gardening

Happy Summer Solstice!

IMG_4173
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
IMG_4160
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

IMG_4184

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

IMG_4182

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
IMG_4151
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
IMG_4171
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

–Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

gardening

Busy As Usual on the Homestead…

Been working on a personal illustration project that I am pretty excited about. I need to keep the momentum going and stick to the schedule I’ve been working on and the systems I’ve been using for continuous creativity. Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit has been really helpful with this.

4634EFB3-E289-44E4-B8DB-EDABAB660519

I’ve also been completing projects outside…the side steps are finally finished and a much better way of traversing the terraces!

IMG_4062

Here’s a before pic of the area underneath the redwoods in the back. I planned on cordoning off a chicken run using T-posts and vinyl mesh fencing, nothing too permanent yet.

Iris and I got a few pullets yesterday to expand the flock a bit…Littlefoot is pretty lonely since the fox got the others.

 

 

Littlefoot has been roaming the grounds and tearing up a lot of vegetable crops; this is how I feel about that:

In-My-Garden

And so, we final grasp the wisdom of a run…

IMG_4131

I installed the 6′ T-posts this past weekend (man, that’s a shoulder workout) and now almost finished with the run…just need to put up an extra line of mesh at the top! This weekend, I’ll be building a portable A-frame coop for the new additions!

IMG_4051

This is how the upper garden looked last week…I’ve cleaned out a lot of the herb bed because many flowers have bloomed and gone. Cut back the thyme and oregano pretty hard, so maybe we’ll have another crop before the summer’s end!

Industrial agriculture has tended to look on the farmer as a “worker”– a sort of obsolete but not yet dispensable machine– acting on the advice of scientists and economists. We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist. It is the good work of good farmers nothing else that ensures a sufficiency of food over the long term.

–Wendell Berry, “Agricultural Solutions for Agricultural Problems”

What have you been doing in the garden lately??

Uncategorized

The Bee Catalog, Part I

I’m on a mission today…yesterday I spent about two hours perusing my garden, amazed at how many different kinds of bees and wasps were out.

bee2

Today, I am starting to log how many different kinds of bees I observe in the garden. Lots of honeybees, per usual…

bee3

Right now, the honeybees are collecting from the sage, lavender, and thyme with a vengeance. The yarrow is just starting to bloom, and some have discovered the early flowers.

bee4

So many different types of smaller bees, too! I think this is a type of sweat bee or stingless bee…you can see the pollen that it’s collecting on its back legs.

bee1

This bee on the coreopsis was vibrating like crazy! At first, I thought it was a honeybee because it was a similar size, but the abdomen was not hairy at all and had very delineated striations. I think it was some kind of plasterer bee, sometimes called “cellophane bees” (Colletes) because of the silky fungus-resistant substance they make in order to glue and line the walls of their nest cells.

Yesterday when I was bee-watching, I spotted a giant wasp with a reddish-orange abdomen on the coreopsis. It was flitting its iridescent blue wings so fast it looked like it was pulsing. I wish I had my camera for that!

rose

One last flower for your viewing pleasure…the Tequila Sunrise in its prime.

Uncategorized

A Most Beautiful Masterpiece…in the Making

Took a walk through the garden this morning, enjoyed the sporadic showers, all of the fat drops catching the light and streaming rainbows. The morning was magical! I found this little guy on the patio…I was hoping he wasn’t dead, just getting an early start on sunning since it’s been raining cats and dogs lately. I’m still not quite sure of his living status.

IMG_5375

I’m reading a few books on gardening I recently got from the library. Many of the authors start out sort of svengali on the design/layout, lording over what can grow where and how much space can be taken up by each plant. Ruthlessly culling those that have been deemed to have pushed whatever bounds too far. Many also had preconceived notions about self-seeders being crazy pernicious weeds (and many also changed their ways and let the self-seeders be).

IMG_5377

I began with the opposite penchants. Nursing every seedling that poked its cotyledon out of the ground for a look-see. Even when many turned out to be so-called weeds, I let them go…these were still quite beautiful. Yellow primrose, thistle, Queen Anne’s lace…and here in California, fava bean, clover, mallow, wild geranium, and milk thistle.

IMG_5379

IMG_5380

I crammed small seedlings into compact spaces, only trimming so that bedfellows had an equal footing. I didn’t care if they spilled out into the walkway…I actually kind of liked that. The riot of growth felt very bohemian.

IMG_5381

IMG_5382

As for self-sowers, I can’t imagine late spring and early summer without all the California poppies and blue nigella (above, in the midst of the garlic) that have taken fateful matters into their own hands since that February three years ago when I first threw a few seeds into the dirt.

IMG_5383

And I frequently disregarded grow zone suggestions, especially if the range of the plant was just one off from my own (zone 9). The blackberry cuttings you can purchase at the garden store here supposedly only grow to zone 8, but I have a few canes behind the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired trellis. They are thriving.

I also find that plants that are accustomed to regions unlike my own can in fact grow here if I find and utilize the right microclimate in the yard.

Check out this hardy fuchsia above…I was afraid there wasn’t a spot in the back that would provide adequate shade at the hottest part of a summer day and be able to retain sufficient moisture for this plant. But she seems to be doing just fine…I was excited to find a couple new shoots!

IMG_5384

Found an onion amidst the pink evening primroses! I cleared this part of the bed out recently and was afraid that I wouldn’t have a glorious batch of Oenothera this summer and fall…I had no need to worry, as just a few remnant runners are more than enough to send out some shoots!

IMG_5385

IMG_5386

Pest control is another story. I’m at my wits’ end with our gopher problem. They cleared out an entire tier of vegetables this winter. They started munching on my Lantana (above the Shasta daisies), but I spread a lot of red pepper flakes around the area, mixed them into the dirt, and they haven’t been back to this spot. And these Shastas were almost another casualty, even though the gophers don’t seem to really like them…they just recently started some fragile new growth…

IMG_5387

Littlefoot is our only chicken left now. Raccoons got Lucky and Star…I am going to wait to get new chicks until I am finished with my credential program. Dreaming of building a new spacious coop in the coming months and have been busy perusing free plans. I want to use all reclaimed materials. I have all the tools I need.

IMG_5388

The apple and pear trees have lots of spurs this year…I am looking forward to the harvest. I had to cut a few bigger branches this year, including one that was competing with the leader.

When we first moved here four years ago, the trees hadn’t been pruned for what I can only guess was a very long time. There were so many lateral branches, waterspouts, and a shaggy unrestrained growth of leaves…but no fruit. My dad helped me prune the apple tree the first year, and we had so many apples that I had enough applesauce for baking for the next year. I pruned after that but didn’t realize that the tree was spur-bearing and nipped off all of the spikes, so we haven’t had apples for a while.

IMG_5391

But this time, I was careful. We’re going to have quite a yield this year!

IMG_5392

And another project to finish–level out the dirt in the steps we just put in, lay down landscaping cloth and top with stones. Look how magnificent that live oak is…sometimes a red-shouldered hawk comes and perches on the left boughs, eyeing whatever scurries through the grasses and Russian olive below. Hopefully I’ll get a picture of him one day.

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
― Claude Monet

Uncategorized

Seasonal Gardening

img_2444

Mena and I have been putting in the winter garden. I love this time of year, even though the days are shorter and the sunlight arcs lower in the sky and everything grows a bit slower. All living things are entering a dormant period, a much needed time of rest. Still, it’s incredibly beautiful here in California, and I am getting some garden surprises.

img_2438

I knew I would be harvesting a lot of radishes…so that’s not surprising. The “Easter Egg” variety is beautiful! I will be roasting these for dinner the night my mom flies in from Pennsylvania.

img_2454

Collards are still going strong and are so beautiful after light rains. Their leaves hold the water in pools, and the plant looks to be speckled with jewels. The mullein in the background is humongous now! I cannot wait until it grows the long stalk and blooms!

img_2455

Here is the surprise: my pattypan and yellow summer squash are still growing and producing fruit! I can’t believe it 🙂

img_2456

And the lovely Musque de Provence is positively taking over the lower terrace by the beautiful meandering live oaks. Two more pumpkins on the vine, and I’ll be pureeing like crazy come time they turn that nutty orange color. I am very curious as to how they taste; we’ve never grown this variety before!

Ending with a quote, post-election:

“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”

― Wendell Berry

Uncategorized

A Time for Every Purpose

Nearly finished with the studio. Anthony has only to put the window trim in (the baseboard is actually in, just not in the pic), and it’s finished! I’ve moved most of my supplies in, including the computer and printer. So excited to have a room of my own, in the words of one of my favorite writers 🙂

img_2318

Got a bunch of dirt and some manure to prepare the garden next to the keyhole bed…have to come up with a good name for that one, instead of always referring to it as “the garden next to the keyhole bed.” I love planning a garden…and it’s so satisfying to see it growing in, maturing, becoming what you imagined it to be, and more.

In the veggie garden, summer squash is still chugging along, radishes will soon be harvested, another batch to be seeded now. Mesclun has sprouted, to be picked when young and put into my daily juice!

img_2323

img_2322

img_2324

Rosemary is blooming and lovely, and the bees are in heaven. Going to take some cuttings. I’m planning on planting a hedge just below the last tier of the terrace and above the live oak, one of blackberry and currant and rosemary. I’m going to do a bit of guerrilla gardening and stop on the side of the road next to a local park where I noticed the blackberries growing wild and take a few snips!

img_2310

Looking forward to October and cooler days and nights and keeping busy inside with painting and baking and reading. And going to the parks on off-season when we don’t have to pay for parking! I really do miss truly delineated seasons, especially fall: the sweeping mass of color in all the foliage, the smell of wet leaves and the cold, everything in a golden haze at sunset, when the air is so crisp and clear it makes everything seem hyper-real.

img_2311

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

–Henry David Thoreau

Uncategorized

Keeping Sane

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

img_2288

My husband Anthony has been away for a week, and the girls and I have been spending the days outside. I am excited for fall and have started sprouting the season’s vegetables: cauliflower, cabbage, pak choi, kale, broccoli raab, lettuce, and onions.

img_2290

Being out in the garden always gives me great drawing/painting ideas. Way too many to keep up with, actually. But a few have stayed in my mind, waiting to be transmuted onto paper…like Grandpa Ott with his morning glories and foxes wearing gloves and other lovely cottage garden scenes.

img_2228

I really hope when my girls are grown that they will garden, too. It is truly an incredible source of happiness. One that also happens to have delicious by-products without all the extra nonsense they usually come with in grocery store form!