August 22, 2020

The house cooled down below 80 degrees overnight. As I drove in from a trip to Jackson yesterday afternoon, I saw that the intake pipe of the fire prevention pond was out of the water. I opened the spigot, and sixteen hours overnight filled the fire prevention pond to a reasonable level.

I am back to my routine of an hour and a half work before breakfast. Yesterday the trip to Lowe’s featured four bags of Preen mulch and a container of of Repels-all, allegedly an effective animal repellent that irritates and deters animals without harming them. When I opened the container, the contents smelled suspiciously like cayenne pepper.

I treated the photinia this morning, scattered the animal repellent and lightly watered it in, as instructed. Last night I chased off a jackrabbit that looked a bit too content in the middle of the driveway.

This morning I worked on the new back yard border garden, from the Citrus Box to the flagstone edge. I weeded thoroughly, deracinating Bermuda and crab grass with abandon. I churned the soil with Preen, added water, and laid down Preen mulch. The mulch seems to promote water conservation – the alyssum in the front triangle garden is thriving with the only change in planting a generous layer of mulch.

I added a new irrigation feeder to the Mexican daisy in the back corner and redirected the feeders among the yarrows. Supplemental water all round.

August 20, 2020

The house cooled down below 80 degrees overnight. At this time of year that is an event.

Grass was overgrown just beyond the retaining wall on the downward slope of the back yard. I actually worked a full hour this morning digging out that grass. Pat of my ongoing fight to protect the broad view of the rolling California hills, pale grass land and valley oaks, in the manner of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

To my delight, the white oleander in the front border garden is recovering well, more green growth and plenty of blooms. Neem oil seems to work effectively against the scale problem.

August 19, 2020

The sun was burnt orange this morning, shining faintly through the heavy smoke layer. Wildfires burning in Vacaville and Fairfield leave a smoke haze across the San Joaquin Valley. The current debate is whether specific types of mask are better against COVID or against smoke.

I applied a dose of Wet Water to the rockroses in the front slope garden. The bottle that I found in the garage claims it is an ionized water treatment meant to address compacted soils and increase underground water retention. In accordance with the directions, I saturated the root system around the two rockroses and the cherry red salvia After the treatment, I laid down an additional layer of Preen mulch and watered it in. I will monitor the rockroses but do not expect much new growth for the rest of the dry season.

August 9, 2020

I managed a little work before church this morning, pruning more diseased blooms off the white oleander and applying another round of neem oil.  I trimmed spent stalks off the second fortnight lily walking in from the driveway.

Yesterday evening I saw lantana blooms appearing in the middle of the lavender. I pruned back both plants and found a manifold between them.  In my pruning enthusiasm I severed an irrigation feeder and and had to install a connector.  I will need to watch the silver and gold euonymus and cherry salvia that the reconnected feeder appears to service.

The French lavender is now well established and has a wonderful scent, a terrific addition to the olfactory garden.

The tenants must have been moving cows to another pasture, quite a ruckus this morning.  Apparently I am not the only one to take advantage of the cool early mornings.

The sunflowers continue to thrive, and I continue to work the spent flowers into the ground on the back slope.

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August 8, 2020

I was up early to run Mike’s gas powered weed whacker. I cleared the slope down from the retaining wall off the back porch, and along the rock border at the far end of the Front Slope Garden. For extra measure, I went after the slope between the driveway and fire lane.  I raked off the grass and debris but have not removed it yet.  The weed whacker and I both ran out of gas.  

Heat storm is now in my vocabulary.   A heat storm is a Californian term for an extended heat wave, when the temperature reaches 100 degrees for three or more consecutive days over a wide area, tens of thousands of square miles.  Highest ever recorded temperatures are being reported all over California, up to 130 degrees in Death Valley.  Notwithstanding the heat storm, plenty of potato shrub is still available for Spots.

this week I can go through a t-shirt in less than an hour and a half.  Time for breakfast, with a hummingbird on the magenta salvia outside the window for company.  

August 5, 2020

I was up early to tackle the last of the back slope. Mike loaned me his gas powered portable weed whacker, and it does a decent job.  “Let the machine do the work” , he says to me. A valuable lesson as I scramble up and down the slope. As with any new machine, there was a learning curve – cut the tops off the thistle and other overgrown weeds before taking on the stalks lower to the ground. The green growth near the retaining wall is the easiest to cut through. I finished the last of the slope in a little over two hours, including raking off the dead grass and other weeds.  Jerry’s pine tree has emerged from the died grass again, and I dug out one pine sapling that was a volunteer.

San Francisco Chronicle reports 5,800 wildfires already this season, burning 205,000 acres  None around Amador County so far. The stated goal of Cal Fire is to contain 95% of wildfires to 10 acres.  I am glad to assist in that process.

August 4, 2020

Today was a maintenance day. Purple lantana is encroaching everywhere. I cut it back off the house wall, out of the pink geraniums, and off the railroad tie border.

I gave supplemental water to the pink salvia that is coming back slowly from pruning.  The earlier pruning may have been a bit too enthusiastic.

The white oleander shows more evidence of scale and the blooms are diseased.  I pruned the shrub back by a third, removed the diseased blooms and applied another round of neem oil.

I mowed the lawn at midday.  The lawn has mostly filled in up to the rock border on the downward slope and actually grows faster than the rest of the lawn.  Not all of it is crab grass and Bermuda grass.

August 3, 2020

I was up early to clear green growth just below the west end of the back retaining wall.  In the process I uncovered another sunflower.  In the great tradition, I trimmed the spent flowers and sowed the seeds onto the ground.

The hummingbird on the cherry salvia out the breakfast nook window is becoming a regular companion.

I adjusted the sprinkler in the east corner of the back lawn and directed it back towards the grass.  That corner has not yet produced more than seasonal Bermuda grass.  Still, the patch to clear next winter will be smaller.  I am thinking of seeding in the fall as well, as soon as the rains arrive.  Little Myrtle of the Far East will need to survive on a bubbler.  I replaced the caps blown off the irrigation hose in the Corner Garden, to limit excessive watering of the flagstones.

I enjoyed sitting in the summer house for a few minutes and taking in the land.  The breeze up the valley was delight.  While there, I twined the sweet pea up and down the guide wires.

The moon is full tonight and I can walk the house by moonlight.  I even saw a harvest moon in the early evening, low against the sky with that deep burnt orange glow, silhouetting the valley oaks east of the house.

August 1, 2020

I came back this afternoon after a week in Oakland finishing the Ethics Guide and taking down a twelve foot rose bush for recreation.

The evenings are still cool, and sunset came at 8.15 with twilight for another half hour.    Mike was up to work on the irrigation to the Circle Garden up at the barn, and asked me to inspect the work. Three plants on the far side of the circle were stressed in the heat, and I couldn’t figure why the irrigation feeders were not working or how to rescue them. Mike to the rescue – with a new higher diameter irrigation line and direct feeders off that line. His theory was that the old system had a tee, and the water flow continued forward without branching off.  I finished trimming dead growth off Shrub, and hopefully will encourage it come back.

Mike was intrigued at  a post that for the first time in 822 years, a single month will have three Saturdays, three Sundays and three Mondays.  Apparently, an omen of prosperity in Chinese culture.

July 27, 2020

I was out early morning for my chores. Temperatures are expected to remain high for the remainder of the week.  I will be in Oakland for most of the week finishing the edits for the Ethics Guide.  In addition to the benefit of high speed internet, temperatures in Oakland should be 20-25 degrees cooler by the Bay.  Thank you, California micro-climates.

I pruned back the two longest established salvias, pink and royal blue, in upper end of the front slope garden.  The goals are to avoid sprawl and conserve water.  The sage smell when cutting was a pleasant start to the morning.