12.21.2010

Advent Reading: Day 24, or Quick Reflections of An Introverted Mother

B just left the house with the youngest of our Littles and I think it is the first time I have been alone in a week. I am an introvert, the definition of which (I think) involves the origins of where one derives strength-being with or without people. (So for me, it is without.) (People.) In which case, this last week full of holiday hearth and home and all the convivialities that necessarily follow have made me almost cross-eyed with the mental strain of keeping up with it all. Some of my favorite yearly events happened this week (not including, of course, birthdays, fresh asparagus season and the All Saints Rummage Sale) and this introvert rallied around heroically, but it is only now, when I find myself finally alone, that I notice the effort it has been.
I want to be quiet. I need to get quiet and think and pray and write. I am desperate for some of that solid, solitary time. I think this is entirely typical of life with two small children-definitely when the oldest and most vocal child is home via school vacation, and especially since we are still grieving the loss of the spectacularly consistent 2 hour morning nap of the younger. That the rain has been unrelenting and the mildew overly-friendly  has not helped.
I am thankful for home and hearth and all that, really I am-I think I need the quiet in order to remember it. I think I need the quiet just in order to complete a sentence. Some more sleep would be nice too.
Advent Readings, Resumed
Somehow, Christina Rossetti's 'In the Bleak Mid-Winter'  is fitting here. I think I like Cyndi Lauper's  take on Gustav Holst's melody best, mainly because of the funny juxtaposition.

In The Bleak Midwinter
 
 In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

 Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him

Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim

Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels

May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.
 Thanks, Christina!  I feel much better now. Your careful use of words here, though sparse, convey a rich tapestry of images & theology. Especially the 'breastful of milk' part, we don't have many other carols getting into the scene so intimately, earthy, organic and familiar.  Well done!

12.04.2010

Advent Reading: Day 7, Charlie Lowell

The Disarming Child
 

Helpless and human
Deity in the dirt,
Spirit married with flesh
We couldn’t make it to you,
But you come to us.

You always come to us.
In our stubbornness and desire,
Entitlement and shame
Remind us that we need you,
Merge your untamed Spirit with our flesh.

We try to forget those
Years of wandering.
Shackles and masters,
An eternity of doubting
And still, you come to us.

A divine intrusion
Through our scheming and chaos-
Coats of armor, angels and armies.
Do some wrecking here,
And gently come to us.

Disturb us this day
Through sorrow and through dancing,
The bliss of joy and sting of death
Past hands that would threaten and tear,
You come to us extravagantly.

From your manger lowly,
Mighty and mysterious
You come to us, Seed of Heaven
Spirit wed with flesh,
These broken hearts to mend. 


Beautiful! Thanks, Charlie!

12.03.2010

Advent Day 6

I know this one is making the rounds, but it is also making me happy. Take it away, Opera Company of Philadelphia! Sorry about only half the screen appearing at any given point in the recording. I know. My IT go-to guy is in absentia. What a fun sentence to say out loud. Go ahead. And then watch the video!

12.01.2010

Advent Reading: Day 4

GK, looking a little windswept
'The Christmas season is domestic; and for that reason most people now prepare for it by struggling in tramcars, standing in queues, rushing away in trains, crowding despairingly into teashops, and wondering when or whether they will ever get home. I do not know whether some of them disappear for ever in the toy department or simply lie down and die in the tea-rooms; but by the look of them, it is quite likely. Just before the great festivals of the home the whole population seems to have become homeless.'
-GK Chesterton (1874-1936)

11.30.2010

Advent Reading: Day 3

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
   from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
   the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and of might,
   the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

   He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
   or decide by what he hears with his ears;
 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
   with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
   with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
 Righteousness will be his belt
   and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

-Isaiah 11:1-5

11.29.2010

Advent Reading:: Day 2, George MacDonald

Come, saviour of nations wild,
Of the maiden owned the child
That may wonder all the earth
God should grant it such a birth.

Not of man's flesh or man's blood
Only of the Spirit of God
Is God's Word a man become,
And blooms the fruit of woman's womb.

Maiden, she was found with child,
Nor was chastity defiled;
Many a virtue from her shone:
God was there upon his throne.

From that chamber of content,
Royal palace pure, he went;
God by kind, in human grace
Forth he comes to run his race.

From the Father came his road,
And returns again to God;
Unto hell it did go down,
Up then to the Father's throne.

Thou, the Father's form express,
Get thee victory in the flesh,
That thy godlike power in us
Make sick flesh victorious.

Shines thy manger bright and fair;
Sets the night a new star there:
Darkness thence must keep away;
Faith dwells ever in the day.

Honour unto God be done;
Honour to his only son;
Honour to the Holy Ghost,
Now, and ever, ending not. Amen.
-George MacDonald

My Sulky Vegetables

It is cold. The trees, they drip, they overhang, they shade. The vegetable garden, it sulks. Escarole, kale, cauliflower & leeks comprise this seasons humble veg garden, and they are small green dots on a cold black landscape. I sowed a flat of mixed veg about a month ago. After they sprouted, while weeding & transplanting, I would conscientiously move them around the garden to hit as much sun as could be had in our little bit of redwood-ringed earth. And little good it did. Three weeks after germination and there are no true leaves, only the sad little green seed leaves atop the long white etiolated stems. The water cress looks particularly sad.
I suppose the lesson from all this is to sow seed for the winter garden in August or September. But  here in the central coast of California our most severe heat wave of the year came in September, with temps regularly over 100 for two weeks. Take that, lettuce and other cool season crops! I need to talk to more veggie gardeners in this part of the world to see how they handle the transition from summer to winter. Most gardening books are written for the east coast gardeners, with their classically defined seasons.
I am not actually complaining about living here in this fabulously temperate climate, mind. Only trying to feel my way through a new venture in gardening.

11.28.2010

Advent Reading: Day 1

"Advent......helps us to understand the fullness of the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event; which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, we must understand that our whole life should be  an 'advent' in vigilant expectation of Christ's final coming. To prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, will come one day to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize his presence in the events of daily life. Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes."
-Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

11.09.2010

The Man From Hippo Said It Best

The Man From Hippo
O Holy Spirit, love of God....descend plentifully into my heart;
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling,
And scatter there thy cheerful beams!
Dwell in the soul which longs to be thy temple;
Water that barren soil overrun with weeds and briars,
And lost for want of cultivating,
And make it fruitful with thy dew from heaven.......

Come, thou hope of the poor, and refreshment of them that languish and faint.
Come, thou star and guide of them that sail in this tempestuous sea of the world;
Thou only haven of the tossed and shipwrecked.
Come, thou glory and crown of the living,
And only safeguard of the dying.
Come, Holy Spirit, in much mercy,
Come, make me fit to receive thee.

-Augustine of Hippo (Algeria/354-430)

11.07.2010

The Winter Vegetable Garden & The Flower Grower's Confessions

I don't know if this is a hopeless undertaking, but I am tearing my garden apart in order to plant......vegetables. I haven't grown anything that might be construed as a vegetable for many years now.
Raspberries, strawberries & herbs comprise the majority of my edible harvest each year (unless, like my 5 yr old, you count the sour grass....and I don't.)

Even though I graduated from a renowned institution dedicated to turning out organic farmers by the bushel, I've gravitated towards ornamentals. I don't know why, I've never been able to do things by the book, if they are training people for organic food production, I have to grow flowers & perennials instead. Ask my mom, it's always been this way.

But, I've been talking to some veg growers recently, and it's made me think more about this vegetable thing. In general, I like vegetables-there are even some of which I can't get enough; but I've never wanted to grow them personally. Over the years, I've blamed our garden's orientation to the sun (partial sun at best), our soil's tilth (poor & sandy), our climate (prone to drought). Also mixed up in that was an indignation at the higher cost of keeping a vegetable patch (fertilizers, etc) versus the low-maintenance life of most perennials. But I now realize that at the bottom of it all is fear.
Yes, I've been afraid  of growing vegetables.

Nope, nothing to do with The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Or
Auf der Jagd nach dem Riesenkaninchen, as we sometimes like to call it.

What I have  been afraid of, though, is putting in all that time and effort, only to reap the harvest of weak, spindly slug fodder. It felt hopeless.
People who walk through life breezily offering their surplus of vegetables from the garden, or casually mentioning that they've spent the day canning this season's harvest secretly astound me. How do they do that?
I think I stick safely to my perennial flowers & herbs largely because they offer me a lot of return for very little input. Then again, maybe I'm just lazy.
Anyway, all that is changed now. I had a carpe diem moment a few months ago and subsequently have decided to transplant out all my perennials in my two sunniest beds and give the garden almost entirely over to growing vegetables. We'll see how it goes.
The Alchemy of Motherhood & Gardens
I'm a little behind with it, it's been hard to align the planets in order to get out there in the garden to work.
This is the alchemical formula I've come up with:
1 child in school 
+ 1 child's nap 
+ 1 clean house 
+ no one 'just dropping by'
+no rain
Add essence of no current exciting books to read,  and that equals approximately 1 morning spent in the garden. Which is sort of like making gold, and the elixir of life, rolled up together, if you think about it. I've spent most mornings gingerly digging up the lupines, clematis, verbascums, roses, flowering quince, lemon verbena, and all the other little straggly plants that need to move house in order to make way for the veggies. After that is removing the massive amounts of roots left behind (sorry!), amending the beds (lotsa lotsa compost) and then planting out.
Love Apple Farm
I spent the day over at Love Apple Farm yesterday, getting a refresher course on planting the winter garden. A beautiful property, off Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The morning view was staggering, looking out over the coast redwoods, watching the marine layer drift through the canopy of the adjacent scrub oaks. One of the things I love about visiting small organic farms is the way they are offset by the surrounding countryside, and how they seem to sort of stitch their way into the landscape.  Farm dogs wound their way around our little class, woofing and flopping and managing very politely not to walk on the beds.
I came away with a lot of information and some fine veggie starts-including a cheddar cauliflower of which I am prodigiously curious. For all its beauty and fecundity and good growing practices, Love Apple Farm is biodynamic, a practice derived from Rudolph Steiner in the 1920's. I almost want to call it a belief system. It's too complicated to get into, that will be for another post, if I can be bothered. All I will say is that I am not much of a fan.
But what I am a fan of, is the winter veggie garden. Kolhrabi, leeks, kale, cauliflower, water cress,broccoli, rapini, mizuna, arugula, cabbage-I want to grow it all! And if the rain lets up (and the children nap, etc) we just might have some veggies on our hands in a couple of months. I'll let you know!

9.22.2010

Rosa's Quote Archive: James Martineau & Jesus, or She Ra vs the Vine

"Nothing less than the majesty of God, and the powers of the world to come, can maintain the peace and sanctity of our homes, the order and serenity of our minds, the spirit of patience and tender mercy in our hearts. Then will even the merest drudgery of duty cease to humble us, when we transfigure it by the glory of our own spirit." -James Martineau

I first read this quote this morning, in a lovely illuminated edition of Daily Strength for Daily Needs. Initially,  I was encouraged by it, reminding myself that it is solely by God's good grace that I am able to think a right thought about him, and to produce the fruit of love, joy peace, patience, etc that in turn creates the 'peace and sanctity of our homes'. "Interesting, that last line," I thought, ruminating on it throughout the day. "What does Martineau mean about drudgery of duty being transfigured by the glory of our own spirits? Sounds like a reference to the Transfiguration of Jesus-in this analogy, is the drudgery of duty like Christ's own physical body that he transfigured so gloriously? What glory of our own spirit is he talking about? What the heck?"" All these mild speculations as I've been chasing Hecho around, our newly bipedal son, wiping sticky paw prints (aforementioned biped) and waiting for the bus from kindergarten to drop off our eldest.
She-Ra, Princess of Power
It wasn't until I Wiki'ed James Martineau that I discovered the Rosetta Stone that lays all my questions to rest. He was a Unitarian.  Of course! (smacks head) All that bit about the glory of our own spirits. I don't know about James, but I wouldn't even know how to begin transfiguring the things I find drudgery by sheer force of my spirit's glory. Of course, this immediately makes me picture my spirit like She Ra in a spangly bathing suit, comb back and winged headdress, wielding my sword of Spirit Glory (TM) over my head. "Take that, breakfast dishes! And that, dirty diapers!"
Hey-my spirit's looking pretty good-who needs Jesus, anyway?
(ahem........where was I?) So yes, I'd say there are some definite fault lines running through this quote. Probably the biggest is that the last line doesn't line up with the first-"Nothing less than the majesty of God....", yet in the end it is the glory of our own spirits that transfigure the drudgery of duty.

 The Vine
Instead let me turn it over to Jesus.
"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."  John 15:5
I'll take the organic life-giving sap of the Vine over the spiritforce of She Ra and Martineau. I need the rest and the life that abiding in Jesus gives me, since I am seriously lacking in the She Ra Spirit Glory department. I think I'd make a bad Unitarian, lacking the belief in my own spiritual cojones, if you will-that, and the inability to keep a straight face.
((And then there's St. Paul, sticking his oar in:))
  "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, 
do it all in the name of your Lord, Jesus Christ, 
giving thanks to God the Father through  Him."

8.19.2010

Overheard, Or Why It Is Good That School Starts Next Week

[In the kitchen with G yesterday]:
G: You know what a really terrible thing would be?
Me (distracted): Ummmm, what, honey?
G: To have a broken leg, a monkey, and no husband.
Me: (listening now): yeah, that sounds pretty bad!
G: Why does it?
Me: What do you mean, why does it? You tell me!
G: Tell you what?
Me: (trying to remain calm and failing) Gah! What about the monkey and the broken leg and no husband? Why is that terrible?
G: Because there's no one to take care of the monkey, of course!

8.13.2010

Rosa's (Inappropriate) Poetry Archives: Richard Cranshaw

To Susie, who is abandoning her alliterative last name in just a matter of hours, I dedicate this truly terrible poem, found in an innocuous Everyman collection entitled, Marriage Poems. While it is true that every poem found between the covers of this book is technically about marriage, not every poem (or any, really) are appropriate to read at a wedding. And okay, I admit it, I found this at Abbot's Thrift last week and thought, "I'm looking for meaningful poetry to read at Susie's wedding, awesome!"

SFX: throat clearing, and then in deep sonorous tones:

 AN EPITAPH UPON HUSBAND
AND WIFE WHO DIED AND
WERE BURIED TOGETHER
To these whom death again did wed
This grave's the second marriage-bed.
For though the hand of Fate could force
'Twixt soul and body a divorce,
It could not sever man and wife,
Because they both lived but one life.
Peace, good reader, do not weep;
Peace, the lovers are asleep.
They, sweet turtles, folded lie
In the last knot that love could tie.
Let them sleep, let them sleep on,
Till the stormy night be gone,
And the eternal morrow dawn;
Then the curtains will be drawn,
And they awake into a light
Whose day shall never die in night.
-Richard Cranshaw

(sweet turtles!)

8.02.2010

In Which The Long Awaited Moment Arrives

 Kids are in bed, dishes washed, extracurricular activities are at an all-time low and so for once I can sit, tea and pear tart at hand, listening to the Avett Brothers and sifting through all the words that are vying for audience. Because now I am ready, finally, to write.
But already I've done this all wrong. Bee and I just finished doing something so colossal, it has sucked up virtually all our free time, energy and money over the last 12 months. And what I meant to do was to blog about the process, the lead up to and the time during this big thing that we just got done with. But I ran out of time. And instead spent all my bloggable evenings on Google Calendar trying to coordinate said colossal event. So it is only now that it is all over that I can really begin to properly record it.
So what was this colossal event? Well, we went back to Scotland. We took a group of 10 people, 12 if you count the Littles, our own Gee & Hecho, back to North Ayrshire where we lived and worked for a year in 2003-2004.
The Back Story
We lived and worked at a Youth With A Mission training center called The Seamill Centre;YWAM is an international Christian missions organization that trains and sends people (of all ages) all over the world in a wide variety of contexts. Its mission: 'To Know God, and Make Him Known."
As I said, Bee & I lived at The Seamill Centre, where I was the groundskeeper on 4 acres and Bee was the Housekeeper. I worked mainly at the base, as it is known, but dabbled a bit in the local village, working with the local gardening group known as the Environmental Group. I went to a few meetings, helped muck out the Marsh Garden (very mucky indeed) and spent an odd afternoon in the greenhouse, pricking out seedlings and chatting with some of the local gardening color. One such bit of local color was a great guy, the local vet, named Charlie Garratt.
                                                      Charlie was one of the those dynamic, larger than life sort of guys, with surgeries in two towns, editor of the funky local 'paper', big mover with the Environmental Group. He seemed to know everyone, and everyone knew him. The last time I saw Charlie was a few days before we moved home. We stopped in at the surgery to say goodbye and to tell him our good news, that we were pregnant with our first child. He hugged us heartily on the doorstep and we said our goodbyes. Four years later, he died of a heart attack. We were grieved, and began to think about the Environmental Group, and how hard this must be for them. How could we support them? The idea was born. Taking gardeners from our church at home over to help the EG, to give them a boost during this hard time. As we talked it over, we began to see that a trip over there would further another goal, of building bridges between the YWAM base and the local community. We would stay at 'the YWAM' as it is known locally, and walk into the village each day to work. We would try to get long-term staff from YWAM to work with us as we helped the EG, encouraging relationships between the two entities. The village always seemed to hold the YWAM base at arm's length and we got the feeling that the large, international and typically gregarious community of missional Christians were a bit of a question mark for many people in the village. At the same time, we wanted to work in the grounds at the Seamill Centre, which always need help. We also wanted to come against some of the problems in the village. Like the vandalism proliferated by the local disaffected youth or NEDs (non-educated delinquents), and a sort of apathy that seemed to linger unpleasantly. Like the dog piles that were all over the sidewalks, the Johnny Walker bottles that littered the forest paths and the vomit puddles on the train to Glasgow. These sorts of things definitely belied the village's otherwise pleasant surroundings. We wanted to support what the village was doing to pull itself out of this sort of malaise. 
So we took all these ideas to the missions board at our church, and laid it all out before them. And they agreed to it, amazingly. I remember standing in the midst of them, over a year ago, as they prayed God's blessings and anointing over us. I remember feeling like we needed all the help we could get in the blessings and anointing department. Typically, between the two of us we call these sorts of  big ideas  our HBSs, or Hare-Brained Schemes. This seemed like such a huge HBS,and as we began to advertise it amongst the church community (this was at the end of last summer), I began to wish we had just decided to go to Scotland ourselves, with little fanfare, and a lot less of an audience in case it failed. Not spectacularly full of faith, I admit it. But through it all, it became clear that it was God Himself who mysteriously wanted this trip to happen. That's really the only explanation I can give. I think somewhere around the 6 month mark I would have given up, snowed in under the avalanche of details and communication break-downs that we experienced. And I don't know how one event can be tinged at once with hysteria and tedium, but there you go. Somehow, we kept at it and things kept happening.

Soon we had people interested, filling out applications, putting down deposits, buying plane tickets, applying for visas and suddenly we found ourselves leading a short term missions trip to Scotland! Eeek!
Victorious
And it all happened. All of it! The gardening, the relational stuff with YWAM and the EG, all of it. We got wet, dirty, bug-bitten, nettle-stung, sick, back wrenched (Ed), foot speared by a pitchfork (Celicia), chased by cows (Joanna) zapped by an electric fence (Katie) eye poked with a stick (me, and not as fun as it sounds), and almost swept away in the West Kilbride burn (creek). But we did it! And it was amazing. Really, really great, and I am so glad we did it. I've even caught myself saying, "You know, next time we can do it this way..." which is encouraging. At least I don't want to run screaming.
I have so many vignettes from these past few weeks, as you can imagine, and this post is really just me circling around this deep pool of a trip, trying to figure out from which angle to dive in.

I think I'll start with the gardens.....

(Oh, and photo credit goes to Celicia Fikes, photographer and mad bramble-slayer!)

7.27.2010

Okay, so I came to a decision. There are things in my life that have brought me life and joy in the past; 
I have let them get subsumed by the rest of my world. And truth be told, I've found life and joy in other ways, but now that some things have subsided I have decided it is time to return here to rosa-sinensis, to write. 
My original plan was to leave rosa-sinensis to the garden prose genre, and to continue to write on rosa bird. What I didn't account for was that now I had two blogs to maintain, when I hardly had time for one.
So I am chucking rosa bird (chuck!) into the Slough of Old Blogs and am returning, flags waving, to rosa-sinensis. Good job keeping up.

"Life, with its rules, its obligations and its freedoms is like a sonnet: you're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself."-Madeline L'Engle, A Wrinkle In Time.

6.11.2010

Rosa's Garden Notes

I'm inspired by Esther again, she's just writing about her garden, IRL, without any smoke or mirrors or cleverness. (Although her cleverness is inherent in everything she does.)
At the end of day I am left with nary a post left in me, totally tired and good for not much more than a book or a Netflix session. So it means that I am writing very little and I find myself feeling sort of dumb and mute as a result. It's not as if there isn't anything happening that is blog-worthy, I've got writing material in spades, it's just been hard to write it all down. So here is my quick, 10 minutes of bare bones writing, Esther-style.
Our Garden, 15 Forest
Our garden has got that early summer look about it, which means flowers, and lots of kiddie toys littered throughout. It's not hot enough yet for us to have to cower inside, and the flowers still have a fighting chance with our sandy (read: thirsty) soil and watering restrictions. The grass wants cutting, and there are lots of seedlings that are quietly giving up the ghost in the cold frame, but for the most part I am pleased.
The Abbey Garden, 350 Mission 
The Abbey Garden is looking well these days, and this where I've been spending a lot of my time. It's interesting, gardening in such a public setting, with people who for the most part really enjoy the garden, but have little clue about its design or theme. I get a lot of good feedback when I'm out gardening, and the courtyard has been full of people hanging out in the sun, or relaxing beneath the elder branches. I took a video of it, on our little Flip camera, and once I figure out how to upload it to Blogger, you can see it too.
I went to a staff meeting for the Abbey baristas a few weeks ago and got to formally introduce them to the garden. We were out there sniffing the lemon verbena and stroking the lamb's ear, talking about the proper techniques for watering. To be honest, I felt full of artificial bonhomie and a brave face. I definitely put on a show, and it felt like I came off sort of wacky. Not myself! But at least the staff know who I am now, and are not looking at me sideways when I come in to borrow scissors, with leaves in my hair and dirt on my chin.
There's a new website in the works for the Abbey too, and I'll be writing the content for the garden page. I've recruited Stepkas for the photography, so that means it will be class.
To tell the truth, I've figured out that I am lonely in this garden. It's been a work of collaboration from the beginning, and the other designers have had to step out for various reasons. So it's just me. As far as the actual work goes, it's not a lot, and now that the baristas are doing the watering, my time spent in the garden is even less. It's more the feeling of working together, and bouncing ideas off each other that I miss. I keep referring to myself in the plural, as in "the Abbey Gardeners" or "we want to put in raspberries", not quite the 'royal we', more of a way to help myself keep a little 'umble. And also as a little prayer each time I say it. ("Let it be so!")  The thing that keeps me going is that I can tell that God has let me feel this lack, so that when He meets this need I will be able to recognize it, and thank Him for it.

5.14.2010

La Communidad De La Playa

Our town has a wrong side. Most towns do. Our wrong side of town is called the Beach Flats. Formerly this was just a neighborhood made up of little beach cottages on tiny one way streets, nestled in a lazy crook of the San Lorenzo River, just before the river mouth and right in the shadow of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk; our town's seaside amusement park which is replete with rickety roller coasters, aging doo-wop groups and discreet puddles of sick beneath the Tilt-A-Whirl.
The Beach Flats is generally regarded as one of the poorest communities in our county. I've never really been sure just exactly how to get to the Flats, so assiduously have I kept from going there. Because this is the place where all the drug busts happened, the prostitution and gang wars and all the other things that my mother warned me about. In high school, after our house was robbed, the culprits turned out to be part of a bigger drug ring that was centered in...you guessed it, the Beach Flats. So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I joined our church last Saturday morning for a workday down in the Flats.
La Luz
I was surprised to see how much has been done to clean up this area, a shiny new Community Center, playgrounds and 2 lovely little gardens.The neighborhood was awakening slowly as the morning shadows slanted down the narrow streets; the odd crumbling beach bungalow illuminated by sunlight. Children began to appear on the sidewalks, brothers and sisters on bikes of the loud plastic wheel variety, giving each other Slug Bug punches on the arm at the sight of our silver VW Beetle.
As I said, this neighborhood is right down the street from the Boardwalk, and I was constantly glimpsing the Giant Dipper out of the corner of my eye, looming over us. By lunch time the smell of fried churros & salt air was pungent.
Poet's Park                                         
I was working in the community garden at Poet's Park, a little circular garden with many little pie slice plots that belong to different community members. Since this is a largely Latino community there were many plots planted out with cactus, chiles & tomatoes. Huge swathes of bright purple volunteer cosmos ran throughout the garden,along with what looked like yellow helenium, which is better known by its descriptive yet silly common name, Sneezeweed.
La Santidad
This garden also had that singular quality of joy mixed with holiness that seems especially native to urban gardens and other places of redemption and transformation. Beauty from ashes.  I wasn't unaware either how it felt like an honor to be allowed to work in that space. The bluebird that kept a constant eye on the upturned soil, the weeds, the trash and the other women working with me-I could sense the presence of God there, and I was thankful.
La Fe
About halfway through the morning an older Latina woman came in to tend her plot of geraniums and roses and began to talk to us, casually at first and then more earnestly as talk turned to matters of faith.
And then there followed one of the most hair-raising gardening conversations of my life. A fervent follower of Jesus, she recounted some of the stories that have shaped her 30 years living in the Flats. Her children, drug addicts and gangbangers, miraculously saved from being killed while she sat up at home, praying. The shotgun that mysteriously jerked out of firing aim of her daughter, bullet shooting harmlessly into the sky. The rival gang that appeared out of nowhere, diverting the attention of the Norteños who were about to attack her son, while she sat at home and prayed (specifically) for a diversion, sensing that her son was in danger. Her husband, who was kicked out of his house at age 11, on the streets and addicted to heroin by age 14. She called me sister. "Sister, I am blessed of the Lord," she told me, "All my children and my grandchildren come to church with me now. They are all saved."
El Pavo
In the end, she told me she was doing a fundraiser to raise money for her son's missions trip to Mongolia. ("Oh sister, those poor children in Mongolia!") She was making tamales. I ordered a dozen. 
 She told me about how God had provided all the tamale makings, including a whole turkey, which apparently tastes just like chicken in a tamale context. This excited me, not because I've wondered about chicken substitutes in tamales, but because I have a huge turkey in my freezer, purchased on sale after Thanksgiving, and taking up too much room. "Praise You, Jesus!" she shouted, and hugged me. My mother in law kicked in another turkey and since that workday I've been back a few times, delivering turkeys, picking up fragrant tamales, and talking to the many little kids that seem to hang out on her front stoop.  I love that she is giving out of her own need, raising money for children across the world, in the midst of a population that lives at or below the poverty line.
La Futura
I've been invited to volunteer at the Wednesday gardening club. We'll see where this leads. It is a surprise and a blessing to see that if I do agree to volunteer there, it is in a place that already has the light of the life of God shining through it, through people like my new friend. As my buddy A.W. Tozer says, God is always previous. And now I know that a part of my town that I assumed was lost is not lost after all. It's been found all along.

4.25.2010

File Under:New Things, Sub Category: Rosa Bird

I started this blog over three years ago, at a time when I felt like I was just beginning to lift my head above the waters of life at home with a small child. Many things have happened since then, including the birth of another 'Little' and I have somehow managed to hang on to rosa through it all. I've made some cherished friends along the way, something I didn't expect, and have solidified what I have long felt: I love writing. Under the banner of 'faith, poetry & horticultural derring-do' I have covered everything from compost to pruning primers, seasonal reports from the garden, travelogues, recipes, 'life with g & h' anecdotes, poetry archives, book reviews, theology and the odd strange dream. And then there was the post about the door to door meat salesman.....
Whew!
I still inted to write about such varied topics, but I have decided to try an experiment. For the next year, I am going to leave Rosa-Sinensis to the garden prose genre. I need the discipline to write about one subject, purposefully. So I've started a new blog, one that will include all the fun bits that have been found on rosa. So, dum ta dum! Here it is: Rosa Bird.
Please stop over and say hello! We'll see how this goes.

4.21.2010

Spring In the Garden: I Am A Gardening Sloth

I don't know what spring is like where you live, but here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, spring has read all the proper manuals. We are having balmy afternoons followed by days of guttering rain. The lion & lamb that went in and out of March can be found alternately roaring and gamboling through April. And I love it. These days I can be found in the garden, between storms, hunched over; deep in concentration as I flick the lupine leaves & watch the mercurial drops of water roll around. Also the crucial task of orienting the clematis shoots towards the trellis. And an awful lot of time has been spent with the little brown hats popping off the fuchsia-colored azalea buds. I'm swamped!
Botany 101
I know this is nothing new, plants grow in the spring. But it still baffles me how well things are doing despite the minimum amount of time I've spent out in the garden. For example, there are a surprising number of fat green nubs poking out of the soil, new shoots from the Star Gazer lily bulbs that somehow survived the strict regimen of neglect that I've instituted since the birth of little H.O. nearly a year ago. Somewhere in the midst of the sleepless nights and the fogged-filled days of life with a newborn I decided to become a charter member of the League of Slothful Gardeners. This is not the Zen-like 'No Dig Gardening'. More like the "When I Get Around To It" Method.
Sloth Gardening: A Primer
 I think this new style of gardening will really catch on this year. In fact, if anyone wants to achieve our present state of fecundity; here is what I suggest. Slink past the weeds, dead grass  and sickly plants that languish in the garden throughout the fall & winter months. Avert your eyes from the moss and mushrooms coming up in the beds. In late February, use a head cold as a malingering excuse to avoid weeding. In mid-March remember that you are hosting an Easter brunch and you want the garden to look nice. Convince your 5 year old that pulling weeds will help tidy up the garden for the Easter bunny. Begin to frantically apply compost and manure to everything, all the while praying desperately & hopping about from foot to foot, muttering, "Come on, come on! Just one little new shoot for Mumsy!" If you have some bulbs that should have been planted when they were purchased, last summer, plant them now. If you have a mulch pile, don't (whatever you do) spread it on your beds. Wait a few months until blackberry vines are beginning to obscure it. Then dig in, noting all the blackberry roots that are just waiting to be broken off and spread over your garden beds. A fine way to asexually propagate blackberries. I wonder no one has every thought of it?
Cheap and Cheerful Color

Another astonishing bit in the garden right now is the variety of color out there, surpassing the usual festival of greens and browns that this time of year usually celebrates. It's mainly due to some hard-working perennials like the purple carpet bugle (ajuga reptans) that, well, carpets the ground beneath our ancient rosemary that has been limbed up to see the branch work beneath. Also we've got ourselves a serious case of dicentra formosa. Sounds like some sort of a canker sore, doesn't it? It is actually the Western Bleeding Heart, one of the sweetest little bits of California native flora to charm itself into the garden. By 'charmed' I mean that I transplanted it from an undisclosed location in the dead of night. That was about 6 years ago and now I can dig it up by the bucketful to give away. With upright stalks of light pink flowers amidst lacy green foliage, it adds a note of woodland delicacy to balance out the heavy rhododendrons-and it looks lovely in a vase!
Forget Me Nots

But the main flower that is bringing grace and glory to the garden these days has to be the 'umble forget me not, good ole Myosotis palustris (syn. scorpioides). I've got huge swathes of this spread throughout the garden and I must say it is one of the most cheap and cheerful solutions to the perennial problem of early spring color in the garden. Especially the blue tones which are always so hard to bring in. True, it does self-sow at a brisk pace, leaving little doubt from whence comes its name. I think because our soil is so sandy and loose we have little trouble with these seedlings, we just cultivate, scuffling through the top few inches of soil with a little hand hoe. Another job for a gullible 5 year old. Tell her the forget me not seedlings are greens to feed Peter Rabbit, and she can leave it in a pile by the garden gate. And I suppose you know that the forget me not was adopted by Henry IV as his symbol during his exile in 1398? Of course you did. But I bet you didn't know that the little burrs were hell to get out of his beard.
Confessions: Neglected Cold Frame
In the spirit of full disclosure I will admit to buying a few 6 packs of pansies, alysum and stock at a large chain store. I give in to this every year, and every year I think about how I'll sow pansies next year, and how I'm actually going to use the cold frame that sits, forlorn and weedy, on the edge of garden. I even go so far as to open the cold frame and look inside. A long minute passes as I idly scrape the gunge off the Visqueen that covers the lid. And then I close it, and don't give it another thought until next spring when I want some pansies for the garden.
So get out there, Sloth Gardeners! When, you know.. you get around to it.  I know I've raised the bar, but it's good to have standards, don't you think?

3.27.2010

King Edmund the Just, Lent & My Daughter's Imagination

We started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to G a few months ago-I've been looking forward to this stage in her life for quite a while. I vaguely remember reading the first couple of Narnia books as a child; they were definitely enjoyable, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I read the series completely.
Now, they are the epitome of the comfort read. I read them in between other books, as a sort of palate cleanser. Cheap paperback copies litter the house and car, and B & I dip into them so often it's hard to remember which one we're currently re-reading. We collect different tattered paperback editions of the series, own numerous 'lender copies' and were up in arms over the decision to re-issue the books in a new order. (I think I've actually been quoted in saying,"The Magician's Nephew first?.... what, are they on crack?" ) We've made a couple of special trips (okay, 3) to Headingtion, outside Oxford to visit Lewis' church and its etched glass Narnia window. Yes, I bought a mug. And a keychain. But I resisted the Aslan bobble-head, and the Lewis and Tolkien Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.
Bedtime Stories
I love the night time routine around here: bath, book, bed. Sometimes honored grown-ups are allowed to read the book du jeur, but most often it's one of us, on our bed. A nice end to the day, even when I'm so tired it's hard not to nod off between paragraphs. 
So with Narnia, each evening we'd read another chapter or two and we soon plowed right through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as Prince Caspian, the second of the series. She seemed to be tracking with the over-all story, although it was hard to tell. (She is only 5.) At any rate she ran around for days shouting, "Soup and celery!" ala Trumpkin, the red dwarf  in Prince Caspian.  For better or for worse, we've shown her the recent Narnia movie as well as the BBC Wonderworks productions of Prince Caspian, and Dawn Treader. The Wonderworks productions are just so laughably bad. "Mom!" she said, in an accusatory voice, "Trufflehunter the Badger looks like a person dressed up in a skunk suit." And you know, that's exactly what it was.
King Edmund the Just
So last Saturday G awoke from a dream in which she saved Edmund, the youngest but one of the Pevensie children, who are featured in the first 3 Narnia books. In her dream, Edmund is being pursued by monsters, and she (G) fights them off. Ever since then, Edmund has been her constant companion. They go everywhere together, occasionally joined by the rest of the Pevensie children. She takes him to school, they get their hair "prettied" together, she baked him a sand cake for his birthday. A couch cushion became a stand-in Edmund for a while, and she left him her little paper bag puppet for entertainment when we had to go out. "I told him where the invisible Band-Aids are, in case he needs one. They're easier to find than the real ones." In the car the other day she told us we needed to be quiet so that she could have some 'alone time' to think about Edmund. I've heard her sort of mutter under her breath, "Come on, Edmund, let's go!" on her way to wash up or play outside. And she keeps repeating the refrain, "I love Edmund because his family loves him. They forgive him, and I forgive him."
Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time
The interesting thing about all of this is that it is preceded by a conversation we had on the way to pick up B from work. Winding our way down La Madrona Drive, through the leafy twists and turns of Carbonera we began to talk about heaven. She also wanted to talk about Aslan and about Jesus and the parallels between the two. I ended up talking to her about how Aslan knew the Deeper Magic that said that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's place, the Table (used as a place of execution) would crack and Death itself would start working backwards. This was all very heady stuff, but she kept asking about it. So I told her that just like Edmund deserved to have consequences under the rules of Narnia, after betraying his family to the White Witch,  we deserve our own consequences for our own acts of betrayal under the rules of our own world. And our consequence is being apart from God forever. We talk a lot about consequences in our house, so I thought it might translate. G usually gets a 'Time Away' in her room; I guess I was eluding to the idea that the consequence of sin was a sort of eternal, Cosmic Time Away. I talked about how Jesus stepped in, just like Aslan, and did this startling thing for us. That we're like Edmund, undeserving of this great gift of forgiveness that has been given to us through Jesus' actions that first Easter. And when we tell God we are sorry for the wrong things we've done and ask Jesus for forgiveness and help, He will come to our rescue. "I think we need to pray that prayer right now, Mommy," she told me. So we did.
 The Roar of Love
As it is in most of my conversations with G about life, the universe and everything I feel like I am tripping along, just barely one step ahead of her.  It is so good to have to break theology down into words that make sense to a 5 year old; to purposefully strip my language of cliche phrases and unnecessary words. And to be able to talk about these things over a long period of time, in little fits and starts, instead of one pedantic outburst in a Sunday School classroom. I am honored to be here with her through this time, and I pray that her little imagination and spirit are infused with joy as she reads on through this seminal series by C.S. Lewis. And that she will continue in the great love affair that sweeps up all mankind into the arms of God.

3.20.2010

Oh, What to Do? Worra Worra Worra!

So here I am all alone in a quiet (very quiet) house. I find myself so thankful for these few hours to myself. As the car filled with children pulled out of the driveway, my first thought was, "Nobody knows what I'm doing! Look, I'm going in this room, now this one-no one is following me!"
I live at the hub, the nerve center of a family, often needed for everything that involves feeding and sustaining 3 other humans. Understandably, there is not ever really a moment to do something that just involves me. Like writing, or running, or gardening. As I look this list over, I realize that it's a big step up from last summer with little newborn H.O., when my list mainly consisted of bathing, grooming & feeding myself.
Imagine my torn emotions with a few hours alone on a Saturday. The garden offers hours of transplanting, there's a redwood forest with inviting trails just waiting for me, and a blog of which I've been a seriously absentee author.
I think this is all normal stuff. I hesitate to even write it down, I mean, who doesn't feel busy? I don't want to bleat about my blessings, which are manifold.I am grateful, exceedingly grateful for this time in my life, for the blue forget me nots that crowd the edges of the garden and the sweet pea seeds that need sowing. For my family, B, G & H, so vibrant and cheerful this morning. My morning glories.

There's a hundred odd things I want to write about, if I can ever make it to the computer. They include:

-King Edmund the Just, G's Invisible Friend Du Jour
-My 3rd Grade Saint Patrick's Day, A Cautionary Tale
-Going back to Scotland!
Okay, hopefully now that this list is out there for the world to see, I'll feel the weight of the anticipation and actually write. Sorry everyone!

(The title is taken from an old family joke-a Casper the Friendly Ghost episode that involves pot-o'-gold-less leprechauns all pacing and worrying. "Worra worra worra!")

3.12.2010

The British Lawnmower Museum

The Brits. You gotta love 'em-what other nation encompasses at once so much pomp and so much silliness? Over the years our love affair with this island of paradoxes has been spurred on by such things as a propensity for silly town names, a yard-long list of contributors to the halls of great literature & the ability to churn out both great cheese & great chocolate. Not to mention the roaring trade in ancient monuments and chlorophyll.

I was listening to Gardeners Question Time tonight, washing dishes and spacing out. Everyone was where they should be. The Littles in bed, B doing homework; I was looking forward to nothing more than a night of tea & books followed by as much sleep as I could stuff into me before H's nightly game of Wake the Mommy began. (He's best in his division.)
Anyway, on GQT Eric Robson was interviewing Brian Radam, mower enthusiast & curator of the British Lawnmower Museum, in Southport, Lancashire.  Check out the website for some serious trainspotting for gardeners. Favorite bits include the section for Lawnmowers of the Rich and Famous; especially an impassioned appeal to celebrities to donate their Qualcast Panthers and Green Zephyr Specials.
Princess Di's lawnmower is on view, apparently. So.

My favorite lawnmower is hands down the Greens 6" Multum in Parvo (1860). Not only does it have a snazzy Latin name ('with little, much'), it's cog-driven, made to mow between gravestones & cute to boot. I'll tell you another thing, I never thought I'd ever start a sentence with 'my favorite lawnmower is......'
When you Mow, Flymo!
I was gardening at the Seamill Centre on the south west coast of Scotland when I first came into contact with the Flymo. I have no idea why this hasn't taken off in the States. Its many admirable qualities certainly outweigh the glaring design deficiences (top of the list being, of course, that there is no way to carry them without bashing your ankles on the plastic apron. That they are eye-watering orange is also a strike against them.) But the hover mower is really a great invention. Seamill boasts almost 45 degree hills of grass and the only way to cut the grass (barring sheep) is to
tie a rope to the handle of a Flymo, and let it down over the edge of the hillside. The hovering blade keeps the mower moving, and all we had to do was stand with braced legs and guide it in large arcs over the grass. Each time it felt like a bad, bad idea, but at the end of the day the grass was cut and we all went home, digits intact. And really, in the world of lawn mowing, what more do you need?

2.22.2010

Rosa's Skiving Archives: Dinosaur Comics

Sorry to anyone who checked in earlier, only to be greeted by the disconcerting image of only HALF of Ryan North's incomparably silly Dinosaur Comics. Somehow I couldn't quite squeeze it all into the space allotted me by Blogger. I think I need some sort of....code...um...thingy. Something that I should have. But don't? Um. So.
(cough)
Whew! Sorry for that detour into technical matters. I hope I didn't lose anyone. Believe it or not, I didn't really understand much of it myself.
So I guess the best I can give you re: all things dinosaurs & comics, is a little link.
Dinosaur Comics
Here's a fact little understood: it's amazing just how many things are funny when said by a big green T-Rex with tiny arms.

2.19.2010

Rosa's Lenten Poetry Archives::Frederick Ohler

AWE-FULL
Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy-
neither "the Great and Powerful Oz" nor "the man upstairs."
Help us
to want what we need...
You
God
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
at Your visitation
amen.
-Frederick Ohler

2.18.2010

Lenten Beginnings

Pruning
I was up in another peach tree yesterday, nipping and tucking. A little here....and a little more over there.  It was all a bit hurried, as these tree's owners called me into active pruning duty a few days ago and out here on the balmy coast of California, spring has all but sprung. The race was on between me and the buds, the little furry slips of white encasing each bud straining against the pink petals within. I know there is a spiritual corollary here, about new life coming from seeming deadness, but all I could think about was the lateness of the hour and the canker that was quietly lacing its way throughout the tree's canopy. I felt sick about just how much diseased wood I had to remove, and since I forgot my gloves, I was dribbling bleach all over my hands as I tried to disinfect my clippers between cuts. I also took a smack to the face by my telescoping loppers, and still have a long red scratch from a branch that wouldn't let go of my neck. By the end of the afternoon I looked like I was trying to prune the Whomping Willow. But why am I complaining? The sun was bright, the Swell Season were singing to me, and someone else was watching the Littles (thanks Mum!)

I'd like to give up griping and moaning for Lent. I'd like to give up Netflix, and late night nibbling. I'd like to take up repentance and contemplation in place of spaced-out vegging and Internet voyeurism. I need Jesus to come in and rummage around in me, grub up the fear and anxiety, root out doubt and impatience. If there was some sort of spiritual analogy with double digging, I'd like that too. I want the oil of gladness instead of a heart full of dry ashes. I want Lenten beginnings.

1.26.2010

We walk without fear, full of hope and courage and strength to do His will, waiting for the endless good, which He is always giving as fast as He can get us able to take it in.
-George MacDonald (1824-1905)

1.17.2010

Rosa's Pruning Primer: The Mighty Peach Tree

I've been down in Steinbecktown, pruning fruit trees. I missed the last winter's pruning of them (pregnancy!) and consequently, someone else came in and did some desultory hacking and slicing. The trees still bore pretty well, but I can see that whoever did this to dear old Peachy, Professor Plum, Granny and the rest did not have one tiny clue how to prune. (And yes, I have named the trees. But that is just between us.)

I have a few tiny clues, and a book. (How to Prune Fruit Trees by R. Sanford Martin), to which I referred constantly as I worked. It always takes me a little while to get back into the swing of a pruning session, because it is something I do only once a year, and the methods vary from plant to plant. But it is one of my favorite times of the year, when I can see into the tree's canopy, getting down to the clean lines of branch & trunk, finding the slight swelling of wood that denotes the change from last season's wood to this. The delicate fingering of buds, and the questions-is this a leaf bud? A fruit spur? A fruit bud? Did this bear fruit this year?Should I thin this branch out-or this one?
And amidst all the silent ruminations are the tea breaks, when I find myself rubbing my hands together, smacking my lips and saying "Ooh, lovely!" I always feel like I should be wearing a tweed skirt & wellies. 
Open-Ended
My jobs these days are open-ended, raising children as a primary occupation has few closures involved. Meals to make, things to take out and put away. Daily triumphs and losses, but few things that are ever finished. My successes these days are largely measured by the long term growth and development of my two little start-up enterprises. The Littles, Inc. I have learned to deal with the fact that I rarely have the feeling of immediate accomplishment that comes at the end of a project, or a goal finally met.
And that's usually okay, I am glad to be here with my two lovelies. That's why I look at a pruning job with such glee, and really relish the ability to stand back at the end and say, "Done!"  I've decided to write down some pruning tips, for anyone out there with a view toward pruning fruit trees, and for myself, so I can look this post up next winter when I again take up Felcos and pruning saw. 

The Peach
This tree is over 20 years old and subject to peach leaf curl.  It is also the originator of some of the finest peach jam this side of the San Andreas fault line. 
Some things to remember when pruning peaches: few trees benefit from heavy pruning as does the peach. The peach bears its fruit differently than any other type of fruit tree-the fruit appears on the twigs and branches that grew during the past summer, much like hydrangea macrophylla. And although there will be blossoms all along the length of these twigs, only the center third must be allowed to set fruit. Therefore in the midst of shaping the tree, all these twigs need to be pruned back to one-third of their length.
Here's a few over-all principles to keep in mind: 
Balance 
When pruning, you are trying to get the perfect balance between a) beautifully positioned branches that allow sunlight and freely circulating air throughout the tree or shrub, b) leaf producing wood (that's where all the plant's energy will come from) and c) flower/fruit producing wood, where, duh, all the flowers/fruit will come from.


The Three D's

When you first approach a plant to prune it, you must have in mind the Three D's, and prune accordingly.
That's Dead, Diseased and Disoriented. The first two are self-explanatory, the last refers to branches or stems that are crossing or rubbing against each other or growing up through the center of the plant. All these should be pruned cleanly out, not leaving a stub. Also, always prune to an outward facing bud. Trust me on this.
The important thing when pruning is to make your cuts  right above a node, and not right in the middle of stem or branch, leaving sticky-up bits. Plants regrow from the nodes, this is where the undifferentiated cells are in a plant (stem cells) & where new growth will occur. Make your cuts at an angle, sloping away from the node beneath the cut, so that rainwater does not pool in it. 

Getting back to Peachy
In the end, the peach should be funnel-shaped, with the outer branches forming the sloping sides and the center top left open for complete penetration of sunlight. This open center will permit better ripening of the fruit-R.Sanford Martin. I decided to take Mr. Martin's advice, and to prune out the giant center trunk and branch structure of the tree. It had minimal new growth on it, and lower down in the tree was a bad split that had healed over but had left the integrity of the tree badly compromised. Peach wood is brittle and known to drop branches heavy with fruit. Filled with trepidation and a faint whisper of childish glee at getting to use a big sharp tool, I started in with the pruning saw. When cutting branches, be careful to leave the branch collar intact. The branch collar is the distinctive bulge where the branch comes into the trunk, it is actually the interlocking of cells from branch to trunk and will seal off the wound left from pruning.
After I took care of the Three D's, I noticed that there were several vigorous new branches that were growing straight up in the air. I decided to train these into position to take the place of old branches that had been thinned out.  One of the keys to successfully training and pruning fruit trees is the knowledge of the hormonal balance in the fruit tree's branches. It is a wondrous and complex subject and I will only scratch the surface here. (Anyone is welcome to jump in here and add to this.) 
King of the Mountain

The branches of a tree are fighting for apical dominance, which is basically who is going to be the tallest branch on the tree. This is known as the central leader. When the tree is young a central leader is chosen and the rest are pruned out.  If it becomes damaged or old, you might elect another branch to take its place. These vigorous upright branches will generally not form fruit- when a branch is upright the hormonal balance is towards leaf and wood production. If a branch is concerned with taking over apical dominance, it will not want to be bothered with something as calorically taxing as flowers and fruit. These vigorous uprights will also shade out fruit-bearing wood. 
Fruit-Bearing Wood

In order to change one of these uprights into a respectable member of the fruiting branch scaffold, the branch needs to be bent down to a 45 degree angle. This can be accomplished with cotton twine and a stake if the branch is big, or something like weights hanging off the branch. If the branches are supple enough, wooden spreaders are often used. Ole Peachy got the twine and a stake treatment. Once the branch is at 45 degrees, the hormonal balance shifts again into fruiting wood, add to that adequate sunlight and air circulation and you are well on your way to some amazing peach jam.

 Be careful not to let the branch bend down too far, the result is a weak crotch angle and subsequent breakage under a heavy fruit load. 
Peach Leaf Curl

 I mentioned earlier that this tree suffers yearly from peach leaf curl. It seems like I've never been able to get the timing right on when to spray, and with what. Since I was trained using the organic method, and  my mother-in-law's garden shed holds a surprising amount of things that can kill you before teatime, I'm going to try lime sulfur, which I've heard should do the job. The trick is to correctly time the spraying; January before the buds swell is what I am hearing. When I head back down there next week I'll give it a good douse.
Kudos To Two Local Plantsmen
Orin Martin, up at the UCSC Farm and Garden is a master at fruit tree production, and really knows his stuff. He instilled some really great principles of fruit tree training and pruning in me. Even though I apprenticed at the Farm in 2002, I've come up since then for many of his workshops that are open to the local community. It's just so fun to be around him as he darts from tree to tree, snipping here, and whacking there. And I always learn something new. What the heck, here's a link to some info on the Friends of the Farm and Garden, so you can go and learn from the best. And I can't mention pruning without thinking about the incomparable Richard Merrill, who taught me the basics in my Horticulture 1A  and 1B classes at our local junior college. Rich Merrill co-wrote a combination gardening/cookbook with Joe Ortiz, purveyor of awesome yumminess at Gayle's Bakery, a local institution. I wish more people knew about this book, The Gardener's Table, because it is great, and packed with many many veg. growing tips and recipes. Cabrillo's Horticulture Program lost a great director when he retired.
So that's it from me. I only wish I had the presence of mind to take pics whilst I pruned. Instead you must make do with these cobbled together diagrams. Heck, I wish I had the presence of mind to not drop my camera and break it a month ago! Ah well.

It just started raining very very hard. And the tea kettle is about to sing. I have a cold, and a new book (John Elder Robison's Look Me in the Eye). B took the Littles to church and consequently the loudest things I can hear are the fan from the laptop, and the rain in the downspout outside.
A friend just stopped by and gave me a breakfast burrito. I found my sister's photostream on flickr. I am thankful for these small things today. I'm even a little bit thankful for the cold, which comes to me after many months of dodging the germs of the little people that swarm around me. We'll see how I feel about it in a few days, but right now the sniff sniffing seems to blend in well with the sip sipping of tea and the drip dripping of rain. (And the nap napping....you get the idea.)

1.16.2010

January in the Garden::Part One

Let me start off by saying how saddened I was by the news of John Cushnie's death. He was hands-down my favorite presenter on BBC's Gardener's Question Time; his trademark ascerbic humor and wit often had me guffawing out loud, thousands of miles away in California as I washed up from dinner or lay on the couch with some tea and knitting. Oh how I love to tune in to the GQT podcasts, with genuine little old British gardening ladies & gents, worrying over their wayward cotoneasters and leeks, being set right by the panel on matters involving everything you can imagine (and more) in the world of horticulture.
He will be much missed.




1.06.2010

Incidental Epiphany and the Duckies & Kitties of Christmastide


Lo, I Am Come To Make Bath Time So Much Fun
Haphazard celebrating of Epiphany tonight included, but was not limited to: rainbow-sprinkle Three Kings' Cake in a stunning mouth-staining blue, a retelling of the biblical narrative which was acted out by three red headed girl cubs in various states of costume, one of the Wise Men was on roller skates, and the rest arguing over who gets to wear the Princess dress. Also adding to the festivities, besides a glorious pumpkin risotto and glasses of honest to goodness bubbly (thank you, Bridgens!)) was roasted cabbage, the recipe for which I will record here, because it was definitely the sleeper hit of the evening
Roasted Cabbage Wedges

2 heads of medium size cabbage, cut into wedges, try to keep core intact
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges

preheat oven to 450.
Put cabbage on a rimmed baking sheet and brush both sides with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, flipping halfway through, until edges are brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Squeeze lemon over cabbage.

"Martha, Martha, Martha!"(ala Jan Brady)
I didn't know cabbage could make me drool in anticipation. And this recipe actually came from a Martha Stewart mag-I know, I was surprised too. I guess I'm going to have to step down from calling her Mothra.......
Epiphany
I love little Christmas, as this holiday is affectionately known, with all of its resonating themes, about Christ's revelation to the Gentile world through the visit of the Magi, and their inexorable pursuit of the new King. The way in which they finished their journey worshipping the Christ child, which has always felt so utterly foreign and ancient, the strange symbolism of the gifts they brought, and the over-arching mystery of the star that they saw in the east, and somehow associated with the Messiah. Matthew is too brief in his depiction of this part of the Nativity story, I have so many questions.
The Three Magi Kitties Look Mighty Irritated...

And Is That The Little Drummer Cat?
Here is a link to the silly Going Jesus website, which has a fabulous assortment of truly horrible nativity sets, the above sampling of which is quite tame in comparison......
And there! That finishes off the Christmas blog posts! Not that there were many, but I am moving on now. And the tree comes down tomorrow! Beach bonfire this weekend, anyone?

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.