August 22, 2019

I drove up yesterday from Oakland.  Wednesday is my turnaround day during the hottest days of the year.  So far the struggle to keep the plants in the garden alive is succeeding.  The cream colored marigold is flourishing and appears to have the right amount of water.  The cilantro will survive for this season.  Only the calendulas have failed to thrive in this heat despite, or perhaps because, of supplemental water.

I trimmed back the salvias on the narrow angle of the front slope garden.  The hope is to stop sprawl and encourage fuller growth.  Both the blue and the red continue to bloom profusely.  The salvias are a major draw for hummingbirds, particularly the crimson salvia outside the breakfast nook window.

MJ was up at the end of last week to attend a memorial service for her longtime secretary.  After the service we went to Lowe’s for the clearance sale on patio furniture.  She bought two chairs and a small table for summer house, and we scrounged up matching turquoise cushions for the chairs. All at a steep mark down. The chairs fit perfectly in that space, looking west over the most beautiful corner of the property.  I am grateful that MJ had the vision that I did not have.  The chairs also encourage to sit for a minute and look out on land.  Cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night.  The pale pink carpet rose is thriving in the planter boxes on the western facing wall.

A meadowlark on the planters and on the window sill chirped hello to me.

August 9, 2019

I mowed the lawn late morning and used the gas powered weed whacker for edging.  No decapitated sprinkle heads to my knowledge.

Late afternoon I saw water rushing down the driveway and went out to help Mike.  He had cut the main irrigation pipe to remove the old valve.  Apparently the shut off at the barn did not work and water was pouring down the driveway at 40 gallons per minute.  Mike took a hike to shut down the water at the main pumping station on the edge of the lake.  That pump forces water uphill to feed the irrigation tank in the barn.

Mike added a new main valve and a pipe detour for the new filter. The pipe detour has its own valve to flush out the filter.  The outflow from the filter will be directed into the triangle garden.  We finished all the connections and restored the water at the main pump station.  The new valve held without incident.  We will let the pipe cure overnight, and Mike will hopefully restore the entire irrigation system tomorrow morning.

This will be a short week – tomorrow the crew will be bottling wine up in Fiddletown. Apparently a 2016 Zinfandel is ready to come out of the barrel.

August 8, 2019

Today we had a break from the high summer heat.  High temperatures should be in the  eighties the next two days.  The outside temperature stays below 80 degrees until the early afternoon.

Half penumbra at 1.34 this afternoon.  Sunset at 8.08.  I also found a website that recorded the day length and the solar noon (1.11 this past afternoon).

I spent the morning sanding the outside stairs at the barn.  The uppermost frame is too high for my vertigo-challenged brain, a stretch from a ten foot extension ladder. Still, I managed to sand the steps and risers on the second flight and the lower frame and posts.  The railing has dry rot and will need to be replaced.

I went into Lowe’s for another gallon of primer. The clerk recommended a gray stain and sealer for the decking and frame of the barn stairs   He tells me it looks and applies just like paint.

I helped Mike dig out the valve with the main connection from the irrigation water tank in the barn. We uncovered a black plastic drain to no where, totally clogged with mud.  We discovered the source of the leak, filling with water as fast we could dig out.

I found a new species of pelargonium at East Bay Nursery to fill in the newly cleared bed for the deep scarlet crape myrtle.  While there I picked up cilantro for the herb garden.  The new plants received hand water fortified with Plant Starter.  Next spring I may expend the peninsula to a half moon, if the pelargonium takes hold.

August 3, 2019

Today I dug a out peninsula from edge of the large planter box to the deep scarlet crape myrtle. The grass came out in clumps; I will need to add soil and soil amendment from Lowe’s.  I will also apply a layer of Preen mulch for an attempt at weed control.  I removed the stone border and will replace it after I fill the area with topsoil, raising the stones more than an inch.  Those stones had sunk almost to disappearing  in a year and a half.

I dug out the main valve for irrigation water at the front of the house, looking for the source of the leak. Every place I dug quickly filled with water. Mike has found a filter to eliminate sediment in sprinkler heads.  The hope is to trap sediment at the main valve and eliminate the need to unplug and replace sprinkle heads all over the front garden.    The filter can be removed and flushed out periodically.  Mike will attach it when the repairs to the main valve are completed and secured. My contribution will be to reset the flagstones with weed block and paver sand when the plumbing work is done.

As my final project of the day, I dismantled the porch swing.  Mostly with vice grips.  Once I perfected a technique there were only a few screws holding up the frame.  The whole wreck is on its way to the dump.

August 2, 2019

In the early morning I removed the rotted and split trim pieces from the corporation yard fence beside the driveway.  Jerry never met a screw he didn’t like.  The bolts holding the trim pieces on the gate came off with a little ingenuity.  Mike will replace the gate as he did with the companion fence in the back yard.  The middle trim pieces will be replaced with a single piece of one by four, as we did with the lower trim piece.  I sanded the entire fence apart from the gate, and hope to prime and paint it before Mike adds new hardware.

I gave the front slope garden supplemental water, with extra love for the three new plants at the far end and the new portulaca.  The moisture meter on the sheltered camellia is not registering.  I did, however, note that  after watering the excess water seeped out the bottom of the container.  The camellia appears healthy and growing, and the ivy that I inherited with the container from Rancho Murieta is now unstoppable.

I hand watered the butter cream marigold and added Plant Starter.

The rose at the end of the line seems to receive more consistent water.  I do not know whether the dead growth among the roses is simply a function of the advanced season, or a sign of insufficient water. I applied supplemental water and buried a fertilizer spike by each of the three roses.

Spots continues to devour the potato shrub.

August 1, 2019

The butter cream marigold was water logged again this morning.  Its life has been a series of near-fatal tragedies –  half of the original plant burnt out and two later floods.  I removed all the water-infused soil and spread it on other plants.  As Mike suspected, the container had no drainage.  I drilled three new drainage holes, added new gravel, filled with all new topsoil and transplanted the marigold back into the container.

Mike found a bubbler head that will allow less drip water to the container; he came up in the cool of the evening and installed it.  That sprinkler head should solve the flooding problem – now I am worried that the plant will not receive enough water.  I will monitor over the next few weeks. My heart always has a specially reserved place for plants that are survivors.

PG&E tells me that we have already fewer days above 100 degrees this season.  Still time to make up the lack.

I do not know the breeding season and gestation period for quail.  In any event, Mama Quail was pecking out the garden this evening and strewing mulch and soil everywhere, and a tiny baby quail was beside her learning the knack.


July 31, 2019

I arrived at the ranch early afternoon.  Mike completed the irrigation lines to all the plants on the border garden off the back porch, a true work of art.  Mike also walked me through how he traced the water lines, and he has a schematic for this unique system.

We also traced the line of sprinkler posts along the front border garden.  I believe those posts were used to irrigate the lawn along that strip. They were capped when the lawn was dug up for the garden plants and flagstones.  Mystery valve number 4 – we were puzzled where it went.  Sure enough, we uncapped one of the posts and water poured out from valve number 4.  Currently one valve and one pipe line feeds the irrigation system for the entire front slope garden.  The thought is to tap into the number 4 line towards its far end and use it to irrigate the western half of the front slope garden.  Perhaps less surface area will translate into higher water pressure.

Mike is checking sprinkler heads in the front slope garden every week for silt.  The lake water clogs sprinkler heads at a great rate. Curiously, the back and side yard sprinklers do not share this problem.  Mike confirmed that lower rock rose was not receiving adequate water, and I will continue to supplement the irrigation drip while it recovers.

I found a new verbena at East Bay Nursery, white center with royal purple edges. It replaces the white verbena in the triangle garden that never thrived.  At the end of the day I added Italian oregano to the herb garden.