Today is Earth Day, one of my favorite days of the year. Not just because I’m known as the Earth Mage, but because any day that encourages people to get outside and take a hike, or pick up neighborhood trash, or eat vegetarian, or plant a garden, is a good day in my book.
Speaking of my book, this seems like an appropriate time to do some blatant self-promoting of my book, Observations of an Earth Mage. You can always come back and read about the Hanging Gardens and the squirrels once you’ve ordered this perfect Earth Day read. (Here ends the blatant self-promoting.)
Plant a garden. That’s the one my husband Scott has been working on. This year, he didn’t wait for Earth Day to plant. Our practically non-existent winter here in Southern California had him ordering seeds from Seeds of Change in January, planting them in a little peat pot greenhouse in February, and transplanting them into Topsy-Turvy planters in March. To say he jumped the gun a bit on planting would be the understatement of the year.
Oh, some of the plants have done beautifully. Just look at our snow pea plants!
But snow peas like cool weather. Of course they took off, exploding into exquisite vines covered with snow-white blossoms. I wonder if this is why they are called snow peas—because of the color of their blossoms? We should have peas in another few weeks, if the bees do their job right. (Mid-afternoon update: there are already peas on the vine! They blend into the leaves so well I hadn’t noticed them!)
Strawberries love cool weather, too. We’re already getting wonderfully sweet berries. There is nothing better than strawberries fresh off the vine. They’re even better than the ones we get at the farmer’s markets we frequent.
Cool weather snow peas and strawberries are one thing. Tomatoes, heat loving, sun worshipping tomatoes, are another. Scott planted something like 50 seedlings: Cherokee Purple, Yellow Pear, and a variety of Stripey that I can’t recall the name of, but all are heirloom tomatoes. We don’t plant any other kind, because the heirlooms taste so much better.
But in a yard where the squirrels eat everything we try to put in the ground, where the heck is he going to put 50 tomato plants?
We started with putting four of them in Topsy-Turvy planters. These worked well for us last year; the squirrels, try as they might couldn’t get to them. But to plant 50, we’d have to hang planters around the entire perimeter of our tiny shack in the hills. We’ve got eight hanging from the milk room roof: four tomatoes (one that also has hot peppers planted in it), two snow peas, one cucumber, and a strawberry, each with at least ten plants growing from it. The milk room is my office, my studio. The floor has a two-inch slope to it, or it did, before Scott hung all those planters. I swear the weight of the things have pulled the room away from the main house so much the floor is now level, and by the end of the week, I fear the whole thing will collapse into a heap of crushed plants, pine boards, and broken computer parts.
I’ve taken to calling our back deck area the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Or, the Hanging Gardens of Mage Manor, more precisely. If there is a spot Scott can hang a plant, he hangs it. Even our spicy oregano is tacked to the side of the house.
The rest Scott’s tomato plants are now tucked into little pots, lining our deck railing, with little hope of finding a place in our permanent garden. We had a dinner party yesterday, and told our guests no one got Scott’s fabulous freshly made blackberry pie if they didn’t commit to taking at least a couple tomato plants home with them. They ate the pie. They forgot their tomato plants. I’m considering taking them down to Home Depot today and leaving them tucked under the windshield wipers of random cars. Wouldn’t you rather find a tomato plant under your wipers than a flyer advertising half-price Brazilian Blowouts and bikini waxes at your local beauty salon?
Then there’s the matter of Peachy, our peach tree I bought Scott for his birthday last August. The squirrels have done a number on the tree, chewing off limbs, buds, and fruit alike. It got so bad Scott stuck spikes in the soil around the edges of the tree’s pot to keep out the little gluttons. That seemed to be working—for a while.
But we may be in trouble now. Yesterday, we spotted our first polka dot of the season (which is what we call the baby ground squirrels, which are technically called California spotted ground squirrels—baby spots are polka dots). The polka dots are tiny. They’ll be able to slip through those spikes as easily as The Blob slipped through the heat vents in that old Steve McQueen movie. I fear the remaining 48 peaches on Peachy may be doomed.
That is, unless Scott can figure out a way to hang the tree upside down from the roof…