Juneteenth, 2021

The first time a new federal holiday has been declared in 47 years. Extreme temperatures may abate a little today.

Most of the work now is checking and repairing irrigation systems as needed and cleaning the main filter. Mike may need to speak to the pump contractor about an automatic shutoff in case the pump starts to suck only algae, or worse yet only air. I gave the blueberries and photinia supplemental water. So far everything is surviving on a minimal drip and two day cycle.

June 18, 2021

The temperature reached 90 degrees by 9:00 in the morning and I expect it will still be at 90 degrees at 9:00 at night. Sunset is just fading at 9:00 on these longest days of the year.

I brushed the moss off the air conditioning units at MJ’s suggestion. The first use of the year and all three units, including the upstairs unit, seem to be fully operational. I will try running the unit for the main room from noon to 1:45 each day I am here, to keep the temperature around 78 degrees.

I spent the morning weeding out the back slope ice plant. Surprisingly, the ground is mostly moist and the weeding went easily.

The Saint John’s Wort needed a generous pruning, mostly removing the lower growth and suckers at the base of the plant. It is very giving with a profusion of red blooms and yellow berries. While in the area, I dead headed the Martha Washington geranium, which appears headed for a great summer season.

June 17, 2021

Triple digit temperatures are expected for today and the next two days. Voluntary conservation of energy use is asked from 5 to 10 in the evening.

I tend to chores early in the morning, rising heat preventing work after 9:00. Animals are in search of water wherever they can find it. Every morning I find the irrigation line at the east end of the Back Border Garden neatly taken off at the connector. I deployed cat litter and and deer and rabbit repellent. Deer and rabbit repellent also on Myrtle of the Far East and all three roses. Deer seem also to have found one of the ceanothuses in the Front Slope Garden.

Ants have taken over the kitchen. Just leave a knife a residue of a cheese slice on the counter and you will attract a crowd in minutes.

I cut off the spent bloom stalks on the sweet pea at the gazebo, and pruned back the dead growth. MJ spoke with a homeowner and gardener on the Skye Walk in San Diego who was trying to train a sweet pea up a trellis. The common wisdom was that the sweet pea favors horizontal and not vertical growth. My solution was to load the end vines onto the top of the gazebo hoping to encourage new horizontal growth across the roof. The sweet pea received supplemental water from the rain barrel after its pruning and shaping.

June 16, 2021

MJ and Judy drove up for Bob’s memorial service. We loaded the car for the southbound trip this morning, mostly treasures for the new Magic House.

I was proud to give MJ a tour of the garden that she has not seen in a year and a half. I shared my theory of the back yard looking out on the land, inspired by the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. She was surprised that the Ice plant on the back slope was not irrigated and yet was established.

The pink and deep red oleanders are just beginning to bloom. The liberta in the back border garden has a feathery pink bloom, even if I mistook it for a California native iris. Another unlooked for blessing.

MJ is willing to send the last coleonema on its way, leaving a large hole in the front slope garden to fill. Two likely candidates are the lamium and spider agave in the Experimental Box. The coleonema never responded well to pruning and always looked ratty.

We sat at the gazebo and watched the sun set below the ridge of trees. Jerry’s pine tree and his ice plant hold him in memory.

May 22, 2021

I was up early to muck out Spots’s stable and spread more cover over the Berry Patch. Spots got past me out of his enclosure and would have eaten his way through all three berry bushes, if allowed. Several minutes of a chase with a hit and run on the berry bushes. I am now giving Spots more grass as he misses greenery at this time of the year.

The purple lantana in the Front Border Garden has already outgrown its space. I cut it back by a third and cleared the sidewalk.

The spent stalks on the native verbena were cut back. I am not sure it will have a second bloom.

I kept the Insert from the last Communion Sunday. It includes a beautiful Prayer of Confession and Pardon that reflects on the image of the vine and branches. Forgive us, Lord when we neglect to draw deeply from the sap of life. Have mercy on us and prune our unfaithful branches My inspiration for cutting back the purple lantana.

May 21, 2021

Our faithful group met to rehearse and record the virtual Pentecost service this morning. High winds came through last night, blowing over lawn chairs and scattering cushions. Much like the rush of the Spirit through God’s holy people.

Deer appear to have made a thorough midnight snack of the roses. I pruned them back and dusted with Repels All. The marigolds received the liquid spray repellent, although I cannot determine which is more effective, if either. All the container plants had another dose of slug bait.

I saw what I thought was an armadillo in the road as I headed out, on the last stretch of the private road before Buena Vista Road. Need to investigate if they have made the home in California that they have in west Texas.

In the afternoon Frank and I walked over the dam at Lake Tabeaud and up into the higher country, crawling under a fence to reach an open ridge. Beautifully open view of the entire countryside and the black clouds that were climbing up from the valley to where we were. We finished the walk in scattered rain that increased through the late afternoon. The dam at Lake Tabeaud created a wind funnel as we crossed back at the end of our walk. Since when do we have rain in the third week of May?

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I repotted the aster one more time for transport to La Mesa.

May 14, 2021

The Mexican Primrose and flowering quince in the Circle Garden were looking stressed. I cleared the algae out of the filter and added a bubbler directly on the main irrigation line in the middle of the primrose patch. Mike came up later and found a second filter that was just as clogged. He added a new tap at the Circle Garden to avoid the need to turn the water off at the far side of the barn. With the clogs resolved we reduced the daily water timer to 30 minutes.

I ran the gas powered weed whacker down the center driveway strip. My current nightmare is a spark from my low-lying car that ignites a brush fire as I pass over that strip. The car already rustles as I roll out. The grass in the open areas around the house is completely dry and the ground is compacted.

The hummingbird on the cherry salvia this afternoon was a delightful moment.

May 13, 2021

Temperatures reached into the 90s coming across the valley yesterday afternoon. I may have seen fields not being planted this year. The marsh grasses are still plentiful on the Stockton levee road.

I pruned the tangerine tree to allow light into the center and to contain the tree within the Oakland back garden space. That tree has many promising buds and blossoms. I also pruned back the outlier shoots on the climbing rose to keep it a concentrated ball. Its blooming season should now be over.

As I came up the back driveway, I saw that the Mexican primrose at the Circle Garden has spent its blooms. Hopefully I can encourage a second bloom, perhaps mostly for the benefit of the deer that roam the property at night.

I spent a few hours this morning digging out thistle on the back slope. I was surprised how deeply rooted it was, needing to shovel it out. I may wait further into the dry season for further digging, as the thistle is still green. Apparently water seeps down the back slope.

I deployed flash type on all three berry bushes. This is the Year of the Tall plants in the Triangle Garden. Both natives, columbine and verbena, have tall spikes that sway gently in the wind, with orange and pink blooms respectively at the end of the tall stalks.

May 8, 2021

Two years in coming, the first bloom on the matilija poppies. I looked back to May 2019 when they were first planted. Lots of buds now as well.

The crimson and white ostespermums are coming back for a second bloom after pruning. I worked on the lavender ostespermum this morning.

Time of systematic maintenance on the flagstones. I expended four gallons of Roundup – two refills of the container, front, side and back. My hope is to catch the weeds just before the dry season settles in for good. I prefer weeds that are not just dormant but dead to the roots.

I pruned back all three roses and removed the spent blooms. They are all already flourishing this season. The two pink roses appear to have a dusty border effect.

Mike and I tended the back lawn and border irrigation system yesterday. The chart will need to be updated to trace from each valve to the respective sprinklers and drips. Removing algae clogged filters substantially improved water pressure and coverage. I also found and dug out another sprinkler buried in the grass, just in front of the herb garden.

May 6, 2021

I am back at the ranch. Coming across the San Joaquin Valley yesterday afternoon was like hitting a wall. Temperatures into the 90s will abate today. The tile keeps the house cool, and I do not expect to turn on the air conditioning until mid-July.

The Triangle Garden has become the land of tall plants. The native columbine has orange blooms at the end of a forest of tall center stalks. Same bloom in shape, just not columbine white and blue. The brave little columbine is also back, sheltered under the wings of her native sister, with the traditional white bloom.

The native verbena has long slender stalks with the traditional purple-pink cluster blooms at the ends. Just not a ground cover. The flashbulb lotus in the container is beginning to show its orange blooms, like tongues of fire. A candidate for the current most interesting Dr. Seuss plant. The deep crimson petunia with yellow centers will be the Cinderella hit for this year.

I checked the photinia to confirm that it was receiving plentiful water from the drip. I reduced the flow a turn or two, hoping to find a sustainable irrigation level through the next six months.

I cleared the dead leaves and clover around Grandmother Camellia, followed by the usual program of supplemental water, mulch and water on the mulch. No fewer than four irrigation feeders should be sufficient to sustain Grandmother through the upcoming season. I will need to feed all three camellias soon.