Archive for Jan, 2023

25-26 January: bin four

at home

Thursday, 26 January 2023

The weather had dried enough so that the deep path was dry enough to dig in.

I shovelled through the muck and got down to sand again and, to my surprise, a layer of brown clay.

I bucketed several buckets of the sand and clay to the expanded danger tree bed, where I am going to try to grow a mimosa. The bed was built up with rough compost and needs an area of real substance in which to plant the tree.

The cats thought it was too cold to sit out on the catios.

Thursday, 26 January 2023

I decided to try for more rough compost out of bin four.

Allan trampled bin three’s new clippings down for me.

I got four wheelbarrow loads of rough compost and used it to fill in where I had slightly widened a bed at the edge of the Bogsy Wood…

the deep path bed

..and behind a new bench…

…and a few other places. Every time I took the wheelbarrow forward again, I peeled off a batch of the ever annoying sweet woodruff, which I had intended to never have anywhere in this garden, from the centre bed.

For context, the unwelcome woodruff is just north of my contorted filbert.

If I hadn’t added weeding sessions, I might have got to the bottom of bin four. What’s left looks promising. I hope to get all the uncomposted debris into bin three before we go back to work.

An exciting shipment of plants came from Secret Garden Growers and from Forest Farm. I will have to wait to plant them because we are due for a couple of nights of below freezing weather. They will stay on the sunporch for a few days.

My mimosa and more are in the Forest Farm box.

Meanwhile, Allan worked on a project at the east fence where the bindweed next door is particularly rampant and invasive into our garden, The original fence was wire panels. That is not working because the bindweed uses it to climb and make a horrid backdrop. We had put up some plywood to hide it, but I had realized that if the wire came down, maybe the bindweed would crawl around next door instead of climbing our fence; then I can focus on trying to stop the roots from creeping under the fence into my beds,

Allan cut the bottom of the wire out beneath a piece of plywood where we had lacked a lower piece. We had been using a piece of tarp as a temporary and unsuccessful barrier for the lower part; he had now found a spare piece of plywood that would fit. He crawled under and clipped the wire from the other side.

After, with the wire sections removed.

The removed wire shows how uncontrollable the bindweed was on a wire fence.

He added in the new plywood piece, and we have finally achieved a solid barrier except for at the back of the neighbouring compost-and-bindweed bins, so we are scouting for a spare half piece of plywood to finish the barrier.

The cats all love the wrapping paper from mail order boxes.

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at home

Tuesday, 18 January 2023

On this clear winter day, we moved a tree from a big pot to the east front bed. First, I had to dig out a large clump of a tall pink aster (probably ‘Harrington’s Pink’) and a medium clump of white veronicastrum (which I spent part of the afternoon dividing, transplanting some and potting some up). I want this to be a shrub and tree bed.

Before, with variegated pittosporum and pieris, backed with Graham Blandy boxwood.

In the foreground, a hamamelis is well budded.

A small Azara dentata. moved from a too obscure spot in the east bed, went into the front bed where the pot had been.

Now there is the nice empty pot to go somewhere, maybe here…

Wednesday, 19 January 2023

I did an afternoon of cutting back some perennials in the back garden. Even though it is better for critters (and maybe for the plants if we get extra cold weather) to leave them standing for another month, I feel the pressure of going back to work looming and want a head start on my own spring clean up.

Part of the back garden east bed before…

..and after some chopping. Phlox is so brittle, you can just kick the stems down.

I zipped off the foliage of clumps of epimedium, shown here before trimming…

..and filled half an empty compost bin with debris. (The long green blades are from Kniphofia.)

Although I finished trimming the hellebore leaves today, they go into the wheelie bin because they are always pitiful and diseased looking at this time of year.

The woodsy back garden is too sodden to walk in without losing a shoe to the deep mud.

Saturday, 21 January 2023

We were back to reading weather, my preferred winter weather at this time of year, I would rather read than garden. Because I feel compelled to be outdoors in dry and not too windy or cold weather, I deeply appreciate rain.

Skooter, shown here in a mug shot after chasing Faerie too vigorously (or so she said with hisses and growls), doesn’t like to go outdoors in the rain.

The catnip bananas and kitty carrots give hours of fun.

I have been rereading the Jackson Brodie mystery series to refresh my plot memory before reading the new one. I had forgotten than the later books are set in Whitby, a place I loved when I visited there in 1988.

The Coast Guard motto is the title of a book sold in our local bookshop, Time Enough Books.

I learned that present day Whitby has a Dracula festival, attracting hundreds of vampire costumers, and a steampunk festival, making Long Beach’s clam and kite festivals look ordinary!

I also enjoyed the book Cheap Land Colorado, about eccentric homesteaders, from which I gleaned this amusing quote:

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Elochoman River

Allan’s latest adventure!

Southwest Washington Paddle Trips

20 January 2023

Not just a drive over or paddle by river

With a high tide it would be a good day to explore a river to its shallows. Just east of Cathlamet, midway between Ilwaco and Vancouver, Washington, is the Elochoman River. It tempts whenever I cross it. It’s protected, looks interesting and has eluded me before when I attempted it. Here is Google’s 2018 east bound view.

I headed for Cathlamet’s City Dock, which would be a new experience from the popular Elochoman Marina. The tide would be flowing out today at about 1.3’/hr. from 7.3′ down to 2.0′.

This view shows where the river flows into the Elochoman Slough.

Cathlamet has a view platform with benches overlooking the Columbia River in the old part of town. It’s worthy of a lunch break and a walkabout. Soon a restaurant will be opening here.

The dock is a…

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Reading 2022

Books read in 2022 with any comments made from memory. For total accuracy in order they were read, one would have to read each screenshot from the bottom to the top.

I discovered Sallie Tisdale because of her Survivor book and read all her books (all non-fiction) and loved them all. It must have been the previous year’s end, while the popular Survivor book was on hold, that I read her Advice for Future Corpses and Those Who Love Them, from which I got the list of most of the books about dying that I read in 2023.
I also read all things Shaun Bythell and, over the year, some books he recommended in his bookshop memoirs.
I liked the Bill Cleg novel because it was set partly on the Pacific Northwest coast. The Page Dickey memoir I had read before, and reread before reading new ones.

I love Page Dickey.

The World My Wilderness is a novel set in bombed out post WWII London, interesting for the descriptions of nature reclaiming bomb craters. David Kynaston is my favourite writer of modern English history. Great stuff, wish he’d publish the next installment. I’d like to live long enough to read all of his planned Tales of a New Jerusalem history series. To Speak for the Trees: We also watched a documentary about the inspiring author, naturalist and scientist.

More about dying, always a subject of interest. And a couple of enjoyable gardening books.

I did some rereading of three novels I loved decades ago and still loved them (Benefits and the Joan Aiken duo).
Foul Matter is still a favourite novel.

Jessica Fox tells her story of life with bookseller Shaun Bythell. Also: More death and more politics.

Ladyparts: funny and informative. Also: Another memoir of dying. Three books on architecture that Allan gave me for a birthday present. Cottages by the Sea is especially beautiful. I continue to ponder the expansion of my woodland garden plantings. I like books about curmudgeonly responses to positive thinking (the best is still Bright-sided by Barbara Ehrenreich).

I am always pleased with a new Lynley mystery. Bettyville is another brilliant memoir about dying (in this case, the author’s mother). Lots of good gardening books in this batch.

I found a Joan Aiken I had not read, marvelous. Ann Tyler is a favorite novelist of mine. Geek Elders, edited by a friend of mine, is a series of essays about fandom, mostly Star Trek and Star Wars; Star Wars fandom is how I met Maggie and her wife, Susan.

I can’t remember the Molly Peacock although I am sure it was good. I wish I could remember everything I read. The memoir by Deborah Kogan was good but slips my memory. And…another book somewhat about dying and the real effects of heartbreak (caused by varying sad things).

I like to read books about writing but never seem to get the secret of really being a writer.

I learned about the Basildon Plotlands in David Kynaston’s book and had to order books from UK to read more (although you can also find photos and stories online) about these little communities of tiny homes, now all gone. I’d like to have lived there.
Someone saw the “Chicken Soup” book in my to-read stack and said I didn’t seem like a chicken soup book person. It was my mother’s. I finally read it and it was just fine.

Wild, a memoir, was better than I expected. Also: More excellent gardening books and another addition to “books about books”.

My friend Montana Mary gives me cozy mysteries. I would read more of this charming Oxford Tearoom series.

Another book about death, or at least about time being very short. After reading Patricia Highsmith’s tormented diaries, I read her last book, which I had not known about. She’s one of my favourites. And…gardening books. A Tapestry Garden was especially good.

Two mysteries in this batch, one an enjoyable cozy from Montana Mary. I appreciate her giving me cozies because I wouldn’t seek these new series out yet I do enjoy them. King Tide is by a friend of mine who I used to know of, through friends, in Seattle and who now lives here. It is a mystery set on a thinly disguised Long Beach Peninsula. I have been giving it as presents because I quite liked it. Walks in Wild Yellowstone is by a friend of Montana Mary’s, so good I wrote about it in my blog after reading it. I loved Barbara Pym’s novels and the bio of her makes me want to reread them. I own them so hope to get around to them again before I die. Also: gardening and a good book of short stories. I usually am not much for short stories though.

Gardening! I reread the great Henry Mitchell. George is a children’s book from a list of banned books.
I almost stopped reading the bio of Douglas Tompkins when he and his friends were stuck in an ice cave (yawn) but am glad I persevered. Cabin Fever is a scintillating story of cruise ships during the pandemic. After reading of the lives the workers below stairs, I don’t think I’d ever feel the same about going on cruises even if I liked the idea of cruises.

Big Little Man: an interesting memoir by a Seattle writer. More pandemic, gardening, and a newish novel by Ann Tyler that I had somehow missed. Thirteen Reasons Why is another from the list of banned books for children and teenagers. Generation Wealth, a huge book of photos, with text, of modern privileged (mostly) youth, fascinating and awful. We watched the documentary, too. A friend gave me Not in Front of the Servants after I mentioned wanting to read it. We had a brief conversation when she dropped it off and now I can’t remember who gave it to me (I do have a short list of who I think it was: Teri? Janet?). I loved it. Tell me who you are if you were the giver!! That would have been my rather horrific life if I had lived back then. It usually was not like Downton Abbey.

I always like Laura Lippman’s suspense novels. I reread The Stone Diaries, having been told the protagonist was a gardening columnist (which does not figure large in the story), had forgotten that I’d read it before. Timefulness was a slow read for me, and I skimmed some, but would still recommend it. The Insect Crisis is a must read. Also: politics and gardening. Resolved to read more by Sarah Kendzior.

Making Toast is another memoir about a loved one dying.

I was thrilled at David Sedaris’ new volume of diaries. I had missed it somehow despite waiting for it eagerly. I liked The Latecomer enough to read another novel by the same author. The 1619 Project is a must-read. A Deadly Wind is about a storm that looms large in Pacific Northwest people’s memories.

The Gardener is a delightful children’s book. Adored the new Shaun Bythell, had to buy it because couldn’t wait for the library to get it. The E. Nesbit bio was fascinating. I will read anything Sarah Kendzior writes (a new discovery in essays). I enjoyed the new Sedaris. I love the Seaside Knitters and wished I lived in their world. I recommend Grammar for a Full Life to all English speaking word lovers.

I liked the new Strike mystery much better than the previous creepy and violent one. Community: a pretty good memoir of being a child within a cult. Some gardening and a Kate Atkinson, which has inspired me to begin 2023 by retreading her Jackson Brodie series prior to reading the latest installment.

All those books about death make me anxious about the books on my own shelves that I want to reread, and yet I keep on getting stacks of library books. Blogging sucks up hours of valuable reading time but I hope to keep doing it because it’s good brain exercise, takes more thinking than reading a book.

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at home

Sunday, 15 January 2023

I spent a couple of dry weather hours getting four wheelbarrows of rough compost out of bin two and taking them back to the Danger Tree bed, west of the fire circle.

Allan moved two of the loads for me.

I weeded out a great deal of a low native white-flowered plant which is too prolific, whose name I always forget.

It’s a pretty plant whose name escapes me. Very common and too much of a good thing.

Next day: The name came back to me, as it always does eventually: Tellima grandiflora, fringecup.

I wasn’t sorry when the rain returned so that I could go in and read by 3 PM.

I read this book in one sitting. Excellent.

Monday. 16 January 2023

Midmorning was dry weather again, supposedly only for an hour. I returned to my compost project, finishing the mulching of the Danger Tree bed. That has been on the at home work board as an autumn project, finally done.

The fire circle lawn is soggy enough to consume one’s shoes.

My favorite view of the new bridge….

(Maybe I don’t want that yew there.)

…and more tree branches came down in the last storm.

East side of the old bridged swale.

Allan wheeled two more loads of rough compost out to the southeast corner of the willow grove, which I think is just about the last weedy and undeveloped area of the garden. It is hard packed with roots, so I used newspaper to cover it and put the compost and some leaves on top. It will soften up and even be ready for a shrub in a few months. For now, I used a bit of soil to plant an offshoot of a boxleaf honeysuckle in the middle of the mulch bed, where it may or may not “take”. This project has been percolating in my mind for a year.

The third mission accomplishment was, of course, getting to the bottom of bin two, which now leaves me in the glorious situation of having THREE empty compost bins for when work begins again.

With Allan starting to get his social security check next month, part of me feels like it foolish to return to work, when we could frugally retire. It is a quandary. I like working and beautifying the local world, so it looks like we will not only continue for one more year, but we may take back a job which we quit last year, since the reason we quit is no longer applicable to that situation. I must decide by tomorrow, which is the deadline I offered for my decision. Because the job will be smaller than it used to be (which suits me just fine!), it’s been hard to figure out how much to charge for it. I’m tired of trying to figure it out so am just going to name what feels like a reasonable price and see what happens.

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Friday, 13 January 2023

at home

Faerie and Zinc were snoozing when I went outside at 11:30.

I have mixed feelings about how the day was dry till after 3 PM. Where is my reading weather? We’d had rain overnight. I had expected to read a book today.

So of course I had to finish digging out compost bin one. Allan helped me by moving three loads of rough compost to the fire circle edge of the Bogsy Wood. I hadn’t slept well and felt kind of dizzy from having taken valerian for insomnia.

Mainly, Allan was also using the dry weather to clean up the fallen tree on Alicia’s back lawn.

Some of the branches were so deep into the soupy wet lawn that he had to dig them out.

I put another load of compost mixed with coir…

….in the corner by the greenhouse where I used to store bamboo poles, first digging out hops roots. The water table is high even this far into the garden, far from the Bogsy areas.

It will be a battle to control the hops. In that corner, I planted an olearia (traversii?) for privacy. I have several now from cuttings. Easy to propagate. My original one from Xera shows how tall this silver leafed beauty gets in about six years.

And here is one from a two year old cutting, wow, taller than me already in middle of photo below.

And here is the new little cutting, protected from being stepped on from someone who might not see it is there.

Empty bin one got new cardboard.

With still no rain, I shifted some of bin two’s too-rough compost to bin four, gleaning another barrow of not-too-rough compost for Allan to move to the fire circle edge…

(Room for a new shrub!)

…and one more barrow load for a low spot behind the cat bench. The rest of bin two looks very promising for not too rough compost, and can be emptied with one more dry day, which would achieve my goal of having three empty bins when work begins again.

The remains of bin two

When I went indoors because the rain finally arrived, the cats had hardly moved.

I ordered some seeds, and spent too much on plants for the shade garden from the Secret Garden Growers catalog, as I had also done earlier this week from Far Reaches Farm. There goes more of my small inheritance, but I know my mother would agree that life is short and I am getting quite old, and friends my age are facing health threats, and if I want to see what coveted plants of desire even look like, I had better acquire them now while I can enjoy them. Planting more choice plants and reading more books is the full extent of my so-called bucket list. Not booze, nor a luxury cruise, no couture or manicures, no more fine dining or drive through lattes, no antiques or night life antics, just more plants and more books and enough time to read and to see the plants grow.

Speaking of plants, here are two more photos from the garden today: A creeper photographed by Allan…

…and Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, a year-round bloomer.

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Tuesday, 10 January 2022

at home

After several rainy reading days (during which I polished off most of that stack of library books), we had one day of dry weather. The day before, wind approaching 70 mph had knocked out power to most of the Long Beach Peninsula and Astoria for a whole day. We were lucky with ours being out for only two hours. On Alicia’s lawn next door lay evidence of the storm, one trunk of a four-trunked alder having broken off.

Skooter and I took a walk around the Bogsy Wood, where our alder grove had not lost any substantially large branches.

In the willow grove, my eucalyptus is growing like mad.

One of two eucalyptus

The wind had blown down the Bogsy sign, revealing that it had been affixed to the danger tree snag with a large fungal growth.

Also in the garden:

The horror of lesser celandine has emerged.
Callicarpa ‘Profusion’
Just one rose
Witch hazel and pieris

One of the plastic fire circle chairs had blown partway up the path. Allan is in the photo below affixing the cat bench to the ground with some rebar. Since he attached the back of the old rotted bench to a rocking bench, it blows over in every high wind.

He had finished putting a top on and painting an old treadle sewing machine. I found a place for it. It reminds me of my grandma’s treadle machine, on which she sewed many quilts, and which I also used for years. It was just too heavy to bring with us when we moved to the beach.

The wind suddenly returned at midday, annoying me greatly because I wanted to take some rough compost to the new woodsy garden beds. I went back and forth into the house several times, disliking the wind, but not wanting to be indoors on a dry not too cold day. I made myself get one load of rough compost out of bin one and take it to the front garden.

For years, I’ve had an idea for a better way to arrange compost bins and have figured out where to put them, but I need NINE old pallets, and there is no longer a free wood pile rich with pallets at the port. Having the bins lined up makes for a lot of backing and forthing when shifting bin one to bin four, as one does when trying to get bins emptied.

If I emptied out my propogating area….

…I could fit four bins in an arrangement like this…

….with space in the middle to stand, and then the compost contents could just be shifted round and round in an almost circular way. (The propagating tables would go where the compost bins are now.)

Allan cut down the trunk of the fremontodendron which had been pushed by wind to droop over Alicia’s driveway. Miraculously, he chopped it up enough on the lawn behind Alicia’s back porch to get it all into our wheelie bin. Its hairy stems can irritate skin so we don’t want to compost or chip it. Paul Bonine of Xera Plants had told me it will start from cuttings and how to make them, so I made some. Fingers crossed.

The wind suddenly stopped, so I was able to wheelbarrow three more loads to the woodsy beds. Joy! I have some new perennials coming in February for those beds and would like to have them ready.

I almost made it to the bottom of bin one. Despite frustration at not achieving this simple goal, I had to stop at half an hour before dark because I was just too tired and probably didn’t have time to to make a good job of it. I hope to be back out there on the next nice day with the goal of getting three empty bins….but the weather forecast says that will be at least a week away.

I have a new batch of books to see me through.

The cats are ready to dream the rainy days away.

At the close of this one clear day, our friend Nancy, who lives in Long Beach (three miles north of us) took this photo at sunset at the beach end of Sid Snyder Drive.

Photo by Nancy Miller

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Tuesday, 3 January 2023

at home

On one hand, it was maddening that the weather was dry and not too cold, because I really wanted to read. On the other hand, it was a pleasure to finish clearing out compost bin three.

I was thrilled to get to the bottom of bin three, shifting uncomposted debris into bin four, which Allan stomped for me.

It had been genius on Allan’s part to saw up some coir blocks. They absorbed water much more quickly with more surface exposed, making some of it ready to use. I mixed them with three barrows full of rough compost for the new area by the fire circle.

New tree bed is well mulched, waiting for its new plants.

I have high hopes that bins one and two can mostly go onto the garden here and there as rough compost. Two more nice days would enable me to go through both bins.

It would be amazing to start the work year with three empty bins, especially since we may be taking back an old job that creates a lot of springtime debris (another possible tale of failed retirement, more news on this later in the month. The problem with caring about the appearance of our community is that it is hard to not go to the rescue of gardens in need, although I WILL limit this only to ones that are easy to water and in which the plant choices were our choices.)

Allan steadied the new bench by sticking the boards together somehow or other ….

…and almost finished a topper for a sewing machine base that I got at Butch Saari’s yard sale last autumn. I have finally figured out a place to put it (not where the picture shows).

I moved some dormant plants, including a patch of Dranunculus vulgaris that was in too much shade in the danger tree bed and went to several new homes around the garden, and a Vernonia (iron weed) that had finally blooomed this year and now might sulk from transplanting. Some perennials had to move because the new Cotinus ‘Grace’, still tiny but should grow fast, found a home behind the cat bench where it will be a great view blocker but, being at the north end of the big garden beds, won’t shade them too much.

Envision large smoking smoke bush behind bench.

Most of the free time indoors after dark was spent zooming both a Port of Ilwaco commissioners meeting and a Long Beach city council meeting. Zoom is a boon for the community-minded people like ourselves to be able to be involved from the comfort of our homes.

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Monday, 2 January 2023

I had realized late yesterday evening that I did not have to ask Allan to build another garden bench because I could make one with the four H blocks that I had going spare. Before breakfast, I went out to put them in place, with a cold wind whipping around the garden. After breakfast, Allan found three boards to fit perfectly on top. He says he might attach them together so they don’t slide around. As a man who turned 70 today, he thought the bench was a bit low for old folk. We could add a couple of block-topper pavers to make it higher, even though I do like the way it looks at the same height as the water boxes.

I very much wanted to sort out one or two more wheelbarrows of compost today for the new tree bed. This was not to be. I only managed one bucket before my hands got too darn cold.

I had a nature book, a boating memoir, and a garden humor book for Allan’s birthday gifts, and in the afternoon Our Kathleen visited and presented him with a suspenseful boating novel which looks most thrilling. And some candy. Of course, I had to usher her all around the new paths back to the new bridge and beyond. The wind had stopped, or she wouldn’t have had the full grand tour under the trees accompanied by discourse on many new plants and my view-blocking plans. We did avoid the paths where we’d have been likely to lose a shoe in the muck.

In the garden, two mahonias by the Bogsy wood and in Allan’s garden:

And the first witch hazel to bloom, which I wish I’d planted on the edge of a bed where I could easily smell its apricot scent.

Allan’s new books:

I read the gardening humor book because I had to make sure it was good enough. It is indeed hilarious. I highly recommend it although it might be funnier for a gardener to read than a total non-gardener.

My complaints about how HGTV dropped its great line up of gardening shows like Gardener’s Diary with Erica Glasener are wittily echoed here:

Thank goodness for online access to British gardening shows.

This scene will be familiar to Allan from when we used to pack his two door Saturn car with plants.

I’m going to give this book top marks on GoodReads.

It wouldn’t be fair for Chef Allan to cook on his birthday. So in the late afternoon, we shopped for some groceries at V’s Coastal Market and I bought us dinner, for telly time later in the evening, of their locally famous take out sandwiches and their mind-bogglingly good roasted beets followed by some specialty double chocolate ice cream sandwiches instead of cake.

Allan ordered his favorite sandwich, a Reuben.

The deli has a good selections of cheeses…

…and potato salad came with the sandwiches. While not a full service grocery store, it has enough to keep us from having to go to the big local store for basics. It has good health food store style treats. And the conversation is always good and interesting.

On the way, we had returned some books at the library drop box where Christmas lights are still aglow.

Rain and reading weather have begun!

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Sunday, 1 January 2023

at home

Today’s title refers to garden projects, not blogging daily; I intend to return to hiatus as soon as the rains return. I have quite the new pile of books so I wish the rains would return. But I cannot read on a nice day. This was not always true and only started to be true when I became an obsessed gardener around 1990.

Here is an after of the most recent project, the dog barrier of bamboo.

Today Allan placed the excellent new bench he made. He thinks the wood is redwood, from an old picnic table whose legs collapsed after hard use as a plant table.


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