January 11, 2020

Today was an off day, cleaning up after the Men’s Breakfast and buying indoor plants to dress the baptismal font for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord tomorrow.  Tomorrow is also the forty-fifth anniversary of my own baptism.

I was grateful to Mike for texting me just after 7.00 tonight to watch the moon rise.  It was a full moon, burnished gold in the ground fog and just rising above the hill.   Something close to a harvest moon.  I watched it rise through the gnarled bare branches of the oak trees, like a scene from Dracula’s castle.  A spectacular sight that I had not witnessed in my twenty years in California.

January 10, 2020

The nights are cold now, down below 40 degrees.  Other than feeding Spots his breakfast, I usually defer the outdoor work until 11.00 when temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees warmer.  Working in mildly cold sunshine is pleasant.

At midday.I laid down new soil and soil amendment where I tore out the the Bermuda grass last week.  Each of the three patches took two generous barrows full of soil, perhaps adding an even half to three quarters of an inch of new soil.  Thereafter I applied grass seed to the entire back yard.  I used the hand sifter and sprayer to create a more even spread of seed and to avoid the burnt areas from last year.  The patches of new soil took a heavier measure of hand sowing.

The soil is being laid on top of the previously seeded ground from last week.  I will see the effect of burying seed below a new level of soil and adding it on top.

January 9, 2020

An overcast day with intermittent showers and not much chance to work in the garden.  I wandered out in the rain to check the gutters directing water into areas of the garden and adjusting the outflow pipes.  Most of the day was spent the day clearing old paper work.

My reward was a spectacular sunset.  The cloud cover was low, and the sun reflected back on the clouds creating bands of muted grayish purple, pink and gold in the sky.  The fields in the winter landscape were set out in relief by a golden backlit sun.  The land is slowly coming green with the several weeks of rain.

Later, I went out to stand under a full moon in a cloudless night sky.  Clear starlight promises a sunny day tomorrow,  as forecast.

January 8, 2020

Heavy fog covered the ground through the morning.  I spent a good part of the  afternoon digging out the patches of Bermuda grass from the downward slope edge of the back yard.  Large sections along the stone border seem to have hosted nothing but Bermuda grass.  Fortunately, the grass dies down in the coldest months.  Approaching this never-ending task, I need to remember where I started last year.  I looked at a photograph I have kept from November 2018 that shows an eight foot tall wall of overgrown dry grass and weeds at that border area.  November 2018 when the Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise.

After digging out three large patches, I applied grass seed with weed control.  Rain is expected tomorrow, and the seed recommends 24 hours of dry weather to allow whatever toxins are included to eliminate unwanted weeds.  Rain is due tomorrow and more this coming weekend.


January 7, 2020

I finished my work in Oakland early, and made two stops on the way up to the ranch.

First to the Berkeley shop that sells Talavera tiles. A twelve inch square was a bit too expensive, but I found four 4″ by 4″ tiles to cover the footstool about to become a plant stand.  The shopkeeper showed me how the pattern would fit when four tiles are placed together.  I will use Quakehold to secure them to the top of the footstool, which should be sufficient to prevent slippage without creating an unbreakable seal.

I then repaired to the Berkeley Hort – featuring a broad range of stock even in January.  To my great surprise I found a replacement oenothera for the circle garden.  The California Native Plants section had a native huechera rubescens, presumably with a red flower,  and a native columbine as a companion for the one in the triangle garden.  For a bonus, in the Dry Ideas section I found a blue fescue to replace the deceased gray rush, reminiscent of the pin cushion planted in a prior incarnation of the circle garden.  I also looked for a replacement matilija poppy, but only found a ten gallon size.  

From there to Lowe’s for another bag of soil amendment.  While there, I snapped up a Karo Red coprosma, deep green leaves with red tips, also known as Mirror Plant most likely because of it waxy high gloss leaves.  

On the way in, I tucked the oenothera and blue fescue into the circle garden at the barn, and added the columbine next to MJ’s columbine in the triangle garden. 

I also planted the coprosma in the east corner garden in the back yard, between the two oleanders.  It may get crowded out in a few years and have to be moved; I will need to prune the oleanders diligently.  The Plant Starter in the bottom of the planting hole drained slowly. I broke up the rock shelf down several feet and added soil amendment, sprinkling water fortified with Plant Starter over the top of the newly planted coprosma.  

The huechera is still looking for a home.  It is a small plant, and in the shaded spot in the back yard garden,it might be mistaken mistaken for a weed.

At the end of the day Mike brought up an offering of used cat litter, and celery for Spots.

January 4, 2020

I picked up two eighteen packs of ice plant from Lowe’s, some ingrown.  I gently untangled the roots and will hope for the best.  I planted the seedlings sixteen inches apart in two separate rows, 24 feet in total.  The hard work is not in planting the rows but tearing up the deeply ingrown grass and weeds so the ice plant has a chance to survive.  The ice plant is met to provide erosion control just on the far side of the soon-to-be-living -in-hope retaining wall and  the bed that will abut the flagstones at the east end of the back yard.  The planting may be a little dense but allows for attrition. I watered the bank in and will see what happens in the spring.

The oenothera in the circle garden did not make it, and I pronounced the official certification of death. One gray rush also did not survive, and the helianthemum is struggling. I reactivated the timer with 15 minutes of water each day to offset the cold nights and dead headed the blue salvia.

I will do a full round of watering tomorrow morning before church as no rain is expected until Thursday.    

January 3, 2020

The front border garden camellia is giving spectacular blooms to begin the new year and decade.


I remember the turn of the century in 2000, with the fear of computer crashes and watching the new year dawn in Fiji and travel across the globe.  I remember the turn of the decade in 2010, when estate planners wondered about the repeal of the federal estate tax for one year.

I drove up late yesterday afternoon.  For the first time in a long while I took the road by the Camanche Reservoir.  A sunny afternoon showed off the greening of Jackson Valley.

In the last few hours of daylight I finished pruning the  third rose, and offloaded and applied six cubic feet of organic raised bed soil.  Many months ago Mike created a mulch pile with his chipper.  I have fed it with coffee grounds regularly and spread it to allow rain to dampen it.  The time has come to use it, and I applied two generous wheel barrows full to cover the new soil.  I will feed the roses when the first growth appears, most likely in February.