Category Archives: other gardens

Lavender and little scythes.

The nuns at a nearby monastery harvest lavender every summer at various neighbors’ properties up in the hills and mostly at the end of long unpaved and/or winding roads. They had asked the young people from parishes in the area to help them today, and when some families had to back out at the last minute, several adults including me pitched in.

I had to get up before 5:00 to get fueled up and make the drive to arrive early enough for the sisters to give us a hearty breakfast. But even before that, we learned that Mother Anna who recently fell asleep in death had still not been buried, and we might go into the church and say good-bye to her. Mother Angelina was reading Psalms at the head of the casket when we went in; we all filed past and kissed the little icons that were next to her, and the Gospel. It was sweet to have this opportunity.

After breakfast and chatting we caravaned to the first and most scenic spot, where we picked from a big clump of lavender bushes stuck in a low spot among olive trees at a vineyard. We were given little scythes, which seem the perfect tool for any bush you want to grab hunks of and slice off, to shear it. I plan to get one for my own garden right away, so I can give a break to my finger joints.

As we were packing tools and water, and applying sunscreen and bug spray — the sisters said they had been “chewed up” by chiggers one year — Mother Tabitha was on the phone a lot trying to arrange for Mother Anna to be buried this afternoon.

One of the lavender friends, with the most to pick, cancelled our visit because they didn’t think their insurance covered children on the property, and they had seen a few rattlesnakes lately. But the monastery had already this season delivered 200 pounds of lavender flowers to the distiller, so they were not worried. Some of what we were tackling was past its prime and too dried out to use. We sheared it off anyway but put it in the discard pile.

We eventually filled the back of a pickup truck with the blooms. Bees were thicker on them in the truck than they had been in the field. The farmer lady gave us plums and peaches for a snack, and insisted that the sisters take buckets of dahlias and gladiolas for the burial of Mother Anna.

The second, smaller harvest was at a house that had barely missed destruction in the fires of 2017. Most of their lavender bushes, which had formerly lined the long driveway, had burned and not been replaced. To the south and to the north, close to the front and back of the house, were patches of blackened trees where the wildfire had swept through erratically.

Soon we were headed back to the monastery, hot and dusty, and again they fed us very well! But Mother Macrina drove the pickup load straight to the distiller, to have its essential oil extracted. The by-product hydrosol, the lavender water that is left over, they also use, to make sprays good for cleaning and dusting, and deodorizing. Next time I have a chance, I’ll buy some lavender products from them. And maybe tomorrow I’ll look at my own lavender bushes and see if they are ready to harvest!

The forest adorns itself and me.

black locust

In the middle of Saturday’s graduation party, Pippin and I wandered through a gate into the vegetable garden and soon found ourselves sitting in two chairs that seemed to have been set there just for us introverts, who were perhaps unconsciously following the advice given to introverts as to strategies for party-going.

After the weekend was over and we were both in our separate towns and homes again, in “recovery mode,” it was amusing how we found ourselves still together, after a fashion.

I was sifting through my pictures and notes on my phone and looking through my Weeds of the West, the book Pippin had mentioned when I asked her about a weed growing in her own vegetable garden. I was only a few pages away from finding it when on my computer a message popped up from her with a photograph of that very page.

Great Hound’s Tongue

It is Common Hound’s Tongue, Cynoglossum officinale, or “gypsyflower,” which she said she always pulls out before it makes its terrible stickery burrs — and this very minute, when I looked for photos of them online, I realized that these are the burrs which one September I noticed looked like Mrs. Tiggy Winkle! It’s also the same genus as beautiful wildflowers like the Great Hound’s Tongue I saw in Oregon eight years ago.

There is also another photo of hound’s tongue in my files that I think might be Pippin’s work, because it comes from her neck of the woods and I don’t remember taking it:

If that weed in Pippin’s garden looks strangely familiar to those of you who have been reading my last several blog posts…. That’s because hound’s tongue is in the Boraginaceae Family! Yep, it’s closely related to borage. Well, well.

The first full day I spent at Pippin’s, we took a picnic to the lake before working in the garden. There we also found some plants to look into further. There was a white flowering bush my daughter told me was a ceanothus called Mountain Whitethorn, though its flowers can be blue or pink.  We saw a recumbent berry that Pippin identified yesterday as a Dewberry, a name that echoes in my mind from the distant past.

And we all stopped to look at a lovely wild rose,
until Scout in his bare feet ran into some red ants, and from then on we didn’t linger.

wild ginger
merely mud

Back when we’d arrived for our picnic, before we had even got fully out of the parking lot above the lake path, we were hit by the scent of black locust trees in bloom — so delicious. And because a couple of my readers have told me that the flower petals are edible, we all tried them. They were a little dry and bland compared to pineapple guava petals, in case anyone is interested. 🙂

Right under the boughs of those trees Scout spied what he called “Botany Brooch,” and which I knew as the annoying sticky weed or catchweed, Galium aparine. But if you need a very temporary natural-looking piece of adornment, it lives up to its other nickname of “velcro plant,” and requires no difficult clasp to attach it, even after it  has wilted, which happens fast.

From this time forward, I will be less grumpy about this plant with a dozen nicknames, and who knows, you might even see me wearing a bit of it at my garden (work) parties.

When we returned to the garden that afternoon it was to plant Indian corn that Mr. and Mrs. Bread had given from their bounty. Pippin has never tried to raise corn before but she knows people who do, up there where the growing season is not long. It needed to be planted inside the garden fence so the deer won’t eat it; we decided to dig some “hills” here and there where there weren’t too many rocks to extract.

In the course of the afternoon the Professor brought us bags of compost and contributed to the dinner that was simultaneously in process. The children played all over the place, and helped to push the seeds into the earth, and discovered worms to feed to a toad that Pippin had found hiding behind a box. A salamander was unearthed and rinsed off and admired, and eventually let go in a wet area of the yard. I tried to take pictures of the striped bumblebees that are so pretty, compared to the fat black ones that I get down here.

blueberry flowers

High in an oak tree Ivy has hung a little basket of nest-making supplies for the birds. A flesh-colored button of a fungus was decorating the old stump, evidently the immature stage of what will become a dry and brown puffball type of growth; after I took my picture the children showed me how the little brown balls above would release their powder if broken with sticks.

On the other side of the stump, a splash of brightness — is this also a fungus?

Around the homestead of Pippin’s family, the forest is always sharing its life and beauty. I suppose there will never be an end of things for me to explore when I spend time there. But for now, my own garden realm is waiting for me so I will send in my report and say good-bye for now!

 

My home and beyond.

As I walked in my neighborhood this afternoon, I thought about one of my recent walks and its discoveries and adventures that I’d never finished writing about. This time, as I went at my usual fast-walk-quick-stop pace, occasionally lingering for a longer-than-quick gaze or sniff, the idea of a new series (or at least category) of posts came to me. I would write about one thing from my own garden and one from my explorations, and that might facilitate shorter articles than usual, making them easier to fit into my current busyness.

So here goes:

In the fall of 2016 I planted lots of irises, mostly in the purple category. This one that just started blooming, a tall one that doesn’t seem to be a repeater, is called Jazzed Up Tall. If it’s going to bloom late, it’s a good thing it is tall, so we can see it above the poppies and wallflowers.

Beyond my garden, only a block away from home I came upon the giant feijoa bush that I wrote about before; it was severely pruned last fall just before its fruit might have ripened. Today I found it at the beginning of bloom, the first delectable flowers opened; knowing that they would go to waste if left on the plant, I picked quite a few and carried them home in my shirttail.

When I emptied them into a bowl, an earwig ran out on to the floor. An hour later I began to pull off the petals, and jumped when another earwig appeared. He must have been hiding in a curled up petal as in a cave.

If I knew someone who needed a birthday cake this month, I would bake one just so I could decorate with these flowers (after examining each petal for stowaways). But I don’t, so I ate the petals for dessert with a bit of cream.

What I was given on my Home Day.

Today was my Slow/Stay at Home/R&R/Catch up Day. That sounds like a lot to expect of one day, especially when you stay up writing until the hands of the clock are telling you it has already become that day, and therefore you will start out short on sleep.

But what a blessing it turned out to be! The first gift was a phone call from my grandson and his wife, the parents of my great-granddaughter, and that was heartwarming. I loved talking about maternity care — what she got as well as cultural trends — with Izzie, who is bouncing back with the resilience of youth and those hormones a woman gets a good dose of in childbirth. The whole family and her mom were walking at a park when Roger decided to phone me and we had our satisfying visit.

And then a spell of plant identification. 🙂 Yes, and I didn’t even have to go out and discover the plant myself. My farmer friend from whom I buy lamb every year had posted a picture of flowers on Instagram, glad to see them in the pasture before the sheep ate them. She didn’t say their name so I assumed she didn’t know, but they were so pretty, I wanted to find out.

I asked Pippin’s help, but she didn’t know them, either, so I looked in the Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest guide, even though the authors don’t try to include my area of California in their book; I might still find a clue. And I did see one very similar, which was enough to take to the Internet and search with. I’m pasting the Wikipedia photo here, almost identical to the farmer’s, of downingia concolor or calicoflower, which is in the Campanulaceae Family. Aren’t they darling? I wonder if the sheep have eaten them by now…

Kasha, or roasted buckwheat groats, is one of my favorite things to eat on fast days. I like to cook a potful so that I have several servings on hand, but I had run out of that a couple of weeks ago. This package that was given to me by a friend is nearly used up now; it cooks up the way I like it and has the best flavor, so I think I will try to get this type from now on. I got to eat kasha for lunch, and stashed three containers in the fridge and freezer.

I had told myself that I would not read or write blogs today, since I did just do that last night, and because I wanted to catch up on one or two of the many other things that I’m behind on. Lately it’s become R&R just to wash the dishes, and when I was washing up my kasha pot I just kept going, and ended up spending a couple of hours on the kitchen. What took the longest was giving my stove top and range hood a thorough cleaning of the sort is hasn’t had for ages. After that experience, my hands told me they needed a manicure.

The sun came out — but not until 6:00 p.m. But after bending over my housework all that time, and feeling not rushed, the sunshine was all the encouragement I needed to get outside. I would just take the easiest stroll, no hurry.

Once I was in the neighborhood where I took pictures for my “Roses on My Path” series a long time ago that doesn’t feel that long ago (before my husband was even sick), I remembered that I wanted to go back to the house I called the Rose House back then, to find whether anything had changed.

I found it, and the display was more opulent than ever. This is the house where the roses do not appear to be cared for, though I continue to think they must be getting water from somewhere to make it through our rainless summers. All the roses on this post are from that house, and a link to the previous post might show up as one of the “related” posts below.

They still have the mailbox with stylistic roses painted on it, but now it is hidden deep under a broad spray of blooms hanging down. I think maybe that bush seems twice as tall as before because it has climbed into a tree behind it.

The profusion of flowers is probably a result of the rain of the last two years. The species are very special. I can’t tell you much about them, except that I find them exquisite, but many of my readers will know things just by looking. This time I noticed an identifying tag at the base of one bush that has the trunk of a tree. It was grown from a cutting taken in 2001; how long, I wonder, was the rose bush cared for before it was allowed to grow wild?

I feasted my eyes and my nose for quite a while, walking and gawking up and down and wishing I were in an official rose garden with a proper bench. I wanted to sit for a while to gaze at their loveliness, bursting out through the tangled canes and deadwood. Eventually there was nothing to do but go home. I felt thoroughly loved through those roses.

But when I got here I had to write after all, while it is yet today.
It’s one way I have of thanking God for all His wonderful gifts
that pour down even on — or is it especially on? — a slow day.