Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Keepin' My Head Above What?
The rains returned to the Inland Valley Tuesday. Even the local TV Weathercasters are getting tired of being the bearers of bad news. Up in the High Sierra the locals are developing the siege mentality wherein foxhole fatalism is the order of the day. I for one, don't miss that one bit!
I do however have my own cross to bear. I'm itching to get the garden going here at the Ancestral Digs, but I'm too old to "play in the mud"! There is some digging involved with gardening, not to mention the irrigation upgrade, and this garden hasn't had much love since my Dad took ill. Oh, the gardeners come every week, and do the heavy lifting...they've done a bang-up job for the most part, husbanding Dad's roses, and keeping the hedges trimmed, the leaves blown, and the clippings in the green recycling can.
When Dad got sick, he couldn't tend his garden anymore, so now we're three years behind the fertilizing, dividing, and replanting...not to mention the irrigation, the pest management and the roundup and control of all the volunteers and upstarts.
On Monday, my niece (of the SiskiyouCounty Branch of the Family Tree) stopped by for dinner and an overnight on her way to Los Angeles. Since she lived here fifteen or so years more recently than I did, I toured the backyard with her and quizzed her about what she remembered about this tree, that shrub...do you remember the Apple Tree that used to be here? Or was it a Crab Apple? Do you remember when these roses were Red instead of purple?
She had dim memories too, but thought the "Apple Tree Root Suckers" were a Lilac. The new huge, wild Privet she had no memory of, and noticed the one remaining red rose cane on the rose that was overgrown with blooming rootstock suckers. I looked through the photos of the yard from the past several years, and the privet interloper made it's first appearance about five years ago.
With the rainy weather stymieing my gardening, I turned to the indoor pursuit of garden glory...I started the Garden's Book. I needed a name for the garden, so I could give the Garden's Journal a proper title.
Way back before I moved to the DaveCave, I had an extensive garden of raised beds and a greenhouse all with automated irrigation and some perennial beds of Alpine Strawberries and Asparagus. Even in frigid Truckee, my Homebuilt Three Bin Composter built of salvaged lumber, turned out a cubic yard of rich mature compost every year, thanks to my Winter Hobby, All Grain Home Brewing! I learned by trial and error to keep a garden journal because ink on paper is a photographic memory...exactly the kind of memory I do not possess.
Given my flair for the obvious, naturally I named the garden: "The Ancestral Diggins" with a tip of the hat to the 49ers. No, not San Francisco's NFL Team, but their namesakes...the sturdy pioneers who came to California during the Gold Rush, and named everything in Gold Country "So and So's Diggins". I believe there's more places in Gold Country named "Whoever's Diggins" than named "Whoever-ville"
My Dad was a very organized Civil Engineer of German Extraction, and he loved to make drawings, plans, and As-Built Drawings. (His love of Drafting was an early clue that he wanted to be an engineer) Here at the Ancestral Digs, his files are brimming with folders and drawings of all the mechanical systems, the electrical plan, pool and filter plumbing, etc...but curiously, no Garden Journal, no garden plan, no sprinkler schematic, in short...no garden documentation. I suspect that he loved his garden enough that he didn't feel the need to write it down...it was in his heart. Well someone else will tend this garden after me, and I'll be away six months every year, so "The Ancestral Diggins Garden Book" is born.
The first thing that went in the book was the 2010 Wishlist, then the 2011 Wishlist. I spent a good portion of Sunday night researching online at the County Master Gardeners' Website, the UC Davis Sites and Farmer Fred Hoffman's Website for advice on which plants would like to live here in Sunset Zone 14/USDA Zone 9. I perused several Online Seed Emporia, and ordered some more seeds and supplies from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. They threw in two free packets of seed with my order: "Moon & Stars" watermelon, an heirloom grown by Thomas Jefferson, named for the unusual markings on it's midnight blue rind that resemble a full moon on a field of stars. The second gratis packet was a cabbage "Express Red"
Monday afternoon, I did errands...groceries, pharmacy, UPS Store, and a tour of the three nearest Nurseries to survey their seed inventory and seedling stock. I found my favorite watermelon seed at the mid-distance yard. "Mickylee" is a large icebox watermelon that I used to get from my friend Spud, who's been Truckee's "One-Man-Farmer's Market" for better than two decades.
Spud's retired from the railroad, blessed with the gift of gab, and his family are growers in the Marysville/Yuba City area. Spud knows a bunch of the truck farmers in the area and he's been bringing a van-full of vine ripe tomatoes, stone fruits and melons in-season every weekend from Memorial Day through October, forever. Several years ago, Spud started selling a new watermelon named Mickylee that I absolutely loved. The grower was a Widow who was carrying on after her husband had passed. Spud had her Mickylees for several seasons until we had our last long...cold...and wet Spring, when she decided not to plant her Micklees so late. She never grew the variety again, and I couldn't find Mickylee seed in home garden quantities anywhere online. It made my week to find a packet just three miles away!
At lunch yesterday my Mom mentioned that Dad's Favorite Red Rose had a problem. I looked, and sure enough there were deep purple spots on several leaves. I'd noticed the same trouble on a yellow rosebush in the back of the garden a couple of days ago.
Today, between showers, I clipped a sample of the infected rose leaves, the Lilac, and the interloping Privet, and bagged them in Ziplox, and headed down to the nearest nursery. Believe it or not, there was another customer in there in his Slicker and Sou'wester! It was raining pretty good, and the Nursery's Owner invited me into her office to get out of the rain. She confirmed my diagnosis of Rose Black Spot Fungus. She was intrigued with my tail of using garlic cloves blended with water and strained into a hand sprayer as an organic fungicide on damping off fungus on my seed starts. I love it when a story I'm telling someone turns the lights on for them!
She confirmed the Lilac and the Privet, and said the Lilac was likely planted by my father, as she'd never heard of birds or squirrels propagating Lilacs. The Privet on the other hand are infamous as invaders...spread by birds.
The WeatherDude on Channel 2 said Wednesday morning should be shower-free. I can get the Black Spot trimmed and removed from the garden before the next round of showers Thursday.
Baby steps...gotta start at the beginning I guess...