We planted Califonia poppies in our vineyard in 1999 after our Biodynamic consultant prescribed a list of wildflowers to seed between the rows. My son Casey and I mixed the various seed with sand in a wheelbarrow, some, like the poppy seed, as small as a period, some the size of a pearl. After stirring with our hands and then our arms, we then loaded the precious companions into the cone planter which I then pulled behind the 4-Trax.
It was late in the afternoon. Deep blue clouds rose from the west. I knew that I had little time before the rain turned the clay soil to pudding, so I drove quickly. Donald was right behind me on the tractor, rolling the seeds in. Just as we finished, large droplets of rain splatted on our faces. It was the beginning of the winter.
I was in a state of ecstasy that afternoon. I always love working with the Earth. I feel larger, present as if nothing else in the world matters but what is at hand: the soil, the seed, the task before me. I felt this way yesterday, entering our garden to pull stray grass blades pushing up in the beds. I experience this expansiveness walking goats on the paths of our ranch, watching and waiting as they browse poison oak and large-leafed weeds, or bite off mouthfuls of red oaks sprouting from the compost pile.
The vineyard was pulled a year and a half ago due to viruses taking hold during the drought. The undulations of the Earth are blanked in vetch and wild calendula, cayuse oats and fava beans, all descendants of these fall plantings. It is hard to call this cacophony of plants (yes, they do sing!) a fallowness. The truth is, they are busy restoring balance and fertility to a vineyard that served us many years. But none are as flaming and as beautiful as these poppies first appearing on our property in 2000 after being seeded that November day.