Hi, neighbor! If April showers bring May flowers, then what do May showers bring – perhaps June bugs? The rains this past week have brought welcome moisture to our valley, although in addition to nourishing thirsty seedlings in newly-planted gardens, they also are helping the abundant crops of Marlahan to thrive. The carpets of bright yellow flowers in the fields are lovely to behold ... unless they are in your own field or pasture, and you are tasked with trying to eradicate those tenacious, nutrient-hoarding plants with the impossibly long tap roots.
The Marlahan plant (also known as “Dyer’s Woad”) does make a lovely blue dye, but it takes an enormous amount of work to harvest enough leaves for even an ounce or two. Back when Buzz Helm was still writing a column for the Pioneer Press, with tongue firmly planted in cheek he extolled the possibilities of an annual Marlahan Mustard Festival, complete with a parade up Main Street and the crowning of a Marlahan Queen. That inspired me to write an anthem (“Oh Marlahan, My Marlahan,” sung to the tune of “America, the Beautiful”), because every great occasion needs a theme song. The song was later revised and became the inspiration for the “Marlahan Mustard Mystery” melodrama, but in its original incarnation the third verse went thusly: “Oh Marlahan, my Marlahan / how can we co-exist? / Do you have wondrous properties / that we have somehow missed? / It could be you’re a magic cure / for cancer, warts, and flu. / We’ll get some grants, study your plants, / and learn what you can do!”
When I recently came across that original verse, it was a slap-forehead moment. Of course! We should send Marlahan samples to famous scientists and research labs the world over, to explore whether this could be the miracle cure for the coronavirus! If so, then we could solve at least two problems at once: every single Marlahan plant throughout the valley would be quickly eradicated and sold for vast sums of money, and the worldwide pandemic would be over! (Disclaimer: This is a feeble attempt at humor, folks. The CDC does not advocate use of Marlahan in any form as a medicinal product. They do not even recommend gathering Marlahan bouquets to give to your sweetheart as a token of love. They do, however, note that it makes a pretty nifty blue dye.)
The rains this past Saturday held off long enough for seedlings sale at the Etna Farmer’s Market. Physical distancing practices were in place, but over the course of two hours many folks were able to obtain seedlings for their gardens, as well as bags of fresh mixed salad greens, onions and garlic, artisanal breads from Grain Street Bakery, and the expertly crafted pottery of Les Helsley. If you missed this first sale do not despair, for you have another opportunity coming up in two weeks, on Saturday, May 30, from 10 a.m. to noon.
As gardens start to grow and buds open into flowers, it is with joy that we also welcome the gradual re-opening of local businesses that have either been closed or operating on a very limited basis. Our community has done an excellent job of following guidelines that have helped to keep our families, friends, and neighbors safe. Now, as restrictions begin to relax, let’s continue to do all we can to support one another and our local economy. Most of the restaurants in Scott Valley have resumed regular hours of operation and are again offering on-site dining, though with reduced seating capacity to maintain safe distancing. I am hoping that barbershops and hair salons will be also be able to re-open soon, because Alan’s hair is reaching critical mass and without professional assistance I may have to resort to cutting it myself – and I don’t even know how to operate hedge clippers! (By the way, do you know what you call a group of people waiting in line for a haircut? A barber queue!)
By the time you read this, there will only be a couple of weeks of school remaining here in Scott Valley. Kudos to all of the teachers and staff who have worked so hard to help our students continue learning even in these unprecedented times, and also to all of the parents who have so valiantly taken on the role of home-school teacher, in addition to all of their other home and job responsibilities. There will likely be a collective sigh of relief as we transition into summer vacation. Even so, folks will still be seeking ways to keep their kids interested and engaged in learning. If you are in need of some new reading material, be sure to attend the free book give away in Fort Jones on Friday, May 29 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on the sidewalk in front of the SVUSD District Office and the SV Family Resource Center. There will be books for children and adults, and parents of young children (ages 0 to 5 years) can sign up to receive a free book once a month from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. (On-line sign-ups are also available, at https://first5siskiyou.org/imagination.library.)
If you are looking for entertainment this week, look no further than the new YouTube channel, “Central Callahan Creations.” Episode 1 aired just a few days ago, and it is truly a delight. It features four local musicians (Mathew Jolliff and Vince Stevenson of Wind Fields, Sara Knox, and Johnny Callahan), as well as some great local scenery and gentle humor. A total of ten episodes is planned, featuring local musicians as well as some of the favorites who have traveled through this area. Check it out! And if you are a musician who is interested in being featured in an upcoming episode, you can email Ariel Roumasset at email@example.com.
Have a great week, neighbor!
Annie Kramer is grateful to live in Etna, in the beautiful Scott Valley, and to be a part of this community. Contact her with news for this column at (530) 467-3685.