Scenes from a Winter Garden

Part One: Violet and the Ghost of the Great Pepper Tree

Violet doesn’t belong here. She wasn’t invited. And neither was her brother, Squats for that matter. These were random chickens that were squeezing their tiny fluffy butts into my garden through a gap in the fence.

Just big enough to fit little peeping babies that would peck and scratch the shit out of all my garden beds and make a hell of a mess on my manicured pathways. My precious, precious pathways.

This I could not abide for long. An action plan began forming in my head and I decided to set up some chicken traps and capture these usurpers of my calm. I set up a net at the end of my long cement makeshift patio. A tunnel of many confusing obstacles leading to a hidden circular lobster net. I then went inside and waited. Maniacally so.

After a few hours, I went out to find them in my veggie garden picking, scratching and eating all my vittles. Our eyes locked and all three of us were frozen in the timeless dance of predator v. prey. I pounced, barefoot and snarling. As planned, they leaped out of the raised bed and began sprinting down the long cement pad with me slapping bare toes behind them.

They hit the hidden net like so many drunkenly applied darts into pub dartboards. *thunk, thunk*. With wings flapping uselessly, they could do no more than submit to my gentle yet firm grasp.

After some moments of gentle cooing, I placed them in my little elevated chicken coop for newbies. And there they remained. The day was won!

Continue reading “Scenes from a Winter Garden”

Day In, Day Out…

Every so often my routine begins to blur together and days become months and months become years. I usually try to stay positive and cheerful most of the time, but I am deathly allergic to routine. I don’t think that we as a species are hardwired for this type of life. We long for ways to escape its stagnant grasp in any form we can.

I recently installed a few motion cameras in the backyard just in case that racoon shows up again to dine upon my precious flock of hens. Better to be safe than sorry and these little cameras are relatively cheap and simple to install. No predators yet, but I’m watching.

What I didn’t expect them to capture was my sad sorry self heading off to work every morning. When I began to look at the images all together, it made me a little depressed. Maybe after a month or so I can make a nice little flip-book of the mundane. Something to enjoy after retirement.

I do enjoy my job, don’t get me wrong. Handling art and antiquities is a particularly amazing honor and I do it with great reverence and pride. There have been more than a few times when I’ve held in my hand a painting or sculpture that I wrote a paper on in college. The trust that my, and other, institutions place upon my shoulders to be a caretaker for these objects does not go unnoticed by this gentle writer.


I feel like I need some sort of It’s a Wonderful Life type lesson to refresh my outlook on work in general. Perhaps a visit from three ghosts? Or a near death experience to get a new perspective.  I used to consider myself to be always in high spirits but lately these doldrums have been slowly scratching away at me.

That said, can someone facilitate a near death experience on my behalf without my knowledge? Perhaps an angry grizzly released into my backyard? I guess it’s all about perspective.

What do you do to break up the routine? I’m open to suggestions! My usual distraction is gardening of course but this years continued drought and the recent long lasting heatwave have stifled that. On top of that, my hard work of doing a winter cover crop has failed miserably with the discovery of root nematodes in my veggie garden!!

I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but I haven’t posted much on my veggie garden this season. On account of not really having one. It’s truly a sad and anticlimactic end to a long, hot and dry growing season.

I’ve ordered some predatory nematodes to have an epic hidden battle beneath my brown and wilted vegetables. There can be only one in the end but I fear it’s too late for this season for me to reap any rewards.

But all is not lost. And I refuse to leave this post on a sad note, so here are some highlights of the past week.

I spent all weekend in a 100°+ garage working away at Piper’s new mini coop. I’m almost finished and will keep you posted on those efforts in due time. Here it is as of this morning…

Piper's New Coop Pt II_Nearing CompletionI know she’s gonna love it! And she’ll finally get some peace and regrow all her fluffy feathers.

There was also an amazing change in the status quo regarding the chemical warfare against the bees!! A federal court overturned the EPA’s approval of sulfoxaflor, a pesticide linked to the mass die-off of honeybees that pollinate a third of the world’s food supply. Do I sense a change in the tide? Read more on that here!

Maybe things are looking up! Stay positive y’all and break up that routine!

The Winter Cover Crop Part II: Green Manure

Day I: In which noodle was scratched and there were many distractions.

Well campers, it looks as though my little experiment in the veggie garden has moved on to phase two. My hope is that the soil has been rejuvenated by my planting back in November of buckwheat, ryegrass, clover, oats, rye grain and valley peas. Deep root plants as well as nitrogen fixers have been working hard over the past few months replenishing lost nutrients from the previous year as well as aerating the soil to make room for new roots. You can learn about how I began this process, as well as some more info on green manure, in the first part of this project found here.


Using green manure is a new practice for me. The San Diego summers get awfully hot in my neck of the woods. I’ve been trying to combat this hot dry weather with some grey water reclamation and micro irrigation systems. Now that the soil below the surface has been treated, it’s time to move on to above ground. The plan was to chop up everything and use it as a mulch to help lock in the moisture and eventually break down into a nutrient rich compost.

I’ve basically just let it grow over the last few months. And it definitely did just that. Check out this vigorous growth!

Continue reading “The Winter Cover Crop Part II: Green Manure”