerous time in the valley and around the village, where the same phenomenon occurs on the roofs of unheated buildings.

While we were in the village, all the roofs that had not cleared yet did so, including the massive roof of the largest building in the village, the Village Center. This building sits beside the vehicle road that buses and trucks pass through to get to the lake, and when an entire winter’s worth of snow is still sitting on top of the roof, it becomes one of the most dangerous spots in the village. When we arrived, it was cordoned off with caution tape to keep people from walking below the inevitable slide of tons of snow.

And after a warm day of sun and thawing on Saturday, it went. The whole community was in the building next door for church services, and several people heard it (I did not). Afterward, we all ran out in the dark to see if it were true, and we found the entire road filled above head level with the “roof-alanche” snow. For the villagers, it was a relief to have it down, and everyone marveled at the awesomeness of the pile that now needed to be cleared away.

After the big roof-alanche (off the building to the right). Dottie is sitting on the road. The people behind her are standing on the snow that fell off the roof, which was over our heads in depth.

After the big roof-alanche (off the building to the right). Dottie is sitting on the road. The people behind her are standing on the snow that fell off the roof, which was over our heads in depth.

The kids and I got to see several other roofs shed snow on other occasions during the day (always from a safe distance) — big chunks that fell in blocks to the ground — and by the time we left on Monday morning, all the roofs were clear and rain was falling on top of the snow. It wasn’t the end of the long snowy season at Holden, but it was certainly the beginning of the end.

Here is a poem that speaks to this experience so perfectly, which a CSA member just happened to give us the day before we left for Holden (cosmic timing!):

Another Descent ~ Wendell Berry

Through the weeks of deep snow
we walked above the ground
on fallen sky, as though we did
not come of root and leaf, as though
we had only air and weather
for our difficult home.
But now
as March warms, and the rivulets
run like birdsong on the slopes,
and the branches of light sing in the hills,
slowly we return to earth.

We left feeling like spring had finally begun, and when we arrived back at home that feeling continued. On the farm we don’t have the big dramatic markers like tons of shedding snow, but we can see that the grass has perceptibly grown since last week (and is greener to boot). Buds on fruit trees are swelling, reading to burst open any day. The early morning is full of dawn songs from birds, welcoming the day. Rapini is popping up on more and more of our crops. All of these individual signs feel small and undramatic on their own, but they stir us with excitement. We are so ready for this next phase of the year — of flowering and planting and seeds going into the ground and sprouting.

May you enjoy the Spring Equinox! And, enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Radishes — Another sure sign of spring! We only grow radishes in the early spring, because: 1) That is when they taste best, in our opinion 2) They are a very short season crop, meaning that we can sow them and then harvest them within a few weeks 3) This is a time of year that can often benefit from something unique and colorful! They feel like little jewels to us. We’ll grow a few more crops of them before the spring is over, but remember to savor these as a truly seasonal vegetable. We find that we usually just eat them, but they’re also delicious sliced onto salads.
  • Crown pumpkins
  • Seasonal salad mix
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens — Collard greens can be prepared in all the same ways you would cook kale, but they generally take slightly longer to cook. Greens sautéed in butter is a staple food for us around here (often with a bit of meat mixed in to make it a meal), and I love making big pots with multiple kinds of greens when we have them. For example, I might cook cabbage and collard greens together, starting with the cabbage since it takes even longer to cook. We love our greens cooked well so that they are soft, but other people prefer theirs “al dente” (which is an appropriate term, since we often think of greens as a substitute for pasta and use flavorings and other ingredients that would go well with pasta as well!)
  • Kale & kale rapini
  • Mixed rapini
  • Beets
  • Sunchokes
  • Potatoes


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