Category Archives: my garden

If peas could talk.

In this era, I keep an eye on the coastal weather forecast more than the local, trying to plan well ahead so as to increase my chances of getting out there to the edge of the Pacific — aiming for several times a month.

Last week about this time I noticed that there was going to be rain nearly every day upcoming, except for one, so I penciled in my outing for Monday. I did notice that it was forecast to be windy, and I researched a little bit about just how 20-24 mph winds feel. I couldn’t remember the stats on what I’d experienced in the past. It didn’t sound too foreboding, so I dressed in layers with a windbreaker, and off I went.

Did I tell you I have been reading The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin? I have the audio as well as the print format. The possibility of sinking into that book makes me look forward to any longer drive to anywhere. I can’t concentrate on a book, lecture, etc. while doing anything else at home; even while driving, I can only attend well while following a familiar route. I make frequent use of the rewind button (Is there another word for that now that there is no actual winding involved?), including at times when I have to concentrate more, as at an intersection, and briefly lose the thread of the story.

The weather at the beach was a blast. The clumps of grass on the dunes were beautiful, the way they waved in the wind. But, “This is not fun,” was the phrase that popped into my mind about three minutes after I reached the water’s edge, where the sand at least was not flying; my head had began to pound, and my eyes were burning, but I pushed against that blast toward the tidepools that I knew would have been exposed.

The wind was helping the waves up the beach, where they were allowed to break, but not to recede. The wind whipped them to make them lie on the sand a few more seconds than was their natural will; I could tell they were not happy about it, because they weren’t lying there quietly. Gusts attacked them over and over,  yanking pieces of foam off their edges and blowing them off. The puffs scattered wildly, like sudden orphans. Their wails couldn’t be heard above those of their abuser. The sun shone brightly.

I had purposely chosen mid-afternoon for my visit, because there was going to be a minus tide, and I’ve noticed those seem to occur mostly in the middle of the night. This week there were three of them that would happen before dark.

But I was beginning to foresee that stumbling around the rocks looking for anemones, in my quickly cooling bare feet, would also not be that much fun. I turned around, and my time on the beach was shorter than usual, but I was glad I had tried the experiment.

I have been reading so many books lately that include elements of great hardship and suffering, it would not feel right if I did not push myself at least a little, and endure some amount of discomfort. Not only do I have my literary characters as examples in this, but I have fellow blogger Mags who is snow-swimming this month, in the seas of Northern Ireland! This kind of effort, when you do it voluntarily, with the knowledge that you can be home and cozy soon afterward, can be exhilarating. The experience of a Soviet labor camp, on the other hand, one doesn’t volunteer for. Just today I read more of The Aviator‘s protagonist Innokenty’s musings on it, years later:

“Well, what kind of description can convey round-the-clock coldness? Or hunger? Any story implies a completed event but there is a dreadful eternity here. You cannot warm up for an hour, or two or three or ten. It is impossible, after all, to accustom oneself to either hunger or cold.”

My garden suffered what may be the worst cold it will have to endure this winter, just two days ago. I know it was several degrees of frost — and this area has had a winter or two in the last decades without even one freeze; it rarely gets down to 20 degrees. By the time that morning’s weather test occurred, I had been doing my own trials of the new greenhouse equipment, necessitating a few emergency visits in my nightgown at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., to adjust the thermostat. So everything was okay in there. And you know, collards get sweeter by suffering frost.

But the next day, it was the wind that hit here, and this morning I found that it had grabbed the 4-foot snow pea vines off their trellises and thrown them to the ground, to be pelted by rain. I won’t expose their humiliation in pictures. The collapsed garden umbrella was torn off its vanes, too, the wind getting hold at the top where the sun had weakened the canvas in the last five years, to make a big hole there for starters.

It looks like we will have a few more days of rain, but no high winds are in the forecast. I am almost always comfortable, having warm clothes and fire and a gas furnace. My life is easy, for sure. If peas could talk, their story would doubtless be different.

Morning Melange

As I was getting dressed and forgetting to make my bed this morning, I listened to Fr. Michael Gillis of Praying in the Rain blog, on his podcast of the same name, an episode in which he “deconstructs the notion that choice translates into freedom.” I really liked him, and the message. His recent blog post about fleeing to the desert (a little bit), is really helpful, too. How can we flee to the desert when many of us aren’t leaving our houses? It’s a provoking meditation, in the best way.

Before sunrise, I had trekked downstairs in my slippers to check on the greenhouse heater that I finally installed last week. The thermostat was set so that it should have come on, going by my phone, where I read that the outdoor temperature was 32 degrees. Yes! Success!

Last night I had defrosted a container of the tiny snow peas I toiled over preserving last spring. They were incredibly labor intensive at every stage, and I vowed never to buy from that seed company again, and only to use seeds that were likely to produce large pea pods.

But this morning the peas I’d saved were a welcome addition to the pan to which I added eggs, and this seasoning mix from Trader Joe’s that I seem to be sprinkling on everything lately.

I ate a giant pink grapefruit, too, which made me think about my childhood when I didn’t like that fruit, and about the funny name of it, which was easy to learn in Turkish because they call it greypfrut. Who named it first? I couldn’t remember, so I looked it up in this wonderful book that was my grandfather’s. He was a citrus farmer, too, and when he was visiting our family, there was no chance of any child getting out of eating grapefruit for breakfast. We were allowed to put honey on it, but in my case that didn’t help much.

That book, The World in Your Garden, is the source of the pretty picture at top. It says that the name originated in Jamaica!

Grapefruit is one thing I wouldn’t try to eat while sitting at the computer, so I watched the birds. All the larger species were visiting, doves, and the blue jay, and even the flickers. I’m pretty sure I saw the Cooper’s Hawk, too, spying out his breakfast.

I’ve been trying to find the right food to scatter on the patio for the doves and other ground-feeders. So many blends I have tried in the past have some ingredients that are ignored, and go to waste. My latest offering is something designed for pigeons, and many of the birds have been eating most of that mix. There are still some split peas, they look like, that go untouched so far. When this bag is gone, I will just buy some plain millet; that’s what I have been looking for for a year, but haven’t found it yet.

I’m leaving soon to drive to the beach — again! I have been doing it a lot, and plan to start a sort of Beach Diary page here on my blog. But being on the beach is taking time away from writing… By the time I get there, morning will have turned to afternoon, and I hope the sun will be shining.

Blessings to all from my corner of the cosmos.

Flora, fauna and future of the garden.

“From December to March,
there are for many of us three gardens –
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind’s eye.”

-Katherine S. White

I received a Christmas gift of flower seeds, which made me realize that I really do need to get busy and finish the upgrading of my greenhouse that was begun by my neighbor Bob in October. He supplied it with electricity and installed grow lights, but it remains for me to set up the heater, thermostat, fan and timer.

Then I can get seeds started a little earlier than would be otherwise possible during this season when the greenhouse sits in the shade of my two-story house. In the meantime, neighbor Terri and I can talk about our gardens past and future. Yesterday she gave me this heavy Pink Banana squash she grew last summer, evidently a good keeper!

I can eat one thing from the garden currently: collards — and I found a wonderful, vegan recipe for collards in coconut milk that I will try to post here. Fruit from the arbutus or Strawberry Tree got spoiled by the rain this year, but before that, at least it didn’t have anything like the mysterious pests or diseases of last year, which was a big relief.

Not my photo!

I received New Year’s gifts in my garden, not plants flowering or fruiting but birds visiting. Their energy and personality are even more welcome when the landscape is dark. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day a pair of Northern Flickers came by; they got my attention fast, such big birds acting like woodpeckers on the pine tree, but nothing like any woodpecker I’d ever encountered before. They hopped around the garden for hours, pecking in the bark mulch, so I had plenty of time to leaf through all the pages of Peterson’s guide until I found them. This was the most exciting Bird Event (repeated this morning!) since my first sighting of Hooded Orioles at the hummingbird feeder some years ago.

A different sort of event was when a bird flew into my slider and sat stunned on the mat for such a long time that I was able to take its picture. I had been thinking that these were some kind of sparrow, but once I got such a clear image, it was hard to fit the little creature into that family.

Attached to a suggested blog post in my WordPress feed that very evening, I glimpsed a photo that looked very much like mine. It was a blog post about Pine Siskins — what do you know! It’s Pine Siskins that I have been enjoying here for a couple of years at least.

They feed alongside sparrows, finches, and warblers, while chickadees and bushtits enjoy the suet feeder nearby. Juncos and titmice, jays and doves fly in and away. Occasionally a towhee visits… then the Cooper’s Hawk swoops down for the kill and adds drama, only three feet away from me across the glass. If I don’t take a break from watching these busy birds, I won’t get any seeds planted. Yes, that could happen….

…because the world is full of delights.

Of course goblins can’t hurt him.

While at Pippin’s I had the great satisfaction of reading Christmas stories for a total of several hours during my stay. The genre seems most appropriate for reading aloud, but when we have our larger family gatherings, there doesn’t seem to be much opportunity for it. Meanwhile, my collection grows.

Recently I acquired Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien, though in this case I think “recent” means 10-15 years ago. I’d glanced at them myself, but I think I was waiting to share the experience — to peek in on the Tolkien family and the stories that Tolkien the father created every year for his children. He wrote and illustrated them for over 20 years, starting by writing to three-year-old John, and continuing until he was only writing to his fourth child, Priscilla, with hopes that she will be hanging up her stocking “just once more.”

It is particularly interesting to me how Father Christmas refers to world events, in terms that place them in the context of the ages-long attempt of evil spiritual forces to destroy humanity once and for all. He first mentions goblins in 1932 and ’33, after he has written letters for about 12 years, and his goblins remind me of those in George MacDonald’s stories. They are a nuisance, and sometimes very scary  —“Goblins are to us as rats are to you,” — but if you stand up to them they flee. They have no real power.

Most of the letters from the North Pole are about the mischief and adventures of all the people and creatures who live there: elves and snowmen, reindeer — and the North Polar Bear, who drew a bath, climbed in, and fell asleep with the water running, flooding the cellars full of toys.

But in 1932 the same bear had an encounter with a goblin:

“…he smelt a goblin! and became interested, and started to explore. Not very wise; for of course goblins can’t hurt him, but their caves are very dangerous.” In the next letter things are still heating up:

“Another Christmas! I almost thought at one time (in November) that there would not be one this year. There would be the 25th of December, of course, but nothing from your old great-great-etc. grandfather at the North Pole.

“Goblins. The worst attack we have had for centuries….”

More than once he mentions the last worst battle with these creatures, “the goblin-war in 1453, that I told you about.”

From then on the goblins show up regularly. The children are old enough to understand about the world situation as it affects them, and in 1940 F.C. writes more plainly, “We are having rather a difficult time this year. This horrible war is reducing all our stocks, and in so many countries children are living far from their homes. Polar Bear has had a very busy time trying to get our address-lists corrected. I’m glad you are still at home!” 

The text of the 1935 letter above reads: “[North Polar Bear] says that we have not seen the last of the goblins — in spite of the battles of 1933. They won’t dare to come into my land yet; but for some reason they are breeding again and multiplying all over the world. Quite a nasty outbreak. But there are not so many in England, he says. I expect I shall have trouble with them soon.

“I have given my elves some new magic sparkler spears that will scare them out of their wits. It is now December 24, and they have not appeared this year — and practically everything is packed up and ready. I shall be starting soon.”

I’ve interspersed Tolkien’s illustrations with the last images from my northern adventure. Pippin and the children and I walked by the lake, and the stream flowing into it. We came home and snuggled again on the couch, with cats, and finished the last letters. I think we were all sad that the Tolkien children grew up!