Tag Archive | seedlings

This Week in the Garden

Birds return. This is the first evening grosbeak I’ve seen here in decades. Neighbors with feeders have flocks of them. My feeder tree used to regularly host black-headed grosbeaks, but even then the evenings were rare. He squawked his plaintive question a few times before flying off. I was grateful I happened to be outside as he was passing through. Also this past week, the first robin lit in the budding apricot tree, and last Saturday, joy of joys, a phoebe sang his descending syllable seductively from treetops. He’s flown afield seeking his mate, but I’m sure he’ll return.

After watching a video I can’t find again on economically filling a new raised bed, I started with a layer of punky aspen someone delivered a few years ago. Light as balsa wood, these ‘logs’ weren’t fit to burn, but laying them into the bottom of the raised bed provides bulk that will decompose over years. On top of the wood, a layer of fine wood chips, and on top of that some old pots’ worth of soil. Good organic growing soil will fill the top 8-10 inches for planting. As years go by, I’ll amend the top as the bottom materials break down.

This ‘potato bin’ seemed like a great idea years ago when I bought it, but I didn’t understand potato cultivation back then and ‘it’ failed. After increasing success with potatoes the past couple of years, I think I know what I’m doing with it this year. We’ll know more later!

Garden Buddy shared a video and some sweet potatoes, and we’re both experimenting with rooting organic sweet potatoes to grow slips to plant, in hopes of a harvest. This distinctly southern tuber may not grow well here, but we just like to experiment with all kinds of things.

Above, raised beds amended and fluffed are ready for planting. Below, perennial onions are already providing scallions.

Organic straw is hard to come by these days. Any straw that hasn’t been sprayed and labeled ‘weed-free’ is hard to find. I love to mulch with straw, but mulching with straw that’s been treated with herbicides doesn’t make any sense to me. I think it’s one reason my earliest gardens failed to thrive: I failed to question what certified weed-free signified. Duh, of course it’s been sprayed! So this year I’m trying sawmill waste that GB located. I hope these fine, lightweight wood shavings will have essentially the same effect. Peas are already planted along both sides of the trellis here, and a few of last year’s kales that came up and had to be lifted were transplanted to the center where when peas climb the trellis the kale will have shade. It’s all trial and error, live and learn, curiosity and equanimity.

Tulips and giant crocus coming up from last year.

Onions, fennel, leeks and snapdragons coming along under lights; a new pot of eggplants just sown, as well as a ginger experiment. Below, the tray of pepper seedlings almost all sprouted.

Here at Mirador, we are all grateful for the big thaw, for the little rains, and so far for abundant sunshine. Does come less frequently to pillage the yard as fields green with variety far and wide. Birds sing outside, Biko has emerged from torpor and spends most days in his round pen basking and grazing, Topaz demands a walk every day; the promise of spring wakens this dormant body as well. Emerging from my own shell, spending more time outside, I find myself missing a dog more than before. It is almost time. Speaking of dogs…

Little Topaz sitting with me, and dear Stellar’s mortal remains, in the garden. His favorite spot in life turns out to be an ideal shady place for a chair and table, protected from the strong spring winds, with a comprehensive view of the whole fenced garden. A peaceful place to rest between joyful efforts.

While I don’t feel the need to defend owning a gun, I do feel inclined here to respond to a little pushback about the shooting blog. First, numerous people in the neighborhood, including me, have asked the owners of those bad dogs to contain them, to no avail. The sheriff has been called on those dogs, to no avail. So attempting to scare them back home with a couple of shots was in no way rash or unreasonable. Second, in this county as in much of the west, it is legal to shoot to kill a dog who is harassing wildlife or livestock. It’s not uncommon, and while I may not agree with that law, I understand it. Anyone who knows me knows how dear dogs are to me, and knows I wouldn’t have hurt those bad dogs. And now you know it, too! May all beings be free from suffering, including the bad dogs and their careless, overwhelmed owners.

Losing Myself

Stellar, Topaz and I went for a long, slow walk this morning, stepping off the beaten path onto a trail we’ve – well, I’ve – never walked on before. They may have, and certainly plenty of wild creatures who blazed it. I turned to look back, and if I hadn’t known where I was I’d have been lost: same trees, different angle, it was a new place. I love losing myself in these woods, am grateful that for all the years I’ve lived here I can still wander aimlessly, stop, and not know where I am – for at least a few seconds, and sometimes several minutes. It’s comforting to belong to something larger and more mysterious than me.

Another view of trees I’ve never seen from exactly this angle.

We wandered for half an hour, slower and slower. We slowed until we stopped in silence, and simply stood still. After awhile I heard a soft tap-tap high above. I looked up to see a brilliant white-breasted nuthatch looking down at us from the top of a juniper snag, his head cocked. Then he went back to tapping the dead wood for food. Eventually he flew to another tree.

Topaz indulged me, and her own interests, by hopping up on this beautiful down tree.

Then I caught the faint but unmistakable whiff of smoke. It was too warm for anyone to have an inside fire going, and I couldn’t see the horizon for the trees surrounding us. It was time for coffee anyway, so we turned for home. I’m grateful I could text a neighbor with a view to find out that there was no obvious plume nearby. She said the sky was hazy to the west, and we assumed it was the usual clearing fields with fire or burning ditches that happens every spring. It was the first day in many that it wasn’t too windy to burn, though still exceptionally – dangerously – dry.

We continued slowly toward home on narrow deer trails rarely traversed by our ten feet (or at least my two), and suddenly found ourselves in front of the Triangle Tree. I knew when I discovered it last fall that one day I’d find it in just the right light, and here it was! From this angle, it looks like a majestic old juniper in full sun.

And from another side it looks like a completely different tree.
From between those two sides, one light and one dark, you get a sense of its full shape.

After spending some time savoring the Triangle Tree, we ambled on home and went straight to the pond for Stellar to drink. By then it was already 70º and he was panting heavily after his relaxing exertions. Well, I was relaxed, after waking with a head full of unruly thoughts which got swept away by the wonder of losing myself in the woods. At the pond, I was grateful to see the first northern leopard frog of this season, a big fat female in the curly rushes.

And while the coffee brewed, I took the seedlings outside for their first ever ten minutes of real sun. I think they were grateful. I was grateful to see them looking robust and happy, before I gave them a good drink and put them back under the lights of the grow table. I’m grateful for another splendid day that started off with an hour of joyful adventures even before the first cup of coffee.

Water, water, everywhere…

Claret cup cactus in the woods are full of buds from all the rain.

Claret cup cactus in the woods are full of buds from all the rain.

This morning I planted five morning glory seedlings under the old cat ladder, a rickety wooden ladder to nowhere that makes a perfect trellis for morning glories. I had them there a few years ago and we hoped they’d reseed but they didn’t. Then I planted three nasturtium seedlings that were crying to escape the confines of their plastic tray. We’d had an hour of broken sun, and in this unusually rainy, cool May it felt great to get a few of these starts in the ground, even though it’s not a biodynamic flower day until tomorrow. I just couldn’t wait. Five flats of tender seedlings, flowers and fruits, sat on the metal patio table catching what rays they could.

The dark sky gathering in the south moved quickly toward us and I felt the first drops of rain. Good, I thought, a rain will do them good. As long as it doesn’t hail. No sooner had the thought escaped my lips than I heard ping! on the table. Ping! ping! I scrambled to prop the screen door open and dashed in and out bringing the trays to safety. Darnit. We’re definitely going to have a short growing season this year, at least on this end of it.

At least there’s plenty of water. So much water the fields are emerald green even before the irrigation’s turned on, luminous green below dark storm skies with just a shaft of sunlight streaming through. So much water weeds and bad grasses grow to seed faster than I can find enough dry hours to mow them. So much water the news stations warn of fungus marring lawns. So much water the irises have grown fifty percent taller than ever before, holding close their burgeoning buds day after day, sucking in all the moisture they may; surely they will burst open today!

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” A break in the main line from the Fruitland Mesa water treatment plant left us all conserving what we had in our cisterns over the weekend. No laundry, no dishes, no showers, no flushing, until we knew how long it would last. Just enough to drink and serve the animals, water plants that needed it most, and wash hands. It was ironic to wake up Sunday morning to emergency water measures, because Saturday I met the first California water refugees to arrive in our valley.

I work some days in town at the Church of Art. A family came in to look around. The young man struck up a conversation. The parents were visiting. “We just moved here,” he said. “We bought a farm outside of town. We left California because there’s no more water. We decided to move further up the watershed.”

In the harsh clarity of his statement the future flashed before my eyes. Further up the watershed. More people will be coming here from California, not this time because of land prices or urban sprawl or a back to the land movement, or even to grow legal pot, but because California’s running out of water. They’ll move further up the watershed. These young farmers have moved about as far up the Colorado River watershed as they can and still have any growing season for their carrots, beets, hops.

The first of these water refugees arrived innocuously enough, and seem like good people to add to our side on the fight against fracking that rumbles like a threatening undercurrent through all we do these days. As we talked about his plans for an organic farm, I made sure to mention our two conservation watchdog groups, Citizens for a Healthy Community and The Conservation Center. “You must be sure to join them,” I told him, “they’re our best defense of the watershed.”

For what good is moving further up the watershed if the source gets poisoned by hydraulic fracturing or wastewater injection? Among numerous deleterious consequences of “alternative” petroleum extraction methods such as fracking, watershed contamination ranks among the most alarming. There is no doubt it is happening, and there is no doubt the industry pulls out all the stops to deny it is happening in a shameful and intense propaganda campaign.

The California water refugees brought to mind the thousands of refugees from Africa and Myanmar struggling and dying on the Mediterranean and Andaman Seas, adrift on tons of water they can’t drink. A spectrum of refugees began to take shape in my mind. I didn’t have much time to ponder or pray over that dreadful crisis because more visitors arrived, this time a couple from the Front Range, who plan to retire to their land in this valley in a few years. Another sort of refugee, on the milder end of the spectrum. She’d lost her beehive this year also, and we commiserated about our feelings of guilt and inadequacy. “But,” I reassured her rather grimly, “it’s not your fault. Nationwide, 42% of beehives died this year. The bee crisis is worse than anyone thought.”

Then I said, because it was on my mind, and I think the two issues are connected at a fundamental level, and because they’re planning to move here to enjoy a quality of life that they see here now, “I hope you’re joining the fight against fracking.”

“Oh,” she said, and looked away. “If you want it to be like this when you get here,” I added. Her husband came from the gift shop and they moved silently toward the exit. “Thanks for stopping by,” I said. “Please come again.”