Category Archives: Winter

Hiring frogs, fish and herons!

FloodZone 020817

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…


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!


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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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!


Keeping Anna’s hummers fed and zippy!

Winter inspiration

While wintry sleet and freezing rain make it rather inhospitable for yard work-play, it does provide for more leisurely musings of the lively feathered visitors to the feeders.  Scanning the yard for the possible early casualties of the week’s freezing temperatures, most everything seems settled.  White sage is out of it’s typical chaparral environment, so it naturally went into decline with the inset do long bouts with of rain, after a freeze; May is the time for revealing the success of mulching its base.

And for many garden enthusiasts this is the time for inspiration; for dreaming, for pondering, for planning what their new outdoor spaces might become, or how existing spaces might be enhanced.

Some inspirational resources are listed here:

There are so many books and resources available that provide valuable information, depending on one’s tastes, preferences, and experience.  However, a few of those that seem to me to offer some unique ideas, while being practical and not so overwhelming are offered as suggestions and places to explore.  There are no rules against using snippets of ideas from many resources to create what you like.

Happy New Year! Enjoy exploring, dreaming, and becoming inspired to find your own style!  “Simple” is a good way to start!

A favorite!



Real rain arrived…

winter Solstice 2015

It’s the season for growing rain puddles!

Just realizing the last post requested some real rain; wow, four months ago!  We moved into most of fall without substantial moisture, and then it started to be a little more serious in mid-November.  It joined us in Hawaii, too; the Big Island having one of its wettest years.  Weather shifts everywhere!

Frosty and frigid temperatures came by during early December, making the lettuce and chard stress; frost wilt has an interesting look.  A move into the December deluges we have going now, is balancing out the summer drought, but required a harvest of the lettuce, which was giving up due to a bit of rot and slug problems.  The beets are surviving the fluctuating surface ponds, and the chard is in some sort of stasis…

It is, after all, the season of rest now that we have reached Winter Solstice in our part of the world.

Wishing everyone a bountiful, healthy, peaceful, and enjoyable holiday season!


Winter bypass

Winter (for Western Oregon) showed up in brief spurts in mid-December, in January, and seemed fairly negligible in February, leaving many of us wondering what is in store.  Many of us love the sunnier and unusually warm days that have presented themselves, but it does not bode well for water availability in summer, since there is essentially no snowpack in the mountains right now.

Spring arrived early, like mid-February.  Usually not this many plants showing so much growth, and March required a lot of pruning!

Spring arrived early, like mid-February. Usually not this many plants showing so much growth, and March required a lot of pruning!

February now goes down in the weather records as the driest and warmest month Oregon has ever experienced.  We welcome the next episode or rain scheduled for tomorrow, to give us allergy sufferers some brief respite.  The air itself looks a bit brown, which is really unheard of in February and March.  Undoubtedly, we are very grateful not to endure the harsh weather patterns in the eastern states, yet it all seems a bit surreal.  To spend the last half of February in warmer Costa Rica (which had its own atypical weather patterns happening), then return home to find I needed to start pruning everything, was a bit of a time warp.

Checking in with a local beekeeper a week or so ago, he wasn’t too happy about the weather, although there are plenty of blossoms out for the active bees.  Nights are still very cold, and he is concerned about any potential cold snap over the next 2 months that would kill many bees because their physiology has changed to warm weather activity, after which they don’t adapt quickly/well to sudden temperature changes.  And bees are a precious commodity anywhere, so we’ll have faith that this will be fine.  My Spanish lavender plants have overwintered better than last year, but having a sudden, brief deep freeze in mid-December, just after a warm fall, really tests their limits.

Wandering around in shorts and sandals for a couple of hours the past weekend I marveled at the warmth.  By February we knew everything would probably bud early, if no cold weather arrived, since some of us noticed daffodils and tulips pushing out of the soil in late December. There is nothing to stop a brief winter blast from hitting us anytime into April, of course, and that could present some issues, both for plants and for bees.

Some gardeners are getting their veggie beds ready for planting the early lettuce, spinach, etc., but my brains aren’t there yet, since we tend to enjoy warmer weather produce.  Also, it’s one thing at a time, and right now that thing is more pruning, and feeding blueberries, kiwis, strawberries, roses, and such.  That will be a few evenings and weekends of time.

Today, March finishes with more typical weather, just in time for the fickle month of April.  An imminent thunderstorm and a cold front of rain moving through right now; almost fifteen degrees cooler than yesterday!  And rainbows brightening the clouds when least expecting it.

Bees, get back to your hives!  Spring has sprung…

Newly leafed and blossomed apple enjoying no pruning by deer; we'll see how long!

Newly leafed and blossomed apple enjoying no pruning by deer; we’ll see how long!

In between the gaps…a gallery

A glimpse into the menagerie of the community garden and general house yard through fall and winter 2013/2014.

Always like to show off what our browsers can do when they put their minds to it.  Push down that netting to get the delectable bean leaf tips! They've developed finesse so they don't get their teeth caught in the netting...

Always like to show off what our browsers can do when they put their minds to it. Push down that netting to get the delectable bean leaf tips! They’ve developed finesse so they don’t get their teeth caught in the netting…

Apologies to our beautiful praying Mantis, who is probably eyeing an insect or two under the netting.  What a beaut!

Apologies to our beautiful praying Mantis, who is probably eyeing an insect or two under the netting. What a beaut!

Tasty greens sprouting for fall crop.  Mature beets further right even overwintered well under the snow pack.

Tasty greens sprouting for fall crop. Mature beets further right even overwintered well under the snow pack.

The typical way we keep the squash, melon, and tomato harvest aired and dry during the mild, not-too-rainy days of fall....stored under my eaves.

The typical way we keep the squash, melon, and tomato harvest aired and dry during the mild, not-too-rainy days of fall….stored under my eaves.

A record-setting snow-then-freeze episode the very first weekend of December 2013, followed by a record-setting snowfall in early February 2014, made us very aware of how little we can predict anything anymore, or when our gardens are tested to the maximum adaptability, and how miraculously resilient plants can be.  The witnessing of when a healthy, mature plant “decides” it will not struggle to survive the next year, but yield to the new energies of the next generation of seedlings.

Where's the bench seat?!

Where’s the bench seat?!

How Deep? 020814

14″ AFTER the snow has packed down for 3 days…

The birds had to learn to eat snow on their feeder for a few days.  Thank goodness for seeds on the old flower stalks, although the snow buried a lot of those.

The birds had to learn to eat snow on their feeder for a few days. Thank goodness for seeds on the old flower stalks, although the snow buried a lot of those.

And spring brings the energy of renewal…

2014-Kiwi Arbor-a

Kwan Yin being sheltered by a bower of the Siberian kiwi vine.


A year gone by, surely you jest!

The summer Solstice energies always help things get growing...sometimes too fast...bolting radishes!

The summer Solstice energies always help things get growing…sometimes too fast…bolting radishes and arugula!  Garden is awake!

I don’t even try to mentally grasp at the reality of a whole year gone by since last posting. It does feel like there are several timelines moving simultaneously, and depending on what I am doing there is rarely a sense of linear time, except for specific moments “in time”. This is the true reality, non-linear time that is, so a year feels like a month or two, sometimes, and at times a week feels like two months ago.

Many wonderful happenings and blessings in life have manifested over the last year, and there is not a lot of time left for keeping garden updates. I surely have mentioned that it is enough work just taking care of the garden after a job! The entry of a companion into my life has broadened my horizons once again, and his generosity in embracing me into his very active life has provided new opportunities to travel, as well as a busier schedule than I was used to. When he sustained a skiing accident in mid-February, my life-roles expanded further into helping him heal from pelvis and hip fractures. Fortunately he is very ambulatory these days, but healing will continue for up to a year, all said and done. Complete recovery, but a slow journey. This spring it was all I could do to bring my focus to engage the CG and get it up and running. February became May before I knew it.

Rereading last year’s entry regarding spring weather in 2013, which I don’t remember one iota, it doesn’t seem so different from this year. We’ve had a long stretch of mild, dry weather in May and June, now being balanced with a touch of late June rain. As usual, the tomatoes are still cloaked in their finest red jackets, probably till July 4, or when the new deer fencing goes up.

We had one of the most severe winters I can recall in my 35-year tenure here, and it was interesting to see plants survived two cold events. The first event occurred the first week of December, 2013, when the southern Willamette Valley received about 1 foot of snow in a couple of days, accompanied by sub-freezing temperatures that lasted for nearly a week. I had the pleasure of stepping into a foot of snow with only my Chacos on, arriving home at 2:00 am from a week-long vacation in Mexico. This was the event that probably killed off many old hedges around town and all my Spanish lavender (the English type held up fine).

Then came the huge snow load of February 7th, when it snowed upwards of 15” in 48 hours; yes, record-setting for that rate! However, it wasn’t overly cold during that session, but the lavenders were completely covered. The snow probably insulated the seed pods, which did sprout a plethora of seedlings in front of the CG, almost like a little carpet. These will eventually be planted out again to replenish the Spanish type (Lavandula stoechas). The old L. stoechas and L. viride in front had to be removed, and were replaced mostly with the hardier L. angustifolia.

If Quan Yin is just over 3 feet tall...

If Quan Yin is just over 3 feet tall…

The bambi/es made their presence known early on this year, before the CG was even put in, dessimating my roses twice, so there are absolutely no flowers, and inhaling two of our newly-acquired tomato seedlings for the CG. Roses I am not so attached to, but….

A bumper crop of Lakemont seedless white grapes after a hard winter.  Was it modified pruning, or signs of plant maturity?

A bumper crop of Lakemont seedless white grapes after a hard winter. Was it modified pruning, or signs of plant maturity?

The odd weather affected flowering of the pear and columnar apples in the house yard, so there is absolutely no fruit this year. On the flip side, I have never seen so many grape clusters on a still-young grapevine, and I have done cluster thinning for the sake of the plant. And, for the first time, my Siberian kiwi is fruiting.  Now 5 or 6 years old, there appear to be a couple dozen small fruit. They aren’t lying about kiwis needing to be at least 5 years old before they start maturing, but I was starting to hold my breath because there were only a few blossoms last year that did not yield fruit. This is like a bumper crop!

Here’s to a bountiful year!

Success!  After 5 to 6 years, and a hard winter, several dozen Siberian kiwi fruit have manifested.

Success! After 5 to 6 years, and a hard winter, several dozen Siberian kiwi fruit have manifested.

Still slumbering in the CG

This is why it is so quiet around here….

If you want to turn soil right now, be my guest...

Mild January and a relatively mild February, except to have a pile of snow fall on February 24th.  Not quite gardening weather yet, you think?  Just as well, since my brains have been busy elsewhere, trying to get indoor projects taken care of before “gardening season” takes hold.

The CG Ladies had a lovely afternoon tea however, providing us a chance to review our garden favorites and less-favorites, the yay’s and nay’s.  Sounds like we will skip lemon cucumbers and patty-pan summer squash for another type of cucumber (English type, maybe), and an extra delicata or acorn squash.

Just to remind us it is still winter...

The wood iris thought it was time to show off in mid-February

So we dream on a little longer.....

Solstice solitude

Solstice greetings of increasing Light to everyone!

Whew!  November and December have flown so fast!  Some well-meaning friends are already asking if I have ideas for next season.   No, not yet; it is really the season of rest right now, for both humans and plants, and soil.

Although I do think it is time to consider a cold frame of sorts to help weather some lettuce and spinach a bit longer.  If California starts to have climate trends tending to flooding (or interspersed with droughts), produce prices will skyrocket.  Fortunately our local producers are doing well, given their newer methods of winter gardening, but demand sometimes exceeds the supply in our locally-supplied markets.

The older kale plants are looking a little wobbly from wind and soaking rains a couple of weeks ago.  Some of us will probably pick off one plant at a time and pull it out when used up.  The crop planted in fall is surviving very well, as is the chard, but they are both small.  Older chard seems to have survived the cold frosts of earlier December, but is in a “holding” pattern, not looking particularly anxious to grow!  Who would, on the shortest day of the year?

But now, the life-stimulating energy of the sun starts to expand just a little more each day, though our coldest days have yet to come.

Happy holidays!  I’m hoping that some magical elf will bless me with the gift of a hori-hori knife (Japanese multi-functional gardening tool, meaning did-dig).

Yule-tide resting time....Where's Aspen?

Something in the way it froze last December

Rewind: an unusually hard, but short freeze around December 2, 2009, after a long, relatively warm fall.  Very little in the way of freezing temperatures for the rest of the month; much of January and February were very warm.

Fast forward: April had several frosty mornings, colder and wetter than average temperatures.

Results: more weeds than I’ve ever had in the yard, including big crops of maple seedlings.  Several “hardy” perennials appear to be dead, though they’ve survived harsher winters; I’m still holding out hope for some of the late-to-wakers.  Tender perennials, like some of the sages, I’d expect to lose, even with mulching.  Alas, my young apricot tree is diseased with bacterial canker (causal organism: Pseudomonas syringae), probably induced by weather-related stresses.  Double rats!

It’s always a puzzler when plants survive typical winter periods of cold temperatures just fine, then die after a winter of milder temperatures.  But, that one cold snap came so early in December, with little chilling preparation ahead of it, and some plants physiologically weren’t ready to cope.  Sigh….