When Barbara and I lived in the Sacramento Valley, winter generally gave way to spring around Valentine’s Day. The plum and cherry trees were starting to bloom then, and the rainy winter doldrums were on the wane. On the coast here, winter seems to hang on a little longer. So as Valentine’s Day was fast approaching, I thought I would head over the hill and check out the wine country. The area I went to was in the Geyserville and Calistoga areas of Sonoma County, which lie in the Alexander Valley, just west and a little north of the Napa Valley.
The sky had some patchy storm clouds which made mid-day shooting a little more reasonable. What a wonderful surprise I found as I headed through Geyserville and into the vineyards. The mustard was exploding everywhere. In this region, wild black mustard grows naturally. Many of the vineyard owners also supplement the natural spread of mustard with plantings of other varieties of mustard, and use these as a cover crop in winter. These plants serve to replenish vital nutrients back to the soil, especially in areas where new vineyards will be planted. In addition, mustard is planted between rows of grapes for soil stabilization and also to control nematodes. Apparently mustard, as it breaks down in the soil, acts like a natural biofumigant and eliminates the need for more expensive and toxic chemicals.
In the first image, you can see that winter is still with us, as the trees in the background are still devoid of leaves. I was taken by the contrast shown in these barren trees, still in the grip of winter, against the explosion of mustard welcoming us into springtime. I also had to include one close-up of this little flower, which is beautiful all by itself. You can also see that I was not alone in my search for spring. Luckily I could get off the beaten path, but I thought it was an interesting image of people embracing the spring. I also liked the prominent shadow of an old oak tree in the foreground.
The last two images show an older, more established vineyard, and a pair of old oaks under the heavy influence of Spanish moss. I love the sinuous look of both of these images with the gnarled and twisted wood so prominent. I managed to beat the rain, and had a wonderful day walking amidst the wild mustard of the wine country. It only goes to show you that if spring isn’t here yet, you don’t have to wait for it to show up. You just have to go find it.
Equipment: NIkon D3s; Nikkor 24-70mm lens