Spring Spinach With the Birds


This afternoon I’m hosting our local women’s group for an appetizer potluck and reading of A Bushel’s Worth. I’m roasting mushrooms with Greek salad stuffing, which means walking out to the garden to pick baby spinach. Our farm season opens in three weeks and the spinach will be much bigger by then. For now, I’m content with smaller leaves, but it does take longer than one would expect to fill a whole bag.

Seems like the bag stays only half-full for quite some time, but I don’t mind. I’m listening to two Western meadowlarks trilling back and forth from the giant cottonwoods along the irrigation ditch. You can listen to one of a Western Meadowlark’s songs here.

I’m originally from North Dakota, whose state bird is the Eastern Meadowlark. My grandmother often noted in her diary when she heard the first meadowlark’s call:

“Wed, April 6, 1983: We walked to the creek and found mayflowers and heard a meadowlark sing.

It took me many years to get used to the Western Meadowlark’s song with its notes ascending and descending in a different order than that of North Dakota’s state bird. But both birds share the complex musicality of their song, more lyrical than many a bird’s call.

As I listen to the meadowlarks’ duet in stereo near the spinach bed, I also hear a pair of Red Tailed Hawks shrieking high above me. I can see them, too, as they circle our west field on the other side of the ditch. But I can’t see the meadowlarks, even when I walk near the trees from which they’re clearly singing. I’m surprised not to find them with their bright yellow breasts. Today, they’re camouflaged by the new green leaves of willows and cottonwoods breaking from winter rest.

On the way back to the house with my bag of spinach, I spot a Downy Woodpecker near the knot in our old crabapple tree. No mistaking this bird’s red head and black and white body. I wish I had my camera as the bird senses my approach and flits off to a higher elm.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year. We transplanted 10,000 onion and leek starts last Saturday, a week later than the previous two years. The next day, a wet spring snow watered in the grass-like shoots. We love our alliums at this farm, depending on them all season and even through the long winter. In three weeks, we’ll harvest walking Egyptian onions for our members, followed by green garlic, garlic scapes, early garlic, and green onions, until the full-sized garlic, onions, leeks, and shallots are ready mid-summer.


Today, I’ll use the last of the stored shallots in the mushrooms I’m stuffing. You can find the recipe here on our website. I’m looking forward to sharing A Bushel’s Worth with women in our community tonight. I joked that I’m going to read the romantic parts, but, in fact, I’ve decided I will. John and I met in the spring; on our first farm date, we made our first salad together from newborn herbs and greens. Seems fitting to share that memory on this sparkling spring day.


If you can’t join us tonight, you can view a farm reading of A Bushel’s Worth here, along with great music from Joe Kuckla and Alex Johnstone. Happy spring!



Filed under ecobiography, sustainable agriculture

6 responses to “Spring Spinach With the Birds

  1. Kayann, Another wonderful piece. By the way, my local library in Stone Ridge NY now has A Bushel’s Worth in the new books shelf! WOOT WOOT!

    • Thanks, Patty. I love knowing that my book is in the Stone Ridge library! And my book is a silver medalist in green living & sustainability for the Nautilus “Better Books for a Better World” award! Hope that helps ABW find its way to other libraries too!

  2. johnmmartin

    I think I like the shriek of the red tail as much as any other bird song. I hear it as a kind of warning cry of sheer delight. Romantic.

  3. Because we have met Kayann, please allow me one short response.

    I have always had a keen ear for Meadow Larks. Grew up listening to them and watching their behaviors.

    How absolutely delightful, Kayann, that you have had the privilege of having heard both bird songs and the richness that implies for your family life, I so envy you!

    I have seen Mountain Blue Birds already this Spring, flitting about the mesa tops and fields. They always bring a smile to me.

    Best to you and John. Happy Spring and all that it entails for a prosperous year of farming.


    • I haven’t seen a Mountain Blue Bird yet. I wonder how the flood has impacted the bird life in the county. I saw more eagles this past winter than ever before–even one flying right over my head! We are looking forward to this season and all that it brings with Preserving Community. Here’s to a great new season for all of us!

  4. grapeseed

    Lovely…and can’t wait for tonight! Arthur was mesmerized by a little downy pecking away at a tree on our walk this morning…and eagerly awaiting garlic scape pesto so soon…

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