More than one of my readers has asked if I live near the potential flooding from the Oroville Dam spillway failure here in Northern California. [Update: Here is a place you can see videos of the scary action http://kron4.com/] I do not. But when I was a babe-in-arms my family lived in the county just south, and I started this post thinking I would paste in a photo — which I can’t find after all — of my mother cradling her swaddled first child as she stands in front of our house in water up to her hips.
It wasn’t the last time my poor parents had to deal with floodwaters and babies at the same time, living as they did in farmland fed by various rivers that had not yet been dammed or hedged out with levees. I’m thankful to say that as an adult, the floods I have known have not caused any personal property damage or even much inconvenience.
The abundant rain made January of 2017 less depressing than average for that dark and cold month of the year. It looks likely that my town will have received 40 inches for the season-to-date before the end of the week. Usually we get 20+ inches. When it rains the air is cleared of pollutants and the burn restrictions are lifted – so we had lots of wood fires which are always cheering!
Christmas joy and lightness always carry me through Theophany on January 6th, but then I have the reality of a Christmas tree that needs taking down eventually. I strained my shoulder slightly a few weeks ago, which slowed me down, but it gave me time to read five books in just the first month of the year, often sitting in front of that woodstove. I started drinking coffee, which is a mood-elevator for sure… and now suddenly, it’s February, and the weather has been 20 degrees milder.
Flocks of goldfinches and juncos have returned to the garden, swooping down from the bare branches of the snowball bush. The juncos peck around on the ground, and the finches hang all over the nyger seed feeder, even in the rain.
And flowers are coming on dear Margarita Manzanita, buds on the currant bushes and calla lilies. I went out and took pictures just now under the umbrella, so everything is too wet to be optimal, revealing how one of my asparagus beds is less than optimal – we didn’t dig down deep enough into the adobe clay, and now there is standing water. That may not portend good for the future of that planting.
I made several gallons total of various soups in January, including Barley Buttermilk Soup, which I decided to try incorporating into bread yesterday. Here you have it, Barley Buttermilk Bread. It was enough dough that I ought to have made three loaves of it, but what I did was bake one oval loaf on my pizza stone, with butter brushed on top toward the end, and a round one in the Dutch oven. I added some oat flour which made it soft, but by this morning its crumb is very nice, and I like it very much… even too much.
It’s been a long time since I had eggs from hens who ate lots of greens. My fellow communion bread-baker James brought some pale blue-green eggs from his Americaunas to our last baking session, and I was the lucky one to take them home, just as he had brought them, in the bottom of a paper shopping bag. They are so wonderfully orange-yolked, I had to take their picture, too. They go well with Barley-Buttermilk Bread. 🙂
Every week the peas and the poppies have been beaten down by the rain…
But they keep growing and blooming. Overall, they appear to thrive in it. I am reminded of this verse from the hymn “O Worship the King,” which likens God’s provision for us generally to the moisture that falls.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite? It breathes in the air, it shines in the light; It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
The same rain that muddied the creek in the background washed the berries clean.
It’s a mystery to me that they didn’t get washed right off the bushes,
but I’m glad they are still there to brighten our dark and wet days.
A big branch fell from my Canary Island Pine last night, just missing the lemon tree that we intentionally planted under its leggy canopy, hoping for a bit of frost protection; I hadn’t thought it might be a dangerous location instead. It’s been very blowy and wet in these parts – lots of flooding in the county, though not in my neighborhood. Today came a break in the rain, so I walked again along the muddy creeks.
I was surprised to see this tree looking like Autumn. How could it still hold on to its leaves through the gale? I guess our winter is very like some people’s Fall.
It was cool, not cold, the air as fresh as can be. A hundred robins would startle and rise up in a swirl out of the cotoneaster bushes when I walked past, and then settle back down to eat the berries. One is sitting in this bush but he is hard to see.
Big limbs had fallen from eucalyptus trees along the path, and in many places the pavement was strewn with redwood cones and needles. I was alone the whole two miles of my loop.
Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty,
give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders:
the LORD is upon many waters.
A few of these words from Psalm 29 were quoted by our rector on Sunday, referring to the storms that, surprisingly, didn’t force us all to stay home. My youngest two children and I memorized this Psalm about 20 years ago. I think I picked it for them because of all the vivid imagery like skipping, flames, cedars breaking, hinds giving birth. It still thrills me, and is indeed a good Psalm for stormy weather.
The thought of gingerbread came to me out there on my winter walk. So I came home and put together yet another version of Wheatless Gingerbread. This time it was even gluten-free, because I used the flour mix from Minimalist Baker.
It came out lovely and light. This time I also added milk powder and used butter… I think I might still be able to improve on this recipe in various ways, so I should try to make some again soon.
We’ve been keeping the stoves busy in our house. Someone even cooked her chicken breast and handmade tortillas on the wood stove last week. Keepin’ cozy!