What’s written below, was written over two and a half years ago, but I guess I never published it.  I don’t even remember writing it, but I do remember the incident with the lizard and am glad he’s/she’s immortalized here.

So much has happened in those 2 1/2 years!  There’s been a whole lot more life and death in our garden and in our lives.  Both of my parents passed away, our first “daug-ter” died of cancer, and we got a new dog who has either solo or team-caught over 30 gophers and moles in the last six months!  What a great help.  We’ve also added five beautiful hens (their coop is the former mist-house of our former nursery) and now I carry aphids, slugs and snails down to them.  I am happy to have bugs to feed to the girls, and still amazed that they can take that stuff and turn it into “perfect protein” the next day.  And just last week I spotted two lovely long-tailed alligator lizards chasing each other through the citrus house.  Hurray, life over death!

So on a beautiful spring day, which happens to be our 18th anniversary, I’ll head outside again to check on the strawberry pot I just planted.  The pot was one thing I saved from my parents’ yard in those last minute decisions before the estate sale.  The bareroot plants were just purchased on our anniversary weekend trip, so together we’ve turned a tough memory into a good one.  I’ve learned a lot more about life and death in these last two years, and I’m sure God is not finished teaching me still more.

————-

About 2 PM today I realized I’d spent a good part of my day killing things.  What a revelation for someone who wants to grow and enjoy beauty and good food!  I guess good things come at a price.  It’s a few hours later and I’m still undecided on how to proceed.  Coupled with my murder-in-the-second-degree (it was an accident!) of a lovely alligator lizard last week who was hiding in my snail trap) I need to make some changes.  Maybe next year…

  • I will forget about trying to grow a winter garden of brassicas that are a magnet for cabbage butterflies and their green looper babies.
  • I won’t bother to start anything by seed directly in the ground so that the birds, slugs and earwigs won’t just eat them or mow them down before they even have a chance.
  • I’ll just wave the white flag to the gophers and voles.  Tracy claims that there’s only so much they can eat and that to be less stressed I need to accept a certain amount of “damage”.  The problem here is that gopher “damage” is usually terminal and since I’ve been the one catching them I know what we’d be up against next year if I had not done-in the 20 or more this year.  In this regard, a barn cat is looking ever more attractive to me if we can keep it from eating our songbirds poolside while they bathe…
  • I’ll fight the urge to squish every cucumber beetle and earwig.  So they eat the pollen in the flowers and notch the nasturtium leaves – they can have them (maybe).
  • I’ll stop stepping on snails and eco-baiting for slugs.
  • I’ll give up growing winter squash and pumpkins since they take up so much room and the gophers kill the plants.  We don’t even eat that much of these things, but it’s good for us and if I grow them we’re more likely to eat better, so…
  • I’ll just wait it out and whatever is left I’ll propagate more of and re-plant, maybe.

Well, it sounds good anyway, and certainly maybe worth a try…

As a special gift to me today, while watering the bed where I buried that lizard, another one scampered away from the spray.   Between that and the five tree frogs and the kale, sweet peas, roses and dahlias, there’s still plenty of life in the garden, too.  Nasturtium through balcony

The last few months the camera has been capturing a few strange things we’ve discovered while we work on our property.  I never cease to be fascinated (though sometimes I get a bit queasy!)

A month or so ago I saw what looked like a drunk crane fly flopping around the air on our front porch, then it landed on the house and I took a ton of photos hoping one would come out well.

Snakefly

I didn’t know what it was so I asked our trusty agriculture office and received Dave’s quick reply:

“Awesome picture!  Yes, I know that one, can’t be mistaken for anything else.  It’s a snakefly, order Raphidioptera, closely related to the lacewings (Neuroptera).  The larvae hunt in leaf litter with snake-like movement, hence the name.  Both young and adults prey on smaller insects, adult is a voracious aphid predator.  Doesn’t that brighten your day?”

It was certainly great news to know that those pincher jaws were going to be working hard for us!

Awhile later Tracy came from burning some fallen pine tree debris and opened his hand to show me this beauty.   We believe this is the larval form of nature’s stump grinder, one of the larger kinds of beetles known around here.  Wow!  and it really puts a visitor to Africa’s tale of being offered grubs for dinner in perspective.  Like I said, sometimes I can get kinda queasy…

As usual, the weeds/unwanted plants are getting way ahead of me.  We’ve had a lot of rain and a very cold spring, so the weeds are growing, but it’s not good weather for mowing or even being outside much.  However, last week I had an hour or two to weed after work (I just love these late sunsets), and I was thinning out the forget-me-nots and the blue borage in the front bed by the rosemary.  I should have been more observant, but thankfully stopped before going too far.  Deep underneath the borage and rosemary, built on top of the lavendula, was this beautiful nest of blue and brown speckled eggs: It  turns out that we actually have our own type of White Crowned Sparrow here in Humboldt County, and our property is definitely home to many of them.  Every year they find an interesting place to nest.  Usually it’s in a rose bush, which was problematic when Tracy was regularly spraying the outdoor roses (thankfully for all of us those days are over).  This year we can practically watch these ones hatch from the front window.  Despite my garden clean up I haven’t discouraged mom or dad from nesting, so that’s good, and I readjusted the remaining borage over the top of this to keep it somewhat sheltered and hidden.  It seems we’ve rarely had more than two eggs in a nest before, so if all of these ones hatch we’re going to see some very tired parents trying to keep them all fed!


Many people have asked us if we planned to hybridize our own roses and we always said no and went on to explain that it takes about ten years to save seeds, wait at least a year till they rooted and bloomed, then select varieties, test them in various climates, and finally propagate enough of them to meet the demand from a well-advertised (expensive) marketing campaign.  That said, we’ve firmly remained against starting a hybridizing program, but back in 1997 Tracy did hand me a Rugosa rose hip and told me to try my hand at hybridizing if I wanted to.  I think I left that hip in the refrigerator for at least a year and then broke it open and tossed the seeds in a flat of rooting medium in the shade.  A few plants came of it, but not until this year have we seen flowers!  Here I can introduce the first two of our very own rose babies:

Rugosa Baby #1

5 Hearts

It is rather exciting to realize that these two roses would never exist if we hadn’t saved that particular rose hip (which was pollinated by a particular bee, with pollen from other specific rose plants) then planted it and had patience to see what would develop.  There are three more plants yet to bloom, so we’ll have to wait and see what they turn out to be.  Time will tell if any of these plants are worth keeping around, how big they’ll grow and how they’ll do outside, but Rugosas tend to be a very hardy breed and good as hedge shrubs.

Truth be told, we’re downsizing the nursery as the orders have diminished the last few years.  Tracy will still have rose plants to sell of some sort every year.  He’s concentrating on grafting the roses in one gallon pots at this point.  When he’s ready he will share more with those who ask.

I (Janet) have been working part time for the last year and a half and will continue to do so as necessary, and actually it’s been good for me to get out and work on another project.  I’ve been coordinating a National Science Foundation Project with two professors at Humboldt State University, to increase the number of Native American and Alaska Native high schoolers going on to college and considering majors in computer science.  I love everyone I’ve worked with, and the native staff and local leaders have been great as well!  I’ve learned a lot and hope that I am able to continue to be part of the solution, rather than perpetuating problems.  Our local area is not unusual in its horrible history of treatment toward Native Americans, but because it’s a small county, the misunderstandings are much more exposed than other places I have lived.

And so yesterday, back to Amity Heritage Roses, as Tracy was downsizing the website (which I’ve turned over to him since I’ve been working) he managed to delete all of my earlier blog photos!  Hmmm, I wasn’t too happy about that, but I was able to move the worthy posts and relink the photos in WordPress.  That’s why it looks like I’ve done a lot of writing just today…  The migration was necessary anyway as I had had problems uploading photos to blogger and had changed to WordPress last year.  There was just no easy way (for me at least) to migrate my posts, so I did it the old fashioned way – cut and paste.

Glad that’s over – now at 3PM, what was I supposed to do today?  Oh yeah, get our plants and signage ready for the big Garden Show and Plant Sale in Trinidad on Saturday!

This post is a (manual) migration from our earlier blog, February 7, 2008

At the risk of bursting the idealistic laid-back country bubble, yesterday was a busy day and I had exactly 40 minutes from the moment I brought the groceries in the door until I had to be leaving for an evening meeting, with dinner already pre-digesting.  Since I normally really enjoy cooking and trying new recipes I’d forgotten how fast some home cooked and fresh dinners can still be.

On the menu: Fish Tacos with a side of steamed spinach.  The fillet of snapper looked very good as I was early evening food shopping and that decided the menu right there.  With a bag of small corn tortillas I took mental inventory of what I already had at home: lime check, cabbage check, sauce makings check, cilantro check.  If I’d remembered to get fancy I would have added an avocado to the cart, but that’s for the 50 minute version I guess.

At home I began to heat the frying pan as I put groceries away.  Tracy, no doubt seeing the flurry of activity, offered to rinse off and steam the spinach.  I rinsed off the fish, patted dry with a paper towel and realized I had a few bones to deal with.  Thanks to Jacques Pepin I’ve learned it’s much better to pull out the bones beforecooking, using needle-nosed pliers.  Once done I covered one side with Prudhomme’s blackened fish spices, but salt (or garlic salt) and pepper has worked just as well in the past.  That side went down in the frying pan and I sprinkled the top with more spices.

While the fish fried I sliced cabbage, chopped up a small handful of cilantro, and mixed up my mother’s lower-cal and healthy “secret sauce” of equal parts REAL mayonnaise and plain non-fat yoghurt.  Part of that was reserved for the spinach.  Then I cut off 1/3 of a lime and squeezed its juice into the remaining sauce, added salt, pepper, a dash of white vinegar and my new favorite sweetener, a squirt of agave nectar.  A bit of sugar would do the same, but it takes longer to dissolve in the sauce and metabolizes much quicker than agave nectar which is a low GI (glycemic index) food.  About this time Tracy offered to flip the fish over while I mixed the cabbage mixture with the sauce.  If I’d had time I would have shredded up some carrot to the “slaw” as well.

While the slaw “marinated” I started the cast iron skillet on another burner and opened up the corn tortilla bag (flour tortillas work the same, depending on your preference).  Once hot I drizzled a bit of olive oil in the pan and tossed in a tortilla.  The spinach was starting to wilt just as the plates were going into a warmed oven.  I flipped the tortilla over and turned off the fish and spinach burners and the oven.  Plating up was a snap (no pun intended as any fish would do!): tortilla, part of the fish, cabbage slaw, with spinach on the side and a dollop of the original secret sauce.

I ate in good speed, but not messy and even had time to kiss Tracy and pat the dogs’ heads before I was out the door again.  Whew.  Unfortunately no time for a photo like so many other great food blogs.  Maybe next time!

This post is a migration from our earlier blog, June 27, 2009

Garden Shot

Borage is that lovely blue star flower in the photo. I appreciate it every spring because it comes up on its own, and now I am blessing it in summer. This morning wasn’t the first time that I noticed how much the honeybees love all my borage plants. Yesterday the bees were still seeking out the flowers on the branches I’d pruned out and laid on the compost pile. Of course when I set out to take a picture today only the chubby bumble bee was present, but he’ll do for now.

Bee on Borage flower

If you’re concerned about the loss of honey bees (over a third of the hives in the US have disappeared – who shouldn’t be concerned?!) then I highly recommend planting some borage. Once you get it going it will come back year after year. It does reseed very well, but I find it very easy to pull out if it’s growing somewhere unwanted. Here’s a good site that Hagan Daas has created to help fund research into the cause of honey bee colony collapse: http://www.helpthehoneybees.com/

So, not only is Borage a rare true blue plant in the garden, the flowers taste like cucumber and look pretty sprinkled into salads, or frozen into ice cubes. And if blue isn’t for you, I exchanged a blue plant for a white one with a friend. Now the trick is to keep them separated so I’ll know which one’s seeds are sprouting in what part of the garden next year.

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