Monday, December 7, 2009

The Goodness of Rain

It's been months since we had more than a tiny taste of rain. Dusty months with dry, windy days that chapped our lips and curled the leaves on patient trees. Promises of rain came and went, without fulfillment, without a drop to bring life back to the desert wildflowers or wash the dust from the high powered lines. Now, thanks to a mild El Nino and the right conditions, we have two storms coming in. Weather is always a mixed blessing, however. The rain that brings welcome moisture to dormant plants and washes the oil slick surface of the streets, also brings the menace of mudslides to the naked slopes of the foothills where fire so recently ravaged.

While I welcome the rain this morning, and look forward to a cozy day in the workshop putting glaze on some pieces, I think also about the people whose homes are sitting below unstable slopes, the roots of burned brush now unable to hold them together as the driving rain swells the dirt and adds weight. For weeks, people have been sandbagging, cities have put up temporary concrete walls to divert the flow from threatening houses. Let's hope it is enough! My brother and family live in La Canada and, while their home isn't in danger, neighbors just three blocks up are definitely spending sleepless nights as the black, cinder filled mud hangs above their heads.

On the other hand,

Casper notes the dampness and suggests that we all go back to bed!

Here is the garden that I have been working on over the past months:

We are on water restriction, and many of the lawns here are disappearing. Some of them are just dirt now, as frustrated homeowners give up trying to keep a lawn alive with ten minutes of watering, three days a week. In the spring, they will have weeds, which will dry and die again. When the wind blows, the dust swirls into the houses and into the street. So, after I let my lawn die, I started putting in some 'hardscape'. Bob stacked these recycled concrete chunks (from a neighbors broken and removed driveway) into an elongated kidney shaped planter and a smaller, round planter that you can't see from this view. We put heavy plastic down before placing the rocks, so that the planter would retain water longer, and since it sloped down toward the ivy, the lower end of the planter will drain through the spaces between the chunks. Then I started filling it with good, rich, water retentive planting soil. It's taken weeks of putting one or two bags in at a time, puttering with it as my back and shoulders dictate. Finally, the plants started going in.... French lavendar, lantana, honeysuckle, cosmos, etc. These are plants that attract butterflies and birds. I found the birdbath on sale, with an additional discount because it was 'used' and needed scrubbing out. Birds immediately began using it. I added a hummingbird feeder and a finch sock. You can see Buddha sitting there, but he is actually going to move a little bit in the end... I am going to stack a smaller corner planter, and put him there with a few Nandia (non-running bamboo) behind him and some moss. I can keep the little planter more damp than I can keep a big planter, even one lined with plastic! I am tucking sedum into the cracks between the concrete chunks, which will allow side drainage and keep the soil from eroding. Finally, I will mulch with redwood chips to keep down weeds and retain moisture. It will take a few more weeks but in the end it will be worth doing! And I plan to paint the furniture in a soft blue, slightly darker than the house. It will be a nice place to sit in the spring. The rest of the dead lawn will be covered in gravel. By the way, the rectangular stones along the outside edge are from old Los Angeles. My dad, who worked for the City of Los Angeles, took them from a job site where they were being removed for a street repaving. They are granite, made by prisoners prior to the 1930's. They had been asphalted over, and when they were dug up and being thrown in the dump, Dad decided to preserve a little history. They are amazingly heavy, and you can see the tool marks from the prisoner's efforts.

Now, out to the workshop, to glaze and listen as the rain taps on the roof.


mel said...

Okay. I'm lost. Is this the front yard?

Joanie said...

Yes, it's the front yard. The ivy is between the yard and the street (we don't have sidewalks) and Bob's old El Camino is parked, covered, out front because the rain gets in around the rust. The back yard is still okay, mostly bonsai, a little lawn but not enough to worry about. Cutting our water use, when we are already extremely water conscious, has been hard. :-)

Lynn A. Fraley said...

Love your new front area Joanie!! Enjoy the rain ~ Lynn

Marge Para said...

I thought that was an El Camino under that tarp...
It looks like a nice relaxing setting.