Farm dog on duty.
No clanging cymbals, drumroll, or trumpets sounded, but this morning when I stepped out to greet the first peep of day, spring had arrived. Robins chuckled and cheerioed in concert with the mockingbird, who called like quail, hollered like a red-shouldered hawk, and followed me through the garden. Goldfinches whistled their plaintive "tsee- er- eee," and the constant zip of hummingbirds stitched all these spring sounds together.
Throughout our little home, the twigs I harvested at pruning time are bursting with fresh, green leaves and papery blossoms––shouts of spring joy.
Cause for Celebration!
I am so grateful for this time. My friend Chris has been declared clean and free of ovarian cancer. My friend Dawn, who suffered a heartbreaking loss a year ago, has a new life growing inside her. This morning I looked around and said, "O' joyous life," which is what I wrote on each hand-painted birth announcement I made to celebrate my son Noah. On that card was an acorn, a mature oak, and those words, which are a mantra of thanks to guide my every day.
We finished ripping out our front garden parterre of lavenders. Sound heartless? Nope, they had grown into their dotage, flopping over and dwarfing dianthus and nepeta, and giving the entire front yard a gray pallor for most of the year. I've kept 8 lavenders in the herbal courtyard, but in the next month, you'll see how we turned our most boring area into a paradise. Stay tuned!
The Grimy Hands Girls' Club
Thanks for the overwhelming and joyful support. I am busily stuffing manila envelopes with garden note cards, Renee's Garden seeds, and my business card. We still have a few charter memberships available, so if you haven't already signed up, please do so now to receive your gifts.
I have been under water with assignments and am just taking a deep gasp of air and getting back in touch with my on-line friends.
We had a stream of friends who visited from out-of-state and California in the past month. Hotel California was open, and I was the chosen chef. We happily hosted friends from Albuquerque, Sacramento, San Diego, Indiana, and Iowa.
A Much Needed Break
On Sunday afternoon, Jeff and I visited our friends Barbara and Bill Spencer, who own and tend the famous Windrose Farm. Windrose is nestled into a river valley in a micro-climate unlike any I've ever known. Although they live only 28 miles north of us, their spring looks like it is a month behind ours. Sunday was chilly and damp, but our spirits were blazing as we turned on Cripple Creek Rd. and headed for the farm.
We were happy to tour the grounds of their bio-dynamic, organic farm, which has been a labor of love and work in progress for twenty years.
Luckily the creek wasn't swollen as we drove through. This could be challenging during a storm.
The long road to the farm. Since our last visit, they've planted rosemary all along the entry way.
Baaaaa, baaaaa, and they leapt around like...well, like lambs.
Ok, I PROMISE, no more lamb chops.
Bill Spencer leads some interested friends on a walk around the farm.
You can see that spring hasn't yet kissed this earth. This is an adobe paver pathway that was recycled from Bill's parents' farm in Paso Robles.
"Come on, Lovejoy!" That is Jeff on the right rear waiting for me to catch up.
The fruit trees are waking.
Oh, what is more beautiful than apple blossoms?
Uh oh, I think these are pretty knock-out beautiful too. These are lichens on the apple branches, and they're testimony to the clean air in their valley. Aren't they like a miniature faerie land?
Falling behind again. Look at those green hills. I guess I missed some of Bill's talk about how he is rotating crops, growing cover crops, and doing his bio-dynamic gardening.
Garlic, garlic everywhere, and so many varieties.
In the barn where they're drying their fabulous chili peppers.
They offer many kinds of potatoes at both the Santa Barbara and Santa Monica Farmers' Markets. They also supply the top restaurants along the coast with their farm fresh and organic produce.
Ok, good to know.
Drying allium heads for seed.
(My granddaughter thinks these are faerie wands.)
Seed selection in the barn.
Love these rosemary tossed in an old wheelbarrow.
Late in the afternoon, we gathered in their garage, which is more like one of their barns, and sat at huge tables where we shared a meal from the new book From Seed to Skillet, written by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger, both beloved and well-known gardeners, designers, garden communicators, and writers
Outside the "dining room."
Lettuce centerpieces with recipe cards for the guests.
I would've gladly sat right next to this magnificent Pozo Tomme cheese made by Christine and Jim Maguire of Rinconada Dairy. Wow, this is probably my favorite cheese of all time. Nutty, dry, a sheep's milk cheese that is unsurpassed. You need to taste it.
Susan Heeger and Jimmy Williams with their great book.
Heck, I'd buy it just for the title, which Jimmy had incubated in his mind for many years.
We sat with Jimmy and Susan and like everyone who met them, fell under their spell. Their book is pure and shining truth about edible gardening. Jimmy is part Gullah from South Carolina and part Shinnecock Native American and Irish. His techniques and cooking sprout from the powerful roots of his childhood with his gardening grandmother, Nana Eloise.
Susan Heeger and her husband Rob care for a gorgeous edible garden in Los Angeles. Susan is not only a gardener, but a noted writer, with works appearing in newspapers, Martha Stewart Living, and many other publications.
Susan and Jimmy visited with everyone. I think they were still in a spin after having a cocktail party hosted in their honor by old friend Michael Pollan. That is some endorsement.
Jeff eating and talking with Rob, who is a landscape architect and Susan's husband. You'll see his designs featured in the book's photographs.
Susan and Jimmy said that I could share a recipe with you, so here goes:
(which I'm going to make in Maine with our blueberries,
if the birds leave any)
This is from Jimmy:
"We ate this traditional Shinnecock dish, fresh from the oven, for breakfast or as a warm dessert topped with vanilla ice cream. We even had it in winter, when my mother would make it using blueberries she had frozen the previous summer. The term "slump" refers to the fact that the dish tends to fall a bit when spooned out of the pan, and that makes sense to me. I love the smooth tanginess of the blueberries combined with the grainy sweetness of the cornmeal batter."
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen thawed blueberries
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (My choice is GRADE B)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking soda, and salt. Add the blueberries and gently toss together.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs well, then stir in the yogurt and syrup.
- Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just enough to combine, with some lumps remaining.
- Pour the batter into a buttered 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Bake until the top springs back lightly when touched and is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6
Ok, have I worn you out yet? It is 11 P.M. here, and I am still stuffing those Grimy Hands envelopes.
Sending love out to all of you and wishing you spring joys-you deserve them!
P.S. My new column "Small Blessings" in Farming Magazine just came out. This one is about growing gourds and crafting with them.
Be sure to stop by my recent posting on Lowe's Creative Ideas.
The winner of our give-away of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published is Marianne at
Until next time...