Monday, May 25, 2009

Boulders, Weeds and...Greenhouses

It is difficult to believe May is almost over. For the first half of the month, the weather was capricious...Snow and Hail fell, the temperatures remained cold and Frost each morning was a given. I continued with Spring chores, regardless of the weather, because I could no longer stay housebound.  If it was cold, I wore heavy sweaters and gloves, until the afternoon when Sun allowed me to shed layers of clothing.

But I believe the days of Frost and Snow and Hail are over for a few months.  We have had days of warm weather, with night temperatures going no lower than 3C. My hanging baskets are out and I have planted all the window boxes...with red Geraniums and deep blue Petunias.

Now there's a flower...Petunias and I were never all that friendly when I lived on the Coast...perhaps because I could never find a spot where it would not be rained upon. But here, with the dry climate a bane for other plants, the Petunia shines.  Each small plant becomes a flowering mountain of colour which sends out a delightful perfume, with very little work on my part.

Those are the kinds of plants I really love...the ones which take over their spaces and travel far, sending their stems into unknown territory. With a large piece of property on which to garden, a plant like this can cut down on costs considerably.

There was no garden here when we arrived; I can certainly understand why.  Weather is against us gardeners here; if we are not on top of our game when Spring arrives, it will be over and we will be in the heat of Summer. Spring in the Cariboo seems to me to be a very short season.

And our Well is not the largest...yesterday I tried to water in Grass seed I had spread in grassless areas. I also overseeded what passes for a lawn, which was damaged by the layer of Winter Snow. Very quickly, it seemed to me, I reached the lower section of the Well.

With very little Water in the Well left over for gardening, one must be creative.  I save the little amounts of Rain, which can really add up, in a barrel by a downspout. I use leftover herbal teas to water the new baby plants. Water in which I wash vegetables is sprinkled over the newly planted beds. Any water which can be used is...

But this gardener is determined, as most true gardeners are. I read labels on new plants carefully, checking the zone and drought tolerance of each plant. I try and buy the hogs...the ones which leap over boundaries with great glee, so that large areas are covered. I do not give in to the beautiful plants who beckon to me in the nurseries...the ones who will require coddling and much precious Water, even as I admire their lush greenery.

Instead, Sedums, Poppies, Daisies, Sunflowers, Asters and Zinnias find their way into my cart. There are shady spots, so my old friend Hosta finds homes here and there. Cold and drought tolerant Roses are planted along the drive. Black Elder grows well here, so a few shrubs dot our garden, where we can enjoy the pink and white blossoms. And of course, many, many Lilacs, who love the climate here much better than in any other area I have ever lived.

It seems a little strange, when I live in a Forest, that I hankered for Trees.  But I wanted a few deciduous Trees, just for the unearthly, beautifully tender, green leaves which arrive in Spring. I picked a purple Crabapple, a Battleford Apple, a Tartarian Maple, a Mountain Ash, and a Weeping Pea. All have fiery Autumn colour, which will glow against the gold of the Aspens dressed in full Fall finery.

The challenge here will be to find a spot to plant these Trees which is not full of Boulders, as we have very stubborn stony land. Determination to the fore, once again.

Even Graham has been bitten by the Spring bug.  Out of nowhere, with scrap lumber, he decided to build a greenhouse...and did it in one weekend. There must have been some divine intervention, since Graham as well seems a little boggled by how quickly it was built, with no forethought of any kind. The greenhouse went up beautifully; close to the house, it will give me at least a month more in Spring and Fall to harvest.

And so, tomatoes and cucumbers will grow in warmth and security. No longer will I have to pray and wait for the hard, green tomatoes to ripen, with frost in the forecast. I overheard a lady at a nursery who was buying a few flowering plants.  She said...These plants are just for the outside; the plants in the greenhouse are for my sanity.

She's right.

I, however, have no experience with greenhouses.  If anyone has any hints, I would very much like to hear them.

If I still lived on the Coast, all this planting and clearing and building would have been done months ago. But I am only beginning to garden here and May is almost over. I hear hammering and machinery in the distance, as my neighbours also take advantage of a fleeting Spring to do work required, before the awesome heat of Summer arrives.

The sense of urgency, floating here on the Wind, is strong.

So with this in mind and joy in my heart, I am out in the garden, planting the new and greeting the old. 

Every day, regardless of the weather. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


During the time we've spent here, we've changed the look of the place. It once had brush growing almost right to the front door; the back area was completely grown in.  I had to wait, in the beginning, in order to be sure of where I was going to go with landscaping and building a greenhouse and woodworking shop.

Wait...the very word sends chills down my spine. I am not good with waiting, as long-time readers know. Last year, patience was the last thing on my mind; I wanted the garden to be done. Now. But there were many other items which had to be considered first...such as the interior of the house, which took precedence.

But this year...ahhh, this year... my time will be focused on gardening.  We are almost done with the interior...we have sold the old kitchen cupboards and appliances and this area will now become a huge mudroom/pantry/laundry room. The room will have built-ins...such as a linen closet, which for one reason or another, the house doesn't have.  I still shake my head when I remember unpacking piles of sheets and towels and discovering there was no place to put them...very disconcerting.

So, there are still a few things which must be done inside the house.

But the weather is glorious...we had a sprinkling of Rain, which makes every Shrub and Tree shine...the Aspens are beginning to show their sweet green beginnings, and the wild flowers are showing their tender new leaves as well.  This morning the temperatures were above freezing and Sun shone brightly, warming the soil.

And finally, it is time to garden.

I have found one aspect of gardening...the clearing of land... brings instant gratification.  Suddenly, what once appeared as impenetrable bushy landscape, has become open and inviting, even without any domesticated plants gracing the area. And I learn, as I clear. I learn how fertile the soil is, where once the bushes grew...their leaves, over the years, have broken down and created a very dark loam. I learn some of these places are moist and the soil is far more damp than that of places closer to the house. I finally find moss-covered areas.

It makes a huge difference when there is leaf mould to act as mulch, keeping the moisture in the earth.

I discover wild flowers, which, last year, were completely hidden. My plan was to plant in this area; this has changed, since I will wait to see what inhabits the places under the Aspens.

Roses are planted, however, along the driveway, above the retaining wall.  I visualize visitors being greeted by the scent and sight of the lovely blossoms...Roses will do well here, with sharp drainage, good soil and a warming shelf just above them.

It is a time for surprises.  After the Winter, where I despaired of ever seeing last year's plantings again, where I was sure they had all expired from the cold, I see new leaf growth.  The Hostas are all poking their sharp spikes upward...and Daffodil, even after Squirrel attack, is beginning to bloom.

And all the Lilacs are well on their way, with thick buds gracing the plants. Lilacs remind me of daughter Katrina, even though she's been gone for so many years, each one but a minute since her death. She was born in the month of May, and she walks closely with me during this magical month. She comes back to see her favourite flower bloom...I feel her very near. 

And...oh, she's so very welcome!

As I prune and clean, I find the meditative zone I go into, when there is repetitive work to be done, in the garden. Pain and general malaise fades into the background; I hear the music of the songbirds instead, displacing bodily pain. I become very intent upon the pruning and is as if the plant and I are in harmony.

The atmosphere becomes different, when I clear.  It becomes lighter, less bogged. Air streams by, on the hands of Wind, cleansing dark and forgotten pockets of sludge. Warmth from Sun uncurl the tight buds of the wild Roses and Saskatoon Berry, beginning a glorious, new cycle of life.

I spend hours revelling in the pleasure of being here, right now, with no other thought than what I am doing at the present moment.

Clearing the land or clearing the is all the same, to me.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


For the last couple of weeks, since the temperatures are still in the minus zones overnight, I have been busying myself with clearing brush.  In so doing, I have discovered small, new plantlets just beginning to pop through the dry soil...Strawberries, Wood Violets, Indian paintbrush, Nodding Onion, Asters and many of the various Sunflowers are all announcing their arrival.

Before I cleared the brushy stuff, which threatened to take over the back yard, those wildlings were hidden under broken, brownish-grey branches and long, yellow grass.  It astounds me how plants can continue to grow here with everything stacked against them...we are in drought conditions and not much light reached them, until I cleared the brush.

I have piles of brush. I had intended on burning them...fires are still permitted as long as they are small...but I can't imagine doing so. It is too dangerous.

Graham is on a business trip for a week; my plan was to continue to clear, then to visit nurseries for some new deciduous trees and shrubs.  It hasn't quite turned out that way.

It is very dry here. Dust storms are common.  Snow melt has just ended; no Rain has arrived.  One would think, even without Rain, that Snow would have melted into the Earth, yet only the first inch or so is damp.  Underneath, the soil is devoid of moisture.

I attempted to plant Seeds directly in the soil; however, Seeds must be kept moist, in order to germinate. Most of the Seeds fell victim to the Squirrels or Birds, the rest are still resting. Even had they popped their tender heads through the soil, there would have been a Bird who instantly, on the show of green, would have snatched it up.

Since Graham left, Wind has blown, screeching his way through the Trees, constantly. Sand and dust has battered the house; items not battened down fly through the Air with graceful ease.

This morning, it appears calm, but I wonder to myself how long the quiet will last.  

On Saturday, the dogs and I were engulfed in smoke.  At first, I thought it might have been from the 70 Mile Fire, which was burning out of control at that time.  But we live too far away from that one; I learned later there was also a Fire near the City of Williams Lake.  It must have been the smoke from that Fire which travelled this way on the ever-increasing Wind.

But with the smoke which travelled here very quickly on the Wind, I was just as nervous as the Dogs, who shook and shivered...mostly because Lucky is afraid of blasting, which was also occurring, and Nate is frightened of Wind.  Wind has the tendency to slam doors, knocking objects off tables and generally creating havoc. Dust rises and swirls on the long arms of this strong Wind. 

Nate attempted to crawl under the bed; however, he is too large and not as agile as he once was.

And possibly, I fueled their fear.  I was frightened myself.  Was evacuation even possible?  And how was I to prepare? I pictured myself grabbing photos and the computer (since the computer has all my photos on it). The whole scenario tells me a bit... most objects are replaceable, but memories contained in treasured photos are not.

My priorities lie with the memories.

My fear of Fire began when I was small.  I remember many Forest Fires in the town where I grew up...many that burned, out of control, for long weeks.  These Fires usually occurred after a long, hot Summer. But I remember my Dad having to fight Fire, coming home blackened with Soot, telling horrendous stories of how quickly and randomly Fire travelled and how easily he could have been trapped.

My first husband only just escaped from a house Fire, when he was young.  As a consequence, he impressed upon me his fear...and Fire, burning beyond control, has ever since held me in the grip of near terror.

We have no beetle-killed Pine on our property; only Interior Fir grows here.  Yet, Fire, once begun, would only jump from Tree to Tree, not minding the species or whether it was dead and dry. But the dead Pine, standing browned and still, is a catastrophe just waiting...

The thought of burning those piles of brush I cleared in the back has long disappeared; I plan to pile them until we are the recipients of a long period of Rain, which may not happen.  I heard on the news that we are in drought conditions. Even with Rain forecasted, I have not seen any since last Fall...only Snow, at least here, in the hilly country where I live.

Perhaps I will have to put up with the horrendous noise of the Wood chipper...noise which will destroy the serenity of this whole far-flung neighbourhood.

I must not forget Fire also rejuvenates, even as it destroys. As Fire passes, burning wildly in the overstory of large Trees, seeds which require Fire to burst into life suddenly stir.  All those wildlings...Fireweed, Aspens, Birches, Lilies et al, will cover the blackened Earth.

New homes may be built...better and more Earth-friendly. There will be memories of the old and new stories to tell.

Nature, it seems, is balanced...when She takes away...drastically, at times... she also gives. A different Life, perhaps, one not easily accepted by the unadaptable, but one that is nonetheless restored and renewed.

And just as those small, baby Asters, Onions and tender Pachysandra tentatively poke their childish heads above the Earth this Spring, a new Cycle begins...

And my fear of Fire? I'd better learn to face it...learn to be better prepared. I chose to live in a Forest, after all.