Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Even Granddaughters Grow Old

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Fern III with the Winter Blahs

It’s been close to ten years since I’ve “reported” on the status of Fern III — the  Deer Foot Fern (or Davallia to be more exact) who sits on a table in the bay window of our bedroom.  Right now she seems to be going through a case of the winter blahs — commiserating with us during this Sheltering Time, I think.  Perhaps it’s time for another “haircut” — an event that always seems harder on me than on her.

I’ve been reminding her of her heritage and how it is that she has been here with us for the last fifteen-or-so years.  I can’t go back to her very beginnings, there being no for ferns, but I can go back three generations. Her grandmother lived in the Ocean Park Timberland Library during the 1980s.  I often stopped to talk with her, marveling at her fury feet (rhizomes, I was told) that crept over the edge of the big pot she sat in.

Fern After A Haircut, 2015

One day, Sue Cowell, who worked at the library, asked me if I’d like a cutting.  She and Librarian Bonnie Sayce were transplanting Fern to a bigger pot that afternoon.  Fern II was sort of puny by comparison to her mother, but she liked it at our house on the bay and she soon filled out and needed to be transplanted herself. Visitors to the house often referred to her as a Rabbit or Hare Foot Fern or even a Squirrel Foot Foot Fern.  Apparently the color of the rhizomes of a particular plant determine the animal it is associated — white, for instance, with Rabbit or Peter Cottontail.

Fern II lived with us for almost twenty years and, by the time we sold the house to Ann Chiller, she was much too big to move.  Besides, she and the house seemed perfect for each other and we didn’t want to break up such a happy relationship.  So Ann inherited the plant.

In 2007 or 2008 Ann, in her turn, sold the house.  Before she moved she brought us a present — a small cutting from Fern II.  And so Fern III began her sojourn in Oysterville.  Even here in our bedroom, she is surrounded by books which must resonate in some primordial fashion, hearkening back to the library of her grandmother’s time.  She has outgrown several pots and has flourished, even with my somewhat haphazard care.

Fern III in 2011

I’m not sure where Fern’s forebears are these days.  The last I heard, Karen Pennington wrote that she had Fern II.  That was back in 2011.  Perhaps someone will write in response to this update and tell us a bit more — especially about Fern III’s grandmother who I met so long ago at the Library.  It’s hard to believe that Granddaughter Fern, herself, is forty-some years old — if you count the years since her mother left Fern I.  Wow!


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.


Where’s our hedge fund when we need it?

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Nyel On The Attack

It was at least twenty-five years ago, but I remember it clear-as-clear.  My mother was still living in this house and we were a mile down the bay at our place.  She called early one Saturday morning and said that we had to “drop everything” and come tend to the rhododendrons outside her bedroom windows.  “They are completely blocking the view and pretty soon they’ll block out the light completely.”

We allowed as we could come over later and see what we could do.  We didn’t give her worries much credence.  She was always a bit of a drama queen, after all.  But, when we got there we found that her alarm was well-founded.  The rhodies seemed to have grown by leaps and bounds and just overnight — or at least within the last week when we had been there doing a bit of yard work.  We conceded as to how something had to be done.

No. I’m not sitting down!

I have no memory of our solution — mostly because I don’t think I was involved.  Nyel, bless him, got right on it and trimmed all of the rhodies in the garden — not just those around the house, but those along the east fence, as well.  As I remember, our burn pile grew to a burn hill and then to a burn mountain by the time he had things tidied up.  It must not have seemed too onerous, however, because one of the first things he did after we moved into the house in the late nineties was to plant a long row of Jean Marie Rhododendrons along our west fence — not quite double the trouble, but almost.

Trimming the rhodies has been one of the summer chores every year since that first call for help from mom.  Until last year (when Nyel began life in a wheelchair) I haven’t been involved.  Now, however, it has become a team effort — Nyel getting the front parts that he has access to and me wriggling ’round to the back between house or fence and plants to get the parts he can’t reach.  And now that we are old and impaired, it takes about four or five times as long for the two of us than it did for the one of him on both feet.

In the first five minutes…

There will come a day, of course, when we can no longer manage this yearly garden chore.  I was thinking about it as we got ready to have at it again today.  “What we’ll need,” I said to myself, “is a hedge fund.”  But… the really, truly, literal kind.  Not whatever the financial wizards were making headlines with a few decades back.  One more place to spend our hard-earned pennies… Or, we could just let ’em grow.  I wonder if anyone would even notice the house had gone missing.  And us with it.

In spite of all…

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

Hyacinth Border in All Its Glory

Despite benign neglect on my part, our garden is looking remarkably well.  For the first time in many Springs, we are not starting the season with more weeds than flowers!  That’s all thanks to our wonderful friends who contributed to a garden cleanup for us when Nyel was hospitalized so long last year.

By hook and by crook we were able to continue having the Garden Girls come in every two weeks for a few months — until the winter storms came in earnest and then the Coronavirus showed up and closed down everything (except Mother Nature).

Just Beyond The Front Porch

The neat and tidy look won’t last, of course.  Not unless the sheltering time is pronounced “over” for  landscapers and other outdoors “non-essential” workers.  And I am the last one to be a back-to-work advocate right now.  Not until the health professionals say it’s “safe.”  So… being a very tentative, fair weather gardener, myself,  I’m hoping for fair skies, warm sunshine, and no wind so I can confront those pesky weeds in comfort.  (Which is precisely the attitude that I recognize as a problem… But some things don’t change.)

Meanwhile, I rejoice in the here and now of hyacinths and narcissus, primroses and azaleas and the promise of our Jean Marie rhododendrons next month!  Thank you Mother Nature and all your wonderful helpers who have made  (perhaps inadvertently) another year of garden beauty a reality for us here in Oysterville.

…and other duties as assigned.

Monday, April 20th, 2020

Hose Bib

Eight ayem on April twentieth.  I set the hoses and turned on the sprinklers.  Let the watering begin!  Well… we call it “watering” in our house but, lately, I have the term “irrigating” used instead.  My understanding of “irrigating” has to do with ditches and canals.  Irrigating was big in the valleys of California when I was growing up.  We didn’t irrigate our lawns; we watered them.  Still do.

On the other hand, here in Oysterville we do speak of our “water for irrigation” to indicate that we have a well on the property and to reassure others in the village that we are not using the village water supply for other than household use.  Whatever…

Let The Watering Begin

In any event, it seems early in the year to start the hose-moving process.  To cover  all of our lawn, it requires moving two hoses from two water bibs at least five times.  If I begin the process at eight in the morning, I can be finished by six in the evening.  That leaves out our south lawn which is too narrow for the sprinklers that go round-and-round.  It requires two applications from one of those back-and-forth sprinklers that usually get stuck in the up position and do no good at all.  Did I mention that moving hoses is not my favorite pastime?  (But don’t tell Nyel.  If he could figure out an efficient way to do it from his wheelchair, he’d be out there in a nano-second.  I do think he’s working on a Plan B.)

Another Hose Bib

Farmer Nyel says our pump isn’t strong enough for good coverage if all three sprinklers going at once.  So it’s usually an every other day decision — which area is most needy?  Meanwhile, we hope that this isn’t really a long-term drought… just a dry spell between rainy periods.  At least until July…  While we wait and see I’m trying to figure out how I can train those chickens to move hoses…  To myself I call it Plan C.


Today is BYD at our house.

Friday, November 8th, 2019


BYD equals Big Yard Day and that’s what today is here at the White House in Oysterville.  Glenna and Lee are coming to fluff and buff the garden beds — maybe put a little more bark hither and thither.  Tom-the-Mower-Man is coming to tidy up the lawn — probably one  of the last times before the winter hiatus. And maybe… just maybe… Eugene will be here to plant several more dozen daffodils, compliments of Tom Downer and Jack’s Country Store.

It would be good to get all of those things done today.  The rains are due tomorrow, not steadily but on again, off again for the next week. Too, I’d like to get one more application of ammonium nitrate on the lawn before Thanksgiving.  (The recommended “dosage” for healthy, green grass is four times a year — Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.) I’m thinking next week is close enough — especially if it rains and I don’t have to drag out the hoses.

Applying that ammonium nitrate is something I can do myself.  The hardest part is handling those 50-pound bags of product but walking behind the spreader is a no-brainer.  If I were “counting steps” like many of my friends, I’m sure I’d earn several days’ worth by the time I finish.  5,000 square feet of lawn makes for a lot of steps!

November Color

Meanwhile, our rhododendrons (identity unknown) along the north fence line are blooming, right on schedule!  They aren’t my favorite blossoms but it is lovely to have blossoms of any sort at this time of year!



Mole People: You are not invited!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

On The Cannon Sward

Forty-one!  Count ’em!  Forty one mole hills (and remains of same) on our erstwhile Croquet Court (which really should be renamed “The Cannon Sward”).  Actually, those forty-one are only on the east end of said sward.  I gave up counting.  And there are more on the east lawn in front of the house.  Plus there are several large patches where I successfully got rid of the moss but have not been successful in reseeding to lawn.

On the other hand — knock wood! — the south lawn (the one you see as you enter by our modern-day “front” door — is pretty much mole free.  One dirt patch only and it looks as though it might be filling in.  But, unfortunately, it’s not the south lawn that is the focus of my attention just now.  It’s the sward and the east lawn that will be the setting of Our Grand Affair in September.

South Lawn, August 13, 2019

We’ve invited a good many friends and relatives to help us celebrate the 150th birthday of this house.  But we did NOT invite the mole people.  And lest you think that they are working overtime in some sort of resentful funk, be advised that such is not the case.  They have been hanging out under our lawns for years.

When Nyel was a walking man, he spent a lot of time and energy in real-life whack-a-mole games.  Periodically, he had some success.  But they must like us.  Or perhaps they like the chickens.  They always return.  And, frankly my dears, I have no interest in wasting my time on various mole hunts.  The moles (and the lawns) be damned!  I am declaring “Spotted and Dotted” to be the fashionable style for Oysterville lawns this season.  At least for this lawn!

Wow! Lookin’ at where they ain’t!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Larry Freshley once told me that his first job out on the oyster beds when he was thirteen or fourteen was cluster-busting.  The task involves giving a large clump of oysters a smart rap with a crowbar or other heavy implement to separate the oysters (which tend to cleave together) from one another.  To young Larry’s question, “Then what?” his boss said, “Throw them where they ain’t.”

I’ve always thought that was one of the best instructions I’ve ever heard.  So, when I arrived home yesterday and walked around the perimeter of our house to see what my friend Pat Fagerland had accomplished over the past few weeks…  I first had to get over being totally gobsmacked and then found myself “looking where they ain’t.”  Weeds. that is!  Gone!  Not a weed in sightf!  How she managed all that I cannot even imagine.  It would have taken me all summer long to get all of that done and, even so, I’d be going back to the beginning time and time again, never getting to the end at all.

“Don’t you have a hoa?” she laughed when I called her.  “A what?” I think I had her repeat it a couple of times but I still don’t have a clue what she was talking about or even if I heard right.  “I’ll show you when I see you,” she said.  Of course, she made it sound like whatever that tool is made all the difference.  But, I know for a fact that, no matter what, she worked like a trojan to get things in this kind of shape.  “I’m not quite through yet,” she told me.  “I want to get it so you can easily maintain it…”

OMG!  What a wonderful gift of friendship!  I am truly blessed.  And spoiled to the max!!!  And teary every time I look at where they ain’t!



Where there’s a will…

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Wheelchair Gardener

The sunshine began calling early yesterday morning.  By noon, Nyel had positioned himself (in his wheelchair) in the kitchen so that the sun was beaming through the window right onto his face.  There he sat, smiling and reveling in the warmth and the light.

“Let’s get you outside,” I said at lunch.  “I think we can do it – between your walker and the wheelchair, I think we can manage the step from house to porch and from porch to lawn.  Don’t you?”  He did and so off we went.  It all worked like a charm!

“And, while you’re here…” I suggested.  And before you could say fuchsias and geraniums, Nyel was equipped with a tarp in his lap and a pair of garden snippers in his hand.  I carried each of the hanging baskets and each of the geranium pots, one by one, and Farmer Nyel worked his pruning magic.  While he pruned, I worked in the west garden bed, weeding and planting nasturtium seeds (even though I think it’s too early for them.)

The Tendr Touch

We were outside for about two hours.  Maybe more.  There was a steady stream of visitors who, seeing the “Temporarily Closed” sign on the church, read the bronze plaque in the churchyard instead, and tried to figure out how to pronounce the “Tsako-te-hahsh-eetl” sign over our gate.  Neighbors Mark and Sandra came by on their walk and hung over the fence to visit a bit. A duck or two flew overhead.  The roosters crowed every now and then and the hummingbirds came by to say “thank you” for refilling their feeder.  It was all absolutely perfect.

Maybe we’ll do it again today – at least the getting outside part.  I’m trying to dream up another garden chore that can be done from a wheelchair…  But reading a good book and Clapping and Cheering for me occasionally will work, too!  I need all that C&C I can get! (It’s right up there with R&R!)

When in doubt, call Kathleen!

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Scary Seed Pod

It’s been several months now since our replacement septic system was installed.  The smooth expanse of sand over the new installation has given way to clumps of grass and dandelions, a bramble or two, and a number of recognizable weeds.  We trust that all of that will be taken care of in short order when our landscape service puts in a replacement lawn.

Meanwhile, it becomes more and more unsightly and then, suddenly, a big ugly plant sprang forth right in the middle of the area.  You could just tell to look at it that it was something nasty.  It had a number of prickly seed pods and some deceptively attractive blossoms.  It looked evil.

Mystery Plant

“I just sent some photographs to you,” Nyel told me on his return from the early morning chicken run.  “When you get them, send them on to Kathleen and ask if she knows what that plant is.”  Kathleen Sayce is the best go-to biologist we know when it comes to identifying our local plants.  And a lot of other stuff.  Besides, she is a neighbor and a friend and always seems to enjoy helping us naturalist neophytes.

“Oh my!” was her response. “That is definitely not from around here. It is a Datura relative. I will find the name and let you know. May I come by and take some more photos?”  Absolutely!  And within minutes here she came armed with her camera, a digging tool, and gloves.  “It’s jimson weed,” she told us.  “You definitely don’t want it around.  Every part of it – stem, leaves, seeds, pollen – is toxic.”  And not just a little bit toxic I read later.  Even a small amount, if ingested, can be fatal.

Deceptively Pretty

She dug it up and we suppled a big black garbage bag to put it in.  “I don’t advise composting it,” she said.  “Better to send it to the dump.”  While she was at it, she walked around the area, identifying other plants that were cropping up – but none toxic, thank goodness.  The seeds for some of them could have been here before the construction, but most likely the jimson weed seeds came in on a piece of equipment that was being used.  Sneaky seeds!

I feel a lot better about that area now.  I’ll feel even better about it when we finally get a lawn planted and we can get back to the grass being greener over the septic tank.  Meanwhile, thank you Kathleen!!  You are amazing!