The cavalry arrives – with a little encouragement, flowers will push out the weeds

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Finally, the flowers are starting to outnumber the weeds in my dooryard.

Feverfew is a wonderful plant, drought tolerant, self-seeding, and very pretty with a bittersweet odor. It’s used in natural remedies for allergies, headaches and skin problems. If you cut a sprig just as the flowers are opening and put it in a big vase or jar with cold water, it makes very nice arrangements.

It’s a great weed block, and when you don’t want it anymore, it’s easy to yank out. It does start to look a little frowsy toward mid-Summer when the heat really starts to set in.  

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Lately I find echinacea is pretty good at self-seeding.

As I pulled weeds from my yard I left the feverfew and other little plants. I was really surprised to find a bunch of little echinacea plants.

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I thought echinacea were so delicious to every bug in the county – and you can see, this one’s been nibbled – that I would never have planted seeds directly in the ground.

Altogether I’ve found five little plants that sowed themselves, and I just sprinkle a little water on them as I water the trees,  and there they are. Of course the ones I have in pots are big and lush.

 

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My container echinacea are happy as hell, as long as they get water every day. I wash out my compost bucket from the dog’s dish and dump it in there. Nutrient rich!

I planted some bigger plants in the ground last year, they are nestled into the feverfew.  They are one of gopher’s favorites, I keep a sharp eye for his tunnels.

When we bought this place, we planted fruit trees. Most of them turned out well – some were duds!

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Did you know, some fruit trees are only ornamental? We didn’t realize – this pomegranate tree is only for looks, it will never bear fruit.

Oh well, the flowers look like Spanish dancers, and if I cut them as they are opening, they make incredible arrangements with the feverfew.

We got those weeds on the run!  

 

Back to Blah!

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Biscuit likes to take a drink out of this rain bucket, so we always keep one of my son’s old hockey sticks nearby to bust out the ice.

Yesterday was COLD. I didn’t linger by the Kist Thermometer long enough to get a read, but my faithful computer monitor told me 27 degrees at 8am. By 3 o’clock, it had barely hit 50.  

Cold enough to freeze over all our rain buckets and even the dog’s continuous feed water dish.

She likes the rain bucket the best so we always bust it out for her. When my husband broke the ice yesterday he splashed some water on the concrete. When I came out a half hour later the spilled water was frozen solid. 

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Here’s the ice lid off the water bucket we keep next to our front door, on our covered porch. This was still sitting unmelted yesterday evening, even after sitting on the black plastic in the sun.

I suppose it’s good and melted now, it’s been dumping rain since the wee hours. 

Yesterday we spent getting my son packed and on the road again for school. He could have stayed another day or two, but yesterday was the golden weather window through the Sierra passes.

 It’s been a swell three weeks, but I could tell he missed his girlfriend and his normal routine. That empty nest thing kind of creeps up on me, it’s hard to get him out of the driveway without a scene. But, I can tell he’s not that eager to go, he stands there looking at us after we hug and say goodbye, and my husband starts talking again about which route he will take. We go round like this for 15 or 20 minutes before we all begin to feel awkward and he climbs into his big truck. He never refuses another hug, and he doesn’t let go right away.

He seems confused, I’m confused too – this is his home.   I try never to refer to his apartment in Nevada, no matter how neat-o and ergonomic it is, as “home”. I try to keep his room the way he left it, although we both agreed,  my desk and some funny posters I put up are a good addition.  

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I found Alfred E. Neuman in an old stack of comic books.

Al reminds me, don’t take any of this stuff too seriously.  Including the maze of his face, which has no solution.

Listening to the pouring rain, I realize, I am pretty well stuck inside today. We’ll see what we can come up with. 

As the skies darken, keep reminding yourself – la primavera esta a la vuelta a la esquina!

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Super Moon was at my window this morning.

Last night my husband and I built a fire in our camp stove and sat out under the Super Moon for a few hours. It was an enchanting evening, the nopalitos glowing around the stove, Screech Owl calling as he and his mate feasted on  bats over our back acre.

This morning I am not too surprised to find Super Moon still brightening all the windows and setting an eerie light over the yard.  Clouds have moved in to form a Super Rainbow.

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And Super Moon sinks into the Western sky.

Whipple gave me some celery starts – a  couple of his celery plants had gone to seed and he dutifully dug the little plants up and set them in an old container. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about a winter garden – I’d rather wait out the drought. Last Winter I had to water everything, and I still lost plants, so you know, I hate to make the emotional investment.  But these little celery plants were so vibrant in that old pot, they would wilt every now and then, but a splash  of water would bring them back singing, so I finally set them out in my lined wooden boxes a couple of weeks ago. They just wanted to live so bad.   And yeah, I like celery  – it’s a “Super Food”, full of vitamins and minerals, complex carbohydrates that don’t irritate my system, and it’s the King of Fiber.

These little celery plants look so delicate but are actually pretty tough.

These little celery plants look so delicate but are actually pretty tough.

You know that old saying – “the best laid plans of mice and moms…” I set my little plants out and I watered them and they seemed to be taking off well.  Within a week the blue jays moved in to cause trouble – they just love that soft dirt to hide their nuts, those little bastards.  I went out one morning to find they’d dug holes all over my celery bed.  They didn’t seem to have upset any of the plants, just scooted the dirt around, so I raked it out again and put some water on it. They did it again, and I fixed it again, and the plants are actually growing.

When I was cleaning the beds I found some garlic from last year that had sprouted into new cloves, so I separated those and planted them in neat rows in the other half of the garden box.

If I can get the jays to leave these alone, I should get some Super Foods.dfs

If I can get the jays to leave these alone, I should get some Super Foods.

I don’t like to put a lot of effort into Winter gardening, and garlic is one of those things that doesn’t take much  effort, just a clean bed and regular watering.  The biggest trick is keeping the crab grass from getting it.

I know – celery and garlic are two of  the cheapest vegetables at the store. It’s just this compulsion I have to garden, just for that confidence you get when you grow your own food.

Another plant I’ve learned to grow is aloe vera – I started with a couple of pots and now I have so many I can’t find room for all of them. Some of them are suffering

This aloe pot had become so crowded the plants were withering.

This aloe pot had become so crowded the plants were withering.

while others are growing big, fat leaves, which I pick every morning to get sap for my smoothie. I also rub the sap on my skin, and my psoriasis and eczema are on the run.

The other day I was cleaning an empty rental, and I stuck my hand  way back in an old cabinet to wash it out. Suddenly I felt something ripping my fingers – my index and middle finger were slashed and bloody. It was a staple that had worked it’s way out of the wood, and it was sharp as heck. My husband reached in and fixed it, saying, “Don’t worry, those things are coated with zinc, that’s a clean wound.”  I trust my husband on these matters, he’s had a million injuries like this, but it still hurt like the dickens. My fingers swelled up,  throbbed all night, and the next day, I  couldn’t do anything with that hand, it drove me nuts. But all day, I smeared aloe vera on it, the miracle cure – by the next day the middle finger was healing. The index finger has taken a little bit longer, but today it feels good again.

So I hoard my little army of aloe vera pots, giving one away once in a while to a true believer.  I planted some in one of my box beds to see how they grow outside – I saw a picture of an aloe vera farm in Mexico,  and I figured, what the heck. I’ll  have to cover them from frost, they will probably not survive a real freeze, but let’s see what happens.

They look a little sad now, but I think it's just the shock of transplanting. There's already new growth.

They look a little sad now, but I think it’s just the shock of transplanting. There’s already new growth.

Gardening gives a person Hope. Hope is essential to a person’s mental health. As Winter darkens the skies, we all fight with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is natural to want to slow down when it’s cold and dark,  but our modern lifestyles are contrary to Nature, so we have this conflict. It’s good to stay positive, have activities that help you look forward, don’t spend too much time dwelling over bad things – like Election 2016! Time to look forward, not backward. Get a project that will actually amount to something without draining too much of your energy.

And remember, always, la primavera esta a la vuelta a la esquina…Spring is right around the corner!

Those last lazy days

This morning as I poured myself a cup of coffee I noticed a very bright and wildly  sparkling red star out my window. Wandering out into the yard for a better look, I could see it was Aldebaran. I squeezed my old eyes together, and there was Taurus bearing down on Orion, who was cowering behind my neighbor’s ash trees. 

The Naked Ladies are blooming all over my yard while everything else is drying up and dying.

These narcissus pop up in the funniest places in my yard.

These narcissus pop up in the funniest places in my yard, so out of place among the dried up leaves and frowsy spider webs.

But there are other nice surprises.

These are very sweet and smooth.

The crab grass had overgrown the vines so badly my husband was actually surprised when he found all these lovely Charentais melons.

My husband planted several varieties of melons from seeds he bought out of the Baker Creek heirlooms catalog.  He put a lot of time into making good beds for them and now it’s paid off. It’s great to see my family stand around the kitchen counter slurping up melons.  If we can’t eat them fast enough I’ll be sure to cube one up and put it in a freezer bag. The melons I froze last year tasted incredible in January when the garden was dead and buried.

Another lazy afternoon treat is a big bowl of salsa.

These peppers are sweet and add some crunch.

These peppers are sweet and add some crunch.

Ah the end of Summer, the old panic sets in. In my mind I am still 8 years old and dreading the first day of school – now because I am left behind instead of going off alone. The world  seems dreary and repetitive, the chores neverending, the days too short. A week ago I wondered how I would make it through another 3-digit day, now I wish I could have put one of those days in a jar, save it for January.

This lazy week will pass and the chores will pile up pretty soon –  get the boy off to school, the flurry of Fall clean-up, and then, battening down for Winter. 

For now, I like to sit and watch tv with the family, eat a bowl of salsa, talk about swimming.

 

 

Contrary is as contrary does

Busy, busy, busy.

Me and the dogs overslept a little today.  We didn’t wake up until almost 6am.  Biscuit is due for breakfast and shots by 7 am, so I like to get up about 5:30, stretch, walk around the back yard with a cup of coffee, see what there is to see.  Today I had to hit the floor running – I hate that.  I had to squeeze my eyes to focus and take a deep breath before I wrapped my gnarled old hand around that hypo. I always squeeze the needle empty a couple of times, loosens it up, makes it easier to fill, easier to empty once you get it stuck in her neck.

The other day she let out a YIPE! when I stuck it in there. That rattled me pretty good, but we got right back on the horse and finished the shot. I lost my repulsion for shots years ago – my veins are sinewy and tough, it’s always a wrestling match for me, poke, poke, SORRY!, and poke again. I am as tough as an old cactus.  Biscuit has got used to it too.  She seems to know it’s medicine, it makes her feel better, so she bears with it. In the beginning Badges was actually jealous, so my husband would cap the needle and give Badges a pretend shot.  Badges got over it, but he still gets a big pet when we give her the shot. Lovin’s aaaaalllll the way around.

My husband has gone to Southern  California to collect our younger son and all his stuff from the little college he’s attended the last couple of years. He took my older son to make a road trip out of it, they will have a little fun, snapping pictures of weird stuff up and down Hwy 395.

I’m so glad it rained. My husband has set out plants in our garden but he hasn’t finished hooking up all the drip lines yet, and stuff needs to be watered every  day.  I would have been out there for an hour last night if not for that nice gully washer. Everything looks great this morning. 

This year I have planted strawberries again. The terra cotta pots did not work out, too hard to water. Right now they are sitting full of dirt in my cactus garden, waiting for me to have the time to fill them with something really, really drought tolerant, probably a little flowering cactus. 

Empty bowls.

Empty bowls.

I bought two sixpacks of strawberry plants, somewhere, can’t remember – $3.50 each. I knew they’d have babies – runners that produce new plants – but not so fast! I started with 12 plants and now I think I have 20 or more, and more runners. 

Oh yeah, there’s berries – me and Biscuit have been  enjoying almost a berry a day. I eat the end off and toss her the top. She catches it and eats it, lickety split.  But – trouble in Paradise – we’ve got poachers. Every morning I find a few more that have been eaten right off the stem. 

See where somebody has eaten a ripe berry right off the stem.

See where somebody has eaten a ripe berry right off the stem.

I had gone to such lengths, People, it’s so frustrating. In  the pots, the berries were open to all kinds of interlopers. Pillbugs and slugs, who can eat a berry in a sitting, were living right in the pots, I couldn’t kill them all without resorting to some sort of nasty poison. So, I put each plant in it’s own sterile pot, with good clean new potting soil, and I put them on this ramshackle table my husband made me out of my grandma’s old redwood wheelchair ramp (we don’t throw anything away, haven’t I got that across yet?) and some 2×4’s. I mean, it’s standing chest high, what the hell? 

The other poachers are our blue jay family. One year I watched them eat all my raspberries – BAM! They weren’t even ripe yet, I’d been watering and waiting for weeks.  One day as I hung my laundry, I watched as our resident bluejays stormed my raspberry vine and snatched every last one, right in front of me.  They did the same with the strawberry pots, they’re so damned smart. 

We love our bluejays. There is a new batch of fledglings almost every year, they nest right near the garden where they can be near to fresh turned dirt and automatic sprinklers.  They’re like our small, wing-ed dogs, they get so comfortable with us, the babies are very gregarious. But yeah, they eat what they want. They don’t know you didn’t plant it for them!  We’ve wrapped our fruit trees with netting, cause they ruin the fruit so fast with their pecking and poking. My son gave us a couple of blue berry bushes, which are fruiting out really nice – we wrapped those. What to do about the strawberries, that was a sticker.

This is one of our new blueberry bushes. Look closely through that mesh of netting and you can see the berries ripening.

This is one of our new blueberry bushes. Look closely through that mesh of netting and you can see the berries ripening.

My husband made me a cage with some old fencing. It is a big, obstreperous contraption, but I figured, it would keep the dam-ned jays from eating all my strawberries. Every day I go out and lift it up, straining with one skinny arm, while I attend to my berry pots with a watering can in the other arm. I thought to myself, “this is a pain in the ass, but look at all these  berries!”

But the berries continued to be poached. This really pissed me off. I thought it was a  rat. We get an annoying rat almost every year, somewhere. Oftentimes they try to make a nice nest for themselves in our open shed, where we keep shovels and rakes, etc. As soon as they turn up we can smell them, rats really stink.  We use traps, but there’s been times we’ve actually had to chase them down with the dogs and kill them with a shovel, or, in one case, a hockey stick. They’re resourceful, really smart, they can run really fast, and look-out – they can jump like monkeys.  I hate to kill things, but I feel, you mess with me, you’re going to get messed with.

So I daubed a trap up with peanut butter and set it on the table among the pots. Then I went through all the pots and pulled out any with any berry that looked at all ripening and put them in my little red wagon and loaded them into our green house and shut the door.

Next morning I came out to find the trap untouched. Remarkable. A rat that can ignore peanut butter? And no turds – my husband reminded me, that’s why they stink, they just seem to spread turds everywhere.  I was flummoxed. I got the pots out of the green house and went about my business, not sure what to do now. 

A little while later, the dogs and I were playing in the yard, right there next to the strawberry table, when I saw something moving among the pots. A rat in broad daylight?   That’s creepy, I thought, and I went over to look. The intruder exposed himself – it was one of the adult jays.  I couldn’t believe he’d got into my cage.   As I walked toward him cursing a blue streak he hopped across the table as nimble as Jack B. Quick and dropped through the tiniest little gap between the cage and the table top.  I howled for the dogs as he flickered away. Right under our noses!

I tell you, I get mad, at the same time, I have to laugh at these guys, they’re so determined. I can’t hurt them, even if I wanted to. So, I called my husband, see if he had any ideas. He reminded me, we keep a big batch of old shade cloth, we usually cover the tomatoes when the sun gets really hot. Wrap the loose end with the shade cloth, he suggested, they can’t get through that.

So I got a section of shade cloth and wrapped the vulnerable end.

Here is The Cage, end wrapped in shade cloth.

Here is The Cage, end wrapped in shade cloth. There’s Biscuit over there with her ball, waiting to play.

Now I have to lift the shade cloth and then lift the cage when I want to water. I could shower the whole table with a hose nozzle – how wasteful, and then I wouldn’t know if I’d  got every pot. 

They sell strawberries at the store. I’ve bought them. I have a huge bag full in my freezer right now. Why do I frustrate myself trying to grow berries? 

My mom always told me I was contrary.

 

 

 

Last little splash of Spring has brought on the weeds

This wet weather has been good for transplanting. Good for weeds too! Our back lot is fat with all the sticker grasses. Doc already found a sticker in Biscuit’s ear, and Badges barfed one up the other day with some of his lunch. My husband mows and mows – he joins the neighborhood symphony every weekend – but the foxtails and twirly stickers and barrel clover and star thistle just come back. Lately I been keeping the dogs closer to the house, where I’ve been able to keep the landscape a little more friendly.

I’m still moving my black plastic around, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Dead dirt isn’t as bad as I expected – I worried it would become a mud pit, and then dry up and send torrents of dust through my front door. So far that has not been a problem. The dead dirt is so hard, it just sits there.

I'll have to come back with the torch to get the weeds that came up along the edges.

I’ll have to come back with the torch to get the weeds that came up in the gravel, but the dirt stays clean with a hula ho. I’ll move this black tarp to another section of troublesome sticker weeds.

We planted a little grove of redbuds and a crepe myrtle that Whipple gave us, and they’re doing really well. Trying to fill in some space to keep out weeds, I added some blue sage and echinacea. The feverfew came up by itself. 

These have come along a lot with those nice rains. The echinacea is planted in submerged plastic pots to keep Mr. Gopher from eating it all up.

These echinacea and blue sage have come along a lot with those nice rains. The echinacea are planted in submerged plastic pots to keep Mr. Gopher from eating it all up.

 

Fever few is a neat little ground cover that has seeded itself around my property eversince the previous residents brought it into their garden.

Fever few is a neat little ground cover that has seeded itself around my property ever since the previous residents brought it into their garden.

 

I weed my a lot of my yards by hand because a lot of the volunteers are nice, I don’t want to mow them away. We got nice poppies this year, and a lot of stephanomeria with outrageous purple flowers.  But it takes a lot of hand pulling to maintain those little oases of color – my constant and close companion, Arthur Itis, says we should just mow the whole mess, we argue about it all the way around the yard.

When I pulled the plastic off my zeroscape areas, I started to get a lot of feverfew, a neat little herb that heads up into dainty white daisy flowers with bright yellow centers. They are wonderfully non-offensive little groundcover – the flowers are actually used for naturopathic medicines, a common remedy for headache and pollen related problems. Over the years I’ve managed to get a good patch going in my tenant’s front yard, they finally seem to be getting a leg up on the weeds, and my husband has a lot less mowing there.

I’ve enjoyed these Springy showers the last few days, I got a barrel full of  rain water.

Full to over flowing.

Full to over flowing.

And my husband and I enjoyed a nice pot of chicken soup.

Soup and salad.

Soup and salad.

It’s hard to believe – within a week or so, we’ll be enduring 90 + temperatures.   I got a note from Summer the other day, and she said she’s going to turn it up good. 

I’m ready!

 

Things are blooming

One summer I found some iris rhizomes growing under my fence from a neighbor’s yard, shredded by my husband’s weed whacker. I picked up a big section of the orange root and set it in a pot in my shed, and forgot about it. Last Spring I found it was growing leaves, so I put it in the ground in one of my shade areas, and forgot about it.

 

I wish I could make an Easter bonnet out of these.

I found my garden had turned out it’s Easter finery.

So it was a genuine surprise the other day when I noticed these big iris spears, taller than any of my other irises, with big pink-yellow buds forming at the ends. They  began to open on Good Friday, and by this morning there were three big blossoms.

My yard is full of surprises this time of year.

This is a sunflower called "stephanomeria" - the blossom opens every morning with the sun, and follows it across the sky, gently folding itself up again at sunset.

This is a tiny wild sunflower called “stephanomeria” – the blossom opens every morning with the sun, and follows it across the sky, gently folding itself up again at sunset.

Stephanomeria is a native plant, you see it all around the park and other greenways. After a few days, the flower folds itself up tight, emerging a few days later as a big puffy seed ball, like a giant dandelion.

I was pulling some weeds along the fence and found some pink valerian heading up with tiny flowers.

I was pulling some weeds along the fence and found some pink valerian heading up with tiny flowers.

 

Here I found some borage, the tiny buds will open into sky blue flowers soon.

Here I found some borage, the tiny buds will open into sky blue flowers soon.

Biscuit says she's had enough of work, time for some play.

Biscuit says she’s had enough of work, time for some play.