I drove up through the Delta at midday. Bright sun brought some relief to cold overnight temperatures in the 40s. The fruit trees are just beginning to blossom along the levee road. Should be quite a sight in another week or two.
I stopped by Annie’s on my way out of Oakland. I still can find no replacement rhaphiolepis – turns out that it is marketed exclusively by Walmart. I did find several yarrows (achillea) in the Natives Section, not the Drought Tolerant Section even though they are drought tolerant and deer resistant. The traditional yarrow is a goldenrod yellow, and Annie’s had the white and a beautiful salmon. I reassured the clerk that I did indeed want two salmons and one white for the back yard. She also cautioned me about the smell when yarrow is pruned. Not an issue for me – that musty smell reminds me of sun-drenched and wind-swept walks along the Mendocino and Aptos headlands above the Pacific.
I had an hour at the end of the day to plant the Swiss chard and red lettuce and to weed the onion bed. I followed what I believe is a French method to plant in doubles. I will have time this week to water in the lettuces to give them a good start, and hope for salad by the end of March. I also watered the newly pruned plants and was delighted to see that the fortnight lilies were already sending out new leaves.
I drove up through the Delta at midday. Gerry once reminded me that the delta road is not through a continuous stretch of the Central Valley but is in fact a series of islands. I was charmed to see the sheep grazing in the fields below the levee road, surrounded by flocks of seagulls.
I do not expect to accomplish much this week. Gutter maintenance and repair was postponed a week due to heavy rains and high winds. My time is also limited because I will be going in for the Gospel Workshop in Oakland on Thursday. I sheltered the rolling camellia under the porch and watered the indoor plants.
This past Sunday I stopped by the Farnums to pick another pound of walnuts and three cases of 2016 Tempranillo, the latest bottling of our wine group. The road to Oakland was through Sacramento and down Interstate 80, with surprisingly little close of weekend traffic. Anyone who made it to Lake Tahoe has been snowed in for five days. Today’s storm may bring another two to three feet of snow to the highest elevations. This level of snow pack is a historical average. We have forgotten what a normal snow pack looks like in the past four to five years of drought.
The Bierces hosted the annual Shuffleboard Tournament today. They drew a large crowd that appreciated the change to a lunchtime event. I was eliminated in the first round and joined the crew that completed two 300 piece puzzles in a few hours.
Rain was heavy and continuous throughout the day. I had not turned over a wheelbarrow when I finished work yesterday, and it became an informal rain gauge. The bucket of the wheelbarrow held 2 to 2 1/2 inches of water by the end of the day and the rain continued to fall.
I had prints of my digital photos made at Walgreen’s. I have a collection of before and after pictures, starting with the first day of my retirement last year. It is gratifying to see the progress that has been made, particularly the work invested to clear Piggy’s old pen and his summer and winter quarters. That area is now open land that Mike mows with the tractor.
Another bright sunny day – the next predicted storm will not blow through until this evening. Today was an odd jobs day. I repaired the trim panels on the last section of the back yard fence, sanded the entire section and applied two coats of primer. Next week I will sand again and apply paint to match the colors on the house. Two odd knobs were shoved into knot holes. I will need to dig them out and apply wood filler before I sand and paint.
I also leveled the flagstones along the front fence and poured the Paver Set between them. I am not sure whether the stones are set far enough apart and will see how they weather in.
I thought I had harvested all the onions from the kitchen garden last fall. Apparently I missed more than a few. They are merrily sprouting in the nearest raised bed, and this was the first time I went back to the kitchen garden this year. Del Farnum tells me that second year onions go to seed quickly and he recommends harvesting soon. I turned over the one raised bed and removed large quantities of grass and weeds. I also bought Swiss chard and red lettuce to plant next to the resurrected onions. Those two lettuces should be hardy in the cold weather and may be ready to harvest when MJ comes in late March.
Mike got the Toro weed whacker running again after a four-month break. I used the Toro on the areas that Mike could not reach with the tractor – around the trees, along the corporation yard fence and on the slope down from the driveway.
The camellia in the border garden along the house wall continues to be prolific. I brought in two blooms for the breakfast table, and many more remain on the tree as a daily joy.
Mike and I wrestled the large dog house out of Spots’s pen with the tractor and hauling chains. The house is about eight feet across with two doorways, and it was built for the ages. Mike attached the chains to heavy steel eyelets that he screwed into the frame. The wood was rotted, however, and we ripped eyelets out of the frame a few times maneuvering the house through the narrow gate. Another biblical parallel.
Mike hoisted the dog house onto the bucket of the tractor and drove it straight down the hill to his house. He also took down the steel fencing, a 8-10 foot long wire fencing panel, and two pallets that we hauled out of the pen. Spots misses his sun deck. Mike has thought seriously about buying two more goats as companions to Spots and mobile lawn mowers around his house. The steel fencing will give the goats a specific area to munch on and can be moved after a section is eaten down.
Mike mowed the entire area where Gerry planted the olive trees, from the edge of lawn around the house as ar down as the creek. He also has begun pruning back the olive trees to encourage growth and bearing. A real olive grove is in the making, twenty-four mature trees in all.
The (newly) dwarf oleander is already showing new growth. As predicted, the new growth emerges from three leaf clusters. I even thought I saw new flower stems.
Only a half day in the garden today – the Worship Committee met this morning. The snow pack in the high Sierras is now at normal, three to four feet with more snow predicted later this month. We have forgotten what normal looks like after five years of drought. As I drove into Sutter Creek, I saw many snow roofs on vehicles. Snow was reported at 3000 feet, about 45 minutes up Highway 88 in Pioneer.
Low temperatures have hovered around freezing this week. The recently pruned plants may be tender in these cold nights. By midday the temperature rises into the 50s. I watered all the plants generously this afternoon, with the thought that well-watered ground will encourage their roots to burrow down and preserve the plants from the cold.
The cold weather does not seem to discourage the gophers. The soft earth is a field day for them. I continue to apply cat litter to plug the holes where they appear.
Cold temperatures also make for clear starlit skies. I stood outside for a few minutes to marvel at the night sky.
One of the great joys of retirement is waking with sun, particularly with the low light sunrises outside my window. I may have been able to get a decent picture of the winter sun through the bare oaks this morning and the reflection on the fire prevention pond.
When I turned my back, the weed of the month took over the front slope around the manzanita and the newly planted English lavender. A tiny plant much like Baby’s Breath and next to impossible to dig up. I dug it out around the established plants, first with a trowel and them with a shovel. After a few minutes of this pointless effort, I gave in and went for the Roundup. Digging out some of the weeds allowed me to keep the Roundup on a perimeter away from the plants,
While I was on the front slope, I trimmed more dead wood off the manzanita. I also replaced the soil that had eroded away from the main plant at the top of the slope. Next week I will need to place stones to prevent future erosion.
I laid out flagstones along the front fence, much like a jigsaw puzzle. I will set the stones in next week when I have time to level them out. As I worked, the air was changing and turning colder. I left for Oakland just as the rain began to fall and drove west into the atmospheric river.