Five days ago, the cherry blossoms were on the verge of opening. A few buds teased with slightly unfurled petals. Today, they are no longer teasing. Their petals are open wide, dancing in the spring breeze. I need to enjoy them today. Clouds and rain are forecast for tomorrow and the coming week. Sure, they are lovely underneath the clouds or in a shower, but not like they are up against a cobalt blue sky.
Such beauty calms the mind. There is plenty to worry about these days. It’s hard to believe that a virus, so small that 600 to 800 could line up on the width of a human hair, is powerful enough to bring societies around the world to their knees. A corona virus is 120 nanometers across. According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative a human hair is approximately 80,000- 100,000 nanometers wide. Something so minuscule is able to disrupt a human which is nearly two billion times as tall as it.
A corona virus may not be a living thing (Are Viruses Alive? – Scientific America), but it can still tell us the importance to enjoy them today, whatever them is. It’s also teaching us lessons on the need to pay attention to the tiniest of details, and the importance of having leaders who are truthful, pay attention to facts, and are concerned about the welfare of others.
The snow geese migration has started. The snow geese that winter here are on the move. I passed a flock of thousands of them on the way home from delivering tofu. They are on their way to their summer home on Wrangle Island in Russia in the Arctic Ocean, 2,400 miles away. The island hosts some 450,000 snow geese during the summer. There they breed and raise the next generation of snow geese.
Next November, the snow geese migration will reverse course and we’ll welcome thousands of snow geese as they fly in from the north.
Looking at their route does make me wonder how often they stop to sight see on the way north. The lucky thing about snow geese parents is they don’t have to worry about their children begging to stop because they have to go to the bathroom. That gentle rain that falls when a huge flock of snow geese fly overhead? It’s snow geese young that can’t hold it any longer.
A frosty March morning leads to a great discovery. I knew the ducks had to be laying eggs, but where? Their secret is no longer a puzzle. I’ve discovered where they are laying their eggs. Ducks are clever about hiding their nests. Fortunately, they aren’t into a brooding mood yet. This would be far too many ducklings to handle.
The Komatsuna 小松菜 survived the winter rather well. So well they are on the verge of blooming. With no other brassicas in bloom, I can let these bloom and go to seed.
The nettles are up, a sure sign that spring is well on its way.
The weather is warm enough to start planting. And this year I am saying good bye to straight rows. Instead of potatoes rows, I’ll have potato bends, cabbage circles, and corn waves. And no more stretches of the same thing over and over again, starting with this bend of German Butterball potatoes. I mixed in garlic and leeks among the potatoes.
Growing up in Japan, I saw many advertisements for Vermont Curry by House Foods, one of the largest food manufacturers and brands in Japan. House Vermont Curry ads with their catchy tune were everywhere. I had a vague idea where Vermont was and thought they ate a lot of curry there.
Why Vermont? I don’t think there is such a thing as Vermont Curry in Vermont. According to Wikipedia Japan, House Vermont Curry was launched in 1963. It comes in three levels of spiciness, mild, medium, and hot. The medium variety of House Vermont Curry is the number 1 selling curry in Japan today, mild is #2, and hot is #6, so Japanese eat a lot of Vermont Curry to this day.
Reading the Wikipedia history, House was working on a curry using apples and honey in the early 1960s. At the same time, Vermont therapy was the rage in Japan. Vermont therapy? In 1958, a fifth generation Vermonter, Dr. Deforrest Clinton Jarvis (1881-1966), published his “Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health”. He advocated doses of apple cider vinegar and honey three times daily “to prevent and/or cure many common illnesses including arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, high blood pressure and colds.”
His ideas reached Japan and became popular. House seized on the popularity of Vermont Therapy and slapped the name Vermont on their new curry. It is the most popular curry in Japan a half century later.
I’m sure Dr. Jarvis had no idea his book would lead to the development of the best selling curry in Japan. Vermont Curry sounds a lot better than Dr. Deforrest Clinton Jarvis Curry, which would have been a flop.
Hey, Bernie, here’s an idea
I doubt many in Vermont are aware of this. Maybe Bernie could start tossing out boxes of Vermont Curry at his rallies. People could really feel the Bern then. Some town in Vermont could start up a huge travel industry by picking a log house where the “original Vermont Curry” was made when an immigrant from India was holed up all winter in the cabin with a Mohican and a French Canadian, and the three of them developed a curry with apples and honey. Vermont could have direct flights from Japan with tourists lining up to taste this original Vermont Curry dish in three flavors: French Canadian Mild, Mohican Spicy, and Indian Flame Thrower.
I flipped the calendar page from February to March and saw I had crocus last March. That stirred me to investigate if the crocus under the horse chestnut were up.
Up they are, loads of them.
Daffodils too. Every year I see new daffodils, and each year seeing the first ones open is as delightful as it was many years ago.
The rhubarb are popping up too. Here’s a good old friend, ever faithful, no matter how many times I eat it, spreading it’s new leaves, sending out thick stalks to feed me, though I doubt that is how rhubarb sees the situation. I’ve planted many rhubarb so no one rhubarb gets picked on by me too much.
Spring means it is time to thin out the bamboo. Fresh bamboo poles become poles to trellis beans. Little by little, my vegetable garden, shaggy from winter’s storms, will be tamed, though not too much. Nature prefers to be messy.
The 2020 Edison Chicken Parade was yesterday, Sunday, February 23. The parade happens every year at noon on the last Sunday of February. Which means next year’s parade will be on February 28, 2021.
The parade this year was eight minutes long, so I recorded the whole thing, and you can watch it from start to finish on the video below!
The parade starts at the south end of Cairns Court, the main street in Edison, WA. The parade proceeds north through the village. If you plan on going, arrive early. By 11:30 parking is hard to find and you may need to park a long way from the parade route. The best parking is at the elementary school on the east end of Edison. From there, it is a short walk to the parade route.
A great alternate is to bike into Edison, or go for breakfast at Tweets and stay for the Chicken Parade.
The first daffodil bud of spring gets taller and fatter each day. Someone forgot to turn off the hose a number of days ago. That was evident when I had to go down into the valley for some things today.
Many of the corn, wheat, potato, and vegetable fields were expansive lakes today. Roads through the fields turned into mile long causeways.
Hundreds of swans and thousands of ducks were in heaven today. For the swans it is much easier to float through a corn field than to waddle between the rows.
On the Japanese calendar, this year Setsubun 節分, the last day of winter, falls on February 3, today. I’m ready to say good bye to winter and hello to spring. On Setsubun families throw roasted soybeans out the door and yell, “Demons out! Luck in!” Many gather at shrines and temples where priests toss beans out with the crowd yelling, “Demons out! Luck in!”
Setsubun translates to division of the seasons: setsu 節 season and bun 分 divide. Technically there are four of these during the year, but whenever you hear Setsubun it is the end of winter that people are talking about.
Tomorrow, February 4, is Risshun 立春, the first day of spring. Yeah, I’ll go along with that. Why wait until March 19 when by then, winter will be a memory and spring will be in full force? Might as well get an early start to spring. Nature is. A flock of robins showed up today. If robins say spring is here, who am I to argue with them?
Fitting for the last day of winter, we had a bit of snow during the night. This morning it was an usual thick lace of slushy snow. I’ve never seen a snow like this. You can live for many decades and still see a type of snow you’ve never seen before. With infinite varieties of snowflakes, infinite combinations of temperature, humidity, wind, and what not, it’s not surprising that there are infinite varieties of snowfall which would take an infinite number of years to experience them all. Future generations will see varieties of snow I can’t begin to imagine.
These skies are befitting a last day of winter. Good bye winter, see you again nine months from now.
January was one of those months where the adage, “Thinking about moving to the Pacific Northwest? First, take a shower for six months long and see if you like it,” rang true. Many locations around here had from 28 to 30 days of rain in January.
February started on a better note, lots of blue skies, a stiff breeze, and on this second day of February it isn’t raining, so two out of two days with no rain is a winner for me.
See, this morning the sun has lit the cottonwood trees on fire. It’s odd that we don’t have different words for trees. A tree bare of its leaves in the winter is an entirely different thing than a tree in the summer with all its leaves. It’s an entirely different thing in spring when the leaves are still tender, and yet another thing in the fall when its leaves are burning red and orange. For humans we’ve got words like infant, teenager, adult. For deciduous trees we could have four separate words for when they are bare, when their leaves are still tender green, when their foliage is full in the summer, and for when they are in color.
The steady January rains haven’t stopped the forsythia from starting to bloom. Daffodils and tulips are pushing out of the ground too. All in all, it’s been an unusually warm winter.
You know I am making tofu in the cabin when you see the chickens come running out to the cabin. They are eager to get the leftovers. I’m sure they are wondering why I don’t do it every day.
A drive to Fir Island took us past field after muddy field full of trumpeter swans. The cygnets are as large as their parents now, with some starting to show white feathers. They do love digging around in the mud. We saw a cygnet with its face coated in mud, which made me wonder how a swan washes its face. Does it stick it in water and give it a good shake? Take to the air and hope the wind blows the mud off its face?
These are big birds, the largest water fowl alive today. Chatty too. You can close your eyes and hear them talking to each other. As they walk, they say something every few steps, soft, soothing honks.
It’s hard to believe now, but around 1933, fewer than 70 were known to exist. They had been hunted nearly to extinction. How much poorer we would be if this species had gone extinct. I certainly wouldn’t be enjoying winters with thousands of them spending the season in this valley. How a trumpeter swan washes its face is something that wouldn’t cross my mind.
Which shows the depravity of economics. If it doesn’t involve the exchange of money, things have no value to an economist. GDP, the thing economists and politicians worship places no value on trumpeter swans, no value on unpaid work, no value on most of the things that make life on this planet worth living. I listened to a fascinating talk today, “The Unpaid Work that GDP Ignores and Why It Matters” by economist Marilyn Waring on the subject. We need a political and economic system that values what makes life worth living.
I was gathering eggs at the right time this morning to discover who is laying the rose colored egg. And here she is below. She came squawking out of a nest just as I was about to reach inside, and there was a very warm rose egg next to a cool egg.
She’s very distinctive with her orange feathers around her neck, a blunt beak, and five pointy crests for a comb. I’ll call her Rose.
Yesterday morning was magical. Enough snow had melted that I could make my Thursday deliveries of bread, eggs, and tofu on Friday. Wednesday I decided that there was no way I was going to venture out with all the snow on the roads.
Thursday night, a fresh inch of snow fell, not enough to be alarming, but enough to make for a dazzling morning.
This morning, yesterday’s beauty is melting away, drip by drip by drip. The snow is sliding off the roofs, turning into big puddles in the woods, and making paths muddy walkways.
Yesterday morning it started with a light snow. By dark the temperature dropped below freezing. During the night the fluffiest of snow fell, blanketing everything. Snows here are often wet and heavy. Today’s snow is so light walking through it is like walking on clouds. Shoveling the driveway after the snow stopped falling was a breeze. With some of our heavy snows, each scoop weighs a ton. Today’s snow was lighter than marshmallows.
The forecast is for one more day of snow before our winter rains return on Thursday. By Friday this wonderland will just be a memory.
Light snows during the night and on the surrounding hills were of concern when the forecast was calling for bitter cold starting Sunday night. Since mid week some forecasts called for morning lows down to 5ºF/-15ºC this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. What a relief to check the forecast a short time ago and see the coldest forecast call for a low of 20ºF/-7ºC on Monday.
In the woods a baby fern has found a lovely home in a dying tree. Trees die as slowly as they grow. Over the years they weaken, their branches fall, and all sort of things thrive on their dying frame. They become so covered with living things, mosses, ferns, mushrooms, that in a way they live on for years after they are dead.
The new year starts with a mystery. One of the hens is laying a rose colored egg, but which one? This is when it would come in handy to be able to talk with them and ask, “Which one of you is doing this?”
What a morning to start a new year. New Year’s morning broke calm and mild, so mild I spent time outdoors on the deck enjoying the rising sun. Not only was it mild, English Daisies and Forsythia were in bloom.
2020 is the year of the rat, the first of the animals in the 12 cycle of zodiac animals. The rat beat all the other animals in the race to decide the order of the zodiac. Cleverly, he hitched a ride on the ox and just before the ox was about to step over the finish line, the rat jumped off in front of the ox and became the winner of the race.
Quite a spectacular morning for late December. It’s like a brilliant spring day.
The hard frosts in October and November didn’t kill off the arugula and having a bed of fresh arugula in winter is a treat. Other hardy greens like Komatsuna 小松菜 are doing well too. A feast for this time of year.
A fitting morning for the dawn after the Solstice. It does feel like the dawn of a new year and the awakening of spring. The days are no longer getting shorter. This is a day worth celebrating. The new light will breathe life back into the woods.
Saturday morning the garden ducks were nowhere to be seen. Their swimming tank where they spend most of the day was quiet. I found them in the hoop house. It poured rain Friday night and it must have been too wet even for the ducks. I’m guessing that is why they went into the hoop house. It is raining too much when it is too wet for ducks.
This morning, they are back out in the garden, preening themselves after a good swim.