In Our Spring

by Jeff Main of Good Humus Farm, Courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

Image courtesy of Good Humus Produce

With the passing of the 2013 equinox a few weeks ago, and all the warmth and wetness of the last week or so, everything on the farm has finally decided that it will go with: It’s Spring! And with that decision by all the inhabitants of the farm, our world has made a sudden,
irreversible change, and the changes just keep on coming. It is a totally different feel than any other time of the year.

Summer is fast and changes are sudden, but the very relentlessness of it all becomes a fierce momentum in which we participate and dare not leave, a blur in which each day becomes the same because of its intensity. Fall is a long slide, a recuperative time when change slows its tempo, the very air thickens, and I can feel my bones grow heavy. Winter here in our part of the world is at best a brief interlude, seemingly just arriving for a few moments in late November with the dreamy peacefulness of a quiet, still world, before departing in late January, leaving behind a barn full of unfinished projects. But Spring; ah, now there is a different kind of time. The growth, the smells, the constant chatter of birdcall after birdcall, all day and all night, always changing, coming in new and unexpected places and combinations.

In our spring at Good Humus Farm the hawks come back suddenly one day. Some have stayed around all winter, and some stay in the summer, but in spring there are so many. We can hear a call, a screech, and look up at eight or ten wheeling around in the sky and it feels as if they are saying hello, and we are home, look at us and what we can do. And we just have to stare and let them know that oh man, do we love to see you back.

In our spring at Good Humus Farm, the apricot blossoms come first; they lead the way into the brilliant promise of the future. Oh, I am not forgetting the tulips, and the anemones, and the mustard, and the wild plums that all color our late winter days, but the first big splash of the season belongs to the apricots. The apricot bloom starts the turnaround time, the time when in the time it takes to turn around, something has changed. And another turn, another change. Apricots turn overnight from red swollen buds to trees full of heaven, full of gently drifting blossoms, full of the smell that is no other than apricots in bloom, full of the laziest, most mesmerizing sound in the year, the sound of hundreds of bees in thousands of blossoms. Turn around again, and the fruits have burst through the walls of the used up womb of the flower, are wearing them like skirts that they have grown out of, and are the size of my little fingernail, no my thumbnail, no, even bigger!

In our spring at Good Humus Farm, the weeds will have their way. We know what is coming, we’ve seen it all before, we struggle like bluebottle flies in a spiders web, making great noises, wreaking havoc where we are, almost feeling like maybe we have it whipped this year, just another twist or turn”¦.. but the weeds have their way, we get to the end of the row and see the weeds raising their heads above the crops, I swear where I was this morning. In saving the chard we lose the carrots, in saving the lettuce, we lose the radicchio. It happens so fast. Tall weeds that shade, short weeds that mat and set seed in a breath and in the thousands, viney weeds that creep or crawl over everything, smothering the land, creating a world that is theirs.
In our spring at Good Humus, flowers are everywhere. Some catch the eye of every passerby, and some will save their sweetness for only that very special someone who is for them only, and no other. There is no escape, not for them, not for us. We cannot step outside without seeing the progression of the season, buds opening on the apples as petals carpet the ground under the cherries. Cherry blossoms that were young and blushing when the nectarines were in full bloom and the apricots were in tatters. And so it goes each day of the spring until all have had their own time, have brightened the world or have set their fruit or have fed the multitude of pollinators.

In our spring at Good Humus Produce there is no escape from the frenzy of growth and change. We all live in the midst of it, participate in it and do everything we can to bend it to our needs. But like the weeds, it will have its way. We plant our fast-growing crops and watch, as one after another, they succumb to the urge to reproduce and like the old farmers among us, they “go to seed”. And depending on the vicissitudes of the season, the strength of the genetics, and the quality of our care, they can be of almost any size when the change of life comes, when the rosy turnips, the head lettuce, the beets, or the arugula goes to seed. And then our job is to be right there, recognize the symptoms, and pick, prepare and eat the product of this amazing season just before our food expends its energy in the eternal urge. So for the next weeks of the spring, remember the season, and enjoy all the products of the season as they come to you in all sizes from petite to Grandpa, all bursting with Springtime in California.

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