THIS WEEK'S HARVEST: Fennel, Heirloom and New Girl Tomatoes, Cipollini Onions, Rover Red Radishes, Hakurei Turnips, Arugula, Mustard Salad Greens, Bok Choi, Spinach, Olympic Red Kale, Dino Kale, Mixed Summer Squash (Italian Zucchini, Crookneck and Patty Pan) Chioggia/Red Ace/and Golden Beets, Cabbage, Farao Cabbage
U-PICK in the GARDEN: Sugar Snap Peas (might be the last week), Basil, Cilantro, Savory, Chives, Parsley, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Mints, Sorrel, Chamomile, and assorted flowers (Cosmos, Nasturtium, Bachelor's Buttons, Zinnias, Calendula and Snapdragons, Red Spike Amaranth, Sunflowers)
U-PICK from the FARM: Cherry tomatoes (Sungolds on the right facing east are ripe when deep gold, SuperSweet 100's on the left are ripe when scarlet red)
One of the most special things about living and farming at Green Valley is that it still a very wild place. It is home to so many creatures.
It's no wonder: If you zoom out on a satellite map of the address here (13024 Green Valley Rd.), you'll see that this little valley is nestled at the base of forest that extends Northward, essentially unbroken, up through Alaska.
We come in contact with this wildness everyday on the farm. And it is perhaps most noticeable in the bird and mammal kingdoms at this time of year, during the spring / early summer surge of activity, new growth, courtship, competition, homemaking and baby-raising that corresponds with the return of the sun and the surge of plant life. At this time of year especially, our furred and feathered neighbors weave themselves into our lives, greeting us in the morning, and keeping us company throughout the day and on our ways home at night as they go about building their lives next to ours. And it is striking how similar theirs are to ours...
The bird world is especially rich out right now. Kayta's parents, avid birders, spotted 34 species during their two week visit from Missouri at the beginning of June. (And that's just the tip of the iceberg.) All the feathered ones seem to be making a go of it while the gettins good and doing all the things that go with that: Courting (those Turkey gobbles of April and May, echoing down the valley) and singing (wow, hear that Swainson's thrush), fighting (the "bird wars" begin in late May as the sky fills with inner/interspecies arial battles and battle cries as they all squat, steal and harass each others nests and territories), eating (where did all our lettuce seeds go?), building homes (check out the Violet-Green Swallow mud nest above our wash-station) and starting families...
In the owl box perched along the 13024 driveway, a barn owl family has taken up residence. Who knows when mom and dad moved in but about a month and a half ago tiny little raspy screeches could be heard coming from the box. Now, our way home at twilight every evening, we watch four barn owl teenagers exercise their flying permits. Compared to their silent, sleek, be-masked parents they are awkward flying monkeys. At first they would just pop their fuzzy heads out of the house, then pop back in. Lately, they have been taking flight, with a tellingly rapid RPM crash landing into the nearest tree, screeching at each other for awhile, and then flying back to the safety of the house. They screech all night.
Also like clockwork, at twilight, comes a Dark Sentinel. Our main fields are on her route. She has three spots -- that we know of: On a fence post overlooking the center meadow, on a large tree overlooking the main fields, and on the tall power pole overlooking the entire vineyard and farm. A shadow. The Great Horned Owl. Like the Lady of the Forest, she gives us shivers, reminding us of our mortality. But she reminds gophers of their mortality too, which is very necessary around here.
Yes, twilight is a special time. Quivers of quail come out from their thicket homes, paranoid and domestic, to forage. Mama and baby skunk visit the compost pile to see what's been left, and a gophers flit through the grass.
The gopher (at its population low near the end of winter, being food for so many predators during that time) explodes in population at this time of year. Their subterranean networks of paths seem to multiply underfoot, their little portal holes pock the ground, and their boldness grows. One crashed against my leg as I was harvesting mustard mix on Tuesday. They may not visit the barn, but you can be sure that the gophers have been picking up their shares.
And then there is Mama Deer. You may have noticed the fortress of junk in between our greenhouses and the hog panels around Aubrie and Scott's garden. These are protection from Mama Deer. Mama Deer took up residence in a thicket near the greenhouses about a month ago and, pregnant and now presumably nursing, uses a genius and boldness I have never seen in a deer to infiltrate our fortresses and feast on the fare. Who can blame her, she's making a go of it just like the rest of us.
This list could go on: The juvenile Salmonids and the baby turtle in the culvert, Aubrie and Scott's carefully timed new calves, the broccoli-obsessed ninja Hare or the demon Racoon that visits our neighbors... no matter how much they demand from us or pillage our provisions, we can only but be grateful for their antics, their lessons, their company, and that they are here. This place is alive and wild. Let's make sure to keep it that way.
See you in the fields,