Thursday, 19 February 2021

At home

Even though I had planned to read, the mild weather drew me out into the Bogsy Wood to cut out some more holly growing next to the salmonberry tunnel. The holly roots are entwined with the alders so the plant never gets removed, just trimmed to the ground now and then.

Holly and Ivy, before
Ivy to pull and holly to cut next to the salmonberry tunnel

I was just stuck in to the job when the skies opened in a torrential rather than the light rain that had been predicted (and an hour earlier than predicted) so I only achieved the clipping of one small area. Allan was surprised I didn’t come in right away (I couldn’t because I had to rescue my tools, including the battery chain saw). He emerged with the umbrella on a rescue mission.

I was grateful when I went out later and found that he had chopped the trimmings into the wheelie bin. I had been soaked to the skin in just five minutes of rain.

Indoors, the cats enjoyed the bags that Allan fetches mail in; he goes to the post office at midnight to avoid covid germs as much as possible.

I finished Adventures in Eden, a glorious garden picture book (with a one page essay about each garden), written by the owner of Carex Tours. A friend who went to Piet Oudolf’s garden on one of those tours said they are excellent.

I’ve been questing for a couple of Gardener’s World episodes from 2013 or 2012 that were missing from the series on Inside Outside Home and Garden, a streaming channel. I found the 2013 episodes on the gardening channel I’ve been watching for most of my waking life of late. I’d seen them before, so the missing episodes must be 2012 (and I did watch them the next day, at long last!). One of the episodes featured a garden from the Malvern Garden Show that is just what I envision for the willows grove boat that I want. Well, maybe a boat in slightly better condition so that it lasts a few years.

I must find a boat!

Between that and some of the gardens in Adventures in Eden, I had a brainstorm about the Bogsy Wood that was so strong that if it had not been almost dusk by then, I would have gone out in the rain and started on it.

Instead, I also watched an old but new to me gardening show by Carol Klein, Plant Odysseys, along her brand new show that had just aired in the UK, thanks to this amazing channel that has pretty much consumed all my rainy days and evenings lately.

At bedtime, I finished the second cat memoir by the author of Homer’s Odyssey.

These tales include more about Homer and also the author’s new cats, Fanny and three-legged Clayton. Not many books make me laugh out loud. This one did. So true:

Because Faerie is big on trying to climb to our high shelves where we display things we like….

None of my other cats has ever climbed this rustic driftwood piece…

….and because our house is now strewn with mail order grocery boxes and packing paper that the cats love (making me grateful that no one comes in our house anymore to see the mess, thanks to the pandemic), I was especially amused by this:

And this:

I have, through interlibrary loan, the slim volume about blind cat Homer’s final years. That will be a hard one emotionally, I predict, but cathartic for anyone who still misses beloved and extra special cats.

Tomorrow: following inspiration in the Bogsy Wood.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

We began the day by taking the cattens into the Oceanside Animal clinic for their vaccinations. It was our first excursion since our own vaccine day last week.

Allan’s photo; the cones mark social distancing, although I had to do some people dodging while waiting in line to pay.

The two Greys, which the staff agreed are at least part Russian Blue, are ten pounds each at nine months old. That breed grows to be large cats, said the staff member. Faerie is but seven pounds and may always be small. They felt that her coat is quite thin and she might be over-grooming, although I mostly see her grooming the other cats!

We then went to the bank in Long Beach and took a quick drive through town just to see the results of some window smashing vandalism done by one disturbed individual the other night. We did pull over to see that bulbs are up in our final new garden planted last fall at our former job.

It has been hard to wrap my brain around the fact that we don’t have to (or “get to”, but really “have to” are the words that come to mind) do Long Beach spring clean up this year. No days and days of beach approach weeding!

On the way home, we checked on our volunteer garden at the Ilwaco Fire Station.

I felt a bit like cutting down those grasses…but not today. The fern garden on the north side is not too terribly weedy. In the back, the greenery is a euphorbia that is a weed but an attractive one.

Susie of the Boreas had asked us if we could do an hour of clean up there today or tomorrow. With the cat appointment taking an hour out of the day, I had guiltily said not yet. I felt a bit guilty to go home and work in my own garden instead. However, with a five day rain storm predicted, I very much had my heart set on another afternoon in the willow grove.

I have crocuses in my own garden, not just tommies but the big ones, too.

Out in the willow grove, I contemplated the composted debris pile on Alicia’s side.

And then I went back to the garage for the chainsaw, schlepping a wheelbarrow full of holly and ivy to the wheelie bin on the way. After, below, the same view shows two long horizontal branches gone. I also planted some Solidago ‘Fireworks’ clumps and some sanguisorba on the sunny mound to pretty it up. I think I will make a path through the middle and smooth it down so it looks more gardenish; not sure how well I will keep up with the pre-existing bindweed, though. I want to slope it more gently to the water’s edge, something that will be easier when the water dries up in late spring.

I had cut back the two branches in order to get access for weeding ivy along the bank and then dug out several wheelbarrow loads of soil from the old debris pile. I sifted through each load carefully because the pile is interlaced with bindweed roots from way below. I wouldn’t dare add the soil to my main garden for fear of introducing bindweed to areas where it has not yet encroached. My inspection today of the wheelbarrow loads was thorough and will be followed by regular inspection of the willow grove for invasion.

The debris mound is just off the southwest corner of our fence (which I now know could have been twenty feet or more further south). Looking into the fenced garden:

My territorial nature wishes the fence enclosed all that is MINE but on the other hand, it feels interesting to have the willows outside the fence. It makes the grove and seasonal pond feel different and wilder.

Bonus: An old and rusty ho mi surfaced in the pile.

In the garden, I found that a big fern which had seemed much too hard to move last fall came out easily, although I did ask Allan for help getting the heavy clump into the wheelbarrow.

In the summer, the fern disappeared under impatiens omeiana (which is also welcome in the willow grove if it wants to live there in the fern’s new home).

I noticed a large fuchsia by where I dug the the fern had blown over sideways…

…..which is the only storm damage I saw.

I moved some Persicaria and some more sword ferns to the willow grove. I still have two more little sword ferns for the west side so that I have a bit of a theme out there, but I had hit the wall of exhaustion about an hour before I stopped shifting wheelbarrows of compost from the mound to the grove, so the last two ferns did not get planted in the dusk. East end:

Middle, with one new planting area:

West end, with one of three piles of prunings that will be cut up for firewood:

The willow grove has a bit of a wild and spooky feeling because of the interestingly twisty and tormented nature of the willow trees, which are bent and distorted and shattered by wind.

Also a bit spooky: As I walked back and forth with barrows of compost, an apple core appeared where I had just walked five minutes before.

I had just walked that path! I suppose it was from a crow.

As a finishing touch before I stopped, I shoved some contorted filbert cuttings into the branch barrier. The crab pots are all gone from the parking lot now, loaded onto boats and off into the ocean.

Skooter awaited me by the water boxes. He had not wanted to help out today, perhaps because the willow grove is sticky and muddy on his paws.

I collapsed in my comfy chair with a nice cup of Builders and watched the last episode of the Chelsea Flower Show 2020, a virtual retrospective of the last decade. Watching the segments about nursery growers who had been unable to attend the canceled 2020 show (with the flower shows being a large part of their income) had me quite verklempt, especially as they looked forward to 2021, but I know now that the show has been postponed till September instead of May. My favourite garden of all the seasons I have watched, the Welcome to Yorkshire garden 2018, won People’s Choice for best garden of the decade. You can enjoy it here. And in closeups of detail, here. The same designer, Mark Gregory, also created a Welcome to a Yorkshire garden in 2019 which you can view here. And here. Both creations make me joyous and weepy, but the first one gets to me the most with its incredible detail like tufts of sheep hair in the fence. But the second one is, I think, an even greater feat of design.

Skooter joined me, sometimes twitching as he dreamed.

Sometimes, lately, I have had two cats at once.

Sometimes Skooter still prefers the kitten-free zone on Alicia’s patio, where she made him a comfy bed.

Since I last wrote…

An ice storm that caused a great deal of damage and which caused power outages in Portland that in some cases are still out five days later came unnervingly close to us, stopping at Chinook just a few miles east along the Columbia River. Our power only went out for a few hours.

From our local paper, The Chinook Observer:

You can see a video of the falling ice here. And you can visit Loree’s blog from Portland to see the shocking amount of ice at Danger Garden.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

At home

I spent several days during the cold weather watching shows about about the Chelsea Flower Show. Imagine if during the Seattle flower show, local telly had 15-18 shows, including two per day in prime time, covering every detail of the event. I clearly was born in the wrong country. You can watch several years worth of the shows here ; if the link doesn’t take you to the shows, use the drop down menu for gardening.

Today, I ventured outside to see if my outdoor veg garden had frozen. It still looks good, with a few leaves on offer for a mess of greens.

I was surprised at how low the grey rain gauge was, as it seems to have been raining unceasingly. It doesn’t have a leak; the yellow one looked the same.

Even though the weather has been below freezing for several nights, it had not been cold enough to kill the azolla in the ponds.

During the stretch of bad weather, I’d been thinking a lot about the willow grove and had dreamed of expanding a path over onto Alicia’s property next to the seasonal pond. I used to call this imperialization, but annexation seems a politer word. Although it did not feel like gardening weather today, I walked out there to have a look and realized my vision was unachievable. The bank is angled and slick, with branches growing along it, and the mound of old garden debris (weeds and sod, not fit for the compost bins) was steep along the side of it.

The mound, which has good and “bad” (montbretia) perennials in it.

I pushed the pile of holly and ivy to where I could reach it from a Alicia’s lawn and wheelbarrowed some it up to the wheelie bin.

On Alicia’s side of the fence

And then, with the weather better than I thought, I saw that the sod and weeds had broken down into good soil and went back to the garage for a shovel. I shoveled some of it out and mulched some persicaria that I’d planted under the nearest sideways willow tree branch and then clipped some branches to go in the twiggy fence I’m making at the other east of the grove.

The pile, somewhat broken down

When Allan made the mistake of coming out to see what I was doing, I got him to help me move an old plank from the Bogsy Wood to the willow grove, where it will show better.

I hopefully mentioned my idea of moving some log pieces from Alicia’s yard to the east end of the willows grove. Soon, he reappeared with the hand cart.

Alicia’s pile from a dead tree
The cart only broke once (a wheel came off, fixable).
Trunk pieces in place to start a barrier at the east end
Adding to the branch twiggy fence

Two of the trunk pieces might make good frog viewing seats for people who can sit down low.

Maybe a raccoon footprint

When a heavy rain squall began, Allan bailed out and took these photos on the way back to the house.

I persevered long enough to add the rest of my branches. After:

Looking east
Looking west

I was glad to get back inside for more Chelsea Flower Show.


I recently finished a short gardening book. I have often recommended the book The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy. This more recent book has the same ideas, condensed.

One of her themes is that we seek a garden which is based on our childhood memories and which falls into one of several archetypes.

In my previous garden, I was sure that my archetype was the cave, and maybe it was then. But now, rereading the choices, I think it is the harbor.

I adore an author who writes openly about anxiety. I don’t remember that from the earlier book, but it might have been there.

I delighted in this story, because often when I am on a drive (always as the passenger), I will look at each house that we pass and say to myself yes or no about whether I find it appealing.

When I read about this garden tour (actual name: Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill)…

…I did a bit of preliminary searching and found this. When I finish blogging today (I’m writing this two days later on a rainy day), I intend to find more. Down the rabbit hole!

Finally, this is so true.

Monday, 8 February 2021

at home

We got the call from our county health department at midmorning to schedule us for our first Covid vaccine jab tomorrow. We were thrilled….but I was anxious to learn that it was going to be indoors in the Ilwaco community building. Indoors?! Previous clinics had been drive through, which sounded so much safer to me. I tried not to think about it as the day went on and soon found an excellent distraction.

As I had been working out in the willow grove lately, I had begun to wonder where our property line is. Last night I had a look at taxsifter and was astonished to find the lot our house sits on is 155 feet long and the Bogsy Wood lot is 117 feet long. That makes 272 feet. I had thought it was about 200 feet. How did I not know this and why had this not registered in my mind when I had previously looked up the width of our lots (79 and 80 feet)?

Allan, who had begun to enclose the behind the garage garden frame with plastic, agreed to help me measure. We ran a 100 foot tape from the official survey stake by the north sidewalk down through Alicia’s yard because it was a straighter shot to the south.

When we got to the willow grove and its seasonal pond, I was thrilled to learn that our south property line, which I had assumed ended somewhere in the grove, actually extends to at least the middle of the pond.

When the pond dries up, we will find out exactly where, and we might sink a long round pole in the spot, one that we found in the free wood pile last year. I am also thinking of another garden boat. Allan says he might contribute one that he has stored away from home and rarely uses.

The worst gardening client I ever had….one of only two over a quarter century that I completely fell out with….accused me of being shockingly territorial in my desire to protect a beautiful garden full of delicate bulb sprouts from being walked on. Yes, I am territorial indeed and the addition of precious space to my garden has me dazed with delight. I might plant more irises and a gunnera out there, although I am somewhat concerned with the port backhoe coming in, as it does every other year or so, and digging the pond deeper.

Allan went back to the garden frame (a place to grow veg outside the deer fence) and accomplished this:

With the weather turning colder and drizzly, I was able to distract myself from the thought of going indoors tomorrow by watching several hours of gardening videos about the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

them indoors

I had very little sleep fretting about going inside a building. But friends had reassured me that we would surely be allowed to stand outside, in view of the medical staff, while we waited the requisite fifteen minutes after our shot. I accomplished pretty much nothing other than news reading before our appointment at 1:20.

Allan snapped a photo of the crocuses at the community building.

Here is the moment of the most welcome and wonderful jab.

This next bit I am sharing for readers with anxiety disorders. I know you are there. (I wish people with contempt for mental health issues would leave this blog and never return.) When I was told I had to remain indoors, I mentioned feeling panicked and asked if I could please step outside, because I had not been indoors other than my house for 11 months. Folks who were waiting for observation after their jabs were only about four feet apart. I knew that someone could potentially be asymptomatic and I started to feel a panic attack coming on. I also had the pain issue of standing still; due to arthritic problems I have increasing joint pain if I don’t pace a little. As my doubled masks started slipping off, I was so scared I started to fill the inner one with tears, even though I think and hope I was being quiet about it. I lasted maybe three minutes before simply bolting outside, where I stayed in sight outside the doors, pacing to avoid arthritic pain and feeling like a very bad person. Allan obediently stayed indoors, along with all the other good and cooperative patients waiting out their fifteen minute observation, which added to my anxiety as I picture him coated with indoor air. (He told me later that he felt uncomfortable.) Because I have read many news stories of hospitals and clinics with outbreaks (including one at the north end of our county), the medical setting did not reassure me. For 11 months, I have followed every Covid protocol more than almost anyone else I know, which before today would have got me a gold star if the health department was giving them out, but today, ironically, I was a rebel for refusing to stay indoors. Finally, the fifteen minutes was over and we could go home. I changed clothes and washed my hair while Allan took a shower and then I started to be able to breathe normally again. Later, it was helpful to me to hear from other friends who had experienced intense anxiety during indoor Covid jabs. One person had to go up in an elevator to a third floor clinic. She said she only took two breaths on the way up, even though she was alone, and she had to use mindful calming techniques to get through the fifteen minutes as she had no way to go outdoors.

I spent the rest of the day with a combination of relief at having the first jab and guilt about being crazy; watching gardening videos helped. [I have debated back and forth about leaving this story in the blog or deleting it like I do many of the paragraphs that I write about anxiety. This time, transparency won.]

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

At home, thank heavens

I got a box of plants from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. It’s too cold for them to go in the ground yet, I think.

I went outside into a cold early afternoon , thinking it would be a brief task to put some trays of cuttings into the new plastic greenhouse, as we are expecting freezing cold nights. Allan had finished the top of it yesterday.

I admired some flowers and berries. Crocus…

…and schefflera.

I took a bit of sedum out to put in a hollow spot in a willow. I would prefer a licorice fern but I’m don’t know where to acquire one.

The weather had warmed up. I fetched the big Fiskars shovel and went back to the west side of the willow grove where, over the years, with permission from Nora and then Alicia, we have dumped some of our garden debris on the next door property. An area where we dumped sod years ago had turned to what looked like some potentially good soil.

I started to go through the pile, sorting out weed roots, including some scary bindweed, putting some sorted out soil in an area where I’ve planted some Persicaria bistorta, and making a start on a more gardenish look on Alicia’s side outside the grove. I realize now that I’d like to shape it so that there is a path to seasonal pond on the south side of this mound.

That’s a start.

At three o clock, I turned my attention to carrying cut dry branches from the willow grove to the fire circle.

Dead salmonberry makes great kindling. Allan chopped it all into proper firewood.

And we had a campfire lunch in 40 degree weather.

As you can probably tell, we were not feeling side effects from our vaccine jabs. I had a little anxiety because I’d read after the fact that you should not take any painkillers before the jab as that might reduce its efficacy. I wish I had known that; I took two excedrin for a headache six hours before ours.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

We finally got some wonderful reading weather the next day, which I devoted to watching shows online about the Chelsea Flower Show. Having just spent days working at the very back of my garden, I especially liked this bit of an interview with garden designer Kazuyuki Ishihara. When an interviewer said, “You spend as much time perfecting the back of your gardens as most people spend on the front,” he responded:

Friday, 12 February 2021

A hailstorm had made some of the new plastic greenhouse blow away and collapse.

Faerie and I watched Allan fix it.

I tore myself away from gardening videos to churn out two blog posts, during which a miracle happened.

They actually touched noses with no hissing from Skooter, until she nuzzled up against him, and then he growled and hissed and moved away with much grumbling. Still, it was great progress in Catland.

Meanwhile, in Long Beach

New city gardener Megan Wagoner did some planting in new containers in what used to be a drive p-through alley south of the Cottage Bakery. It’s smart to turn it into outdoor bakery dining, although it will be a surprise for people like us who used to drive through there to get to Veterans Field.

Photo by Megan Wagoner

She took some photos of the bulbs coming up in other planters.

Photo by Megan Wagoner

Finally, have a look inside this Chelsea Flower Show article to see a short and inspirational video about gardens inside a Syrian refugee camp.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

At home

At about noon, I headed out to the willow grove. Faerie did her usual plea from the south Catio.

But I could not take her to where I would be using sharp heavy tools, not to mention that I think the occasional coyote might pass by the wild south garden so I don’t want to introduce her to its tangled enticements. In the spring, I will try some supervised playtime in the civilized garden.

We’d had a bit more rain.

As I walked past the Bogsy Wood swale, I regretted, as I have several times this winter, that I stored a hose and sprinkler at the east end. It is bad for pictures but I haven’t had the oomph to wade through the muck to hide it somewhere else.

My mission was to knock down part of the mound at the east end of the willow grove, outside the south fence. Before:

Even though I had the Slayer shovel and the heavy yellow pick, my oomph was low and I had not made much progress when Allan showed up to speed the project along. I had suggested to him that he’d been “him indoors” on his computer for too many days and that he needed some exercise. It was an observation guaranteed to appeal, as he does express concern about lack of exercise during staycation.

I switched to pulling ivy and sawing willow branches.

An hour and a half later, Allan had made a path with sharp edges that he later said was like a railway cutting.

Skooter appeared from the gear shed yard next door to try it out. (It was interesting to know that he prowls around over there.)

A before and after of the ivy and willow branch transformation that I had wrought while Allan dug:

I also hacked out some sedge in the center area of the grove just to make access to the seasonal pond look a little more welcoming.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

I returned to the willow grove with the idea of smoothing and softening the railway cutting. After an afternoon of enjoyable work and the addition of some ferns, shade perennials, and a Rhododendron ‘Blue Jay’ and a Ribes sanguineum (flowering currant) that were gifts from Our Kathleen, it looked more like a garden. I found some willow logs with which to make an edge and used some of the mound dirt to raise the level and planted two small box leaf honeysuckle at the end; they should get to over six feet tall and are, I think, deer resistant.

I fetched some of Allan’s wire and started to make a sort of twiggy branchy stop the eye barrier, utilizing the horizontal swoopy willow branches as the cross pieces.

The area behind the twiggy fence will be a debris and bramble wild spot. I might go after the Himalayan blackberry in there someday, or maybe not as it certainly makes a barrier (and probably a safe home for birds and frogs). The building in the distance is At the Helm Hotel, and you can see stacks of crab pots in the parking lot as the crabbers prepare for the season. Crabbing season is starting very late this year because of toxins in the crab. Usually the fleet would be almost done by now, but instead they are starting on about February 10th.

I want to control my desire to landscape every inch and leave the seasonal pond pretty wild for critters. Adding flowers and berries for birds would be good, though. Keeping the character of the willow grove and not making the planting too fancy and colorful might prove to be a challenge. To the left, below, is a pile of dead dry branches that would make a good campfire.

I am very well chuffed with all of this.

But first a wee flashback to February 1st.

I came up for air from that site I found with so many great gardening videos so that we could get some eggs from our new friend at Purly Shell at the port. We talked a bit about the Long Beach job, which is now in her capable hands.

Mother and daughter

Then home again and back down the gardening video rabbit hole.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

I accomplished one thing, dragging a tarp of ivy and holly out of the willow grove to fill the empty wheelie bin.

grey rain gauge

Here’s how the center of that wild landscape looked with the pile gone.

There’s more holly and ivy to the right of this photo to haul away next time the bin is empty.

I contemplated the ivy on the east side of the grove….

…and wondered if I should reshape the mound in order to access the east end better for planting.

But the air was cold and the lure of gardening videos was strong so contemplation was as far as I got.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Clear and mild weather forced me away from Gardeners’ World. I resisted the lure of the willow grove and weeded the boring grassy patch in the west bed, where I tried to grow beans last year.

My helper

Those weeds filled three wheelbarrows! The only other little project was to pinch sweet peas in the cold frame so they are not too leggy. Got that tip from Alan Titchmarsh on the garden video site. It has the entire Gardeners’ World 2002 season which, poignantly, was the last filmed in his “Barleywood” garden. It was wonderful. He is funnier and warmer than Monty Don.

Cold frame propped open to get a little air
The center bed…
With crocuses
The hellebore that Our Kathleen gave me. With Frosty in its name, it is in the cat memorial garden.
Skooter gave this intruder what-for.

It felt great to get the boring grassy weeding job done. I much prefer weeding among interesting plants. I’ve given up on beans in that area because it’s too shaded by the maple next door and will plant some perennials in there, ones I recently ordered from Digging Dog Nursery. I shouldn’t have procrastinated on my order; some plants I want were sold out already.

As soon as dusk came, I was ever so happy to dive down that gardening video rabbit hole. It has kept me from blogging and even from reading books for the past week.

1-2 February 2021

I looked at YouTube for some reason and it suggested an old Monty Don show called Real Gardens that I had wanted to see for years. There were five episodes (an incomplete season) featuring a very young Monty Don and Carol Klein.
The episodes were added recently so I hope there are more to come.

Monty, Carol, and other gardeners help amateur gardeners with their gardens. That led to a link to another site with all but two episodes of an entire season of Love Your Garden that I had not seen before…..a heartstring tugger of a show where Alan and his team help someone inspirational by making them a garden. I wish that the episode featuring a WWII veteran had not been deleted. When I find one of these sets of shows, I watch it as fast I can, setting books aside, in fear that it will disappear.

Each episode includes Alan touring a garden that inspires the one he and his team are building.

Today, I found on the same channel the entire (I think) 2002 season of Gardeners’ World, set partly in Alan Titchmarsh’s own garden and including visits to other gardens, including a gorgeous coastal garden in the first episode.

That’s where I will be for at least another full day. You might want to go there, too.

Real Gardens: https://youtu.be/vT3ZeHl6Vrg

Love Your Garden 2019: https://hdclump.com/category/love-your-garden-2019/

Gardener’s World 2002: https://hdclump.com/category/gardeners-world-2002/page/5/

And there is so much more….I’ve seen many of the Gardeners’ World seasons online (searching around the internet and also on the Inside Outside subscription channel)….but I am sure there is more here that I haven’t seen, including episodes of the Scottish show, Beechgrove Garden. Follow me down the rabbit hole if you so desire. (And oh!! There’s the sixth episode of Real Gardens!)

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.

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.

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.