The newest visitors to the garden are a pair of Bullock's Orioles, seen here in a photo taken by Kevin Cole. They arrived a couple of days ago, first heard but not seen, then yesterday evening both came to have their evening bath in our birdbath.
What a flashy suit the male wears, though as is usual the hen is much more sedately dressed in pale yellow and brown.
They were fun to watch, as they are so big and so spectacularly coloured. The water level in the "bath" was low at the time they arrived, and they had quite a time finding a spot deep enough to have a decent splash. She chose best place and when he tried to shovel her out of it she threatened to peck his face off. He also thought it might be a good opportunity for a little whoopee, which also got him pecked. LOL
This morning they are in the tree outside singing up a storm, and I'm hoping they choose to build their nest here. They weave a hanging basket, which is an interesting process to watch, as well as an attraction for the kids who fill the park. It would be high enough to be out of harm's way, and I love watching parent birds care for their babies.
In the garden we continue to be the source of something's evening meal. It has eaten off the watermelons, a good chunk of my green peppers, some bok choi, and moved next door to eat Ruth's red cabbages, marigold's, impatience, basil, and even her tomato plants! We've set a live trap several nights. One night we caught a mouse which escaped before morning, last night the trap was sprung but no occupant. The mousetrap was also sprung, but we caught no quarry. (Can't say I am sorry. I hate seeing little things killed.)
Today I will plant the new watermelon starts I bought at the greenhouse yesterday. This time they will be surrounded with a metal cage, with a solid covering over them at night. Once the thing is growing melons I bet I have to protect them, or the critter will eat them. I'm trying to think of how to do that. Deer fence is obviously not enough, as everything has been surrounded and swathed in deer fence and still the gnawing continues. Oh well, sharing with the four-leggers has always been a part of gardening.
The day has begun well, and promises to be as beautiful as yesterday. How fortunate we are.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The newest visitors to the garden are a pair of Bullock's Orioles, seen here in a photo taken by Kevin Cole. They arrived a couple of days ago, first heard but not seen, then yesterday evening both came to have their evening bath in our birdbath.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
You can say, "Treat each other kindly and all will be well," but there are people who seem to need to be treated badly, and they aren't attracted to partners who treat them well. Some have a neurotic need to rescue, and others need rescuing, and together they can be happy, as long as neither of them grows out of their particular neurosis.
Thankfully whatever growing we had to do we did together, or at least in close enough rhythm that we never lost our bond. At 44 years we are still bonded in a way I never dreamed was possible. I think we are totally comfortable together. We don't have to maintain a facade, say what we don't feel, or worry about saying what we do feel.
Our relationship is solid, cast in stone. And while a stone can be a millstone, which hangs around your neck and impedes your every breath, it can also be carved into a thing of solid grace. And while we rarely buy anniversary gifts, or even exchange cards, this year we decided to buy something to commemorate our years together.
Hence the new stone Nitobe Kasuga-style "Marriage" lantern in the garden. The Marriage lantern symbolizes the enduring quality of a good marriage. The round top is called a houshu and represents a sacred gem. It is believed to have the power to expel evil, cleanse corruption, and fulfill wishes. The Kasa (umbrella) acts as an umbrella over the fire box. Also carved into the stone are the zodiacal signs of rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The rat is aligned to the north, taking precedence as the first sign: as such it indicates the month of December and the first (midnight) double-hour of the day. As one goes around the base of the Nitobe lantern, the passage of time is marked.
So far we are lucky just to gotten our lantern into the garden, as it is VERY heavy. It took both of us to carry it the ten feet from the truck to the garden, and we were very glad it wasn't any further! But it is now there, though still in need of a bit of alignment. Tonight we will light a tea light in the firebox and look forward to year 45.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” Boy, no pressure there.
But let’s begin with the startling part. Hey, Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.
This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food, but all that is changing.
There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.
When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.
You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.
There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.
Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit.. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, and non-governmental organizations, of companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.
The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. Think about this: we are the only species on this planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.
The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.
This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing and stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.
You can read more about Paul Hawken at his website. You may know him from his most recent publication Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. According to Culture Change, he was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by University president Father Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., in May, when he delivered this speech.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
So today had to be good right? And it was. It was a warm, sunny day. I was up early, feeling very well, got the housework out of the way in short order and headed for town to buy some badly needed groceries.
The Robert's family fruit and bakery stand down the road opened this week, so on my way into town I stopped for produce and (sighs with exasperation) bought two beautiful pink and white flowered geraniums, along with beautiful asparagus, strawberries, apples, new potatoes, tomatoes and cookies. The geraniums I bought at Robert's last year were the prettiest things, and I will find a home to tuck these into. They are raised by a local man whose passion is geraniums, and it shows.
Then it was on to the locally owned small market. I think I always mortified my kids when they were teenagers by talking to other shoppers in the grocery store. I think of a village market and how people stop and chat. That seems so friendly and nice to me and it seems that somehow we enter a cone of silence when we walk into a supermarket. Some people act as if you've hit them with a cattle prod if you smile and say hello, others respond by edging away, but some act like real people and talk back!
I usually try to find an older lady with a pretty hat, top or scarf and tell her how nice she looks, how the colour compliments her eyes or how well-coordinated her outfit is. So often older women are treated as if they are invisible, even though it's clear many take great care to dress and groom themselves beautifully. Last week a 90-year-old told me about her 99-year-old sister with Alzheimer's, and her own struggle with ill health, yet she was dressed so carefully and had on a pretty hat. She was so thrilled that someone noticed that she was still taking care to look nice. She said she lives alone now and it's hard to keep up your spirits when you have outlived friends and family.
Today there was a lady about my age who had on a very smart jacket, and I told her how nice she looked. She responded by telling me she made all her own clothes, including the outfit she was wearing. She told me how she loved sewing and fabrics, and we had a nice conversation about what a pleasure it is just to go in and fondle our fabric stashes. Of course I don't make my own clothes, in fact I just gave my brand-new and never used sewing machine to a young woman with a family who needed one. My back will not allow me to sit over sewing machine any more. But I can still hand sew, and I enjoy quilting, when I'm not out mucking around in the garden.
I had just gotten home with the groceries when our friends Pat and Claude arrived. We were expecting them a bit later in the day but any time they come we are happy to see them. They had their five-year-old grandson with them. He's a very bright little guy who talks a mile a minute and is as restless as a cricket. I fell head over heels in love with him within about three minutes, but they would not give him to me.
And for dessert tonight, rhubarb and strawberries with custard! I cooked the rhubarb/strawberry mix, but knowing that my "custards" usually end up being more like scrambled egg I bought a little four pack of pudding cups.
When I took the wrapper off I discovered that there was a free MP3 download code included. I have never downloaded music before but I knew 'zackly what I wanted, and was hoping they had it. They did!
I downloaded Jonathan Edward's Carolina Caroline, which has long been a favorite, but I hadn't been able to find it. I am one happy camper. What a lovely day! Now only if there was a dish fairy, like Tinkerbell but with a dishmop and scrubbie. Life would be perfect.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Yesterday I planted:
1) the tall okra, in the bed under under the willow tree,
2) carrots, in the 4 x 4
3) radishes 4 x 4
4) onions 4 x 4
I made a bamboo cane and deer fence "tipi" for the cantaloupe, zucchini and crookneck squash. The plastic mesh will come off once the plants are large enough to hold their own against whatever is eating my watermelons and sampling the bok choi at night.
At midnight I heard "munch munch munch". We have a large window right over the bed and the tiered garden sits under that window, so whatever was munching was not two feet away, which is why I could hear it so well.
I waited until I couldn't stand it a minute more, then got up, got the flashlight, turned on the deck light and something brown and furry that could leap like crazy jumped from the tiered garden to the corner of our neighbour's fifth wheel. I caught only a glimpse of a rapidly retreating rear-end. I think it must be a bunny. The teeth marks on the bok choi look like bunny teeth.
Anyway I turned the trouble light on back there and there were no more midnight snackers in my garden. Of course it ate the last shreds of the one-leaved watermelon plant. I definitely will have to cage the new watermelon plants. I think I have just the thing for the job. Measuring will be done shortly.
Anyway, I had my beans, peas and short okra soaking overnight and have been planting them a bit at a time. The purple podded soup peas went into the big pot in the community garden. I put the cage around the pot and topped it with wire. It will be quail and bunny safe.
The scarlet runner beans went in the front, strictly for the beauty of the vines. The Chinese painted ladies went into large pots beside the big tomato SIPs on the top tier. They can crawl up the trellising on the back of the trailer and give us some shade while they make beans.
In big pots on tier two I planted burgundy bush beans. I decided to rip the scrawny Chinese kale and perpetual spinach out of the large pot on tier one and plant beans in it instead. I've been puzzled as to why those plants have done so poorly. Well, mystery solved. The pot was full of the fresh compost I took out of the basket this spring. It was way too powerful for plants. I emptied the pot and replaced half of the compost with topsoil. That may still be too rich, but we will see. I will have giagantic bush beans or sad little over fed weaklings.
I keep having to stop and rest, which is annoying. I still have okra to plant. That will go into my 4 x 4. Two rows I think. I should probably have planted more okra and fewer beans. I can buy beans but okra is hard to find!
The 4 x 4 looks good. The tomatoes are growing well. The other things I planted won't be up for a while, and the okra will take two weeks to emerge. So it will look empty for a while yet.
I console myself from slow-growing veggies by looking at my flowers, which are growing and blooming like crazy. I can't decide which to show you, so I've put one or two here and added the rest to my Flickr set, which is in the column to the right. I haven't quite got Flickr figured out yet, so for some reason today's pictures aren't showing up as a separate set, but they are at the end of the mushroom set.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
And you know where the track is! In the garden garden garden! About 6:00 pm the light was slanting through the "shade" garden so I grabbed the camera and ran out to take some pictures. These are what will keep me from garden deprivation in the depths of January.
While the morning was cool and overcast, and I was still a bit "flattened" the day and I picked up as the hours ticked by. Out in the Community Garden Ruth's 4 x 4 is looking wonderful, with all kinds of things coming up.
One of the other neighbours who has 4 x 4 in the community garden had soil delivered today. The driver dumped it on a tarp about 100 feet from the garden site, so it all had to be moved by wheelbarrow. What a job! She worked soooo hard, and she filled not only her 4 x 4 but that of another neighbouring couple who is away on holiday. They built her raised bed when they built theirs, and she repaid the favour by filling their 4 x 4 with soil and peat moss. It is all ready for them to plant when they return in a few days.
I helped in a very limited way, but she filled the wading pool I will plant my cantaloupes and squash in, and another large one I haven't decided what to plant with yet. We topped up the containers Zak had filed to the 3/4s mark while he was here.
But I was a bit dismayed this morning to find the "darling" quail had eaten my two watermelon plants right down almost to the ground. And flabbergasted when I realized that two containers planted with tomatoes and green peppers were missing entirely! I have been awakened the last two nights about 2:00 am by "something" messing about in my tiered garden at the back. I actually got up last night, turned on the deck light, got the flashlight and went out to see what the noise was. I thought it might be a cat climbing around in my pots.
I really didn't look closely yesterday, so didn't miss the pot of tomatoes, but there was an empty space on the shelves I didn't really pay attention to at the time. I know the green peppers were there yesterday, because I had to water them. But they were gone today. Pot and all. This is no bird, unless it's one who swoops down and picks up two gallon pots full of soil and plants. No why on earth would anyone steal pots of teeny vegetables? Surely no one who can afford to travel in a 40 foot $300,000 motor home is that impoverished. You have to feel sorry for anyone with that kind of attitude. How can a person like that be happy?
I did get some work done outside today. I cleared out all the greenhouse pots and gardening supplies from the front, relaid the stepping stones into a path leading to the deck door, and filled a long planter box full of soil. I sat it up on the deck, against the mesh. I think I will plant scarlet runner beans there, where they can climb up the mesh. They were so pretty there last year, even though there's not enough sun for them to produce very much in the way of a crop. I also got Tony to help me move the cobalt blue pot to the front of the garden where it will get more sun. I watered everything and hung the hanging basket in the tree in front. So I accomplished quite a bit, despite it being a slow start. And I just saw a Townsend's warbler having a bath in the wee pool Zak and I put in. What a wonderful investment of $7.00 that was!
So that was my one-track day. I hope your day was as productive!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The hosta I'd almost given up for dead is now a plate-sized cluster of saucer-sized blue leaves and growing rapidly. Beautiful! I love the way water beads up on the leaves of a hosta. I could work out there all day, picking up here and there, a touch here, a little rearrangement there. What a joy it is to be able to be outside in the garden.
My Australian blog friend Rhonda writes eloquently about the comforting joys of home, and the steadying routine of caring for home and garden. I'd like to have her skills, which are many, but I am basically content with what I know how to do. However I have a skill I don't always use, the skill of pacing myself through a job so I don't totally burn down my energy supply to nothing. I sometimes deliberately throw this "skill" out the window and burn as cheerfully as the Christmas log.
I gardened all last week. On Saturday I went with the "Gardening Crew" from the park (five of us girls) to Penticton to buy the annuals which brighten and beautify the Park all summer. I love it that "Annabelle" and Judy are willing to spend both time and money to make this a beautiful place to live. And I was thrilled to be asked to join the "crew" of volunteers who choose and plant out the many flowers each spring. Of course while we were choosing plants for the Park I couldn't resist buying another 20 or so for my own garden. But buying them means they need to be planted, and since I was feeling well I flew in and planted all those plants on Saturday afternoon. I was very tired on Saturday night.
Late Sunday morning we assembled on the beach to begin transplanting the huge number of plants we bought Saturday. It was lovely to work together. Working in a group multiplies your enjoyment of any task. But early in the afternoon I hit the wall. I knew I was pushing it when I walked down to the beach in the morning and every step felt as if I had a concrete block tied to each leg. But since moving can work off these minor episodes I persisted and soon I felt fine. Until about 2:00 pm.
Though I hated to do it about 2:00 I packed in my garden gloves and came home. The job was about 3/4s done, and I would have liked to have stayed to finish but not only my muscle but my heart said NO. When I start having cardiac pain I have no choice but to quit whatever I am doing.
I am now paying the price. The price in my case being muscle weakness to the extent that standing and walking are difficult. The house was a wreck this morning. (Surprising how much mess you make in a single day when you don't pick up.) Bless Tony, he helped me clean the stack of dishes, and I managed to sweep. That may be the only housecleaning done today but at least it's not a tip.
I think of Toad in that classic tale, Wind in the Willows. He is addicted to fast motorcars the way I am addicted to gardening. His friends take him in hand after he has wrecked a series of cars and almost killed himself. Badger gives Toad a dressing down and makes him promise never to drive a motorcar again, never to careen down the road at the ridiculous speed of 20 mph enjoying the wind in his face. With Badger looming over him Toad is contrite and cries big tears of remorse for all the worry he has caused his friends, and all the damage he has done his reputation and the countryside. He is, to all appearances a reformed Toad.
But when Badger brings Toad back into the room with his friends the Water Rat and Mole it is a different story. Badger orders Toad to repeat all the contrite promises made during their discussion.
"There was a long, long pause. Toad looked desperately this way and that, while the other animals waited in great silence. At last he spoke.
"No!" he said a little sullenly, but stoutly, "I'm not sorry. And it wasn't folly at all! It was simply glorious! ...I've been searching in my mind and going over things in it, and I find I'm not sorry or repentant really, so it's no earthly good saying I am; now is it?"
I find that, like Toad I may be convinced temporarily by my chiding body that I am truly foolish and reckless, but like him, I am not sorry, because to me gardening is glorious. And as soon as I am able, I will be back out there, gardening at 20 mph.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Yesterday I transplanted the strawberry plants I bought two or three weeks ago, poor things. I put them into the raised 4 x 4 bed, along the far edge. They are blooming like mad, even trying to make little strawberries. You are supposed to cut off all the blossoms and baby berries before transplanting. Could I do that? No. I also transplanted the remaining marigolds into the raised bed, and put the coleus plants up front where they will appreciate the dappled shade. The tomatoes and green peppers I transplanted on Thursday are doing well and are already visibly larger than before!
Late yesterday Ruth asked if I wanted to go to Penticton with the "planting crew" this morning to buy the flowers for the park. Do I look like someone who would turn down a greenhouse trip? Not by a long shot! So this morning five of us were off in Annabelle's van. I have already confessed to a wicked addiction to plant life. Well, this morning I was overcome by my vice once more. I thought I was planting primarily vegetables this year but the flowers of the world had a different idea.
But could you have resisted this luscious pink rose? I couldn't. I said I was going to plant a rose this year. I had a larger one in mind, but this one works too. It's a mini rose so it might be the one plant I am able to bring inside this fall. I hope I can keep the cat from eating it but I suppose if he did try to eat it all he'd get was a mouthful of stickers for his trouble.
They had fig trees, but I have just about busted the budget for this year, so if we are going to have fig trees they will have to wait until next year. You have to have a male and a female, so it's best to buy one male and two females, and they have to be kept from freezing in the winter, which might prove a bit of a challenge for us. Some people dig their fig trees up every year and bury them for the winter but I don't know if I want figs that badly.
I bought this Golden oregano, okay that qualifies as an herb rather than a flower - I have planted three different kinds of oregano and I don't even like the stuff. (Maybe it's better fresh. That's the argument I'm using. This one was such a striking chartreuse colour I had to have it.) Look at it here next to my purple violas. Lovely. I still have to transplant the oregano but it will tolerate shade so it will be one which stays up front for good.
And I found a gorgeous, vigorous "Lady Fern". "You are MINE!" it said, and as everyone knows it's not polite to argue with a Lady.
Oh, watermelons. Two. Sugar baby. I had planned to grow some from seed but what the hey. For 79 cents each I decided I would forgo babysitting those finicky seeds. The plants have already been planted in the large SIP sitting at ground level in the hottest spot in the place. Here's hoping. I also bought two cantaloupe plants. Cantaloupes do well here. Apparently in the years while the first orchardists were waiting for their trees to begin producing they grew cantaloupes in the rows, and boxcar loads of them were shipped out of the Okanagan every summer.
I may have to move the basil I put in pots to the back, where they get more sun. They are looking a bit dejected. I think I may have to switch plants which require full sun in and out of the vertical planter up front. It just doesn't get sun long enough to power up the sun lovers. But then lately we haven't had enough sun to power up the sun lovers in the normally sunny spots. It was supposed to be sunny today but was overcast all day long.
I planted a hanging basket and a planter box. The hanging basket is full of pink, white and silver flowers/foliage. The box is full of purple foliage and white or blue flowers. I had been lusting after a dark-leaved begonia with large white flowers that a neighbour grew last year. And of several hundred begonia plants I saw I found only three with dark leaves and white flowers. The third one had mold on it so I put it down very quickly. The other two came home with me and will form the "anchors" at either end of the planter box.
I've been busy transplanting succulents into the cobalt blue pot I bought earlier. It's such a pretty colour it doesn't even need plants. I put a pink-flowered rosemary in the top, and several different kinds of hen-and-chicks and sedum in the "pockets". Now if we can just get some sun....
Now I turn my attention to choosing what else to plant and where to plant it. I'm thinking:
1) crookneck squash and the cantaloupe will go into a child's wading pool in the community garden.
2) carrots and radishes
3) okra - the short variety, into the raised bed.
4) okra - tall variety - into the bed under the willow, as soon as the tulips quit blooming
5) royal burgundy bush beans - raised bed
6) Chinese painted lady beans, in containers on the tiers.
7) Purple peas - in containers in the community garden.
8) zuchinni - in big containers on the tiers.
I'll look to see what else I have for seeds. I have dozens of packets of seeds. I thought I had mesclun mixed lettuce seeds but find I don't have. This doesn't especially worry me as we are not big green salad eaters to start with. Sal likes salad greens so I usually try to grow a few for him. I will grow two containers of rye grass for him, so I can switch them out on a day in-day out basis. He grazes them pretty vigorously, so a single pot is not enough.
And that is the garden round-up for the day. I am tired but perfectly happy.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
You may remember than I did a good bit of moaning about the failure of the yellow pear tomatoes and green peppers I planted. They came up but never put on a secondary leaf. But happy day! the store had not only yellow pear tomatoes but lemon boy, and some perfectly lovely green pepper plants. I bought two yellow pear, a lemon boy and four green pepper plants. Also a honking big bag of planting mix and some coconut fibre soil amendment.
Once home I set to work and transplanted the tomatoes and peppers, plus several of my own tomato plants, starfires and a row of "mystery 'maters". The reason they are a mystery is that the plant markers faded in the sun and I can't read them. They may be sweet million, tumbler, patio, or a mix of two or three. I guess time will tell.
In all I have now planted 15 tomato plants; two brandywines, three purple prince, two starfire, two yellow pear, a lemon boy, and five mysteries. I should be able to set up a tomato stand and sell tomatoes by the basketful to campers! I have several large plants left, two are spoken for by neighbours who are away on holiday but will soon return. I am trying to give the other 15 away to neighbours. Any which don't go to neighbours in the next few days will go on Freecycle.
The perpetual spinach and Chinese kale are sulking. Neither has grown much since being transplanted and I am going to pull them out and put something else in their place. However, the Brussels sprouts, broccoli raab and bok choi are leaping upward and look absolutely spectacular!
The raab are actually beginning to put on teeny bundles of buds, which when fully developed will signal "ready to eat"! Raab is one of those vegetables few people seem to have eaten, though it is a favorite in Chinese and Italian cooking. In Italy it is called "rapini" (ruh-pee'-nee). I was first introduced to it when we lived in Rupert. By the time vegetables reached us via the slow freight, they were almost inedible. One day at the grocers there were a group of women grabbing bunches of something so fresh and green it was irresistible. As I grabbed a bunch I asked the woman next to me what it was and what you did with it. She didn't know, but an older Italian lady spoke up and told us to steam it and serve it with lemon and olive oil. Oh, it was heavenly and I was hooked! I've never grown it before though.
I cannot finish without showing a picture of the ramp Zak built for Salvador. Sal is so big that he hurts his "wrists" when he leaps off countertops. So Zak built a ramp for the pampered puss-cat. And he uses it too. He still jumps up, but he comes down the ramp. Wasn't that a kind and loving gesture on Zak's part? He even put non-skid material on it, because Sal was frightened by sliding on the wood.
That's the garden roundup for the moment. There will be more once I start getting seeds in the ground.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
As I see it (and I am no scholar) my practice of Buddhism serves to discipline body and mind, encourages me to live a useful life, and helps as I struggle to grasp the nature of reality. By the time you are in your 60s and have lost grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, children, siblings, cousins, friends, co-workers and colleagues you begin to realize that we are temporary manifestations of energy in an unending dance of cosmic energy. We wink in and out like lightening bugs on a summer night.
When I grasped the nature of reality, and accepted the nature of birth and death I found a visceral sense of being at one with the universe. I think that is what is referred to as enlightenment. It's not some sanctified state of bliss, or any kind of holiness. It is knowing to your core that this is the only moment you have, and with it you build your life as a carpenter builds a house with wood and a box of nails. It is the knowledge that we create our own reality. We find what we look for.
You can fret over past hurts, wrongs and anxieties or worry about what tragedy may come tomorrow. You can spend your time struggling to control others or in amassing things which mean nothing. When you bang your life together with greed, despair, disinterest or resentment the character you build is as plain to the onlooker as is a house thrown together by a disinterested carpenter. The character of the craftsman is revealed by the work. Even a simple house is beautiful when crafted with care.
I've come to feel that the more you talk about the peace that comes with living in the moment the less understandable it is. You cannot absorb it from someone else, buy it or attach yourself to it. You can only learn by practicing. You practice by attending to the moment, and by letting go of your expectations that it is someone else's responsibility to provide you with happiness. You practice by bringing your thoughts back to the now and living in the moment at hand with discipline and responsibility.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
This is not to say I didn't work while they were here. We worked very hard on Sunday. He worked ten times harder than I did, but what I did was enough to flatten me. I have done little but sleep since Zak left yesterday morning.
But he accomplished miracles! Both he and Ian worked so hard this past month and a bit. We now have a covered, mesh enclosed porch which we and the cat are thrilled with. No kitty wake-up calls as the sky lightens. He just goes out his little kitty door and is in his personal playground with scratching post and a ramp to his favorite sentry post.
And is he happy? Oh yes! He thunders back and forth on the deck, getting all kinds of exercise, which is a great help, as he needs daily exercise for his diabetes and I'm not always able to take him out. And, during camping season, like right now, there's a large uncontrollable and uncontrolled dog (a husky) right across from us in the tenting area. That dog wants Salvador as a snack badly. He goes berserk every time he sees the cat on the deck. Hence the *stout* mesh.
I am enjoying the garden Zak helped set up so much. There's lots to do still, but I can do it a bit at a time. I need to buy more potting soil to mix with the topsoil Zak carried by the container full. It looks like good top soil, but it's too dense to put in containers without adding some lighter material.
As you can see we are under a canopy of blossoms, which smell wonderful. When we get a gust of wind white petals fall like snowflakes. Another couple of weeks and everything will be planted and potted. It's now time to pull out the seeds and decide what gets planted where. Thanks guys. This is going to be fun.
Friday, May 08, 2009
While everyone has been here to have a drink, the opportunity to bathe in a spot so well protected from hawks and owls seems to be just as big a draw. There have been as many as three white-crowned sparrows bathing at once today, with the whirring wings and flying water it looked like birds in a blender!
The occasional Brewer's blackbird went for a wade and many had a long drink. The robins' wild splashing made it unnecessary to water that end of the garden at all. They throw more water around than a bucket brigade at a barn fire.
There's one robin male who vigorously defends his territory against an interloper who is just too darn dumb to give up and admit he is the lesser robin. Of course what Cock Robin doesn't quite understand is that he is attacking his own reflection in the window of the neighbour's kitchen window. He attacks again and again, all day, wearing himself out in the process. Here our neighbour is up on his roof, getting ready to put up netting to keep the robin away from the window. This lovely gentleman is a real inspiration to me. He's got to be at least 10 years older than I am, and he is active and a hard worker.
Quail don't drink, except in brutally hot weather, and they prefer a dirt bath, but the quail pair apparently found the entire scene enchantingly romantic, as they were out there making whoopee poolside. Shameless, utterly shameless.
Did I transplant anything today? No, don't think so. I spent the day digging the house out. I didn't get it finished but I made progress. I see that we do actually have a floor, and there was a stove under the grunge, but I haven't found the bathroom sink yet.
Okay, I admit that while I didn't transplant I did spend a good deal of the day outside. I went out and admired the bok choi and told it again how nice it looks in its big container. And when I watered the Brussels sprouts earlier I noted that the tomato plant I put into that bed had been (once more) totally denuded of leaves. I think it's the quail, and while I was thinking of leaving my tomato plants out overnight sitting in the compost pile, maybe I should go take them in, or at least cover them so the quail don't eat them.
That's an excuse to go back outside isn't it? Bye!
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Three 4 x 4 raised beds are now in place in the garden, and several other people are planning on adding one shortly. Container gardens are being planned all over the park. J came this morning to talk about her plans for several humongous pots, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, mint, rosemary and other herbs. She said she hasn't had a vegetable garden in 15 years, so I'm excited as a kid at Christmas that our efforts have inspired quite a few people who haven't gardened in ages to grow some of their own vegetables.
I spent a couple of hours yesterday transplanting herbs and flowers from their small pots into large ones for the vertical planter. And today Zak and I went to Penticton where I bought more plants (it's a sickness! Keep me and my debit card out of the gardening section!).
I bought a gorgeous Bressingham Blue hosta that is probably too large for the spot I have for it, but it will fill the entire width of the yard at that point and should be spectacular. The leaves are among the bluest of all the hostas, and it has a beautiful two foot tall flower spike that resembles a plantain lily. The one I bought has just begun to bloom.
I also bought peppermint, chervil, sage and borage. The first three have already been transplanted into larger pots and are in the vertical garden. The borage grows very tall and is not suitable for the vertical garden, so was transplanted into the garden.
Borage has lovely blue flowers which are extremely attractive to bees. They also taste like mild cucumber and are a lovely addition to a summer salad. Some people eat the cucumber-flavoured leaves as well, but I find them too hairy. Zak helped with the harder bits, like digging holes in the garden. While we were transplanting I finally got the Scotch moss I bought last week put into the garden. I put it near the Buddha, with hopes that it will spread over that little rise.
And we bought a black "granite" (enameled tin ware) roasting pan, which is about 18" long, a foot wide and four inches deep. Zak dug a shallow hole on the Buddha mound, we put an inch or two of gravel in the bottom of the pan and we sited it as a bird bath. It hadn't been in place 10 minutes before it was used for a very thorough bath by a white-crowned sparrow, and there are two white-crowns drinking from it right now. Looks as if this will be a very welcome addition to the garden.
It looks a little industrial at this point but I will find a way to disguise the hard edges, and make it fit in. This might even be a good picture of it were it not for the 50 feet of garden hose snaking its way around in the background.
It was overcast, and so cold and windy today I never even took the tomatoes from the greenhouse. I left the trouble light on all night and most of the day, trying to cheer up the sad little purple-leaved tomatoes which are suffering in this cold weather.
Still to transplant; six coleus, eight marigolds, six strawberry plants, a box of white alyssum, a rosemary plant, and tomatoes by the dozen. I still haven't planted my squash and melon seeds, and may not even bother until 10 days before I plan to plant them out. They would not do well in this weather. I do need to get my peas planted though.
The list of tasks is longer than my arm, and definitely more than a match for my energy levels. I will not reveal how long it has been since I did a proper houseclean. However, the garden is coming together, as the house falls to pieces. I am one of the girls who would much rather be outside than inside. My dream house is one you could hose down - inside. I really ought to just live in a cave and forget the entire house bit.
But you really ought to be sitting with me now, as the sun has finally emerged, and is shining through the dense panicles of Mayday tree blossoms tossing in the wind. Gorgeous!
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Yesterday dawned cool, overcast and windy. In late morning the group assembled one by one to lay the lumber wrap on the community garden site. Lumber wrap is like a four foot wide 1000 ft long piece of tarp. It acts very much like a sail in the wind. Get a small woman on each end and a stiff breeze in the middle and you have a sport, but I'm not sure if it's parasailing or skydiving. Just let go!
Okay, so laying it was a bit of adrenaline-pumping adventure. The wind was so strong it threatened to make you and the lumber wrap airborne. Rocks were gathered, along with tent pegs and blocks of wood, anything that would hold down a corner or edge of wrap.
Once we got it pegged and weighted down we stood and waited for the gravel to be delivered. And waited. And waited. Finally we went to sit down and that did the trick, here he came in his big red truck, rumbling down the road. Annabelle had to jump up on the running board and bat her eyelashes at the driver. He was kinda cute. But he could have stayed and helped shovel! Cute is as cute does.
He backed into the site and began to dump his load. Some people looked a bit dubious about this entire process. (Don't worry fellas. We won't force you to shovel gravel. The girls will do it.) He pulled forward and dumped some more, and more. He moved and dumped more. I mean, these were four foot high piles of gravel everywhere!
He moved and just about took out the neighbour's satellite dish. Another two inches and it would have been a good (but somewhat expensive) pizza dish.
Then we started raking, pushing, and shoveling gravel, although I did very little of any of that, because of my rib. Zak shoveled like crazy, and another guy (Steve) came along and shoveled more gravel than one would have thought humanly possible in 45 minutes, and never even broke a sweat. We discovered one of the truck's wheels had run over the valve cover for the water shut-off. Oh dear. Have to get that fixed.
After an hour or so of hard labour the job was about 2/3rds done, but the shoveling crew was completely done. We walked away from it and will finish it when energy and motivation return. September sounds about right. [Update: They all showed up to rake and shovel like crazy about 10:30 am, and it's done! Amazing!]
So far we have seven people who want space in the community garden. That's wonderful! Some have already built their 4 x 4 raised bed frame. I have three stacked in the back, waiting to be moved and filled with soil.
On other fronts Zak brought back a big section of dead wisteria vine from his walk this morning. It looks like an old, frayed piece of coarse rope. He sort of draped and wrapped it around the Mayday tree in the back, where it looks a bit junky, but the birds love it. Maybe I'll try to find a less junky way of displaying it.
I have about 25 plants which desperately need transplanting, if only I could get time and energy together at once. It's really quite cool out still, only 8 C (46 F) with a cool breeze. This isn't nice weather to work outside, but we have rain forecast for the next three days, so it isn't going to get much better.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
We just had a highly successful Garden Day event. It was a beautiful day, absolutely lovely and sunny with very little wind. We didn't count but we think we had 15 participants, all of whom were enthusiastic about learning new gardening techniques. I don't know what I would have done without Zak, as he was right hand number one man.
We began with a tour of the tiers and raised bed in back, and did a walk around the spot where the community garden will be. Then we went over and began the demos. There were lots of questions about the various techniques and lots of excitement over the new community garden. I was very pleasantly surprised at the turnout.
We showed how to make SIPs from pop bottles, earth-boxes from totes, a compost bin from a laundry basket, and showed how to plant upside-down tomatoes. We built an upside-down planter and planted a tomato in it. We also talked about using cloth mesh bags instead of plastic ones for produce and the value of eating locally grown foods.
We set up a solar cooker made of very basic materials and showed how to use it. Here is a picture of the ingredients Zak prepared for a rice dish, to be cooked in the solar cooker.
We should have started it a little earlier. Like about two hours earlier! However, after three hours in the solar cooker Zak just went out and brought it in and finished it on the stove in 10 minutes. It is yummy! And this actually was quite a success, as our UV rating is not considered high enough to use for solar cooking at this time of the year.
And here is a picture of the cooker, which was very quickly cobbled together from a piece of used Reflectix, an aluminum roasting pan, a plant pot, a turkey roasting bag and a black cooking pot borrowed from Ruth next door.
We had quite a few people sign up for the community garden. People will be allowed to build raised beds, as well as have containers, which is very good. The park will provide containers and soil, as well as prepare the garden area. We will have a picnic table under the willow tree and I think it will be a wonderful way to increase community spirit and get to know each other better. Working together is always a good way to get to know someone.
All in all I am very happy how this turned out, better than I had hoped!
Saturday, May 02, 2009
We started the day with a trip to our favorite place, the builder's supply. I bought seeds for the cutest carrots you ever saw. They are like little orange balls. Since I suddenly have room to grow carrots I got a packet of seed. I will interplant them with radishes, which will be ready to pull long before the carrots require more than a thread of room.
When we got back from the builder's supply Zak set to and built a 12" deep, four foot by four foot raised bed. This will be divided into 16 one foot square grids as per Mel Bartholomew's square-foot gardening method. Crops are sown more closely than in row planting, and as one crop matures it is replaced by transplants which have been grown from seed. It is claimed that using this method will allow you to grow all the vegetables for a single person in one four x four bed. We'll see. Soil will be delivered in a week or ten days, but in the meantime I layered in a six-inch "lasagna" of leaves, compost, organically enriched sawdust, and micronutrients which will speed their conversion into organically rich compost.
Next Zak tackled building an "Earthbox", a larger version of the sub-irrigated planter I made earlier from pop bottles. This one was made from a large (68 L/18 gal) tote. I'll have several of these in the end, for tomatoes, okra and melons. But the first one went swimmingly, and took very little time. It took him about 30 minutes to make it once he had the materials assembled. He'll make a second one tomorrow during the workshop, to show how they are made.
These planters are reputed to produce twice the yield per square foot, as the plants draw exactly the amount of water they need on a continual basis. You do not get diseases splashed up from the soil onto leaves and stems, as you do when you water with a hose. The top is covered so rain doesn't disturb the water balance or splash soil up on the leaves. Everywhere I have looked people rave about using these type of containers.
The garden is jumping with birds. The blackbirds are back, doing their extravagant displays, and the quail cock has apparently decided that he and his lady love own this patch of the world, at least as far as the quail tribe is concerned. Another male quail came along about half way through the afternoon and got the tar kicked, pecked, smacked and beaten out of him. There was quite a bit of crowing afterwards. My neighbour says that the quail nested in the bumper of Kent's RV several years back. I wish they'd do that again, now that Elvis and Priscilla have moved away it would probably be as safe a place as any for a family of baby quail.
I put out a bowl of dog kibble for the blackbirds, since I know how much they like it. Yes, I may be the only person crazy enough to buy dog food for the carniverous birds, but I did it for the magpies in Calgary too, on the premise that they'd take an easy meal over fighting off other birds to rob their nests.
I meant to transplant some tomatoes and other plants today. We went to a local greenhouse yesterday afternoon, and while I had meant to buy a couple of green pepper plants their's looked no better than mine. No secondary leaves at all. I did buy a couple of dozen plants, mostly flowers, but two very small globe basils. Mine are just as nice. I'd like some mints, but guess I'll have to go further afield.
Garden day tomorrow!!!
Friday, May 01, 2009
When Zak finished the vertical plant stand last evening we moved it to the front of the trailer. This morning I went out to paint the shelves he'd put on after I painted the shell the day before. Next door neighbours R and M were sitting out on R's deck chatting in the morning sun. One of the park managers, who I tease by calling Annabelle, was there too.
Once I finished my painting I took my brush over and offered make-overs to anyone who wanted a hard-wearing coat of paint. Not surprisingly none took me up on my offer, but we immediately fell to talking about gardening. It is the season.
I told them that Kent was going to let me use some of his site for a raised bed, and how pleased I was by that. R turned to Annabelle and asked, "Where else could we find for people to garden? How about that corner where Deb's been putting the tomatoes? The grass is terrible there. The roots won't let anything grow."
I've been putting my tomatoes out in the space that's sort of a no-man's land at our corner. Annabelle asked if that would be a good spot for a garden. Would it? It gets full sun early in the day, dappled sun mid-day and then full sun from about 3:00 until dark. It's right next to a hose outlet and is accessible to everyone. I think we ought to think about putting a picnic table in the shadiest spot so people can sit and visit as part of their gardening.
We all got up and walked over to survey the spot. It's roughly trapezoidal in shape, about 50 feet on its longest side, maybe 35 feet on the opposite side. The end near us is about 30 feet wide, the far end at the corner only ten feet wide. It wouldn't be the place for in-ground gardening because the willow and Mayday tree roots are an almost solid layer just under the soil, but it would hold a lot of containers.
So, the grass (and weeds) will be removed by covering the space with lumber wrap, a load of gravel will be put on top so it's clean underfoot, and park residents can then use the space to grow vegetables or flowers in containers.
No grass grows on this bunch. Art was busy cutting the grass back within 30 minutes, the lumber wrap will go in over the weekend and the gravel has been ordered!
A community garden is born. Now we have a place, it's just a case of letting people know! We will do that on Sunday.
And in the meantime I have work to do! Earthboxes, raised beds and a tomato ring to make. Also want to go buy some plants to put in the vertical planter. I'd like to be able to suggest what's possible with one anyway, though it won't reach full potential till mid-summer.
I love it when something green happens! Compost bins are suddenly appearing, and the park is building a large bin to take care of the tons of grass clippings and leaves generated every year. These have all been hauled to the landfill until now.
Off to think about Earthboxes now!