Tag Archives: amaranth

What we found on Highway 6.

Driving from Baker, Nevada to Mammoth Lakes, California took most of the day, and filled our vision with wide views. Pippin took the picture above showing one fine example.

We stopped within a few minutes to take pictures of clouds. Scout rode with me for a while, long enough to tell me stories of third-century Rome, especially of the tetrarchy of the the emperor Diocletian. When we pulled over for car and human fuel Ivy took his place, and for about an hour we didn’t have enough of a mobile signal to listen to a book together, so I asked her to tell me about The Black Stallion, which she read very recently. She is a good storyteller; I think she remembered more details from her first reading than I even noticed the last time I read it.

As soon as possible, we started listening to The Call of the Wild, which she chose from my Audible library. I hadn’t read it since I was just a little older than she is now. We finished the whole book during our drive, and Ivy paid close attention. The next day on the trail, she was composing poems as we hiked, one of them about a husky dog in the northern wilds.

We saw plenty of mountains in the distance as we pushed on toward California, but the plant life seemed thin. Only when we parked our cars along a wide spot in the road in the Stone Cabin Valley did Pippin and I see the truth. Darling and diminutive flowers in a rainbow of pastel colors were scattered all over the gravelly sand.

The Professor was amused at the sight of our happiness in what many would call a “godforsaken place,” as we scanned the ground for just one more version of what the Seek app told us was “Saltlover.” Here is the picture he took of us:

What we learned later when we were able to research it online was surprising and a little sad. This plant Halogeton glomeratus is not a native plant but was introduced from Russia and China; it is a noxious weed of the amaranth family in rangelands of the American West, because of what it does to livestock and to the soil. Grazing sheep are especially vulnerable and can be killed by the high levels of oxalates it contains, and the mineral salts it excretes into the soil make it hard for other plants to survive. Two different species of plants have been introduced that tolerate the salts and might compete under the harsh conditions of that territory. The seeds of Saltlover “have the ability to germinate within one hour after being exposed to water.” That is vigor!

A bright orange flower stood up above these little spires in a few places, the Desert Globe Mallow:

And colorful rocks also caught our eye. I wanted to take this big one home,road but after I dislodged it I could see it was too large and heavy:

Not to worry, several other smaller ones were just as brilliant, and before we piled in our cars again and continued on our journey, I had squeezed a few in the back of my Subaru. I told the children that when I die, they should be sure to take these rocks out of my garden and keep them as their own continuing memorials to the time Grandma came along on their mountain and desert explorations.

Broken hearted over September.

Sneezeweed

From my planter boxes I pulled up and cleaned out parsley, zucchini, chives and Love-in-a-Mist; butternut and pumpkin vines, and a volunteer zinnia. When I went after the sea of overgrown chamomile, its warm and bittersweet aroma comforted me in the midst of that violent afternoon’s work. I don’t think I used one leaf of basil this summer; I just wasn’t home enough to take care of the garden in general, or to use half of its produce.

My pumpkins, grown from seed and nurtured in the greenhouse, were a complete flop! But one plant I gave to my neighbors produced 22 pumpkins, so one morning I found these on my doorstep:

Now I’ve sealed the boxes against winter, and added several inches of good soil. Still to do: organize and plant all those beautiful succulents that my friends gave me in the last few months, and put seeds into the dirt.

Trug full of Painted Lady runner beans.
Succulent stem abandoned and unwatered — and undaunted.
My first spider plant ever!
Nodding Violet I propagated.  If you want it, come and get it!

I had fun with Bella the other day at the community garden where she tends a plot. We always like to look around at what the other gardeners are doing, and to forage along the edges where people plant offerings to the whole community who farm there; you might find raspberries, or cutting flowers, or kale ready to harvest and take home.

Some kind of amaranth…

Some kind of 10-ft glorious amaranth.

I brought home seeds from that community garden, too, of tithonia, in a handkerchief I happened to have in my purse:

These mild days with soft air are a balm to the soul. They always surprise me with their kindness, especially when they turn up between others that are by turn sunless and drizzly, then scorching. For two weeks I’ve had my bedroom and morning room windows wide open to the weather all day and night. A cross breeze rolls over me as I sleep.

Sometimes there’s been a bit of smoke, sometimes heat at midday. At night I often have to burrow under the blankets; I hear the traffic early in the morning, and occasionally the neighbors’ loud voices late at night. But it’s the best way I know to feel alive to the earth. Simply by being open to the weather and the air, I can be In Nature. It’s the most convenient month for that, here where I dwell. September is where it’s easy to feel at home….

But — September is leaving this very week, that change is in the air. I admit to being a little broken-hearted; essentially, I’m being evicted, and that’s harsh. There is nothing for it but to take inspiration from that budding succulent stem above, that will draw on its stored resources, and make the most of whatever sunlight burns through the fog.  Those three little pumpkins will likely come in handy, too, because it’s time to start cozying up to October.

The Green Doctor, kindred souls and squashes.

While I was waiting at the fairgrounds gate I saw people leaving with their arms full of watermelons. A woman walked past me wearing a green t-shirt with bold letters proclaiming, “Things go better with kale.”

Then my friend Linda arrived. We entered the Farm-Garden-Homesteading-Everything show and soon found ourselves at a poultry exhibit. When she invited me last week I hadn’t investigated ahead of time what all there would be to see, and chickens were a happy surprise.

As we were admiring the different breeds one exhibitor explained to us that the truest Rhode Island Reds are a very dark mahogany color, and there was a rooster to demonstrate it. He told us about the “Frizzle” gene that causes the feathers of any breed to grow backward.

We got into a discussion with him about whether the upcoming winter would be warmer than usual. He mentioned seeing scores of baby lizards at what would normally be too late in the year, and wild birds setting on new clutches of eggs. I wondered myself yesterday when I saw a bird pulling rice straw out of my strawberry barrels.

Last week I heard another opinion, that the lack of sunspots of late foretells a cold winter coming. I didn’t even know what sunspots were, and will like to see how winter reveals itself. A related question of no import is whether I will remember any of this come winter!

A young woman I’d met briefly at church was at this fair, selling wool that comes from her family’s fiber mill. Another friend was at the medicinal hemp oil booth. I listened to a bright lady from the South talking for 45 minutes about fermenting, as she occasionally sipped from her bottle of kombucha. I even took extensive notes on that talk, and her recipe for kimchi, knowing full well that I will never make it.

More applicable to my life was the cherry tomato tasting, from which Linda and I and even Master Gardener people at a separate booth concluded without a doubt that Green Doctor was our favorite. It was developed by two women who are both doctors 🙂 . By contrast, I ate a little Yellow Pear, while telling the volunteer behind the table that one summer I had grown this variety and thought I must have got a “lemon” of a pear because every fruit on the vine was tasteless. She answered flatly, “They always are.”

For someone like me who avoids shopping, the shopping at this event was certainly great fun. There were two places with vintage clothing and other used items, from which I chose aprons! One seed booth featured corn, beans, and amaranth, all of which were appealingly laid out in varied and rustic baskets. I did indulge in a packet of orange amaranth seeds, and Linda bought a scoop of the Hopi type below; we will share with each other.

By the time we reached the moringa booth I still had some adventuresome energy to expend, but was slowing down a bit in the legs and feet. When I saw the jug of very green drink they were freely offering, signed “Peppermint Moringa Tea,” I helped myself to a cup, and it felt like Strengthening Medicine. From what I learned, the leaves are in fact concentrated nutritionally, but more pertinent to my situation long-term were other aspects of the plant, that it is easy to grow and can thrive in my area, and — look at these dear seeds! I have to try some. Linda bought a small tree. Now I am trying to figure out some way I might organize all my hopelessly burgeoning garden ideas.

It was refreshing to listen to a motivational speaker who was urging us, not to maximize our financial wealth, but to find ourselves and our joy by digging in the dirt and learning how to grow things. To talk to a man who has been hand-forging beautiful tools for fifty years. We hated to leave his booth, where the trowels, coat racks and trivets wanted to be hefted and stroked and admired, and their creator seemed content that they be appreciated, knowing that most of us couldn’t afford to own them.

Hundreds of people all in one place with whom one might discuss natural pest controls and sheep breeds, Mason jars and succulents…. and species of scented geraniums. Linda and I each took home a little nutmeg-scented plant which will remind us of our outing together. I have a few close friends who are fellow-gardeners and who love to share our excitement with each other, but never before have I had a day as full to the brim of like-minded folk as bright and colorful as the squashes we had come to see.

Whatever winter will bring this year, it is not yet upon us, which means more hours and days I might prepare for it, while bringing in extra basil, strawberries, and figs. Now that I’ve returned from the dream-invigorating festival, it’s back to the Real, my own garden.