Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mea (or is that Mia?) Culpa

I drag myself to the Year Round Harvest with head hung low. I challenged Mia and Beo to do a winter garden in frozen Wisconsin and I would do one too in much warmer Mendocino County, CA. We would blog about it and share our struggles and successes.

Well, sometimes the best laid plans.....our friend, Tara's closest friend, died in November and life just spun off in another direction. I have spent the winter months tending the broken heart of my beloved, getting my late-spring born spirit through the nadir of my year and experiencing the coldest December and January in all my years living in N.CA. The fact that we got the very low tech coldframe even covered with plastic was a big deal.

Midwinter came and went and I don't know if the groundhog saw his shadow, but the weather just changed. It is 65 degrees out today and was 65 degrees yesterday. The nights are staying in the high 30's to low 40's and we've gotten some life giving rain. It has been the driest winter I can remember for many years too. We are at half the annual rainfall we usually get by this time (22 inches since July, vs 51 of last year). Now why they measure annual rainfall starting in July when we are in our dry season until late October is one of the great mysteries, but I digress.

As soon as February 2nd passed and the second half of winter began, the high pressure was finally overcome by low pressure which raises our temperatures and brings rain. Last weekend I finally cleaned up the garden (from the fall!) and started spreading more mulch. And despite the cold and the lack of rain, despite my almost total neglect, the lifeforce was working under and close to the ground. Under the coldframe are many albeit small spinach plants (1st picture). The chard, which survives the occassional snowfall has been giving to me all winter. Every pot of minestrone I've made with my canned summer tomatoes and my frozen green beans has had fresh chard tossed in as well. The broccoflower and the Arugula are holding their own and the nicest surprise was to see bunches and bunches of cilantro springing up all over the garden. I let most of the plants go to seed last year, as they were all late planted and bolted very quickly. These February plants will give to me for at least a month or two, barring a blizzard or a heat wave.

Today, in honor of the new moon (8:14 am PST), I planted garlic, onions and potatoes. This is going to be a very tricky gardening year for us. We live in a neighborhood with a water system. An old, inadequate water system. We get our water from a man-made lake and this year, as of August 1st, in the peak of the summer hot and dry season, the Brooktrails Community Service District, barring an unapproved county permit, will put all residents on Tier 1 water rationing, dredge the lake to remove about 2 feet of muck, raise the sides of the lake and then pray that we can get through until the end of October without the entire community running out of water. Tier 1 water rationing means a little over 5,000 gallons of water per household per month. It is now winter. We are a family of two. We shower pretty regularly, do laundry, wash dishes and flush toilets. We have fairly new appliances for washing dishes and clothes. We don't have low flow toilets. We don't shower every day. We are pretty typical. And without watering anything else but houseplants during the wet season, we are still slightly over Tier 1 water usage.
What to do? We have baby trees; 2 plums that are 4 years old, 2 peach trees that are 2 years old and a fuji apple that is 2 years old. These are baby trees that need regular watering. I have 10 old rose bushes that I'd carted around with me for over 10 years before we moved here and most of them finally went in the ground. I have fuscias, canna, lemon verbena bushes and many other perennials that are in my care. I refuse to let them die. It is illegal in my county to use grey water for gardens. Well too bad.
My plan is (in my mind anyway) is that we do laundry in town, we take the traps off our three sinks and catch the grey water and use that for the perennials. We bucket water any remaining food crops as of 8/1 using water we're saving by not doing laundry at home. We take the last of our remodel money and buy at least one low flow toilet. But most importantly, vis a vis this blog entry, I have to figure out what to grow so I can garden with a vengence from now until 8/1, and then have most things finished except maybe one tomato plant and a couple of long bean plants.
So what does that allow for?
Greens, lettuce, onions, garlic, peas, strawberries, raspberries, early carrots and mulch like there's no tomorrow. And I have been. Straw, manure, compost, layered and layered and layered. We collect used organic potting soil from friends that grow medical marijuana indoors and that goes into the mix as well. And all that mulch is rotting and moist under the surface layers.
Today I planted into a heavily mulched bed two roses, a Joseph's Coat, which is a climbing rose and a pink tea rose. These roses had been in 15 gallong pots. There are only 2 more that need to go into the ground and I will have gotten them all in. When they are in pots, they need to be watered 2x a day during the 100+ degree weeks of summer. I still have a baby fig tree in a pot as well as various and sundry other plants that would benefit from being put in the ground. At the very least, I can move them around the side of the house that will have them getting about 5 hours of sun in the earlier part of the day, and then be shaded by the house for the rest.

We had thought about putting in a tank to catch rain water, but we need a permit for that (expensive) and to pay for a permit, buy a tank and then only have enough water for about a week of watering seems cost prohibitive. We thought of getting a collapsible tank and buying water through August and September, but from where and whom? Still too expensive. Last fall I got 5 55 gallon olive barrels off freecycle and I filled them with the water from my hot tub when it was time to change the water. I think maybe getting 10 more of these would serve, as I will change the water in the tub 2 more times before 8/1 and one tub's worth of water will fill 5 barrels. Still just a pittance compared to what I would use if these conditions were not going to be in place, but it could make the difference between keeping baby trees and young perennials alive without having my water shut off for overuseage or having them die.
And yet despite my scheming and planning on how to surmount this water rationing thing that won't happen for almost 6 months, the wheel of the year turns and life emerges and blooms in the lengthening days.

And then there's my cat Mouse, who always likes to help when he can.


Blogger Beo said...

Welcome back Maddy!

Considering my gardens were DOA by mid decemeber I'd say you are doing fine! Looking to get the cold frames back out in a few weeks for another swing at it.

I know you are already considering greywater, so here is a great source the E4 from Green, blue brown sent my way. Massive amounts of info!

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not drain the hot tub permanently and use the 500+ gallons of water you allocated to that on the garden? I'd be leery of putting those chemicals on my food, anyway...

3:13 PM  

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