Tag Archives: horsetail

Playing under sepia skies.

Soldier’s family and I are having such a good time, I think most of us forget for long periods about the pervasive fires and the smoky skies. My dear people arrived four days ago, and we’ve been as busy as beavers ever since. The boys are much louder than beavers. There’s something about three boys arriving in a family in less than six years that creates a force field of extra decibels and energy output. I have no doubt that in the balance the constructive energies are increasing!

The first day we did the creek walk, and tasted fennel in all stages of its growth, from the newest fronds to the early seeds. The boys learned about Queen Anne’s spot of blood, and how horsetails break so satisfyingly clean at their joints. I learned the name of a new plant, White Sweetclover.

For two days we did lots of chores in the garden and around the house.

My playhouse has been lovingly fortified by Soldier since I got it used five years ago; back then he put a floor on it and placed it on a foundation he’d made. He sealed it against the rain, and repaired the door when it was falling apart. This week he recreated the little decoration above the door, that used to have red plastic matching the roof. Now it has red wood shingles matching the new roof, and I don’t think there is any remaining plastic that can peel and get brittle and break. If ashes weren’t falling in the back yard I’m sure little Clara would be playing house.

Liam picked many figs that were hard for me to get to, because it’s easy for him to wriggle among the hedges of yarrow and oregano, into the tangle of fig branches, to find the fruits that are drooping and black. Often they have a bird peck taken out of them, so we cut that part off and eat the rest. He and Laddie helped me deadhead the echinacea and one remaining lavender.

The third day, off to the beach! It was an exploratory mission; we couldn’t know for sure from the air quality apps if it would be worse than inland, but we hoped not, and when we got out of the car it was comfortable enough to breathe, so we stayed all afternoon. It was Clara’s first beach experience. She was game for everything.

The boys used all their mental and physical powers in sport with the surf. I who was never much am an athlete am awed by the quick reflexes of one, and the way another takes on the waves as a sort of whole-body interactive science project, learning how to work with the crashing and pushing and keep his balance.

Pacific sand crabs

Joy found a sea plant washed up and called to Brodie, “Here’s a rope!” He came running and gathered it up, flung it out, dragged it all over.

Soldier made a castle and hours later we waited for the waves to slowly encroach. The shorebirds entertained us, digging with their bills that were nearly as long as their stilty legs. At home later, Soldier and I with the help of Cornell’s allaboutbirds.com identified them as Marbled Godwits.

Two things hard to understand: How late it was, when we started home. Maybe the sunlight’s never changing all day confused our inner clocks. The other strange thing was the color of our pictures when we looked at them later.

I’m reading to the boys Along Came a Dog by Meindert DeJong. It has ten chapters, so I told them that we should try to read two chapters at each sitting, so as to guarantee that we finish in the nine days they will be here, since we can’t read every day. Today we finished the sixth chapter, and in the middle of the session they started playing with Legos while they listened, and building figures to represent the main characters in the story.

The story starts with the man, a flock of white chickens, and the little red hen. He drives off to work every day. And then, along comes a big black dog — that he doesn’t want. I would like to give you more of a review of the book and tell you about our intense engagement with the story, and the things we talk about. But I am way too tired to do that right now, and I must rest and store up strength, and be ready to meet the force field tomorrow morning. Good night!

My weeds, massacred.

Two days ago I saw a mallow blooming along my path and I thought it was so pretty, I planned to post the picture I snapped as soon as I got home. I guess I snapped too hurriedly, because I didn’t get a good picture, and yesterday I didn’t get back there to try again.

This morning was foggy and then cloudy, which would make it easier for me to get a good image, but I as I put off my walk for one thing and another I started to worry that the sun would beat me to the spot. Eventually I set off, walking fast and looking up at the sky as I went, where indeed the sunshine was about to break through.

Soon I forgot all about the lighting, when I turned on to the path to see — decimation!

Clearly my city’s maintenance workers are confident about what is a weed: anything growing in a 3-6 foot swath along the bike paths is Unwanted and deserving of execution at any moment.

This is the spot where Common Mallow had come into its bloom:

I will post the picture I took in case I don’t get another:

malva neglecta

My eyes were peeled looking for a mallow that might have escaped the mower and I found one:

I also went down by the creek to get closer to some cow parsnip to see if it actually was that, and saw lots of lush and wild plants who are safe for now… at least, until someone decides to dredge the creek!

That mix includes a kind of horsetail reed, probably Equisetum hyemale. I have another species in my garden, which I don’t have time to tell about right now, because I need to actually go into the garden and work, and pull up some of my kind of Equisetum, which I am considering a weed in some places, and in other places, an ornamental plant. 🙂

I noticed those plants above because I had taken a short-cut home, being somewhat disheartened by the ruin of my usual fields of research, and that led me past a less familiar stretch of the creek. [Update: The vine above I’m pretty sure is a wild cucumber or Marah, which is in the gourd family.]

Mowing is the thing to do this week, it seems. My neighbor Ray died a couple of years ago but someone is still “taking care of” his house, it seems. I don’t think it looks better than it did before they mowed the weeds he left behind, but I understand: now that our rainy season is over, all of these weeds will turn into crispy dry Fuel for wildfires, and after last fall’s devastation, people are duly careful.

Many weed portraits were added to my files in the last weeks while the plants were enthusiastically obeying their calling, and which I will use to continue my botanical, etymological and philosophical studies of weeds. So never fear! Weeds will return to Gladsome Lights, and I have no doubt they will also return to the borders of my walking paths.

 

Garden tour with figs.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mrs. J lately. She has been involved in my life in so many ways for over 30 years now, from the time when we became neighbors in the neighborhood where neither of us lives any longer. I hadn’t seen her since my husband’s funeral, and was glad when she phoned today.

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oaks and olives

Mrs. J has always loved plants, and soon after we met she was taking horticulture classes and learning the botanical names for everything. When we planted a rock garden at our old house she helped us choose the plants, including at least two that I want to plant in my new back yard garden, a Mugo Pine and a Pineapple Guava. Many plants that I love remind me of this friend.

Mrs. J became a realtor and helped us sell that old house and buy this one. She advised us to plant the Sweet Olive bush that has been a joy to me and which I am now nursing back to health from drought. She was the first person I knew to use manzanita bushes in a residential landscape, planting sixteen of them in her front yard across the street.

Usually we see each other once a year for the triple-birthday celebration we have with another friend; the three of us lived on the same street for a couple of years, back when our babies were coming along regularly. We all love gardening and we discovered that we all were born within a four-day period in the same year. We started taking turns preparing birthday lunches for each other, and have celebrated 30 of them so far.

Today is Labor Day, a special day that we never have celebrated together. Mrs. J was surprised to find herself without pressing obligations on this holiday, so she phoned me. I also was without pressing obligations, and as we began to talk about my back yard project we came up with the idea that I might travel the half hour to her place to get a garden tour. I soon was off on a country drive.

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The sort of grouping we both like.

That route made me very nostalgic and weepy. Our family has been driving these roads for 42 years now, and much of our history took place at one end or the other of this winding hilly road through oaks and golden hills, which Mr. Glad also drove back and forth to work for 20+ years.

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fig with zinnias

The pictures above are of the stretch of road a mile or two from our old house, where our family would take walks or bike rides. Back then there was no yellow line down the middle; that line seems to me to pretend that the road is always wide enough for two cars.

Over the years Mrs. J has designed landscapes and houses in several places. Currently she lives by a creek and has space and resources to use many of the ideas she’s been collecting her life long.  When we went out her front door we soon found ourselves by her beautiful fig tree that had several fruits ready to eat right then. We ate and they were sweet and juicy. Did I tell you I am going to have a fig tree in my garden?

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dogwood

 

Dogwoods are a species I don’t plan to have, but Mrs. J loves them and has varieties from all over. They get enough shade from the tall oaks by the creek. This might be the Korean one.

 

 

She went up north to Corning, CA and bought an olive tree that is 100 years old. It had been pruned a few months earlier to prepare it for transplanting; now it has been given a spot where it can leaf out and enjoy its new and more temperate home.

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Olive trees don’t need as much water as you might think. Mrs. J had to remove some ornamentals from under another olive tree because the irrigation of them was too much for the tree. In another place, where an emitter is leaking, she cleverly made use of the extra water to plant a clump of horsetail grass.

 

The creek has never been so low, she said; I was surprised that it still had any water at all. In a few months this stream could turn into a torrent. That is our hope and prayer.

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