It’s Not Only Flowers That Bloom

The cherry blossoms are opening, and as they open they sing for the bumblebees to come. I saw my first bumblebee of the season today. By the weekend the cherry blossoms should be buzzing with bumblebees.

The cherry tree is not the only thing in bloom, Russel, the rooster is always in bloom. His comb with three ridges is a blazing red peony. I wonder if any of the chicks he sires will have peony combs. Maybe I’ll have a flock of peony headed chickens.

Just One Warm Day

Just one warm day is all the cherry blossoms are asking to spread their petals. It is spring. The sun has moved into the northern hemisphere. Is one warm day too much to ask for? But maybe we have it all wrong with temperature charts over days and weeks to predict when the cherries will bloom. Maybe what we need is to put microphones among the cherry blossom buds and listen for the buzz of the bumblebees. Could it be that cherry blossoms don’t open until they hear at least three bumblebees buzzing about? After all, what’s the point of spreading your petals if the bumblebees aren’t there to tickle them?

It’s warm enough for the rhubarb, forsythia, and daffodils. Maybe the bumblebees wait to dig themselves out of their burrows until there is a sniff of daffodil in the air. Maybe the micro-tremors rhubarb stalks spread through the ground as they push their way out trigger the daffodils to bloom, the scent wafting off the daffodil blossoms trigger the bumblebees to stir, the bumblebees buzzing through the cherry blossom buds trigger them to open, the cherry blossoms trigger all sorts of happiness. Just saying. The world is more Alice in Wonderland than we imagine. We’re just not paying attention.

In the cool woods, the first trillium of the season is about to unfurl. We spotted it while showing a longtime dear friend through the woods this morning. Most of the trilliums were just points of green sticking out of the forest floor. Not this one. This morning, the bud was still tightly curled. This afternoon it has already started to unfurl.

Of Skunk Cabbage and Coffee Beans

When we left Seattle twelve years ago, we thought we would be deprived of some creature comforts living so far from the city. Pleasantly, that has not turned out to be the case. If anything, it seems that it is the city folk who have to go without. How many people in the city have a nearby coffee roaster they can call up in the morning to have a coffee beans roasted to their specification? And I doubt there are any in the city who get to enjoy a pleasant bicycle ride, passing watery ditches full of blooming skunk cabbage, to pick up coffee beans roasted just for them.

This summer I gave Gilda a sample of the coffee beans we like, and asked her if she could tell what kind of beans they were, and if she could come up with a similar roast. It didn’t take her long to match the roast, and now, whenever we need more coffee beans, I just call her in the morning, and pick up the beans in the afternoon.

It’s a pleasant bike ride to her roasting cabin, and today, the ditches on the sides of the roads were bursting with blooming skunk cabbage, Lysichiton americanus. They are a sure sign that you are living in the north. The first time I saw skunk cabbage in bloom was as a fourteen year old, traveling on my own in Hokkaido in early summer. There, the skunk cabbage, Lysichiton camtschatcensis, have white blossoms.

And I doubt city folk have a coffee roaster who has the time to chat about gardening when they pick up their coffee beans. Without a line of impatient customers behind me, I get a guided tour of Gilda’s garden to see what is blooming and advice on how to keep chipmunks from digging up tomato plants, instead of a busy clerk handing me coffee beans and yelling, “Next!”

Spring Steps Closer

The snow geese are still here, making the fields as white as the snow covered mountains. It’s only a matter of weeks before they take off for the far north. As they finish their winter sojourn here, are they dreaming of feasting on swarms of mosquitos in the tundra? Are they arguing whether to take the scenic route or the quickest route? Are the couples quarreling over how many chicks to raise?

The lilac buds are swelling. The crocus are pushing out of the ground. At the faintest sign of light, birdsong fills the air.

The sweet daphne, one of my favorite flowers, is in bloom. You can get drunk just by smelling them. It takes just one small sprig with a blossom to fill your whole house with their perfume. A native of southern China, here it is thousands of miles from its homeland, scenting the early spring air.

The cherry buds are puffing out, their pink perhaps shame at taking so long to bloom this year? Grain the birds didn’t eat has sprouted in the bird feeder. Grain seeds are complex structures. They are packets of nutrients with built in digestive systems to turn the stored starches into sugars for the young sprouts. A host of enzymes break down the starches into sugars to feed the new shoots. When grains like wheat and rye are ground into flour, these enzymes are still there, so when you add water to flour and let it sit, the water activates the enzymes and they go to work breaking down the starches into complex sugars, which is why, you get the most delicious breads if you first just mix the flour with water and let it rest for hours and hours.

What Is That Light in Yonder Sky?

Pray tell, what is that light in yonder sky? What is that blue up above? After an eternity of dark clouds, snow, rain, mist, slashing winds and gales, the sun rises again. It was a shock to step outside and see sunlight making the tree tops glow, to see the sky blue again, not to feel the damp air wet my hair and fog my glasses. I’d forgotten what sunlight is. Now I can hold out my webbed hands and feet and let the sun melt the webs away.

The growing chicks are ravenous this morning. They gorge themselves in preparation for a full day out in the sunshine, their eyes seeing many things for the first time as the sun fills the gardens and woods with the brightest light they have ever seen.

Before … After

Before she lays her egg, Kumo-hime 雲姫 is quiet, patient, alert, meditative. Perhaps she is practicing her grand performances in her head.

After she lays her egg, she is Julia Andrews auditioning for “The Sound of Music”, Beyonce practicing for the Super Bowl, Maria Callas at La Scala, her full throttled voice ringing over hill and dale.

Hope of spring arriving is not dead. It is alive. The stinging nettles have pushed out of the soggy earth. Yes, yes, yes! It’s stinging nettle soup tonight! Wear thick gloves when you pick these if you don’t want your fingers feeling like a million microscopic needles are pricking them for several days. A peeled potato diced, perhaps cauliflower chopped, simmered slowly in milk with stinging nettles just picked, and a pinch or two of salt, and you have all you need to make the best spring soup known to humankind. At the end, blend it well, and top with a bit of heavy cream.

Spring Suspended

Spring suspended, camellia blossoms that won’t open, peony buds with fingers clasped tightly shut, fat hydrangea buds turning purple from waiting so long to open, spring is suspended until the sun returns. The forecast says we’ll have a peek at some sunshine nine days from now, in the meantime it’s a chance to watch spring unfold in sloooow motion.

Last Year … This Year

Last year on March 9, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, their soft, powdery fragrance filling the warm spring air. This year on March 9, the buds are still tightly closed, waiting for any warmth to arrive. As I type, a snow shower is turning the grass white.

There Is Something Magical

There is something magical about feeling a just laid egg, an egg that is still warm, almost hot to the touch. There is no doubt that it is alive.

There is something magical about fresh snow capping a mountain. It’s nice to see it up there instead of down here. It’s where snow belongs, on the tops of mountains.

There is something magical about chickens out enjoying the sun. After days of clouds, snow, and rain, they are as surprised as I am that the sun still shines. That’s magical too.

Amused, Not Amused


It’s always warm and cheery at Tweets in Edison when I deliver eggs on Fridays. Yesterday was especially warm and cheery with Deakin Hicks filling the café with their wonderful music. I could have stayed for hours, I was that amused.


Not amused this morning. Nope, not amused. What month is this? January? It’s March. The cherry blossoms are wanting to burst open, but they can’t under the heavy weight of cold snow.


Kuro-hime 黒姫 is most definitely not amused this morning.