May 15, 2005

On Friday Ken came close to finishing the last of the arbor/gate structure. Now I am going to have to climb on a ladder to paint it many obnoxious colors, and stop traffic some more in the neighborhood. I mean, beautify the roadside with a cheerful palette of floral-inspired shades of paint. When I was young my parents preferred white in their home–white walls, white carpet, white curtains. I just like color, lots and lots of it. I haven’t decided if this is some form of subconscious reaction to my childhood surroundings, but parents be warned–let the kids paint their room purple. It could save a neighborhood in the future!

The garlic continues to disappear at an alarming rate. This time of year, the battles occur. A war, waged against every bug and rodent in the yard intent on eating those seedlings that spent the winter inside. Beer, diatomaceous earth and a little Sevin dust versus tens of thousands of insects and critters that have nothing else to do all day (and night) than work on how best to eat my plants. And speaking of the gopher, it returned to finish off my once-proud globe artichoke plant. We pulled it up Friday night to find the convex gnawings on what were the plant roots. In all fairness, Castor and Pollux the cats have placed a steady stream of baby gopher bodies on our living room floor. An eye for an eye, a baby gopher for a head of garlic. The Hammurabic Garden Code.
Friday evening I hilled up the potatoes. Lately, I ponder potatoes. In the early days of the English language, the phrase “to hell over potatoes” was synonymous with burying the potatoes. The etymology of our word “Hell” originally conveyed the sense of “burying in the ground”. Now, theological discussions aside, I can’t help think that our modern thinking of “hell” as a place where people rot in torment has nothing to do with church teaching, but it really had its origin with the potato farmer. When I “hell” up the potatoes, I am really thinking that this job is hell, that the potatoes can go straight to hell for all I care, and that if I raised too many pounds of these things each year, I would find early admission into “hell” myself. Simply put, future efforts will focus on a better way to raise a potato because this hoe-ing stuff is not fun. Which leads me to my second thought train. I purchased two engraved pieces of slate at the Whole Earth Festival; UC Davis’ annual celebration of all things hippie and artisan. Every year I treat myself to these wonderful garden signs, which are all over the house and yard. One that I purchased this year has a quote by Henry David Thoreau, in which Mr. Thoreau waxes poetic about “the tinkling of his hoe on the stones” and the sound finding soothing musical accompaniment in the tones of nature. Well, I’ve been at this awhile. I’ve heard my hoe clunk, clank, scrape, fling, whiiiish, whack, slice, butcher, bang, ting and clatter, but this “tinkle” eludes me. I guess they don’t call it “poetic license” for nothing!
Saturday morning we surveyed the cherries and noticed we are out of time, as concerns the bird nets. Higgledy-piggledy the nets went onto the bing cherry, which seems to have a crop of maybe 50 cherries. No big deal, but I’d rather put them in my mouth than let the birds have them. The Rainier cherry already had a few ripe fruits (pre-pecked for my eating enjoyment). The tree grew too tall for the “loose net system”, so there isn’t much I can do with that one. Hopefully the yellow color of this cultivar will appeal less to the birds. Hopefully. I stuffed the net into the tree for lack of a better idea. Maybe the birds will feel intimidated and go away.

The half-feathered turkey chicks are now quadruple their birth size and brimming with healthy energy. They feel no compunction about using their foster mother as a jungle gym, sauna, and even *gasp* latrine. She gets no respect, I’m afraid, but like mothers everywhere she somehow puts up with it and seems not to mind. Although the pooping stuff carries it rather too far, in my opinion.

Mopsy has returned from her 48 hour disappearance. Galahad has renewed his courting efforts with vigor.

Many, many bait stations of all varieties are being laid out for carpenter ants, which at this point are the single biggest garden problem. I am hoping that next year, I remember to bait the ant nests in April so as to slow the population more. In all my spare time, of course.

We drove to Arbuckle Feed to purchase more chow for the beaks, and I re-did the feed bin. The feed attracts earwigs and they love to get into the opened sacks. I carefully swept up the obviously ineffective diatomaceous earth, and put boric acid all over the floor of the bin. Bricks were placed on the floor to keep the bags of feed elevated a bit; one brick per bag does the job. Hopefully the borates will kill, kill, kill the bugs. This is something the pest conrol people don’t want anyone to know–a great many of those insect control products have borates in them, which are neurotoxic to insects but harmless to birds or mammals. The insects walk through the powder, and ingest it when they clean themselves. Simple, safe, and very inexpensive. Combine it with sugar or peanut butter to attract different types of ants. It requires a little patience, but in a few days the whole colony dies.

Lastly, I now have a rooster from a nearby farm coming to blissfully scratch in all of the (not inconsiderable amount of) hay with which we mulch. He’s a dead ringer for our Anders, but larger. I chased him down the street and into an orchard Saturday morning with a rake. There was much clucking.

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