Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10

Yesterday, Saturday, was my younger daughter's school plant sale. They have a farmer who grows a ton of plants for them, and the neighboring "alternative" hgh school kids grew a bunch as well. In other words, I didn't have to grow anything, which swas easy. instead, I made signs and fliers, and placed them around town. I also showed up early to unload plants and make a second run to the greenhouse, and at the end of the day to put leftover plants back on the truck and then cruise around un-signing the town. My daughter contributed with her first semi-pro gig as a sign dancer.

One result of all that was: four tomatoes, two stevia, two tarragon, an amaranth, four geraniums, one scarlet begonia, two blue fescue,...and maybe other stuff I forgot. The farmer got a little, and the school got some. A good day.

So today I planted most everything. One exception is a yellow pear tomato that will probably end up as a potted plant, and one fescue sent to Nancy to be a potted plant at her place.

I also went to the old community garden and retrieved some hops planted by George Bush, one of the first Olympia non-Indian settlers (he was black) in the 1850s. I put one rhizome in the ground, and to others in pots. Meanwhile, the other hops are mostly to climbing stage, although Chinook, Newport, and Northern Brewer lag. Maybe one more hop plant could squeeze in on the east pole, but otherwise I've got a full line-up of (from west to east) Newport, Perles, Zeus, Chinook, Glacier, Hallertauer, and Bush Homestead. Just west of these, on the willow fence (from East to West) are Northern Brewer and another Glacier. At the north end of the yard, climing lines to a tree-hung block and tackle, are Fuggles, Nugget, and Willamette/Cascade. The latter is also back on the north fenceline, in between raspberres that are blooming as we speak.

The block and tackle hops are in a small area between the willow tree and the gate on the north side of the yard. Crappy soil and full sun led me to plant a white sage, tarragon, and fescue there today. It's wild and herb country. Meanwhile, some of the poppy and cilantro broadcast way back are starting to get beyond seedling stage.

O, and one of the heaps is gone! The soil dug from near the house, mounded for atleast a month, contributed to hilling up taters, after which I went through removing weeds and putting the rest of the soil into the cart. I then dug up about half the soil-heap substrate, into which went a couple of the new tomato starts. Sorting and digging exposed more weeds, which went to the weed heap, looming just behind the hewly cultivated ground. The soil heap was on cardboard laid down over grass and weeds, which mostly seem dead now that they are re-exposed. We'll see if they revive; if they don't, I should be able to just turn over the soil instead of sifting through it all to remove the roots and shoots and rhizomes that could grow back.

I also worked around the big pear tree. As in, digging a 2 foot radius around the trunk to remove blackberry, morning glory, etc. In the loose soil, I put the smaller clump of grandma's hostas. Radially further out, I started putting 'sod' (any dug-up turf 50% or more comprised of grass or moss).

That;s probably about it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May 3

Spring has quickened. Some rain and some sun, today clear and it had to be over 70.

I've worked through some of the heap o dirt resulting from digging out next to the house, de-weeding it while feeding the weed heap. Some of the cleaned stuff went to hilling up potatoes.

But before that, and increasingly often everywhere else in the garden, weeding. Mostly with the crescent-bladed shuffler hoe that I cut from an old spade; the new handle is a camellia branch, a little gnarly and heavy to be ideal. Anyhow, it's worked pretty well in the tater bed, which was greened over with buttercup sprouts. It's also pretty good in the paths, where all I'm trying to do it decapitate weeds, not remove them.

Pretty much the whole garden used to be a neglected raspberry patch, full of buttercup and morning glory, plus rhizomatous grass and an undending seed bank of dandelions. Most of the raspberry is gone, but pretty much everything else is a reproducing population at the moment. The beds are clearer than the rest (although plagued by baby weeds), but  it'll take years to get the uper hand.

Blueberries are leafed out nicely, and seem happy with the conifer mulch. Not much flowering yet, and the plants are scraggly. I've pruned some, but need to brace the branches out vs up. The row next to the fence, even more beat up than the others, is alive and OK, but not what I'd call thriving. Blanketflower and hostas are tucked in that bed as well, and both look great.

Mustard and bok choy are starting to add on enough to notice; snap peas and spinach (I  hope, or maybe just more weeds) have sprouted.

Haven't mentioned the onion bed, so here goes: Egyptians are already walking, garlic looks good (and not overgrown, so late planting worked out well this year), Naneum onions are blooming, shallots seem good, as do the other bunchers. I've left the pine mulch on them, and despite seeing some slugs and weeds when I peek underneath, there does not seem to be a problem so far.

The lawn is pretty much a mat of the weeds aforementioned, and so it grows well as well. Mowing is in order, and the cheap mower i got last year seems to have acclimated. So far, I've been bagging it, using it in berry and hop beds. Seems like 2 loads per episode. The front lawn is where I attempt a facade of normalcy, and keeping it mowed to within a few inches of the neighbors is the main way I achieve that. May as well do the back while I'm at it. The lawn will shrink over the years, so I'm just enjoying the 20th Century ritual of walking behind a gas-drinking eater of grass while it lasts.

Other than that, not a lot happening. I continue to cut and cycle through branches. Gunnar dropped off a few wheelbarrels of cedar branches, which along with the raspberry cross-pieces means I have a heap o burning to do.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April 19 Weekend

Yesterday, I harvested worm-heap compost and fed it to the hops. Woke up this morning, and dug postholes for the hops set-up. Then laid on sunny grass with the dog. Then cleared the deck, literally, so we could paint signs for the school plant sale. My job was to prime everything, and the kids did the lettering.

We also headed to the friendly neighborhood Urban Farm Store to put up a plant sale flier,...and get some corn gluten (anti weed-seed), cottonseed meal (give the hops some nutrients), a rake, and a couple 6-packs each of mustard greens and bok-choy. Unfortunately, they didn't have anything good for hops poles.

Back home, I rigged up a handle for a shuffle-hoe I made from an old shovel. A big camellia branch had just the right curve. Then I sliced weeds in the main garden paths, and raked them onto the weed heap.

With the early afternoon shade on the south beds, it seemed like a good time to plant mustard and choy, so I did. I few cottonseed to the hops and yesterday's (or Friday's?) plantings of snap peas and spinach, and spread corn gluten where I dont want weed-seeds sprouting. Watered it all in, and gave the blueberry/hosta/blanketflower row some water as well; same for the hops and the south fence plantings (blueberries and hops). Not sure whether I mentioned the hosta before, but it's a small kind that Grandma Smith grew. It's the only ancestor plant I have going now, and luckily it seems pretty healthy after transplanting last weekend.

Then it was time to decide what to do about hops supports. All I had were 8' 4x4s and various 2x4s. I finally decided to goto Home depot and get 14' 2x4s, which I carriage bolted to the 4x4s, which were then planted about 3' deep, so that the entire 2x4 is above ground. Each has an eye bolt scfrewed in the top end, through which passes a brand new hemp rope. Each hop plant will get it's own line running up to that one. There's plenty of extra to let out the slack for harvest and adjustment. I planted the posts splayed out, so that when the top line is taut, there's tension. I tamped the hell out of the dirt around the posts (maybe that's why I'm tired, playing piledriver with an iron bar...), but didn't add gravel or cement.

Anything else? Not that I can remember at the moment.

Meanwhile, several days of clear warm weather. Blue and serviceberry transplants all look fine. Raspberries ripped from the patch, crowded into a single pot, and transplanted a little late along the north fence look good and are setting flower buds. The big feral Cascade/Willamette hops is climbing vigorously, followed by Nugget, with Fuggles not yet hitched on the line. However, the three lines arcing up to a tree-mounted block pulley looks pretty cool, even bare.

All of the other hops are at least peaking out, with the exception of Northern Brewer, which is in an isolated spot. Glacier is begining to climb, Hallertauer is vigorous but only in a bushy way for the moment, and the others are just getting started.

Potatoes of one kind continue to outpace the others, and I don't know why.

Weeds are generally happy. I've been keeping up with the morning glory etc in the onion patch, but a peek beneath the pine straw mulch reveals hundreds of little buttercups waiting to be freed. I cultivated amongst the potatoes, where thousands of weed babies were teeming.

That's it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Being

This journal has shaped up to be pretty cut and dried, focusing on what I am doing to get this piece of earth more to a happy prductive state.

But on many days, I do nothing. The birds and bugs-and-bees and slugs-and-trees do their things. Squirrels scurry in-n-out.

Sometimes (or maybe most times) after work, I sit down by the dining room window, a big sliding door onto what is now a deck. Afternoon sun, angled down into the yellow spectrum, pours into the yard: along the willow fence, through fresh pear leaves, underlighting fir boughs. Sunbeams spotlight insects as they streak, float, and cloud their way through the evening air. The evening air blues, sun-glare fades orange, light stops pouring over the fence, and the evening air blues some more.

And this week, it keeps happening that the afternoon is clear, but it never really warms up. I've brought in the white sage, but left the bay in its pot outside.

Potatoes are up, but mostly just on variety (which happend to be the one with most sun); they are not so purple anymore.

I ended up with a couple of branches of serviceberry left over when I planted that one. One cut branch ended up in the ground next to the main transplant, and it looks alive, but not as happy. The other is in a pot in the shade and doing fine.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Second Week of April

Once again, I traveled this week, so there's not a whole lot that's new. Did some more cleaning--to the point that there's no plastic crap in sight from the house--and finally broke down the raspberry trellises. Rotting 1x4 crosspieces nailed to chemical-treated 4x4s, they looked like little utility poles. Now the posts are out of sight and the cross-pieces are on the kindling heap. (I't's good when you travel, and get to finish your work week early and tackle somethign like this before the weekend's officially underway).

Through a combination of girl stomps and worm tunnels, the weed heap really does seem to be shrinking. I did not add to it this week.

The rhubarb is ready. I'm amazed at that a few hacked up crowns are producing already, at about 2 months in the ground.

One of the things about getting a yard with long-untended trees is that you end up bringing a bunch down: deadwood, moribund-wood, cross-branches, unwanted withes,... Mostly, I try to neither bring in nor remove biomass, so it's important to be able to deal with a lot of it. Because so much of it is woody and not readily compostable, it begins to eat up space.

I feel like I'm getting into a pretty good flow now. Part of it is pacing. Not every bad branch needs to come down today, and doing a few at a time pulse through the system without the hang-ups that a yard-full of branches can create. Generally, here's how it breaks down:
  • Branches, cut-end first, are dragged to the SW corner, between the pear and my willow fence. 
  • Conifers get the machete shave, removing flexible boughs with foliage and strewing them around the pear where the ground is muddy.
  • Any branches that would make good stakes are pulled and cut, with the small stuff usually going onto the brush heap.
  • Bigger wood is generally destined to be firewood, and I bring it north, near the shed and under the fir, where it gets hacked and sawed down. 
  • Pear and other fruit-wood is separated for cooking only. The general wood-pile is more or less twigs at one end and pieces awaiting final sawing at the other. 
  • The fir carpet will, as the weather dries up, shed the needles. Twigs will then go into the firewood stream. 
 The other thing I did on my early start weekend was buy about 65 bucks of plants at the farmers market.  Now I have a couple of lavendars at my doorstep, and the bricked corner of the south bed is now home to some oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I also got some bay and white sage, which will live in pots.

By virtue of travel, I also had some bulb planting to do. I've been looking at areas affected by wildfire, and gathered what I believe to be camas and some other kind of lily. Since I don't know exactly when they'll bloom, much less guarantee that I'll make it, I dug up a few and planted them here. Having slightly expanded the onion bed and added some presumed wild onions in part of that space previously, the new bulbs went there.

That seems like about it, so far.




Monday, April 6, 2015

First Weekend in April

Apparently, it was Easter this weekend.

The rhododendron crucified earlier in the week has not yet arisen.

Its limbs and that of the bog corner rhody were hauled to the city's green-waste yard. Unfortunately, they will not take bindweed/buttercup/ivy in muddy matrix, so all I could do was tell my 10-year-old that she was welcome to stomp the hell out of that heap.

I cut some more dead branches from the pear and plum, and a few more live and dead from the NW corner fir. The, spent a fair amount of time reducing said branches to firewood size, all with a bow saw. My neighbor eventually offered a chainsaw, but  there's sopmethign satisfying about the cut of meat-driven saw-blades cutting through wood. Rhythm vs noise, my bones strengthened rather than just shook up. ZZZZh!-huh ZZZZh!-huh, ZZZZh!-huh.

Then, a lovely bonfire.

No new planting this weekend, but I did notive potatoes coming up, blackish purple leaves peaking through the palm-prints where I'd pressed them down a couple weeks ago, like vegetative stigmata.

I also widened the bed around the blueverries, and dumped on another half yard or so of old fir needles and cones.

There was also a fair amount of reduction. Big camellia boughs became stakes and twiggy pre-compost. Fir became a carpet of needly branchlets and firewood. Pear became another carpet (twiggy, but with lichen instead of needles) and future cooking wood. The 'carpets' are spread behind the big pear where foot traffic will break them down and separate the ephemeral from durable (which will find its way to the fire pit as it dries). Stacks of willow stakes and cedar arches went up against the fence. In the end, more space to walk and use, and less clutter.

A mass of weedy sod is growing near the center of the south fence. Not sure what I'll do with it. At my last house, I had a 'grouch' (a grass-couch) around the fire pit, but that's not what I need here.

Weather has been less rainy than usual for this time of year, yet everything is nice and green.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

End of March

For almost 4 days near the end of the month, I was away, but the weather cooperated and everything was fine.

Besides, I came back with 4 more hops varieties and planted them. Seems to me it was Zeus, Northern Brewer, Newport, and maybe Galena? Anyway, they're all in the ground, and have had a mix of sun and rain since. Like all the other hops, they're in 18" diameter holes carved out of the sod, with a few shovels of worm-heap compost in each. I'll eventually strip the interstices of grass to make a long bed that will luxuriate under a blanket of mulch. This weekend, I'll cut some young cherry trees at Brown Street to be poles.

After returning, I also cut back the camellia, working inside-out, taking off a few feet up top and giving the house more breathing space, but not making it look different from the road.

On a roll, I hacked down the small (about 5' diam) rhododendron in front of the office window. It was crowded up against the camellia and the house, harboring trash and weeds, and producing no food, material, or aroma. Even though I have not dug out the base and all the weeds yet, it looks better to me.

Next, I headed around back with a ladder or two and cut a bunch of dead crap out of the big pear. At one point, I climbed up with the long-handled cultivator and was hooking branches. A lot of lichen-covered dead-twigs came down. At another point, the long-handled cultivator was stuck up there, but eventually I got it down.

I've also been working on the south beds. Got the SE corner done, maybe 4' x 6' in area. Then peeled back dirt previously dug by th house down to the underlying cardboard, and started another bed. That's as far as I got, and we keep getting afternoon rain that makes it less enticing to go out and shake dirt and sort out weeds. Eventually, though, it could be about 4 of that size.

Oh, and next to the house, I filled the north 4 feet of the future outdoor kitchen with gravel from the Mission Creek screening. A few brickbats are in place to keep the gravel from migrating, but it's compacting nicely and so far, so good. Prior to this, I'd worked the dirt (which at this depth is redder and less loamy than the A horizon) to almost level, canted slightly away from the house and stomped as compactly as my frame and patience allow.

Hmm. What else? Raked up a lil heap of fir needles and cones, which I'm using as blueberry mulch.

This weekend, I'll waive the usual No Biomass Leaves This Place rule to get rid of some of the trimmings piling up around here. I'm running out of space, and rhododenron is the worst compost material, so something has to go. Also, this will spur me to have at the big rhody about 12 feet diameter), which is crowding the house as well as the only way to get a truck in back. And as long as I'm at that, there's a bunch of weedy crap on that end of the house that would be good to get rid of.