Category Archives: winter

Not heaping on the wood.

Heap on the wood.
The wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

-Sir Walter Scott

Larsson tree

Today is the eighth day that we have been forbidden to burn wood, and the eighth also of freezing outdoor temperatures. It’s always this way – when we most feel the need, we are deprived. Any day now I will break down and have a gas fireplace installed so I can sit in front of it… but for this moment, I give you these images that are only comforting because I just turned up the thermostat. Instead of a crackling fire I am hearing the roar of the blowing furnace, but the truth is, I am very thankful for that. I hope wherever you are, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, that you are cozy, too!

Life and work in the January garden.


This looks like a ball of moss growing on a broken brick, but I think that the moss is growing all over something small and lumpish. I don’t know what. Maybe I will find out in the summertime. But it was a pretty thing I saw in the garden this afternoon.


After I finally got outdoors — the second time, after I came back inside for a hat and scarf — I found lots to see and do. I have resisted even going near the plum trees because I knew they wanted me to prune them and I didn’t feel ready, somehow.

garden-p1060549First I had to hunt around in stacks of papers to find the directions and pictures that helped me last year. I did that yesterday. When I took the instructions out there this afternoon I still lacked courage, so I came back in a second time to watch some YouTube videos on pruning. I liked hearing nice men tell me I would not kill the tree so just go ahead. Some men threatened that I might actually damage the tree, but I didn’t listen to them.

I’m only showing you the before picture of one plum tree, because I would rather no one sees my trees now until the blossoms beautify them. I saved the straight pieces of prunings for – something. They might come in handy.



A couple of weeks ago I spread a too-huge tarp over my little lemon tree to protect it against the frost, and when the danger was past I took it off so the tree could get light and rain. Of course I just left the tarp crumpled on the path. Today I decided to fold it up. It was too huge for me to wrestle by myself, but with the help of the patio table to spread it on I finally pinned it down. Unfortunately, it is wet. I’ll have to air it out on the driveway after the next spell of rain, but for now it’s tidied up. p1060566



We weren’t allowed to burn wood today, but a storm is coming in tonight, and while it is raining the air quality is almost always good, and we can have wood fires. I’m expecting to be enjoying the woodstove for the next few days. My firewood is under tarps outside, to keep it somewhat dry, so I uncovered it enough to bring wood into the garage to stock the rack there. Right now I have oak, almond, and eucalyptus for fuel.

The cold and dark greenhouse is keeping some plants alive. I have been leaving the door open so that it doesn’t get too damp. The tarragon is little sprouts in a pot.


And the Christmas cactus is almost ready to bloom…


When it does, maybe that will be a sign for me to take down my Christmas tree!

moods of winter

Yesterday I was thoroughly enjoying the winter rains and the signs of Christmas. The day before, I was in stores where there was too much junk crowding the aisles and it wore me out. But even there, other real people were shopping, many of them looking as dazed as I, and we were kind to each other.

Our city’s redwood trees are lit up and I love how the blue lights dominate, though they are only one third of the total number. It is a little refreshment from the constant red and green. Speaking of red, at one quieter shop I bought a pretty and elegant red top to wear at Christmas, and then I tried Macy’s, where the scarlet Christmas garb hurt my eyes and made me glad to escape. It’s a matter of tone.

This poem captures how it happens that in simple events and moments of time beauty and joy are revealed to us. It’s a constant flow for me this week, thanks be to God.

The way a crowP1120149
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

–Robert Frost

January Surprises


This week I was blessed by the usual end-of-January boost that we get around here. It always surprises me, because most of the month, and probably for a good bit of February, I am struggling against the dark and sometimes the cold. I think I am depending on the Christmas lights around my kitchen window to bolster my mood. But this is the time that we get some sunny days and I have to go into the back yard to do some kind of chore, and suddenly I see buds and flowers, and smell the fresh and cool air.


P1120323 manzanita buds
manzanita – Arctostaphylos

On the Monday holiday, Soldier son came to prune the wisteria and the plum tree, but didn’t have time to cut up the branches and get them into the trash, so he made a tidy stack under the tree.

I considered hiring a young man from church to finish the job, but it seemed like that might be more trouble than tackling it myself; I have often done this part before. On Thursday I decided to have at it for 20 minutes and see how much progress I could make.

It was so lovely to be out there, I ended up spending more than an hour, and I reduced the stack by about half. This cherry plum sends up very straight branches every year and I always want to save a bunch of them, envisioning row markers or bean poles or even just kindling for the wood stove. So I made a separate pile of those. It makes me feel young and strong to work with those loppers and my leather gloves, and I even enjoy the slight muscle ache that arrives two days later. This afternoon I pretty much leveled the pile of trimmings.

snowball bush buds 1-24-15
snowball bush – viburnum macrocephalum

I kept brushing up against the strawberry tree, and its little pale green fruits dangled around. Pale green leaves are sprouting on the rose geranium, and I wandered around the garden to admire tiny buds on the snowball bush, the earliest spring flowers, and the beginnings of manzanita blooms.

P1120314 strawberry tree
strawberry tree – Arbutus unedo

Sara inspired me this week with her post about following a tree, and I thought of observing our strawberry tree. I think I won’t take part officially in the group project, but I have observed now in January, and that’s a start!P1120309

The yard waste bin was not big enough to hold all the twigs and branches I collected, so I filled a couple of these garden containers that are a modern form of trug. After the big bin is emptied next week I’ll dump the rest of the clippings in. And then I better prune my dear rose bush!