Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Loves Me Like A Rock

My garden is a kitchy collection of mismatched pots and plants, placed willy-nilly based on inspiration and only occasional logic and never on the rules of gardening.  Not surprising if you know me at all.  There is no fancy statuary but, instead, there are old aggregate pier blocks and bowling balls.  I built a couple trellises from driftwood this year.  This old hand-truck was left behind from the rug-cleaning business that used to operate from our house decades ago.  I've moved it around the garden and finally decided it needed some transformed.  While confident I could do it, Mark was home and prefers to wield the power tools so he created, based on my brainstorm, another support for the tomatoes I hope will thrive there.

Artichokes and zucchini share space in my front garden with hollyhocks and hydrangeas.  Herbs are scattered up the driveway among the roses and glads. Fancy brass plant markers would clearly be out of their element. Years ago, I saw an picture in a magazine of painted rocks created to mark plants and I've been painting rocks ever since to identify the residents of my garden.  

The first step, and often the hardest, is to find the rocks, especially the larger ones.  The smaller ones I've found on the beach.  The larger ones are JUST like the ones you might see along a river...say...similar to the area near the Mad River pump station.  I'm not sure those particular stones would be okay to take since I'm sure they're hauled in but probably a landscape supply place would sell you a nice stone or two to paint.  I will tell you that rocks I once collected at Centerville Beach in Ferndale, eventually broke into pieces proving themselves to be sandstone.  Sadly, they already had my artwork when they disintegrated.  Don't use those. 
Once you've found your canvases, wash well and set in the sun to dry a bit while you ponder their shapes for inspiration.  Will you mark specific plants?  Does it look like a whale? Will you make a memorial to a beloved goldfish interred among the marigolds? What colors will you use? 

 I use simple acrylic paints.  If you don't have a stash, any craft store has them for less than a buck for a 2-ounce bottle. Grab a few colors.  Grab a few more. Except for a small enough brush for lettering (or use rubber stamp letters if you have them) and details, you can do with sponges for most of the base coating. You'll need a can of polyurethane spray; gloss is more impressive than matte but ... it's your garden and your choice.
 This is them in progress. Get fancy or not.  Add glitter or not.  Add dots and swirls and borders -  It's hard to see but the "cukes" rock looked like denim so I added yellow "stitches" around the edges. I even did some Mod-Podge with clock faces I've torn from magazines for just such a project.
 When you're done, let them dry then take them outside to spray with the polyurethane.  I like to do this outside on a sunny day and lay on a BUNCH of thin coats throughout the day.  Let them dry real well until they are no longer tacky...(OK, sticky...mine are ALWAYS tacky!) before placing them in the garden.  They make great gifts for gardening friends, too. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Oh Redwood Tree Please Let Us Under

I started to use "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" for this blog but, this paddle on the Eel River really cries out to be recognized by Van Morrison.  My second time joining the "Interpretive Paddle" offered by State Parks and led by two Park rangers.  I truly enjoyed the rag-tag fleet and its total lack of pretentiousness.  Once again, my cohorts piloted a variety of vessels from short river kayaks to inflatable canoes and everything in between.  Skill levels were also varied, from the experienced guys who would get distracted by the eddies and play to those of us simply trying to AVOID the obstacles.  Lacking experience, there were several exciting episodes, one on the very first river bend past the start.  It was a "Tippy Canoe and kayaks, too" with three vessels sucked into the snags and flipped over.  I had benefit of a river guy in front of me and I rode the current carefully, following his example to "dirt track" around the turn.  We hung for a while waiting for bodies and belongings to be collected and placed back in their boats before we continued on.  One of the first things I learned about paddling is "dress for immersion", clearly not a lesson learned by all.  To their credit, they were back on board and we continued - I'm not sure that I wouldn't have gone back to the start and called it a day after that.
This would be Robert, one of our Park Ranger guides (not very tall apparently but the dude walks on water!) guiding some onto the river bar where we made a stop at Canoe Creek, the location of the 2003 
wildfire that ripped through the old growth forest.  The trees and meadow are coming back nicely and it was wonderful to be standing in a spot that is seldom seen. 

On these forays, I have to remind myself to look up once in awhile.  If I don't, I miss things like this osprey nest perched on top of a tree.

For a day that started out pretty chilly when we were standing in the parking lot at 8:30, it reached into the mid- to high-70's by the time we pulled out around three. I call the day a success, my first with the boat on my new car.  I managed to tie it down properly and it stayed put both directions.  Twas both an exhilarating and exhausting day.  I learned more about reading the current and recognizing that where the river wants me to go is not always where I should be going.  As always, it was great to be back on the water.