The Big Picture

Our little town grew and grew over the years since our house set foot down here at Windy Grove. In the beginning you could see the freeway across and through the fields from the front yard. Out back you could see down to the water.

Here is a recent Google Earth Image

Here is a closer shot. This is during the awful and destructive “Rental Years”. These were only a few years, maybe three, but in that time much damage, along with general neglect and total lack of respect, occurred. The back half of the garden was literally used as a parking lot, for a shuttle service. This packed the clay down tight. The front house was…well, used as an indoor garden. The damage was extensive and the repairs were expensive. I prefer to live in denial that this time happened at all.

 Ok, the transformation has begun. This is probably around Novemeber 2010, a few months after we moved in. The fence and gate are up, the front yard is still pretty much barren. When we moved in we had a dead Spruce removed that was taller than the house, as well as “junk” shrubs and volunteer palms, all front yard. If you go straight up from the trampoline and slightly to the right that is our first planting: a 24″ box Tipu tree.


In the beginning…

I chose the name of this blog not only to reflect my love of recycling and reusing all things, but also because my garden has been passed down to me, it’s a true “hand me down”, indeed my second-hand garden.

These pictures are from 1959-1960, from a scrapbook my mother made. When my grandparents moved here there wasn’t much of a town.  They had open land all around them, and I bet that was a comfort for them, having lived in North Loup, Nebraska (population 300) for thirty plus years of their young lives.

I believe this picture was taken a few years after my grandparents purchased the home and had it moved to their one acre lot in what was then the country. Thirty or so years later they sold off 1/2 acre. Not much landscaping at this point. I can’t make any out in the picture, but I bet there was lots of Chicory weed, curses!The landscaping has begun! I suspect they headed over to Mid City and picked up some lawn seed and shrubs. I can’t really make much of it out but the bush just to the right of the steps could be a baby Raphiolepis. There was a giant one there for the first 15-20 years of my life, it had grown out to the edge of the driveway and filled most of the front of the porch. Notice the white cement driveway. Somewhere in the early 90’s some fly by night guy offered to asphalt the driveway for them for a good price. And then it was done again a few years later. So, I have a black asphalt driveway when I would love the white cement back.

Here is my mom, Janet on the front porch. at first I was wondering when that window arrived, but upon closer inspection I see it Christmas window snow!My mother and my uncle, Rusty. They are both gone now. I bet this is Easter.

My grandma and grandpa, Maxine and Kelly, and her mom, Nina. And yes, that is definitely the Raphiolepis next to the porch.

Wow. This picture shows a yard I barely recognize, behind the house. Look at all those Agapanthus! In my grandmothers defense, they surely didn’t grow in Nebraska and must have been both beautiful and exotic to her. Look at that pool! I never saw anything like that in Windy Grove either. But look along the fenceline (we removed the leaning, almost fallen down ancient fence when we moved in last year) and in the corner and you will see my grove. My grandmother admits they dug these up from over by the ocean, I believe at Armstrong Woods. I don’t think it was a no-no at that time. She LOVED Redwood trees. For the rest of her life any time an out of town guest stopped in she and grandpa immediately took them over to the ocean and to the Redwood forest.  Often on Sundays after church the three of would just “take a drive” and end up there. I loved the way she lit up when  the scenery changed and was shaded by these beautiful, towering trees. No matter how many times she had been there it appeared to others as if it were her first time laying her eyes on them.

Here you see the back forty. If you walked through the gate of the fence above and looked west this would be the view. At the time it was fields all the way out to the Napa river, just before it enters the San Pablo Bay. You can just barely see the Sleeping Lady, or Mt. Tamalpais to the right.

Our property ended at the fenceline that you see. As the houses, neighborhoods and suburbia closed in over the years the church next door , thankfully, owns a few acres directly behind us and thus gave us a buffer of open space. When we moved in all that remained of that fence was the posts in several places. In todays world it seemed to be saying “Come on in!”. So, the first thing we did was erect a proper fence. It was so strange at first…

After several years of living in various suburban areas around the Bay Area, my grandparents did what any transplanted farmers might be inclined to do: farmed! Grandpa had a full-time sheet metal job so the farming they did now was part-time. I can’t tell what is growing in this picture, but when I was growing up they grew corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, beans, beets, peppers, concord grapes, apples and blackberries.

As a little girl I tried to plant some old maids from the bottom of the popcorn bowl. (We ate popcorn every day.) Grandpa snuck out and replaced it with viable seed, it grew, and the “Popcorn Years” began. I mentioned North Loup, Nebraska earlier.  If you Google it you may see that is the, self-proclaimed, Popcorn Capital of the World. Every year for at least the last hundred years, they have held “Popcorn Days”, the towns signature festival. I have been a few times myself.  Grandma was crowned Popcorn Queen in the early 1930’s, and one year they decided to try to have a king too, and chose grandpa. They decided after that year that a queen was good enough, and no more kings. He was the only one! I always wondered what he might have done…ha ha.

So, with this history in his blood, grandpa soon had the whole garden in popcorn, with seed from back home, of course.  He built a couple of contraptions to help shell the corn and to separate the chaff. In the evenings he would sit by a lamp shade and separate out any imperfect kernels by hand, one by one, while we watched Lawrence Welk, or Wild America. Word got out and pretty soon neighbors from all over American Canyon were knocking at the door. For 5 bucks (I think it was) they could get 5 pounds of Kelly’s Home Grown Popcorn!

Well I think that is enough time travel for one post!

And ANOTHER blog is born…

My intention with this blog is to chronicle the building of our garden. We moved here, to the home I grew up in, last year. Other than a Redwood tree grove, planted by my grandparents in the 50’s, it was basically an empty lot.

Incredible changes have already taken place, and I plan to go backwards a bit and get the pictures chronicled here. If noone else ever reads this, its ok. I am doing it as much for a place to keep my garden records, ideas and so forth in one place. I have had numerous, waaay numerous notebooks. I probably have at least a half dozen laying around with some sort of gardening gibberish, drawing and/or notes scribbled on some random page. Enough!! If its here, I wont lose it.

Also, I work at a nursery, and have most of my adult life, although I did take several years off to have some babies (I have six kids). Horticulture and gardening have been a passion of mine since back before I can remember anything. Part of it was nurtured right here on this land, with my grandparents growing lots of vegetables and canning, freezing and eating them year round. They were transplanted farmers from Nebraska, and it never left their system.

My mother, too, loved flowers. We loved to go to nurseries or even just garden departments and buy “whatever looked pretty”. Looking back I think she spent more than she should have, as a single mom, but it did help to plant the seed inside me. By middle school we had moved from here to a nearby town and I was spending time at a nursery a few blocks away, and my allowance too. Then, a month after I turned 18 I got my current job at Mid City. I can’t imagine a better fit for me.

BUT, the nursery industry, while a wonderful job, does not make very much money. I am paid the going rate for a nursery worker with my experience I believe, but your local nurseries are suffering in these times. And so, I thrift shop. I Craigslist and when I am off on a rare Saturday, I garage sale. I will pick through the trash, take your cast offs, and haul home buckets of thrown out plants, just for the soil on the root balls. If its free, or at least very cheap, I will try my darndest to make use of it! Thus, the name of my blog.

Mostly gardening but come on, Im a mom too, and a lover of creative crafts and hobbies. So who knows. Maybe even some warm and fuzzy knitted Waldorf moments…if you have actually read through this: thanks! Say Hi!

P.S. Bare with me while I play around and learn how this thing works!