Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

I call them “My Birthday Camellias”

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

A Center Piece of Camellias

From the time I moved to Oysterville full time, and as long as she was able, my mother’s birthday gift to me always included camellias from the bush just outside the library window.  The last time was for my 60th birthday, February 28, 1996.  She came to our house on the bay for dinner and brought me camellias and a shiny yellow rain hat!

All these years later, I still wear the hat.  But I no longer count on those camellias for my birthday.  It’s not because Mom is no longer in the picture.  No.  It’s because those camellias have bloomed earlier and earlier each year until, in recent years, they are “over” by my birthday!

Three Months Early

This morning as I did my garden walkabout I saw that already there is a bud showing color on that bush.  Three full months early!!  Last year they were in full bloom in January but, at the rate they are coming on this year, we will have camellias in time for Christmas!

I’m sure it has to do with Climate Change rather than weather patterns.  It’s not like some years they are back to February blooming and other years they bud out two or three months early.  No.  It’s been a steady, gradual change.  I haven’t paid so much attention to the other garden denizens, although I did note that the hyacinths are already poking up along the bed borders.

I don’t quite know how I feel about those changes.  I’m not sure of all the ramifications.  Only that the Birthday Camellia has apparently changed loyalties.  I’m not quite sure whose birthday she is celebrating now.  Stay tuned for the full bloomin’ news — probably in late December or early January.


Are we celebrating or mourning?

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

May Blossoms

We’ll miss the apple blossoms in May and the harvest in August.  And we’ll miss the tang of apples fresh from the tree and the special flavor of those Rajka Rezistas when transformed into apple sauce or apple pie or apple butter by Chef Nyel.  But we won’t miss the tree, itself — always leaning eastward, always struggling to hide its leaves and fruit from the deer people, and always in the way when Tom is mowing the south garden.

And now it’s gone.  It didn’t take long for Eugene and his chain saw to cut it off at ground level (or, actually, a bit below ) and to cart it off in his truck.  Farmer Nyel says we’ll cover the (sort-of-) stump with some of that good mole-hill dirt and sow some grass seed.  “By next summer, the tree will be but a memory.”

Apples on the Hoof

Sadly, yes.  Not only the memory of feathery flowers and delicious fruit, but of Randal and Susan and the Bays Boys harvesting those apples for us summer after summer.  Their timing with apple-picking was as perfect as their timing when playing music. Which is often why they were here around Labor Day Weekend every year — to perform at Vespers and, of recent years, to help out us old “honorary grandparents” (or so we think of ourselves, whether or not they do.)

Our Once-Upon-A-Time Apple Tree

Yesterday, Nyel made apple pan dowdy with the very last of this year’s harvest — a harvest which he managed, himself, standing on his one good leg with me and his wheelchair hovering (and trying not to) behind.  We’ll eat it for dessert this evening with mixed feelings and ice cream.  Another reminder that nothing lasts forever but, in this case, we hope we can hang on to those apple memories indefinitely.

A picket fence is like a young girl’s curls…

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Our Newly Painted Bright and Shiny Fence

My grandmother once wrote to her teenaged daughter, Medora, who was away at boarding school:  I do hope you are not slicking up the sides of your hair.  I know it will take the curl out.  Ruth ought to be a continual object lesson to you as to how pretty hair can be ruined.  You can leave it soft and curling around your face and still show your ears.  In fact, when you take the frame of your hair from your face it is like plucking the petals off a daisy and leaving the bald pod.  Some people’s hair is not a necessity.  Yours is – so is mine.

I often think of those remarks when thinking about the fences in Oysterville — especially the picket fences.  It seems to me that they frame the old homes like a young girl’s curls might frame her face.  Or is that too fanciful?

Jay At Work along The South Fenceline

Considerable attention is given to fences in the Design Guidelines for the Oysterville Historic District  The very first statements about them is:  “The use of fences is encouraged.”  Immediately following that statement are these bulleted items:

  • “Use picket fences (wood) on the street.”
  •  “A variety of details is appropriate in fences.”
  •  “Barbed wire is suitable for fencing pastures.”
  •  “The use of fences is strongly encouraged in the Core Area.”

There is quite a bit more, but you get the idea.  We still maintain our fence around the perimeter of our garden, though not everyone in Oysterville does these days.  It is an expensive proposition, even if you can make the pickets, paint them, and install them yourself.  Most of our curent pickets were made by Nyel some years ago and, fortunately, he made enough extras (even painted them!) that we can still replace the ones that get broken or otherwise damaged.

Bright Pickets Peeping Into The Garden

Yesterday, Jay Short and his son Charlie came to begin repainting our fence — outside and in.  It looks glorious!  It is definitely the crowning glory that sets off our house!  The upkeep of picket fences is a pain and I sometimes wish that we could follow Tom Downer’s example of a “fake wood” picket fence…  But it’s a fleeting thought.  Only a brightly painted white picket fence would do around our 1869 house!   I repeat:  It looks glorious… even in today’s rain.

When 1 hill=3 gallons of mole moundage…

Saturday, October 10th, 2020


Moundage is probably a word of my own invention, but I couldn’t think of an apt descriptor for the mountain of soil we found in the middle of our south lawn yesterday morning.  It was by far-and-away the biggest mole hill either Nyel or I had ever seen.  It must have been produced by a very brawny Mole-With-An-Attitude or by an entire mole family working cooperatively.

It took me several (maybe ten) minutes with my trusty trowel to scoop that huge quantity of rich soil into a five-gallon bucket which, when all was said and done, came to well over the half-way mark.  It was too heavy for me to lift, so Nyel ferried the bucket (resting on his feet!) by wheelchair to a spot where he needs some good soil and was pleased at the amount of territory it covered.  I might add that there were several earthworms within the mound — missed by the mole people but very gratifying to our free-ranging chickens.

Townsend Mole

It seems likely that Mr. Mole is “the coast mole or Pacific mole (Scapanus orarius) —  a medium-sized North American mole found in forested and open areas with moist soils along the Pacific coast from southwestern British Columbia to northwestern California” according to Washington Department of Fish and Game.  They are common here and their average length is 6.2 inches with a 2.2 ounce body mass.  Pardon me for saying so, but in this case, I’m skeptical of the those particular facts.

It’s all a bit worrisome.  If the size of the mole is commensurate with the size of that mole hill, it is cause of concern, indeed.  I actually have visions of a beaver-sized critter threatening lawn, flower beds and perhaps even our house foundation.  The largest mole in this area, according to Wikipedia, is the Townsend Mole, and I guess it could be that one.  I don’t know if their mole hills are appreciably larger.   And I don’t know if they share territory with the Pacific Mole.  Obviously, I need to continue my research…

Comparison with my Size 7 Boot

What I do believe from that website is that “the Chehalis Indian word for mole translates into hands turned backward.”  Unfortunately, the site did not give the  word.  It’s probably preferable to “mole” and is certainly more descriptive.



Plan your work… work your plan.

Monday, September 7th, 2020

Along The East Fence

We’ve left the trimming of the rhododendrons along our east fence until now.  The last chore of summer.  They are definitely out of control and require some sawing in additon to the use of several types of clippers.  But… we have a plan.


It goes something like this: when I go out to feed the chickens and let them out of jail (but only if someone laid an egg on the previous day!), I take my clippers with me.  I begin on the “next rhodendron to the south” from where I left off the day before.  I clip as much as my arthritic hands will allow, tossing my clippings onto the lawn for later collection and bagging.  Later in the morning (or, perhaps right after lunch) Nyel and I will go out with saw and clippers and “fine tune” what I have done.  Then we bag all the debris in heavy-duty “outdoor” garbage bags and haul them into the garage.


There are at least two dozen rhodies along the fence.  Our goal is to cut them down so that the top of the fence can be seen.  Left to their own devices, those rhodies would soon be obliterating our view of the bay and, unfortunately, we haven’t done our due diligence for several years.  Now there are Dorothy Perkins roses and Morning Glory in the mix and it is a real drag.

The only glitch in the ointment is getting rid of the trash bags.  We can fit two at a time in the dumpster and our guess it that we will have 36 to 48 bags in all.  That’s a lot of weeks to wait to return the car to the garage… but Nyel has a plan for that, too.

We do keep in mind Robbie Burns’ admonishment about best laid plans, however.  We hope ours aren’t among those that “gang aft a-gley.”  After all, our view of the bay is one of the best parts of all!

Plums! Plums! Plums! — Plum Delicious!

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020


Last year we didn’t get any plums.  I think we were otherwise occupied with Nyel’s recovery from his hip removal.  (Yes… not replacement.  Removal.)  So the plums went to the birds, or perhaps to bright-eyed visitors as they walked by.  At least we hope so.  The whole picking season went by without a thought from us.

This year, though, Nyel had been out on an “orchard” inspection (if one apple tree, one pear tree and one plum tree constitute an orchard) in his wheelchair and saw that those plums were ready.  “The first good crop since we planted the tree,” he said.  That was about ten years ago.  Actually, they are Italian prunes, not really plums, and they are probably my all-time favorite fruit.

Amelia and Tucker at Work

So Nyel called Tucker and, before you could repeat the title of Judy Eron’s song, “I Picked His Plum Tree Bare,” he and his granddaughter Amelia had done just that.  They gave us half (maybe more!) — certainly enough to eat and eat and eat.

Nyel is looking up recipes, too.  He found one for plum cake which sounds really good.  And also for plum tarts, plum cobbler, and plum turnovers.  What’s more, he thinks we have enough plums to make each recipe with plenty left over for fresh fruit snacks!  And that’s plum perfect by my way of thinking.  Yes!  Plum Perfect!



Just a matter of teamwork!

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

Nyel is ever patient; I’m more impulsive.  Nyel tends to be cautious in his judgements; I’m more decisive.  Nyel is reasoned; I’m intuitive.  Both of us are persistent and usually we have the same goals in mind.  We make a good team.  Almost always.

Right now we are spending our afternoons trimming the rhododendrons that form a sort of hedge along the west side of our house.  It’s something Nyel used to take care of each summer when he had two good legs.  Now that he is wheelchair-bound, he can do most of it but I get to do the back parts that he can’t reach.  It’s definitely a team effort and sometimes generates a bit of “discussion” between us.

We began the project day before yesterday and are prepared for it to take four or five days in all.  Partly that’s because my legs tell me to quit after an hour or two and partly it’s because we have only so much space to store yard debris before it can be hauled away.  Two gigantic outdoor garbage bags full and we stop for the day.

The first day was the hardest.  There was a lot of “discussion” as to height, width, spacing etc.  Tucker wandered over at one point and said something like “looking great” and I thought perhaps he had heard us clear over at his house.  Yikes!  But he said not.  But, he was not interested in my suggestion that he take my clippers and have a turn at it.  My Tom Sawyer generosity didn’t even tempt him!  I guess it didn’t look like that much fun…

Each day goes better than the day before.  We know there will be some fine tuning to be done eventually and we can only hope that by then our process will be going perfectly smoothly and that we will be happy with the results.  Teamwork!  It’s the name of the game.


Speaking of local color…

Monday, July 27th, 2020

Finally!  Those recalcitrant mastershalums are blooming!  And everything else is, too.  I love it!  Even though there’s always something to be done around the edges, the blossoms hither and thither take my mind off the needy spots!

September Dahlias in July!

The dahlias, bless their pointy little heads, are earlier than ever.  I wonder if it’s part of Mother Nature’s nourishment formula —  giving us something beautiful to carry us through these ugly times we are enduring.  I’m not one to think that there has been some grand plan afoot since the beginning of time, but it is interesting that in this bleakest and scariest of summers our gardens flourish and soothe our souls.

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Our garden isn’t the only colorful location in this particular sheltering spot.  The kitchen table at any given mealtime is a sight to behold.  Usually, I’m so eager to tuck into whatever Nyel is offering, I don’t give a thought to the photo opportunities right in front of me.  Friday’s tostada dinner called out “photo op” just in time!

For all the worries and scary parts of right now, it’s reassuring to look a little more closely right here at home.  We count our blessings every day and pray that we all reach November intact.

What has happened to the mastershalums?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

View from My Front Doorway

“Christopher Robin gave me a mastershalum seed, and I planted it, and I’m going to have mastershalums all over the front door.”

“I thought they were called nasturtiums,” said Piglet timidly, as he went on jumping.

“No,” said Pooh. “Not these. These are called mastershalums.” A.A.Milne.

I’ve always adopted Pooh’s optimism about mastershalums and we, too, have had them all over the place.  In fact, for years they have crawled up over our porch and cheered our visitors along their way to the front door.  We have a few of those trailing nasturtiums again this year but our crop of new ones has generated all leaves and only one blossom so far.  Very disappointing.

Precarious Perch

On the other hand, our “crop” of swallows, at least on the front porch, is thriving.  As I stepped out there this morning, I was blasted by  squawking and scolding from both both mom and dad, or so I thought at first.  As I looked up at the nest over the windowsill, I thought perhaps the noise might be directed to the babies, not to me.

There are four of them, but this morning one was barely visible as the others crowded greedily up to nest’s edge, precariously balanced by my reckoning.  If I were their mom, I’d be screeching, too:  “Get back!  Be careful!  You’ll fall!”  That happened to one of the over-enthusiastic babes last year and we found him (or her) toes up on the porch.  If these are the same parents, no wonder they were frantic.

Lonely Mastershalum Blossom

Otherwise, all was peaceful in the garden.  The daisies are growing to beat their record.  I can almost hear them lording it over the reluctant mastershalums.  There are dahlias and snapdragons and hydrangeas in bloom and the roses are threatening to weight down the picket fence with their blossoms.  Nevermind that Portia’s gentle rain from heaven was droppething all around.  It was lovely — just as it should be on this 21st of July!

Before the sun crested the horizon…

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

By Dawn’s Early Light

Back and forth, forth and back I walked yesterday morning.  8,000 steps and all before breakfast!  And all because our “lawn” to use the term loosely, is more buttercups and dandelions than grass.  “Weed and Feed” we were told by the experts.  Best time to spread it, while the dew is still heavy on the surface but not on a day when it’s likely to rain.

Around here, the day chooses you and not the other way around.  Yesterday was it.  I loaded the spreader, set the dial at 3½ as instructed, and started off.  I planned to do the worst area first — the east lawn.  If the both the lawn and I survived, I’d tackle the north lawn the next day (which is now today.)

Back? Or… forth?

Well, I did survive and I see no evidence of anything dire (or otherwise) happening on the east lawn so I was ready to roll at 6:30 this morning.  But, the “dew” was falling enough to form droplets on my glasses and that’s not recommended for the best (or any) results.  “No active rain.”  So here I am.

Front Page Today

As I sat down to write this post, I saw the online front page headline in the ObserverCovid-19 came calling on July 4, test says.  I could actually feel my blood pressure rise.  If the test is accurate, at least 30 virus-infected people were in Long Beach over the weekend of the Fourth.  Suddenly, I couldn’t see.  The droplets on my hair and glasses had turned to steam…  What is the MATTER with our leadership? Encouraging thousands of people to come to the beach?  And without enforcement relative to mask-wearing?  Putting our residents at unnecessary risk?  Do they actually WANT Pacific County to become some sort of epicenter?  Maybe of stupidity?  But I digress…