I love the look and feel of its elegant soft bright green fronds, especially in the springtime. True to its ancient origins as a species (at least 150 million years ago) it’s between a deciduous and coniferous tree, (technically a deciduous conifer) with neither typical leaves nor needles, much like a bald cypress. It also has contrasting rusty-toned twigs, and a beautiful scumbled, red and warm-gray bark. This fellow’s done remarkably well; an 18” gift from my sister Helen, a little over a decade ago, it’s now at about 25 feet in height. This isn’t entirely surprising since they’re known to grow to 115 feet within fifty years. We know it could grow to astonishing size, as semi-preserved logs 26 feet wide at the base have been found in rice paddies in China!
There’s minimal soil on this hillside plot of a city lot, maybe an inch or two deep on the majority of it, and below that a rocky mix or solid rock. So when I moved in fifteen years ago, whenever I established a garden bed or planted anything, I had to add to the mix to get more fertile soil. We’ll see how this “Metasequoia glyptostroboides” will fare in the coming years, given the circumstances. That’s also why I wanted to clear the vines around its trunk, to enhance its opportunity. In clearing the vines and other encroaching privet roots (from my own foolhardy planting years back), I was happy to be reminded that a few feet wide, running along the back of the yard, there’s a band of substantial topsoil. Actually a few inches. And unlike the orange-clay I find everywhere else, this is a rich black, reminding me of my younger years, digging in familiar, lush Indiana earth. I suspect because over the one hundred years of since this hillside became a neighborhood alley, the downward slope from two perpendicular directions (up the alley and facing streetward) the topsoil and natural debris tended to be washed and accumulate along the slight ridge that’s the edge of my back yard.
I’m very happy the soil in the veggies beds established years ago, is steadily improving. I learned a while back there are a good number of others that like to feast on what they seem to feel I have sown for their delight. Groundhogs, raccoons, rabbits, possum, deer (I encountered five on a walk in this alley the other evening, likely heading toward my diner—I mean yard). There are also occasional chipmunks, rats (not sighted, but I assume), mice, voles, moles, some skunks, and probably other critters. Admittedly, the local birds are much more polite in their dining habits, mostly preferring the bugs, similarly the rare toad or snake that I come upon. But I swear if turtles were passing through, they’d catch word and stop in at the salad bar if possible. So I now have fenced in every bed with 30” hardware, and at least until things outgrow it, am obliged to cover most beds with chicken wire.
I pretty much always begin the spring with good intentions and a zest for planting, but depending on the other life priorities that get revealed in any given year, my gardens may or may not be well-tended and bountiful. So far this year I have been reasonably responsible and the weather and plants have graciously responded. After my walk and a few hours ripping vine roots, I was getting hungry.
It seemed a nice cool evening to enjoy some warm pasta to close out the day. I figured I’d use some of my vibrant greens (kale, basil, parsley, and snow peas) which had in the last few days sprouted in impressive fashion. I began boiling some water and strolled up to a delicious-looking bed and plucked a few leaves and goodies from the list, consciously grateful for the bounty they were making available. As I pinched off the last leaves to fill a handful, I was startled by a fuzzy brown form next to my hand. It stayed perfectly still, a small bright brown eye staring. Only when I directly nudged it, did it shoot, like a rocket — obviously small enough to zip directly through the 2”x3” grid of my “critter fence” without hesitation — in seconds scooting across my entire yard before diving into bushes in the neighbor’s. Clearly I’m not the only one who thought this bed was looking delicious this evening.
C’est la vie; we all gotta eat.