An Extra*Ordinary Life Project - Change

Crystal  (L), Katie (R)

Crystal (L), Katie (R)

     Every year I make this statement and every year I mean it more and more, I LOVE FALL. I love the change in weather, the cooling off, the getting cozy, the colors, the smells, the crispness, the promise of the holidays. I feel like I can breath. The shorter days are challenging, but for me the trade off is worth it.

     This year my garden grew big, bushy and tall but didn't produce much in the way of vegetables, nothing like in years past. So while I always add new soil and compost and fertilizers before I plant in the spring, this year I thought that instead of having a winter garden (which kind of breaks my  heart) that I would give my garden soil some much needed attention. I rejuvenated the soil (read: our yard smelled a little like manure for a day or two) and then I planted a cover crop. The cover crop instead of just taking nutrients from the soil also gives back. In so many ways. First it protects the soil from the winter elements, keeping it from being beaten and washed of its nutrients by rain, hardened and dried out by the sun, etc. Its roots keep the soil aerated. The crop puts nutrients back into the soil at the same time that it uses the soils nutrients to grow. Once it gets to a certain stage I will chop and mix the crop back into the soil enriching it with all that compost plant material goodness. My hope is for some really great soil to start off next springs garden!

See more of this project here. Follow along on Instagram


Erickson Ranch September 2013

     The heat of the summer tends to linger in the valley. September in our little expanse of northern California does not signify the beginning of cooler weather. Whether starting school or celebrating a last summer camping trip on Labor Day, the heat is our constant companion.

     The nice thing about our extended warm season is the amount of time we get to spend outdoors throughout the year. Farm stands, farmer's markets and the like stay open well into October and some even year round. Fruits and vegetables fresh from the earth don't disappear just because school's back in or summer is "over". New seasonal crops of fruits, vegetables and flowers begin to appear. September brings the start of pumpkin season, promising that eventually the heat will fade and fall will make it's appearance.

     Erickson Ranch is still in full swing in September, peppers and pumpkins are the show stoppers starting this month. Ray and Vicky host a variety of events throughout the year. There is always some type of entertainment, ranch exploration and they invite local vendors to come and set up shop for the day.  While the work is never done, there is a sense of mellowing around the ranch in September and I gather Ray and Vicky feel a sense of celebration is in order over the fruits of their labor. The events to come still mean a lot of work, but there's a great sense of joy and community that emanates during these final months of the ranch being open to the public.

     One of the first things I discovered about Ray over the year, was his passion for birds. I clearly remember the first day I met him and how he drove me around the ranch explaining all about the fruit trees and the history of the ranch. At one point we got out and continued exploring on foot. I recall him stopping and pointing across the top of the orchard at a large hill, covered in trees and brush that borders their property, and telling me to look at the white tail far... far... far off! Surprised I thought, 'how can he see a deer THAT far away?!?'  But the better and the right question was 'How can he see a HAWK that far away?!' Growing up on the ranch Ray developed an appreciation for the birds that lived on and migrated to the ranch each year. He can tell a bird by it's song, knows when and where specific birds will appear, knows their patterns and all about their lifecycle. They have special bird houses high up on poles at the ranch and they work with the Napa Solano Audubon Society to bring awareness to the public. Which is how I got the beautiful photo of the owl above .. there was also a hawk! Both injured and taken care of by awesome volunteers at the Audubon Society. Over the course of my visits I was lucky enough to see a melange of beautiful birds. To this day I notice each and every different bird that comes into my yard and crosses my path. My little boy has grown a love for birds as well, perhaps it's innate or perhaps I have eagerly pointed them out to him. Either way, it's fun to see his eyes dart to the sky, finger pointed high.

     It's amazing and humbling to see someone like Ray, so in tune with nature, working their land, appreciating all that it has to offer and making it their life's work and enjoying it to the fullest. With all the go-go-go of our busy lives, it's a breath of fresh air to witness. He demonstrates a great lesson in slowing down to enjoy the things we each have worked hard to have in our lives and to notice, appreciate and take care of the things that nature has bestowed upon us. 

To see previous months from my 2013 year long project click on the month: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJuly, August