I’ll start with the fire. The Trailhead Fire continues to burn, with lots of choking smoke starting usually around 11 PM and continuing through morning, although it’s looking like it will skip torching my house (fingers crossed). This fire is much closer than the King Fire, and given that fire’s insane overnight growth in its early days, I’ve been keeping a close eye on this one.
The raised beds that I milled, assembled, and planted, are literally out of control. Tomatoes, peppers, and hulless-seeded pumpkins in profusion. I’m wondering how I ever lived without them, and I can’t imagine going back to planting in the ground, just given the amazing, healthy and lush vegetation, and the many tomatoes and peppers that will surely follow. I’ve got three more to build, and that will finish out my annual garden area.
Elsewhere I’ve been planting annuity crops, chiefly pomegranate, olive and mulberry. On the harvest front, blueberries are just in, though not so abundant as last year. I harvested and cooked in one meal the entire year’s harvest of potatoes, which were wonderful and fresh and waxy the way that homegrown potatoes can be.
There were of course more than shown in the photo, but not by much – quality, not quantity!
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.
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.
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.
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…
…and three raised bed planter boxes from the cedar I milled over the summer…
…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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.