Sunday, May 19, 2019

Potting Soil


Weather: We must be in a cycle where the heat and winds are drawing up the water from last week’s rain, becoming clouds in the night that hold in the heat that in turn creates the next day’s winds as the lowering sun interacts with the heat.

First tropical disturbance of the week in the Pacific on Thursday.

Last useful rain: 5/12. Week’s low: 34 degrees F. Week’s high: 86 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey rootstock, Austrian Copper, Persian yellow and wild pink roses, spirea peaked, yellow potentilla, snowball, silver lace vine, broad leaf yucca, Dutch iris, peonies, blue flax, snow-in-summer, Jupiter’s beard, golden spur columbine, purple salvia

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, sand willow, white tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, fern leaf globe mallow, fleabane, plains paper flowers, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, feather, rice, three awn, brome, and cheat grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Wood and rugosa roses, beauty bush, skunk bush, daffodils, lilies of the valley, chives, golden spur columbine, Bath pinks, vinca, coral bells, pink evening primrose; pansy that wintered over

Bedding Plants: Wax begonia, nicotiana

What’s reviving/coming up: Perennial four o’clock, lamb’s quarter, last year’s African marigold seeds

Tasks: Something bright green is up in two market gardens; it might be lettuce that was planted in a horizontal band crossways to the irrigation furrows.

One man got his first alfalfa cut.

County road crew cut weeds on Thursday along the shoulder; mainly tumble mustard and goat’s beards were affected.

Animal sightings: Neighbor’s cat, chickadees, hummingbird, cabbage and sulfur butterflies, bumble bee on pink evening primrose, hornets, dragonfly, ladybugs on goat’s beards, baby grasshoppers on dandelion flowers, heard crickets, small ants, earthworms

The ground squirrel is back. On Monday I found a dead hollyhock in an area it has tunneled in the past. On Tuesday the hose near a cholla was destroyed. It is bent on killing that cactus. It already has killed the other native one. My neighbors’ dogs and cat are not earning their keep.

I planted seeds near the cottonwood. A couple hours later I saw birds flying up from the general area. I laid some of the mesh fencing over the bed, but it probably was too late to prevent depredations.


Weekly update: We live on two calendars: nature’s and man’s. In the church, the one was borrowed from pagans. The other, the cycle of Christ’s birth and death with the various saint’s days was synchronized with the agrarian one at important points.

In a garden, one’s annual work patterns also follow two calendars. A week ago, when it was raining, I transplanted. Then, when afternoon temperatures grew warm this week I planted seeds.

The manmade cycle comes from the industries that support domestic landscaping. In the early spring, when I need to prepare hoses for the summer, I complain about poor quality control and cost accountants who find ways to cheapen products that work until they fail.

This past week I have been having my annual problems with potting soil. "Soil" is a courtesy title, or perhaps like so many other things, has been so redefined it has lost its earlier meaning. I heard a commercial on radio telling listeners dirt is what you get under your nails while soil is that plants grow in. It then went on to list its products that eliminated the need to improve dirt.

The artificial media used for annual plants is worthless. It only needs to function for a few months, and it’s highly desirable that it weight as little as possible to lower transportation costs.

Its worst characteristic is that it remains alien in the soil. That means water does not seep from the dirt to it. If you don’t target the water for the root ball, it does not absorb water a centimeter away. Each year when I’m removing last year’s dead plants, the potting soil comes with them. Even when there’s no sign of the plant, the clod is obvious and comes out nearly in its entirety.

The industry has an answer. Build a raised bed; it will provide the materials. Fill it with potting soil like that used by the nursery industry; it will provide it by the bag full. Then, to keep it wet all day, it will provide a drip irrigation system with timers.

The alternative is to remove as much of the artificial substance as possible. The trick is doing it when it is so dry it flakes away, but not so dry it forms a solid mass. If the potting soil has any water, the roots break when you try to isolate them. Then, when you plant them, they need a long time to adjust.

If the weather remains cool, that will work. Unfortunately, temperatures went into the 80s this past week. Then the young plants go out of bloom as they struggle, and, if history is a guide, never become strong enough to produce more flowers.

The stuff nurseries use with shrubs is a little better, if for no other reason than it has to support life for more than a few months.

It usually is easy to remove the medium from the bottom roots, which are stronger than those of annuals. However, an impenetrable shield forms at the top that will not break away. One has to dig the hose nozzle through the plate to get water down through the roots.

When the temperatures soar as they did this past week, the shrubs die back and may take several years to recover.


Notes on photographs: All taken 18 May 2019.
1. The flowering crab apple started to produce fruit this week.

2. Pink evening primroses (Oenothera speciosa) have moved out of their bed into a path where they invade the grasses I’ve worked so long to nurture.

3. The fern leaf globe mallows (Sphaeralce digitata) are producing much taller bloom stems this year.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Fruit Formation


Weather: After another too hot Monday, rains started on Tuesday and continued through Saturday night.

Last useful rain: 5/11. Week’s low: 37 degrees F. Week’s high: 83 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Austrian Copper and Persian yellow roses, spirea, snowball, broad leaf yucca, Dutch iris, blue flax, snow-in-summer, purple salvia

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, white tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, hoary cress, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, western stickseed, fern leaf globe mallow, fleabane, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, rice, three awn, brome, and cheat grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Wood rose, skunk bush, tulips, daffodils, lilies of the valley, grape hyacinths peaked, chives, Bath pinks, vinca, coral bells, pink evening primrose; pansy that wintered over; globe willow dropping catkins that have tiny white flowers.

Bedding Plants: Sweet alyssum, wax begonia, nicotiana

What’s reviving/coming up: Desert willow, trees of heaven, roses of Sharon, buffalo gourd, showy milkweed

Tasks: Men have been working in the market gardens.

I took advantage of the rainy, cool weather to plant some shrubs, oriental poppies, bedding plants, and seeds that like cold weather. Because such weather is so rare, I worked much longer than usual. When I finished, I changed into warm, dry clothes, and thought about men like George Washington and William Henry Harrison who were supposed to have died after they got chilled. Since I assume they had warm, dry clothes or blankets, I presume the problem for them was the lack of enough heat from fireplaces to warm the air in their houses. Only snobs sniff at having a furnace that ignites automatically, a supplemental electric space heater, and an electric blanket.

Animal sightings: Neighbor’s cat, chickadees, hummingbird, cabbage butterflies, small ants, earthworms


Weekly update: The mechanics of fruit production are one of those things I’ve known from books, but never seen in operation. Frosts kill the blossoms nearly every year. When fruit did form, it was high or in protected areas where I never saw the fruit until it was ripening.

This year the cold only affected the apricots. Other members of the rose family were beginning their fruit formation this week.

When the petals dry, they leave the ovaries and attached styles.


The ovaries begin to swell within their protective coverings.


Soon, the ovary takes on the form of the final fruit. The protective covering falls away.


The last thing to disappear is the style that had acted as the tube that guided the pollen into the ovary.


Over the next few weeks, the fruits will expand in size, and the peaches will become round. As they get larger, they also will become heavier, and limbs will begin to bend. Then, even before they are ripe, I may have to remove unripe fruit, especially from the peach, to protect the trees from the consequences of their fertility.

Notes on photographs: All taken in my yard on 11 May 2019.
1. One-seeded juniper (Juniperus monosperma).
2. Siberia pea pod (Caragana arborescens) with remains of its style.
3. Sweet cherry (Prunus avium) with remains of flowers
4. Crab apple ovary (Malus sylvestris) expanding in its protective covering.
5. Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) emerging from its protective covering.
6. Peaches (Prunus persica) with and without the remains of their styles.

End notes: The female part of the flower is the pistil. It is composed of the ovary at the base, the stigma at the tip, and the style that connects the two.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Terracing



Weather: The rain late Monday afternoon was like a gully washer, though those usually come when the ground is dry in late summer. High winds, a little hail. The main thrust last half an hour, then it throughout the night and int the early morning hours on Tuesday.

With the early end of apple flowers, we’ve gone from early to late spring.

Last useful rain: 4/30. Week’s low: 32 degrees F. Week’s high: 82 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Flowering quince, spirea, lilacs, Dutch iris, blue flax, donkey spurge, lavender moss phlox

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: White tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tansy and tumble mustards, hoary cress, bindweed, western stickseed, leather leaf globe mallow, fleabane, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, three awn, and cheat grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Choke cherries peaked, skunk bush, snowball, tulips, daffodils, lilies of the valley, grape hyacinths, vinca, coral bells, pink evening primrose; pansy that wintered over

Bedding Plants: snapdragons

What’s reviving/coming up: Catalpa, caryopteris, Russian sage, buddleia, tomatillo, ostrich fern, black grama grass

Tasks: I’ve been cleaning under trees that were left wild because I couldn’t under the low branches that I had cut this winter.

When I removed cheat grass, I uncovered dandelions and leather leaf globe mallows. When those were removed, one area was thick with golden-spur columbine seedlings.

Animal sightings: Neighbor’s cat, chickadees, house finches, hummingbird, quail, small bees, cabbage butterflies, ladybug, small ants, earthworms


Weekly update: Gardening on a hillside remains a challenge. The slightest incline causes water to run away, taking with it any seeds or nutrients that have been added.

This year I’ve been adding backstops in some beds. They resemble what some called waffle beds when I done: series of small, walled squares. Native Americans created them in the southwest to create small reservoirs in the arid land.

Monday’s rain was an opportunity to see how well they worked. Most were flooded at the end of the torrent, but had drained within half an hour. As near as I could tell, the soil remained relatively level.


Notes on photographs:
1-2. Choke cherries (Prunus virginiana melanocarpa) have had a good year. Each of these flowers will turn into a small fruit that will disappear before I ever see them. 2 May 2019.

3. Retrofitted terraced bed with hostas and daylilies, 30 April 2019.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Pruned Hedges


Weather: This was the first week that temperatures did not go below freezing. We had a good rain on Tuesday with brief showers on Friday and Saturday that watered in fertilizer. The snowy winter may have killed a buddleia, but the spring bulbs and rhizomes are flourishing. The continued moisture may be setting up summer-blooming plants for hard times when it gets hot and dry.

Last useful rain: 4/23. Week’s low: 34 degrees F. Week’s high: 80 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Apples peaked, purple leaf sandcherries, flowering quince, forsythia peaked, lilacs, redbuds, Dutch iris, tulips, daffodils, donkey spurge, lavender moss phlox

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, tansy and purple mustards, hoary cress, western stickseed, oxalis, fleabane, native and common dandelions, June and cheat grasses; elm seeds in the air

What’s blooming in my yard: Sour and weeping cherries, sandcherries, choke cherries, fruiting crab apples, grape hyacinths, vinca; pansy that wintered over

What’s reviving/coming up: Cottonwoods, Russian olives, black locust, grape vines, Virginia creeper

Tasks: Spent my time digging out brome and cheat grass that were invading the mums and daylilies. I planted coreopsis and blanket flower seeds in openings, and fertilized the mums. It may not be the right time, but it’s the convenient time.

Animal sightings: Chickadees, cabbage butterflies, small ants. The small bees prefer the Siberian peas and lilacs to the crab apples and sour cherry. The neighbor’s cat is back. An earthworm was sluggish when it was uncovered.

The quail landed on my back porch rafters again. When I chased it off, it flew under the porch roof of my neighbor. I suspect it’s hiding from the black hawks that have been soaring overhead.


Weekly update: Neatly pruned hedges always mystify me. I wonder why anyone would bother to plant something that flowers, only to chopped the branches so it never blooms. If someone wants to go to the trouble of maintaining a clipped hedge, there are evergreens that are ideal, and they don’t even drop their leaves in the fall.

The shrubs that get this treatment are the ones that tend to have lots of dead wood that needs trimming out: spirea, forsythia, roses of Sharon. Apparently some garden advisor sometime in the past thought, since you have to do the work anyway, why not make the effort pay with something visible.

The spirea takes it, though it looks like it has mange when it blooms. One person keeps a row of roses of Sharon cut down to low squares. The lavender flowers looked pasted on in summer. The forsythia does not do well when it gets cut arbitrarily. Some years it can take it, and others it can’t.

Privet not only does ok, but volunteers to be a green hedge. Mine have begun to send out suckers along the wettest land, which means in a line. I don’t prune mine, so they fill in and bloom in late spring. As I mentioned in the post for 21 November 2010, my aesthetic reasons developed when I had a neighbor in Michigan with a privet that grew so large it resembled a tree.

Lilacs are another shrub that sends out suckers that form copses. A couple people in the area have them in hedges. The one is tall and doesn’t look like it’s ever been pruned. Another died after people strung an irrigation line through the top branches and ran water in winter than froze. I don’t know if the ice killed it, or if it was suffering and the water was a fatal attempt to save it.

My lilacs, especially the uncultivated species, have created forests of stems. They compete with each other for light so the flowers appear up higher every year. I probably should cut them down a little, but I’m always afraid insects will invade if I do it during the summer.


Notes on photographs: Photographs taken 27 April 2019.
1. Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) on left and Paul Thirion cultivar on the right. You can see the dense number of stems on both.

2. Common lilac suckers that found the hose laid down last summer.
3. Cheyenne Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) that has suckers to the left.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Trees Fight Back


Weather: Sweet cherry blossoms succumbed to the succession of cold mornings; they still are producing flowers buried in leaves but the ones that were visible and exposed are gone.

I’m not sure about the butterflies. Monarchs can’t withstand temperatures below freezing and, when it gets cold in México, cluster together on evergreen boughs. I still saw some, but each day’s group may have been a different set.

The hose failures last summer are affecting my plants this year. I have a row of fruiting crab apples and the two that were on a hose that developed a large hole survived the winter, but have no flowers, while the others all are in bloom.

My forsythia leaves started wilting in last summer’s heat. I did what I could to get the shrub more water. It survived the winter, but has not bloomed. Few flowers appeared on some 10' high plants near the river that usually are covered. A few lots down, the forsythia that grows in an irrigation channel was doing fine.

I talked to a woman who was buying a particular type of tomato plant. She’d tried Wall of Water, only it crushed the plant when the wind came up. Like the rest of us, she buys as soon as she sees something and nurses plants until the weather is right because she knows they won’t be available then.

Last useful rain: 4/17. Week’s low: 26 degrees F. Week’s high: 84 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Apples, flowering crab apples, purple leaf sandcherries, flowering quince, forsythia, tulips, donkey spurge

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, tansy and purple mustards, western stickseed, native and common dandelions, cheat grass

One of the difficulties of controlling the spread of dandelions by picking the flowers is they open at different times of the day in my yard, depending of when the sun reaches them.

What’s blooming in my yard: Sour and weeping cherries, sandcherries, fruiting crab apples, grape hyacinths, vinca; pansy that wintered over

Last year was the first time my flowering crab apple produced lots of flowers, and they were killed immediately by the frost. This year they survived, and are fragrant.

What’s reviving/coming up: Raspberries, Russian olives, weigela, sandbar willow, lilies, lilies of the valley, Rumanian sage, Siberian catmint, tumble mustard, David phlox, green-leaf five-eyes, Silver King artemesia, Mönch aster

Tasks: The warm weather has encouraged weeds. People were kicking up dust with weed eaters, and electric and rider mowers.

Animal sightings: Chickadees, quail, first gecko, cabbage and orange butterflies, ladybug on globe willow, small black ants, small bees on Siberian peas, sandcherry and flowering crab apple

From the sounds I hear in my drive, young birds in my neighbor’s metal building must have hatched.


Weekly update: I’m amazed at how little I learned growing up about trees. I suppose the reason is I was older than they, and I left home for college before I turned 18. I wasn’t around to see them reach adulthood.

This winter was the first time I had someone cut limbs off living trees. In most cases it was to removed dead wood, but in others it was to remove branches that were in my way.

They were cut in mid-February, and two months later they are replacing what was removed.

The cottonwood must have suffered more than I thought from last summer’s heat. Despite getting water every week, it dropped leaves on the southeast side early. This year that limb has no leaves, and should have been cut this winter.

It knew it had problems, and produced branch buds in its main trunk last summer. They have been leafing all along the trunk.

The Russian olive had the same problem, and I forgot to have it pruned. Now, I only see new leaves high on the west side. On the east side, leaf buds are opening on the trunk.

I imaging people who lived with trees eons ago observed these patterns in Nature and must have figured out they could stimulate new growth by dismembering. That, after all is the essence of pruning hedges and fruit trees.

I had some branches taken off an apricot that were reaching into the drive. I assumed it would put out new limbs higher up, since trees seem naturally to die up from the ground. But no, the tree wanted a branch at that level and is putting out new leaves around the cut.


Notes on photographs: All taken 21 April 2019.
1. Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia).
2. Cottonwood (Populus deltoides).
3. Apricot (Prunus armeniaca).

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monarch Butterflies


Weather: It’s time to start counting the days since the last rain. The clouds that moved through this week were like the robin, just passing through for some other destiny.

There’s still snow in the Jémez from Tchicoma south.

Last useful rain: 3/21. Week’s low: 21 degrees F. Week’s high: 85 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Cherries, peaches, Bradford pears, purple leaf plums, flowering quince, forsythia, daffodils. Cherries get tall and tend to be planted behind houses.

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, tansy and purple mustards, western stickseed, native and common dandelions

What’s blooming in my yard: Sandcherries, vinca

What’s reviving/coming up in the area: Weeping willow, heath aster, wild lettuce, pigweed, needle grass

What’s reviving/coming up in my yard: Beauty bush, catmint, Maximilian sunflower

Tasks: Men are still getting their irrigation systems working. One was out with a shovel in his ditch, another was letting yellowish water bubble out onto the ground. One house had standing water in its yard one morning this year. A man was out with a hoe working in another field around noon.

I spent several days testing hoses before I installed them. The first batch, which was made in China, all had connectors that leaked at the fittings. The second batch, which was from the same company but made in this country, had one with a leaking connector and another that only delivered water for half its length. The ones I installed only had functional water holes on one side, so I have to move the hoses from the centers of the watered areas to the edges. I have no idea how they will actually work when it gets warm and there’s less humidity in the air.

Animal sightings: Chickadees, robin, butterflies, small bees, small black ants, first house flies.

I found a hornets’ nest in the dead sweet pea leaves I was removing. I picked it out with the tips of my nippers. A few minutes later there was rustling in the trash bag and I thought I saw wings. I kicked the bag away from me, so the opening was in the other direction. There are limits to my curiosity.


Weekly update: I started seeing small butterflies this week. They usually were flying at a distance and it was impossible to detect their color.

Then, it must have been Friday, I was walking in the drive when a flock rose and flew off in different directions. I wasn’t expecting them, and was so disoriented by their movement I couldn’t focus on a single one to identify it.

Saturday this happened again. This time I had a sense they were gray and orange, and in the area of the sandcherry which had come into bloom on Wednesday. Prunus besseyi is densely covered with small, fragrant, rose-shaped flowers.

Yesterday I moved more cautiously and saw a number on the shrub, sharing the space with small bees and house flies that also started hatching this week.

I don’t think they are monarch butterflies, but I don’t know enough about Lepidoptera to be sure. The only ones I recognize in this area are the white cabbage and yellow lettuce ones. The woman who sternly told me several years ago that the latter were sulphur butterflies, also said the small orange ones I’d seen were monarchs. However, every monarch I saw in Michigan was much larger and had more definite patterns. Wikipedia says their wingspan is 3.5" to 4". [1]

As a child I must have assumed butterflies were like plants. The eggs hatched in spring, the caterpillars were around in early summer, and the butterflies appeared later. That narrative matched my observations and the things I knew about the life cycle of insects.

That image was one reason I had such a problem recognizing the butterflies this week. It simply was too early in the season.

I’d seen headlines about more monarchs wintering over this past year in México, but hadn’t bothered to read them. When I went back to the stories I found Danaus plexippus go through several generations in a year spread over a number of geographic areas. The differences between what I see here and what I remembered from the north fit that biogeographic pattern.

The butterflies fly south in fall to winter in forests a little northwest of Mexico City, where the air is moist and temperatures rarely fall below freezing. [2] For a time, scientists assumed they were in a hibernating state in which they neither ate nor drank. A reserved area has been established in México and observers have found they do go out in the day to seek water. [3]

The ones that migrate begin moving north in late winter, and lay eggs in the south that begin hatching caterpillars in March. They, in turn, become butterflies in April. Adults feed on nectar, and follow their food supply north, so that each of the four generations hatched in a year lives farther north. [4]

I couldn’t discover anything about differences in physical size by region or season. However, research has been done on the coloration. Females are more amber colored, and males are more orange. [5] More important, those raised in warmer environments, like New Mexico, are lighter colored than those raised in the Midwest. [6]

I don’t know if the quality of the milkweed the caterpillars eat or the kinds of nectar eaten by adultsl has any impact on size. The larvae feed on a number of Asclepias species, and their nutritional quality may differ by environment. Moisture, soil, and temperature may all make a difference within a single species. Most of the research is done in the Midwest where the butterflies spend most of their time.


Notes on photographs: All taken 14 April 2019. I lopped off the sandcherry branches that were crossing my paths; its shape is still asymmetrical.

End notes:
1. Wikipedia. "Monarch Butterfly."
2. Wikipedia. "Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve."
3. "No Food for Five Months?" University of Wisconsin Arboretum Journey North website.
4. "Annual Life Cycle." University of Minnesota Monarch Lab website.

5. Andrew K. Davis, Jean Chi, Catherine Bradley, and Sonia Altizer. "The Redder the Better: Wing Color Predicts Flight Performance in Monarch Butterflies." PloS One, 25 July 2012.

6. Andrew K. Davis, Bethany D. Farrey, and Sonia Altizer. "Variation in Thermally Induced Melanism in Monarch Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) from Three North American Populations." Journal of Thermal Biology 30:410–421:2005.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Toils of Spring


Weather: We returned to the state of being a passive stage set for acts of nature that are oblivious to us. Sunday a storm went through: it snowed in Los Alamos and Santa Fé, but not here. We had the wind, we had the clouds and misty air, but it was so warm nothing happened. At night, of course, we got the cold.

Again on Wednesday a front passed through, and we saw the clouds and felt the occasional wind gusts, but we’re not the actors. We’re not even the chorus. By Thursday, the ground was drying in places where no leaves trapped the earlier moisture.

Last useful rain: 3/21. Week’s low: 22 degrees F. Week’s high: 75 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Apricots, peaches, Bradford pears, purple leaf plum, forsythia, daffodils

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, tansy mustard, western stickseed, dandelions

Purple mustard (Chorispora tenella) is said to be an aggressive invader. It became noticeable in 2014, but stayed closer to town and the river. This year it’s taken over a number of yards a mile and a half away.

What’s blooming in my yard: Last of the violets

What’s reviving/coming up in the area: Four-winged salt bushes, bindweed, yellow yarrow

What’s reviving/coming up in my yard: Purple leaf sandcherry, buddleia, garlic, Johnson’s Blue geranium, sea lavender, lady bells, sidalcea, Rumanian sage

Last summer’s heat was more than some plants could take. The daylilies started wilting in July, and some had lost their leaves by late August. They’ve all come back. Likewise, the garlic chives only flourished where they got lots of water. This year they’ve returned to places they abandoned.

I had the tree trimmer cut dead wood out of the globe willow. It’s now putting out new branches from the trunk.

Tasks: The acequia is running. Friday there was water in the ditch, and two men were out with shovels clearing their sections. One field had standing water in furrows.

I continued doing clean-up that was postponed for two years by my thumb. The first year I did nothing to let it recover. Last year other things had greater priority than pruning the Apache plume.

The problem with pruning is the burn pile got huge. The winds were blowing loose branches back into the drive. This morning it finally was warm enough to turn on a hose early in the morning while it was still. The brush all disappeared, but the locust limb from last year and this year’s Siberian pea only turned to charcoal.

Animal sightings: Chickadees, small bees around peaches, small black ants. Some quail were reconnoitering my back porch today.


Weekly update: I began the worst job of the year yesterday. Testing and resetting the hoses reveals every one of my physical weaknesses. My lungs doesn’t much like bending down in the sun, my arms hate tugging on heavy hoses, and my thumb can’t unscrew and rescrew fittings.

The problems with replacing the soakers that sprouted holes got worse. I know I repeat myself, but the supply does get worse every year. Last year there were two brands available. The better one no longer is available in 25' lengths.

Supersizing has taken over the business. There are no new 25' regular hoses in the local stores. The ones available are ones that didn’t sell last year. It’s hard to even find 50' lengths. Now, they are pushing hoses that are 75' and 100' long. The problem with low water pressure is the longer the hose the less useful it is.

I ordered six of the cheaper soaker hoses. They came tied by heat-glued strips that are so tight they pinch the hoses, and never disappear. I laid them out on the drive, because, if I don’t make them lay flat for a couple days before I install them, they never will. No two were the same length, and the longest was a foot longer than the shortest.

Some day this week I’ll screw and unscrew each one to a garden hose to test them for holes. I learned last year this particular brand was prone to arrive with flaws.

It’s only after I replace the hoses that leak so badly they deliver no water that I can begin the next task: bending down to get them to lay flat again so the water goes where it’s needed.

I know I say it every year, but American corporations really have forgotten there serve more important functions than paying bonuses to executives who make the cost-cutting and marketing decisions. Buying up the competitors insulates them from the consequences of their actions. Nature does not protect me from them.


Notes on photographs: All taken 7 April 2019.
1. Peach (Prunus persica) in full bloom.
2. Globe willow (Salix matsudana umbraculifera) sprouts.
3. Remains of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in burn pile.