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Winter Quietude

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Don’t quite know what brought this poem, one of my favorites, to mind suddenly today. Maybe as I was enjoying the hush of a winter afternoon, I was reminded of a walk I took through a wood a decade ago, three thousand miles away in upstate New York. It had snowed heavily the previous night, and in the early hours of the morning, the snow was soft, pristine, sparkling. For someone like me, unused to snow, it was truly a winter wonderland. I took off for a walk by myself through a wood nearby and was awestruck by the utter silence – no rustling leaves, no snapping twigs, no small animals scurrying away. Even the waterfall waited frozen in place. The only sounds were of my breathing and footfalls sinking into the snow. Since then, I started noticing and appreciating how much quieter everything is in winter. And I have always loved this.

To more prosaic matters – weather in Northern California has been checking off all the right boxes. Adequate rain? Check. (More than adequate, some would say.) Sufficient chilling hours? Check. Respite from days of rain to allow restless, outdoorsy Californians to step out and bask in the sun? Check! I was out today spraying all the freshly pruned roses with lime sulfur. A cup of lime sulfur to a gallon of water. One year I made the mistake of waiting too long to spray and the roses had already leafed out. The result was white spotted leaves for the rest of the season. Short of individually scrubbing each leaf there was no way to get those damned spots out. (Hello Shakespeare!)

I also took the pruners to my relatively newly planted pomegranate. It’s a Parfianka pomegranate, and despite being about 3 ft tall it produced several pomegranates last year. It’s planted in a very visible location, right by the edge of the patio. So while productivity is desirable, a beautiful shape and balanced structure are more so. With some trepidation, I removed several trunks leaving two. I also pruned several of the branches to encourage more lateral branching. Let’s see how that works out.

My love of citrus has brought my count of citrus trees to fourteen, not including the in-ground lemon and mandarin trees. This winter, in a burst of citrus-lust, I bought a Vaniglia Sanguigno blood orange, a New Zealand lemonade, a Kishu seedless mandarin, a Trovita orange and a Rio Red grapefruit, all shipped from Four Winds Nursery. My usual haunts, Orchard Supply Hardware and Dale Hardware were all out of anything interesting.


Moro Blood Orange

My Moro blood orange produced several shockingly berry-red-fleshed fruit this year. I’d read in the GardenWeb forums that blood oranges hold well on the tree so I let them stay really long. The ones that had reached a truly dark red coloration tasted amazing – like an orange with a bit of tartness but also with additional depths of flavor. Some people describe it as berry-tasting. No matter how it’s described, I was really pleased with the flavor.

My Oro Blanco grapefruit produced far too many fruit for a small potted tree. I didn’t notice how many fruit there were on the tree until they had ripened completely. The fruit this year were not quite satisfying – I had a hint of how wonderfully sweet and fragrant they could be, but this was overwhelmed by strong bitterness. Not sure if insufficient heat contributed to this or other cultural issues.


Citrus Harvest Lineup – Oro Blanco grapefruit, Moro blood oranges, Bearss Seedless Limes 

The Bearss seedless lime has been very prolific. It produced more limes than I could possibly consume. We did have lots and lots of guacamole. And a squeeze of lime to a red lentil soup (masoor dal) or any lentil dish, heightens all the other flavors. Highly recommended. Especially for a cold winter afternoon.

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