Saturday, September 22, 2012

Not Really Autumn

I don't care what the calendar says.  September 22nd, 2012 is not the first day of Autumn.  Not here anyway.  It is still in the 90s here.  It is still bright and sunny every single day.  Rain won't fall for several more weeks; probably months.  I won't wear a long-sleeved shirt to work until at least mid-October and even then I will probably complain to no one in particular of being too hot. 

Strawberries are still growing even though the shadows are getting longer.

Sure, there are a few signs that Summer is on its way out.  For one, my girls have put out the fall decorations.

And no matter how hot the weather, the path of the sun through the sky tells the truth.  I do notice the dark in the morning now and I notice it even more so in the evening and I find myself remarking that "it's so dark already."  I am 37 years old and I still haven't grown accustomed to the way we lose and gain daylight.  I doubt I ever will.  I hope I never will.

And maybe because the sun goes down earlier it does get a little colder at night than it used to.  I have cut back the time on the sprinklers to compensate so I guess, in that way, I have admitted to my garden that the fall is near even if I haven't fully admitted it to myself. 

The roses don't seem to know that it's autumn either.

Transitions are always hard and while there is something I love about every new season I can't seem to escape the feeling that the start of Autumn means the loss of something wonderful.  Ingrained deep within me, impressed upon the very DNA of my being, is the sense that summer is when we come alive.  Summer is when we grow.  Summer is when the best things that happen to us happen.  So even if Autumn is great, even if there's nothing as nostalgic as apple cider, even if you sigh fondly at the sight of high school football stadium lights on a Friday night, Autumn still means that something wonderful is gone.  And you can't get it back.

So maybe it is the temperature here or maybe it is my own unwillingness to acknowledge the meaning of it all, but right now, where I am physically and mentally, it is still summer.  At least for a little while longer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Latest Government vs. Garden Controversy

In the last year there have been a couple high-profile incidents in which local governments have gone after front-yard gardeners and cited them for violating some ridiculous ordinances. 

I am not a political blogger by any stretch but I'm going to go out on a limb and state, in no uncertain terms, that telling people they can't grow vegetables in their own front yard is way past where I draw the line on government involvement in our lives.  If it's not an illegal crop, the government shouldn't have any right to tell people they can't grow it on their own property.

But in today's news I ran across a story that is slightly different but no less remarkable in its ability to make you shake your head and ask "what is this world coming to?"  In this case, the owner of an urban coffee shop in Philadelphia took it upon himself to clean up a city-owned vacant lot that had 40 tons - 80,000 pounds - of garbage at his own expense.  And then he went a step further and paid to have the lot landscaped with benches, fencing and cherry trees.  He did so after making 24 phone calls, 7 written requests and 4 in-office visits to the city's Redevelopment Authority to have them take care of it and all of those requests were ignored or refused.  What's worse, the city had actually cited him in 2011 for the litter on this lot even though the city now acknowledges that he doesn't own the lot. 

The city's unimproved lot filled with refuse.

And what thanks does he get from the city?  Do they sheepisly forgive him the citation they wrote?  Do they thank him and honor him as someone striving to make the city a better place?  How about a symbolic slap on the back and an 'atta boy?  Nope.  They'd rather slap him with a lawsuit.  Apparently the city sees this action as trespassing and unauthorized alteration of private property. 

After the clean-up and re-landscaping
Hopefully this story will have a happy ending.  Clearly, the coffee shop owner didn't have the right to alter property that didn't belong to him and the city flat out told him not to do go forward with his plans.  But I'm holding out hope that common sense will rule the day and the city will say "thanks, but please don't do this sort of thing again."  And maybe, just maybe, the city can use this example as bulletin board material to inspire a little more responsiveness next time a citizen wants to do something to make the city a better place.  Of course, that might also be part of the problem as it sounds like some of the residents in this neighborhood are worried about gentrification.  Still, it's hard to imagine a world in which 40 tons of garbage is more desirable than the shade of a cherry tree and a bench to sit on while you have a coffee. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Really Stepped in it This Time

Fair warning to the reader: if you find the S-word and the C-word (not the really bad C word though) offensive, you should skip this post. 

Anyone that blogs knows that there are some pretty amusing search queries that lead people to your blog.  For my blog, the term "squirrel porn" is in the top 3 of referring keyword searches.  Seriously?  Yep, seriously. 

As disturbing as those of us that aren't into squirrel porn might find that, I can't help but wonder what people would think of my search queries especially when they lead me to sites like that of the Point Reyes Compost Co. 

There's really no need to discuss the terms I may have been using when I landed in this place on the internet.  The important thing is, I found it and I am happier for it.  It provided me with at least 20 minutes of day-dreaming entertainment in which I imagined all the clever things you could say if you worked for this company. 
  • When you're feeling sick: "Sorry, Boss, I'm not feeling like crap today so I'm going to stay home."
  • When you're feeling totally efficient: "I've got this shit in the bag!"
  • When you're optimistic about the business: "I think we'll sell a shitload of product today."
  • When the spouse asks how you're feeling at the end of the day: "Totally pooped."
Even though Point Reyes is only a hundred miles from Sacramento, I have not seen this product for sale in my area but a quick look at their "where to buy" page reveals that I just haven't been shopping at the right places . . . most notably/surprisingly, Whole Foods.  So the next time I run to the grocery store I can say to my wife without a trace of irony that "I'm just going to buy some crap and I'll be right back." 

I really don't know if their claim that their poop is "premium" holds water, but I'm willing to trust them on this one if for no other reason than I appreciate both their humor and their attempt to do something good with what might otherwise be a shitty problem.  How could I not want to support a company that proudly states, "our products are mostly crap"?  On the "About Us" page they explain their motivation for the company saying:

When the economy turned to crap, it dawned on Teddy that perhaps he should do the same. After all, his wife’s family owns a ranch full of animals providing some of the best manure under the sun. By creating a premium compost company, Teddy could make a living that came from and gave to the land, while spending more time with his wife and kids.

Throughout his career life, Teddy has always felt strongly that people need to learn how to financially nourish themselves and sustain their businesses by using what nature and the land provides. And that’s exactly what he’s doing with Point Reyes Compost Company – taking regional products and investing them back into the land, creating an endless lifecycle while providing backyard farmer products that are used by other backyard farmers like Teddy. Ain’t poop grand?
Indeed, it is Teddy.  And I write that with a shit-eating grin on my face too. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Despair Grows In My Garden

I suspect that everyone hates weeds and that at the top of your list is the weed you deal with most often. I have plenty to choose from but my most hated weed is one that really falls under that annoyingly apt line "A weed is a flower in the wrong spot."

The flowers in the wrong spots in my life are Palm seedlings from just one tree in my neighbor's yard. 

They grow everywhere with no encouragement from me.  They sprout up through rocks.

These rocks border the walkway to my front door.  This area gets no water and yet the seedlings thrive.

And through mulch.

A fresh layer of mulch does nothing to keep the seedlings from reaching for the light.

And where nothing else grows.

I'm amazed at how densely these grow.  Again, all these seedlings from a single tree next door!

They even grow where other things can no longer grow.

When I cut down a tree in the front yard, the shade-loving Baby's Tears and Lace Fern gave up the ghost.

On the plus side, they are fairly easy to grab with bare fingers and pull out.  

Sisyphus photo from Wikipedia
But it's a Sisyphean task and I am no longer feeling up to the challenge.  I try to get on my hands and knees every other weekend and take a whack at these, but after a half hour of this nonsense my thoughts turn from the good and pleasant "connecting with nature" thoughts that gardening inspires to "what did I ever do to deserve this kind of treatment?" 

Inevitably, I'll have to rise from my weeding crouch and stretch my legs and aching back before they all seize and cause me to convulse on the ground like an overturned turtle.  While I stretch, I'll survey the results of my labor and that's when I'll see that for every hundred seedlings I pulled there are another hundred that I missed.  This is no way to spend a life.

And that's when I get existential.  Does anyone else even care if there are palm seedlings where they shouldn't be?  Does the FedEx guy notice them on his way up to the front door?  Do my neighbors think I've let the yard go to hell if I miss a few hundred seedlings?  Does any of this matter, you know, in the long run?  By believing myself to be a "good gardener" and all that entails, am I consigning myself to existential despair since the evidence will always show that I am not what I think I am?  And if I am not what I think I am, what am I? 

"That's a good question," I'll say to myself.  And then I'll go back to picking flowers in the wrong spots while I give the answer some more thought.