The wild irises are blooming in the Santa Cruz mountains, and trillium, and lupine and gilia and Solomon’s Seal are a few of the more recent additions to the shifting cascade of spring flowers. In the vegetable garden, the asparagus patch that we planted years ago is finally producing enough spears to harvest. We snap the crisp spears off at ground level, admiring the perfect green pencil stalks, and muse lightly on the unintuitive fact that asparagus is in the lily family. What wealth, what decadence, to eat the shoots of a flowering plant before it has even leafed out. What blessings to shave into salad, to grill over the coals of a tamed fire, to simmer and blend into a soup like the one above. Spring is the fleetingest season, and more than any other, this season seems to resist most attempts at preservation. Sure, a pickle here and there, or some early berry jams might be in order. But the truth is that the foods and fruits of spring are sometimes best savored in the moment. Spoon the moment in, a mouthful at a time, light and nourishing and impermanent as spring herself.
The fava beans are flowering, in the places we planted cover crops. It’s time, or even past time, to turn them in to the ground, and return their nitrogen to the soil to enrich it for the summer crops. But tender hearts that we are, every year we stare at those clever black and white flowers on the fava plants, and convince ourselves that the soil doesn’t need ALL of the cover crop; some of the flowering fava can stay, to become food for pollinators, to swell into fat pods for grilling and shelling and drying and souping. The dance plays out, year after year, we can’t even claim to be surprised anymore. Still, some of the plants are being tilled into the soil, to fulfill the purpose for which they were planted. Cover crops like these are also known as “green manures”, which is a funny example of the tendency humans have to name things after other things in ways that are sometimes ridiculous and confusing. We’re a funny bunch, we naked apes, and still have a long way to go before we live up to the moniker given to us in binomial nomenclature. Homo sapiens, the wise ape indeed. We can be wise, and it was rather clever of us to find out about those nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots of legumes, now wasn’t it? Clever monkeys, to look so closely, and make connections, and see the patterns written in sun and soil. But as the news unspools, reel after reel, covering the effects of racism, economic inequality, climate change, and virus mutation, we are also reminded how far we have to go before that wisdom is imbedded more fully into our psyche and our hearts. Turn it over, turn it under, break down the pain and loss to become a fertile soil by which we might all be nourished. We have so far yet to go. Every year, may we look a little closer. Every year, may we learn a little more.
We recently started our Instagram chats back up again, and we mused on this same thing during the Homestead Happiness Live. Fava beans and the difficulty of turning them under when they are so lovely and delicious. The way names and meanings shift over time. The way sometimes the only thing to do is to start small, when faced with an array of seemingly insurmountable problems, and cultivate beauty close to home so that it can spread outward organically and sustainably, from the source. There’s a power, often overlooked, in hearth and home. Not all are so blessed as to have them secure and stable. But we don’t ever want to take that for granted. We’re so grateful for the luck and blessings of this place and this community, and we feel it gathered around us when we laugh together during the live chats, or see your feedback on a glowing screen. There’s something so wonderful about doing those chats, a direct and immediate connection in the way the screen fills with hearts when we laugh or make a salient point. Thanks to all who tune in, or who watch later, at their leisure. We aim to continue these chats more regularly, as the growing season really ramps up and folks have questions and conundrums about their gardens and homesteads. And thanks, of course, to all those who take the time to read these words every week, or bring these recipes into their home kitchens. We have received such sweet feedback from readers lately about these journals, and want you all to know how much your engagement and words of encouragement mean to us. As ever, if you have questions or comments, we welcome them, on any of our forums. Our in-store customers and friends shouldn’t be left off of this list, either. Y’all keep us going, in so many ways. Thanks for being here.
As more and more shots get into arms, and the flowers open, and the trial of Derek Chauvin continues, and restrictions ease, and the weather warms, and the garden beckons, and the breeze picks up, and Duante Wright is mourned and remembered, we hold all of the contradictions and blessings of this complex world at once, gathered into our arms like a wild bouquet of disparate flowers. Some decadent, some thorned, some profuse, some fragrant, some poisonous. Some are edible and some are sweet, some are lilies. Some are bitter, some bittersweet. Some tender, some tough, some tiny, not enough and too many. We gather them all, or watch them root and bloom around us, the unruly harvest of a shifting time. Gather your lilies, count your blessings, sow the seeds of a more just world. Keep loving the flowers, and cutting back the overgrowth, and digging the cover crops back into the ground. We’re out here in space, our feet on the earth, turning around and around every year. Watching the patterns and drawing what conclusions we can from our imperfect understanding. This work is never done. It keeps us human. The garden, the gathering, the turning over, the tears. The flowers, the thorns, the soup in a bowl, the chalk on the sidewalk. The patterns we repeat and the ones we try to break and the way no matter what, the earth keeps spinning. There’s no way to end this musing, sometimes, it just has to trail off into the dusk like a radio segway, or the fading of the Doppler effect. Let these words dissolve slowly into the day that is always beginning, or carry what you will of them into the future. In a few months, we’ll eat fava beans for dinner. Tonight, though, we’ll have asparagus soup.
Written by Jessica Tunis