Friday, February 13, 2015

World Radio Day

Today is World Radio Day 2015, although you'd never know it from listening to the radio here. Our national broadcaster, the CBC, said nary a word, which just shows you what a slack-assed job they're doing these days. I only know because I was listening to the BBC World Service at 2am this morning, where they announced the fact and followed it up with - you guessed it - a feature about young people and the importance of radio in their lives. Us 40 and 50 somethings are always forgotten in these kinds of features, and yet it seems, judging from the habits of my kids and their friends, that we middle-agers are the demographic that keeps quality radio alive.

I don't know if radio is important in your life, but it's one of my constant pleasures, from the moment I received my first radio as a 9 year old (a crackly AM set contained within a black stuffed poodle with his VERY OWN PINK PLASTIC BRUSH), to now, when I generally listen on my iPad mini via the app Tune In Radio. There I can listen to any show I like, on any station I like, although I mostly gravitate to the BBC World Service and NPR. I'm a lot fussier about my radio these days: as I kid I liked Top 40 shows and didn't mind those horrible blaring commercial breaks, but now I prefer to listen without commercial interruptions. My favourite shows are mostly about gardening, food, or history, but some voices have me in thrall with their accents alone. Alan Johnson, I'm talkin' to you.

In fact, I hold such devotion to certain radio hosts that I sometimes think of them as my radio boyfriends (and girlfriends). My kids think this too odd and creepy to contemplate but they're still young and unmenopausal. They don't lie awake wondering where their sound sleeps of old went. My kids are, for the most part, uninterested in historical clips from the past, news clips from Syria, or quirky stories from around the world, although Eldest Son is starting to listen to Wittertainment and The World, so there IS hope for them yet.

For the most part I have no idea what these voices look like, although I just now googled PRI's The World to get Marco Werman's name (for the past 3 years I thought he was saying Marco Gorman and spent way too many moments wondering what sort of parent would name their child MarcoGorman). I like it this way. The feeling their voices gives me reminds me of a Leonard Cohen poem:

I heard of a man who says words so beautifully 
that if he only speaks their name women give themselves to him.
If I am dumb beside your body 
while silence blossoms like tumours on our lips 
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside our door.

Oh steady on. I'm not going all 50 Shades on you. I'm just writing a paean to my favourite radio hosts on this day, this World Radio Day. I love listening to you all. I hope to listen to you all for many years to come. Hats off to them. Hats off to the radio, from one of your devoted listeners.

Some of my favourites:

Dan Damon, Ros Atkins, Marco Werman, David Green, Razia Iqbal, Kai Ryssdal, Karin Giannone, Steve Evans, Alan Johnson, James Menendez, James Coomarasamy, Owen Bennet-Jones, Julian Marshall, Nuala McGovern, Mark Kermode, Simon Mayo, Sheila Dillon, Tim & Joe, and everyone at Gardener's Question Time (James Wong, Bob Flowerdew and Bunny Guinness - you rock).

Monday, February 2, 2015

End of Month View : January 2015

 I see from my last post that I haven't posted here since my LAST End of Month View. I think this is what happens when the gardener is out IN the garden: the blog suffers.

This post is part of a meme hosted by Helen over at The Patient Gardener's Weblog (her blog can be found here). Thank you Helen!

Yes, you heard that right: the garden has actually seen a lot of action this month. The weather has been mild and relatively dry, considering it's the Dank Dark Depths of Winter, so I've been able to do quite a bit out there. Granted, it's quite boggy and slippery, but it's also the perfect time to be uprooting ill-situated shrubs and breaking ground on new plots. Well, to a certain extent. You don't want to be digging something up right before temperatures plummet, but if the week shows a long period of mild weather and the plant is dormant (and you know how to dig the plant up without disturbing the root ball), I say go for it. 

This photo shows a new bed I built on the edge of the slope in the backyard. It used to be a steep slope that was all but impossible to mow. People tell me "get your kids to mow it" (you know who you are) but no one in their right mind wants to slide around on a 40º slope with an electric blade whipping around their feet, so I'm trying to find an acceptable alternative. After a certain amount of slog, I now have a bed that runs along the top of the slope. Taking my cue from Ye Great Terracers Of Olde, one side of this bed is turf and wide planks topped with (purely decorative) red brick, while the other side is a single layer of red brick. I use brick to delineate (and because I like the look of it), but it's also very useful in case I decide to demolish the bed later: no concrete posts to dig up.
 And yes, this IS the lengths I go to to keep the cat and squirrels out of the garlic. For some reason this bed is a favourite of all digging & pooing creatures. I don't quite grasp why, but I've learned to work with it, as all practical gardeners do.

Soon the garlic will be big enough to repel all but the most determined creature.

I took this photo to show a friend how I deal with Overly Enthusiastic Strawberries. Most of the gardeners I follow do the sensible thing and cut the shoots off during the summer. The only trouble with that philosophy is that the height of summer is also when there are vegetables to preserve, tomatoes to can, and weed growth to cope with, not to mention holidays to go on and beaches to visit. Thus this task falls down to the very bottom of the To Do list. Come winter the strawberries have (not so) magically quintupled. But it's not all doom and gloom: I hack off the newbies and tuck them into trays like this. When the older plants get, well, old, I replace them with these. If this tray looks dusty, it's because they have just had kelp meal sprinkled over them. Kelp meal is truly Magic Fairy Dust. Don't believe me, visit in June and see for yourself. One spring, from a two rows of plants measuring 10' by 3', I canned 20 quarts of strawberry jam, froze at least at many bags of puréed berries, and made buckets of strawberry popsicles and crisps. The strawberry crop was then abandoned by my erstwhile strawberry pickers, who claimed utter exhaustion.
 This is the bed where the strawberries used to grow, sharing the space with tomatoes and brassicas. This year, given the rebellion in the ranks of the strawberry pickers, I've decided to revamp it so that there are strawberries on the right side of this bed, alongside the grass. They used to be on the left side of this bed, which hard to cope with when the tomatoes were tall. This way no one can claim that they are inaccessible. The reemay on the bed is to shield the fall rye from being eaten by the birds. It looks rather pathetic in this photo, doesn't it? I think I've lost heart with my fall rye: last year I seeded a massive bag of the stuff and some rodents ate it all. In one night. Let's just say that I'm not holding my breath that this batch will last long.
 This is the Side Perennial Bed (official title). There are two roses, Lysimachia punctata, Hypericum perforatum, crocosmia Lucifer, Mrs Bradshaw's geum, Stargazer lilies, and some rather evil Bishop's Weed. And it's all a little too rampant for my tastes, so I am planning an overhaul this spring. Ideally I'd like to see graceful billowing spots of colour but all that seems to happen here is a rude elbowing race for domination. Come late summer it's a mess.

I welcome suggestions. Practical ones, mind you. Oh, and I've purchased a Weed Dragon to combat the Bishop's Weed. Those dratted bishops. What did they think they were doing, spreading such a rapacious gospel.
 I took this photo to show how clever my Step Building System is, but this is a rather horrible photo, isn't it. I thought it would show an equal view of a) steps that were neatly formed, b) steps that were on their way to being neatly formed, and c) steps that were Still In The Process.

Perhaps if you click on the photo you can see it more clearly.

Anyways, the system is thus: use newspapers to build the risers. It WILL look odd and messy and you must accept this for now. Let it sit for a season, flinging weeds and dirt every now and then until the blocks have built up enough for you to stomp down hard, creating solid and recognizable steps. In the meantime be really really careful walking down them after a rain. Newspaper is very slippery when wet.

Eventually I'll let the grass grow over them, so it looks much

I planted a lot of dwarf kale this summer and it's still going, even now. It's such a beautiful greeny blue. Kale is the most wonderful thing to have in the dead of winter, because you can ignore the wildly overpriced bunches in the shops, content that you have your own at home. Even when it snows the kale remains green and harvestable.
 Johnny Jump Ups are the most cheerful little plants around. I love them. They seem to thrive in winter here.

This one seems to have emerged unscathed by slugs.

Give it time, says the voice in my head. Give it time.

A slug is probably just waiting for me to leave.

I was never one for primroses until I discovered the perennial varieties, which are quite irresistible. This one is Quaker's Bonnet. The best feature of these primroses is that they return each spring exactly the same as before.

The brightly coloured ones in the garden centres right now always seem to revert to yellow, that is when they're not shrinking into pathetic little knots of misery, soon to be demolished by slugs.

Alright, let's switch to what's going on in the greenhouse.

Here we have some lettuces in a gutter. I'm going to transplant them into larger trays, leaving them in the greenhouse until they get big enough to start harvesting. Come March or April I'll transplant them out, under plastic covers.
 A flower that always seems out of fashion by most of the gardeners I know, but I love it: the sweet pea. There is no smell quite like them. They are the BEST cut flower, as long as you remember to keep cutting them.

This year I've got several varieties: April in Paris, North Shore, Spencer Ruffled, Blue Celeste, Royal Wedding (whose I'm not sure), Zinfandel, and some seeds from last year's peas, the names of which I have lost track of.
 I inherited this bedraggled lemon tree in the summer and while it doesn't look all that healthy, it currently has 23 lemons on it. Thank you Mr Seaweed Extract.

It came with a whacking great dose of scale, sadly. I hate scale - it never seems to go away. It lurks in the soil, at the base of the plant, waiting for one to look the other way. My usual method is to spray with soapy oily water, then wipe, wipe, wipe. That splash of blue in the photo? A cloth I keep there to wipe up any stray drips of oil.
 Artichokes. I love artichokes. They take up a lot of space, true, but up here in the Pacific Northwest they are a pricey vegetable to buy in the shops, so I grow them instead. And when they get congested you divide them, creating yet MORE plants to take up garden real estate. Which I don't mind in the least, I love them so much.

 After a number of years arguing with Peach Leaf Curl on my two nectarine trees, I happened upon a charming video of the even more charming Monty Don, explaining how to combat it: cover the plant with plastic through the months of December to March. This will prevent the disease from splashing up in the winter rains and re-infecting the plant. Apparently the tree will eventually "grow out" of it, but I'm not sure I believe that. It's not pretty, but it works. I'm all for that.

 Finally, the Abeliophyllum distichum, looking all excited about the prospect of spring. This plant is also known as White Forsythia and while it's not much to look at, it smells like heaven (assuming heaven smells good, that is).

So there you go, what my garden is doing right now. It might be winter, but it's a very exciting time in the garden. This is why I never feel gloomy in winter: there is always something to feel hopeful about.