Springtime in Siskiyou County

May 26, 2005

A letter from Farmer Kirsten Olson

This week’s feature is a personal letter from farmer Kirsten Olson of Hunter Orchards to our Market Manager, Dexter Carmichael. Kirsten’s response to Dexter’s casual question of how things were on the farm is such a beautiful and eloquent account of springtime in the northern-most county of California, we felt compelled to share it with you.

Hello Dexter,

You asked how it’s going here and the only appropriate response is, “it’s springtime on the farm!” Several years ago I was speaking with an organic wheat farmer whom I greatly admire (all those worldly farmer qualities – patience, trust, a respect for time, a measure of success seasoned with years that were not, a depth of knowledge within a quiet demeanor, and of an age that I thought at the time was old but that was years ago and as I myself am getting closer to the same age, I am reevaluating what “old” is) and I mentioned to this farmer that we were behind in our farm work and she replied simply: “that is the nature of springtime.” Every spring is different and it makes farming exciting, adventurous, and full of wonder. It was unseasonably warm here in February and those new to our Siskiyou county climate were talking about putting tomato plants outside.

Of course, March was very cold right to the end of the month which was a touch scary because our daughter’s wedding was planned for the first weekend of April, outside, here on the farm. Yikes – there would be no way to fit 150 wedding guests in our small farmhouse. Of course, the weekend of the wedding was glorious – incredibly beautiful. What I hadn’t realized was that we needed the cold weather of March to keep the nectarine trees in bloom because the ceremony was planned to take place facing the nectarine row. Their delicate pink blossoms provided the perfect back drop. (A note about cold weather and blossoms – usually if the weather is warm, blossom season is short, and if it is cold, the blossoms stay open longer. My theory is that this gives the bees more of an opportunity to pollinate and make fruit – the bees don’t get out if it’s cold or rainy.) So the wedding was wonderful. But our spring farm time is even more compressed from taking the weeks to prepare (and recover from!) the event.

The garlic is looking great, the fruit is growing – peaches are the size of very small peas. The cherries will not be a bumper crop, but we will have a few – and each piece of fruit is a blessing and a miracle.

We still have another two or three weeks of frost season. Here is Siskiyou County, Memorial Day weekend usually marks the beginning of frost-free nights in earnest. Although we have had killing frosts as late as June 9th and lost peaches the size of quarters!

So there is a sketch of “how it’s going” here on the farm. Since you may not have an opportunity to visit us anytime soon (although you are always welcome) I thought you might appreciate a glimpse of our spring. All is well here.

Hope all is well with you also, and that the markets are blooming.


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