OFF-THE-GRID LIVIN’ PART 8a: DROUGHT

I have been on this property 3 years now. 3 years to watch the seasons change and the land change with it. For those not familiar with Central California, we do have seasons, though the colors don’t follow the traditional calendar I see on my kid’s grade school walls.

The summer is golden, the hills and valleys are leafed with the thin tissues of dry grasses over ochre-yellow clay. The color all the more punctuated by the dark terra-vert of oak trees and sage bushes.

The Fall turns the earth Naples yellow, a lighter hue than the summer especially as accenting foliage slowly go grey and strip down to their naked twigs.

Early winter is a light umber. The long awaited rains churn the dehydrated flora into topsoil. A rich mulch mixed with seed, which slowly and tenderly emerge. The rolling late winter is emerald green. Not explosive. The arrival is gentile. Like the young plants are slowly stretching their new muscles, careful not to exert themselves too quickly unless the rains end suddenly and their over-exertion ends in withering. But still the green is potent, the sleepy trees and shrubs are the last to green, so for a while the elfin grasses are able to celebrate their color without the interruption of the more hue-conservative giants above them.

Spring is a gradient of hues. For a few weeks the green ground is exploding with the yellows of the mustard mingling with the whites and violets of the wild flowers, each competing for the attention of the bees and tarantula hawks for their pollination. The grasses send up their fox tails, adding the sound of gentile baby rattles to the whispers of the winds in the tall reeds.  A two day bacchanal of the mosquito hawks, yellow brown waves massing about porch lights and cascading over the hills marks the end of the bright mating season. And then the land slowly soothes from green, to yellow green, to the gold of summer.

The only marked difference between late spring and early summer is the white pods of the fox tails, dancing empty on the tops of their stalks. Their contents now safely dropped to the soil. These little fox-arrowheads, will use morning fogs to guide their trajectories into the mother soil below, or will become the bane of dog toes and human socks. But the white pods will dance and sing in the wind for a few last weeks. A last parental lullaby to their sleeping seeds below.