Archive for Feb, 2020

Friday, 14 February 2020

With better weather than had been predicted, I rather reluctantly let go of my idea of another reading day. Instead, we went to Long Beach to tidy up Veterans Field. (All the photos are Allan’s today.)
The flag pavilion arc garden has mostly gone to Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’, whose stems are so tough that the big loppers are needed for cutting them to the base.



Even though this gaura is one of my favourite perennials, it is one of my least favourite to trim in the late winter.  If only it would just break right off like phlox does!

I had dug up some of the reseeded gaura and eryngium from the arc and moved them over to the corner garden bed, which tends to be very dry.
It is also infested with the thin scrimmy style of horsetail. Filling it up with gaura will help hide that, since I will never get rid of it. (Also…so much for the theory that a dry garden will resist horsetail.)

We still had time to weed the two little pop outs on Ocean Beach Boulevard. The one I am looking at here…

…looks pretty silly and unimportant. It has lots of weed grass crept in from the rough vacant lot next to it. I think it would have been better to have these areas be just paved sidewalk.  We only attend to them in spring and fall, with maybe one summer weeding session, and we never water them.
The other one is better, being a bit bigger with room for some substantial ornamental grasses.

I suggested we do one more thing: weed the small circle garden bed at the front of Coulter Park. When we parked there, I realized we had forgotten about a large patch of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, in an area that is hard to get to.  Allan crawled through the railing and cleared the bed out.

After we made a dump run to City Works, we were ready to go home at four because of dropping temperature. It was the right decision.
We were home in time for Allan to finish his repair of the yellow wheelbarrow.
The rain, along with wind, should continue through Saturday.
The work board tonight:

With the basic clean up of downtown Long Beach done, we can turn our attention to my favourite of our gardens, the curbside beds at the Port of Ilwaco.

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Thursday, 13 February 2020

Allan looked out his window to see a cute, round varied thrush dining on fallen apples.


Skooter wanted my comfy chair…

..but I got it. Because of a steady, cold rain, reading time resumed for one glorious day. I finished my latest book, The Lioness in Winter.


I felt a strong rapport with the author.
She explores the books of some favourite authors of mine, including Doris Grumbach and May Sarton and Nancy Mairs, and I learned that other authors, notably Maya Angelou, have several memoirs I have not read. Nor did I know that Anais Nin continued her diary into old age.

Here are just some of my takeaways. The author had Judith Matlock as a teacher!

Here is a question worth asking, and I like her answer.
Colette captures just how I feel about stairs.
Ann Burack-Weiss herself writes of what it is to miss “striding along without an ache or pain in confidence that the physical self…could walk for miles without tiring.”  I remember that feeling well. Advice about the loss of one’s younger self: “It is what it is. Get used to it.  And if you can, turn it into art.”

This was my favourite story of the whole book.
It is inevitable that a book about old age talks about death. Simone de Beauvoir is quoted in a passage that when a long time friend dies, a whole section of our own life collapses. So, of course, this reminded me of the unexpected death of my old friend Bryan.
About how to be happy in old age, by two authors whom I love:


And Florida Scott-Maxwell from her great memoir, The Measure of My Days, that I read in 2015.


Then Ann picks out my very favourite paragraph from Florida’s book.


That brought tears to my eyes in 2015 and still does today.

I got a whole new list of memoirs to read from The Lioness in Winter; the author I most long to read is Diana Athill.  I had never heard of her. Ann Burack-Weiss describes having accidentally come across her books on a library shelf. Now I am obsessed with reading them. Although our  library has some, I will have to make an interlibrary loan for the first one in the chronological story of Athill’s life. Oh, how I wish the season of nothing but reading had another month to go.
Among the authors quoted is one of my beloveds, Doris Grumbach.
I was amazed to learn that Doris is still alive.
I don’t want to have to wait nine months till staycation for my new list of must read memoirs about aging:

Diana Athill

Isabel Allende 

Crosswicks Journals by L’Engle

Eudora Welty

Nothing Was the Same by Kay Redfield Jamison

Joyce Carol Oates: A Widow’s Story

Mfk Fisher at 76: Last House, Sister Age

Drinking the Rain Alix Kates Shulman

Maya Angelou

Marge Piercy Sleeping  With Cats

Edith Wharton A Backward Glance 

Diane Ackerman

Alison Bechdel: Are You My Mother?

The view from 90 (American scholar magazine), by Grumbach

A Death of One’s Own by Garda Lerner

Being 80 Old Age is Not For Sissies Doris Lessing (essay)

But Enough About Me by Nancy K Miller

Anais non vol 7

Epilogue and 1185 Park Avenue by Anne roiphe

three other books

Also recently read:


Christopher Isherwood on his protagonist (based on Christopher, of course) in the early morning: “Those who call him on the phone at this hour of the morning would be bewildered, even scared, if they could realize what this three-quarters human thing is that they are talking to. But of course, they never could—its voice’s mimicry of their George is nearly perfect.”

About his personal library: “The living room is dark and low-ceilinged, with bookshelves all along the wall opposite the windows. These books have not made George better or more noble or truly wise. It is just that he likes listening to their voices, the one or the other, according to his mood.”

The real life tower building at the end of Chris’s block makes an appearance.
We recently saw the film made from this book and I liked the film better than the book, which is almost unheard of.  The plot is rather different, but this scene is just about identical.
One more book read this week:


I am grateful that a friend recommended this fun, droll, educational memoir.
Tomorrow, the rain is forecast to be over and we will be back to work with so many books still unread!

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On Tuesday, we did try to work instead of indulging my personal gravel obsession. With the work trailer in tow, we made it as far as the bank in Long Beach when….

That is the moment that I called about getting gravel delivered to home. We had time before the delivery to run one charitable errand to South Pacific County Humane Society where we made a donation to sponsor a cat for adoption, in honor of Our Kathleen’s dear elderly cat JoJo, whom she had adopted last year and given many happy months. We let the shelter staff choose which cat needed sponsoring the most. Diana got the honor.  She is a somewhat eccentric cat who is six and a half years old and has been at the shelter for almost three years. Her adoption will now be free.


The remainder of the day was the Gravel Project conclusion,  as you probably know.  We got back to work on…

Wednesday, 12 February 2020.

I thought we had better start in the Third Street parks because yesterday afternoon, someone had parked a golf cart on the lawn right in front of where I needed to prune. Today the area was accessible at mid morning.

Even though it had not been part of the plan, Allan felt called to do some pruning of blackberries coming through the rhododendrons at the back of the park.
I was still pruning hydrangeas when he crossed the street to the east and cut back the rugosa roses on the south wall of the police station.

I was impressed with his speed.
He wears thick welding gloves, half the price of expensive rose gloves, to deal with the roses.


His ‘Professional Goatskin Rose Pruning Gloves‘ failed to protect and were given away.  

While he hauled debris to the trailer, I pruned two more hydrangeas and a hardy fuchsia in the little park behind Lewis and Clark Square.

I had thought of also trimming up the Veterans Field garden beds today but decided some other areas were more important. So off we went to the east side of Fifth Street Park, where Allan pruned a big hydrangea in the back corner…

C0AAFE16-E8BA-4EB2-8F24-00F01563F9322AAA0E65-C7DE-4ACD-96E2-6AB800600E9A…and I trimmed the seed pods off of the gunnera, both projects right outside the windows of Benson’s Restaurant.
(Next day at home, I tossed the seed pods—if that is indeed what they are called—in some bogsy wood areas to see if they will germinate.)

While Allan finished the hydrangea, I had time to weed and clip the narrow bed in the northeast quadrant of the park…


Long Beach had a surprising number of people today for a midwinter Wednesday.

We moved on to the city hall garden where Allan trimmed some miscanthus on the west side…

…where he found a bird nest…

…and not just one but one but two dollars for a tip.


I found some dead leaves to trim off a hellebore…


….but no money. We finished today’s projects with the trimming of a miscanthus and a hydrangea in the east side of city hall.

Today’s debris was mostly woody and all got dumped at City Works.
We rewarded ourselves with an early dinner at the Depot Restaurant’s Burger Night, every Wednesday off season. Patrons choose their burger toppings.  We pick almost everything.


A new peanut butter and chocolate dessert.

Because we had accomplished all of the main tasks I had hoped to get done before Presidents Day Weekend, the work board entered the next phase.

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10 Feb: and so it begins

Monday, 10 February 2020

Yesterday, we worked on the gravel project at home but could not continue it today because of our need for more gravel. So, without further delay, we put in the first work day of the year. As always, we started in Long Beach at Fifth Street Park. I did not love or hate being back at work.  It felt noisy and disorienting and mildly satisfying.

Allan did the cutting back of ornamental grasses and perennials on the west side of the park, left, below.


The four quadrants of Fifth Street Park

While he accomplished all that, I took the wheelie bin around four blocks of the downtown planters and street trees, weeding and clipping and feeling pleased with the display of early flowers.

The planters have assorted crocuses and iris reticulata and a few early tulips, and under the trees some narcissi are in full bloom.

I could see that there had been some snowdrops earlier on.
With The Toy, I sheared back any santolinas that had not been clipped in the late fall. (I do think it’s better to wait till now, but some that had looked especially shabby in November got sheared then.)

The shearing down to new growth will help them keep their tidy ball shape all summer.

I noticed some surprisingly early flowers: Geranium ‘AT Johnson’ (flowers are pale pink although the camera didn’t show it)…


…and Knautia Macedonia.
It is a boon to the city budget that some (but but not all) of the pink Gauras that I used as center plants have made it through the winter.
In the planter by the stoplight at the new World’s End Pub, I photographed the annoying, never blooming, climbing rose in order to give the city crew a photo and ask them to please dig it out for me at last.
08A96EB9-8D34-42FC-B698-733C14522559 I am afraid that if we try to dig it, we will hurt the electrical or plumbing.

Reunited at Fifth Street Park, I was impressed that Allan had the whole west side done. We took a lunch break at Captain Bob’s Chowder (next to Marsh’s Free Museum at the back of the park).  Allan had a salad and chowder; I was lucky and got my favourite item, the last crab roll of the day!

We then sheared the Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ grass under the one street tree I’d skipped (because it would have filled my bin). This grass would be much taller if the irrigation faucet were not broken under this particular tree.  I took two clumps home in order to remove the weed grass and try to propagate it for a better location.

Together, we tidied and weeded the northern two blocks of eight planters (me) and two street trees (Allan; the trees are harder to do).


Hebe ‘Boughton’s Dome’ with a top knot.


An especially floriferous planter

From the northernmost planter, I had noticed a spacious and empty look a half block away at the back end of Coulter Park.  With our work done, we drove by and had a look. Wow!
D62302AB-379B-4EF5-A108-AB97891BA593 The whole west end of the park has been bulldozed away, even the big trees at the entrance…

I could not be happier. Goodbye to the bindweed and the salmonberry infested roses along the north fence.

This project was expected; when the  police station moves into the building to the the right, the former park area will become its parking garage. No more struggling with that thorny impossible weeding! What an excellent end to the first work day. Our Long Beach job just lost its worst weeding area.

I am just the tiniest bit sad that the nice big pieris and flowering currant had to go away, but the back of the park was so obscure I doubt if many people even saw them. Here they are in days gone by.


We had kept the clean debris separate and it all got offloaded at home in a temporary pile, to be chopped up and put into my compost bins when I have time.
The work board tonight, before and after…


Not one of my indoor winter projects got done, nor did they get done the winter before this one. Oh, dear, maybe next winter…


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Here is what the gravel project looked like for most of January.

The occasional dry days did not coincide with our gravel source being open.

Finally, on the last weekend of staycation, the stars aligned.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

I ordered five yards of 3/4 minus.  Allan had suggested six or seven.  I was feeling poor so went with five, thinking, not very logically, that it might be enough if I didn’t dig the driveway ditches any deeper.


Rain was pelting down, as predicted, but Sunday was supposed to be a nice day. I did try to shovel in the cold wind, but only got this far:


Sunday, 9 February. 2020

My optimistic five yards of gravel gave me a lot of stress as I worried all during the gravel spreading if we would have enough.

Our audience:


We were not disastrously short on gravel. The path looked ok but could be deeper, and there was none left for the ditch by the third driveway bed. Nor was there any for topping up the patio, as I had hoped. I told myself it would look nicer topped with 1/4 minus anyway.
We were well chuffed to get all five yards moved.
I got the idea of using the barrel hoops, half buried, from Riz Reyes’ garden at McMenamin Anderson School.

Unable to get gravel delivery on Monday, we started our work year (tomorrow’s post) and returned to graveling the next day.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

We tried to be responsible and go to work…got as far as Long Beach and then the rain came. I made a gravel call at eleven AM and was lucky to get three yards of 1/4 minus within an hour.


This time instead of getting less than I needed for my plan, I got more than I needed.
Allan filled the driveway ditch…

And we topped up the path nicely.

But with so much extra gravel and one raggedy grass cross-path left, one I had fully intended to keep in grass, I was suddenly desperate to turn it to gravel. The gravel just looked so wonderful. So over the next three hours, in the rain, we did. We put newspaper in the bottom to discourage weeds, since it was not as deeply dug as the other paths.
I was mad at myself when, rushing to find edging rocks, I did this to the yellow wheelbarrow.

Put a big sharp pointy rock right through it! So much for the yellow rain gauge.
Nevertheless, I am thrilled with how the gravel project turned out.


Dressing up the driveway edge with some river rock



This is so much better…


…than this.

We had some left over for the patio and for topping up where needed.
During a sun break on a rainy day off two days later, I was able to get the rest of the gravel moved to the patio.
Now I am rather burning with desire to do the other green path (brown in summer) that runs along the front garden inside the fence.
132FF969-631B-4020-9765-16F6C2F35EE6That might be a late summer project…or next staycation. Or soon, because I am feeling obsessed. 

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10 December 2019

I started digging up the grass strip along the Nora House driveway.



13 December


I continued removing the second two narrow strips of sod.
67A6AD29-81CB-418F-93A6-A445516863E9The wonderful root slayer shovel made the job so much easier than a half moon edger.


And jackpot! By the sidewalk, buried under lawn, I found the old survey marker, letting me know just where I could put a legitimate edge to the garden.


15 December

Out comes the grass path that runs north to south by the garage.


Green plastic showed where maybe an old garden bed against the garage wall had been.

Meanwhile, Allan got involved and dragged forward a pile of big rocks and made an edge to the southernmost bed.  He had also helped move some of the wheelbarrows of sandy soil dug from the path to raise up the back driveway bed.


I used some rocks for edging the center driveway bed.


We placed cones to warn people off from stepping in the shallow ditches.

As darkness fell, I had almost finished the first path…

812BD0CD-5BD8-4A5E-B6F7-2DC5CF9B5C18started digging the center cross-path.


16 December 
I kept digging while Allan repaired one of the garden doors.


I realized that the crab pot display against the garage wall did not have boards all the way underneath. That’s why it was so weedy!  I could have installed that Monty Don quotation about how long grass is good for your garden, but instead I asked Allan to redo the crab pot area, and he did.

To the right, above, he also pulled the long planter out so that gravel could go to the edge of the concrete slab behind the garage. I was so glad to have help with all this heavy shifting about.
I dug out the cross-path, leaving enough grass by our driveway to keep me from falling in…


17 December

I used river rock to temporarily make the ditches safer and made a brick edge for the garage path. Allan dug another layer of dirt off of the path.
I could not resist almost finishing the digging of the cross-path, using two buckets to warn of the driveway drop off.


18 December 

Allan dug the garage path out even deeper. We may have over amped on how deep we went.  I had seen on a British gardening show (or in a book) that a deeper path thwarts weeds.  We encountered big old roots from a former holly tree.
22 December 

After a few days of days of rain, we smoothed out the bottom of the paths and threw in as much rubble as we could find to save on gravel…because we had dug so crazy deep.
I finished to the edge of our driveway and hoped buckets would keep me from falling in..


23 December 

We got the dirt dug out next to the cement pad…


Because  of the Christmas holiday, we could not get a delivery of gravel to go straight on with the job….and then came the rain.

The project went on hiatus for several rainy weeks.


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Before we return to a more garden-oriented blog, or at least gardening alternating with rainy day reading, here are two books that I found excellent, read between January 30 and February 3rd.

Let’s Talk About Death Over Dinner

I’d heard about “death cafe” events from garden writer Ann Lovejoy several years ago and thought, “I wish there was a book about this.” And here it is.

The description of the author’s home sounds like somewhere I would like to be, and I appreciate his advice about hosting guests.


Friends gather over dinner and talk….


….who would that person be for you? Since 1980 and up until the last two months, I would always have said my grandmother.  (I have a side blog about her, here.)

Since his death on December 9th, it would be Bryan who would come to mind first,  for now. By the end of January, I thought I had come to terms with his death, at least in not feeling bad all the time, and then I had this a vivid dream:

saw a tall man dressed in black duck into a doorway. It was supposed to be just me and Allan and friends in that area so I felt threatened and went after him saying “Who the hell are you?” And he turned and it was Bryan. I was ecstatic and thought he could stay but he said he couldn’t. We were hugging sort of sideways like people do while walking and I said, almost crying, “What we had could have been perfect but I blew it.” I could hardly talk but managed to ask, “Did you love me more than anyone ever?” And he said yes. (Me, me, me, right?) He was sort fading and becoming less corporeal and I knew he was leaving and couldn’t stand it. He said, “When you see a sheet of silver and gold, I’ll be there,” and then walked around the corner of the building, fading away. I pictured a sheet of still water at sunset all silver and gold and thought, WHAT??! And then I looked next to me at a pile of big old rough plywood. The wood was dull goldy-yellow and was crisscrossed with silver duct tape and I thought, “That’s silver and gold. WHAT??!!!?”  (Bryan, of course, was someone whose job in later life was fixing and remodeling houses and such like.)

I partly woke up and thought, “Was he telling me he’s everywhere in ordinary things?” And woke up all the way almost awash in tears.

But I still long for my grandmother….


…and I do wish I had the secret to her chicken and dumplings.  I put all her recipes from her recipe box in my grandma blog…but the chicken and dumplings are not there.

Do get the book; it is full of good takeaways, and I hear that the death cafe idea has spread overseas to the U.K., as well.

While I was reading it, J9 texted me this:


Smiling in Slow Motion 

One of my favourite gardening books, Derek Jarman’s Garden by Howard Sooley, spoke to me so much about what kind of garden one could make right at the beach that I used to take it with me when meeting potential gardening clients.  (Sooley also collaborated on another great gardening book, Plot 29.) Now I must get Jarman’s book Modern Nature, which I gather is more about the making of his garden on the shale of Dungeness in England.
This was his last memoir, about much more than the garden: his filmmaking, queer activism, and his increasingly dire battle with AIDs back when effective medications were not available. Some readers looking for just a beautiful garden memoir will find parts of the books x rated, I am sure. While I cared deeply about all of the memoir and wished I had known him….although I probably would have just been one of the fans who showed up repeatedly at his garden cottage….it was mostly the gardening parts that I saved.  Even if I owned the book (and I would like to) I would have photographed the garden entries—well over 100 of them—to have them handy to reread over and over again.

Here are just five from toward the beginning of the book.


It goes on in this delightful way throughout, with every visit he makes to his Prospect Cottage.

You can read more about his garden herehere, and here.

You can contribute to the effort to save his garden here…only until March 2020.

Reading and recluse season is done. I am sad. While rainy and windy days will allow more reading, I have to leave my property on February 10th, for the first time since January 2nd, and get back to work.  I simply must find more time during gardening season to read. Life is short and my list of books so very long.  But how? If I gave up blogging, I’d have a couple of extra hours a day….but no.  I won’t give up our one or two hours a day of telly, because watching our shows (and movies) is something Allan and I enjoy doing together.  I have already cut back on some social media…like managing Facebook pages for other people. One solution is to not strive for perfection in the garden…which is hard for me because people stop by and I am embarrassed when it is tatty.  I thought the solution was to quit gardening for Long Beach a year from now and have more free time. Now that I am about to turn 65, I realize how expensive medicare and its supplements are and feel I must slog out at least two more years of Long Beach gardening, our biggest job, before semi retiring…and as long as we can manage to work  it seems we can never afford to more than semi retire.

Oh, how happy I was on staycation when I went to bed at night knowing that the next day and the next and the next were reading days.  What pure delight it was that all of January only had a few (two?) dry days for gardening.

It’s nine months till staycation! Now I just have to appreciate the gardening life.  In the words of Christopher Isherwood:

“Blow your nose, and pull up your socks, and shut up. You don’t have to be such a grim old stoic, either. Your life could be such fun. Now run along and enjoy yourself. And let’s try to make this a HAPPY new year.”  Diaries, 12/31/44 








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