Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yellow Anise

There are places in our yard where Cheryl has never been, not because the yard is so big, but because it is, in a few places, overgrown and dark and long-since surrendered to the whims of nature, with twisted vines, rotting tree trunks, whispering leaves and sad amphibians who may have evolved into a new species after generations in the never light.

Our idea is to introduce yellow anise (Illicium parviflorum) as a border shrub to screen the neighbor's garage and guest house, now hidden by the dark wilderness. If it works, we can reclaim this part of the yard--bring it back into the real world.

And yet, as I looked at the pretty and sweet smelling shrubs, a sense of guilt came over me. Sure, these plants love the shade, but what could possibly live in that dank overgrowth other than a few desperate ferns, would-be saplings and some psychotic squirrels?

I planted seven of them yesterday--three more to go. For each hole I had to cut through a maze of roots and knotted undergrowth, an inch at a time; I have a sharp-edged cutter just for this purpose (reminding myself not to get my foot in the way). Sweat and dirt, nasty shadow bugs warning me to leave. Ha.

And I still need to run water lines to give them a chance to establish. After that, may the gods have mercy on them...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back in the Green

The wind was blowing just so today, just in the right direction to peel back the canopy and expose the new culms that are stretching into the sky, now just bare stalks, OK (it seems) and alive again (after scaring me last week). The green is back. My lesson is learned: too much water can hurt these bamboos. Just give them some fertilizer and stand back.

The patch is doubled in size this year--at least 13 new culms, and the fattest ones yet. I don't know why this plant captures my attention so much. If our entire yard was covered in Bambusa Oldhamii I would be thrilled. In a year or two I'll start harvesting some of these to create new patches of green here and there.

Also, one of Cheryl's friends gave up a new planter of black bamboo--I've got it in the ground near the palm trees out front. Its culms are green at first and then turn shiny black after a couple years--sweet.

Who knows how high these new culms will get. Probably not much higher since they are starting to feather out at the top. I was hoping for some skyscrapers this year but am happy just for green.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Small Stuff

Willow hurt her foot the other day, I don't know how, but now she's having a little trouble getting down the stairs, which considering her habit of following me up and down, countless times a day, to get a snack or play piano or go outside or play Frisbee or sit outside, then back upstairs to work, day in and day out, even now when it is difficult for her, so much that I have to tell her to Stay at the top of the stairs and wait for me to come back, which she does, and with a patience that breaks my heart.

She got an extra piece of bread today (her favorite thing) and I had an extra cup of coffee. Small stuff.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fixing a Leak - Sad News

I didn't go up on the roof this weekend as planned. We got some sad news. I could write a short essay here for my future self who, reading this 20 or 30 years from now, might be interested in a fresh accounting of events, so as to know my real feelings at this time.

But the details aren't really important. And the circumstances are so very minor compared to the reality of life for many people--suffering, hunger, dispair, loneliness, disease. I would be tempting fate to complain about my petty problems. As my grandfather used to say... Well, I can't remember exactly what he said but it was something like shut your yap and go to work.

So maybe I'll do the roof next weekend.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fixing a Leak - Fears and Memories

I've never been able to get up on our roof here. Getting up there is the problem. But once there, it's nice and flat, with no danger of slipping off the sides, not like the time Cheryl and I climbed the big Temple of Kukulcan at Chitzen Itza in Mexico.

At the time anyone could climb the stairs, and at the top is a room, dark and a little creepy. I'm not sure how I made it, but I was just fine until I turned around. Because the stairs are so steep, from the doorway on top it seems you are just floating in air, which Cheryl thought was great fun, but the sight of it suddenly grabbed me the seat of my pants and made me sit down and remain sitting for the longest time, unable to move and then furious at Cheryl for walking too close to the ledge, just as some teenagers (from Europe somewhere) shook their heads at me and laughed and chased each other around the top.

After a while, when it became clear that we would starve to death otherwise, I was able to walk down, or rather scoot down the stairs, my rear end doing most of the work, stair by stair, puckered up tight.

Anyway, this weekend I'm determined to get up on the roof and sort out this leak problem. I may take some extra food and a blanket in case I can't get back down.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fixing a Leak - Where's the Witch

Skipping ahead to the part where I hire this guy named Gino to come out and caulk the window--and sure it isn't a pretty job, but I kept thinking that he was going to fall and land head-first on the air-conditioner so I just wanted him off the roof. Even so, I figured, if this window is the cause of the leak, the caulk job should do the trick (or a least slow it down).

But no. We had a wicked rain yesterday evening just as I was leaving yoga class, so crazy that I draped my yoga mat over my head to get to the car and still got drenched (and what are the chances that someone driving by saw me and said Look at that jackass? Pretty good, I imagine.)

Anyway, I'm back at home there's the leak, just as bad as ever. So the caulk didn't work. Back to the drawing board, or as they liked to say in the middle ages, where's the witch?, because that's what my deductive ability is worth these days.

Time for a new theory. And here it is: I've noticed that the area around the window has some green mold on the paint, and there's an odd stain just above the window. A drip. An old leak. Maybe there's a clue up there?

More later...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fixing a Leak

My office here at home is on the second floor, and it has a little window on the east wall, up in the corner, just behind my right shoulder, that allows the morning light to come in. This tiny window seems to control all the light in the room, even more than the big set of French doors behind me, and especially when a set of clouds moves by as I'm drinking my morning coffee and daydreaming.

Out on the patio I can just peek around the east corner to see the outside of the little window. To wash it would require me to climb over the patio railing and crawl onto the steep living room roof, and this is never, ever going to happen.

For months I have suspected that the poor caulking job on this tiny window is responsible for the leak downstairs. In my mind I've constructed scaffolding and flying buttresses and hanging ladders and hovercraft--anything to allow me sit out there and re-caulk that stupid window. It's just out of reach. Just a few feet.

More later.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bamboo Distress

We've gotten 12 or so new bamboo culms this summer, big fat ones, so many that I felt very good about my favorite plant and its general disposition, which appears to be a happy one on the surface--so green and tall.

But the other day I noticed that one of the tiny new shoots lost its green color and just quit growing and died at about 2 feet tall. That hasn't happened before.

Then I looked up into the canopy and could see that many of the new culms are a little pale looking on top. Have they quit growing? Arghhh! Let the hand-wringing begin: Maybe I fed it too much this spring. Maybe it needs more fertilizer now. Maybe it's gotten too much rain. Maybe the dogs pee on it too much. Maybe I am a complete and total idiot. Maybe the thick canopy is robbing it of the sunlight it needs. In times like this I tend to pull back and wait and watch, not knowing what to do and all.

Instead I did a little investigation and found that the ground on that side of the bamboo, right next to the dead shoot, has a sort of white fungus just under the mulch. Must mean too much water. So I turned off the sprinkler (the one dedicated to the monk's cap and bamboo) to see what happens.

Bamboo. Good.