Battle of the Broom

Haven't reached this part of the hill
The hillside behind the house is infested with Scotch Broom, an invasive introduced species that has spread all over BC, by the looks of it.  We’re determined it’s not going to have this hillside, and we are waging war.  Every week or so, one of us spends a few hours yanking shoots and snipping the fibrous thick stalks.  This is nasty bent-back Sisyphean work, that ends when you stop, scratched, bitten, dirty, aching and itching, rather than when the job is done, because this job cannot be finished.  Even after a systematic back and forth scouring, invariably you look back and there’s a few bright yellow flowers mocking you.

Our idea is that if the broom is never allowed to go to seed from flower, then it will lose one mechanism of reproducing itself, and perhaps other plants will gain dominance, and after a few years, optimistically, there will be no more broom.  Too bad the stalks sprout like Medusa’s head when cut off, and the thready white roots are knotted like bathtub plug chains with rhizomes.  I assume it reproduces like grass from the root, and divides like a tree from pruning, in addition to the explosive seedpods, that twist and spray out their evil spawn.  Acres of broom in the hot fall absolutely rustle with the snapping of seedpods.

Even the shortest of sprigs can produce flowers, and they seem to do so a day or two after an attack.  I suspect rather like dandelions, they flower prematurely when stressed or aware of stress in their fellows via root system connection, determined as they are to conquer all.  So we work along, ripping out anything yellow, chopping down anything so big it can’t be uprooted.  Always more, the most endless task.

And what a workout.  I always end up with my hair and shirt drenched with sweat, all exposed skin red and stinging from allergenic plants.  Temporarily satisfying.

Everything’s up.

This is the grape vine on the barn, earlier this year

Today or yesterday, everything popped the surface in the garden.  Peas, beans, radishes, clover-esque kale sprouts, tiny blades of beet leaves and green hairs of carrots.  The onions are charging away.  So satisfying.  They made it!  Wasn’t too rainy for the beans, or too exposed for the carrots.

I haven’t been too ambitious.  I had a lot of unassigned garden space that I bought random starts for at the garden supply, chosen by what interested me.  A cucumber, and celery, which I consider exotic, and two watermelon plants that are a flight of fancy.  I have high hopes, though, and they are looking transparently plump with water and thickly endowed with white prickle hairs.  They look like happy watermelon plants.

The hay mulch is introducing grass by seed, but the tiny grass seedlings are the most vulnerable sprouts of all, easily swept away, totally unlike the rhizome-rooted counterparts that look innocuous when young and tiny, but are really just the surfacing tip of a diabolical rampaging root system.

Upside down tomatoes

I thought I’d give this a try, because I love the idea, although unproven.  Last year my tomato planted upside down in a juice jug was a total fail, probably not least because of the transparent jug, and inadequate gasket around the stem of the plant.  This time I roughly copied the technique of a guy I met hitchhiking (cute, and he gardens!), and the summer will tell if it’s a success.  Both of us saw this in the Lee Valley catalog, and although the special pots they sell are certain to be sophisticated technology, there has to be a way to make them work low-tech.

First things first!  Drive the nails or hooks where you’re going to hang them.  Because the moment you have one full, you’re gonna need to put it somewhere to get it out of your way.

The supplies: 2 gallon pots with 1 1/2” holes bored in the centre with a spade bit. I made two hanging loops off the top with baling wire by drilling small holes in the side of the pot lip. 5ml poly cut to more than cover the inside bottom of the pot, with an X slit in the center, and palm sized squares with one slit in them.
Seedling out of the pot, using the small plastic squares around the stem, with the slits opposing. Does that make sense? These two pieces collar the stem with their slits facing opposite ways. Then I plunged the root ball in the water to soften it.

Continue reading Upside down tomatoes

Worm circus

I don’t know what kind of bush this is, but I love it. It’s transforming daily, and I love the rich, deepest ox-blood colour of the leaves.

The last few days have seen a zillion minute delicately pale green worms rappelling on gossamer filaments from the fruit trees.  Collectively, they make a shimmering curtain that leans in the breeze and catches the light from the right angle.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Unphotographable.

From the wrong angle, the trapeze show is totally invisible, and when you stride through it, you’re festooned by a dozen sticky threads and instantly remember you meant to skirt the tree.

Today I noticed a development.  Instead of the 100s of lines almost reaching the grass with one worm on the end of each, there’s a reduction in numbers of lines, but that the ones that remained had dozens of riders.  Tiny green bodies tip to tail like a beaded string on one lifeline.

I’m fascinated at the process.  Do these worms spin out their lines to ride to the earth, over a few days?  Then what?  Do they eat the spring leaves on the tree then go to the ground to transform?  Or travel back up the tree to inflict for damage come fruit time?  I know nothing about these insects. As beautiful an effect they create, I’m horrified at the obvious infestation.

What can be done about them?

What Ozone Layer?

There are birdhouses everywhere around this place.  Scattered about, picturesquely decrepit.I can’t understand this phenomenon.  Sunburn? What’s that?  After two hours?  WTF?  Not me.  I think I’ve only been sunburned enough to peel three times ever, and all of those involved all day stints in the sun, so ten hours or more of exposure.  For me to burn in a morning is unheard of, and I’m not adjusting well.  Is it my aging skin or the thinning atmospheric membrane?

Wearing sleeves and pants all day?  Are you serious, I can’t wear shorts for consecutive days?  Yet, here I am, only three days into a sunny period, and my skin has that reddish tone of brown and slight tenderness and there’s a telltale sun headache to close the case.  I suppose this means I should make friends with sunscreen.  I’ll start by getting some.

What I have instituted is the midday sun siesta.  It should be a social habit spreading across the latitudes as the ozone layer retreats.  Doesn’t Australia do this already, shut down outdoor work at midday?   It’s necessary to hide from the sun between noon and 3, or more ideally 11 til 4.  It’s nice to retreat indoors after some five or six hours of morning work, eat some food, read a little, write a little, and maybe nap or take a solar shower.

These days, I also hydrate my cat and sit with her as she lies in some discomfort, staring and resigned as her body slowly redistributes the cup full of fluid that makes a flabby pouch under her “arm”.  She’s very good at siesta.  It may have something to do with wearing a chic fur coat all summer that she can’t take off.

"I'm wilting on the floor here"Speaking of, I just moved the camper into the shadow of the barn because Kev was letting me know it was so hot, she’s gonna keel over.  Ahhh, shade.  I don’t have the same view.  Now I open the door into the barn door- nothing like waking up to your work- but this will help us survive until we get some insulation between us and the sun.

Et voila

She’s planted.  I had to turn the whole thing by hand once more, to decompress any areas smushed by my walking around on it during tilling, then raked it all out.  It’s so pretty!  I’m very proud.  I took the picture before mulching it, because I think it’s not as presentable after mulching.  I really like the “earthy palette” of brown smoothed dirt with the tender green of seedlings.  Mulch just makes the whole thing look like an unusually well groomed haystack.

Lettuce starts were totally psychological.  “Oh look, its as though something’s already growing.”  Tomato starts were necessary.  Mine are too late and spindly to finish this summer and will end up in the greenhouse.  Putting something in    that’s already above ground makes it feel like a real garden.

It feels so late in the year, but when I got my potatoes in the ground the day before the market gardener on the next road who’s lived here for 40 years, well, I can’t be that far wrong.

Mulching.  So satisfying in one way, tucking in the vulnerable dirt to conserve its moisture and making little nests around the tiny sunflower seedlings that will become wrist-sized  stalks.  On the other hand, it’s an awful lot of hay to move, and it’s not esthetically pleasing.

Popular wisdom says not to use only straw and never hay for mulching, because it’s full of seeds.  Mogi says that if feed hay has gone to seed, then it has no nutritional value, so it’s always mowed and baled before it goes to seed.  I’m looking at:  buy straw, or use the giant, growing pile of dry, yellowing reject hay that Mucky has eaten what he wanted of and left to dry on the ground.  It’s practically in unlimited supply, all this quality mulch.  There are some seeds in it.  I can see them.  What I’m more worried about is introducing moulds or mildews, but there’s one way to find out.  Time will tell.

In other news I had a rather dazzlingly productive day, from 6am to 7pm.  I would’ve kept going- I’ve proved it only gets too dark to see in the garden at 10pm – but for the UFC fight.  I was on way too much of a tear to bother with any before pictures, but I’m systematically working my way through the  todo list in the order of how much they drive me crazy, rather than how important they are.  Thus I’m transporting rubble, dismantling poorly designed fences and reframing gates that have bad feng shui before getting the squashes into their patch.

I just couldn’t do it any other way.  Every glance at that absurd garden gate tilting over at a completely charmless 20 degree angle the way it’s probably stood for ten years fills me with a bilious, primal drive to change it, and tearing the whole thing down gives me an inner smile of peace that is far more satisfying than the squash plot.  The pumpkins have to wait,  that’s all there is to it.

Kevin’s trip to the vet

Looking barely there, poor cat. The back seat is full of crated windows for the barn, and she's hiding under them.

We have an illness in the family.  Kevin started doing this weird teethgrinding thing that sounded like she’s chewing rocks a couple days ago.  She would sometimes paw at her mouth, too, even trying to use two paws at once, which made her tip over suddenly.  That part was funny, or would have been if the sound weren’t so alarming.

Off to the vet we went, for the second time in eight years.  I was worked right up, after being told the danger of anesthetic to a cat that old, totally worried and grief-stricken at the possibility of surgery that could kill her.

Fortunately, she lives on.  Fortunately on two counts.  One of her teeth is fractured off at the gum line, exposing a nerve, but that’s better than a broken jaw, and can heal over without dental surgery.  She is also starting to have kidney failure, which I wouldn’t have known was manageable or wouldn’t have caught in time without this visit to the vet under other auspices.  Its normal for an old cat to have kidney issues, and I would have thought it was simple decline due to age if I saw her getting sickly.  Otherwise remarkable health, not surprising.

So, she has to have antibiotics, painkillers injected and oral, and she has to go on an “iv” drip every day for two weeks to rehydrate and help “kickstart” her normal kidney function.  Continue reading Kevin’s trip to the vet

I’m better.

The continuing pond-to-garden saga.  Trenched the walkway all around, and while so doing realized that it would be very nice to entice more bats to our home.

Mosquito season is on.

The rain continues but my sluggish, indolent, depleted lethargy left me last night quite abruptly, and all the things left undone and ignored lately came rushing back in along with my energy!  So good to be back!

Sick and rainy

My sunflowers in pellets are reaching dome-ward and my pumpkin starts are bursting larger hourly, but I’ve not yet put the seeds in the garden.  Luckily, I’ve had my late-garden guilt assuaged by the fact I’m told by all the old locals, that this area starts late and no one should seed before June.

I’m very glad that this seems true, and if I had planted two weeks ago when I should I should have, it would all be lost.  We’ve had an unseasonable stint of rain that is hammering early lettuce into the ground and rotting hapless seeds.  It has rained every day at least part of every day for over a week, and it seems like two.

This steady overcast drizzle to downpour has coincided with a bout of illness for me.  At first I thought food poisoning, but then as a few days turned into a week I sought Western medicine.  The verdict: a mild case of giardia, stay hydrated and your body will beat it.
Continue reading Sick and rainy

Firefighter

You know what’s great about a small town?  Having big fish opportunities.

Sure, the deputy asked if I was interested a couple months ago, but I’d all but forgotten about the Volunteer Fire Department until he walked across the paddock to where I was tilling the pond and told me “Yeah, tonight, 7pm, show up.”

A few hours later, I was in the head-to-toe yellow fireproof “turn-out gear”, riding the engine and learning to link hoses to hydrants, all the while on the inside going “I can’t believe this is happening!  I can’t believe this is happening!”  What an extraordinary opening, due to luck and chance and cool connections and the fact that this tiny town just doesn’t have enough volunteers clamoring to fill the 10# rubber boots.

WOW!  Overwhelmed by feeling of good fortune and opportunity.  So excited.  Things I never thought I’d be:  Structural Firefighter.

On to something I have always wanted to do: work in a library.  The first time I entered the small, limited-hours local library, I got my new library card and got straight to the point: “Need any more staff?”  Of course they do.  It’s a volunteer-run library, although linked to the BC inter-library network and very respectable.  Calloo, callay!  I start Tuesday!

Ah, life is GOOD.  I love my life.  How do these things just happen, so easily?  I love dreams coming true.

Go Mantis go

After first till
After second

I rototilled the garden today, with a tiny Mantis tiller that was barely up to the job.  Over and over, I let it churn well into the dirt, then yarded it and some dirt back towards me, then let it go dig a little deeper, repeat.  Working back and forth along the leading edge, and constantly picking the rocks it drug up.  This was the only way for its modest tine reach to really turn over at least a foot of earth.  It meant doing lateral row motions thousands of times, with the consequence that I now feel exactly like I’ve done thousands of lateral rows, but I’m happy with the dirt.  If the thing weren’t rented by the day, I’d definitely have taken two days to do it.  Six hours straight running of the machine, and my back feels every minute, but the results are nice.

All the manure that wouldn’t dissolve out of its pellet shape in the first till was softened by the rain we’ve had since, and as I churned the sedimentary clay with some of the sand that lay beneath, and the manure mixed in thoroughly, the soil looked much darker and more promising.  I’m quite happy now with the results.  The soil is a year and many yards of compost and manure and mulch from beauteous black soil, but at least it looks like it will support life now.  I continue to be joyously appreciative of the total absence of weeds in the former pond, and smug about my choice to turn pond to garden (we’ll see how long that lasts).  It was rocky to till, but absolutely rootless.  Hopefully the last till ever and the rest is up to straw and the worms.  I know many worms died today.

It was a perfect day for it, a sunny window in an everlasting week of deluge.  I got a nice sunburn, in fact, which reflects that I worked my way consistently across the garden facing west the whole time.