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Archive for May, 2010

I was going to write Phase 3 of our garden saga. However, after spending the morning sewing in the clubhouse, making items for the Farmer’s Market/Craft Market, I felt the need to mellow out a little. It’s been a busy few days and was time to take a little time out. After some delicious French toast for brunch with Marcie and Jim, using the very fresh eggs from Koni’s chickens, I braved the ever-constant (or so it seems lately) strong wind and headed to my rig to read and listen to music before work in the barn tonight.

Right now I’ve got some George Winston piano music playing in the background while reading People with Dirty Hands: The Passion for Gardening, a book Marcie picked up at one of the yard sales last weekend. From the frontpiece: “Why do some people have their hands in dirt? What caused someone to become obsessed with the process of growing something, whether it is a tangle of flowers, chiles hot enough to make your eyes water, or a rambling rose plucked from a tumble-down house? Author Robin Chotzinoff took a road trip (several, actually) across America to find the answers.”

It’s the perfect book for a windy, mellow day, especially since I can look out over our own burgeoning garden plot while reading and listening. I can watch the cottonwood trees sway and bend in the wind, the hummingbirds and orioles argue for space at the feeders, and the flowers and herbs grow inch by inch as the ground gets warmer. And I can view all the tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants we’ve stuck into good soil in pots and hope they’ll produce some delicious feasts. I can watch the tiny radish seedlings emerge between the chard plants, three weeks later than they should have emerged. However, the weather has just been too cold.

Yes, it’s a beautiful, mellow day, one to take advantage of before hosting the movie, “Cattle Drive” in the barn tonight. Last night everyone applauded at the end of “Fort Dobbs.” That’s always a good sign they enjoyed themselves and the movie.

 

 

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Marcie commented in my earlier blog, Garden Magic In Kanab, Utah – Phase 2  that I hadn’t mentioned the frustrations we’ve had with the weather lately. Here it is the end of May and we still need to watch the weather forecasts closely in order to keep plants alive.  Just last night we were supposed to get rain and snow showers. People who live here year-round have all said the same thing: this is definitely not a normal spring. One woman told me tonight that the temperature is usually in the 80s by now. I’ve bought plants several times and tried to keep them alive. Alas,  no luck. They seem to commit suicide regularly without fail.

I’ve been spoiled by spending many, many years gardening in Oregon. There, all I had to do was stick something in the ground–plant, seed, stick–and it would grow, lushly and lustily. It didn’t matter what it was – raspberry canes, snap peas, broccoli, tomatoes, fruit trees, tomatillos – everything grew. But here, in the high desert, it’s a whole other story. Very frustrating.

But, rather than mope around about the weather and gardening mishaps, I googled to see what others have written about the relation between plants, people,  and weather conditions. Hope you enjoy these.  At least they’ve gotten my mind off dead plants for a while.
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My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.  ~H. Fred Dale

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.  ~Mirabel Osler

In gardens, beauty is a by-product.  The main business is sex and death.  ~Sam Llewelyn

Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.  ~Marcelene Cox

Plant carrots in January and you’ll never have to eat carrots.  ~Author Unknown

Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden…. It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

Despite the gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise.  ~Michael P. Garafalo, gardendigest.com

There is no gardening without humility.  Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.  ~Alfred Aust
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In the meantime, we have high hopes for these latest plantings of tomatoes, peppers, lavender, and cucumbers. Fingers, toes, and eyes are all crossed in hopes that these plants will survive to adulthood.










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When I left off at the end of the first phase, we’d just gotten started turning this 40′ X 40′ bare piece of desert dirt into a garden. I’d tried growing some things but the weather decided it just wasn’t time to do that yet. This is why. No, it wasn’t a heavy snowfall, but it snowed off and on for about three weeks, and with that snow came some below freezing temperatures. So, planting would have to wait.
While waiting, I decided to make an addition to this first path. There was still a little mulch left and even several long branches. Some of them had been burned but no problem. I placed them so we wouldn’t get black legs from running into them. And, several large rocks also helped. This view is from the rear of the garden, looking toward my rig and pickup, with Marcie and Jim’s motorhome at the right.
Next on the garden agenda was building a raised bed. I found some lumber in one of the stacks near the front entrance and screwed them together. In order to keep from going completely broke buying garden soil, I shoveled and hauled many buckets of red dirt from behind us. Apparently someone last year planned to use that area as a garden but never did. Of course, I still had to buy some good soil because while the red dirt MIGHT grow cactus and sagebrush, it wouldn’t work for tomatoes. Since the weather seemed to be warming up, I actually planted a few jalapeño plants. They did really well—until the NEXT frost. Well, goodbye peppers.

Since a really strong windstorm had completely demolished the first fence, it was time to rebuild it. This time I sunk about eight large limbs into the ground about a foot or so. Digging wasn’t too bad AFTER I got past all the rocks. I then wired a length of chicken wire to the branches. Barring a hurricane or tornado, there’s no way this fence will blow over. Marcie and Jim attached the rest of the branches to the fence foundation with plastic strapping, and we decorated the resulting fence with small ornaments and birdhouses. The rowboat got a new home on the opposite side of the fence, along with the whirly thing. In the foreground is a cactus that I dug and transplanted. It’s doing VERY well.

The trees are now green and beautiful.

For a while we hung the hummingbird feeders on branches. However, I found something even better for the little birds. Here’s our “red” tree. I’ve seen as many as six hummingbirds at one or the other feeders, as well as some bright yellow orioles. It’s fun to watch the bird wars when the male orioles chase away the hummers. The female orioles are very laid back and everyone co-exists nicely. But, those males seem to want it all to themselves. Of course, we’ve needed to refill the feeders about every other day.
Since it was still too early to plant veggies or flowers, we haunted thrift stores and garage sales for fence decorations. Here are a few of our early finds.

We also found a pair of child’s boots for under one of the trees. Maybe it’s our beginning of Boot Hill.
The end of Phase 2 found us with the basic bones of the garden, and getting really anxious to plant things.

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Me, Jim, and Marcie on the trail to Bright Angel Point

Although I’ve been lucky enough to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon several times, Marcie and Jim had never been there. So, on a warm but very windy day last week, I shared the back seat with Clancy the Wonder Dog and off we went on a wonderful adventure.

After a stop at Jacob Lake for some breakfast, we headed down Highway 67 to use our Senior cards for free admission to the National Park – what a treat to be old enough for that!

We met up with Karen, one of our friends from the Workamper forums. She and her husband are back for their third year working at the North Rim, loving almost every minute of it. The nice thing, at least for us, is the nearest shopping is about 85 miles away, here in Kanab. So, I’m sure we’ll see them several more times before the end of October.

The road to the park didn’t open until Mother’s Day because of heavy snow, and there’s still some remainder of that snow. Clancy whimpered to get out and play in it as well as chase a deer or two she saw from her perch on my lap. Nope, sorry Clancy.

We explored the short, but steep, trail to Bright Angel Point, taking lots and lots of photos along the way. In addition, we offered to take pictures of couples together so they had a record of their visit.

After a wonderful lunch at the Lodge, where I had a Navajo Taco on fry bread, Marcie ate delicious beef stew in a bread bowl, and Jim opted for the pasta and salad buffet, we explored the gift store and the bookstore. Back at the car, Clancy was happy to see us since dogs are not allowed on the trails.

Heading back towards Kanab, we decided to check out Point Imperial, about a 20 minute drive to what I think is one of the most gorgeous views in what I’ve seen of the canyon. I braved walking down to the point in wind so strong it made me very glad there was strong metal railing for protection. Otherwise, I believe I’d have flown down to the bottom of the canyon. On the way back up, a park ranger let us know they were closing the road to the point because the strong winds were blowing down trees along the road. He wasn’t kidding, either, as on the way back to the main highway, we had to drive over one of those trees. Luckily it wasn’t a large one.

Back to Kanab after an almost perfect day. Poor Jim had to drive most of the return trip with no one to talk to as Marcie, Clancy, and I all went to sleep.

Perhaps you’ve wondered why I haven’t included any pictures, at least up to now. It’s impossible to take a bad photo at the Grand Canyon, which means even with some judicious pruning, I still have more pictures than anyone would be comfortable viewing in this blog. So, my wonderful friend Lou made them into a nice, simple website. Just click on the link, then click on each little picture for a larger view, and Enjoy!

http://www.my-photos.us/Chris-Smith/Canyon/Index.html

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What a wonderful RV site, especially for frustrated gardeners! One of the things I’ve really missed while living in a motorhome is the lack of space for gardening. While in Kanab three years ago, I did try. However, the results were less than successful, and I wrote a blog about the attempt back in November 2008.http://piecingalife.blogspot.com/2008/11/eat-your-veggies.html

However, this year we have a 40′ x 40′ blank canvas to work with. Yes, it’s in the middle of the high desert and the soil is plain old red dirt. Yes, it’s been really cold for two months with lots of heavy winds, snow, and frost. But, it’s our GARDEN through the end of October and we’re having a wonderful time.
Here’s how our canvas looked the first week of April. The whole area was covered with tumbleweeds and snow. Doesn’t look too promising, does it?

I waited for the snow to melt, then cleared away all the tumbleweeds that blew down from the hills behind us. That looked a little better. Now it was time to design a branch fence to mark the back of the garden area and hopefully also keep out some tumbleweeds. Here’s the beginning of our first fence.

We collected branches from everywhere we went. And, the fence started looking pretty good. But, there was a slight problem—the wind. But that’s later.
Next was making a path. Luckily I found lots of tree limbs and mulch from some tree cutting on the property. It was a simple thing to just lay out a path, load up buckets with the mulch, and spread it out. I first made one path.
A couple of tree stumps marked the beginning of the path. So far we hadn’t spent any money on this garden, but now it was time to collect things. Both Marcie and I love yard and garage sales as well as thrift shops so we looked for what we term, “junk.” I found a couple of things to hang on the fence. Then we drove out to Glendale, UT and discovered this little rowboat at a yard sale. I think we’ll eventually plant something in it, but right now it just graces the back of the garden, in case of a flood.

I was getting itchy fingers to plant something and really started too soon. On a trip to Wal-Mart in Hurricane, UT one morning, I bought some herb plants, including some basil. After planting the herbs in the herb garden former workampers had made, I got really excited about all the great pesto I could make. Well, that was mistake number two (the first was not burying the fence posts deep enough.) Although it was the middle of April, it wasn’t done snowing yet. Even though we covered all the little plants with plastic containers, the basil curled up and froze. However, the lavender, chives, cilantro, rosemary, and oregano still look pretty good.

So, that was the end of phase one of the garden making. Stay tuned for phase two.

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