Crouching Bunny Hidden Eggs: Easter at the Tea Farm

It was a warm, sunny day at the tea farm yesterday when a few friends drove up to help Roy pot 600 oolong seedlings he brought from Taiwan. There were six varieties in the batch; Roy continues to experiment to find tea that fares well in California growing conditions. There was a setback when testing revealed that water from the property's well has a pH around 8.5. Like other camellias, Camellia sinensis thrive in acid conditions, preferring a pH closer to 6. For now Roy is hand-modifying water for the young plants to achieve the desired acidity, while he investigates other water solutions for long-term growing operations.

At the farm, spring is in full flower. Rose bushes and wisteria are covered with blossoms, while almond trees are already bending from the weight of what will become next fall's crop. As you approach the house along the drive bordering the orchard, jackrabbits crouch amid the tall grass and wildflowers lining the road, betrayed by enormous pairs of ears that look pastel pink in the sunlight. Just as the car draws alongside, they spring from their lairs and take deeper cover behind the almond trees.

In the pond, the koi have grown several inches over the winter. It's still a little too early for tadpoles to be swarming in the shallows. Nearby, the killdeer that tirelessly guarded his mate's nest last year patrols the same territory. Red-winged blackbirds perch along the fenceposts. A pair of Brewer's blackbirds built a nest deep in a large shrub near the patio behind the house. As we sat outdoors drinking tea we watched the male make repeated trips into the bush to feed his nesting mate, whose silhouette was visible amid the thick undergrowth.

When the huge potting task was complete, Grace whipped up a simple but satisfying country feast of chicken barbequed on the outdoor grill, savory noodles, and fresh oranges from nearby groves. We ate under the wisteria-shaded pergola, cooled by a breeze redolent of spring flowers and fresh-cut grass. Then we tasted several of the new teas Roy brought from his latest trip to China. It turned out to be a productive day on a small slice of rural paradise.

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