March 25, 2019

We came back to Oakland today after a full weekend in Fresno.  At MJ’s suggestion we drove down to Visalia to visit Mooney Park.  The park is home to a replica of the famous statue, The End of the Trail, the original of which was donated to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.  The statue is of a mounted Indian hunched over his saddle with a spear dragging on the ground, all larger than life. Amazing how much sadness and loss can be communicated through a work of art.

On the way back we peeled of Highway 99 and wandered through Kingsburg and Sanger.  We missed the blossom trail by about a week  – most of the trees in the orchards along the roadway had already gone to leaf.   There were a few late blossoming ornamental plum trees with a deep purple or pink flower.  We also saw the netting over the almond trees to keep the birds off the tender growth. The orchards on the way to the ranch are a little behind, and I still see many blossoming trees beside the road.

Saturday was opening day at the Forestiere Gardens, almost canceled due to morning rain while we were at the memorial service.  The out-of-town family caught the last tour of the day at 4.00.  I remember Ben taking me to the gardens one July 4 holiday weekend.  The rooms preserved underground are a tribute to one man’s vision and painstaking labor over thirty years, mostly with a pick ax digging through hard pan.  The Forestiere Gardens gave me the idea of planting a lemon and a lime tree in the same planter box.  Baldassare Forestiere grafted seven fruits onto a single tree, and I now know what a chedro is.

March 21, 2019

A beautiful bright morning today.  Elizabeth was up early, not having adjusted completely from East Coast time.  We had another loving tour of the garden before breakfast, with the three roses already returned to full new growth.

MJ still wanted to weed a little on this trip.  She chose a small area between the bayberry and the correopsis, Francis looking on approvingly.  I have the Franco Zefferelli film in my mind and the new age Mother Earth folk song from that movie: “If you want your dream to be, build it slow and surely. Small beginnings, greater ends, heartfelt work grows purely.”  We handed Elizabeth a trowel and weeded the area together in short order.  Gloves were required for the thistle.

We had a pre-op with Mike and Betty to wish him good results and a speedy recovery from his surgery scheduled for Monday.  Afterwards we were on our way to Fresno.

March 20, 2019

MJ was at work today.  Elizabeth will fly in for the funeral, and MJ will pick her up in Sacramento.

I did not accomplish much in the garden today, due to a combination of steady rain, preparing butter chicken for dinner and changing sheets and towels.  MJ can still use the flannel sheets from January as the nights are still in the 40s.

I moved the pots with the California fuschia and lamium to the back  yard. A ninety gallon rain barrel should help keep the plants well watered.  The lamium pot completes the line of the rock border at the east end of the lawn.

I offloaded nine cubic yards of soil amendment for the new raised bed along the house, and harvested Swiss chard and red lettuce to add to a salad for dinner.  The red lettuce had a bitter taste that was interesting in small doses, dressed with plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

March 19, 2019

Born on the Fourth of July, married on Valentine’s Day and died on Saint Patrick’s Day.  I am missing my brother Ben today and need the healing of the ranch.

I picked up MJ at the Oakland Airport and we proceeded directly to the Snake.  Midday traffic made for an easier route out of the Bay Area.  A tour of the garden is always first.  MJ asked me “How is your garden?” and I did not fight her.  More and more the garden is becoming my great work and love.

Two camellias were in full bloom, and the Saint Francis rockrose has reached his shoulder height.  We inspected the new growth on the oleander that we pruned to half its size in January.

MJ approved the new planter boxes and had ideas for more.  I was proud of clearing the six foot tall brush off the back of the lawn and laying the rock border to prevent erosion.  The incidental benefit of that work is a sweeping vista of the surrounding hills and valley oaks.  She had the excellent suggestion of growing cherry tomatoes in the trough garden. The vegetable garden that Jerry built is too far from the house for me to tend it regularly.  I may have better results with the water trough just outside the back door.  The question will be whether that area has enough sun for tomatoes, since it is sheltered part of the day by the house and eaves.

March 15, 2019

When I picked up nine cubic yards of Raised Bed and Container Soil from Lowe’s, what to my wondering eyes should appear but raphiolepis, Indian hawthorn with a dark leaf offsetting a pale pink flower.  I asked at the major nurseries in the Bay Area and  the Rising Sun Nursery in Burson, and I might just as well have been asking for an extraterrestrial life form. The raphiolepis is now proudly planted in triangle garden thwhere the gardenia once grew, with its own dedicated drip sprinkler.

Mike and I cut a piece of one by ten foot board to complete the bottom edge of the corporation yard fence that runs beside the front of the house.  I have pictures of boards of various lengths and widths that were tacked on that bottom border.  The goal was to have a single continuous board 113 inches long to trim the bottom of the fence.  I primed both sides of the board, and Mike and I installed it at the end of the day.  Of course the land sloped away along the length of the fence.  The trim board was not completely level when installed because it came way off the ground at the lower end.  We compromised on the level and allowed the trim board to follow the slope of the land slightly.  Just looked better to my eye.

The callibrochea was not watered for a few weeks and went the way of all good things.  I was able to save the golden lysimachia and the lamium and got them bedded down in appropriate containers.  In a moment of picnic, I planted the three yarrows that I bought at Annie’s in the bed outside MJ’s bedroom. They were severely pot bound, and I unraveled the roots with difficulty.  Hopefully, a combination of soil amendment, Quick Start and ample rain water will bring them to life.

I mowed the lawn for the first time this season, wanting to wait until the boxes were finished and all the topsoil moved.  Afterwards, I turned on the water, also for the first time of this season, and lawn sprinklers are working at full pressure.  I regret on dry patch that may have been burned out by two much fertilizer.  Time heals all wounds.


March 14, 2019

Mike finished the box last night, counter sinking the lag bolts and staggering and leveling the back of the box.  Miraculously, perhaps only to me, the back side of the box is parallel to the  house foundation. The back side is meant to keep soil and water off the house siding and foundation.

I began filling the water trough with five bags of gravel, about two inches from the bottom.  There followed topsoil from the pile in the front of the house.  I shoveled topsoil into two large feed bags, lifted the bags into the wheelbarrow, hauled them into the back yard to lift again and pour.  Repeat twenty or so times.  The commercially packaged fruit and herbs soil filled the last quarter of the trough.  Thirty-six inches in diameter and thirty inches high, however many cubic feet of topsoil that calculates.  

Mike did not see the necessity of making the topsoil fill as labor intensive as possible.  He brought up the Kubota tractor to move the last of the topsoil into the newly finished box.  The bucket measures 48 inches across, and fits through the two gates easily.  Mike maneuvered the tractor to the topsoil pile, lowered the bucket so that I could shovel in the maximum amount for each of four or five trips. Considerably easier than wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow.

I dumped the rocks that I had collected around the water trough, added paver set and watered.  The effect is rather nice.  I did not have enough stones to complete the area.  I will need to scour the land for more stones, small sized for the most accessible areas in front and to the porch side of the trough.  The roadway was scraped recently to smooth over the rivulets from lots of winter rains, and many small stones should be available at the side of the road.


March 13, 2019

Mike and I spent the day assembling the box for the bed alongside the house, approximately eight feet by fifteen feet.  Mike brought up his circular saw and told me he could cut the posts to any length.  The perfectionist in me asked for a length of fifteen  feet six inches.  That length left just enough room to set the water trough in the remaining length of the side of the house, and leave a comfortable walkway around it. I held up one end of the sixteen by four while Mike cut six inches off with the circular saw.

I dug into the ground near the house at the highest level of the slope and laid brick pieces at the corners and the back seams.  The sides of the box are level without coming out noticeably at the edge of the lawn, sloping down eight feet from the house.

As with the other boxes Mike undertook to countersink the lag bolts at the corners.  Best of all he found a guide that could be clamped onto the end of a twelve by four, and used to drill down at a 45 degree angle.  The lag bolts were driven in at that angle and countersunk to join the staggered pieces at the back of the box.  Neat and clean.

Meanwhile I cut lengths of the pink vinyl edging to finish off the area where the water trough will sit.  MJ wanted to sink the trough, but I reached hard pan within an inch or two of the ground surface and was unwilling to rent a jack hammer.  Even through the upper slope is dug in to that level, the trough comes off the ground at the down slope.  My solution is to box in the area and to add stones.  In tribute to Jerry I been collecting filler stones from around the property to complete this project.

I left Mike to join the Wine Club at the Lone Wolf.  I brought a bottle of the 2016 Tempranillo that was our latest vintage.  Lammert enters our wines into an amateur competition, and he believes the 2016 Tempranillo will receive a superior rating.