Monday, July 26, 2010
I entered the gardening world with the same naivety I first had for this strange subspecies of fishing: short-lived. I have learned that it is just as much art as science, and certainly plenty of hard work to put a net in the rushing river and expect a half dozen fish to swim in. My first seeds tossed into the dirt and watered once over the course of the summer for some strange reason failed to germinate. I was discouraged. (Now, rather too many seeds germinate: dandelion, chickweed, etc.) Disappointment certainly applies to fishing: you get skunked, and drive home for three hours thinking about your wasted day and all the jerks that took your spot on the bank and had success. Or, you catch thirty salmon and wonder how you’re going to be enjoying freezer-burned salmon in six months.
My early experiences with this truly unusual past-time were as a kid and it was so enjoyable I haven’t been back in twenty years. Make that twenty five. Mother keeps telling me I have early onset Alzheimer’s (which is in our family, unfortunately) so I’ll blame the foggy memory for my recent decision to try the grand old Alaskan activity once again.
How could I forget dip nets cost an arm and a leg? Some nets were priced around two hundred dollars! For an aluminum stick with a net attached. My felco pruners were expensive, but are used almost every day in the spring, summer, and fall. The dip nets would be used once a year and then retired to the garage. Not to worry: nets were borrowed, financial crisis was averted, and I don’t have to find a space in the garage to store them. Hooray.
And how could I have forgotten the crowds on the bank? The term “combat fishing” is used here disparagingly, and for good reason. When the fishing runs are good, people beg, borrow, or craft their own dip nets and off they go in droves. Sighted in the hordes: plenty of duct tape on homemade nets. Also a few crutches taped to the end of poles. We’re nothing if not resourceful here in the Great Land.
Never been? No idea what to do? That doesn’t stop the crowds at the river. When the prize is Alaskan salmon, even the jaded are converted. I’m a big fan of salmon, and use it in the garden in various forms. Rusty silhouettes as artwork, processed guts and skin as fertilizer. I’m not making this up: salmon is good for the garden! Oh yes, and the palate, of course.
The spot where we camped is world famous (in Alaska, at least) for it’s salmon fishing: the Kenai River. You can dip net on both banks. The north bank is easily accessible by vehicle and you can pitch a tent right on the beach so as to be ready for action when fishing opens at 6am. The other beach is only accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicles or ATV’s, is a long drive from town through some serious road construction, and allows motorized vehicles on the beach, to everyone’s joy that is trying to sleep when fishing closes at 11pm. Guess which one the Last Frontier Gardener camped at? That’s right…the noisy, insanely busy, diesel engine and ATV plagued south beach. I guess everyone needs a little excitement in their life occasionally.
The idea of wading out into a rapidly moving, deep, and glacial river is daunting. But the idea of falling into the same river is worse. Worst of all, having to wear speckled (or is it blotched?) waders that resemble leprosy and could accommodate another person, wade out into the fast river, and then fling a long, heavy pole out into the murky water and try not to get drug out to sea or lose the pole. Always with one eye out for grizzly bears or Fish and Game agents. I enjoyed myself immensely. Though camouflage is not generally seen on the runway in Paris, you will see more of it here than anywhere else in the world, and worn with pride. I myself had camo waders and hooded jacket, and was even offered a camouflage fanny-pack, but declined. We are far from Paris here but I have to draw the line somewhere. Sunglasses preserved what little shreds of dignity I had left and had the added benefit of keeping sand and water out of my eyes.
And so I conclude gardening is not vastly different than my dip netting experience. There were dangers anticipated, successes hoped for, humorous situations, thrills, specialized equipment, and a big payoff. And I was smelly and wet for hours. Reality hit when the realization of how long it would take to process (read clean, fillet, and package) all those fish set in. Many, many garden dreams have gone from blissful dreaming to seemingly endless back-breaking labor in a similar fashion. Fish on!
Is gardening like fishing? Should it be?
Monday, July 19, 2010
Now this list could go one of two ways. The full personal revelation, chock full of not-yet-perpetrated scandal, or the dull notation of tasks my schedule has prevented me from attending to as of yet. As this is (ostensibly) a family friendly gardening blog, I should probably opt for the latter as it is more relevant, though less sensational. For the tidy and organized, the following list might be considered shocking, even revolting. You have been warned.
1. decided on a menu. Yes, the garden tour at my place, occurring on the fifth of August, needs finger foods and beverages. Suggestions welcome. This is supposed to be a posh event (well, as posh as Alaska garden tours go), and a fundraiser for the Alaska Botanical Garden, so the LFG hubby’s suggestion of spray-on cheese and crackers is rejected.
2. weeded the side yard that faces the road. Can you blame me? I never (well hardly ever) even see it. The dandelions and clover are invading the gravel. I should have done this one a month ago. Wait, I did. It needs it again. Ah, gardening….
3. replaced plants that didn’t survive the winter. Yes, I am that lazy. I can think of at least a half a dozen glaring holes in the garden, some with dead foliage still intact. At least perennials are on sale now.
4. tidied up the deck. That spare tank of propane for the grill, snow shovel, bird seed containers, etc. are still cluttering up the back deck. Nothing says “well kept garden” like propane containers littered about.
I’m sure there are other things to numerous to mention but if the list gets any longer I will lose all motivation. Some random, more personal things I haven’t done (as a reward for those of you that stuck around): held up a bank, shaved my head, tiptoed through the tulips, or eaten guacamole.
What haven’t you done?
Monday, July 12, 2010
Tree wax for that unwanted hair.
Skin feeling dry?
Stop hair loss.
If you’re in the middle of a breakup….
Hair color at home
Get rid of that troublesome dandruff
Do your trees read ads? Should they?
Monday, July 5, 2010
It was a tough choice this month, but the judges determined that Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’ played both the crucial starring and supporting roles in the Last Frontier Garden. One judge was overheard to say, '’Without it, this garden has the structure and dimensional qualities of a Monopoly board,” another: “no point in looking out the window between November and June if it wasn’t there.” And my personal favorite, “it gives the illusion she knows what she’s doing.” Don’t be too hard on those critical judges…this being the age of full disclosure and all, the “judges” are in actual fact, me.
Where: Full sun is ideal, but in my experience, part day shade is acceptable. More upright in full sun.
When: Early spring (that’d be May here) through early to mid winter (December or January but depends on location and how deep the snow is), flowering begins in late June or early July here in Alaska.
How: Enjoys good garden soils that are irrigated, but can handle heavy clay and what the rain brings (we get about 16 inches of precipitation annually, by the way), I never fertilize and they look great. Cut down in early spring to about two or three inches.
1. Nothing much happening in early spring here except the occasional bulb…and this grass. The first perennial up and growing in my garden. Covers ripening bulb foliage as it leafs out. And honestly, who wants to look at those decaying daffodil or Allium leaves?
2. I’ve never had to treat for pests or diseases and never staked it. Since I”m a low maintenance gardener (code for lazy), I could stop my list right there and be satisfied.
3. It looks good with any color as a neighbor, including toughies (OK, for me at least) like raspberry, scarlet, and orange-y gold.
4. Linear leaf shape compliments coarse leaf shapes like oriental poppies that can be difficult to place.
5. When used in quantity, can provide rhythm.
6. Moves in the lightest breeze, animating the garden.
7. Provides a pleasing rustling sound as it sways, that is if you can hear it over the neighbor’s annoying dog barking. Quiet, Chester, quiet!
8. Seven reasons is all I do…if you’ve had experience with it and can add another reason, please comment.
Had any experience with this grass? What was your favorite plant for June?