Hoot Owl Time

– Posted in: Pests, Plagues, and Varmints

Another season grows to a close and I say Good Riddance! We had 2 small rains in nearly 3 months and it has been exceedingly hot and windy. Gardens and gardeners look like they feel: hot, tired and cranky. First there were the grasshoppers like glitter in a demented snow-globe. Then there were the weeds gobbling up the sandhill up by the road (and the complaints to the county weed superintendant from the guy who wants me to pay him to spray rather than mow them myself). Then relentless weeks of over 100 degree days that cause nosebleeds. You know it is too hot when tansy wilts.

I have weeds to mow but they have to wait; I haven’t dared to mow or run the tractor for over a month. We are on ‘hoot owl’ orders now which means no engines or spark causing equipment allowed to run between 1 PM and 1 AM.

I creep about in the early morning and water, water, water. I have nearly got all the beds on drip/mini sprinkler lines now but that is about all I have accomplished this summer. Simply too hot to go outside. The only plant that has really thrived this summer is rose grass which is from India and has been exulting in the heat: taller than me now.

Sublimating my need to be about and doing I have been researching growing mix recipes to replace the commercial one I had been using. I lost many flats of seedlings this spring because of excessive amounts of wetting agent. I’ve been trialling different ingredients: cheap discount store peat moss is ghastly and reminds me of brillo pads; mushroom compost is pleasant, has a nice texture and is quite spendy; Ecko compost smells & feels nice–and has sludge in it, no thanks! There is a reed-sedge peat fairly local that I will use in combination with a few other things not including icky perlite which I abominate as it is so sharp and ugly.

The knot was firmly tied in all our tails a week ago when fire broke out in the municipal watershed, destroying by last night nealy 4000 acres of some of the most beautiful land in the county (state) (planet). Myrtle creek has tiers of waterfalls & cataracts falling hundreds of feet into deep dark chasms, trails along dizzying cliffs, glacial erratics the size of garages, cool green pools of icy clear sweet water, giant trees 5′ through or more, curtains of ferns and moss.
Until Tuesday, that is.

Friday night I could see fire from my barn; I drove up onto the flats where I could see the Selkirks and was stunned to see the whole of Myrtle creek in flames. It was like looking into the mouth of hell. The fire was far brighter than the lights of the town below it, and far larger. I could see trees exploding everywhere. Bits of ash and burnt bark have been falling all over the county.
The water now smells and tastes like iodine and is being diverted over to river water. I’ve been hauling water in town to my mother; my farm’s water comes from a different mountain.

It rained all night last night and the fire is slowing. I would be in a better mood except for the bear which last night dug up my newly planted Eremurus, strewing the roots about and hunting for the elusive seaweed meal tucked into the potting mix. I chased him off by yelling but he is much larger than I am, about the size of a cow. Today I sprayed the pots with mint oil and annointed them with chiles pequenos and tepin. It worked with skunks once before; if it slurps up the peppers I will be royally mad, and call the wildlife officer to try to trap it.

About the Author

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4b/5aLocation: rural; just south of British Columbia/Idaho borderGeographic type: foot of Black & Clifty Mountains (foothills of Rockies–the Wet Columbia Mountains in BC climate- speak)Soil type:acid sand (glacial lake bed)/coniferous forestExperience level: intermediate/professionalParticular interests: fragrant & edible plants, hardy bulbs, cottage gardening, alpines, peonies, penstemons & other blue flowers, primulas, antique & species roses & iris; nocturnal flowers Also: owner of Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Mary Lou September 21, 2003, 2:11 pm

Well we have now had a soaking rain for several days, and almost all of the fires are out up here. Hope your area is wet now too. It has really been a sucky year for green though hasn’t it?

jason September 18, 2003, 12:51 pm

I’ll never complain about Utah’s conditions again. I will agree though, it has been a crap-tacular year in the garden.

Talitha September 12, 2003, 11:46 am

Wow. A post like that deserves some sort of comment, but it sort of leaves me speechless. I thought we were having a bad drought the year our well almost went dry and we had to haul about 50 gallons of water everyday just to do the bare minimum of laundry. But we certainly didn’t have restrictions on when we could run engines, and we didn’t have pieces of exploded trees falling in our backyard! I guess it just goes to show someone else always has it worse than you do.