Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Urban Farming and Flourishing Faith

Just as I start feeling like city living is going to spell the end of my mental health, something wonderful and unexpected happens to reestablish my faith. A few days ago I was talking to my friend, and I told her that the toughest thing for me now is knowing that I'll never see quail or fox in my garden.

A few nights ago my husband and I were driving toward our home; we were about 300 feet from it and a beautiful gray fox ran across the road and slipped out of sight. I was ecstatic, but outside my garden walls is one thing, inside is another. I yearned for some of the birds and critters who used to visit my gardens at Seekhaven in Cambria.

This morning as I walked outside to putter in the garden, I was stopped in my slippers. A few feet in front of me, a male and female California quail couple skittered along the pathway. I stood and watched, my jaw nearly resting on my knees. How could they have traversed the busy network of roads and ended up in my tiny patch of paradise???

I ran indoors and told Jeff that he would never believe what was out in our garden. He rushed to the window and took some photos of the male who sat atop a pepper tree and guarded his plump mate who fed in the bushes below.

The old adage "Expect Miracles" doesn't work for me. I like the concept of don't expect miracles and they will surprise you all the way back to childhood. Instead of expecting miracles, I rejoice in them and roll around in each moment like a bumblebee in a hollyhock.

Hint for the week: I am in love with extra virgin olive oil. The grassier, greener, and more potent, the better! We use it for all of our cooking and baking and even pour it onto our morning toast. Recently, I bought spray olive oil to make the coating of baking pans easier.

A few weeks ago I noticed that my small Fremontodendron (aka flannelbush) was covered in ants (this is always a bad sign for a plant) and that the upper branches were knobbed with big black scale. YIKES. I have nursed that flannelbush for over a year and wasn't about to let the ants and scale win. So, before the sun rose, I sprayed the stems, ants, and scale with my treasured olive oil spray. The next day the plant looked great, the ants were gone, and the scale, well I don't know what happened to it, but they sure weren't on the plant. Today I used olive oil spray on ants and scale that attacked my treasured Abutilon. Already the fat scale look deflated and the ants are gone. Hurrah! A simple victory for an organic gardener.

Remember, NEVER SPRAY on a hot, sunny day. Do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon. You will literally cook your plants if you do it in hot sunlight.

Green blessings to you all,


P.S. So many of you have written me fantastic letters and e-mails and I treasure every one of them, but can't always keep up with the answers. Please know that your thoughts and good wishes and suggestions are appreciated!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sunshine and Berries and Gardening in my Nightgown

(Page from my journal with one of my favorite quotes)

This morning when my granddaughter Sara was helping me in the garden, I realized that every child needs a patch or border of strawberries. Plant the berries in a sunny plot of ground, a large pot or half barrel, and amend the soil with compost. Top the berry patch with mulch or shredded bark.

I planted borders of Fraises des bois, which my grandchildren call "Faerie Berries," and I also planted a circle of 'Sequoia' and 'Fresca' strawberries under our Fuji apple tree. The strawberries are thriving and happy to shoulder in among the dianthus and nepeta 'Walker's Low.' Every morning for the past few weeks, I have picked a little basket of berries for breakfast and to give to Sara for snacks.

Last week, I scoured the neighborhood for pine needles and found some under my friend Kary's pine tree. I gathered a bag full, and, in the morning, tucked them around my plants. The needles discourage slugs and snails and elevate the berries above the soil to prevent rot. A thick mulch of pine needles excludes weeds, conserves moisture, and as they break down, they feed the soil.

For all of you readers who are planting your sunflowers now, let me give you a simple piece of advice. Instead of direct sowing your sunflowers, plant the seeds in a paper cup filled with good soil. Poke lots of drainage holes in the bottom of the cup, which will disintegrate after awhile. Set the cup wherever you want your sunflowers to grow; bury the cup with at least 2" protruding above the ground. The cup will protect your young plants from a multitude of hungry critters.

Good growing!