Saturday, March 31, 2007

The first of April is the day we remember what we are
the other 364 days of the year.

- Mark Twain

In my haste to be the first one to accomplish the usual April Fool's Trickery, - and in my confusion at having slept late this morning, - I mistook the day and had Husband on his feet, looking for an imaginary animal wandering down in the pasture.

However, it turned out that I was the Fool, a day early, and now here is Husband, all primed up and reminded that Sunday is April Fool's Day - on guard and not likely to be fooled again!!

Ah well, Mark Twain probably had it right when he remarked that April 1st is just a reminder of what we are the other 364 days of the year.

It's when we Fool ourselves though, that it's especially painful.....

The philosophical bend in my mind immediately flies to comments and relevant concepts that I could expand on, but perhaps I have played the Fool enough already??? Who amongst us hasn't spent a least a part of our days fooling ourselves? Best to let the subject lie undisturbed and concentrate on the fun aspect of April Fool's Day.

Be sure to accomplish all your nasty little tricks by Noon, as I understand that is the hour when all jesting must cease and we must resume our sombre attitude.

I read all sorts of interesting things about the history of this light hearted celebration and the custom of sending people on
Fool's Errands.

If you would like to educate yourself as to its origins here is the place to go!!

Happy April Fool's Day to all, and Happy Birthday to my cousin Anne, who has had to contend with an April Fool's Birthday all her life long.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Know Thine Enemy

I hasten to don my rose coloured glasses as I consider the attributes of this mightiest of all the gardeners' enemies - the dreaded cutch grass, a.k. quake grass, dog grass, quitch grass, Dutch grass, Fin's grass, Scotch quelch, wheat grass, twitch grass, devil's grass and witch grass.

These aliases confirm the world wide spread of the enemy, and the last two in particular describe the firm belief of its origin held by any gardener bent double after a day's battle with said enemy.

I have no doubt that the Parable of the Weeds and Tares in the Wheat refer to cutch grass, and although any interpretation of this parable that I have read has in no way been charitable to the Weeds and Tares, I say unto you, I do not believe anything is created in vain! And so it is with The Cutch, - I do not believe it was created solely to be the bane of all gardeners!

So on with the assessment of this most mortal of all enemies to be found in the garden. Slugs included!!!

My first impression of The Cutch is that it has exceeded its good qualities beyond the bounds of civility and moderation. As usual, all things carried to excess contain within them the dangers of offence.

It would appear that this is what has made The Cutch so oppressive to the poor gardener who has to contend with it.

In Europe, it is said, its qualities of persistence and invasiveness have been a boon to those who PLANT IT ( can you imagine) in fields where it is an excellent source of forage for cattle and horses. The same attributes that make it noxious in the garden smile upon it in the field. It is drought resistant, tillage-resistant, and appreciates manure (which no doubt accounts for the great quantities of The Cutch that arrived in the loads of top soil that enabled us to even have a garden in this pebbly corner....

I have read that "in Italy especially the roots of The Cutch are carefully gathered by the peasants and sold in the market
s. They have a sweet taste, somewhat resembling liquorice, and Withering relates that, dried and ground into meal, bread has been made with them in time of scarcity." (M. Grieve, 1931)

And Nicholas Culpepper, in 1653, claimed that he had heard it said a half an acre of The Cutch was worth five acres of carrots twice told over.

"Although that Couch-grasse be an unwelcome guest to fields and gardens, yet his physicke virtues do recompense those hurts; for it openeth the stoppings of the liver and reins without any manifest heat." -- Gera
rd (quoted in Grieve)

Now, how can you argue with those ancient recommendations.

Carrying on to the Medicinal qualities that The Cutch hides wit
hin it's noxious roots, I found these qualities to be even more redeeming of its evil ways in the garden.

This "herb' is a diuretic with a long folk history of use for bladder and kidney stones. It is used for respiratory complaints, for bronchitis, and for laryngitis. The Green Pharmacy recommends making a tea wi
th two to ten teaspoons of the underground parts of the herb, chopped and steeped for five to ten minutes in a cup or two of boiling water. Those same Europeans who use The Cutch to feed their cattle also drink up to four cups of the medicinal tea a day, - if they are so inclined! And some even quaff it from a wine glass!

Other references cite its use as an antibiotic, antilithis,
antimicrobial, antiphloistic, and a blood purified. The claim it is effective when used to treat Bright's disease, calcul, catarrh, constipation, cystitis, demulcent, depurative, discutient, emollient, eyes, female disorders, fevers, gallstones, gout gravel, jaundice, kidney, lower back pain, pectoral, prostrate (enlarged, rheumatism, skin diseases, stones, duorific, syphilis, tonic, and unrinary infections.

I don't even know what half those things are, but it confirms to me that whoever created The Cutch certainly knew what He/She was doing, and one best be careful about its eradication.

And speaking of eradication, do not err in thinking that this is easy to accomplish. Burying or turning The Cutch will not k
ill it. The roots will spread and shoots will reappear.

Digging the ro
ots of The Cutch is hard work. They are dense and bind even the lightest soil.

And they grow extremely quickly. Roots which you thought you had conquered after a hard day's skirmish can reappear again within a week, defiantly thumbing their noses, or could I say, even using the fourth finger in ob
scene insolence.

However, The Cutch is shallow rooted, and therein lies its weakness. It has no long taper like roots going deep into the ground and so if you attack this problem intellectually with a shovel (some would call this an oxymoron, but you and I know that it is possible to be intellectual on the end of a shovel - as we lean and rest upon it perhaps we could devise a scheme wherein certain enthusiasts come in to harvest The Cutch!!!) you will dig the soil well and remove the roots with relative ease. Except in cases where The Cutch has wound itself inexorably around a favourite perennial, and is so closely bound with it it is impossible to extricate The Cutch root from the flower root. Alas, alas, - I threw such a bundle of roots over the garden fence just two days ago, sacrificing a Shasta Daisy, a victim of the Battle.

I suppose that this exercise in research and reflection has given me more respect for the avowed enemy that awaits me in the garden - ever ready to do battle - ever ready to assert its territorial rights and to carry its banners into all sorts and conditions of gardens and field

However, it does not weaken my resolve to banish The Cutch from this particular garden, and so I don my gardening shoes and gloves, - put the rose coloured glasses away from me and go forth to do battle!!! Onward and Upward.....regardless of Physicke virtues! Unless of course we establish a new custom at tea time and have a glass of Cutch Decoction..

More than you ever wanted to know about the ubiquitous cutch grass, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring Wildflowers and Precious Children

When the children were young and carefree they roamed the hills above the farm - investigated the Falls and the Caves, - visited the Big Rock (sometimes with a picnic lunch) and brought home the sweet spring flowers that sprang up amongst the sagebrush in this desert country.

The memories of the bouquets that used to sit above the kitchen sink, on the windowsill, bring tender and nostalgic thoughts of the small hands that gathered and clutched them.

The Yellow bells came early and in profusion. A little fistful of yellow bells was gold, whether brought eagerly by the smaller children, or more laconically by the bigger kids who left their offering more casually. They touched me then, but the memory of them is even more precious now.

I try to control the buttercups that arrived in the Lost Garden via a gift of Japanese Peonies from Number Two Son. They have made their way up to the new garden, - where they flourish. These cultivated buttercups are bright and cheery, but they will never bring as much pleasure as those collected on the hillside and offered by little grubby hands.

The Prickly Pear cactus (or Desert Rose) was not one that got picked and brought home. Their prevalence depended upon how much moisture there was in the spring. They were the flowers that prompted small legs to run home and get Mum or Dad to share in the beauty.

As was the Mariposa Lily, which was truly scarce (and protected) . Mum even went looking for them by herself, and called the children to delight and marvel.

Soon the other desert flowers sprang to life,- the tiny mauve phlox and the small desert daisies. They never engendered quite the enthusiasm of those first spring wildflowers, or inspired such eager gathering.

Memories that touch the heart.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Mild March Morning in the Garden (where the wind did not blow)


Harbingers of Spring (not the fat robin with a worm this time)

Find the sparrow, looking ov
er the accommodation.....

Early morning, and the t
hermometer was reading -2C. Husband had been chilly in the night and, wide awake, he brought his cold nose and toes out to turn up the furnace and catch up on the newspapers he reads so avidly.

As we had breakfast the sun came out. The temperature shot up, and the day promised fair for a
session in the garden. There I found my old nemesis - the Cutch Grass, - it having taken advantage of the summer and fall to establish itself in amongst last year's newly planted perennials. This is a vicious grass, - fertile and invasive and sly. In other people's gardens it sometimes disguises itself as Quack Grass.. but we know it for what it is!!!

As I poked around with shovel and hoe, trying to dislodge each and every root of this rude invader, I was heartened to see some signs of spring. The daffodils beginning to stretch towards the sun, with blooms half opened.

A few new leaves on the baby climber, just planted last year.

Some golden blooms on the forsythia, - looking sparse, but promising....

The Red Maple displaying its scarlet buds against the blue of the spring sky.

When Husband and I stopped for coffee we enjoyed the sunshine on our backs, and the view of Daly Bluffs to the East, with a distant fire depicting some pruner's diligence. But then it was back to the battle and the efforts to extricate the persistent grass roots entwined around the Shasta Daisies and Peonies.

An adventuresome violet had traveled up from the Lost Garden and established itself amongst the plants. I thought about the lawn at the old garden, awash with violets - purple ones, white ones and mauve ones, blooming against the new green of the grass. The richness and abundance of that garden in the spring was a joy to all who passed by it, but I tell myself that a garden is a garden, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to start anew, even in this small way.

The small, new peony tree may not have the brilliance of the gorgeous twenty-five year old beauty we left behind, but it is tender and full of promise! And Cutch Grass, alas....

When lunch time arrived, Husband was just finishing pruning the roses.

We staggered indoors, stiff and sore, but well satisfied. I, at least, had a few muscles that were complaining about this first spring workout, but I am expecting them to get used to the extra exertion and to be in fit form to take part in the next skirmish with the Dandelions and dreaded Cutch Grass.

Over a bowl of soup,we enjoyed the last of our spring omens, - some lovely orange tulips and a mauve and white primrose from the Grocery Store.