Tuesday, 31 March 2020

My original title for this post was a typo: “31 Mulch” instead of March.

My mission today was to tackle a nasty corner of the back garden east bed which is full of a perniciously running grass. It is finer than couch grass, or so it seems to me, with even thinner white roots. It is such a difficult weed that its corner of the main beds always gets left for last, being no fun at all even for someone like me who enjoys weeding.

The Root Slayer shovel proved most helpful with this area.


Four hours of hard slog later:

I mulched with some chopped leaves from the wire leaf bin, which I would like to get emptied so that I can remove the tufts of grass that are stuck into the bottom edges.

I admired the hellebore in the front garden…

…and a narcissus, one I especially like, and so did the snails.

I wondered why the chard that I put into a bigger pot is just sitting and not growing, as with the single lettuce that overwintered and still tastes good but it too small for a salad for two.

Then I returned to the back garden east bed and finished the area that I had originally started out with a few days ago. Last week and today:


Allan worked on the little kitchen garden enclosure but took no photos.

I am still reading Uncanny Valley. Between garden projects and an obsession with the news and local Facebook groups about the pandemic, my actual book reading time is too short.


My favourite bit from today’s reading:




If I could just finish Uncanny Valley and one more library book, I could turn to an exciting pile of new acquisitions that I just brought in from the garage mail quarantine.
I want to reread Your Money Or Your Life’s new edition, which probably no longer suggests that one could live on six thousand dollars a year. The book was instrumental in my getting out of debt after my 2003 divorce.
The John Rechy book has characters based on Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. They weren’t happy about it. I must admit that intrigues me.
Chris Packham is one of the hosts of BBC’s Springwatch and I think his childhood memoir partly chronicles his struggles with depression and/or anxiety.


I look forward to the rest of Diana Athill’s memoirs. Allan tracked down Dodie Smith’s four memoirs but the second one, shipped from the U.K., didn’t appear in the pile. Why? Is it slowed down by Covid? It was supposed to have arrived by early March and I had not carefully tracked the arrivals.

I learned about the Dodie Smith memoirs and  Keith Vaughan’s diaries from Christopher Isherwood.  I need the week of rain that we were promised! And the mental strength to simply focus on books instead of the news.

In the pandemic news, America Stress Bought All the Baby Chickens. I have been thinking how nice it would be to have eggs, but friends had repeated heartbreak with chickens dying from problems or predators, and I could never eat a chicken that had gotten old and stopped laying, so I think never mind.

Monday, 30 March 2020

With no work, I don’t want to spend money on mulch, and I know I don’t yet have enough compost for my needs. So I decided to use some of the chopped leaves as a mulch in areas trampled by weeding, instead of waiting for them to transform into delectable leaf mold. I started with the kitchen compost bin, which had chopped leaves filling three quarters of its space.

I put the kitchen compost into a big pot temporarily.

I saw on Instagram that our friend Kilyn, in Steveston, BC, used stacked big pots for extra compost, a great idea for a small garden.

Finally, I could flip the bin over to get to the last of the leaves.

The east side of the front garden, being shady and woodsy, will benefit from the chopped leaves.

I added some to the front center bed, as well.

The kitchen compost got reinstalled with some unchopped leaves, the last batches of leaves brought home when it was too wet to mow them.

I went through the back yards to check on Mary’s garden, two doors west. I was pleased to see her privets are indeed leafing out.

And her narcissi are blooming…

…but some have been a snack for slugs, so I returned to broadcast some Sluggo.

Back at home, I enjoyed seeing some of my minor bulbs, including the rather special grape hyacinths.

Allan continued on with his projects, while waiting to get some blueprints for his boat building project. He chopped wood and photographed the bogsiness of the alder grove.

He worked some more on the mini-kitchen-garden enclosure. The weather did not cooperate much.

In the evening, I watched on YouTube this glorious lecture given by famed plantsman Dan Hinkley, all about the making of his Windcliff garden (which I now wonder if I will ever see in person. He is so darling and funny. The video was perfectly done, with views of Dan at the lectern…

…alternating with clear views of his artistic visual presentation.

Dan said that he thinks irrigation systems only last a couple of years because of the way gardens change, so he and his husband Robert (mostly Robert) “pull hoses.”

I especially loved this idea of stacked resin pots next to Dan and Robert’s house. They knocked the bottoms out, but if I did that, the pots would fill up with horsetail. The video lecture shows the luxuriant end result. He uses half grit in the containers. [I desperately need more grit. I read online about a cactus fancier breaking pea gravel or lava rock into smaller pieces to use as grit. But how to get some while staying home?]

Today’s Covid related articles all have to do with gardening and so do not have to be separated with a black asterisk line of caution.

The Beeb asks, Will food supply fears lead to more home-grown veg?

New York Times explores Panic buying of seeds.

And a heart warming story of what a tulip farm did with their flowers when the tulip festival was cancelled.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

We had this much rain.

Allan’s project

Allan is working on an enclosure for a small container kitchen garden on the south wall behind the garage, to keep the deer from eating the future veg. At least, I hope there will be veg. I don’t have much faith in seeds, and maybe the seeds know it.

His photos of progress:

The outside trough will be green onions. So far, on the seeds I planted, there is no sign of peas, a faint trace of lettuce in the greenhouse, and a hint of radishes.

My project

Meanwhile, I finished weeding the front garden, east side.

I put the wheelbarrow outside the fence to let people know I was there, but over the course of the day I still found that people came too close. At one point, while weeding the center bed, I had to scramble to get six feet away, leading to a sore leg at the end of the day.

A passing friend and I took the distancing very seriously.

You can just see her head beyond the pieris, ten feet away. She always has the sale of interesting antiques and collectibles two doors to the east on Memorial Day weekend. We discussed the sad likelihood that we (the whole peninsula) won’t be able to have the World’s Longest Garage Sale this May. We are hoping (me for the sake of my annual plant sale) that it can be cooperatively rescheduled, if need be, till another big weekend, probably Labor Day in early September. Perhaps we will get a break from the virus then. Should we all live so long.

I was pleased to get the entire east garden weeded. Because a bucket would get so heavy so fast, I threw the weeds at the wheelbarrow, not always accurately.

My trusty ho-mi is my tool of choice for weeds.

This white flowering tree, below, on the other side of the fence, sends runners and baby trees all through the east side garden. It is a big problem with roots so pernicious that all I can do in some places is just cut back its sprouts. It finds that encouraging.

Under the Ribes speciosum, before…

…a small area that never got weeded last year…

And after…

The wire pieces, which we added to later, are to keep Skooter from bothering the hummingbirds that love that early flowering shrub. One of his many bad habits, the other worst habit being bothering Jazmin.


Ribes speciosum has been blooming for weeks.

Along the front fence, before…

And after…

That area was rampant with a stinky pink flowered mint relative whose name I forget.

I installed some of the barrel hoops along the entry walk….

….and got some weeding done of the edges of the middle beds along the path that I contemplate turning to gravel.

I was able to erase one word (“east”) from the stay at home work board. I could erase  “canna”, too, as I already potted it up.


A few favorite recent articles about life in the pandemic

I liked this article on how to spend time.

 ….zero percent of my time goes to apologizing for the fact that I am lucky, because I spent two weeks doing that and it’s not clear it helped anyone feel better. I am lucky. Many of us are lucky right now. Some of us will not be lucky later, but we won’t know that until after. Rather than apologizing for being lucky, I spend time being grateful. I spend at least 80 percent of my day being grateful, and telling people that I am grateful. It is one thing that helps.

That helps, because I am grateful for having a garden as refuge during this time, and I am trying not to feel guilty for having that good fortune while others suffer, some from being cooped up in a small space.

From Tales of the Hinterland, an excellent blog from Maine: Why You Should Ignore…Productivity Pressure.

From Native News: Native People Would Never Sacrifice Their Elders for the Good of the Economy.

And my top favourite: This is Not the Apocalypse

“Ever since I was a twitchy, morbid child, I have kept a private tally of the things I thought I might miss most when the world ended, so that I could be sure to enjoy them as much as possible. Hot showers. Pottering around the shops. Bananas—I didn’t anticipate being a survivor in any country where bananas grow. In fact, I didn’t anticipate being a survivor at all…… I was not expecting to be facing this sort of thing in snuggly socks and a dressing gown, thousands of miles from home, trying not to panic and craving a proper cup of tea. This apocalypse is less Danny Boyle and more Douglas Adams.

It is a brilliant essay and every bit of it spoke to me.

[By the way, the banana freezing experiment has not gone well so far. Putting frozen bananas straight into oatmeal resulted in a texture so repellent that they had to be fished out and out into the compost bin.]

Saturday, 28 March 2020

A cold, windy, and rainy day.

After a week of seeking for the answer about whether or not we can work during the stay at home order, I finally got the word from state authorities:

“Thank you for your inquiry. Landscaping is allowed, but only to the extent necessary to prevent imminent damage or spoliation of hardscape or greenery. Routine maintenance is not permitted.

Please know that we take this decision very seriously. Nonetheless, we believe that the best way to control the spread of COVID-19 is to temporarily limit interaction as much as possible. This is not an indictment on the importance of your business, nor is it permanent.

Please also know that you may continue to perform minimum basic operations to a) maintain the value of your inventory, b) preserve the condition of your premises and equipment, c) ensure security, d) process payroll and employee benefits, e) facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences, and f) conduct related functions. Any minimum basic operation must still adhere to the guidelines around social distancing and sanitation referenced in Proclamation 20-25 or any subsequent proclamation related to essential businesses.

Thank you, and please remember to practice social distancing in all of your lnteractions.


This response is intended only to provide guidance on Proclamation 20-25 and does not grant any other license, certification, or privilege.

Proclamation 20-25 does not require anyone to carry documentation or certification proving that they are in compliance. Similarly, no state or local agency will be providing special certification that an activity is essential.”

Meanwhile, in Oregon, it is perfectly fine to do landscape maintenance:

Even though it bothers me greatly to think of Long Beach being full of tatty looking dead narcissi and probably weeds, I am not going to worry about it now. In another week, I may let myself worry. While we can get by well enough to pay our bills, I know Washington state gardeners who won’t be able to get by while losing work at this time; all of them folks are who are self employed and so cannot get unemployment.

This was to be the last year before I reached full social security age, the year that seemed an important work year, as the estimated amount report always said something like “you’ll get x amount if you continue to work the same amount until full retirement age.” I wonder if a year of minimal income will mean that my monthly sort-of-pension (that I can’t afford to collect till age 70, when it reaches its highest level) will be reduced for the rest of my elder years. No point in worrying about it, can’t do a darn thing about it right now.

The thought crosses my mind to take an allowed exercise walk along Howerton Avenue by the Port and casually deadhead narcissi on the way. I might, when I have more weeding done here and when the weather allows. The port gardens will continue to be a job that won’t wrack my nerves, but I think that Long Beach will require a complete alteration in our habits so that we can do the job early before people appear on the narrow sidewalks. That’s a worry for later on.

The question is, when does “spoliation” begin? Lawns must be mowed to keep houses looking inhabited. Eventually, planters and parks would be spoiled by weeds infesting good plants to the point of no return. Must save this worry for later! Our state governor wisely says that our stay at home order will probably go longer than two weeks. As it should. Worry about work later!!

Might have to go back to private gardening….but I am too spoiled by us getting to do what we want to do in the port and city gardens….not sure I can adjust to being told what to do…WORRY LATER! We did used to have those perfect private gardens where we got to do just what we wanted to do, like at Laurie’s garden and Marilyn’s garden. Could we find more like those?

Some reading

Last week, I read Lindy West’s second book, The Witches are Coming and saved many a passage that I liked, most of which don’t fit into a blog like this one. Here is my favourite, though.

Today, I read a large and pretty flower arranging book.

I followed it with the first half of Uncanny Valley, about life in the tech industry.

My favorite bit so far:

An “ask” instead of a “question” just baffles me.

I thought I would finish the book, and yet did not get even halfway through because of the impossibility of pure concentration.

Allan made brownies from scratch…

…as comfort food is a necessity now. Never mind the past healthy year of delicious grapes for dinner and hardly any refined sugar. That’s another thing I’m not going to worry about today.

Friday, 27 March 2020

I continued to read The Body: A Guide for Occupants, every page of which was fascinating.

Some interesting news about food:

…..and later….

Further information that has a bearing on our current times:

The inequities of life expectancy….

…and medical care both bad…

….and good.

It’s a worthy read in every way, including touches of Bill Bryson’s wry humor. And I did manage to stay away from the news long enough to finish it today.

Meanwhile, Allan was productive in the kitchen, processing frozen bananas for our pandemic supplies, now that we are not shopping.

I find myself deeply uncomfortable having people shop for us because we are “high risk” (over 60). I don’t like suddenly being seen as old. It makes me feel looked down on and less valuable, which is odd, because I was always more comfortable with old folks than with the young. I can’t bear the thought of a friend of a friend shopping for us, and it has to be someone we can do something for in return. For example, when we are out of yogurt, I could fairly comfortably get more from Roxanne of the Basket Case Greenhouse, as we did before, because we could buy from her several bags of potting soil to give a boost to her business income at the same time.

I’m used to being the one doing favors, not taking them. My ongoing social discomfort that underlies all social activities to some degree (and I do mean all) is exacerbated by being beholden. I’d better get used to it, as we will run out of yogurt and milk now and again.

Today all state recreational properties, including trailheads and boat launches, were closed until further notice.

And this meme spoke to me.

Some may be annoyed that staying home for weeks on end seems easy to me. It’s not easy now. I have not been gloating about the gift of introversion in any way. I know that the social distancing and stay at home orders are hellish for many people, especially those separated from beloved family members, so here’s a reminder that I saw in a Facebook meme:

Introverts, check in on your extrovert friends. They are not okay. They have no idea how this works.

Now is not a time that even such as I can truly enjoy being a recluse; with every moment I am aware of the suffering going on, not just in some parts of the world, but everywhere. And yet, an article in the Wall Street Journal about boosting your immune system “recommends engaging in activities that people find relaxing, such as meditation.” If I can relax while reading or gardening and not get sick, that could be one less hospital bed used, so maybe it is ok to find some moments of happiness at home.

Tonight we had the joy of watching the new episode of Gardeners’s World on BritBox. I learned that dahlias from cuttings retain vibrant colour better than dahlias from tubers (which depends on having some dahlias from which to get cuttings).

I burst into tears when Monty said that they would do their best to keep bringing us the show. Please, please, please, even if it is interspersed with old segments. Even if it is Sarah filming Monty in the garden on her iPhone.


News from the Pacific Northwest

Stop reading now if Covid news is more than you can bear right now.

Here goes.

The Skagit Valley Choir story has gotten even more tragic with two deaths. Some think that Choir singers might project more, well, breath into the air. I’m so glad Mr Tootlepedal’s choir stopped practicing because I don’t think could get by without his blog right now. The especially pertinent warning from the article: “Experts said the choir outbreak is consistent with a growing body of evidence that the virus can be transmitted through aerosols — particles smaller than 5 micrometers that can float in the air for minutes or longer.”

And an interesting article about grocery stores across the river from us. If we were to go shopping over there, I’d choose the Astoria Co-op over all others.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Allan was the only productive household member today. He took an old door off of the south fence. I had once though it would be useful for hauling debris out of the wild area, but had never used it. It had gotten quite shabby.
The area looks better with a fence panel instead of a door.
That iris is the noxious yellow flag that has been there since before we moved in. I’d be more concerned about removing it if I had more time (which apparently I will soon) or if it bloomed (which it does not).
Most of the day saw rain and wind. In one brief sun break, while letting a cat out (they prefer to be butlered  at the door rather than using the cat door), I admired my Acanthus ‘Hollard’s Gold’ from the front porch.

I offer you this guest photo from Susie and Bill of the Boreas Inn in Long Beach, Washington, of the view from their deck.  With no beach driving allowed now, it would be a perfect time to park at their place and take a walk to the beach. But driving around for pleasure does not really adhere to the stay at home policy, especially when the locals are saying that there seems to be more exceptionally bad driving and near accidents on the roads.

Meanwhile, enjoy this spectacular sunset.


I started reading Bill Bryson’s newish book, The Body: A Guide for Occupants…

2F0CA276-2423-4700-BCC7-D31EB1DB196F in which he speaks of “the rare and supremely agreeable condition known as life”.
It presciently contains some useful information on germs. In our current dire circumstances, I don’t think he would mind me sharing with you that…


If you are at home and gardening, do remember, with hospitals overtaxed, to not do yourself an injury like this unfortunately policeman.
Tomorrow should give me another rainy day to finish this book.


News that got my attention today

Florida spring breakers express regret

“Of course, Sluder, 22, of Milford, Ohio, has elderly people in his life whom he “adores.” He didn’t want to put anyone at risk. Now, he understands how serious the virus is and is encouraging people to follow the guidelines on how to stay safe and reduce risk. Most of all, he’s sorry.

Some helpful advice about social distancing

”All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”



Wednesday, 25 March 2020

I’m pleased to report that I may have a Canna ‘Stuttgart’ this year. I got a nice firm root (corm? Rhizome?) from Dutch Gardens….

…after last year getting a slimy rotten one from Brent and Becky’s and a dried up one from Home Depot. (I should have asked for a refund but got too busy.)

We had had this much rain.
68A6A3C3-AF2E-4C59-B264-88B8E16FAC6BAlthough yesterday’s east side front garden project was not done, I turned to the big east bed of the back garden because it had a far more serious creeping buttercup problem…and the wind was not cold from the south today.


After wading into that mess, I ended up going sort of sideways and never did get the part done that was in the before photo. At 6:30 PM, just as I was going to get that last bit, I hit the wall physically and went indoors for a nice cup of Builders. I don’t think it’s smart to work past the point of exhaustion these days.


I wish I had taken a before of the areas I actually did.  The difference was impressive. It was the worst area for creeping buttercup. One pernicious patch will have to be dug out with the Slayer and the pick.
Casualties: one or two lily buds.
I usually have the weeding further along by now (I think). Winter weeding was hampered by a month of rain followed by the gravel project.
Meanwhile, Allan pruned the big broken willow outside the south fence.

Some greiggi tulips:


Outside, the world is quiet with almost everything closed. Earlier in the day, some crab pots had been piled much higher than usual behind the gear shed, making for a scenic back drop that I enjoy. They were well lashed together.
On the west side of the garden, an area of couch grass awaits.


news from elsewhere 

From the U.K.: Are gardeners essential workers

from The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Will End

from Washington State, https://www.skagitbreaking.com/2020/03/27/covid-19-virus-devastates-skagit-valley-chorale-group/…..proving in a tragic way that social distancing and hand washing was not enough to stop the virus.  I am sharing that article as a cautionary tale.

…and there is a meme going around that says, “It’s Ok not to be at your most productive during a f@#*ing global pandemic.”  Thank you and be safe.