|Old wild plum (ciruela) trees at Rancho San Benito|
I have not been terribly productive at the ranch for a couple of weeks. The truck is in the shop for engine work, so I've been making weekly ranch visits by taking a two-hour bus ride to the pueblo and walking from the house I rent there out to the property. This means that I can't bring tools and materials, so on my visits to Rancho San Benito work is limited to planting, weeding, watering and other small projects.
Without the chainsaw and other larger implements, I work quietly and take it easy. While buckets fill with water I sit by the well and wait. I have plenty of time for observation and learning, which is one of the important reasons for having the ranch in the first place.
I was taking a coffee break late Thursday morning, seated under the oak tree that shades the well, when the sun was dimmed by gathering grey clouds. Soon I was feeling cool northerly gusts and bathed in misty drizzle. The morning had been hot, so I was a little surprised by the abrupt change in the weather. I started to think about getting my things together for a quick walk back to the pueblo, if necessary, glad that I had a large plastic garbage bag that would serve as an emergency raincoat if things got worse.
But coffee comes first, so I relaxed for another moment. Savoring the hot drink, I watched the changing weather through the branches of two wild ciruela (plum) trees, leaves fallen for the winter dry season, when my eye caught a tiny movement. What I thought at first was a moth turned out to be a hummingbird, a colibrí, nervously flitting amongst the twigs. The strangeness of this scene was heightened by the ominous conditions. What on earth was the tiny creature doing in a barren tree in such weather?
As the little bird continued busily my curiosity strengthened. Finally the hummingbird rested for a minute on a wind-buffeted branch. It then made a beeline for shelter in the thick brush.
I walked over to the trees, still unable to perceive what had attracted the bird's interest. It wasn't until I bent down a low branch and looked carefully that I saw what inspired the hummingbird's attention. Tiny purple buds, which must have popped out overnight, covered the branches. These trees lose their leaves in December, then flower and produce fruit before new leaves appear in spring. I guess the little bird was anticipating the readiness of the first sweet ciruela flowers in coming weeks.
If I'd been working in my accustomed way, it's likely I would have missed this. I am glad I had the time to notice what the hummingbird had to show me.
Meanwhile, I'll have to be more patient than the bird, since the fruit won't be ready until late April or early May. There are plenty of other things to learn about and to keep me busy until then.
Text and images copyright 2016 by Marc Olson