Spring

the garden

I've been thinking about writing about gardening here. Not how-to, by any means as I'm still slowly figuring that out, but about the gardening itself. This is the third summer we'll have this garden. The first year, we roto-tilled the grass under, bought a few inches of topsoil, lime and other things to amend the heavy clay. We sprinkled seeds, sowed seeds in rows and grew starts in the living room. The garden that year was a jungle. Cosmos and hollyhocks tangled with orach, chicory, tomatoes and brussels sprouts. It was dense, lush, verdant and a mess. We planted so much that there were beautiful plants tumbling over themselves and each other in a feral tapestry. Last year we had another project on the go and thought we would be moving so we mostly left the garden to its own devices. I have an incorrigible curiosity when it comes to gardening and had let almost everything from the year before go to seed. I am also reticent to pull unknown plants in case they turn out to have pretty flowers, or to maybe be something I planted and forgot about. I delighted in American black nightshade for weeks thinking I had hit a west coast eggplant jackpot before they developed enough identifiable characteristics that a google search led me to pull them all out. I also let an elegant frondy member of the carrot family grow to monstrous proportions before a parent pointed out it was poison hemlock. But there was broccoli, and beets and raspberries and strawberries, and the borage, nasturtiums and lupins came back along with the ever-present fennel and what I think hope is lovage. A thimbleberry shrub erupted in one of the main garden beds and though I've relocated it three times, I'm sure it will be back as I can't seem to get at the deeper roots without dislodging neighbouring plants. Last October, I picked up some gardening books but had to put them away after reading "I understand plant domestication as an eternal contract whereby we humans promise to nurture a wild plant and protect it and its progeny from competition." in Steve Solomon's introduction to Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades (it took me six months to pick up the book again and finish it). So much for my curious, laid-back approach to letting plants seed themselves and see what happens. I like wild places and find that nature rarely looks messy to me. But I didn't want to be mistreating my vegetables and causing them to struggle. Our soil is bad enough as it is. That, and the relentless wind around here, and the shading buildings, and the slugs. So this year, this year things will be tidier. I've let the raspberries migrate where they like though, because I have never had too many raspberries, and have moved the strawberries to where it looked like they were trying to go. Those giants, fennel and hollyhocks and lovage(?), that turn up throughout are being moved to the edges. I'm not sure I have the heart to pull the poppies(?) that are coming up amongst the leeks and garlic, but maybe I'll try to move them. I was going to plant a small bed of parsley, and a small bed nearby appears to be full of parsley seedlings, so that works. The big plan for the garden this year was to grow lettuce for the rabbits. Unfortunately, most of the ground I thought was free is now home to a multitude of little gemlike chard seedlings. It's a good thing rabbits also eat chard. The things I have planted so far (peas, sweet peas, endive, lettuce, orach) have all been in rows, but I couldn't resist also sowing blanketflower, marigold and borage (and zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers to come). About the gardening: I don't think I quite actually like pulling weeds, but I do like the moments when I'm out there weeding. I like the meditative calm that comes of having one's hands in the dirt, and the quiet of the sky and the birdsong filtering through my thoughts. At the risk of sounding cliche, it's grounding. At the end of a busy workday downtown, the garden feels like an oasis.

surfacing

It has again been ages.

Spring rushed by and summer has been upon us already.

Or so it seems. I'm not used to sandals in April.

Some things that have brightened my week: a fish jumping / a seal surfacing / the morning sun bright on the water / the breakfast sandwich at dak / coffee (always) / three herons - flying, standing, stealthing

Saturday: good family and good food, brunch and gelato in the sun, time together. A walk around Durrance Lake: lizards / columbine / wild geranium / people fishing / shining water / green trees / apple blossoms / shade under the trees / moss and lichen / black and white moth / blue butterflies / huckleberry / ferns unfurling fiddleheads / rock ferns / trilliums in flower / vanilla leaf or deerfoot / blue sky overhead / praying for rain

Sunday up-island at the farm: good friends and good food, picnic in the sun-shade grass, deviled eggs, exploring expeditions in creekbeds and over fields, skirting nettle. wisps of cloud in plumes - feathers - mares' tails in hot blue sky / tall trees - bare dry limbs / chickens / salmonberry / currant / elder / green grass and ladybugs / red-breasted sapsucker / reddish snails in the dry creek bed / giant old trees - ancient fir - rough cork bark peeling

(when short on time, lists.) ps. there are saffron clusters of ladybug eggs spangling the white bark of our birch tree - I discovered them yesterday

 

evening song

There was a long-drawn sunset this evening, all golden rose with children throwing frisbees in the park, a few wisped curls of cloud in the sky. As if it had been a nice sunny day today. But I wasn't fooled. This morning it was overcast and muggy, the kind of weather that makes you feel prickly. At lunchtime it was still hovering between clearing up and starting to rain. So I cleaned the house. I must confess that I am the type of person who would rather move furniture than mop the floor. Yesterday I shoved coaxed the fridge across the kitchen, and immediately vowed to never let it return. Now, instead of looming mismatched beside the stove and blocking two entryways, it fills the weird corner. This afternoon I stepped into the garden. We have doors that autolock. Most of the time I remember this, and stuff a key in my pocket or prop the door. I shut the door behind me. Oh. I spent the next three hours weeding. I could have gone over to my landlord's house for help, but stubborn pride joined forces with the fact that I'd been wanting to be out in the garden all day, but busy house tasks had kept me from it. And the weeds were really bad. Our salad greens, though gaining height, were dwarfed by volunteer thistles. I have to say it was a peaceful way to spend the afternoon/evening. At times, the only sounds besides my internal chatter were the wind strumming conifer needles and the robins' morning and evening song that transports the sun. Once, a nuthatch scritching bark, crows laughing. The neighbors and their children and their dogs. At the time I had stepped into the garden, I was thinking of changing into shorts and a tank top. By the time Jeremy came home and found me I had swatted a mosquito and was shivering a little.

A year ago at this time, I was up in northern Alberta for work. There was still snow on the ground when I arrived, and then the boreal forest set about showing me how it does spring. Extravagantly, teemingly, gloriously. I wandered around, aspen-struck (swooning over the sea of trunks of my favorite tree to paint), with my plant and bird ID books in hand. Magpies lived in my backyard. Seven of them, and they were loud and playful and curious. Here are some photos from then and there...

IMG_4532 IMG_5252 IMG_3654

the garden

In the gray morning, I watched an otter swimming in the clear water by the mermaid statue on my way to work. Sleek and playful in the small, lapping waves, it made me wish for summer beach days. On my way home, in the sunny afternoon heat (yes!) I watched an otter climbing and sliding on rocks below some people who were lounging in the sun. The otter kept creeping closer to them, then scuttling back and rolling happily in camas and tall grass. At home, the garden is my new favorite place. We stayed out there, planting, weeding and watering until the last rays of sunlight disappeared over the fence. Some of our salad greens are starting to come up, and the onions, and the raspberry transplants are sprouting new canes. Tomorrow we'll be planting beets and again battling the buttercups. Ranunculus, that rascal, is my least favorite plant. If it were safe for rabbits to nibble I'd feel quite differently about its adventitiously sprawling growth.

IMG_8081 IMG_8087 IMG_8091

in a good way

Oh what a day. I have been over revving on several levels. So perhaps more coffee in the sun was not the wisest choice, but it was in keeping with current energies. At least sitting still, near the earth with nature happening around me was grounding to some degree. It was actually quite warm to be wearing a black 3/4 sleeve rabbit shirt. I bared my pale feet to the air and light. Some days - and today was one - it takes everything I have just to focus and settle. I was riled. Kind of in a good way. If my best friends were here, instead of mountains and prairies away, we could have such a time. The dandelion seeds are floating today and I am ready for adventure. Writing helps. Thoughts that had been like bumblebees in my brain are quieter on paper, or at least leave me with more space. Inside the house today, it's as if thoughts and feelings ricocheted off the walls at me, but outside, even just ten feet from the kitchen window, they diffused into the breeze and left me calm.

A squirrel ran along our rooftop this morning. I know because I watched its shadow glide along the fence. Sciurus, shadow tail, and so they are. I drove past Elk and Beaver Lakes today (neither of their namesakes live nearby) and the new leaves on the cottonwoods were almost autumnal in their fire-rosiness. Still translucent, the sunlight transformed them into soft, transpiring stained glass. Surrounded by green growth, blue lake and blue sky, and pale mountains in the distance, they were a moving sight.

IMG_0672 IMG_0731 IMG_0743