Things that made me happy this weekend

We’re starting our seventh week of sheltering in place, and our lives seem to be made up of tiny moments of joy amongst all the other emotions we’re feeling. There’s lots to stress about, but here are a few things that made me feel good this weekend. Chiefly flowers, and there will be more pictures of flowers at the end. Very warm weather here has made everything go a bit nuts, in a very good way.

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to make salves, tinctures, and syrups from the herbs and flowers I grow in our garden. Now that I finally have time, I ordered this book and began the process. I have quite a lot of plantain, grown from seeds that my mother brought me back from the Chelsea Physic Garden years ago. Plantain salves are quite good for minor scratches and burns and stings, all of which are abundant around here. So I cut a bunch of leaves for a plantain salve and I am drying them on the herb rack.

The drier they are, the better, before I then soak them in olive oil for two weeks, and then blend with some of our melted beeswax. I’m anxiously awaiting our first elderberries to make syrup, and I may make another salve to help with my aching hands. I have lots of ideas I want to try. Being at home all these weeks makes me realize that I have an untapped resource that I should be utilizing. Well, I guess I do use herbs for cooking and drying, which is also great, but there’s so much availability and so many ways to use them. I’m glad to have a new project to tackle.

Speaking of projects, the shallots are just beginning to brown up in their bed (garlic still bright green), so I’m starting to think about how to dry them for longer than I usually do. Our main practice has been to put them up above the chicken coop to dry, but it’s crowded up there, and they need more air. Plus I want to dry them for at least four weeks this year before bringing them in to the house (after last year’s aphid debacle). I started looking up how this used to be done in the old days, and saw lots of interesting pictures of drying tables.

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The table has slats so the onions/garlic can rest above and the greenery down below. Plenty of air circulation here! This got us thinking about some kind of rack to build, or if there is some way to repurpose our A-frame trellises, which are wrapped in chicken wire. Stay tuned for a solution on this. I love having a new building project to figure out! (I’m not sure Tom feels the same….)

I’ve struggled with this narrow border between the fence and the chicken run for a long time. This year, I think I’ve finally hit on a combination that really works. At the very back is a large, white-blooming ceanothus, then we have both orange and red geums, followed by a red salvia and a rangy white salvia. Then there is a new planting of verbascums, plus the California poppies in front looking all cheerful. There’s a new dahlia here which is starting to come up with black foliage and a blood-red flower, and the cinquefoil which is yellow will bloom also in summer. I’m so pleased with this planting scheme.

The verbascum has the most adorable fuzzy stamens in red and yellow. I adore them.

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I watched a documentary on Piet Ouldof filmed by Hauser & Wirth (you can find that here - I hope it is still available to watch). He is the landscape architect who designed the High Line in New York and the Lurie Garden in Chicago. I find his drawings just spectacular, and his gardens absolutely delightful, like modern meadows. It’s worth watching the documentary just to see the seasons change in the gardens.

This is a feature about a man who lives in the redwoods in Northern California. I do not know how to adequately describe him or his farm. He built his home (and several others on the property), beautiful gardens, a gallery for his redwood sculptures, several yurts for camping, and knows as much about redwoods as any park ranger. He’s looking for people to pass all this on to, and teach about the conservation of this kind of property. It’s an amazing video and he’s an amazing guy. And he’s 88!

Finally, I am so excited to have procured an egg basket. Here it is on its perch outside the back door. We’ve never had one - I’ve always carried eggs in my shirt, and sometimes in my pocket (and you know what happens to eggs in pockets). It’s such a little thing. But I love it and I feel like a real farm girl when I go out to gather eggs.

Hope you are finding moments of joy in all the unknowns.

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