hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gardens Au Natural

A couple of weeks ago, we went to visit two gardens: one in Vancouver, belonging to and designed by a recently-deceased famous Canadian architect (Arthur Erickson), the other belonging to and designed by a Point Roberts neighbor. Both gardens were very beautiful, very similar, and very different, and they put me to thinking about the nature of gardens and what we are doing with them.

There’s a goofy old movie with Michael Caine and Robert Duvall called ‘Old Lions,’ in which these two old bulls have retired from a life of crime and spying and moved to a farm in Texas where they have taken up gardening. This is being done because, as Michael Caine explains to Duvall, ‘they are now old and that’s what old people do.’ A lot of gardening is done by the ‘old’ and retired, by those who no longer have kids nor jobs to tend to, and, I think, who have taken to gardening as a way of creating something special. Now vegetable gardening is a very different matter. I’m thinking about landscape gardening, flower gardening. Up here in B.C., cottage gardens continue to loom large, but down in Point Roberts, not so much. There, there seems much more sense of design, as evidenced by the (usually) annual Garden Club Tour.

Anyway, the two gardens we visited: both were relatively small, enclosed gardens with a pond. Ed took the photo above, which is from the Erickson garden and is looking down into the pool from the ‘moon viewing deck’ immediately in front of the house. Each of these gardens has a small house at one end, with the rest of the yard devoted to garden, a garden whose structure is determined not by their water features but by their small number of trees. As if the trees were the skeletal structure.

Erickson’s house/garden was apparently used for parties (one of his former students told me about being invited there at the end of the term for a party). And, as a party setting, it is a fairly open garden with a small variety of native plants and areas where people could walk about or stand in small groups. By contrast, the P.R. garden was very close, with pretty much every inch of land not covered by pathway filled with carefully selected plants. It was much more a 'looking' garden for a solitary viewer. Neither had ‘lawn’ in the usual sense of the word. Both gardens were ‘natural’ (as contrasted with ‘formal’) gardens, but their naturalness was entirely unnatural, of course. Erickson’s native plants are contained in 2 lots in the middle of Vancouver (in Kitsalano, I think) and I’d judge there hasn’t been any salal growing naturally in that neighborhood for a very long time. In a similar way, the P.R. garden was ‘unnatural’ in that the density of planting and the intentionally narrow color range would not occur in nature.

As I thought about this, I eventually realized that landscape gardening, itself, is inherently an unnatural activity. It is, pretty much, a human-dominated activity. Creative, beautiful, and all that, but it is yet another way in which we attempt to impose our sense of ‘order’ on the world we live in. And then I came to some tentative conclusions about why I always feel a lack of commonality with other gardeners. It’s because I’m not a gardener. What I am is something more like a grounds manager. A grounds manager with a theory and a plan, however, which I will explicate more fully as soon as I am able to drag it out into my conscious understanding.

What a surprise! I'd always thought I was a gardener

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Garbage, But Briefly

The All Point Bulletin's account of the Thursday night trash and trashing meeting is now posted on its website. The County is providing a website with some gathering of factual information.

Other than that, there is no possibility of there being any trash pickup in the next two months, although one company has applied for the thankless job. The two months figure is the amount of time that it will take for Freedom 2000's application to be assessed. (Freedom 2000 is Dave Gellatly's company.) Maybe Freedom 2000 should consider updating its name? Or is the implication that that was the last date for Freedom as we know/knew it? My intuition says nothing happens for way longer than two months.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trash Redux and Encore

The information flies fast about the trash problem. Councilwoman Brenner has written to us all again saying that when she said that the County and the WUTC are responsible for garbage being picked up in Pt. Roberts, she didn’t mean to say that the County or the WUTC were responsible for garbage being picked up in Pt. Roberts. What she meant to say was that the County was responsible for running the Transfer Station where you can take your own garbage and the WUTC was responsible for approving rates for such person/company as was certified to actually be responsible for picking up garbage in Pt. Roberts. Actually, she went on, what she meant to say was that she knew we had the kind of community spirit that would make it possible for us to help one another pick up our own trash and take it to the transfer station and that, Golly Gee!, if it were actually necessary, she would drive her own truck up here and help us with our community spirit or just join in our community spirit, or something like that.

Then we got a message from the County Public Works Director and he said that unless something turned up, we’d be taking our trash to the transfer station ourselves for the next month or forever because although one person had said he might put in an offer to do it, he hadn’t gotten any offers yet. Further, that though he’d talked to some other trash collection companies, they hadn’t stepped up to the plate. And finally, he pointed out to us that there were three problems associated with this trash situation: "(1) turnaround time for solid waste disposal (garbage cannot be imported to Canada, so containers must be transported to Bellingham through two border crossings), (2) the small number of collection customers, and (3) recent contraction of recycling markets. There are no ready solutions to these problems.” Suggesting that Ms. Brenner might be making repeated truck trips up here for some time to lend a hand.

Then, the Voters’ Association sent an open letter to the County and us urging the County to have a meeting so we could all talk about this, although I’m not sure what it is that we are going to say to the County when we talk. I mean, when the Border people came up, we all pretty much agreed about what the problem was. With respect to the trash, as far as I can tell, no such agreement exists, although I guess we can all agree—County, WUTC, Pt. Roberts residents—that trash pick up as it now exists will come to an end on June 30. But other than that: well, it’s a topic that some people have agreed not to discuss. The County has now agreed to hold such a meeting on this very day and I, sadly, will not be there for it. Or, perhaps, I fortunately will not be there for it. Anyone who goes is surely free to post their assessment of the event on this blog. Just go the 'post a comment' at the end of this day's writing.

Then an open letter from a neighbor vigorously pointing out the way in which the County had failed to address this problem over a long period of time and suggesting that, as the political blogs are always saying, ‘hoocoodanode?’ is just not a viable defense.

Yesterday, an announcement of a brief radio interview with Dave Gellatly, a Pt. Roberts resident and trucker who now seems to have applied to be the WUTC and County certified trash and recycling hauler for Point Roberts. When asked by the radio interviewer how he planned to overcome the situation the current trash certificate holder found himself in (not being able to make a financial go of it because of the three reasons that the County Public Works Director also cited), Mr. Gellatly assured us that he would do it smarter, based upon his prior trucking experience in which he hauled people and money. Well, Okay! I guess. I never realized that anybody other than Brinks was in the money hauling business, but why not Dave Gellatly in Point Roberts? Trash and money and people might be the combination that would work.

And today, a ‘statement of facts’ about the trash situation, again from Ms. Brenner. As near as I can tell, the point of this statement of facts is to suggest that when the musical chairs game stops, it is the WUTC that should not have a chair, not the County. Let the music play on!

Update: a reader proposes: "How about a garbage barge that doubles as a ferry?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cooperative Living

(A cheeky bunch, the deer; or maybe they just have a special appreciation for Ed when he comes by with his camera.)

Here is the deer thinking; here is the deer eating. She and her friends have consumed all the still-very-small fruits and leaves off the lower branches of our (remaining) apple tree and off of all our neighbors’ apple trees. In the same way that she and her friends ate the leaves and not the flowers from the hydrangeas, she and her friends have found a way to share by leaving the fruits on the higher branches for us. I am hoping that she is discussing this effective strategy with the bears. As well as pointing out that if you break the tree down to the ground, as he did, there are no fruits after that for anybody.

But quite apart from that, this is the first year the deer have paid any attention to our apple tree, either early or late. Must be something going on with this big change in eating behaviors.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Non-Stop Fun in Canada

Here it is Father’s Day, and not a festival in sight. The Sunshine Coast, where I am right now, is a genuine tourist economy. Its largest single employer is a pulp mill, of course, which does provide tours on Thursdays, I believe, but that doesn’t make it a part of the tourist industry. In fact, if it doesn’t stop laying off workers (lower demand for wood pulp, I believe), it may not even continue to be the single largest employer.

Nevertheless, because this is a tourist/resort kind of place--what with the ocean and the mountains and with being about the warmest place in Canada—the Sunshine Coast spends its summer doing festivals. All festivals all the time AND a depressed economy. How festively cool is that?

We are just finishing off a Jazz Festival and a Blues Festival, and are now looking forward to Canada Day on July 1 which really begins the festival season. We are going to be having the Showcase of the Performing Arts, the Sea Cavalcade (the Queen of which is an elderly woman with civic spirit), the Bonfire Music Festival, the Wooden Boat Festival, a Country Fair, Creek Daze, something called ‘Commotion on the Ocean,’ the Arts Festival, the Festival of the Rolling Arts (which seems to be about cars), the Festival of the Written Arts, the Fibre Arts Festival, the Chamber Music Festival, the Salmon Festival, another Jazz Festival and the New Moon Festival. And then there’s B.C. Day, which is not in and of itself a festival, but does usually have fireworks, making it pretty festive. Also, now that I think of it, there’s the Okanagon Fruit Stand Man who comes to town every Wednesday in the summer and brings such wonderful fruits that he himself constitutes a one-person festival spread out over time. And then summer is over and the tourists go away.

Having a very good time? Certainly a festive time. At the Salmon Festival, you can decorate a plywood salmon. Unfortunately, the real salmon are rapidly disappearing from these coastal waters so this festival may soon turn into a Salmon Memorial Festival. At the Written Arts Festival, people who are talented writers come and talk. How about a festival where the talented writers come and write? At the New Moon Festival, you get to eat samosas. I don’t know about the connection between samosas and the new moon. But I do believe that the best thing about a Festive Occasion ought to be its food, so I’ll be going to check them out.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I ran into some conversation about a ferry from Point Roberts to Bellingham the other day. Seems the B.C. Ferries Corporation (which is a private corporation, much to the chagrin of many residents of the Sunshine Coast) is selling off some older ferries as a result of closing down the Albion ferry in Maple Ridge and of the new very large ferries soon to appear on the coastal ferry routes. Maybe Point Roberts could buy one of those ferries and run a little route back and forth to Bellingham was the idea.

Of course, Bellingham has no particular known interest in running a ferry across that route. And none of the ferries that was advertised could dock at the P.R. marina, but the idea of a ferry is perennial in Point Roberts. All you have to do is bring it up as a topic and people start talking about what a good idea it would be to get somebody to do this project. The somebody might be the state or the county, but the somebody isn’t usually Point Roberts, I have noticed.

So here’s a thought experiment, as the philosophers say: if the people who think it would be a good idea to have say a water-taxi (that could transport perhaps as many as ten foot-passengers/crossing) can raise $1,000 each from five hundred Point Roberts’ residents as investors, then there would be a half-million dollars of investment capital to get something the size of a water taxi going. A half-million would mean, I’m guessing, that it was fairly well capitalized, and the investors could all count on a nice little yearly profit if such a profit chanced to materialize, or some of their money back if it weren’t all needed over a several year period. And the real thought experiment here is whether 500 Point Roberts residents, who stand to benefit by this innovation both practically and financially, would be willing to ante up the investment funds? And if not, how good an idea is it really?

Incidentally, the digitalis/foxglove is blooming all over the place--in our yard, it's over 5 1/2 feet tall. There's a plant that knows how to do its thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dry Days

After four weeks of no rain, we had about ten minutes worth this morning around 6 a.m. I heard it and didn’t realize, at first, what it was. But it didn’t matter that it was rain because it didn’t rain either long enough or hard enough to offer much to any plant in need. Usually, we can rely on at least one day of rain any time we are away from either garden for two weeks, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we got back to the Canadian garden.

When we left, the dozen or so peony bushes were just starting to bloom. When we returned, they were mostly still in bloom, with a few buds just barely opening. It turns out that not having been rained on was a favor because, although I had tied them up, that’s usually not enough to keep them from breaking off if they get a lot of water from above. But here I was without a single broken down peony bloom. All the other expected bloomers were coming along fine, although the blueberry bushes looked a little puny in their berryness. But it was pleasing to see that they can take care of themselves more than I might think (this may be like children?).

On the other hand, the deer apparently didn’t have enough water around to please them so they ate all the leaves (but none of the flowerette buds—too dry?) from the hydrangea bushes in the front yard, but entirely left alone the larger hydrangeas in the driveway which they walk by on their normal pathway after they leave the front yard. I’ve never had them eat hydrangeas before now, but I never had them eat English ivy before this winter (although they could eat that stuff day and night and not get a peep out of me). In any case, it is the flowers that I find most appealing in the hydrangea, so perhaps this is simply an example of the deer finding a way to live cooperatively with me.

Poking around on the net, I found an interesting list of plants that deer may not eat, or may not eat too often, or too much of, or too thoroughly, and various other categories. The author warns, however, that ‘deer don’t read lists.’ She does advise that they occasionally eat hydrangeas and often eat English ivy. (The photo is last year's hydrangea with the recommended leaves AND flowers. We'll see what it looks like this year with flowers but no leaves.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Your County Government At Work

As I may have mentioned, we are having some trouble with trash collection up here in Point Roberts. The guy with the contract has announced he is throwing it in as of June 30. He will, apparently, continue to run the transfer station where we can bring our trash and recycling, I guess, but maybe not our recycling. Not clear to me.

Fortunately, the County Council has stepped forward into the breach—or into the trash--so to speak. Those of us on the Point Interface email list received the following email on June 1 from the person who is alleged to represent Point Roberts on the Council. Well, maybe not ‘represent’ us, but at least have some kind of knowledgeable relationship to us, and she has indeed been up here several times in recent years. Here is the entire text of that message:

Regarding what you may have heard or read, Whatcom County is responsible for your receiving responsible garbage service. If a certified garbage collector at any time interrupts or discontinues responsible, contracted garbage service, Whatcom County, working with the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission will ensure your service will continue.

Please forward this information to anyone you think may be interested.
I will forward any related information I receive.

Barbara Brenner, Whatcom County Council Member

Ms. Brenner apparently has failed to receive any related information insofar as two weeks have passed without any further messages. I’m happy to know that the County has this responsibility, but I’m not sure what it means from the County’s perspective. The County itself, of course, has no garbage trucks, so the County itself isn’t going to be providing anything, including ‘responsible garbage service.’ It’s only responsible for finding somebody else to do that. That might take awhile; that might take forever. After all, the County wasn’t making much headway in the matter of the current ‘contracted garbage service’ (that is, the curbside recyling) that was discontinued some time ago. So I’m dubious about the likelihood of their proceeding to remedy the new situation with any particular speed.

I wonder if it ever occurs to elected politicians to communicate truthfully, honestly, straight talk and all that with the public? Maybe Ms. Brenner could have sent us something like this:

Yikes! We just heard that the guy with the certificate to collect garbage is pulling out at the end of the month and we don’t have any clear plans at the moment about what to do next. We’re hoping to have a meeting soon to see whether some other company would be interested in taking the task on. But for the moment, we are pretty clueless. We’ve been fiddling around with this problem for a couple of years, but, strangely, it never occurred to us that we might come to this unhappy situation because, of course, we are pretty short-term thinkers here what with elections coming up so often and you people up there being so low on our list of priorities. Sorry! Probably won’t do better next time, but I did want you to know that we are thinking about you and your problems.

I’d have been pretty pleased with that, even if I still had to haul my own trash.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Strawberry Thieves

I never wanted to be a detective, have very limited interest in detective stories, even. It’s true that, as a child, I read all the Nancy Drew novels, but it was less because I admired her skills at solving mysteries than that I was extremely interested in her independent and adventurous life, which included a car. I would have been just as enthusiastic if she’d been a teen-age social worker or labor organizer, I daresay.

Nevertheless, I am forced to address the mystery of the missing strawberries. Last Wednesday, I read in the Vancouver paper that the local strawberries would probably start ripening this weekend; they would, said the local farmer, be sweeter (because of the recent hot weather) but smaller (because of the longer and cooler spring). I went to my strawberry beds and, sure enough, all had berries just beginning to suggest that red would be their final color.

I don’t get much from these strawberry beds because someone else gets there first. Maybe four years ago, the entire crop was consumed by the slugs. The next spring, I removed all the grasses and weeds from around the wooden edges of the beds (which are raised) and had Ed cover it with copper mesh which slugs are said not to be willing to cross because it causes a slight electric charge when combined with their propulsive slime.

That summer, which was pretty wet, the strawberries were largely consumed by sow bugs which are attracted to both strawberries and to damp places. The next spring, I carefully lined the raised beds with straw, tucking it gently around each plant so that the berries would be lifted up from any wet surfaces that sow bugs might be attracted to. That summer, there were no slugs and there were no sow bugs eating the berries. Instead, the raccoons ate them.

This spring, the copper mesh was still there (although I didn't do much work on getting the grasses next to it removed), I refreshed the straw manger, and in early June I covered the beds from the top with fine nylon mesh. Thursday evening, there was one berry almost perfectly ripe; Friday morning it was entirely gone and the net near it had been somewhat disturbed. I fastened the net more securely and Friday evening, there were two strawberries almost ready. This morning, they were both half eaten, in the manner of slug dining. But there were several more berries within a hair of being reddish all over, though not really perfectly ripe. I went back this evening before dinner, thinking to get there before the slugs and the raccoons (and it’s just been too dry for the sow bugs), and the two ripest berries had been munched halfway through. We ate the other two for dinner. Perfectly not-quite-ripe strawberries--definitely smaller, definitely not sweeter--but at least in our mouths.

So, at the moment, as near as I can tell, it’s Raccons-1, Slugs-4, and Us-2. That’s not good enough.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review Revealed

The border people have announced that they are willing (doubtless because of P.R. residents’ endless complaining) to conduct a special, amazing review of everyone from P.R. who has lost his/her Nexus card or who has been denied a Nexus card. Since there is normally no accountability for CBP with respect to this (that is, they don’t have to and don’t necessarily tell you why it is being lifted or denied, let alone look into the matter), this is seen as ‘special treatment.’ Further, these folks at CBP say, ‘at the conclusion of the review a recommendation will be made to the NEXUS ombudsman [located in New England] concerning a redress or reapplication process for any applicants or former members that may be merited.” (as quoted in the June All Point Bulletin.)

So, we’re all pretty happy to have such special treatment, although I must say it sounds a little like the kind of special reviews that some people on land leased in Cuba are getting: the reviews where you already know the answer to the question. There is no timeline on this review, says the CBP spokesperson, and there is further no real clarity about who is doing the review, although someone in Blaine has apparently completed doing something. Where to next? No indication. At the end of all this time, says Mr. CBP, “if there have been any errors in the administration of the program those few individuals will be contacted shortly and invited to reapply for NEXUS privileges.” (I think we could try to diagram that sentence, but it would then appear that the ‘errors of administration’ refers to ‘those few individuals’, so who knows what the CBP might have in mind?)

Now, I don’t want to be too picky about this, but “IF THERE HAVE BEEN ANY ERRORS”? Surely we might concede up front that there have been errors. Any government agency spokesperson who suggests that it is possible that their agency is operating error-free in the administration of their programs is surely at worst a knave or a fool, and at best unbelievably na├»ve. Why can’t the spokesperson just say, ‘We will address any errors that were made’? And, when they find such errors, why can they not correct them, instead of inviting people ‘to reapply’ which means asking them to ante up another $50/person? These are often people who have already reapplied at least once. I know these are hard economic times, but the feds can surely afford to pay for their own errors.

So maybe I, at least, am so far not so happy. Watch what they do, not what they say: advice that is always good to remember when dealing with politicians and government people generally.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Riding High

The USPO has this tiresome policy of requiring you to pick up your mail every twenty minutes, or something, and if you are going away for more than a few days, you have to fill out a form telling them how long you are going to be gone and when you are coming back and whether you want them to hold on to all your mail until you appear before them or want them simply to hold on to it until the day you come back and then they’ll put it all in your mail box. That latter option requires you, of course, to absolutely know when you are coming back and to be there within two days of it. Or else your mail will have been sitting around in your mailbox getting stale or cold or just too old to be of interest. And do they throw it away? Or what? I fill out the forms, so I have not found out the consequences of not doing so.

I suppose there are reasons for this that make some sense in some other places where the USPO operates. Perhaps people steal the mail out of street mailboxes. It seems unlikely that anybody is stealing the mail out of your post office box, though, and they make you fill out a form for that for every absence, as well. You can fill out the form for the street mailbox on the net, but you can’t fill out the form for the post office box. I doubt if there actually is any reason for that.

But the upshot of all this, is that we often don’t get a copy of the All Point Bulletin, because it is somehow put into the street mail boxes, but not if you have a hold on your mail at the time it comes out. And we usually do. In such a situation, you can generally pick up a copy of the newspaper at the post office itself or at the International Market, but this month, on the 2nd of June, there were copies of the paper neither place. And so I was obliged to wait for almost a week to discover a newspaper and find out whazzup. (In truth, I read some, but not all, of it on the web.)

We’re on a roll, it turns out. The County has decided to leave the remnants of the APA Cannery, including its pilings, down at Lily Point. And the never-ending saga of the Fire Department has taken another turn wherein the new Fire Chief, appointed only one month ago, wrote a very critical assessment of the P.R. Volunteer Fire Dept., and the Fire Commissioners sacked him (not clear whether it was temporary or permanent, but Episode 2,437 will be playing next month, stay tuned). The County Library wants more tax because the County Library has had its budget cut (yes!yes!yes! to public libraries!). And the Taxpayers Association and the Voters Association are going to try a merger. They used to be just one organization (the P.R. Community Association) back in the 1970’s. So we’re back to square one there, I think. The County isn’t going to operate the dock at Lighthouse Park, so I don’t know how anybody is going to get their boat in the water (and the boatowners are not happy). And the Chamber of Commerce wants help with the July 4th Parade, but unless they promise fireworks (I’m sure they’re an environmental hazard, but I have a sentimental fondness for them if handled safely), I’ll probably just watch the parade.

And, with all these matters in play over the summer, perhaps we can slowly forget about the trash situation.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Change of Scene

The first weekend in June: that’s when all the tourists/summer visitors usually are noticeably with us. And it was pretty noticeable today. The International Market had lots of people, even at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and they were buying lots of food. Planning to stay awhile, or at least eat a lot while here. The roadsides were almost cluttered with folks out for a walk, a jog, a run, a stroll, and they were all wearing shorts and sleeveless tops, or a little less. One lady in a bikini top.

The air last night and tonight smelled of barbecued meats. This is summer, indeed. And for inexplicable reasons, the sunny weather has continued, though the temperatures have dropped some. But three weeks without rain at this time of year is strange indeed. A Seattle meteorologist reported a very unusual red/orange sunset earlier this week. Our neighbor reported awakening last night at 1:15 a.m. just in time to see the moon fairly low in the sky, in the south, transiting a red/orange sky. If it weren’t such lovely weather, you might think we were getting messages of end times. But probably, we are just giddy with summer after our long, cold winter and spring, and giddier yet with all these people bouncing around us on bicycles and horses and in sandals and bathing suits. They’re all so talkative! I get to thinking through the winter that I’m living among the kind of people that Garrison Keillor describes as inhabiting Lake Wobegon: taciturn Norwegians (or, in our case, Icelanders).

When I went to the market, I was wearing a long-sleeved silk shirt covered by a jacket. This is to demonstrate, I guess, that I am an actual resident and not a fly-by-night, good-time-Charlie visitor in a bathing suit. Nevertheless, we barbecued a little chicken.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Heat, But No Dust

Somehow, we have moved from May, when we one and all up here in the Northwest complained extensively about how cold it was this spring, barely making it to the mid-50’s during the day, to June, when the first week of the month has stunned us with 80+ degree temperatures. In the 16 years we have been up here, it has never been this hot in June, and most years it has never been this hot at all, let alone in June. The mosquitoes haven't even had time to breed.

Two weeks away from the Point Roberts garden, almost all of it at least pretty warm and relentlessly sunny, has made the garden seem more like a jungle with sudden growth and bloom. Things that grow next to one another but don’t usually bloom together are now making some wondrous visual pairings. The rhododendrons and columbines do normally bloom together, but not in June. That usually happens in May. And they usually last awhile, but in this heat they are fading quickly.

When I lived in the South Pacific, on the island of Yap, I tried to grow things I knew how to grow. I’d get people to send me some vegetable seeds and I’d plant them on Monday. By Wednesday, they had germinated; by Friday, they were well on their way to getting buds; by Sunday, they were finished. Well, that’s something of an exaggeration, but it was a very short (and unproductive) season from start to finish, and that is sort of what this feels like. Plants doing nothing, then blooming and ending bloom very quickly.

Everyone says, ‘If this is June, what is August going to be like?’ Clearly, the weather is providing us with an enormous conversation this year. I was reading about geoengineering the other day (fancy ways to fool around with the earth and/or its atmosphere in order intentionally to alter the climate). Maybe this weather is just one more project out of DARPA on behalf of Customs and Border Protection whose purpose (i.e., the project) is to distract us. If so, it's working: we're pretty distracted.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Learning

Despite advanced age, there is yet much to learn about one’s self and one’s life. For example, I take it as a given that gardening is essentially a solitary activity. When I first began gardening, during WWII in our Victory Garden, my father would assign each of his three (then) children his/her own individual plant areas to tend to. Mostly we were responsible for weeding, but occasionally we would be required to do the dreaded ‘thinning’ (how hard is it, 65 years later even, to pull up something that has grown solely at one’s request and with one’s tending?), and eventually the glorious harvesting. But weeding was probably 80% of the time commitment.

I imagine he did this to keep us away from one another and prevent our constant bickering. But, when you are a kid, you don’t really realize how irritating kids' bickering is, of course. So I thought he was just teaching me the nature of gardening, if I thought anything at all.

In the decades since then, I have almost always been a solitary gardener. There were a few years when my older daughter, a life-long, devoted gardener could have shared the experience with me, but I was busy with other things and was just happy to turn over gardening, for the most part, to her. So she mastered the art of solitary gardening. My son didn’t take to gardening much until he was an adult and many states away from me, and my younger daughter never much took to gardening. And the husbands…not gardening types.

So how surprised was I yesterday to find that gardening is NOT a solitary activity? The Garden Club requested residents’ help in digging out blackberries and horsetail from the beautiful main street ‘beds’ that they have built and planted. They are not exactly beds; more like the berms in roads as they are raised up from the dirt, but not surrounded by anything that would make them raised beds other than the piled up dirt and mulch itself. They are filled right now with wilting daffodil leaves, California poppies, the remains of croci leaves, a smattering of cosmos seedlings, and an ample supply of the offending invaders.

There are about 20 of these planted berms, each maybe 6-feet long, and I expected we would each be assigned to one of them and to do our work and leave. When we got there, there wasn’t anybody to assign our work to us, so Ed started in on one and I started in on the one next to him. A few minutes later, other people arrived and one of them set to work with him and one set to work with me.

I suspected that telling the newcomer to go work in his own berm wasn’t the way to work in the Garden Club’s ‘community flower beds,’ but it is surely what I felt like doing. He gave me some instructions on the best way to proceed (Did I ask for any instructions about how to weed a flower bed?), whacked away for awhile with a large shovel (while I used a narrow trowel and a dandelion digger in order to provide the least disturbance to the adjoining plants), and then moved on to a berm with a larger group of social gardeners. I finished off the berm, worked on a couple of others alone, and went home when it was all pretty much finished.

So, you can learn several things in a day: Gardening can be a social activity, and I am even more of a hermit than I thought. Also, horsetail like blackberry appears to be a tenacious plant. I suspect we'll be cleaning it out for several years at a minimum. And maybe I'll learn to talk while gardening.