Warning: This blog is under the influence of the Holy Spirit. (That's actually a blessing of course. I'm just trying to be fair to the skeptics.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Planting and Picking My Brain

Seems these days I have neglected the blog-o-sphere and other stories - projects. If only there was more time. Writing is something I’m having trouble with lately. I have neglected the tools of writing, the keyboard, the books, the notes…and the imagination.
I have neglected the word. It has wasted within me from lack of care and watering. The word lay rotting amid the waste of my mind, not growing in meaning, but buried and atomizing. Selecting the right ones for sentences is pointless…they are falling apart.
My brain – petrified.
I do manage a little reading before bed. Right now I’m into the Gunslinger chronicles of Stephen King and the poetry of D.H. Lawrence. Weird eh?
But, it’s all well and good; for, this spring has been a renewal of sorts. I have spent all my free time cleaning up the property, landscaping, planting…and planning.
After ten years of neglect, I cleaned up an old wood pile, cleaned out the tractor shed occupied by tree rats, and cleared out two very large, and very dead, standing oak trees that were decomposing in our front yard, threatening to fall on our house or block the drive way one day.
The wood pile was over 20’ long and in some places, 4’ high. Most of the stuff near the bottom was rotted –spongy- requiring burning. I was able to salvage much of the wood near the top and split it for firewood. (Thank God for my good friend’s hydraulic splitter.)  
I eliminated 4 small rattlesnakes hibernating under the wood pile. This, I suspect, may have eventually led to a lizard population boom I noticed about a month later. Who knows? I’ll take the lizards over the rattlers anyway.
I reclaimed the tractor shed alright. It took an entire day of sweeping and burning, all while wearing a respirator for protection.
Then, there is the constant cutting of the wild grasses and weeds that explode in the spring. This has always been a full time job to keep them cut back so as not to create a fire hazard. This year, I cut and reclaimed too.
Next, I initiated offensive operations. I got an orange tree planted in a strip alongside the driveway that I landscaped with rocks, creeping rosemary, echeveria (hens and chicks,) and Nopal cactus. The orange tree has taken off. As of yesterday, I counted five BB sized oranges forming on new growth.
The ubiquitous and nearly indestructible Nopal cactus (which I call fiddle faddle cactus) has been a blessing. We have been casually cloning it for years from a clump left by the previous owner.  When in doubt, we pot one. If a piece breaks off the parent plant, we dry it and pot it. We now have over 20 individual fiddle faddles standing sheepishly- mannequin like- in pots and in the ground.
The problem of planting and planning is twofold: Really crappy rocky soil and the giant antlered rats that roam the country side eating everything in their path. The deer don’t seem to eat the Nopal but do nibble on other succulents like the hens and chicks. They are a living terror to geraniums which do well in the rocky soil. They do seem to avoid different species of juniper and rosemary. The juniper I can understand; it pricks you. The rosemary makes no sense to me. Why don’t they eat it when we do?
This leave us balancing the need to select plants that are aesthetically pleasing, yet not palatable for the deer, and ones that can grow in the concrete like soil blanketing the slopes of Mt. Diablo.  
Deer proof is a misnomer anyway. I read once that if they are hungry they will risk anything to eat anything. I’ve tried deer repellent, even the stuff made of cougar urine. Heck, I’ve even peed all over the place hoping they will give pause before approaching our curtilage of our home. All with disappointing results. Guess I just don’t have the right stuff…literally.
Rocks - My daughter claims I have become obsessed with rocks. Not true my dear daughter. Yes, it’s true I can’t get enough for the pathways, walls, and landscaping I’m working on. It’s true I shop the road side for them, my eyes searching for the familiar promontory patterns. It’s true I harvest the visible ones from my property and from my random digging. It’s true I have them stacked and sorted by size, type, and color for easy selection.  It’s true I check Craigslist daily for free rocks in my area (And really, don’t people on Craigslist know the difference between gravel and rocks. I need rocks, not gravel, jeez.)   All this is true. It’s just NOT an obsession. I just need more rocks. BTW, if anybody reading this blog knows of anyone in my area who has any rocks they want removed, you call, I haul.
So, my toil of late has been of dirt, rock, and plant.  My tools are the shovel, rake, hoe, pick ax, chainsaw, and breaker bar…and the imagination. With these things, I rend a creation. And, with that creation, I am renewed with the ground.


  1. Oh no! Deer eat hens & chicks? I just planted some outside my bedroom door. I had to look up Nopal cactus. Do you eat them? Janet

  2. Andrea has always said, “Nipped.” She would always say, “They nipped my…!” This meant the deer ate it. It’s true. They have nipped the hens and chicks. Not devoured it per se. Somebody said once they deer will eat certain succulents because they contain water. No. I don't eat cactus.