Heat and Light -
Long ago my friend, Barbara Okray, had classes in Heat and Light. I
was astonished. Elements of daily life as college subjects? But,
things change. Now, in order to be warm in winter, cool in summer
and see at night cheaply, I study both.
I've learned that plants, even weeds, cool my yard and ultimately my
home. So while my neighbors have rock lawns and use swamp
coolers, I enjoy dandelions (nearly as much as the bees do),
wildflowers and whatever grasses thrive on minimal drinks of water.
When I first read that dirt and rocks are tens of degrees hotter than
plants, and asphalt ten degrees hotter still, I wanted to see if that was
true: I let one side of my mostly clay back yard go to weed, while on
the other I plucked out dandelions to the tips of their roots. In the fall I
was surprised at how early frost came to the weed-rich side of my
yard and how many weeks later it came to the
Now I water dandelions, carpet dirt with wildflowers and enjoy
my home being ten degrees cooler in the summer than when I
favored a rocky landscape. If I still lived in Wisconsin I'd do
the opposite and expose a dirt border on the sunny sides of
my home for the winter, perhaps in the same areas where I had
flowers during the summer.
The thermometer I bought shows
twenty degrees hotter where there's
dirt as opposed to plants. That's
about what I expected, but it's fun to
see the actual numbers. Twenty degrees
is a lot of difference! That's twenty
degrees that isn't associated with any
electricity use, so it's basically free cooling
except for the cost of a bit of water.
April 12, 2008 - My daffodils are looking good and I'm inspired to
believe that I will be able to keep my home and garden. So, I'm
going to see about ordering a few more plants and possibly bulbs
for my garden. (that feels really good.)
April 13, 2008 - The picture from yesterday shows that the changes
I've made since March 23 don't make as much visual difference as I
imagine. Except that the raised bed behind the bird's water dish is
much darker because I raised it and added a lot of darker earth so
that I can plant some blue
geraniums there, that I've
already ordered. I doubt
they will bloom this year,
This fall I'm going to plant
chionodoxa to the left of
the stones. Chionodoxa
has the most charming
flowers I have ever
seen. I just love them.
Here is a picture of some
under my pear tree.
I ordered some plants two weeks ago, but I can't remember what I
ordered. I just have to trust I ordered things that will be good for this
location. I want to order some more things, but I also don't want to
reorder what I already ordered and I have a hard time keeping it
My grape, which looked dead for
lack of water last year, isn't. So
maybe next year it will do grapes.
(As of 2013, still no grapes.)
Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder
(Wait till you see how I'm beholding this...)
5/31/06 My garden is a tad uninspired right now, I'll be the first to
admit it. In fact, there would be waist-high grass if not for me
walking around my garden over and over again to build up strength.
This corner under the pine was so not beautiful that I hardly looked
at it. But, now that I've been walking here I know it has the coolest
In March, after I received a Dharma catalog, I began thinking about
a calming statue set among ferns under the ponderosa.Ferns might
grow, despite this being high DESERT, because of how cool it is.
I decided to raise the back corner so that the ferns would be higher,
as if they were on a little hill and so that I could have other plants
beneath them. I collected the red cinder block edging (that I hated)
and arranged it to protect the fence bottom a bit; then I put stones
on top of the edging. You can just see the stones. I filled the area
with Russian vine clippings, leaves and dried grass that had
overgrown my yard last year when I had a tetanus relapse and I
couldn't do anything outside.
As I dug beds in other areas for the plants I wanted to order, I used
some of the dirt to cover the leaves and grass. I'm thinking the
leaves and grass will compost into a moisture holding material. (I
would have rescued some fishing night crawlers from Wal*Mart,
because they do such a dynamite job of eating up leaves, but I was
afraid I might crush them if I was still working on the area and was
stepping on it.)
The dark area at the base of the Ponderosa is where I dug out a
Russian olive. I filled the hole with the original clay soil, to which I
added steer manure, and peat moss. That's where I'm going to plant
the wintergreen I ordered.
I want wintergreen because as a child I went "Up North" to my
maternal grandparents' cottage on Little Lake St. Germaine
where I loved seeing the bright, little plant in the woods. When
Grandpa told me it was Wintergreen, he made it sound special.
He knew so much about plants, I credit him with my A in botany.
Beyond the shovel in the picture you can see a small area
edged with rocks where I'll be planting pink lilies of the valley.
There was a bed of lilies-of-the-valley on the north side of
grandma and grandpa's home in Stevens Point. It was all
shade on that side, the narrowest part of the yard edging right
up to the neighbors' driveway, so it was only once in a great
while that we played there, always noticing the little bugs with
lots of legs and shells that had bend places in them. (Now,
armadillo bugs are the bane of my New Mexico garden.)
6/6/06 The bare root plants arrived this evening.
They are quite different than I expected. About a dozen plants
arrived in one small box. I had been so worried I wouldn't be
able to carry the plants in, imagining that they would be heavy.
But this small box was light, filled with packing popcorn, and
once opened didn't seem to contain any plants. I had to burrow
through the packing material to find them. Some were in long,
egg roll looking packing. Inside, once the saran wrap was taken
off, there were very naked little plants, indeed. But with hopeful
I took the plants to their new homes ~~ there's a light rain,
which I bet they're loving.
I made a mistake with the bed for the lilies-of-the-valley,
though: I didn't add much decayed manure. The instructions
say it likes decayed manure. I was thinking grandpa never put
manure over his bed, so I only faintly added any. Wouldn't you
know it, there's so much I can't remember, then the thing I
remember is wrong for the occasion.
Equally, I may have too much manure in the Creeping
Wintergreen bed. The soil looks a lot blacker than the soil in
the other beds. My plan is to watch the plant, which will be
really easy because it is so cute -- it has one red berry. (It
wasn't "bare root.") If it starts to yellow or look distressed in any
way, I can take it up and amend the soil. At least, that's my plan.
6/10/06 I guess because of my brain damage, I was a
little unclear on which plants would arrive as plants, and which
as seeds. Because I've always bought my creeping thyme as
little plants, I was expecting what I was familiar with. But seeds
arrived. Inside the packet was a small wax paper packet with a
trace of something in it.... apparently that trace was a hundred
I tried planting about a quarter of them in a small container.
Nothing happened. So, I ordered a greenhouse-like seed
starter that arrived yesterday. I planted something in each of
the cells, and today the two rows of Statice are sprouting. I'm
going to take a picture because if you have kids, this is really
instantaneous results and I bet they'd love it.
6/15/06 This is more exciting than it looks.
It's my asparagus bed, in the making. (I ordered
seeds, given how well the Bio Dome is working.)
And, it's 12.5 feet more garden than I had before --
This is a narrow, triangular corner of my garden
that's hard to do anything with; so I've used it as a
compost area ever since I bought my home about
16 years ago.
I've dug the compost pile down, so it's not as
obvious as before. It used to start at the reddish
rock just above the hole, so you can see I was
giving it a lot of space.
2013 ~ My asparagus is still alive but I've only had
one stalk then to now. Not enough water, I fear.
The dainty plant on the right is a mulberry. It's been there since I
bought the house. As has a little hydrangea I found straggling under
the edge of the deck. These plants appear to have hung on with no
care or appreciation.
As a kid my favorite song was, "Here we go round the mulberry bush,
mulberry bush, so early in the morning."That's the song that continues,
"A penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a needle -- That's the way
the money goes, pop goes the weasel." I didn't know that the song
wasn't about a little animal, a weasel, that it was about having to pawn
the shoe making tool called a "weasel."
I wonder if it would be wise to not let kids get attached to songs about
Meaning: I wonder if I had liked a song about wealth if I would have
had a wealthy life. The thing is, I've had a rich life: When I lived in
London I was able to walk from my home in the derelict building (or
equally from my home on the preserved historic street next to Regent's
Canal a few years earlier) past The Eagle. In the song, part of the
lyrics go, "in and out The Eagle." It was the exact pub from the song, I
was told. I loved England because of how beautiful it is in the way you
can see the work of people over centuries and centuries. So, it was a
part of my rich life to live in England, and if a song about poverty is
what made it happen, sort of like an answer to a prayer, then I am
7/16/06 I like to sit in my cool corner and give my burdens
to the Angel of Divine Love. I attached a necklace my cousin sent
me some years ago to my fence, to give me something to remind me of
the Angel of Divine Love. It's been working quite well.
I have felt scared so much for the last several years, for several
reasons to include the foreclosures and court things, as well as the
tetanus which was terrifying when the muscle seizures happened
because they were so extremely painful. They made me understand
how torture could make anyone say anything to stop the pain. My
point, however, is that by giving my burdens to the Angel of Divine
Love, I have regained some peace. (I hope the primroses come back. I
was sad they disappeared. Primroses are said to spring up where
there is love. I used to feel love for the earth and people and America
and so many many things. But the pain has taken over, and that's not
good. I want to get back to feeling love, not pain.)
7/20/06 I took this picture this morning shortly after dawn. The
thing is, this is how my cool, shady corner is in my mind.
When I'm stressed by something, like the court things, and I think about
my cool corner, this is how it beckons to me in my mind.
During the day, the sun outside my shady corner is hot and parching,
the shade under the ponderosa pine is not nearly so deep, and the
morning glories have retired, but the haven quality remains.
9/6/06 I've had so much trouble walking that digging and working
in my garden wasn't an option. I think the pain that caused my legs to
all but buckle under me is from the stress related to my condo. I got
better when the bankruptcy judge denied my motion to reopen my
Chapter 13, but said I could do an adversary proceeding against
Deutsche Bank and its lawyer for violation of the automatic stay. (He
isn't saying the violation existed, he's saying I can bring the case to
I could barely get to the chair in my calm and lovely corner. But,
knowing that it was there was enjoyable.
Now, everything is overgrown except for the small, lovely corner. But, I
filed an appeal in the state case that foreclosed my condo and sold it
without notice to me. I found errors in it, Again. But at least it is filed.
9/26/06 In June I was picturing
lots of zinnias. But now, when
summer is past, there's only one.
Not much of my garden is the way
I pictured it. In June there was so
much time ahead of me that it
didn't seem like a problem that I
can do so little at one time. One
shovelful, I thought, adds up over
a few days. And in truth I got a lot
done at the rate of one or two
shovelfuls at a time.
The thing is, there were times I
had trouble walking. So there
were periods when I didn't do
even the small amount I was
I've been depressed, looking at my
garden, and seeing how much it's
not what I had planned.
But when I focus on the zinnia I
am thankful I planted it and it
came up and flowered.
Okay, they aren't huge, but
you can see in the 2nd and
3rd rows from the bottom, tiny
Statice sprouts. 6/10/06
The full spectrum light I ordered is great ~
Easy to put together ~ Looks good.
2/21/07 I've been wondering if someone should have
warned me what it's like two months down the road from the
happy, anticipatory days of planting in Bio Domes.
I was thinking, "Echinacea, delfinium, Irish moss, astilbe, pansy,
foxglove, salvia blue queen and thyme (to start)" when I blithely
got more Bio Domes and put seeds in about 180 cells. It was so
exciting I completely overlooked the "180" part of it.
As they sprouted and I matched them to my layout map to see
what was coming up first, they were flourishing, compact and so
fun. But it soon became clear that my January indoor garden was
crying out for more root room. At which point I opted for tallish,
red, beverage cups... The 180 part of it struck me.
The wooden boxes, as an aside, are a wonderful way to hide all
my extra sponges, my seed selection and my tools. (I have a few
very handy plaster of Paris trowels that I use to get the little
plants out of the white cells.)
I've transplanted a few of the perennials outside, and they are
doing very well. But I don't have the beds ready for all of these,
so this is how my little planting table looks now.
(Maybe it's messy, but it makes me smile.)
Sometime later ~~ I decided to move the compost makings I
was using to raise the level of the shady corner garden, dig a
hole where they'd been, put them into it in layers with dirt, and
build up the area above with dirt, steer manure and peat moss.
But I could only do three spadefuls before my muscles tighten, so
this took a bit long, but was worth while. (I was surprised to see
that the leaves in the debris pile had already composted. The
vines and twigs were not so quick.)
Worms ~~ In most of my garden there is nary a worm. I don't
know whether that's because my tenants were bug-spray happy,
or because it's been so dry.
In any case, I put a container of Wal*Mart night crawlers under
the pear tree where I hoped they would turn the fallen leaves into
Then I put several inches of manure, peat moss and clay
earth over the whole area, hoping it would be to the worms
liking. I guess it was because when I dug a hole for coral
bells, there were lots of little worms.
3/25/2007 ~~ Cut and torn away ~~
The bough that supported the wall of vines and flowers above my
shady corner is gone. My garden is so much louder without it. There is
a major road not far away, and without the vines and tree boughs the
noise bombards into my garden.
3/30/07 ~~ Joy! (In the end) ~~ I was just thinking that it's hard to
continue believing in God when so many bad things happen. Judge
Pfeffer just dismissed my appeal without granting me the extensions I
requested by motion as an accommodation of my disability. It is
discrimination for him to do that. But I'm so tired and I've been so sick
since the lawyer asked for a hearing without letting me respond, that I
began to wonder what had made me believe there could be a basic
Goodness in the universe. God.
I went outside, because I was thinking that maybe if I could break away
from the power I've given to the state district court, I wouldn't be feeling
so bad. I was supposed to have surgery on my jaw for an infection
around my old dental implants, but I postponed it because of the court
case and believing the court would not give me a continuance. But
then the woman who was supposed to give me a ride to the later
appointment went out of town on family matters and I had to postpone
again. And I've been so sick, and stressed by the court things and
being denied the due process that is supposed to be my right.
Okay, so I went outside, it's a cold grey day, and just sat in my chair on
my deck, soaking in the day. Being outside was lifting my spirits, and I
wondered if the Christmas roses would have bloomed a whole three
months the way it said they would, if I had deadheaded them. I went to
my shady corner to take a look at whether or not they were doing
When I was finished looking at them, and their very noteworthy seeds, I
wondered whether the man who cut down the tree boughs had found
the note I'd thrown over the fence, that had landed near his cement
porch. I looked over the fence and saw that it wasn't there any more.
I decided to sit in my shady corner for a bit, and was focusing on how
my Jack Frost is getting ready to flower, when I saw two stones I hadn't
noticed before. I went to take a look, and they were mushrooms.
I'm wondering if
pots I bought are
toxic... if the
into the soil... and
into the plants...
like my avocado....
More on this...
7/15/06 I am so happy with my garden. : ) Here's how my
"cool corner" is looking these days. It's the rainy season, so grass is
March 22, 2008 - It's nearly a year since I lost the shade for my
shady corner. I sure missed having my quiet meditation spot after
the leaves were gone and the noise was loud from the highway not
I've been having a hard time focusing hope on my garden. Last year
I had all my seedlings well under way when PNM shut off my heat
and lights and they all died. I planted them all again, but without the
indoor DayLight lamps and controlled environment they mostly
languished rather than flourished.
Now, I am facing foreclosure again, and it's hard to not be worried. I
hope I am still in my home this fall... but whether I will be is
unknown. So, it's been hard to focus on my garden, hard not to feel
Then, yesterday I wondered if my daffodils from last year were
going to have flowers this year. It seems like all the daffodils I plant
bloom one year, then do no more
than foliage forever after.
I planted these daffodils under
my ponderosa where sunlight hits
the many fallen needles most of
the day. I put potting soil around
the bulbs before I realized that its
moisture holding pellets were not
good for bulbs -- all my bulbs
planted that way in pots died,
though admittedly the pots were
cadmium glazed. The pellets
appear to have culled only some
of these daffodils.
In the same way I didn't see how
bad my old deck was until I saw a picture I took of it, I didn't realize
how sparse my daffodils were and how straggly the surrounding
March 28, 2007
The flowers are later this year, so I wonder how
much better I can make this look by the time they
are up and open. This will be fun!
March 23, 2008
March 23, 2008 - It must be a lot drier this
year, or else this is the effect of not watering
last year after the beginning of October
when they shut my water off for a day and I
hurt my back and couldn't move without
There was pretty much snow during the
winter, but maybe the preceding months
without water were too much for the grasses
and plants. My Creeping Wintergreen looks
dead, and so do a lot of other plants, but
maybe the others are dormant for the winter.
The Creeping Wintergreen is an evergreen,
so I think it is really not alive.
So far what I've done is put a rock by each
clump of daffodils and spread dirt mixed with
peat moss over the pine needles to even out
the look and to make them compost. Plus, I
took some of the compost from my avocado
in the living room and put it in a large Whey
Protein jar with water from my algae thick
Britta pitcher and I shook it for a count of 300
to mix up the micro organisms, then I
watered the dirt covered needles with the
mixture which I hope is "pro biotic" rich for
I also planted a lot of seeds that I had for
plants that I love. They are all the ones I had
last year (shown above), but many of which
died after my heat and lights were turned off
on April 4, San Isidro Day, the Patron Saint
I hope I can keep my house. (Meaning my
garden that goes with it.)
April 12, 2008
August 9, 2008 -- I ordered a solar shower. I'm hoping it arrives today since
the arbor I ordered from Plow and Hearth is up and ready to support it.)
I like the way the additional trellis frames the end of my deck. I'm thinking of
growing clematis on it, maybe the large, red flowered one from Parks. (It says
hummingbirds love them.) Or, possibly the blue one that is long blooming and
not as tall as many of the species. On the other hand, maybe both of them
would be good!
My original plan when I had my deck done was to have a wooden fence to
support my Navajo blackberries, with the fence being close enough to the
deck to act as a kind of railing. While the trellis is not strong enough to keep
someone from falling off the deck, it does indicate where the deck ends.
I love clematis SO much! In London there was a house with an old vine that
had climbed well above the second story and covered more than half of the
brick house in purple flowers during
the summer. I think that must have
been the jackmanii variety. I want to
get one to grow against the adjoining
townhouse where it edges my garden.
I feel sure that having the building covered
in leaves and flowers will cool my garden
considerably during the summer, especially
since simply encouraging the weeds to
grow has cooled my garden. (I found a
web site some years ago that showed
how black asphalt was ten degrees hotter
than gravel, and, plants were ten degrees
cooler than gravel.)
The natural clay of my garden makes
it a difficult place for many plants to
grow. However, once weeds have
penetrated the ground with their
roots and come and gone over a
couple of seasons they make the earth a bit more garden like.
There are some lovely, low growing grasses that thrive after weeds have
softened the ground for them. (But in any case, I love dandelions: once
in London I ordered dandelion seeds, much to the dismay of John the
topologist.) I think that my desire for dandelions must have had to do with my
iron deficiency which was constant before I had B12 replacement.
(Dandelions are high in iron.)
I bring the begonias in during the winter, and let them sleep. They die
back and give the impression that they are dead, but no, they are
sleeping. In the spring I add some fresh compost mixed with a bit of peat
moss to the top of each container.
Last year when I watered them too much, being afraid they couldn't take
the high desert climate, they dropped their flowers just when I was most
looking forward to them opening into greater display. This year I water far
more sparingly, and all is well.
I also bring in the aloe vera plants.
What is hard to see in the above image is the cyclamen which began
flowering just the other day. So charming! Plus, they are a delight
because they received hardly
any water. I was, in fact, sure
they had died or been eaten
by the ever ravenous
armadillo bugs. Then, I saw
them. A totally lovely surprise
on an otherwise somewhat
Now that you know what they
look like, can you find them
in the top picture?
I'm ordering more bulbs for
the area under the begonia on
the right. (I had some lovely yellow flowers there, which were lunch for the
armadillo bugs. I no longer like those bugs!)
September 14, 2009 - I've tried three different plants in the
narrow corner of my garden: The beautyberry hung on for a year
and a half, then expired; the butterfly weed, which is supposed to
thrive in dry conditions, apparently thought this too dry, and died.
The point is about ten feet higher than the garden on the other
side of the fence, so there's not much earth to shield water from
Finally I tried sedum which I ordered from Dutch Gardens, ice
plant which I grew from seed. So far... so good!!!!!
2013 ~ I'm hoping this year, FINALLY, the corner will look good.
August 28, 2009 - This is how my shady corner looks today, in contrast
to the picture from 5/31/06.
for vitamins and beauty
According to the new 2012 Plant Hardiness Zone Map I'm one
zone warmer than previously.
April 19, 2008 - When I was taking pictures of the bees I saw
that grass in front of the chair I sit in to shake the compost tea ~~
three hundred pretty sturdy shakes ~~ is greener than elsewhere.
Since I water it all about the same amount, I'm guessing drops of
compost tea escape while I'm shaking and fertilizing the grass to
make the difference.
Secrets of the Soil describes spraying a particular compost tea on
a relatively vast field, so that the concentration is tiny. But, the
book says, the results are a startling increase in fertility.
Before I noticed how green this patch of grass is, I was pouring a
whole Whey bottle full for each set of plants. Now I wonder if just a
small spray would work, and since I don't have much compost, I
made holes in a second cover to the Whey jar and after the
requisite shaking I changed to the sprinkler cover and shook the
tea onto my raspberries and several other groups of plants.
I am so eager to see how this works.
To make the tea I put about three heaping tablespoonfuls of
compost from the pot with my poor avocado that appears to have
succumbed to the cold in my living room, into the Whey jar and fill
it about three quarters full with water from my Brita pitcher that is
coated with algae. Then I take it outside, sit in the chair and shake
it three hundred times.
The compost is from leaves, fruit peels, apples and pears that
went bad, watermelon rind, scraps of fish and meat, a dead black
widow, some spider webs, dead flies and moths, and coffee
grounds ~~ all things I thought would make a richly bio-diverse
compost similar to what would occur in nature if everything were
left to enrich the earth, rather than thrown neatly away.
Then, because the humus described in Secrets of the Soil is
created by aging cow dung in cow horns buried in the earth, I
seasoned the beginning mixture with probiotics dissolved in warm
water. I have pictures on my avocado page.
It made me ache to see the man saw into the bough, then break it with
a great tearing gash. He said it was keeping the sun out of his garden.
I said I'd planted a shade garden. When I looked over the fence, his
garden is mainly cement, gravel and architectural urns.
When he kept saying how the tree was on his property, while he was
leaning far over the fence to cut it, he reminded me so much of
President Bush and Vice President Cheney saying there were
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, when there were not.
I asked him if he was a Republican, and he said it was none of my
I felt as if he was, as if he didn't care that he'd raised the temperature in
this area of our neighborhood. I felt that he didn't
believe in global warming, that if it was something that didn't profit him,
he didn't care about it.
I asked him if he had stock in Halliburton. He had begun to look to me
as if he would enjoy profiting from the war in Iraq, from destruction and
I was glad the tree had badly cracked one of his urns when it fell.
Health Boundaries Bite