2018…the year that was…2019…is the now…

Hi friends and readers!

Last year escaped my abilities to write about changes in the garden.  It was a lovely year for the garden, with some changes and expansion based on last year’s harvest and growing patterns.

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New garden plot ready to roll; lettuce and kale already up, bonnet protection for the young squash and basil. Way out yonder along the lattice fence is expansion for more squash and tomatoes.

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Oriental poppies tripled in size this year and much sturdier!

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‘Jerusalem Sage’ and lavender nicely expanding their reaches 2 years after planting

Because the house needed to undergo a serious external siding renovation and painting, which took about 8 weeks for Randall to accomplish, most all of the old bushes along the backyard border side of the house were removed over the last two summers.  Cannas were removed from other areas and planted in the sunniest ends of the border strip, along with many plantings of young hydrangeas, hostas, and Tradescantia into the shadier areas.

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A new addition to the house backside border….Miss Saori hydrangea

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Some lilac Tradescantia to blend in nicely next to Miss Saori hydrangea

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Exterior house scraping and painting. Ugh. Had to protect the ground and plants as best we could for residual paint chips. Actually vacuumed the ground, too!

Farther out back I converted an area of fallow space (weed patch) into a productive melon, squash, and tomato space, also interspersed with more perennial foxgloves.  Being able to start these sun lovers in May was a bonus, as it receives more sun early in the spring for longer daily periods.  Come late August though, it starts to see more shade, just as did other parts of the yard, so they didn’t really have an extended season.  Sigh…

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Huge maples, neighboring trees on our south side, are adding more shade to the yard every year, so fall shade sets in early, and really only makes lettuce and kale happy! Beans don’t appreciated it…

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Expanded tomato and squash areas

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‘Indigo Rose’-‘Yellow Pear’-‘San Marzano’ tomatoes…ripening…yumm

Very mild fall and start into winter again, so who knows what the weather will be like this next gardening season….once again….seemingly the new norm of variability.  Lack of rain is never helpful though, and we did get quite parched last summer.  May we be blessed with cleaner skies (fewer chemtrails) and abundant, pure water in our future!  May all garden Beings be safe, be they visiting bees and birds, or resident worms and soil inhabitants, or the elemental devas!

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Vivid chartreuse “stained glass hosta” and coleus fading in sunny fall.

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Lavender and cleome still keeping bees busy into mid-fall. It was a warm and dry fall for several weeks.

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Did get to see our one hatchling mantis in late August. He tended to hang out near the warmer concrete area next to the house as the sun angle shifted.

In truth, it wasn’t the easiest of years, as we had another year of wildfires and smoky skies that started earlier in summer, and then energy got focused on dealing with my father’s health decline just after he turned 99 in September.  He finally released life on December 5th, after a relatively healthy life for his age, still living independently until the 3 months before he passed.  As he had said, he wasn’t in a race to tie his own father, who passed at 103 years (!), and it was fine with him if he didn’t make it to 100; and so it was.

I probably owe my “gardening genes” to my dad, since his family had a fairly long history of farming until my grandpa sold his share of a farm in Idaho, and continued to work in a Boise Cascade lumber mill.  (Neither my dad nor any of his 6 siblings had any interest in pursuing farming, and left for other destinations, largely Los Angeles.)

While I was a toddler growing up in Hollywood, he was the one who dabbled in planting roses strategically on our little hillside, and strawberries for a ground cover where grass would never grow, and he planted the huge hillside behind and slightly around our house with Algerian ivy to prevent mudslides (it worked for decades!) And for many years, until his old body didn’t like the strain, he would plant a few tomatoes each year in his backyard.   Thanks for the memories Dad, and not making me do too many of those gardening chores at home, or I would have revolted!  I learned at my own pace, in the right time and space…

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In Memoriam to Cyrus Davis. Thanks for sharing some crazy ideas Dad! 1973-Mt. Whitney summit at 14,093 ft. Think our hands are cold?

Wishing every One a healthy, peaceful, and happy 2019 in your Lives and Gardens!

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Fall…ing fast

Fall…arrived in lightning speed, so it seemed; preceded by a few cooler days of decent rain to relieve some of the stress of excessive smoke and thirsty trees all over the region, both urban and forest. The precious rain was a bit precocious in actually arriving as anticipated; taking itself further north for a few days, but it did finally arrive in time to help with the forest wildfires and start cleaning out the smoky air that kept recycling itself over the state.

The smokey skies, hot temperatures, and strange humidity initiated a very early onset of powdery mildew, ensuring the end-of-squash-and-melons in a very abrupt manner. With the return of some sun and a bit more warmth, the nasturtiums, lettuce, and kale are more vigorous, however. As the first rains arrived it was a dash to clip melons, spaghetti, and delicata squash from their deteriorating vines, and gather in any ripe tomatoes.

Winding down those squash, winding up the greens. Where’s Juni?

A first-year learning experience in a new garden; it was very productive in most ways, and less than anticipated in other ways, seemingly more related to sun and shade patterns than anything else. A few ideas are now being tucked away for reference for next year.

In some ways this “new” garden seemed easier to care for, compared to the former one, with seemingly less watering needed, although the overall bounty was a bit less. Whereas the high amount of loam in the old community garden was well drained and easy to dig, more clay in the present yard helped retain moisture longer, even if it made the ground a bit harder to work to start with. And, more shade trees overhang this yard, keeping the area a bit cooler.

Tomatoes were later producers here, in spite of being next to the house, which is turning out to be an asset as we cool down. What wasn’t foreseen was the amount of shade they would be in until the sun shown on them (after 12:30pm), and then for the remainder of the day. And they weren’t particularly early-ripening varieties, but now they’re doing well, with some extra plastic over them as the temperatures cool down. Maybe a different spot next year, or else an early ripener.

Enjoying the current 2-3 days of warmth before we see a longer stretch of rain settle in. That delightful flip-flop transition of early fall.

Hoping your bounty has been generous this year!

Smoke gets in your eyes

Greetings from a bountiful garden that has transformed from the swamps into an oasis, albeit under smokey skies (wildfires in the nearby mountains), dust clouds (field tilling in the Valley, plus neighborhood street digging and repairs), along with a long duration heat wave.  My garden devas and many insect pollinators have again done their magic!

Cleome and Echinacea, masking the now-dormant oriental poppies, backed by lavender and flanked by young nasturtium volunteers. Waiting to see if the late-planted Stargazer lilies will make any headway this year.

The winter and spring storms finally gave way to a dry summer earlier than expected, and the yard transformed into beautiful flowers and bountiful veggies.  With rain lasting so long into May, and being on vacation for part of it, I didn’t get around to turning and amending soil until later in May, unsure whether the clay clumps would stymie seed germination.  Decided to use transplant lettuces and kale, while seeding beets, beans, and radishes.  It proved worthwhile as heat set in fairly quickly in June.  It proved to be too late for good radishes, as they were quick to bolt.

We are still awaiting ripe tomatoes on very large plants, but just need to be patient; they are happy against the house wall, but don’t see much sun until after noon.  The zucchinis are on high production mode, with little yellow crooknecks due any day.  Out back in a barren spot, previously overgrown with weeds and blackberries, the spaghetti squash favorite is rambling along with several fruits of various sizes, and the miniature canteloupes are just starting to form.

Blueberry bushes have borne spectacularly this year; now quieting as a few late-ripening berries hang on.  We had fun sharing quite a few of them.  Now about to purchase a small chest freezer to store the rest.

Zinnias, lavender, echinacea, yarrow, and sage at play in the front yard “mounds”, now filling out nicely a year after planting into the old sweetgum stump-grinding residual.

If the lighting seems strange for some of the yard photos, you are not imagining it.  The altered sunlight from haze and smoke lends to a more yellowed and eerie appearance.  We hope for some onshore breezes to make their way inland soon, to help clear the air!

May all y/our gardens be bountiful and sources of delight for all types of Beings!

Hiring frogs, fish and herons!

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Rain, rain, and more rain, followed by a little snow, then more rain, has kept the flood zone fluctuating, but definitely always a swamp. I keep waiting for some frogs to take up residence in our yard.  The swamp area is a little too shallow to be a fish pond, but it seems like it has potential!  It wouldn’t surprise me to see a great blue heron standing there one morning, but not likely.

As our latent winter, pseudo-spring has raised our temperatures into the milder zones, the ground is ultra soggy, and every shovel of soil weighs close to 3 bricks.  It is not a time for planting anything in our yard yet; instead it has been a time of digging up old, neglected, and sprawling shrubs; weeding, and pruning plants to enourage their new looks.  A time to clear the old and make space for new.

Cycles of equilibrium: the balancing of energetic elements; over-abundant rain to counter balance 2-3 years of uncanny drought.

While April plays its games of freaky weather, we wait and dream for gentler, warmer days in May, to dry us out a bit, and give us momentum to actually plant.

Kitties are taking more outings, too, weather permitting.  Juni definitely has spring fever, and likes to take her time scouting around the neighborhood, sometimes causing her mom some anxiety.  Aspen is reliable in hanging around the premises, preferring to keep an eye on his human’s activities.

Spring has sprung in our part of the world! Time to admire the exquisite colors emerging all around us!

A New Year…A New Home…

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Happy New Year! Quite a bit of snow fell during December.

Sending everyone New Year greetings, whether Gregorian or Asian!  It’s been a wild few months of fall 2016, having gone through the process of sorting, packing, and moving my belongings from my beloved home of 18 years; also, the source of all my previous postings for High Vibe Bounty.  It was a prolonged process I wouldn’t care to repeat very soon.  Hard to believe the planning started in June, but not a lot could be done without any storage units available in this college town, until classes started in late September.  I could only pack so many boxes, before being stuck with no place to put them.

That led to a bit of stall in being able to show my place for rental purposes, but it all came together relatively easily; it just seemed to be a never-ending process to get through the needed repairs and improvements.  Naturally, I said my good-byes to the yard, and harvested the CG bounty for the last time.  I think neighbors were feeling little incentive to harvest, knowing I would be leaving, but I did put out a request for help in weeding and removing the last of the tomatoes!  Deer netting is still up for protect any weeds that are enjoying our winter…lol.  What my renter decides to do with that space is her choice!

Meanwhile, I have a new home and new roommate, who won over my heart (and apparently vice-versa).  I may have mentioned earlier that his yard is a more challenging scenario, given some years of neglect (not his priority or forte), but I have been rehabilitatinging his old blueberry bushes for 3 years, and they are doing great.  This year will require more thought on how much old wood to actually leave, now that many younger stems have filled in my previous thinnings. It might mean a temporary decrease in fruit this year, but we’re still stuffed to the freezer limits with last year’s stash!

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Blueberries biding their time through rain and snow! That irksome jack-in-pulpit ground cover thought our warm fall was just prime for re-emergence before winter, and wasn’t phased by any snow!

Unlike my own property project, which was essentially a clean slate of lawn that could be covered over and established as I liked, my new yard is overwhelmed with ancient shrubs, overgrown with English Ivy from neighbors’ yards, and a plethora of weeds/lawn.  There is a nice patch of area for putting in a veggie garden, yet it does not produce as prolifically as mine did, given clayier soil, more shade from gigantic trees on south and west property lines, a the house itself on its sunny eastern side.  Last summer we removed two giant sweetgum trees that had become a nuisance to the house foundation, so there is more eastern light in the morning, which is great inside the house, and for the newly planted landscape mounds in front of the house.

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Giant sweetgum no more, making way for more sun, and a new perennials bed project out of the ground stumps/earth, thereby letting me move a few favorites from my yard. Deer proof/resistant necessary on the open street size.

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Randall showing his new expertise, gardening and computer-tasking, both at the same time…not! Pleased with a new front yard that should be relatively drought tolerant in a couple of years.

The concept of “sharing the bounty as a community garden” is now not the priority topic at my new home, since we have no community garden out front here; it’s all in the large BACK yard.  Still, this will be a project of continuing the high vibes of gardening with both food and flowers.

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It’s a big area to redevelop, especially when the left side floods!

 

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Kwan Yin keeping an eye on things from her temporary abode. Like all those planters? Uprooted, and moved from various places, mostly my old yard. But, where to put them?

One of the dilemmas of how to salvage this backyard space is how much time, effort, and money, we want to actually invest in this, since we need professional help to remove and restore things.  We attempted to control the invasive ivy and jack-in-the-pulpit ourselves last summer,using mechanical and chemical means (in order to stay sane), but it hasn’t apparently had much effect, at least on the “pulpit” invaders.  And they love root disturbance, just as do blackberries (a few of those as well).  I can compromise with patches of weeds in proper places, but I have little tolerance for them around edible plants, so there’s a considerable amount eradication needed.  And, with neighboring rentals that aren’t really interested in maintaining weeds, there is always a source for re-invasion, hence continual vigilance and maintenance (though that in itself is nothing new for any garden).  And, in the long run, how long will we stay here?  The neighborhood, so close to campus, is prone to noisy parties and more problems that don’t delight my sense of security.  We already had a nice teak removed from the front porch while on vacation in December, even with someone coming to the house twice daily to feed Juni and Aspen.  Still, we will expand the veggie planting area, and hope for more successful tomatoes and squash this year.

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Aarg! Jack-pulpit, blackberries, ivy, and holly bushes make this garden maintenance a challenge in the long run.

I do love that the backyard is essentially deer-proof!  There are a few that have been spotted on occasion, but they tend to stay in neighborhoods 5 blocks away, where they have more front yard options to browse.  I have found one in a nearby yard, but he couldn’t get into ours.  And with so many large old trees surrounding us, there is a consistently larger diversity of birds: flickers, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, red finches, goldfinches, bushtits, nuthatches, western tanagers, scrub jays, and the obligatory always-quarreling starlings and crows, who raucously knock the suet feeders off the hooks.  A grey squirrel comes many days to pick up discards under the sunflower seed feeder.  It is quite the menagerie to watch on a given day, viewed from the kitchen window.  Our hummingbird feeder just under the front porch eave is visited by a female and a couple of males, with no more than 20 minutes’ absence between them on their rotations.  Life is good!

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Keeping Anna’s hummers fed and zippy!

It’s a boy!…Monarch that is…

 

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Beautiful male Monarch on my Asclepias!  The spot, circled in yellow, is mirror-imaged on the other wing, and indicates this to be a male.  Photo courtesy of neighbor, Jamie Simmons, who also watched this specimen flitting in his yard.

We’ve been blessed with the presence of an authentic Monarch butterfly in the garden this last week, following my sighting of 3 more out in some pasture lands on the outskirts of town.  The Monarch is a relatively rare butterfly to see in this area, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one: with the overall decline in their populations over the last decade, I was surprised and delighted to see these, especially in a short amount of time!  Almost didn’t trust my eyes! I grew up with them as very commonplace yard visitors, and missed their numbers up here in western Oregon.  Even though I’ve grown a type of milkweed for many years (a non-invasive cultivar), it hasn’t hosted very many caterpillars in its lifetime, nor is it the favorite of the monarch.  However, more people are planting various types of milkweed in the area, and perhaps it is paying off.

He is not always present on a daily basis, but one afternoon and evening he was a visitor for several hours, flitting about, around to neighbors, and back, and alighting on the butterfly bush, which is loves for nectar.  The frequently visiting Swallowtail was also cruising through the yard, and there were some near collisions at the Buddleia bush.  Jujubes have shown up, too, jumping and whirling themselves about in little frenzies, which didn’t phase Mr. Monarch.  Such a delight and blessing to see them all active and energetic.  I did have to remind little Juni-cat that she should not even think about trying to capture our visitor! She has caught a Swallowtail before…grrr.

Our first bounty of beautiful yellow crookneck squash was picked a couple of weeks ago, and a ripening tomato can be seen from certain viewpoints in the yard.  However, most of the tomatoes are green; our intermittent pattern of 3-days cooler than average, then 3 days normal summer heat, is not conducive to speedy tomato ripening.  There might be green tomatoes at season’s end this year, depending.

Spaghetti squash is being true to form and pumping out its fruit, (with bees’ help, of course), and at last count last weekend, I saw about twelve softball-sized squash.  Five days later, some of them are now almost full-grown for this variety, like a good-sized canteloupe.

We’ve had very, very, very, very bad deer this year, in spite of extra netting.  They have learned to walk on netting and bite through it for their highly-desired bean leaf sprouts, and then they won’t leave them alone.  There will be absolutely no bean harvest this year; I leave the stems to torment them!  Always one day (no, one night!) ahead of me, they demolished over half the lettuce crop.  It appears we might get some lettuce re-growing though as summer cools off a bit.  And they harass some of the melon and cucumber seedlings, too, when least expected, so we’ll see how those do.  Tomatoes are protected enough now that they can’t do too much damage.

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Early July deer damage.  Forget any bean harvest this season, and only a bit of lettuce escaped sabatoge.  The day after this photo shot, they munched the rest of the lettuce, and proceed to keep it mowed.

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That’s what happens when you leave town for a few days…all of a sudden it is a massive crookneck jungle! May have to do some disciplining/removal so the hidden melon plant can see more sun!

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Spaghetti squash interloping with tomatoes. At least deer don’t like the prickly leaves at this point.

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Squash fruits galore, running all over the place.

 

Solstice Transitions

June is still maneuvering its way through mercurial weather, with increasing hints of true summer, now that we’ve crossed the official June Solstice date.  A far cry from last year, when temperatures were hot, long before summer, we have continual cycles of cool and warm, a few thunderstorms.  Although we’ve had weather more reminiscent of the ’80s – 90’s, strong gusty breezes seem to be present more than usual, so plants and soil dry out more quickly than anticipated.

It has been a bit rough getting our row of lettuce to proliferate until this last week; a weekend of extreme heat after 7 days of rain seemed to confuse it.  Then our local young bambi-deer came through to chomp down on the new seedlings that had been acquired to supplement the laggards.  Finally, they’ve sturdied themselves.  Meanwhile the mesclun mix and radishes have finished their acts, stretching themselves up in their time-to-bolt looks.  Since we got too busy to properly thin the radishes and greens early on, there was a bumper crop, with plenty to give away!

Changes are afoot for this bountiful garden and homesite, as life evolves, and it appears that I will be moving away to another residence, still local.  The heart calls to co-habitate with my significant other! His place is a bit larger than mine, but it will be a tight squeeze.  He has a very large back yard that has been minimally attended to until my presence in his life 😉   But, we won’t be attempting to rehabilitate or redesign it too much at this point; this may be a transition move, as we look for a different house that will be a bit larger.  The blueberry devas have definitely been busy improving the bounty over the last couple of years of my working with them.  Large, luscious berries this year!

Hence, this year our CG is smaller, maybe 55% of its usual size, with part of it tarped over for weed control.  Once some squash and melons are established, they can meander over the top of it.  Our usual participants are also either leading busier lives, or less inclined to participate for various reasons, so it is an appropriate time to scale down, and let part of the garden soil rest.  This has been another concept I’ve known needed to be implemented at some point, and this is the perfect opportunity!  Ideally, the planted portion this year could be left to rest next year, and the fallowed side this year can be planted.

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A misty day progressing, although Solstice was pleasantly sunny. Still in spring/summer transition, the familiar tomato red jackets, and jug covers for emerging melons and squash are present and keeping the youngsters warm and protected.

Then, to find a renter for my place, who loves to garden!