Six on Saturday: Revelation II

Conditions here have certainly improved.

1. Ash regularly reminds us of how close the fire got. There is not as much as there was two weeks ago, but it still lingers in sheltered spots and on sticky foliage. At least no new ash is falling.

2. Smog also lingered early in the week. The sun looked like one of the moons of Tatooine. I worked inside for the early part of the week. It was not a good time for working out in the garden.

3. Then, this happened. The entire sky was this color for a while. The air still tastes like smoke, and remains rather toxic. It is a bit hazier now. Regardless, it was easier to resume gardening.

4. The redwoods and firs on the ridge in the background behind the utility pole are just outside of the fire zone. Everything beyond them is within the fire zone. The forest does not look very different from how it looked prior to the fire. Only a few brown spots can be seen from here. The fire must have burned only underbrush in this region. I know it was much worse elsewhere.

5. Horticulture is SERIOUS business here. (Actually, this is just parking for a cabin that happens to be named ‘Acorn’.) Vegetation management is a priority at cabins that are now residences for some who lost their homes to the CZU Lightning Complex Fires. The Conference Center has been closed because of the other ‘situation’ anyway. Firefighters stayed in some of the lodges.

6. White chrysanthemums are in order. After, all this ‘should’ be a gardening blog. These bloomed on old plants that were left behind after a wedding in the chapel here more than a year ago.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Six on Saturday: Revelation

Genesis 1: 11-12 describes the creation of all vegetation and the beginning of horticulture on the Third Day of Creation. Those must have been such happy times. Nowadays, it is getting to be more like the Book of Revelation! During this time of pestilence, while smoke obscures the sun, moon and stars, I have been contending with locusts. The premature defoliation of box elders that I mentioned last week (supposedly) might be associated with diminishment of sunlight by so much smoke.

1. Gloves which seem to have been worn for the Battle of Armageddon were my primary defense against the hellacious swarms of locusts that have been tormenting us for more than a year.

2. Thorns of black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, are nasty! They are paired like the horns of Satan! The thorns are modified stipules, so are actually neither thorns nor spines, but ‘prickles’.

3. Swarms of locusts are more numerous this year because more mature locust trees were cut down last November, leaving more stumps and many more roots of the not quite so deceased.

4. Smoke and fog filled the sky with old fashioned smog before the sun rose on Wednesday. (‘Smog’ is an abbreviation of ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’.) Not much is from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire.

5. Smoke was so dark at noon that street lamps and this porch light came on. That is a big coast live oak in the middle, with a California buckeye to the left and a coastal redwood to the right.

6. That was not the worst of it. It was so dark by 4:00 that I needed headlights to drive back. Those are deodar cedar to the right, a cottonwood to the left, and a coastal redwood in between.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Six on Saturday: Pompeii

The CZU Lightning Complex Fire got no closer than a mile and a half from here. Except for the ash and the aroma of smoke, there is not much evidence of a fire. The burn zone is within view from here, but the forest is just as green as it was prior to evacuation. I received news while away that smoking debris was falling from the sky here, so did not know what to expect when we returned. So many neighbors were not as fortunate.

1. Fire roasted leaves blew in from the fire. Some were still smoking as they fell. These are two madrone leaves at the top, three tanoak leaves at the bottom, and redwood below the middle.

2. Ash is everywhere! I left on the day prior to the yet unforeseen evacuation, with the intention of returning later, so left windows open. It now smells like a barbecued bacon burger in here.

3. Summer squash survived days of warm weather without irrigation. This was the worst of the wilt. There was nothing ‘ini’ about the ‘zucchini’. They looked like a herd of green dachshunds.

4. Pole beans were in reasonably good condition as well. They recovered rather efficiently after getting irrigated. The few beans that started to wilt and dry were just plucked and discarded.

5. Boxelder are suspiciously defoliating prematurely under a smoky orange sky. I do not know if it is associated with the smoke or the weather, but I doubt that President Trump is involved.

6. Blue gum that is still confined to a #15 can did not wilt any more than the summer squash or pole beans. I am impressed! It must have rooted into the ground below the bottom of the can.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Six on Saturday: Urban Flight


The CZU Lightning Complex Fire continues to burn. Consequently, I had been unable to return home until just a few hours ago. My garden survived the abandonment better than expected. I will get pictures for next week. These pictures are from where I was in the Santa Clara Valley. I noticed a few features that I forgot that I disliked about urban situations. Of course, Rhody found something to appreciate about our situation there. He was in no hurry to return home.

1. Breeze in the silver maple should be appreciated on a warm day. While the fires are burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains just several miles away, an absence of breeze would be preferred.

2. Raindrops should likewise be appreciated. Unfortunately, there were no more than a few, and certainly not enough to slow a fire. They only indicated that more dry lightning was possible.P00829-2

3. Smoke was thicker over the Santa Clara Valley than I can ever remember. All those utility cables crowded by too many trees are normal though. I thought this picture was rather artistic.P00829-3

4. Fences are a bother too. This one shades lower branches of a nearby pear tree, that grew up with a shorter slat fence. The neighbor’s garage shows how close the homes are to each other.P00829-4

5. Soil is fortunately as awesome as it has always been in the Santa Clara Valley. It is unfortunate that so few of the more than a million who live here now will never bother to experience it.P00829-5

6. Rhody expressed his opinion of my request that he stay off of the sofa while here. Does the floral pattern of the upholstery qualify this as a horticultural subject? We all want to see Rhody! P00829-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Six on Saturday: Fire Season


California really does have the same four seasons that the rest of America has. They just happen to be somewhat subdued in some of the milder climates. The rumor that California has only two seasons, summer and a few days of not-summer, is completely inaccurate. In fact, besides the traditional four season, we have a fifth season that overlaps at least summer and autumn. It reality, this season never ends. It is always ‘fire season’.

Like any other season, fire season affects how we garden here. We prefer to grow plants that are less combustible, which is often contrary to the preference for native specie. In suburban and rural areas, we must manage native vegetation and keep it away from our homes and other buildings. When the weather gets smoky from forest fires, some of us postpone gardening chores for healthier weather.

The Rincon Fire near Paradise Park (not to be confused with Paradise) burned for a few days a week and a half ago, and filled the Valley with thick smoke. By the time that smoke cleared out, smoke moved in from the Camp Fire that burned Paradise more than two hundred miles to the north. Smoke from the Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire that both started on the same day in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties stayed to the south. The Bear Fire, which was the second relatively small forest fire in our region, started and was contained just yesterday, just a few miles outside of Boulder Creek. Most of us were not aware of it until after it was contained.

Incidentally, a 50% chance of rain is predicted for next Wednesday.

1. Clear blue sky finally appeared on Thursday morning.P81117

2. The orange moon demonstrates how smoky the sky was on the previous evening. It is not easy to zoom in and get a good picture of the moon.P81117+

3. Ponderosa pine forests are the more combustible parts of our region. The darker understory is a mix of coast live oak, canyon live oak, madrone and other chaparral flora. The dead ponderosa pine that I got a picture of for ‘Six on Saturday: Dia de los Muertos’ is to the right in this picture. Sunsets were spectacularly colorful before the smoke blew away. I can not explain why the color was so bland when this picture was taken.P81117++

4. Our debris pile continues to accumulate more biomass from the landscapes and surrounding forests. It is not yet big in this picture. It will get significantly bigger before it gets taken away. Once gone, we start the process all over again. It never ends. There is so much forest out there, and we are constantly trying to keep it away from the buildings.P81117+++

5. These numbers on the side of my work vehicle allowed the volunteer firefighter who used to drive it to go into areas that had been evacuated ahead of forest fires. Several of our vehicles are outfitted with these decals.P81117++++

6. This is the picture that you probably did not want to see. It is what remains of the home of one of my colleague’s clients in Malibu after the Woolsey Fire moved through. The front garden was exquisite. The home was even better.P81117+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Where There’s Smoke . . .


Do not work in the garden today if you happen to be in a region inundated by smoke from wildfires. The air is too toxic. The picture above was copied from the East Bay Times yesterday. It shows smoke obscuring much of the view of northern San Jose from the East Hills. It might be Milpitas. It is difficult to recognize.

The news says that this is the worst air quality recorded in the Santa Clara Valley, even worse than when we had smog back in the 1970s, and even worse than when there were serious fires much closer to home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Even the smoke from the Lexington fire in 1985 was not so thick.

If you must work in the garden, do not use machinery that might ignite vegetation near wildlands. Something as simple as a weed eater striking a stone can make a spark that can ignite overgrown grass. Barbecuing out in the garden is something that should be postponed for better weather.

The breeze that might move some of the smoke out of the area also accelerates fires that continue to burn, and increases the fire danger. Any new fires that get out of control are very likely to spread very rapidly. All the rain last winter enhanced the proliferation of vegetation. Recent unseasonably warm and arid weather desiccated much of the vegetation. Now, there is an abundance of vegetative fuel everywhere.

Wildfire is part of life in California. Many of us know how fire is an important part of the ecosystem, and how many plants in the wild benefit from it. However, none of this is any consolation when so many homes have been burned.