Before You Know It

Time goes so fast! The fun thing I’ve been looking forward to for months, the hike in the Grand Canyon, is only six days away. I know from experience that it will only be a short time and I will be looking back on it and wondering how it could be over already.

While believing (strongly) in living “in the moment”, I also love to plan ahead, and I enjoy remembering good things from the past. So to alleviate my disappointment on having one adventure end, I like to have one always cooking for the future. I’ve picked my next enjoyable, spring activity! I’m already excited about the summer garden.

I love gardening. Almost everything about it is fun for me. Even if nothing were to grow (this has never happened) I just enjoy being out in the dirt, spending time in the sun, watching bugs and birds, loving on my plants. I know plants are not people and they don’t have feelings (not actually sure of that, but…). However, they do respond to good, thoughtful care which makes them seem kind of like people.

And so, I like to think about what plants will be in my garden, what kind of soil will be prepared for them, how I will keep other plants (weeds) from competing with them, and all that kind of stuff. I like to buy seeds and starter plants. I like to watch the garden grow from its early stage to being full of greenery and fruitful. I like to keep the edges neat.  Experimenting is allowed and there is always something new to try.

My brother Dennis says hi.

This year there will be a new garden location. My brother has chosen a plot in his yard, close to a water source and has it all worked up. There were a lot of grass clumps in the topsoil so he is tilling it up every couple of days to dry them out and hopefully kill the roots. I can already imagine being out there laying out the rows, mulching, getting dirty.

I’ll enjoy the hike thoroughly and concentrate on it while I’m there, but thankfully, I am a good multi-tasker and will probably have a thought or two about the garden while I’m trying to fall asleep, on the hard ground, in my tent… just sayin’.   

Xeriscape of the Canyon

Xeriscape: a landscaping method that employs drought resistant plants and special techniques to conserve water.  I love plants! Can’t forget to do a little research on plants…

I’m thinking that someone did a pretty good xeriscape job in the Grand Canyon. Looking at the chart below with rainfall averages for the South Rim, North Rim and the Inner Gorge, I see only one month, August, with significant precipitation. The highest number for any month is 2.85 inches. The Grand Canyon is mostly desert.

I am so glad we are not going to the Inner Gorge in July or August (the numbers with the little stars by them – see note about 120 degree temps!!!)

In spite of that, and because of the climate changes with elevation, it is amazingly rich in plant life and almost all are drought resistant. Here’s a list:

  • 1, 737 known species of vascular plants
  • 167 species of fungi
  • 64 species of moss
  • 195 species of lichen

There are 12 plants that are only found in the Grand Canyon (endemic), and only 10% of the plants in the Canyon are exotic (from somewhere else and probably invasive). Those are pretty special statistics.

There is such a variety of eco systems in the canyon. As you can imagine, along the river where there are seeps and springs and tributaries joining the Colorado, there will be willows, acacia, rare plants and hanging gardens. At higher elevations there is desert scrub, then pinyon pine and juniper, then at about 6,500 feet above sea level the Ponderosa pine forests start. On the north rim there are some mountain meadows and subalpine grasslands.

I’m glad I don’t have to forage for food while I’m visiting the canyon, but how good is it to know that there are things there that can be eaten? I found a website telling me that the top three plants that could save me from starvation are the banana yucca, the currant bush, and the cereus cactus. Maybe you should know about them too – you never know where you’re going to find yourself. Click the link. https://grandcanyonhelicoptertour.net/top-3-edible-plants-of-the-grand-canyon/

I would have a tough time creating a xeriscape that would have the natural features and beauty of the Grand Canyon (unless I had a couple billion years to work on it) but I am expecting to enjoy and photograph it – a favorite pastime. Hoping to add some stunning pics to this post after the hike.

My Visual World: This Weed

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You are just too cute!

I saw this little weed in a flower pot yesterday.  Doesn’t it just jump out at you because of it’s detail, symmetry, and well, it’s just plain pretty!  I couldn’t pull it out. I want to see what it looks like when it grows up. It is my visual for the day.  Something to wonder about. Finding it felt like a message and a gift from a creative, somewhat playful, imaginative mind. Yeah, that’s what it was. Just sayin’… glad I was looking.

McMaster Carr and other helpers

I am taking a break this noon while my pain killers take hold.  It is yard clean-up day week.  Let me introduce you to McMaster Carr who has helped me in my job.

Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.
Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.

McMaster Carr is a company that makes and sells virtually everything that other things are made from – every little tube, bolt, bushing, wheel, piece of metal, plastic, rubber or glass that you can think of.  Every year they send out this huge, six inch thick catalog, of which I have three.  I use them for various purposes, most having to do with how well they weight things down.  But today I discovered that they make excellent fire starters.  I have enough paper to start my recreational fires (I have to call them that – explain later) for the rest of my life and probably the first few years of eternity.  Fires are an important part of my clean up, or at least they are fun.

I started yesterday and quickly got overwhelmed with all that had to be trimmed and taken out of the way before I could even mow in the oneacrewoods.  Things got a little out of hand, you might say, over the summer.  But I did make a little bit of progress and  decided to adjust my attitude.  I’ll not be overwhelmed, I’ll just work at it real hard for a week and then it will be winter and most things will go dormant, I hope.  I can do this.

This is awful.
This is awful.

This is awful too.
This is awful too.

This is trying to get better, but it's still awful.
This is trying to get better, but it’s still awful.

I’ve pretty much stopped trying to grow food, unless you count the pineapples that I grow for the unnamed animal who eats most of them. And I’ve kind of stopped trying to grow anything ornamental, unless it volunteers.  I can keep completely busy just deciding what I will not allow to grow and removing it. Really, that’s all I do now is take things out and burn them.  Now you know why fires are so important.

God knew what he was doing when he put the first people in a garden.  There aren’t many things as satisfying as takiing something as beautiful as nature, and then organizing and cleaning it up a bit.  Nature can go a certain distance toward keeping herself beautiful and there are some fine examples of that in the oneacrewoods, but it’s often every plant for itself and that can get wicked.  Someone, me, has to be in charge and keep peace between them.  God called it “dressing and keeping” – good description.

Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way...
Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way…

My other helpers are various rusting implements, bought at garage sales and held together with duct tape, several tarps that I use to pull debris from one place to another, and my Toro mower (the one piece of equipment that I brag about here). Without this stuff, well, we don’t need to go to that dark place…

This year I’m going to take pictures after I’m done and hope I can see how much better the yard looks. I have to add that a couple weeks ago when I was outside on the driveway an oak tree threw a fairly large limb at me and barely missed. I’m just saying, I sometimes wonder if plants have a different perspective on my activities.  But, I’m not ready to call it war yet.

This is what I do to tree limbs that don't stay put, grrr!
This is what I do to tree limbs that don’t stay put, grrr!

Today’s Marvel, Sunday January 18, 2015

There are times when I feel so glued to the screen. When both of “my devices” are busy notifying, flashing messages and asking for my attention, it begins to feel like I can’t get enough.  I get almost obsessed with staying in touch.  Time to get outside and touch some real things.

Even though it’s Florida and we hardly ever get a freeze, I like to bring my orchids in for the winter. Every couple weeks I take them back out and spray them down, give them a good drink.  That’s what I did today. I was surprised how many of them have bloom stalks that will soon be flowers, in addition to those already blooming.  Taking care of my plants is part of the joy of having them – it is SO an antidote to computer paralysis.  They are a dose of fresh beauty right from the hand of God.

Here are my beauties, and the marvel of the day is at the end.  I think he lives there permanently.

just look at their cute faces...
just look at their cute faces…

these deep purple ones are some of my favorites
these deep purple ones are some of my favorites

Their thick healthy roots really anchor them
Their thick healthy roots really anchor them

...and my little marvel.
…and my little marvel.

Being Home, Being Restored

I love to travel. I love to be home.  Even though there is a lot here to be responsible for, and when I’m gone nature does it’s thing pretty much unchecked (the husband did mow the lawn) it is still a place that restores me. It begs me to take part, to pull a weed, pick up a few fallen branches, smell the mint and the rosemary, touch a mossy rock, marvel at a single strand of spider silk floating from somewhere to who knows where, hold my ears when the cicadas get all fired up. At some point there will come colder weather and it will change, but for now it is still the hot, humid, green glory of summer. Nature is more than amazing, it is God’s gift showing his thoughfulness, his love of beauty and drama, his attention to detail, his desire to nurture and uplift, his power to take down and start anew

If you need a spot of beauty in your day, come take a morning walk with me through the Oneacrewoods.

one of many paths
one of many paths

shapes, colors, texture, variety for our eyes to see
shapes, colors, texture, variety for our eyes to see

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A Small Gift

It’s Monday morning.  I’m dressed and sitting at my desk thinking about the day ahead. Last week I repotted a houseplant and brought it to live on my desk in front of the  glass doors where it would get a lot of southern exposure.  I noticed a large drop of water at the tip of a leaf.  And then I saw that every leaf that was turned in the same orientation had a large crystal clear drop of water – the whole plant was decorated at the tips of these leaves only.  The rest of the plant was dry.  Such a beautiful thing… just sayin’.

I could have missed it.  Thankful for eyes to se...
I could have missed it. Thankful for eyes to se…

A to Z Challenge: E for Eh?… Ecology?

one of many leafy villains
one of many leafy villains

 This would have to be ecology of the yard, not the university classroom or workplace. And although this subject would seem to have nothing to do with my evolving theme of “family”, it does. It’s really meant to be a torture diversion for my family up north as they savor their 10 inches of new snow. (he he he, you could have stayed down here longer.)

Ecology defined:  the scientific study of interactions among organisms and their environment, such as the interactions organisms have with each other and with their abiotic environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the diversity, distribution, amount (biomass), number (population) of organisms, as well as competition between them within and among ecosystems.

In other words, looking at the yard to see what grows well and what doesn’t, and taking care of it so it doesn’t completely bury you in vegetation. I’ve been working on this for years in the oneacrewoods. And this is the time of year where I stage for the growing season to come. Plants aren’t mean on purpose but they are. Mean.

This morning I spent four hours and got about 1/8 of the way around the house, cleaning gutters of leaves and flowers from the oaks, raking, pruning, and washing dirt and pollen off everything. Everywhere I look there is a plant needing attention and I could just keep at it for days but for the sake of a more balanced life, I’m breaking it down into sections.

As I’ve said before, we do have fall in Florida – we have it in the spring. My oak forest drops tons of leaves on the lawn, house, driveway, and garden beds. Some people like to rake, bag and send their leaves to the landfill. And then they buy mulch to keep their soil moist and protect their plantings. I’m just not going to do that 1) because I don’t have that kind of money for labor, bags and mulch and 2) ecology tells me that there has to be something good about leaves falling on the ground around trees or the trees would all be dead by now. I use the leaves as mulch and most of the time it works.

Another ecological move on my part is to quit fighting nature and grow only things that like living in my yard. Ferns love my yard. Flowers, most of them, do not. They are slug food and it’s pitiful to see them disappear one bite at a time. I also have bromeliads everywhere because they multiply like rabbits and like to grow around trees where it’s hard for me to mow anyway.

Okay, northern friends, come in and have a look at my green, growing, sunny, warm Florida yard.

Prune me, please
Prune me, please

Me too
Me too

Bromeliads move from here...
Bromeliads move from here…

...to here.
…to here.

One of several mega fern beds
One of several mega fern beds

a huge plant finds its favorite spot
a huge plant finds its favorite spot

Roses? not so much.
Roses? not so much.

Dirt

I have noticed that I feel so good after spending a day outside working in the yard, and I’ve decided it’s the dirt. Therapeutic dirt. I always make sure I have a lot of contact with it – wear my sandals and shorts, and somehow manage to get smudges from head to toe.

Today’s dirt was AMAZING stuff.  Two years ago it was a huge leaf pile and now it is all broken down, dark brown with nice fat earthworms crawling through it.  It grows healthy looking weeds, which I pulled out and put in next year’s compost pile.

In Florida it’s the time of year to plant the spring garden.  At the vegetable stand where I get the weekly fresh things for our meals, they also had tomato plants so I decided to get some instead of growing my own.  An interesting aside – the stand is at our church and is “donation only” for whatever you want to pay and goes to the orphan homes in Cambodia that I visit. I call that a win-win transaction when I can support my special kids and get something to eat at the same time.  I know the farmer who supplies it and he farms very successfully. Bet his tomato plants are going to do wonderful things for me this season.

So I pulled my earthboxes to the only sunny spot I could find in the oneacrewoods.  It happens to be right near the fence line.  The neighbor has cut down a lot of his trees and has a much sunnier yard than I do and some of the light sneaks through to my side of the fence.  I think that my somewhat “iffy” results from the gardening I do is because there is so much shade.  Good for keeping cool, bad for growing plants.

The other outside chore for today was harvesting my carrots.  They have been growing for a whole year and are pitiful.  This is what happens when you don’t thin out the seedlings.  I’ve never been able to get carrots to germinate in my Florida gardens so I was really excited about all the fluffy greenery and couldn’t bear to pull any of it out.  This is probably why they are so small after a whole year! (could also be the shade, or the inconsistent watering, or the general inattention they received).

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So, other than the fact that some bug is eating all the leaves off my strawberry plants, things are looking much better in the garden today. And I feel great.