Four months now in the new house , and I feel nearly back to my natural and normal lifestyle, and not near as much sitting at a table knitting & watching knitting podcasts as I did in the confines of a tiny house. But now I’m experiencing a bit of an epiphany with productivity, as if to make up for lost time. Hiking around and up the ridge does seem like essential energy spent, but I am feeling a sense of mortality driven desperation to accomplish things. Things out of doors, but not on trail or road, things that take a lot of physical work, and for which I am lamely unfit and feel snared in a trap of middle-age. But I am getting myself out, step one is behind already, (take an ipuprofen!) and another step ahead. I am readying myself for the transformation.
Knitting & designing aside, presently my attention is on gardening, clearing, and making compost, and completely challenged by the lack of any level ground. I have tried to put into practice most of my life, a devotion to gardening, and yet, each spring that turns to summer with the hammer coming down of unrelenting heat and dryness has me always and every time wilting along with the zucchini plants. Last Spring I posted about wanting to hang in there with the garden into summer, not just the usual infatuation with the vigor of Springtime growing, but dedicate myself in the summer months. For June is when the heat can get ahead of me, and by mid July when if a gardener is not equipped with resources, all is lost, rolling into August through September is one long heat wave and even tomatoes die. Oh, and October is the dryest of all. How does one truly garden year-round in this place? So here I am in February, after the first mild days came and I feared the blossoms would explode on the cherry tree I had bought last year and have still not planted, it being a gift for Franny & Zooey, the resident pair of ravens. Soon, in a week or two the vineyard rows will explode in mustard flowers yellow, white, even pink, and become a cacophony of color all up the Napa Valley. The sweet daffodils emerge from the sides of roads, from ghost gardens of houses which are no longer there, the acacia trees ooze pollen and the scent of Spring is intoxicating. Yes, it really does begin in February. That is not to say we won’t still have hail storms, even snow up on the mountain, but it all seems to balance and tip back and forth between frantic outside work and staying in, sheltering from the rain, hail, or snow. So much happens this month, and I am bracing myself for it.
I have a lot of burning to do; now this is work that requires first a call to check if it is a permissive burn day, a handy propane torch is nice to start, but the rest is just a lot of really hard sooty work, all to reduce a lot of dead wood around, and because we live in a wildfire prone California, it is work that I have come to accept that is important work needing to be done. In fact, indigenous people of Napa Valley made a practice of purposeful burning to balance growth of food and attract animals to hunt , as well as prevent catastrophic wildfire. I’ve got to get ahead of the learning curve, guess work, or maybe instinctive, tapping into the collective eternal experiential brain of human life — nurture the food producing micro climate and inhibit the invasive tendency of wild to fight any attempt to control a space.
I hold on to a vision of a more limbed-up woodland space with streaming sun into the official garden plot like a meadow, thriving with tiny micro climates. I do think more about the indigenous people that lived here first, and wonder what this space on the mountain was like a hundred, two hundred, a thousand years ago. I ponder and although I try for elements of English Country Garden, I must get real. April’s lush verdant water-beaded plants in a cottage garden style are completely lost by July in most certain and unstoppable arrival of aridity. I am still trying to learn about how to garden in this arid-in-summer & mossy wet-in-rain season place , where is the genius of it all , I can’t seem to grasp it.
Growing any food on a steep slope facing near direct West is a challenge. I think I need to plant more fruit trees for the hell of it, not caring what fruit mostly, but the most important crop is a bit of shade in the afternoon. So there’s me, heading off to the nursery this week on the look for another apple, or pear, things that grow well in the rocky volcanic soil of the Mayacamas mountain range. There’s me, shovelling into rocky soil a deep hole, wrestling with hardware cloth to line and protect from the jurassic gophers lurking beneath. There’s me, against all odds, bubbling up for another hopeful spring, tempering myself into the intimidating summer, and lost to hopeless foolishness watering into the flames of October. I have to get on top of this gardening thing, I’ve got to think this out. I go deep within myself and play out all the sensitive nature against my analytical mind, and want to discover so much the genius of this place.
Our woodland gated garden in 2015