Guest comment: Tomato time and other discoveries

Tomato starts. (Photo by Till Westermayer, via Flickr)

Spring has sprung here in the valley.

Each morning we walk the dog along neighborhood sidewalks that feature wildflowers, blossoming trees and brilliant birdsong.

Clearly, if it’s so beautiful in town, it must be fabuloso in the country. Time for a wildflower walk!

Last summer we joined the hiking group from Chico State’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) for a walk through Colby Meadows. A reprise promised wildflowers, plus a chance to give our neurotic rescue dog a time to go AWOL (a walk off leash). After several false starts, we finally found the turnoff and made our way through the village of Butte Meadows, feeling a wee bit concerned about the piles of snow on both sides of the road. By the time we reached our destination, the world was white and the wildflowers nowhere to be seen.

Janet E. Rechtman

We are such newbies! Two years into our time at Chico, we figured the heat of the late March afternoons was universal. Wrong!

Still, it was a nice drive. It also was a real surprise to realize we were at 4,300 feet of altitude just 30 minutes east of town, since the climb was so slow and gentle. On the drive back to Chico we averaged 50-plus mpg.

Same thing happened last week. To celebrate the two-week mark on our Covid vaccinations, we went on a short trip to Eureka! (the exclamation point is mine). The three-hour drive west on Highway 299 was uneventful. The visit included a beach walk, time in Arcata, and an actual dinner inside of a Covid-compliant restaurant—yum! On the way back, we decided to take the scenic route—Highway 36. Guess what? Snow!! Plus, multiple signs that the road might be closed due to construction. There was construction but no closures, which was good since there also was nowhere to turn around. Again, we newbies were reminded that the weather in the valley is the anomaly.

The third way we keep learning this lesson is on our regular visits to Little Red Hen, Magnolia Gift & Garden and the Saturday farmers’ market, where we are determined to “buy local” when purchasing veggie starts to plant in our garden. Every visit, the kind people look at us sadly and say, “It’s not time yet; it is still winter here.” This week I finally was able to buy some tomato plants: peppers and cukes must wait a while longer.

I know the snow in the mountains is water in the valley, so I am very glad to see it. I just wish my circadian clock, which has barely adjusted to daylight saving time, would attune itself to the seasons as well. Back home, in Georgia, we planted on good Friday and we’d have slicing tomatoes by late June. Now that I think of it, it’s the same here: good Friday is this Friday and I just planted two ’maters with more to come.

So, while the snow and afternoon heat may be disorienting, fact is nature works pretty much the same wherever I am. It’s me that has to get over the weird worries that come with life changes like moving West and getting older.

The author is a retired University of Georgia faculty member who moved to Chico in 2018 to be near her grandchildren.

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