An English poet, other than the one referenced above, said “April is the cruelest month.” Not to argue with the inestimable Mr. Eliot (who riffed here on Mr. Chaucer), but I would suggest that February is crueler. Especially if you are a novice farmer. Certainly if you are one in California.
February is the month where everything is dormant. Unless you’ve planted a winter crop. Let me amend that: unless you’ve planted a winter crop that survived. Frequent readers of this blog have followed the heart-breaking results of my attempt to grow Brussels Sprouts. Our two heat waves in January, in addition to a concerted guerrilla effort by militant foxes (and I don’t mean Charlie’s Angels) have convinced me that you can’t grow Brussels Sprouts in Sonoma Valley. (For my travails with those Brussels Sprouts, check here and here.)
Fine. Lesson learned. Time to move on to the next round of chores. Not so easy. January and February have been spent alternately fretting that we are heading into a major drought and drowning in the torrential rains we’ve had since early February. While I don’t want to complain about the rain — we need it desperately — it has meant my whole schedule has been dictated by the few clear days between storms. I’ve been dropping everything at the first sign of the sun and rushing up to Sonoma to do chores before the next downpour. The disheartening aspect of all this is that state water officials are saying we are going to need rainstorms of Biblical proportions to get us away from rationing. Central Valley farmers are already scaling back their planting plans by a third. Our reservoirs and snowpack are still way below normal. Even a few weeks of torrential rains can’t do much against three years of drought. We’re now officially in a “drought emergency“.
In summation, my farming for February has been confined to evaluating and ordering composting equipment on the Internet. Well, as the San Francisco 49ers have been saying for ages now: “It’s a rebuilding year.”
April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead earth….but not for Mr. Chaucer. This is opening of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland.” Mr. Eliot was pained by the re-awakening of life all around whilst he was more in tune with the deadness of winter.
Jeez, ten lashes for me with a wet bookmark. I was thinking of Chaucer because T.S. Eliot’s opening lines are thought to be a riff on the opening of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales where Chaucer says April is the month when people long to go on pilgrimages (and get overwhelmed with sexual imagery):
WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote 1
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich 3 licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages:
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
Now who says blogging isn’t edjumacational. To paraphrase G. W. Bush, “Is our bloggers learning?”
Oh, my gosh, that was enlightening!
I’m still amazed at your drought situation. In the midwest we very rarely have that situation. I think I can remember one summer they asked us to limit watering to mornings and evenings for a couple of weeks. We quickly got rain and we were back on track. In our land we lack sun. I don’t fret about cold as much as I get sick of cloudy days!
Ordering composting equipment on the internet sounds a lot more relaxing than actual farming. I think I’d just stick to ordering equipment year ’round 🙂