A Not Insignificant Serpent

Wandering the garden this afternoon, I surprised this beautiful and LARGE California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae), the first snake of any kind I’ve seen this season.

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The beast quickly retreated to the safety of a hollow space under a nearby planter, and then cautiously reemerged over the next 30 minutes or so and continued on its way.  Based on the relationship between its body length and the greenhouse in the upper left hand corner of the photo below, I estimate the snake’s body length to be 4 feet, which makes for a not insignificant serpent.  It’s about as big as they get, from what I’ve read.

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I’ve grown to like snakes since truly fearing them as a child. Snakes of various kinds, including California Kingsnakes such as today’s visitor, California Mountain Kingsnakes (which have red bands in addition to the brown and cream bands of the Cal King), gopher snakes and even the occasional rattlesnake, make themselves known the garden and surrounding woods each year.  They presumably keep the vole and ground squirrel populations in check, and kingsnakes include rattlesnakes in their diet, which presumably keeps the rattlesnake populations in check, for which I am grateful.

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Spring Flowers

It’s warming up here, and many things are flowering. Pictured below is the very first flowering of the Felix Gillet quince.

Quince Flower

The fall-planted cabbages are flowering as well. I harvested most of the plants for sauerkraut, but let a few bolt. They look remarkably like their broccoli relatives.

Cabbage Flower

Rain in the forecast this weekend…

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Infrastructure

Spent the last couple of weekends working on infrastructure for the garden. Using primarily wood from the property, built an overcoat for the little greenhouse to protect it from the weight of the snow…

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…and three raised bed planter boxes from the cedar I milled over the summer…

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…and treated with the shou sugi ban process, which leaves the cedar looking and smelling wonderful.

It feels like spring around these parts. The rhubarb is waking up, and the plums, pluots, nectarine, almonds, and Nanking cherries all blooming. Hopefully there’s more rain in the future…

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Rosemary Rooting

I’ve been doing a lot of “layering in place” experiments, which is I guess technically air layering.  I basically cut a slit in a plastic pot, wound the stem of the plant – in this case rosemary – wire the pot closed using bonsai wire, and then fill the pot with a loose potting soil.

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For the rosemary, I also used some twine to bend the growing end so that it was below the level of the pot. I decided to cut one free recently, to check on root development.

I’m happy to report that all went as planned, and the rosemary developed a nice set of roots. I’ll work this one up to one gallon size and plant it out somewhere in the forest later this year.

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Felix Gillet Institute on NPR

Excited to hear a story about the Felix Gillet Institute on NPR today. I was just visiting with my Felix Gillet quince yesterday, and it’s looking well established, and will hopefully put on some good growth this year after all of this rain.

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Burning Boards

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Worked a little today on the raised bed project, using a propane torch to burn the cedar boards I milled over the summer in a yakisugi sort of way…

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Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beetles!

If you look closely, you’ll see Frank.

Frank Takes Care of the Beetle Trees

It was a tough year for the garden, and a tough year for the forest as well.  Drought-weakened trees succumbed to beetles all throughout the county, including many in my little bit of forest.  Specifically, nine very large pines, and several smaller ones died shockingly quickly toward the end of the summer.  Most were very close to the house, much closer than I feel comfortable felling myself, so local forester Frank came in and climbed them, taking them down in sections. He dropped them with precision, resulting in very little collateral damage.  On the bright side, I now have many more logs for milling, and am hatching plans to build a Finnish sauna!

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Milling Cedar for Raised Beds

Spent much of the summer milling cedar for some raised beds.

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I’ve got a pretty sweet bunch of boards stacked and drying, the largest being more than 14″ wide, and with more to be milled.

 

Milled

Once the rains come, I plan to treat the boards using a “Shou-sugi-ban Yakisugi” technique.

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Lots of Layering Lately

I’ve been spending long hours in the garden, puttering and propagating, and lately doing a lot of layering. This propagation technique seems particularly suited for plants that are inclined to root from cuttings, and for those that readily root when their branches bend down and come into contact with soil.  I simply slice a plastic pot stem to stern, cut a hole in the bottom big enough for the branch, remove any leaves or small branches that might otherwise rot when exposed to damp conditions in the pot, wound the branch by scraping or cutting away some of the bark, wire the pot shut at the top and bottom to hold it together, and fill it with a planting medium of primary perlite.

Pictured above is such an arrangement on a prostrate rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).  Rosemary grows especially well here, requires no irrigation at all once established, and provides spring forage for bees, who swarm its blue blossoms early in the season when nothing else is blooming.  The twine is simply support.  I’ve got a similar setup on the established, productive pomegranate, and I’m trying one on the Arbequina olive, which according to some accounts is easy to root – I’ve had little luck to date, but am hopeful.

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One of My Favorite Things

Blueberries

That is all.

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