Even after all these years of growing our own white sage, here on the desert coast of San Diego feels new.
Our few thousand plants on our original property near Jacumba Hot Springs in the high desert of San Diego County have different issues than then ones on our coastal property.
To the east, we fend off gophers and rabbits and ground squirrels as they fight to eat the tender young shoots, rich with water. They often chew our water lines to refresh with the precious liquid.
The ground out east is rocky. House-sized boulders dominate the landscape. The plants nest in decomposed granite, which retains little water.
Winter temperatures can be below freezing at night with day time temperatures hovering in the 40s. Snow, though occasional, is a reality.
By May, day time temperatures reach the 90s. Though the summer three-digit temps are the norm with zero humidity.
Little rain falls. Our east facing slope is battered by the hot dry wind that rises from the Imperial Valley and the Colorado Desert beyond, an extension of the larger Sonoran Desert.
The climate, the geography, and the plant, are all tough.
Planting our first batch of 1,800 salvia apiana plants on the coast in May of 2018 has given us new opportunity. We've harvested from these beauties twice now, making gorgeous large smudge sticks with lots left over to cook our own essential oil.
After harvesting, some plants retain lush, green leaves. Others wither to thin, silvery leaves redolent of oil. Caress the branches and the fresh piney resin perfumes the breeze.
The temperatures are moderate; the soil, sandy. The plants respond vigorously.
Even after all these years of growing sage, this feels new.