Of blossoms and bees

Of blossoms and bees

Blossoming almond orchard in Tehama County.

In past blog posts, I’ve rhapsodized on the joy of living in an agricultural area, shared my love of the false spring we have each year, and touted the beauty of blossoms. This weekend, I took my husband for a drive in the country to wrap all those pleasures together and tie them with a bow.

In the shadow of snowy Mt. Lassen–still an active volcano, its last eruption in 1917–we drove country roads in the county just north of us, admiring the gorgeous show of blossoms in the orchards. These few short weeks of the almond bloom disappear too quickly, and since I never seem to get my fill, a drive through ag country seemed a good way to bask in the moment.

We found the orchards blooming as advertised. We also found multiple hives of bees hard at work, carrying pollen from one bloom to another, ensuring that a high percentage of those blossoms will grow into almonds by harvest time.

As with other parts of the nation, California has experienced a frightening die-off of honey bees. I find it comforting to see these little treasures alive, healthy, and actively engaged in bee work.  The orchardists and beekeepers have a nice symbiosis: the growers get a good nut harvest and the apiarists (a.k.a. beekeepers) earn a fee for each hive they rent and also harvest honey at the end of the season.

The bees also win. They are fed on sugar-water through the winter and immunized against the mite infestation that has devastated their sisters in the wild. When I return home to find my plum tree in full blossom, I’m grateful we still have some wild bees and that they see fit to visit my yard. It means we’ll have plums this summer.

I feel privileged to live surrounded by all this rich growth and nurtured by such splendid beauty, blessed to have this loveliness all around me, some of it literally in my own backyard.

Spring already?

Flowering almond tree grove blossoms in California

February can fool you, if you haven’t lived long in the Sacramento Valley. Every year, we manage a couple of weeks of spring-like weather when it’s still winter everywhere else. Then we typically get right back into winter (well, northern California style winter, with overcast days, cooler temperatures and rain) before spring comes to stay.

We’re there now, in our false spring. Temperatures rise into the low 70s in the late afternoons and the sun stays up until dinnertime. The almond orchards all around us are in full bloom. Even the fruit trees in my backyard are putting on their first green, just a hint of bud that will open soon. My roses, which never completely quit blooming, are sprouting new leaves and their first new buds. Everything seems poised for spring to come…and stay.

We always hope it won’t. Stay, that is. All of California is dependent on the rain that falls here, in the northern end of the state, and we haven’t yet had enough. We need the rains to come again and to stick around for yet a few more weeks. We could also use a good cold snap in the mountains to build a biggger snow pack. We’ll need that run-off in July and August and into the autumn before the winter rains come again.

Still, this is the loveliest time of year. Those fields of grass that will be golden by the time most visitors see them are now green enough to make a native of Ireland homesick. Wildflowers are bursting into bloom wherever they can get a purchase in the thin soil above the lava cap. On Table Mountain, tourists from around the world will soon be grouping to visit one of the premier sites for every imaginable kind and color of California wildflower, even a few that are seldom seen elsewhere.

I love our false spring. When true spring comes, it won’t stay long before the heat of summer. We need that heat, too. Many important local crops depend on it. I always hope it holds off a while to give us another shot at the amazing, beautiful, perfect-weather spring we are seeing in preview now. I think I’ll serve dinner on the porch.

It’s Hearts and Flowers Time

How does the time go so quickly? The year has barely begun, yet it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Here, in the beautiful northern end of California’s Central Valley, the weather is cooperating. My son, in Oklahoma, is facing five inches of new snow, while our roses are starting to put on new growth.

Within the next two weeks, the almond orchards will be in full blossom. By early March, we’ll have blossoms everywhere. Still, this week we’ll focus on the flowers (and candy and other gifts) we share with our loved ones.

My sweet husband has made plans for a great day and evening together. He has also ordered gifts for our daughter, whose first valentine was her daddy, and for two daughters-in-law who’ve lost their dads. I’m blessed to have him.

As I write that, I wonder: How many people I know will be dreading the coming of February 14? How many will spend that evening hunkered down with a video game or a movie or a pint of Haagen Dazs?

I want to remember them too, the lonely people. I want to reach out to someone who feels they have no one, to remind them of their value. Near where I live is a shelter for homeless veterans. I’m thinking they could use some pretty valentine cookies.

Is there someone near you who could use a cookie, a flower, a smile, a hug? I hope you will think of them, too, as you enjoy the coming celebration with those you love.