Thinking about where to plant hops

Yeahhh, I probavly should have researched this in advance. But this guy said he sold hops as cut flowers last year and I was like, that’s cool and they seem like tall plants… how would i even trellis them? Would it be weird to put them along the property line with the neighbors? It’s kind of this raised area. It’d make more sense to put them there if I had put a silage tarp over the area already. Or what about the northeast-most bed, for maybe a bit of shade over/into the yard? Eh, probably would attract deer… and how would I trellis them? Hell, how will I plant them? It’s rained a couple of inches int eh last few days.

Meanwhile, T came down with strep Monday night and Tuesday I went and bought about 50 strawberry crowns. So I want to plant those first since there’s already a place for them that’s not full of bunchgrasses. And when will I do that? Z is taking most of the day off on Thursday, so maybe I can start?

Also: yay, we’re up to 62% of normal rainfall for this point in the rain year. #drought


More post-fire changes

Wow, it looks like Harmony Farm Supply (I noticed last time I was there that it’s now Harmony Farm Supply and Nursery) has taken over Cameron & Cameron, which is at River Road and Fulton in northern Santa Rosa. It’s on the way to Shone Farm, which is Santa Rosa Junior College’s farm. I took classes there for two years, so I drove by this place pretty often. They were one of 2 places in the county that had organic straw bales (rice has never worked well for my compost, btw). I guess that this lot and the one next door both burned.

Yesterday was my first trip up to that area since the fires in October. The fire came through this area the first night and day (Oct 7-8, iirc). A friend of mine was driving home from Fort Bragg that day and was on the phone with me for quite a while as they had to take side streets through the fire zone and smoke. This time we were going to a birthday party, and we stopped for a brief hike in the redwoods – my first time visiting Armstrong Woods. Hopefully I will post photos to flickr soon.

An example of a “dumpster fire”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary now defines the term “dumpster fire” as

an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence disaster” 
Here’s an example. I ordered compost and wood chips and wanted them delivered last week before the rain came. Their regular driver was on vacation, but they could use a contractor. I asked if the contractor used (North Bay) fire debris trucks, because I really don’t want to get any (more) ash from fire sites on my property if I can help it. (To the truckers who are driving remains of the Pressley Fire down my street: slow down!) Well, I got one of those delivering my stuff today. See the sticker on the left side? There’s another on the right that has the license number or whatever on it. I sure hope it was cleaned well after its last job! I recently did see an ad on FB craigslist from a company that cleans out trucks such as this one.
He dropped off the first load, which was wood chips instead of compost (and the wrong amount) and drove out to get the transfer (is that what you call the 2nd load? it was pretty cool to see how the truck transfers the container with the 2nd load into the truck bed) with the compost in it (supposed to be 15 yards but it was 12). I looked at where he’d driven and asked if he wanted to drive on those sunken tracks, or to make new ones. He tried to come in at a different angle to avoid those ruts, and, well, he got stuck. And I should have just said that our tractor (somewhere between 32 and 35 horsepower) was too weak to try to pull a huge truck out, especially since the 4-wheel-drive doesn’t work. The rest, as you can imagine and see in the photo below, is history.
delivery truck and tractor both stuck in the mud. note the fact that the front wheel is only half-visible because the rest is below ground-level

That’s what I call a “dumpster fire.” (well, that’s different than the ones from protests I used to attend)

The driver was really hard to communicate with — for one thing, his boss was literally in a meeting all afternoon, and by the time the tow truck drivers showed up, he refused to even talk to them. And they went thru some things to be able to get up our driveway past the guy’s trailer! (and to let me out so I could get T at school) I don’t know what happened to my photos from when the two tow trucks got there, but I don’t have them. Fortunately, they were quickly able to pull the driver out and he somehow got his truck and the trailer out of there in one piece (I was gone by then).

What a disaster. The soil is so messed-up. Inside the gate where I put a lot of woodchips to heal the ground after the wood chips were delivered in late December, the ground has hardly any tracks visible. So the wood chips HAVE helped! Yay. Now I need a lot of free ones so we can help make the soil outside the garden more resilient.

I forgot to mention that someone “tagged” the truck (with graffiti). He thought it might have been while he was parked at the building across the street. The guys across the street said they didn’t see it (and they have security cameras). When I talked to the guy at the compost business, he said “beyond the one” tag? In other words, he had already seen that the truck had been spraypainted on. The driver was able to clean it off (diesel), but he was really stressed about it. 😦

And one more thing: the compost isn’t even fully mature! I would like to move it into the garden, but hauling 12 yards by wagon just to store it in a different place is not in my near future.

I guess our “farm” has been “baptized” or whatever by our having finally gotten the tractor stuck in mud.


Busy day before the rain

View of Taylor Mountain on this cloudy and misty day

We’re expecting an inch or two of rain in the next few days — we’ll see what happens!

Today I did some mowing in the garden in preparation for my imaginary pea and fava bean plantings. Maybe I can just sneak them in without a drip tape guide if it doesn’t rain too hard tomorrow(?). Then I mowed a path to the back gate. The wildlife path is super-hard and sunken, so hopefully getting some cut grass and rain on it will loosen that soil back up. I always fantasize that we’ll put woodchips on it. In very rainy winters the low spots get puddling.

This is not a very rainy winter. We have had 48% of normal for this point in the rain year, and 25% as much as we had gotten at this point last year! We’d had like 145% of normal rainfall by this point. Scary.

I’ve been trying to get more woodchips and some compost while the ground was dry (the delivery gate is at the back corner that’s visible in the above photo). I called back the company in Marin County that had flaked on returning my call “tomorrow” 5 days earlier yesterday.  They’re having trouble finding a truck with a transfer (so it can carry 2×15 yards of material) that is available because they are all busy doing fire debris removal. I don’t want my compost to come in a debris removal truck!!! But I guess it’s part of us all sharing the burden of the legacy of the fires(?). I don’t want to get compost from the place that’s like 3.5 miles away from us because it has a terrible reputation amongst gardeners (funny because they have a respected local small farmer writing their blog-type articles). I don’t want to risk having plants that seem to be suffering from herbicide damage (speaking of which, I found a wild brassica that looked like that today – maybe from the 32-degree nights?). Our trash company changed and now our green waste seems to be going to Vacaville, which is an hour or so away. I called out of curiosity to find out how much delivery of compost would be. Guess how much? $600. It’s around $255 from West Marin (CA DFA organic), and it was around that much when Waste Management was making its OMRI-listed compost in Novato. Argh!

This afternoon I got back out to the garden and collected my soil sample. There were places where the compost that I’d put on the surface had infiltrated 6 inches below the surface! Overall the soil was a bit too cold and wet for sampling with a shovel. It was hard to get a slice of soil and it was hard to break up the clods (peds) so I could take a small amount out. I’ll just have to bring in what I have when I’ve got the time. The place we send it thru is close to Z’s job in Sebastopol, but he’s so busy that I don’t think I’ll ask him to do it on a weekday.

Then I dealt with putting soil back on a low spot next to the driveway. By the end I could hardly move! So tired…

Some rain’s in the forecast

We’ve had 51% of normal rainfall for this point in the season. Last year at this point we’d gotten 203%. We started watering this week.



“A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 10am. Some of the storms could produce small hail. Sunny, with a high near 55. Breezy, with a northwest wind 14 to 22 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.”
In other news, next week’s predicted rain seems to have devolved into showers 😦
It is taking me weeks to get any beds ready to plant. I wanted to try phacelia and mustard – the latter is for the old strawberry bed. It had a big, angry yellowjacket nest last year. Hope they don’t come back to the same area this year. By the way, I saw my first butterfly, cucmber beetle, and yellowjacket of the year last week.
I need to figure out a better way to get the grass off so I can plant. Z suggested using the tractor’s loader, but that takes too much topsoil off.
I’m getting ready to order more compost and/or wood chips. It’s a big financial commitment. Our green waste, by the way, apparently goes to Vacaville, on the other side of those mountains (and delivery of compost from there would cost $600. that’s before the cost of the compost!). Too bad that we can’t get our local organic back into our soil. My friends in the Central Valley buy (or bought) their compost from that site.
Today we used our new soil thermometer. It said that the soil ranges from 54 to 70 degrees. 54 was in a grass-covered, wetter area in the center of the south side. It was 68 about 12 feet away from there in an area that had compost on the surface.