Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Late-Autumn Pursuits November 22, 2009

Filed under: fall — greenwalks @ 10:06 pm
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(AKA what I have been up to instead of gardening, blogging, or reading garden blogs, all three of which I wish I had more time for at the moment…)

Here in Seattle, it’s almost unrelentingly horrid out – storm system after storm system rips through, often bringing heavy rains and high winds. Flood levels are rising, the ground is ultra-saturated, and the things that need to get done outside are just not happening. Oddly, the things that need to get done inside aren’t really getting done either! ‘Tis the season to be too busy and feel like a hamster on a wheel.

I feel lucky that we haven’t had to deal with much in the way of storm-induced problems so far. Cleaning the gunk out of the rain barrel’s screen and making sure the basement stays dry has been about it. Well, we need to fix our gate – the post cracked and the strongest winds tend to carry the loose latch all the way through to the wrong side, effectively trapping us unless a screwdriver is at hand.

Windblown gate latch

Other fascinating fall activities have included watching Jack-o-Lanterns rot:

Rotten Jack-o-Lantern I

Rotten Jack-o-Lantern II

They disintegrated when I tried to put a shovel under them, but most of the bits made it to the worm bin, where I recently spotted the biggest, baddest, blackest spider I’d ever seen sitting on one fuzzy remnant. All together now – EWWWW!

This gourd, which languished on the sideboard for a bit too long, got even more Halloween-ish when it started turning black and silvery in spots:

Rotting gourd

I rush past neighbors’ gardens and only stop for a second to admire the turning leaves, as on this hedge I didn’t realize was deciduous:

Deciduous hedge in fall

We’ve been playing a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of Uno recently. If you don’t know this card game, it’s easy to learn and keeps a 5+ yr. old busy for long stretches, at least around here. We lost the rules a while back so we may have invented some, but at least they are consistent. Sometimes, when we take a break, our friendly household shark holds the cards for us until we return.

Great white shark playing Uno

What keeps you busy when the trees bend before the wind?


Snow Mini-Saga January 14, 2009

Looking back to last month and re-hashing our snow stories is still a big topic here in Seattle. I bumped into a neighbor in the grocery store yesterday and we had to exchange our tales. Anyone from a truly snowy winter climate would be laughing their tuchus off at our wussiness, but for us the nearly two-week siege of sub-freezing temps and unseasonably immense snowfall really shut the area down for quite a spell. The city of Seattle’s snow/transit response is currently being questioned quite heavily – the Mayor at first gave the city a B grade (when most citizens would agree that it deserved more like an F-), but is now admitting that there needs to be a better system in place for next time something similar occurs.

During that time (late December), schools were canceled, bus service slowed to almost nothing, roads were iced over, and people like me who live on steep hills were basically trapped. Even walking was treacherous, as many home- and business-owners did not clear their sidewalks and nobody knows to salt or sand.

Normally, I would have just stayed in our nice warm house and come out only to build an occasional snow creature with my kid. But, as it happened, I had a previously contracted music gig that required me to head into the city center every day for the four worst days of the blizzard of ’08.

Never a great snow driver at the best of times, having to head in with a borrowed musical instrument in the back of the car added to the stress level quite a bit. And when I got to the bottom of our hill and hit the brakes oh so gently and found that I had hit ice and was slooooooowly sliding against the light into a major intersection just as a bus was coming down the hill towards me (the car finally stopped before it got to scream time, but it was closer than I’d have liked for comfort!)… well, that didn’t help my nerves too much either.

As the days went by and musicians’ stories piled up (hours waiting in 25 degree cold for buses that never came, buses that wiped out and had to be emptied of passengers, car wrecks, long frigid walks from miles away), I started to wonder why we were all risking our lives and limbs to provide what seemed like a non-essential service. But the concert presenter was adamant that they had never canceled a show for any reason, so they were not about to provide that option to us.

One evening, heading home as the passenger of a Michigan native who was totally unphased by all the weather/driving, we went right under the aftermath of a really scary accident,  a bus that had skidded out and punched through the retaining wall, leaving it hanging out over the freeway. Miraculously, nobody was killed, but seeing that struck a chill into my soul and I decided at that moment that I would have to figure out how to avoid driving home the next night after the concert at 11:30pm in the blowing snow and darkness.

My solution was to find a discounted rate at a hotel near to the performance site, so that I would only have to walk two blocks after the first concert, and two blocks back the next afternoon for the repeat performance. Yes, it felt a little ridiculous to pay for a hotel just a few miles from my own home, but these were crazy times and crazy methods were necessary!

As it happened, my hotel room was fairly low to the street and right on the corner, so it had one rather unlovely view of the freeway, but out the other window it overlooked Freeway Park, Seattle’s 1970s attempt at city beautification through use of gigantic concrete blocks. I’ve always found it kind of ugly, but in the snow it looked lovelier than usual.

Freeway Park

Pre-dating the official park is the Naramore  Fountain by George Tsutakawa, a Japanese-American artist and sculptor who designed many pieces of public art and is most known for his fountains. For images of some of them, click here. I really enjoyed having it right out my window.

Naramore Fountain by George Tsutakawa

After installing myself in the hotel and admiring my snowy view for a while, I had to get ready to go play some music. I strapped my big boots and gaiters on over my concert clothes and tromped through the falling snow to Town Hall, one of Seattle’s most venerable buildings. Formerly a Christian Science church, the building was repurposed in the late 90s as a civic center and concert space. Its programming spans many genres and it is well worth a look at their calendar if you live in or near Seattle (or even if you don’t). My snowy night-time walk over was kind of magical, the streets were deserted, it was like wandering around a dream city.

Spooky Seattle Snowy Street at Night

Town Hall Sign at Night

This is turning into not so much of a “mini” write-up of my small saga, so I think the rest will have to be a Part II. Suffice to say, I still have all my fingers and toes, no frostbite tales here!


Drip Drop, Pitter Patter August 26, 2008

I never thought I’d say this, but there has been TOO much late-summer rain in Seattle this year! No, I haven’t had to stand out with the magic water wand for almost two weeks (surely an August garden record), but I also haven’t been able to do some much-needed pruning and other maintenance, or even more than a little enjoying of the garden except just to look at it from indoors. Weird!

The rain was running down the street in what seemed like a river yesterday:

Rain Runs Downhill

If anyone is reading this from a drought zone, I apologize for whining. I wish we could send some of the rain your way…