Before the Pandemic: O Winter, Where Art Thou?

Hello, and welcome to 2020 – a year that is not even one quarter over, yet has had enough drama to last me a decade.  When I sat down to write about the projects we’ve started over the last week as we’ve settled into self-isolation on the mountain, I found a half-finished post about our winter before the pandemic.  I’ve finished it off below.  These days seem like a lifetime ago. 

Winter is always a slow and lazy time for us, with lots of time for walks in Santa Cruz and cozy time in front of the fire.  This winter has been especially dry, without a drop of rain in February.  It’s hard to not feel guilty for enjoying the warm, sunny days – when we know that they could mean a bad fire season is right around the corner.  Still, I’ll take the sunshine for now.

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Mid-winter is marked by the emergence of the first bulbs – daffodils & crocus.  I love these new daffodils I planted in the fall, from the amazing and inspirational Floret in Washington state.

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This year, we have a successful winter garden of purple mustard, mizuna (Japanese mustard) & white Russian kale.  We’re also trying our hand at growing a few artichoke plants, which I started from seed and are thriving.

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Our little manzanita came back to life after being munched on by deer last year.

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Before the holidays, I started pottery classes at Blossom Hill Crafts in Los Gatos.  It’s been fun to try something new and I am really enjoying it.  As someone who can have an anxious mind, it’s nice to have something to do that requires my full attention.  I’ve also enjoyed the creative aspect of it, as I’ve never really thought of myself as a creative person.  The process of learning this craft is allowing me to use parts of my brain I didn’t know how to use before.  As a beginner, I’ve had my fair share of disasters – yesterday’s disaster becomes today’s succulent pot!

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The first round of fruit blossoms has just peaked.  Wild plums, apricots, pluots, Asia-origin plums and the almond bloom first.  Then come the nectarines, peaches and prunes (Europe-origin plums), and finally the apples and pears.  With such a dry February, we’re hoping for excellent pollination on the early fruits.  I have my fingers crossed for a bumper crop of apricots, which we haven’t had any of since 2017.  Apricot pollination happens in February, which has been wet and cold the past few years.  Watching these trees gives me such tremendous appreciation for farmers who stake their livelihoods on Mother Nature, who can be so fickle.

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Last but not least: we are making our first foray into citrus!  It can get too cold here to reliably be able to grow citrus outside.  We found a cold-hardy (to 28 degrees fahrenheit) Japanese mandarin-lime hybrid called a Sudachi, which we purchased from Four Winds Growers in Watsonville.   Here’s hoping it thrives!

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