A Garden Beginning

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Buffalo Park

Today I took a five minute drive to Buffalo Park. It's a nice place for a stoll and many of the locals come here to walk their dogs, run, and to do the exercise circuit (there are exercise stations along the trails for doing pushups, crunches, wall climbing, rope climbing ect.). I wasn't feeling too great today so I just walked and took pictures. The sunlight in Autumn is very dramatic and the grasses and oaks were lit up.

This grass is a native called blue gramma. The inflorescences curl as they dry and the fluffy seeds are let loose to the wind. You can see the dark purple, straight inflorescences that aren't mature yet. It's common in Flagstaff and could probably be found in Utah, Idaho, and Southern California (so keep a look out, family and friends).

A writing update:

I kept up with my writing goals (see previous post) and reached 6,840 words (that's twelve pages, so I more than doubled the number of pages I had a week ago.)

The writing is more like a combination of prose, notes, and stream of conciousness. So it's not exactly elegant prose, but this kind of writing is necessary at the beginning. It's helped me to develop the plot, characters, themes, and structure of the novel.

On average, I wrote 506.4 words a day (throwing out one of the days because on that day I wrote for an hour).

By my calculations:

500 words/day x 7 days/week x 10 weeks till Christmas = 35000 words. One page single space is about 540 words, so I will have about 65 poorly written, but useful, pages pertaining to my novel by Christmas Day if I contue to write for an half hour each day. Plus, the twelve I already have. Not bad, eh? It'd be a good start.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Writing Goals: Beginning

I have decided to make a public commitment to writing everyday. I want to prove to myself that I can write a novel. Right now I have five pages. These five pages have taken me many months because I am not writing everyday.

I know there are a few people who occasionally look at this blog who have dreams of doing something (writing a story, making a quilt or other artwork, maybe making a movie, or following through with an exercise program). We lack the work ethic, but not the enthusiasm. There was a semester at HSU when for a health class I had to make a health-related goal. I chose to weight lift. I followed the program fairly well because I kept a journal recording my progress. Well, this blog will serve as my journal. It is better than a paper journal because it is open to the public, which means there will be more pressure on me to carry on.

For the next two weeks:

I will write thirty minutes everyday. I will think about my story at every meal I eat, to keep the story fresh in my mind.

Walter Mosley, in his essay, For Authors, Fagile Ideas Need Loving Every Day, says the following.

Writing a novel is gathering smoke. It’s an excursion into the ether of ideas. There’s no time to waste. You must work with that idea as well as you can, jotting down notes and dialogue.

The first day the dream you gathered will linger, but it won’t last long. The next day you have to return to tend to your flimsy vapors. You have to brush them, reshape them, breathe into them and more.

It doesn’t matter what time of day you work, but you have to work everyday because creation, like life, is always slipping away from you. You must write every day, but there’s no time limit on how long you have to write.”

Another author, Kent Haruf, in his essay, To See Your Story Clearly, Start by Pulling the Wool over Your Own Eyes, suggests writing blindfolded to help you turn off the inner critic and just gets some thoughts down. So to keep my writing from becoming too much of a chore, I will try different things to keep things interesting.

(Both of these essays are in Writer's on Writing.)

I will try writing blindfolded. I will try writing on the computer, by hand in pencil, and in pen. With different sized paper. Before sleep, I’ll read another chapter of Writer’s on Writing and other books about writing for inspiration.

I’m going to think about doing writing exercises once a week on this blog with anyone who is interested.

Lastly, I will document my progress on this blog at least once a week (I won’t be posting my story, but how I’m doing on my goals).

When these two weeks are up, I’ll decide what to do next.

If anyone would like to share their thoughts on projects that just keep nagging and nagging, please do. If anyone would like to join me in my commitment, that would be really cool. You could post your progress as comments on postings titled “Writing Goals” if you like.

Job update: I’ll be in Flagstaff at least until February. The Arb has received more funds to keep me on till then.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sedona Arizona

Today I drove down to Sedona and hiked the Boynton Creek Trail. I've realized that Sedona is a place I need to explore. There are Moab-esque red sandstone formations and lush creekside areas. Sedona is also, sadly, packed with tourists. It's probably about an half hour south of Flagstaff.

The beginning of the trail is manzanita scrub desert with several interesting species including Parry's Agave (above), some species of ceanothus, canyon live oak (with mistletoe), some species of garrya, scarlet gillia, blue gramma, and this purple aster (below).

A quick botany lesson: Look closely at this picture and you'll see that this "flower" is actually hundreds of flowers stuck together. The outer flowers each have one purple petal while the inner yellow flowers have a fused tube of petals. You can see the stamens of the outer yellow flowers sticking out. This "flower" is actually a head of flowers. All members of the sunflower family (including this aster) have heads.

As I went below the desert scrub, the trail became greener and greener. There were several "sublime" moments along this trail, but when I got into the depths of the canyon it was wow: I'm in Japan.

Friends and family, if you ever visit me, we'll take a trip down to Sedona.

I'm looking forward to it.

Also, I'm not a blog hound, but I have stumbled on a couple of blogs that are worth mentioning:

For an amusing down-to-earth account of gardening and cooking aventures, there is this video blog. Episodes are short, around 3- 10 minutes.

For an inspiring ongoing tale of living sustainably in the middle of Pasadena, check out this blog. This family walks the walk.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Anyone Can Comment

I have figured out how to enable anyone (not just bloggers) to post comments to this blog. I knew there had to be a way. If you'd like to leave a comment, just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of one of the postings. Take care.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Walking on Sunshine

Today I hiked up on the San Francisco Peaks. I took the Weatherford trail, my favorite one. All the wildflowers are in seed, the brackens have died, and the grasses and aspens are in full glory.
The views are spectacular up there. Oh, and you can see an example of a panorama (there's a horse in that picture). I'm not sure why I could post one this time.

Job update: My phone interview went well enough (though it was cut short because my phone died). The nursury manager and president of the board of directors both sounded passionate and professional. The foundation seems great, but its in Los Angelos. The Theodore Payne Foundation really needs someone and practically offered me the nursury sales position job. Sadly, they need somebody soon. I've thought about taking the position and discussed it with my parents and the people at The Arboretum. And I thought about it during my hike.

I've decided that I'm not ready to leave Flagstaff yet. I've got a good thing going here even though it may not last longer than the end of December (The Arb thinks they can fund me to the beginning of February and my supervisors hopes to keep me on beyond that). Besides there are other benefits to staying till the end of December. I can make my Christmas plans final with my family. The lease on the apartment ends in February so I wouldn't leave me roommate hanging. And I get to work through the winter helping to care for the greenhouse, designing signs for the garden, and continuing my work on the parking area project (mixed feelings about this last one). Finally, I will be honoring a prior kind-of-commitment with The Arboretum. Everything will work out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What a great camera

Here's a picture of me (Since Lisa asked). This may shock people who haven't yet seen me with a beard. Today I learned how to "stitch" my photos to create a panorama, but, sadly, I can't post any of them. It's really cool. I took tons of pictures today for The Arboretum so they can design and redesign garden areas while plants are dead and snow-covered during the winter. Somehow I'll figure out how to post the panoramas. Take care everyone. I have a phone interview tomorrow with the Thomas Payne Foundation which is a non-profit nursery of native plants down in the L.A. area. I'm not sure I want to go to L.A (I hate driving, heat, smog and overpopulation). If they offer me the job I'll tell them I'll have to think about it. It's in Sun Valley, a district I know very little about.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My Own Garden

While I currently work in a public garden, I have never had a garden of my own, except for my collection of houseplants. When I first became hooked on houseplants, my collection grew rapidly...until I moved to Flagstaff (from Arcata, CA). Almost all of my plants went to my parents' house where they now struggle to survive. Selecting plants to take with me was a major weeding process. In the end I took only five plants and have acquired only one since living in Flagstaff. Here is my garden:

Selenicereus chrysocardium, a cactus that grows on rainforest trees. My sister Megan bought this for me at the San Diego Wild Animal Park as a Chrismas present. There are a few individuals in this pot (propagated from cuttings). I hope that it flowers one day (I hear that it has plate-sized white flowers that open at night and die the next day).

This plant is Crassula lycopioides. I used to volunteer at the greenhouse at HSU and had my eye on this plant. A friend gave me some cuttings before I left. I like how it looks like a clubmoss (Lycopodium spp.), but is a succulent flowering plant from South Africa. Convergent evolution. Clubmosses are difficult to obtain ethically and are hard to cultivate so this makes a fine substitute. I like plants that are somehow symbolic. To me this plant reminds me of the primitive club moss, the deserts of South Africa, evolution, and coral (especially with the fish motif on the bowl). The cactus above looks like a fern, but it too is something completely different. That fascinates me.

This is Euphorbia bupleurifolia, probably my favorite houseplant. Some people call it the Pineapple Euphorbia. Euphorbias are remarkably diverse; its a genus that tempts me to collect. It's been doing well in the warmth of Flagstaff, producing many leaves and even developing its first mature inflorescence. I bought this at the Arcata Farmer's Market one Saturday. It's another South African succulent.

This is a Heuchera (rubescens?) from near the top of Mount Humphrey, the tallest peak in Arizona (it’s the tallest of the San Francisco Peaks, pictured in a couple of posts back). It’s a creeping, rhizomatous species that is abundant up there so I didn’t feel too guilty about taking a small piece. Eventually this plant will become a compact bun of green leaves with tall airy pink inflorescences. It's grown quite a bit already. I was compelled to read about alpine plants and rock gardens after hiking to the top of Mount Humphrey. Members of the Saxifragaceae are another group of plants I would consider someday collecting, as there are many native California species and most are easily propagated by division. This plant has adapted well to the window sill despite being initially pawed out repeatedly by my roommate’s cat. It is now closely monitored. I made the pot during my first semester at HSU.

My two other plants include an Ondontoglossum orchid that blooms around Christmas time (yellow with maroon spots). The other plant is a common jade plant I propagated from a leaf from the HSU library. It’s large now and has some sentimental value, though it’s not particularly interesting.

I need to live in a place with a yard or balcony for at least a year so I can start growing some vegetables. Zucchinis and tomatoes for starters. Someday I will realize my dream garden which includes a modest vegetable and fruit garden (with lots of raspberries and blueberries), a native woodland, a pond, and a bog filled with interesting native sedges, orchids, ferns, and monkeyflowers. In the near future I plan on growing many of these plants in preparation.

Words to describe my ideal garden include fresh, lush, indigenous, Arthurian, primeval, medieval, ethereal, dark, serene, mythological, historical, paleontological, practical, productive and real.

Arboretum Photos Continue

View of Horticultural Center and the San Francisco Peaks. Though you can barely tell in this picture, parts of the mountains have turned gold (aspens). I haven't hiked up there in a few weeks, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the forests have changed. Next weekend.
View from inside the herb garden.

Maximillian sunflowers with the red foliage of black chokecherry.

Photos of The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Inside the passive solar greenhouse at The Arb. The blue columns in the back are water tanks for absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night.

These are pictures of the Arboretum. Sadly, they didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. The colors aren't nearly as vivid as they are in real life. I need to take more care as I select settings for the camera. Anyway, the fall color is beautiful.