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.