I loved this greenhouse. It was so utterly whimsical, with it's stained glass insets and driftwood handle on the weathered door.
The front door was ringed with funky beds filled with hen & chicks and sweetpeas blossoms. A passive solar greenhouse, it contained little more technology than chains and cranks to lever open the vents on the south side. Inside, the staging was battered and at times almost obscured by the large amounts of white nicotiana that was allowed to ramble beneath.
At first I shook my head at this, thinking of other greenhouses I had seen, very very clean, scientific & antiseptic. No weeds allowed! At this greenhouse, however, the sticky leaves of the nicotiana helped to trap soft-bodied insects, like aphids, that would otherwise prey on the seedlings. It was this sort of sideways thinking that I admired about organic farming.
And then there were the rats......
Rats!Yes, the greenhouse had pests, usually aphids and something called the Green Gunge, but there was a larger, furrier and more wily creature that threatened our poor seedlings-the rat. We think they got in through the large drains, and we spent a lot of time trying to get rid of them. Well, I ended up with my own rat story, a badge of glory for every apprentice....
A Rat, a Cat & a Wedding
The Saturday on which my story falls was also the wedding day of one of my favorite instructors, Nancy Vail (who now has a great place up the coast called Pie Ranch.) Her wedding ceremony was out in the Field, over looking the fabulous Monterey Bay and it was beautiful, from all accounts. I wasn't there, it was my weekend for greenhouse duty. So, I was with the seedlings. Well, I thought it was just me and the seedlings- oh- and Kealoha, the ailing farm cat who spent most of his time in the warm greenhouse. So, me, the seedlings, and Kealoha. Except that about halfway through the morning, I began to notice some definite squeaks of a ratty nature. Investigating further I was horrified to discover a rat with it's face stuck in a trap. I think it was going in and out of consciousness, silent for a while and then scrabbling, trying to escape. It was a horrible sound. I roused Kealoha and tried to get him to help, I don't know why I thought I could get him to turn from cat stupor to Super Rat Catcher in an instant-he slumped off up the stairs. I heard noise outside-a bagpiper of all things. I went out to the path; it was the wedding procession-all the guests coming from the ceremony, walking down to the reception. Everyone looked blissful and joyous. I hid in the fig vines, hands wringing, hating to yank someone from the bliss of the wedding with my tale of rat tortures. Finally, my savior in blue jeans appeared; I think his name was Darren, (or Derek?) a former apprentice with a shovel and an unerring aim. He dispatched the poor rat, burying him behind the hoophouses, and I spent the rest of the morning trying to get the sound of rat squeaks out of my head.
I showed up at the Down Garden this past Wednesday to hear Orin Martin's lecture on the summer pruning of fruit trees and as I meandered up the path past the Gate House, musing on the purpose of the eath mover ahead, I suddenly realized that something very big was missing........ So, that's it. It's gone. I know it's needed to go for quite a long time now, and hooray for all the people who fund-raised for a new greenhouse. I think it is splendid. As I walked around the wreckage, I noticed the free plant table standing bravely in the midst of all the broken glass and old wood. I gathered some fine, (if not slightly overgrown) flax and zinnia seedlings, maybe some of the last to be grown in the old greenhouse. I'm glad to have been there on Demolition Day-I just hope the new greenhouse is rat-proof.