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Seeds, a hoop house dream, and bees

I met this lovely couple at Lowe’s this week while we were waiting for a nice lady buying some doors to finish her business with the door guy. It turned out that they live close by; in fact, we know some of the same neighbors. They have lived here since the 1970s. When I confessed my weak garden season in 2021, they groaned and said that last season was the WORST they’d seen in years and years.

Garden Season 1 – 2021

So while it was probably the best garden I’ve ever put together, we did struggle (we=the plants and me). It was an extra dry year, with threat of the nearby Caldor fire in the air for weeks and weeks. The 6-foot fences around 3 acres of the property did not really deter the deer when they got good and hungry in late summer. I experienced the heartbreak of nurturing a little squash seed into maturity, watching it bask in the sun, just to have some sneaky deer wait until sundown to hop the fence and bite it clean down to the base.

So what am I going to do differently this year?

Seed Starting: I started late last year because — oh, yes, remember this? — my new puppy Pete broke a toe and was in a cast for eight long weeks, right in the sweet, busy part of spring — (long story — I’ll eventually tell it on the First Year in Review page).

This year, we’re starting seeds NOW — lettuces are starting in the sunroom, and I’m going through the current seed supply and ordering new.

I’m replacing the 4-foot fence around the garden with a 6-foot fence. I have enough 6-foot t-posts laying around to do this without much expense.

To extend the growing season and deter deer, I’m getting ready to install a small (14×20) hoop house from Karmen Garden and Landscaping in Grass Valley. So excited!

Finally, this is Year Two, and it’s always been my plan to start keeping bees in the second year of retirement. So…I’m a member of El Dorado Beekeepers, and enrolled in a beginner beekeepers class this February and April. I’m looking forward to starting with 1-2 hives this year, growing into beekeeping slowly and keeping it modest.

I’m retired. I don’t want any of this to ever feel like work. And so far, it doesn’t (except when things fail or break, which has been often).

Mostly, it’s intellectually engrossing with so much to learn all of the time, and there is always, always something that needs to be done outside. Gotta go.

A breakthrough today

All I had to do was change my WordPress theme, and suddenly the backside of WordPress is making some kind of sense. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still floundering. But I’m able to post, add pages, and I’m working on adding/configuring Widgets.

Dear Reader:

Vicki is driving in to Jackson to visit the dentist today, and do the grocery shopping at Safeway, so Pete and I will stay home to baby-sit little Otto. Super easy. He settles down in his crate to hang out once his initial freakout is over. He just needs kind words and a little cuddle now and then, like everybody else.

Pete and I were at Mazda of Elk Grove ALL DAY yesterday getting a 40,000 mile service. The whole thing took longer and cost more than I anticipated; we needed stuff that cars typically need after time and wear: new battery, new tires, clean brake fluid, etc. The Mazda is a solid car, but one day, I should get a truck…I need one sometimes. Too infrequently to rush into it. I looked at trucks yesterday as Pete and I walked the perimeter of the automall (three times) to pass the time. And we learned that trucks are hella expensive.

All that sidewalk walkin’ got to my shins and hips, so I’m taking it easy today.

Taking it easy means mostly inside work:

  • I’ll go outside a few times to throw the ball for Pete, and tend to the chickens.
  • More work in the sunroom today, getting that room ready for this year’s seed-starting operation…my friend, Karen is already into it, with new seeds well underway, but the Farmers Alamanac assures me that I am on track.
  • I have three different quilt projects that need my attention.
  • I’m in the middle of making Sister Pie’s Apple Cheddar Rye Hand Pie — made the crust on Sunday, so it’s ready to roll out and fill today. I might post the pie project on Instagram later, after I’ve completed and documented all of the steps.
  • I want to play with my watercolor paints later, part of the Happy Birthday Project 2022.
  • When I am sick to death of sitting, I’ll fill a tarp of the leaves that Vicki raked into piles yesterday, and drag them down to a burn pile.

Have a good day, Reader.

It’s Still January 11

Vince the Handyman came by yesterday to talk about all the ongoing loose ends and concerns with the house and property. They are numerous. But I’ve come a long way from that first night, arriving at 11pm, the movers asleep in their truck in the driveway. After I settled up with them and came in to this dark and strange house, I was exhausted and alone and exhilirated. And a little scared.

I want to reflect and report on those first 100 days, and look ahead to new seasons and experiences here. So much to discover. For example, what are these strange bee/fly hybrids that follow me around when I wash my hair?

New start on Mondays. I always feel that way. Our country in turmoil with the rabid, deluded Trump base whipped up and certain that the election has been stolen, ready to fight, and praised for their violent, seditious insurrection. Congress doing what it must, churning though the procedures as quickly as they can, and of course COVID COVID COVID, especially in California, and here I sit on my 5 acres, far from the action, far from the crowds, tuned in and watching, aghast.

Yet the beauty of the day surrounds me, and I cannot resist this happiness. Downstairs, two workers — Ibrahim and Phil — are unloading my flooring and laughing the way working friends do. I remember laughing like that with my colleagues when we were teaching, planning, grading, dealing with administrative tasks, and bitching, always bitching about all of the unpaid labor we performed to prepare and assess the work of our teenagers. Most in the trenches of English departments work with 150-175 teenagers each and every day. That’s a lot of kids, folks. Ten percent of them — so sweet and clever and on-point that you want to bake them a pie or thrust a copy of your favorite novel into their hands, knowing full well you’d likely never see that book again. Another ten percent that you’d love to launch into space somehow. And that nice wide middle — a broad swath of humanity. Lovely. I learned so much about loving people *as they are* by being in a California public school classroom for 180-days of the year with 16-, 17- and 18-year old human beings.

I miss that camaraderie (“Fletch-Dog!”), but I cannot deny that this house, these five acres, situated here in my final decades, engage my mind and energies in new and surprising ways. What my colleagues are doing today in virtual classrooms is so unfamiliar and unappealing to me that sitting here, fewer than seven months out of the classroom, I feel impossibly ill-equipped to teach.

The only remotely academic thing I would ever want to do again is maybe establish a writers workshop, or maybe just write and share pages with friends. Which is sort of what I am doing here.

What I am grateful for in this moment: this awesome, sturdy patio table and chair on my deck that is really perfect for long-hand practice. I do better as a writer when I put pen to paper. I am more engaged, less detached; the words in my head don’t feel so pushed around as when they are flying through my fingertips on a key board. Sitting here, I am aware of my breath; my feet feel settled, flat on the ground. I used to tell my students that writing is a physical activity, and it’s true. I send awareness to my shoulders, my back, the balance of my weight on my seat. I’m outside, so I hear birds, so many calls and snippets of avian conversation, mostly unfamiliar. A cow lows in the distance. Who around here has a cow? I haven’t seen it yet. And always, a dog is barking.

Speaking of dogs, where is Pete? Last time I saw him, he was enthralled by a new green football with a loud squeaker that his mom bought for him.

I am inspired by Barack Obama’s habit of long-hand writing. Likewise Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights, a book I am delighting in. Pen to paper. Screw the computer. Except, of course, I intend these words for, so I will type these words later tonight.

I’ve been sitting here long enough now though. Time to go drag leaves from one spot to another, and this will be my major task for the day; I will not finish. I like knowing that. Who cares? I don’t have to finish this today. Maddy created over 65 small leaf piles on my enormous green lawn, and they need to be piled up onto a tarp and dragged down to the burn pile. I *wish* I could send these leaves to Julie M’s kids — I saw them leaping into tiny, flat leaf piles on social media because they wanted the experience, but they lack the abundant organic material that comes with 91 trees. (Maddy cataloged the trees on the north half of the property. There are 91, and that’s not all. Ojala que she’ll tackle the south end on the next visit.)

Tomorrow, Ibrahim and Phil are going to start prepping the concrete downstairs and installing the floor; I’ll continue to work with Pete on his manners (“Down!”), and I’ll drag more leaves around. Maybe I’ll start scattering wildflower seeds around the perimeter of the property, and among the major granite boulder collections I have. There are three. I have always wanted to live with big rocks — so slow, and old, and quiet, and soaked with solar energy — and in this way too, my dreams are realized. When I feel cold and achey, I drape myself over a rock. Heaven.

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