Archive for Jan, 2021

Thursday, 29 January 2021

At home

I was not best pleased to wake to sunshine instead of reading weather. This meant I simply had to go out to the willows grove to gather up some more holly and ivy clippings to be stuffed into the wheelie bin, which had been emptied this morning.

The yellow rain gauge:

Rain had filled the Bogsy Wood swales again.

I did pull some ivy from the east side of the willow grove, where a deer path comes over a hillock from the gear shed next door.

Only this much ivy remains in the first pile after filling the wheelie bin for the next pick up.

I admired a hellebore and a small specimen of Garrya ‘James Roof’, planted last year and already showing a winter tassel. And the new foliage of Rudbeckia maxima is pretty in pinks.

I sifted some compost, ending up with very little fine stuff but a lot of rough stuff to put in one of the hugelkultur fish totes.

That’s all the compost I managed to sort out. The temperature got so cold that my hands hurt and I went inside.

A delight had come in the mail which Allan picked up last night at midnight, from our friend MaryAnn.

Makes me long even more for some proper winter reading weather. We’ve had awful lot of gardening weather in the past month.

The arrival of a Universal Yums box from the Netherlands was another treat. I had thought maybe one more box had been on the way when we decided to frugally cancel our monthly box.

The box was appreciated.

I had picked a mess o greens to go with some bean soup.

The bean soup kit had been put together by the Ilwaco Timberland Library librarians and had been given out last week to patrons returning or picking up books (which is still done outside the building).

Reading Rosemary again

From the library, I had received an interlibrary loan of A Countrywoman’s Notes by Rosemary Verey. As I had thought it might, it was the same as A Countrywoman’s Year, just with a different title. Even though I had read it so very recently, I had liked it so much that I read it again! And found some more favourite takeaways.

I don’t get up early even on hot summer days but I do love gardening without interruptions.

On not cutting the roadside verges:

On meeting a good dog at a dog show; this country, these dogs are called Great Pyrenees and I have had several good friends of that breed:

The book, from the Redwood Library, has this lovely book plate glued in.

The next day, I tried to sift compost again but it was so cold I only got a quarter wheelbarrow and then gave it up. Now for some reading days, I hope.

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I kept saying our blog would take a winter hiatus. It hasn’t, much, but with some real reading weather approaching, I think it will go quiet for just a few days.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

I read a book by Chuck Klosterman, an amusing writer of essays and opinion pieces. He says in the preface to this book that it is not a book of essays and should be read in order….which I always do.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter about books, especially this bit about obscure books.

My personal library has some obscure writers like Marion Cran, EM Delafield, Gladys Taber, and some obscure novels that I adored in my twenties and keep meaning to read again to see if I still adore them. (Foul Matter by Joan Aiken, which was once my favourite novel, Benefits by Zoe Fairbain, A Canticle for Leibovitz, Dont Bite the Sun by Tanith Lee, Odd Girl Out by Elizabeth Howard, and a series of novels by Margaret Laurence). My bookshelves have a lot of science fiction and fantasy (the complete works of Philip K Dick), even though I have gone more to non-fiction and memoirs now. I used to dislike non-fiction and read mainly two genres: science fiction/fantasy and British writers from Iris Murdoch and Margeret Drabble to PG Wodehouse. It all changed in my late forties to memoirs, maybe when I started reading gardening books, many of which are also memoirs.

I also especially liked Klosterman’s chapter about music. Below, he’s talking about the Sex Pistols compared to The Bee Gees. When I went to punk rock clubs in the early 80s, there was a shtick about hating disco. I adored disco, too, probably best of all! I think he is insightful about its cultural influence, which was probably not realized at the time it was happening. Many is the night that my friend Carol and I went dancing; “our” songs were I Love the Night Life and Boogie Oogie Oogie. (A day later, I am adding this link to a charming video that I remembered while about to fall asleep. I haven’t found a source for it other than Facebook, so I hope you all can watch.)

Klosterman is very funny.

He has an entire fascinating chapter about the idea of multiverses or parallel universes being a real scientific thing. More on this later. I read several books by him over a decade ago and now I have a few to catch up on. It will be a pleasure.

In one chapter, he writes about a hedgehog incident in Ohio. I was so bothered that I stopped to Google whether hedgehogs could possibly have lived there. No. I was amused to find this at the very end.

Apparently Chuck has never dated an Anglophile gardener, either.

Monday, 26 January 2021

We heard sad news a week ago, that a beloved local man who had a perennials nursery in Seaview had suddenly died, at just my age. It was called The English Nursery because he and his wife are English. Of course, over the years, we enjoyed stopping by not only because he was a good and witty conversationalist but also because of his accent. We went there today to help his wife out by taking some of the smaller empty plastic flower pots. We stuffed our van full. Most plants in a nursery look sad in winter. That and the bitterly cold day added to the poignancy of the situation.

There will be a close out sale of plants at the nursery. I will be sure to announce it here.

We got almost all the pots neatly sorted and stashed away at home just when some serious rain began.

I then read a rather grim psychological suspense novel by an author who was recommended to me in another book I just read (but can’t recall which). I devoured it in one rather stressful sitting. I then began, and finished the next day, a much lighter suspense novel about a blogger trying to disappear from social media!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

After finishing Unfollow Me, I read another book straight through. It was about “the multi-worlds interpretation of quantum physics” about which Chuck Klosterman had written. Cosmic coincidence! And about being given a chance to try out multiple versions of one’s own life and to explore what would happen if a different road had been taken during those moments one regrets, something I had just been mentioning recently in this blog. And it was science fiction/fantasy, the speculative fiction genre that I don’t read much of anymore. I adored it all to bits.

I love this book so much…

“Nora wanted to live in a world where no cruelty existed, but the only worlds she had available to her were worlds with humans in them.”

Many years ago, I read another novel about getting a do-over in life, Replay by Ken Grimwood. I thought about it for years, at about what moment I would make a different choice. It is on my shelves of obscure books to reread someday.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

As I read this, it’s been what feels like a wasted day. Actually, despite sleeping extra late because the cats kept me awake till four AM (Zinc wanted to sleep on my head; I did not want Zinc to sleep on my head), it was productive with work-related bureaucratic paperwork and tax forms. A cat food mail order box came. The cats adore the nest of packing paper which will remain until I cannot stand the mess anymore.

I listened to the zoom meeting from the Public Health Dept and revised my hope of us getting the vaccine really soon. There are over 3000 people on the county wait list, the county has no idea how much vaccine they will get each week but could manage to do 500 doses a week if they got enough doses, and they are asking the state to recognize that our county has more old people and more people living in poverty than most Washington State counties. Because of demand for the vaccine so far outweighing the current supply, I am now thinking we might even have to wait two months for our first dose. It’s frustrating. Sounds like we might be able to find out where we are on the list with a phone call, which I will make tomorrow! Our health department is so small, and is working so hard.

I am thinking of embarking upon reading Proust. I read a good book years ago called How Proust Can Change Your Life but never actually read his books. I always thought they were memoirs but, sadly, apparently not. Last night I read ten pages of Swann’s Way and found it wonderful, but maybe I should save the thousands of pages for next winter’s reading project. Whatever I choose to read for the next few cold and rainy days, I’ll be back here when I actually either do something outside or get around to writing something about the Dodie Smith memoirs that I read last month.

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guest photos

Our friend Mike, a dedicated nature walker and bird watcher, photographed this hair ice near Olympia, Washington, proving we do have it in Washington State, even if not at the coast where I live. He wrote, “Went for a walk today along the Yelm-Tenino trail. Saw lots of frost flowers – an ephemeral ice formation created when spongey old wood saturated with water freezes quickly driving the water out to freeze in thin hairs. They are so fun to see! Also saw a beaver den and many red winged blackbirds who were singing up a storm.”

Photo by Mike Starrhill
Photo by Mike Starrhill
Photo by Mike Starrhill

And our friend Tony got some lovely sunset photos on his daily walk on the beach just north of Long Beach town.

That helps make up for me doing nothing much photogenic.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

at home

It was cold. The temperature did not rise above 45 and a cold wind made gardening unappealing. I did want to cut one thing, so I did, slightly altering the view from my south window.


What got cut was one tall grass, a variegated Miscanthus that was to the right of the cat bench. That was enough outdoorsiness for that sort of weather.

From my west window, I can monitor the declining piles of debris in my compost bins. All the mess is now hidden from neighborly view behind the boat shapes. The piles are lower because Allan stood on two of them while installing the new shapes.

I consider that to be a fascinating view.

I finished a book I’d been begun yesterday.

The title is Tightrope. I wish the library would be more careful with their stickers.

Wise words about the minimum wage:

This excerpt explained again how profoundly the exclusion of many Black soldiers from the benefits of the GI Bill resounds today, even in my own home ownership and bank account, because the money my mother left me directly goes back to my father and uncle being able to buy houses because of their veterans benefits…

….even though it was my mother who held the steady job that kept the roof over my head in my early childhood.

It was a good book, much of it centered around the struggles of the working poor in the Oregon town of Yamhill.

I then turned to a library book that I don’t remember ordering. I think one of our librarians put it into our library bag! I thought I’d give it a try, expecting it would be an overly sentimental cute cat story.

It turned out to be a well written memoir, which is apparently my favorite genre these days.

On adopting a tiny blind kitten:

I relate to this, having adopted several cats without meeting them in advance:

And the author has a droll sense of humor. Example, about Homer’s homemade toy of rubber bands wrapped around a tissue box:

I could hardly breathe from suspense and empathy when the author is separated from her cats on 9-11; her apartment was just a few blocks from the World Trade Center.

And I am getting Allan to read the last part of the book about what happens when a man she loves but who does not love cats joins the household. This so parallels Allan’s journey from “I don’t like animals crawling on me!” to a real cat daddy whom the cats adore (and it seems to be mutual).

When Allan moved in, I had four cats, Miss Marble, Dumbles, Maddy and Murray. Murray was a bit of a bully and found a happy new home where he was the kingly only cat to an invalid who was always home and wanted a constant companion.

The man’s reaction to Homer made me laugh as it described such a familiar sight:

Feeding the cats at bedtime was the beginning of affection, as it was with Allan:

Allan especially bonded with the most cantankerous cats, Maddy and later Jazmin. And Skooter, who is difficult in a different way.

It’s a wonderful book, and I have ordered Gwen Cooper’s two follow up memoirs, one about the rest of her time with Homer and one about all of her cats.

Meanwhile, our cats won the battle of the telly ledge.

As soon as the battle was won, Nickel switched to an even more uncomfortable looking spot.

Within a day, the dried flower arrangement had to be removed so that he could own the top of that crate, that was turned into a shelf box by my father many years ago.

Cat wins.

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Friday, 22 January 2021

At home

The seemingly endless good winter weather drew me outdoors by noon. I hope we get at least another week of reading weather before spring comes. There hasn’t been enough reading time yet.

With the temperature (45 F) too cold to comfortably weed, I decided to go ahead and cut back the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ in the center bed. With stalks too thick for The Toy, it had to be cut with hand clippers. Of course, some weeding as I went along was irresistible.

I cut down the Panicum in the center bed, as well. Before and after, center bed:

The south end of the center bed has sweet woodruff, which I had sworn after my previous garden that I would never grow again.

I pulled as much as I could, peeling off mats of roots that I could have potted for my plant sale, given more energy and less cold wind. I used to think ground covers were desirable until I learned how most of them get into the other plants’ business. There are now only a few that I like, and I can think of only two right now: Geranium macrorrhizum and epimediums.

The cold made me wonder if I would regret cutting the sedums and grasses because it might snow and they would then look so picturesque for a couple of hours. I just wanted it done though, so I can better see my crocuses emerging.

Even though I was cold and wanted to go indoors, I decided to cut some pink turtlehead in the west bed, because it’s easy. It breaks at the base by hand or with a kick of the foot.

Chelone lyonii (pink turtlehead) before

Allan had come outside to get the solar fountain out of the canoe pond to repair. He helped pull out a half dead Leycesteria; I have two others and do not need this sad one in this spot.

Old and woody leycesteria (Himalayan honeysuckle)
Human wins!


I admired, from inside the south fence, the results of our willow grove project. On a day that is warmer and not windy, I will pull the ivy from the little bank on the inside of the fence. It would look wonderful to have ferns or epimediums or pulmonarias or all of those on that low bank.

Here it is earlier this year:

And today, looking so much lighter.

Allan’s repair of the solar fountain, whose wires I had cut while trimming back Geranium ‘Rozanne’ last autumn, was successful.

Perhaps because the weather was so cold, Zinc spent another day on top of the dryer in the laundry room, while Faerie curled up in the rag basket. She disappears in there because the door shuts after her.

Nickel loafed on the north shelf of the north catio.

The Greys seem to spend even three coldest night so far outside on the south Catio, but Faerie, whose fur is not as plush, sleeps on a chair at night.

Given his druthers, Skooter would spend most of his time night and day outdoors, no matter what the weather.

Here is the one place we ask the cats not to sit. Allan made a long board with nails in it to put here to make it uncomfortable for sitting. The cats are on top of it.

Speaking of telly, we are both looking forward to BBC Winterwatch. It is already playing in the UK, but BritBox won’t have it till February 9th. We are counting the days; we so love The Watches.

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At home

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Zinc and Faerie

Sometimes the cats like to be in the windowless laundry room even on a nice day. I do not understand.

When I went out to bring the wheelie bin in from the street, I noticed my mom’s favourite rose, Joseph’s Coat, has flowers.

The tiny flowers on the Azara microphylla are budded but not yet smelling of vanilla.

I could not resist going out to the willow grove again, this time with one little mission, digging up some more rubble. I took the big loppers and the heavy pick.

On the way, I admired some crocus in the back garden….

…and my Old Blush rose has flowers, too, not unusual for winter. It’s known as The Monthly Rose because it manages to bloom in every month.

I was pleased with the look of my contorted filbert…

….but I don’t like the look of that gall and wonder if I should remove that branch. It’s more like a main trunk so I don’t especially want to remove it.

I took an after from the same angle of my “before pruning” photo.

Skooter accompanied me to the willow grove…

….and watched while I loaded a wheelbarrow full of holly twigs and ivy, which I put into the wheelie bin. I them returned to the willows to pry out some rubble.

Standing on a slight slope at the edge of the seasonal pond, I extracted a couple of old bricks and decided to cut a big willow branch in order to reach more ivy on the edge of the pond. It was almost too big for the loppers so I pressed down hard on the handles, leaning over. The blade cut through sooner than I thought and I lost my balance and tumbled face first into the muddy water!

I fell sideways from where my hat and loppers are

I couldn’t even get up at first, with one side of my face slammed into the mud and my hoodie caught on a branch. I had asked Allan to come help me pry one stubborn piece of rubble and wondered if I’d have to wait there till he showed up. Fortunately, I managed to extricate myself. Then, being a good catastrophizer, I imagined how bad it could have been. I could have landed with my eye on a stick. Or my head on a piece of rubble. Or, a week ago when the rainwater pond was deeper, I could have had my head underwater. It could have meant a trip to the emergency room, thus totally violating our Covid protocols.
I am grateful that the only result was a very muddy face and bruises on my knees that still sore two days later.

I remembered when, years ago, Bryan’s brother Morgan had bought property on Lasqueti Island, British Columbia. While exploring his new woodland with his wife, he fell off a log and pierced his side with a branch. He had to be life flighted (by helicopter) off the island to a hospital (and recovered completely). I remember saying to Bryan that surely the medical expenses would wipe out his savings, only to be reminded that as a dual citizen of the USA and Canada, all of Morgan’s medical bills were covered by the Canadian health system.

I returned to the house, washed the mud off my face and went back to the willows, this time taking a plastic chair in case I needed to sit down. Gardening is a dangerous sport. When England first went into Covid lockdown last spring, citizens were asked to avoid gardening and do it yourself projects to avoid injuries. Not using secateurs was especially advised!

Allan pried out the two pieces of rubble that I had been unable to get.

Rubble can be useful in the garden, as described by Bob Nold in his excellent book High and Dry, in which he suggests building a garden berm atop of a spine of rubble (and other things; he’s joking about some of them):

I had in mind two more big branches for Allan to cut. (The chain saw is sort of his toy, and the chain has been slipping. I didn’t want to wreck it.) The first cut removed a stubby trunk and made a nice cove for planting something. The second cut removed a long branch that was hanging over Alicia’s debris pile, from when her back yard was leveled last year.

I had found two concrete blocks while cutting ivy off of an old stump. Allan extricated them—not easy—and used them to improve a place where we’d had similar blocks for stepping through deep seasonal water outside the southwest corner of our deer fence.

His enthusiasm for and interest in the willows grove project had increased, as I knew it would, because it is fun to refine an area. He kept finding things to saw while I kept pulling ivy.

He smoothed off a potential sitting spot or place to plant something on a willow trunk.

I planted some dormant Siberian Iris and Persicaria bistorta superba, (not sure how deer resistant they will be) and some foam flower, planted some Darmera peltata in the mucky water’s edge where my face had rested earlier and tossed some gunnera seeds along the edge on the off chance one might take. I remembered three potted sword ferns that I could plant, but by then it was dusk and I was too tired.

Two ivy and holly piles will be removed.

I did make an at home work board…

…from which willow grove will be erased after I get rid of one of those two piles of holly and ivy (which will take awhile as it won’t all fit in the wheelie bin).

In other news, our state announced this week that folks 65 and up can get the vaccine, but the county health department phone were jammed. I had friends who said they called 45 times, 90 times, got put on hold for an hour, and never got through. I decided to wait a day rather than spend a good weather day on the phone. Today, the health department stopped taking calls because their phone system can’t handle it. There was a form to fill out online, which we did immediately, but now they are out of vaccine. Still, more is coming, and we should get a call about getting the Jab fairly soon.

Finally, in today’s wonderful news:

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20 January: O Happy Day

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

at home

For the second time this week, I woke up early (for me), this time to watch on telly the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I wept with joy even more than I thought I would.

At noon, I went out and did some sorting of debris, raking, and ivy pulling in the willow grove. Yesterday and today:

ivy progress…

There is debris that I look forward to digging out soon, some old bricks and some who knows what.

It is pleasant to have room in the grove to walk.

Lots of ivy and holly roots are still in there but can be controlled if I keep up on it a few times a year. I know it can be done because ten years ago, the Bogsy Wood was just as impenetrable as the willows grove was last week. This is what the Bogsy Wood looked like in December 2010:

And now it’s like this ( last week, on a similarly wet day):

Allan had been adding one more shelf to the garage annex:

And he had noticed the hebe and primrose combination in his garden:

At four o clock, we had a campfire lunch with celebratory champagne served in mugs.

Here is what we are celebrating today, all accomplished with much forethought and planning while I was pulling ivy and roasting hot dogs. Kindness, goodness, intelligence, equity and hope. And relief that has my shoulders so relaxed that I realize they’ve been hunched up for four years. (Thanks to HuffPo for the wording):

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Tuesday, 19 January 2021

At home

After a good seven and half hours of sleep and the eye drop routine with Skooter, and after breakfast and news reading, I was ready to garden at noon.

Again, the day was too cold for comfortable weeding, and I wanted to work on my willow grove project anyway.

Allan started his day by building some useful shelves at the back of the garage annex. This should keep things from falling on the floor.

Faerie very much wanted to come out of the south Catio and help me in the willow grove.

I would love to show her the garden…but she is so tiny. I could only take her on a garden walk on a day when I don’t have a distracting project to do. And once she has been outside the Catio, her desire to escape will be even fiercer.

In the willow grove outside the south fence, I cut up the pile of holly from Sunday into branches and trunks to dry for a campfire and filled a wheelbarrow with leaves and twigs….

Above: looking north over a heaped up wheelbarrow

…..and managed to get that wheelbarrow load into the wheelie bin. I took a tarp back to the grove and piled another batch of holly twigs and leaves onto it for next week’s wheelie bin and then started pulling ivy.

Having finished the shelves, Allan came to the willows grove with the chainsaw and joined in the fun. After I asked him to cut five small holly trunks, he became interested and found much more to cut.

Some photos from before and some from today show the progress.

today, with lower branch cut. The large building to the left is At the Helm Hotel.

Some befores and afters of the path to the new beach:

Today (one of several piles of dry campfire kindling is to the left)

I have several piles to deal with: dry twiggy branches to cut for kindling, holly branches to dry for a future campfire, holly twigs for the wheelie bin, mixed holly to sort through for twigs vs branches, and kindling already small enough to use. But even with that bit of a mess, I’m pleased with the results. There is a new frog watching beach now accessible, which is where the river beach used to be before the port was built up on full. Our property was once riverfront.

This article describes how the properties on the south side of Lake Street went from riverfront to two blocks from the water; see the section “Improving the Port, 1950s and 1960s”.

Before the port was built on fill…and now (the arrow points to our street):

It still somehow feels like riverfront in the willows grove and reminds me of childhood camping at Nason Creek.

Looking west: just some ivy pulling and pile sorting to do here.

We still left some salmonberry for the hummingbirds; the flowers are their first native plant food. And we left some willow wildness….

A falling willow tree tears instead of snapping.
To the east, we will leave the willows full of broken and rotting wood for critters. Those are stacks of crab pots out on the parking lot.

One more day of ivy pulling and I can call this project done for now. I think tomorrow, Inauguration Day, might call for a celebratory afternoon campfire lunch.

Other than tidying up and pulling ivy, I will leave all the long grasses for frogs. I’d like to plant some more ferns out here and other deer resistant shade treasures. It could use some better soil but it would be a long haul to mulch. Even just as it is now, I am very well chuffed with this project.

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Monday, 18 January 2021

Skooter’s semi-emergency veterinary appointment was at 8:15 AM. I tried to go to sleep early, but my internal clock is firmly set. Getting up in the dark after three and a half hours of sleep was a shocker. We were glad we had taken him in though. He has a little eye infection and needs eye drops twice a day for ten days. After his first dose, he recovered next door on Alicia’s patio.

We made one more excursion, to pick up some eggs at Purly Shell Fiber Arts from a new friend who is taking on our former Long Beach job. We had a chat about that, and I met her lovely dog, Hope.

I cut back four plants at the port office garden almost next door to Purly Shell.

That was the end of my accomplishments for the day. Allan had had a bit more sleep and managed to get the last boat shape painted, bringing that project to an end.

Feeling exhausted, but not being a napper, I did nought else but alternate reading news with reading a new Seaside Knitters mystery. The news is fraught with anxiety over hoping nothing bad happens at the inauguration, so I couldn’t even focus enough to finish the mystery by bedtime.

I do love the Seaside Knitters, so much so that I wrote a post about the first several books in the series: staycation reading: Seaside Knitters.

My book cat, Faerie

The beach town setting in the series appeals to me, a town described in a blurb on the back cover as “charming but lethal.” The group of women whose lives revolve around a knitting shop have an enviable friendship that revolves around get togethers in assorted restaurants and delicious meals at home…and in solving each of the surprising number of murders for a small town. I want to live there and be friends with them. They welcome eccentrics into their group.


Needing some light entertainment, we for the first time watched a Father Brown mystery on BritBox, episode one of season one. Oh my, the village setting is as idyllic (and as rampant with crime) as in the Seaside Knitters, so I think we will be watching many more.

Here is some marvelous local news: The Dollar Store is not going to be built near the Long Beach arch. The article doesn’t really explain why the idea was scrapped, but I am ecstatic for Long Beach. You can read about it here, if you like.

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17 January: a new path

Sunday, 17 January 2021

At home

My belated Christmas present came!


I had a few excuses for working on the willow grove today. It was chilly out, too cold for happy weeding. There was no wind, making it safe to work under trees. Maybe the second best excuse was that I realized that I should let myself do the project I most wanted to do. And the very best excuse was remembering that pruning should be done before bird nesting season.

Skooter appeared to have read my mind and was waiting for me by the south gate.

I was pleased that he stayed close (but not underfoot) during the first part of the project.

My mission was to cut the holly out of the willow grove and get started on pulling the ivy, and to make an access to the west end of our seasonal pond, just because it is there.

The area I tackled looked like this before.
And this, from a couple of days ago.

While I was dragging some cut holly into a pile, I saw Allan up near the greenhouse and called out to him asking for another chainsaw battery. He came to the grove to cut a few tough holly stumps.

I had already cut quite a lot.

Three hours later, almost dusk:

a couple of befores and afters :

I have two big piles of cut holly to deal with, the trunks of which can be campfire wood when dry. I can maybe feed some of the stems into the wheelie bin each week. Chipping it would be an idea, since shredded mulch would be good, but I’d end up with a path full of little points from the leaves.

I ran out of daylight and energy at about the same time.

Some large rotten wood from the willow grove went into a fish tote.

Allan finished installing the boat shapes and putting the fabric and wood in between to make it a solid screen.

Success, an effective backdrop as seen from my greenhouse.
Dusk came before the last shape got painted.

The west side of the boat shapes bed will be a flowery gift to the neighbors.

Just before dark, I picked a mess o’ greens.


I finished a memoir on Sunday which was recommended in another modern memoir that I recently read.

It was good. It gave me insights that don’t really fit into this blog. I look forward to her next memoir which is imminent. But I will now digress to something she wrote about her cat.

I am hoping Skooter, who wandered off again today, comes home tonight because he has a vet appointment at the horrible hour of 8:15 AM. It will be embarrassing if we have no cat to take in, since the vet is doing us a big favor to fit us in. I’m still worried about him maybe having a toothache. I wish the author of Blackout had explained more about how she converted her cat to living indoors.

When Bubba is quite old, he starts to ask to go outside again. She decided to try taking him out on a leash, which he doesn’t like at first, but then…

Skooter did come home in time to be kept indoors before our bedtime.

I like this explanation of why memoirists explore their pasts:

I’m grateful that they do. Speaking of “that home where I once lived”, last night I looked up a house where Bryan, Wilum Pugmire, and I lived in the mid 1980s. I look for it sometimes hoping that it will be listed for sale so I could see the inside (I knew someone wealthy had bought it and fixed it up), and finally, there it was. I’d fallen in love with it while taking a walk down a dead end alley off a dead end street after a housecleaning job on Queen Anne Hill and within a couple of days, I had rented my own house to friends just for the experience of living in it for two years. It had no heat and the roof leaked. Back then, it looked like this:

This view from my bed, last photo above. would be where the wealthy owners had another deck built on top of the sun porch, fitting right in with the style of the house, as you can see here, at least as long as the real estate photos are online. I saved them all to ponder over. Here is a before and after, 1985 and then the modern photo from the real estate listing.

The basement which was dark and grim has become a beautiful living space. And it sold for over one million, eight hundred thousand dollars. That house where I lived was the scene of some of my best times and most foolish decisions. If I could go back in time to one era in my life to change the course of it, that would be the time. But then I would never have been the Long Beach gardener, and it does matter to me that I facilitated beauty for 25 years.

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16 January: slow going

Saturday, 16 January 2021

At home

Because I emerged from the house at noon, I thought I would get ever so much done in the following four and a half hours. It was not to be. I had little to show for the gardening day.

On my agenda today was the clipping of the straight suckers that come up from the base of my contorted filbert. In the course of clipping them, I decided to lift up the skirts of the shrub. Over a decade ago, I toured a memorable garden near Olympia and was impressed with how its contorted filbert was pruned:

I don’t have a good before photo from today, as often happens when I decided to do something spontaneous. Here is one from a few days ago….

Here is the after, from the other side.

I like that I can see the under planting now….although that variegated grass appears to have half reverted to green. So I have a whole pile of contorted filbert branches, mostly smallish, in case anyone wants them for winter bouquets.

The other thing on my list was to plant some gallon sized Euonymus ‘Green Spire’, grown from cuttings and well-rooted in the front garden. They were going yellowish in the pots, not good enough for the plant sale. I think they will perk up in the ground.

My dream is security-light-blocking columnar evergreens all around the front garden edge. Most of the Ilex ‘Sky Pencil’ that I originally planted either languished or died, and when we first moved in, the security lights that are the bane of my north view were not there. It has been a challenge to change the garden design, which was originally supposed to be a flowery “gift to the street”, to a light-blocking wall of green. It is all the fault of whoever invented the modern bright white LED light bulbs that have replaced the ambient softer lights that people used to use.

Our town’s street lights used to have a pale amber glow till a few years back they were replaced with painfully glaring white. It’s a problem of modern civilization and it is not healthy for humans and other living things.

My weeding mission today was supposed to be this horrible area in the back garden…

Rooty, weedy, awful running grass, with finer roots than couch grass

…but it felt too darn cold to weed. For one enthusiastic moment, I almost got the chain saw and headed south to make paths in the willow grove. However, Allan was installing the two new boat shapes….

…and after he installed the south one, painted green (right)….

….he took down the blue temporary view-blocking blanket from the fence…

….and I found that I still needed one more boat shape to give me the complete stop-the-eye barrier that I had imagined.

I had permission from Alicia to plant a new tree or shrub on her property, one that would reach only fifteen feet tall and no taller, where a tall tree whose branches overhung her roof had been cut down last year. That particular maple tree (with small leaves that were great for my leaf mold bin) had made a soft backdrop to my view. But waiting for a plant to grow to fifteen feet to give me something green and soothing for my window view would take too long. A green boat shape is instant. This is a gardening lesson I learned in several articles by Ann Lovejoy, including this one.

My distress today at having to order delivery of another sheet of plywood was brief. Unbeknownst to me, Allan had ordered extras because he had disagreed with me that two boat shapes would prove to be enough when the blanket came down, and he was right.

He cut out another shape…

…and I painted one side of it. I hoped it would dry in time to get it installed today, and I’d paint the other side when it was up. Meanwhile, Allan put up the north new boat shape. Instead of using light blocking landscape fabric pieces in between, he decided to do something nicer looking with the matching plywood scraps reinstalled and then painted black.

This area needs a very tall barrier because I am at a higher level when I look out my window.

Years ago, I read an excellent gardening book called The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy. It says that each of us has a gardening archetype, perhaps related to gardens of our childhood. Some people like a promontory where they overlook a view, and some like a cave. I am the cave sort, with the obsessive desire for my view to be blocked in every direction except for one sight line to the port. (I just learned she has written more books since then. I am thrilled.)

This is a work of genius.

While waiting for paint to dry, I remembered two containers that I wanted to find a place for and plant with strawberries. I don’t know why, but doing so took the whole rest of the gardening day.

My only excuses are that I changed my mind about moving an area of plant sale plants from in front of the greenhouse….after I had moved half of them. I then realized that space is just too handy for plants that I have just potted up.

Then I thought I would put the two containers, old filing cabinet drawers, on boards balanced between the fish totes. We try to repurpose all sorts of things for reasons of frugality and non-consumption, which can result in a junky look, and having the drawers showing above the totes looked horrifyingly junky. So I used milk crates and cement chunks to raise them up between fish totes but not sticking up above. Time ticked away while I found crates and chunks.

To get the drawers in place between totes, I had to move a tote that wasn’t lined up quite right. After taking the heaviest pieces of hugelkultur wood out of the bottom of the tote which, fortunately, did not have soil yet, I could not budge it. I struggled with it for half an hour before asking Allan for help. He had it shifted within five minutes.

After all that time, getting two drawers in place and filling them with potting soil and strawberry starts resulted in this, which is not too bad. If the strawberries do not thrive, I will use the drawers for growing lettuces.

By then, it was too cold and close to dusk for the installation of the final boat shape. The project will continue for a third day, tomorrow. If it were not for Allan’s carpentry abilities, I would have somehow banged six sheets of plain plywood into place and it wouldn’t have been as good (or as quirky) as the boat shapes. I appreciate his devoting three afternoons to this even though he doesn’t share my obsession with turning the garden into a cave.

Other than creating my cave, the boat shapes also hide from my nice neighbors the wonky plant sale tables and boards, the plastic kitchen compost bin, a collection of buckets and piles of unpotted plants and other assorted junkiness and make for a private nook at the working heart of the garden, the compost bins!

Here is a photo of Skooter from our neighbors three doors west, where it turns out Skooter has been visiting their partially enclosed porch.

We try to keep him in at night, but sometimes he does not come home. When we first met him at a gardening job, he had moved into our client’s house from next door, so this is not new behavior. Fortunately, our neighbors three doors down are delighted with his visit, so far.

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