Saturday, June 13, 2020

June 2020 - Big Thoughts About Little Projects

With the vegetable garden built and planted, the pace around here has slowed down a bit. I spend a lot of time thinking about what to do next, it seems. But slowly the rest of the pieces are starting to fall in place. I love getting to use one of my oldest garden skills: working with what I have on hand. For this garden that means 10 hefty railroad ties, a small heap of rocks (formerly a fire ring) and an enormous pile of gravel.

Riches indeed! The rough outline is there; now the details can be built.

But where do you begin, once you've thought things through? I like to start with something small. This little corner is a great example. It helped define the boundaries of the greenhouse area and gave me a new planting bed, which in turn allowed me to get some long-suffering plant purchases in the ground. 

Years of working with excellent builders (including my dad) have taught me the importance of "plumb" and "level" to discerning eyes. The railroad ties needed to be dug up and repositioned. Working with irregular objects and tricky slopes can be a maddening process, but when it finally locks in, you just see it. Very satisfying. The chunkiest rocks from the pile made a splendid impromptu wall.

With edges in place, we added the rest of our garden soil mix to the native soil between the  fence and the railroad ties and roughly leveled it with a rake. A second tie creates an instant seat wall that Haku will no doubt adore. 

Now I can FINALLY get to the best part - planting! The Trader Joe's rosemary will tie that whole corner together in the nicest way. Along with the borage behind it (which I hope will be happy and reseed, like borage does) and the dwarf lavender, this is a nice trio to have near the beehives. Now this "small" job has set the tone and style for this whole space forever more!

I've planted the rest of the bed with two long, staggered rows of tall sunflowers. I have such fond memories of my first sunflower patch nearly 50 years ago, and the birds will be in heaven. I hope I can pull those off outside the deer fence!

Heartened by this progress, I decided to build up to my big greenhouse project with a couple more small ones.

Next up: the scruffy clearing in the lantana under our lone faucet. I wanted a nice spot to store our hose and watering can. First I gathered up my tools and materials, including a likely-looking bunch of rocks from the heap. I love working with rocks. You can trust them to play nicely together and not change too much. A hand mattock and hori-hori have been my most trusted weeding and soil working hand-tools for decades. 

After a good session of weeding and clearing, the loose soil was scooped out and rocks arranged along the edge of the hole. I started with the largest rock at the top and worked down from the sides, finding the best rock to fit with the one before. Then I really settled them in. You never want rocks just sitting on top of the ground; they almost always look better buried up to their widest point. 

I like the convenient gopher hole; it will provide extra drainage! 

A couple of scoops of gravel from the pile, and we're done! Sharp gravel looks tidy and compacts well; I like the color contrast with the warm-colored rocks. See what I mean about burying them? Bury your rocks!!! Also keep the level of the gravel just below the walkway so it stays contained. 

Everything fits! Now, of course we need to tidy up the rest of the border, which includes...

...a flower break! 

It was time to cut back the fat hedge of french lavender that was taking over the back walk. It looked spent. Not surprising, since this beast has been blooming since we moved in last fall. I am terrible about not cutting things back when I should because there are still some blooms, so I bolstered my courage with YouTube videos on the subject and had at it with hedging shears. 

And it hardly hurt at all! Nice to be able to use the walk again too. I did leave a few fresh stems for the bees at the back; one actually landed on the desk bouquet (pictured above) while I was collecting, to reach that one last floret. Since every stem cut will send out a last two more, we'll be enjoying our lavender again soon. This task was worth it just for the aromatherapy, and now that I'm so relaxed, I need to lie down in a...

...hammock! I got this as a Father's Day gift for John, thinking he would really like it. This little redwood grove is literally the only natural shade we have near the house. We discovered its charms when the weather warmed and we started looking for cool spots rather than warm ones. After a bit of cleanup, it was obvious that a hammock belonged here. 

I'll write more about this lovely area in another post, but for now can I just say, sorry John, happy late Mother's Day to me? I LOVE this thing. It is so simple, and has become my new happy place. (And there is, actually, room for two!) It's a great vantage point for quietly observing our little chunk of native California woodland, and thinking about what to do next.

Now, because the little projects have set the stage, the bigger ones can finish. This silly thing pleases me no end. I have always wanted a greenhouse. With our breezy, coastal location, it will be nice to have a warm, protected spot for plants and tools. We didn't want anything fancy, so this really fit the bill! Inexpensive, easy to assemble, a nice size (6' x 12'), well ventilated and, most importantly, something I can build around. Now I know where the rest of the railroad ties should go, which tells me the position of the chicken coop, chicken run, everything.

I think it fits right in. And yes, we'll be securing it in numerous ways so that it doesn't blow away next winter. I like that it continues the unexpected "transparency" theme that started with the deer fencing. I had been worried that I'd lose my view of the orange chair and the corona machine, but there they are. 

Next-day observations from inside the greenhouse.

It is a moody, gray day today, and I am pondering our world. So much change happening; I hope that most of it is, ultimately, for the good. But for now, all I can do to feel useful is work. At my job, to help others. In the garden, to create a sanctuary for myself and my family. It's what I've always done, but it feels much more important now. 

Today I'm also worried about the garden; beans, cucumbers and squash not thriving. Is it the new soil? The well water? Temperature fluctuations? Wind? Who can't grow green beans? Sigh. Oh well. This is meant to be the year we figure out what works. Onward.

I'll leave you with an early sunset to round things out. I'll share more about the vegetable garden in another post. Thanks for visiting...


  1. Hi Laura! Is the greenhouse a kit or a DIY project? If it's a kit, what's the source?

    1. Hey Joanna! It's a kit, and it's actually gone down in price since I bought it! Very nicely made.