In the the midst of a gopher siege, grow in a barricade — Feb. 5, 2015

By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

Onions in a trough was the way Tom Orendorff learned to keep gophers at bay. One year he planted 400 onion sets in his yard, and harvested three onions. The gophers don’t bother the tomatoes, he said, but love the onions, Dec. 12, 2014. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
Last December, a day after the “big storm,” I cruised out to the town of Nord. The assignment was to chat with folks who had witnessed water running down their street.

Six homes were flooded in the little town, but not the house of Tom Orendorff, who was nice enough to chat about the near-miss.

One thing led to another, and soon Tom and I were gathering Granny Smith apples from his well-watered back yard.

In some ways, a limited amount of flooding could have been a good thing. His back yard has so many gophers it looks like a prairie dog preserve.

If the gopher holes had been flooded, the intruders might have marched out of their holes, where Tom could have chased after them like a cat.

Near the apple tree, Tom had two large animal troughs filled with soil.
“What’s that?”

“Onions,” he explained. For some reason the ridiculous amount of gophers in his yard don’t bother the tomatoes, but they gobble the onions. One year he planted about 400 onion starts and harvested three.

I admired Tom for his ability to innovate beyond adversity. A less-dedicated gardener might have moved to a condo with cement walkways and a club house filled with plastic bouquets.

Nope. Tom had filled troughs with soil.

I neglected to ask him why anyone would have need for 400 onions.

Why Tom?
Did an evil sorcerer cast a gopher curse on my new friend? Did prior generations of gophers develop a grudge against Tom?

Why else would gophers have decided to dig holes about every three feet across his great expanse of lawn?

Perhaps Tom is just too kind. Obviously he does not trap nor poison the creatures. Maybe his parcel of land is the only safe gopher ground from the railroad tracks to the highway.

Ideas planted
I did not buy a horse trough that day, but the idea lingered.

My yard is only in the mid-range of gopher devastation.

I also have moles. A week after we made a gravel path from the back gate to the shed, moles began happily pushing up the soil. I stomp on the mounds and make mean noises, but the moles have not yet packed up and moved to Tom’s house.

Last weekend I finally planted some “garlic” in a large plastic pot near the front door.

The garlic was a cluster we bought at the farmers market with good intentions.

They disappeared at the back of the crisper drawer and after an unknown period of time, began to grow. By the time the cloves were rediscovered, two-inch green stems had emerged. The next step in their growth cycle was sitting on the little coffee table near the front door. The logic was that I would remember to plant them if they were within close proximity to my garden clogs.

My plan is not really to grow fabulous garlic cloves. Apparently I’m not really that into fresh garlic, otherwise I would have eaten the cloves before they reclaimed a life of their own.

The idea now is to grow garlic within close proximity to the front door. I can snip off the green tops for salads in summer.

I’m also planting the stubs from green onions. These usually have a quarter-inch of roots at the end and can be planted in the pot like an onion start. If things go well, the onions will grow very large and be used to bonk gophers over the head if there is a flood.

Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why Tom was growing 400 onion plants.

How others grow garlicone
A fairly in-depth article on,, notes that garlic is best when planted in the fall. Expect smaller bulbs if you plant in the spring (or January).

Space individual cloves 6-8 inches apart, and two inches deep. Water about an inch per week.

About mid June, you might notices “scapes.” If that word is new to you, you’re not alone.

The word is used for the “flowery tops that curl as they mature and ultimately straighten out into long spiky tendrils,” the website states.

To send more energy to the bulb, lop off the scapes and add them to salads or soups.

Once the leaves on your garlic are mostly brown in mid summer, dig them up. Next, hang them for six weeks in the shade. However, my experience is that “new garlic,” is incredibly delicious and best eaten before I forget about it in the back of the crisper drawer.

Other contacts, @HeatherHacking on Twitter and Facebook.

Leave a comment

Sow There! Let’s do our dance in the light, 2-16-17

The first hyacinth of the year.

The first hyacinth of the year. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
Daffodils, at long last.Daffodils, at long last. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Some say that a great deal of vacation happiness includes the anticipation of taking a vacation. You plan, you dream, you let out a little pre-sigh. A study was actually done in the Netherlands on the link between pre-vacation plans and happiness,

Lottery tickets function much the same way. When I buy a lottery ticket I make imaginary plans. I can assure you, the little daydreams I buy with that dollar certainly bring more happiness than the disappointment I receive when I don’t win.

I talked to Dad this week. He was on the 14th floor of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, chairs pointed toward the fountain below, the majestic sound of Copeland’s Appalachian Spring blaring from the televised webcam. He assured me that actually being on vacation is undeniably more fun than planning a trip.

Maybe I’ll plan a vacation.


When I saw the first daffodils in my yard I realized I’ve been shuffling past those things that normally bring me joy. For the first few months after Dave died, my brain was covered in that protective fog that blurs the sharp lines of reality.

It was not my intention, but life became incredibly busy — stories to write, a funeral to plan, house guests, a pre-planned family vacation, responsibilities as a maid of honor …

Next I received an unexpected gift. I planned and served as tour guide for two weekend getaways with 39 Korean college students. (This, by the way, was joy-filled. They also liked my rubber chicken).

One day I was waiting on a bench at the Vacaville Outlet malls. The Korean students passed by intermittently, each time with bigger smiles and more shopping bags dangling from their arms.

I had 30 minutes before the coach bus arrived to take us back to Chico.

For just a few minutes I had nothing to think about, nothing to plan, no one to entertain. As if landing from some distant place, the tears arrived.

I wasn’t thinking about the Handsome Woodsman. I wasn’t thinking about anything at all. It was as if I simply exhaled and my body realized there was a lull. Now was a chance for few tears to escape.


Spring does something to animals, and our natural world — an awakening. For some of us, it brings metacognition.

Last year at this time I would have noticed my daffodil buds were ready to pop. I would have taken photos of the “almost blooms.” The next day I would have checked again, so I would not miss the first hint of yellow. This year I was just too busy to notice.

In winter, I ritualistically visit the Llano Seco Wildlife Refuge. There’s a strange quiet that occurs when tens of thousands of winter waterfowl become one dull roar.

Last week I drove down 7-Mile Lane and it was too late. The birds had already said their good-byes.

Yet, like most things good, good things find us.

When the kitchen scraps were overdue to be dumped on the compost pile, I noticed the first few daffodils bobbing in plain view.

This prompted a closer look at the Virginia creeper vines, also ready to do their dance in the light.

With nothing better to do that day, I ate spinach and kale from the raised bed — dirt and all — and moved a pot of hyacinth bulbs to the walkway.

Spring does not officially arrive until March 20, but spring can easily be placed in the same category as vacations. If we miss out on the anticipation, we miss out on some of that happiness.

Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sow There! Valentines sentiments that last, buying live plants, 2-9-17

This Daphne odoro plant is long dead, another testament to the give and take of the garden world.

This Daphne odoro plant is long dead, another testament to the give and take of the garden world.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Cynicism about Valentine’s Day returned quickly.

For the past many years I had joined the monogamous masses and learned to enjoy flowers at that certain day that marks the midpoint of February. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad people are swooning and smooching. I wish I was one of them.

The big Valentine’s Day displays always manage to catch me off-guard. This week I popped into the grocery store to buy some coffee. I had to walk in a long arc to maneuver around the ginormous display of red, white and pink flowers. There was no escape, they were directly along my path to an everyday purchase.

My guess is that the other entrance to the store had a similar assemblage of merchandise suggestions.


I’m thinking we could use a Gardener’s Day. If I had my choice, it would be April 30, which happens to be my birthday. Nurseries, garden tool companies and grocery store chains could rally around the cause, providing huge displays of appropriate gifts for people with dirt under their fingernails. Logically, there would be a way to include dark chocolate.

In the meantime, Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to buy and receive live plants, even if that means buying them for ourselves and receiving them ourselves.


• I spotted some daphne odoro in bloom this week, which is among my favorite fragrant plants. A live plant can be enjoyed indoors for several weeks, and then planted at the recipient’s leisure. My luck with daphne has been mixed. One survived in a partially shaded spot for about six years. I changed houses and the plant did not adjust to the new digs.

Many years ago, John Whittlesley of Canyon Creek Nursery said the trick to not killing daphne is to withhold water on days when the high temperatures reach 89 degrees. Apparently this is the temperature at which daphne-killing bacteria multiply quickly.

My second daphne died during a summer heat spike when I chose death by bacteria vs. death by lack of water.

• In my mind, you can’t really go wrong with jasmine and gardenias. If you want to learn what plants grow well in this area, check out the landscaping at Chico State University or Enloe hospital, both which have gardenia in semi-shaded locations.

The Handsome Woodsman and I would walk in the evenings, and he would almost always rush ahead to search for a gardenia to tuck behind my ear.

For happy gardenias, Monrovia, suggests adding an ample amount of compost to hold water. Gardenia will wither in heavy soil. Coffee grounds may be added to the soil because gardenia enjoy slightly acidic soil.

• Jasmine also provides olfactory pleasure, but it won’t be blooming just yet. Some useful information at, points out that spring is a good time to take jasmine cuttings. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone and push the ends into peat. Next, keep the cuttings moist.

Last year my cuttings failed, likely because I used regular garden soil. It’s time to try again.


Red roses are the stereotypical Valentine’s Day sign of strong infatuation.

Tip for boyfriend coolness points: Send at least a dozen red roses, and always send them to her work. For your favorite gardener who owns garden gloves and pruning shears, you can find an exquisite rose plant and offer to dig the hole on a spring Saturday.


When I spotted all those flowers at the grocery store earlier this week, I couldn’t help but wonder. Are people expected to buy the flowers and hide them on the back porch for the next four days?

For fresh flowers, last-minute purchases are best.

Early next week, the Sabbath House can be spotted downtown with their glorious flower cart.

Sunday morning you’ll find the cart in front of Bidwell Presbyterian Church and First Street, and Monday and Tuesday near City Hall. The pleasant gals who work at the cart can wrap up just a single posy or a bouquet chosen among dozens of different flowers.

Read more about Bloomin’ Hope:

Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sow There! Respect and disdain for the mighty weed, 1-12-17

Common groundsel seems to be doing just fine on death's doorstep.

Common groundsel seems to be doing just fine on death’s doorstep. Heather Hacking—Enterprise-Record
Common groundsel.Common groundsel. Heather Hacking—Enterprise-Record

I’m not a scientist, but I have some skills in observation.

After some careful reasoning I have concluded that the weed common groundsel can produce flowers after being yanked from the ground.

Months ago my co-worker Risa established a compost tub right outside the door to the newsroom. The experiment has mostly been a failure.

Journalists eat the majority of their meals in their cars. When we are working and snacking on deadline, we don’t think about adding our mandarin peels to the bin at the side of the building.

Plus, the plastic bin is covered with a lid. With no water added, the scant food scraps are just as likely to become fossils as they are to decompose.

Recently I decided to lift the lid to the compost after reading yet another press release predicting rain.

I’m easily distracted and realized there were weeds growing in the gravel near the bin. Practicing my best “downward weed” yoga move, I plucked more than a dozen happy weeds.

I had to look up the name of the weed, but I recognized them from my own yard.

Groundsel is an attractive (yet highly toxic) plant that looks like it intends to produce sunny, yellow flowers. Instead, of petals we get those wispy spikes that help spread tiny seeds from here to Gridley.

When I returned a few days later to replace the lid, I noticed the weeds I had plucked looked very much alive. The flowers were intact, and if I wasn’t mistaken, even appeared to have opened slightly.

It makes sense. If you place the bottom roots and the lower portion of a green onion on moist paper towels, the roots will continue to grow. You can later plant the onion in a pot and harvest it when pulling common groundsel.


Plants are survivors. We admire these traits in plants that we actually hope will grow in our yards. Fine Gardening magazine produced an online article ( about reproducing plants through root cuttings. Anyone who has attempted and failed to dig out Bermuda grass understands this process.

I’m convinced that if an asteroid hit the earth, killing most forms of life, the roots of some of these weeds would somehow survive. The earth would be repopulated by common groundsel, slugs and squirrels.

As for the common groundsel, I’ll continue to pluck this plant when I see it near our compost bin at the office. I can’t help myself. However, I’ll give up on the idea that my effort is doing anything more than providing a stretch for my hamstrings.


We live in a modern world and the weeds hated by our grandparents may not be worthy of our continued efforts at eradication.

While researching for this article, I found some blogs on the health benefits of dandelion leaves. One writer pointed out that bees love flowers, and dandelions produce flowers.

Maybe I’ll find some dandelion seeds and plant these in a circle around our newsroom compost bin.


The large amount of rain we received this week has made a soupy mess of our back yards. The big bonus is that it is now easy to yank weeds. You’ll spot them easily, because they are the plants that look fine after a good, long rainstorm.

If you have time, prune winter-dormant plants such as roses, fruit trees, grapes and flowering vines.

The University of California Backyard Orchard website has a wealth of research and tips for fruit tree pruning: When you’re successful and have more food than you can handle, please drop off a bucket of fruit at the newsroom. We might even remember to compost.

Tagged | Leave a comment

Sow There! Tried and true tips for frost in Zone 9, 12-22-16

Icicles hang from a lemon tree.

Icicles hang from a lemon tree. Enterprise-Record file photo

My coworker Laura is the weather queen in the newsroom. She starts work very early, checks with the National Weather Service and Western Weather Group, then posts the weather info online. Once I’ve read the results of her hard work, I’m giddy with knowledge and share the synopsis via social media. More importantly, I know when to rescue my plants.

During this recent downward turn in temperature I moved the most important plants to the center of the living room. My house is small and my main room now looks like the Rainforest Cafe. If I’m carrying too much junk through the front door, I turn to the side and shuffle across the room sideways like an economy airline flight attendant.

We tend to think of “freezing” as 32 degrees, which is correct for water. However, many plants will withstand temperatures below this icy threshold.

I don’t like to take chances. If Laura says it’s going to be cold, I react as if Ice Man from Marvel Comics has a cough and is walking through my neighborhood.

The first defense in battling cold is to make sure your plants are in good shape and that you are not allowing them to dry out. Healthier plants do better under stress. Moist soil also retains heat better than dry dirt.

For plants too big to haul inside, my best strategy is to cover the entire plant before darkness falls. In this area, the soil will warm during the day and release stored heat at night.

The problem is that I rarely get home before it’s dark. By nightfall, a lot of that stored heat has escaped.

When the cold settled in this week, I covered everything and left the yard looking like I was in the middle of doing laundry.

The Handsome Woodsman’s stained work shirts do wonders. He was an extra large and it makes me smile to think he’s still helping with the gardening.


Mother Earth News — “The Original Guide to Living Wisely” — asked readers in 2013 to share their tried-and-true winter gardening tips. Here’s some frost protection tips from readers in Zone 9:

• Cut up milk jugs for mini-greenhouses.

• Use leftover wire fencing to make tunnels (mini hoop houses) then cover with 6 mil plastic. This reader successfully grew lettuce and other cool-weather edibles.

• Quilted cloth coverings.

• Old sheets draped over bamboo stakes

• One gardener uses a four-man camping tent, pops it up, and zips the plants inside.

• Place five-gallon buckets over small potted plants.


Just for fun, I checked with the UC Davis seasonal vegetable planting guide for the Sacramento Valley (which makes no claim about being an “original” guide):

For early January, the guide states we can still plant seeds for cauliflower, broccoli, onions and cabbage. However, I’d want to hear from the “original guide for living wisely” to know if winter seed planting was successful in Zone 9. Maybe they mean we can plant seeds indoors on a heating mat.

The UC guide also says tomatoes and carrots can be planted now. I’ve had success planting tomato seeds in January in the windowsill, after covering the container with plastic wrap. Maybe that’s what they meant to say.


Sunday is the big holiday for most Americans — a day for storing calories for the winter and loving on your people.

My wacky family is great, and I know I’m among the fortunate. Also, many people have kept in close contact this year after the death of the Handsome Woodsman.

People who I hardly know will stop me for a bear hug, and to tell me to keep writing about this grieving thing.

I don’t feel particularly “brave,” as many have said. I feel raw and often numb. Sometimes I’ll sit and think for long periods of time and not know what I was thinking about.

Lately I’ve been mourning the final drops of dish soap or shaving cream that Dave and I shared. Other times I’ll wish I could use those products more quickly so I can switch brands and have one less sad reminder.

And then I hear from kind folks who tell me they also have lost someone close to them. They reassure me that this stiff piece of wood that feels like it is lodged in my body will ease over time.

Those moments of sadness will be equally matched by warm, sepia-toned memories.

I believe them. I do. I can read it in their faces.

Those truths are probably closer to the “original guide to living wisely.”

Leave a comment

Sow There! Local food makes one-size-fits-all holiday gifts 12-15-16

Move over Mickey, there's a new character in the Disney cast.

Move over Mickey, there’s a new character in the Disney cast. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Due to my general disdain for packed parking lots and overly-helpful salespeople, I buy holiday gifts year-round. The gift grab accelerates around August when the stores anticipate my needs and have nodding, LED-light reindeer and chocolate covered cherries near the late summer fruit.

I like storing a box in the closet filled with Yuletide readiness. This prevents the last-minute gift card purchases and guessing which chain stores are located near the homes of my Bay Area relatives.

For those who still need a gift for a relative or two, you have one more Saturday to shop at the Chico Farmers Market, East Second and Flume streets.

I don’t know about your family, but sometimes my glad-tidings think tank runs dry.

When I was 7 years old, I bought my father a wallet. He was so pleased I bought him a wallet each year for the next 30 years.

I probably would have continued what had become a family joke. However, one year someone actually needed a wallet. Dad went to the back of his closet and found a box filled with 15 nearly-new wallets.

I think this was the year I bought Dad a Leatherman.

When I think of gifts for my Mom, it’s easy. I just by something for myself, then double it.

One year I found a new smudge-proof eyeliner, and recommended the product to my Mom.

“When you find something you really like why don’t you just buy me one,” she said in that mom way that sounds like a reprimand.

This year I had no problem buying myself many new things.


As for the farmers market, food is never the wrong size and doesn’t bust your budget.

I also love to show my urban relatives how living close to open space means we eat well. Candied or plain almonds, fresh mandarins, sumptuous local apples, kiwis, jam, granola and olive oil can all be purchased in one tour at the market. You can also find soap, ceramics or a pig crafted from miscellaneous metal parts.

If you stop at the booth that sells the colorful, woven baskets, you don’t even need gift wrap.

Making baked goods or fudge is also a lovely gift. However, that year I made fudge balls I gained eight pounds.

Gift cards have their place, of course. Teens, for example, love to receive plastic cash. The only drawback is you must reveal how much you spent.


This year my Hacking clan is heading to Disneyland for a much-anticipated adventure to see the mouse. The Handsome Woodsman. Dave, and I joined them two years ago. We had so much fun we suggested we all do it again.

Months ago I made a reservation for four to the Blue Bayou Restaurant, inside the Pirates of Caribbean. ride. I’ve fantasized about eating there since my first Disney trip. We’ll be surrounded by fireflies and will hear the clink of utensils and the distant hoots of riders as they splash down into make-believe Louisiana waters.

I’ll change the reservation to three and bring my rubber chicken.

As regular readers know, Dave died in a car accident Nov. 1. It’s going to be a tough holiday season no matter where I am. I considered skipping theme park vacation. Yet, I don’t think anyone will notice if I shed a few tears at the happiest place on earth.


Last week I mused about cut flowers and the tradition of bouquets for funerals. After the musical memorial, flowers now cover almost every surface in my small house.

The funeral seems like just yesterday, but I noticed that the flowers have started to fade. I realized that bouquets help us mark the passing of time.


Tagged , | Leave a comment

Planting bare root trees for figs this summer, Jan. 8, 2015

By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record
My family was in Disneyland last week when the wild and wicked storm hit the Chico area. I planned not to check work email or the E-R website while on vacation. However, the “breaking alert” on my phone broke through Disney’s protective bubble.

My main worry, from 500 miles away, was that a limb from the aged mimosa tree would launch into the windshield of my parked car.

When we arrived home the only thing I found out of place was a tarp that had likely blown around in a circle like the Wicked Witch of the West’s skirt.
What had survived, and even thrived, were the potted daffodils tucked behind the fence. The really great thing about potted bulbs is they can be moved to the front porch when they are in full glory.


My new-to-me yard is mostly barren; The daffodils were an inspiration to buy bare-root plants. For even more inspiration, I called Butte County Master Gardeners, 538-7201, 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays.

My new friend Mari said her group plans a public bare root planting demo at the new drought garden at the Patrick Ranch, We’ll keep you posted with the exact date and time.

When work began at the Patrick Ranch, Master Gardeners couldn’t help but notice the heavy loam soil was compacted.

First they dug down a few feet, placed a stick across the indentation, with a string hanging down. Water was added and the gardeners watched how long it took for the water to percolate into the soil.

They ended up working the soil again and again, and adding worm castings.

For more info on soil drainage:

Bare root plants are shipped when they are dormant. Often the roots will be packaged in a little soil and wrapped in plastic.

Sometimes the plants are sold in a pot.

Bare root plants must be planted while they are dormant. Mari even used the word “imperative.”

If you get sidetracked by life and the plant starts to wake up, you’re better off leaving it in the pot and waiting until next year, she explained.


Ken Hodge, owner of, was the logical next step for advice. I explained that I am a renter and wanted something I could enjoy within the next several years. A fig would make my boyfriend happy.

Ken jumped on the fig idea, and said the tree would even produce the first year. He suggested the variety Black Jack, and said figs will give the grower two crops a year — early and late summer.

A small tree needs about a gallon or two or water twice a week for the first few years. By the third year, water up to 10 gallons once a week. Leaves on a fig tree are big and will “really tell you when it needs watering,” Ken noted.

I’ll probably put the tree in the ground, but Hodge’s has a special “renter’s section,” of trees for sale in large tubs. If you keep the trees pruned small, they’ll thrive for years in a container, Ken said.

Stone fruits are great for this method, including apples, nectarines, apricots and especially plums.

Another good idea is blueberries in tubs. Blueberries need other blueberries to cross pollinate, so he sells a tub that includes three varieties.

The main worry about blueberries is soil Ph, which needs to be at 4.5-5.5. If those are just numbers to you, Ken said if the plant becomes sick or yellow, add a tablespoon of Dr. Iron in the spring and again in the fall.

Leave a comment

Better late than never for planting daffodils, Dec. 4, 2014

Author: Heather Hacking
My life is so full that sometimes I get behind schedule.

“Busy” sounds so much better than “procrastinator,” or worse yet, “lazy.” Sometimes being late means being wrongly accused of not caring.

I do care. I just sometimes care at the wrong time.
I’m that friend on Facebook who notices it is someone’s birthday when they are posting a thank-you note to all the friends who wished them a happy birthday.

My electronic note says: “When can I take you to a belated birthday lunch?”

I can’t be unique. Otherwise, marketers would have no need for a “belated” section for greeting cards.

My father knows me pretty well by now. If he ever received a Dad’s Day card on time, it was a mistake.

In fact, this week I was rummaging through last year’s left-over Christmas cards and found several Father’s Day cards. I mailed off his card with a Christmas stamp.

He’ll understand.

A perpetual state of belated can also lead to what appears to be sloth.

For example, my Christmas cards are now in the middle of the living room where they will be more difficult to forget.

Bulbs on time

All this being said (and a bit that went unsaid), I was pretty darn proud of myself for getting bulbs in to the ground before Christmas.

A good time to plant bulbs is at Thanksgiving. In August, you put new bulbs in the crisper drawer of the fridge to chill.

The bulbs are planted because after the Thanksgiving meal you need every inch of the refrigerator to store leftovers.

Factual note: chilling bulbs in this climate is not necessary.

A fact sheet from the Napa County Master Gardeners states that chilling bulbs only provides a slight difference in bloom height, and bulbs will bloom two weeks earlier.

I’m sticking with the chill. How else would I remember to plant them if they weren’t right there in my refrigerator?

If the bulbs go in late, chilling will bring me blooms right on time.

Read full master gardener tips here:

Planting bold drifts

A few weeks ago I put dozens of daffodil bulbs in pots.

However, I bought two jumbo bags of daffodils for dirt cheap at Costco.

Seventy-five bulbs remained.

Did I mention that my new yard is fairly small? I don’t know what I was thinking.

As the neighborhood cat circled around my feet, I scoped out the scant terrain.

Directly outside the front door is a five-by-three-foot planting bed recently populated with wild (weed) viola and a few leftover poppies. These are the drought survivors.

Daffodils do extremely well in Chico, returning year-after-year.

Also, squirrels do not technically eat daffodil bulbs. Squirrels will still dig them up, because that’s what squirrels do.

With 75 bulbs, a cat demanding attention, and the sun drifting down below the mulberry tree, I had to hurry.

The daffodils are not spaced evenly, nor 5 inches apart, nor 6 inches deep.

I was on a mission to simply empty the bags.

The good news is by planting the bulbs, I also destroyed the wild viola and spared the poppies.

Bulbs were also planted in the crevice behind the gate, under the loquat tree and near the compost pile.

Leave a comment

Sow There! – Time for eggplant to be on its way out, Oct. 14, 2016

October 14, 2016

“It’s over. I’m finally breaking up with you summer garden 2016. This is it! I mean it this time …”

This was the Facebook post from my friend Kerry. She included pictures of cardboard boxes filled with enough tomatoes to make bruschetta for an extended Italian family. Her last harvest included more eggplant than you could safely leave on your neighbor’s doorstep.

My own garden faded fast and is gone without a prolonged goodbye.

First the squash plants fell victim to colonies of invading aphids. I remembered to spray with soapy water until I forgot to spray with soapy water. Next, the big, floppy leaves started to droop and turned yellow.

We could have kept going on the tomato plants. Yet, my experience is you get more green fruit, which freezes before your summer tan fades.

My Handsome Woodsman keeps the vegetables watered and I’m in charge of the flowers in the patio with the lounge chairs.

One day he announced that he was ready to yank his plants. The next word I heard was that the deed had been done.

One last word

Before I move on to a softer subject, let me linger on this eggplant situation.

The short version is that I don’t like eggplant, my boyfriend doesn’t really eat eggplant, and yet we grow it every year.

Even now, after he harvested the remaining eggplant, the fruit covered most of the surface of the green resin lawn chair.

I’m not certain, yet I wager if I say nothing, the eggplant will remain on that chair through the Chinese new year.

Other food uses

While brainstorming ways to make fun of this eggplant situation, I searched for craft ideas that involve produce.

I happen to have a box of thumbtacks with googly eyes at the ends (thanks to my sister). I picked a few perfectly purple eggplants, mindful to keep the stem intact.

This stem would become the bird’s beak. Next, just a few cuts with a knife, placement of the googly eyes and I crafted a penguin from this long-hanging fruit.

Next, I placed the eggplant penguins in a decorative bowl and perched the bowl on my boyfriend’s laptop computer.

He got the point and he made eggplant that night.

I must say, it wasn’t bad when mixed with onions, garlic, squash and a rich portion of teriyaki sauce. However, I would have enjoyed that meal just as much if the eggplant had been absent.

One day, when I had too much time on my hands, I sliced some eggplant thin and fried for a few minutes. These strips were used like lasagna noodles for an all-veggie lasagne. This was not bad. However, if I want eggplant two nights next year, we can buy a few at the farmers market and grow something else.

Also, if I want to pretend like vegetables are pasta, I prefer spaghetti squash.

We’ll see what my guy ends up doing with the dozen eggplants that remain. Some are a greenish yellow, as if the plant had given up, and simply did not waste the energy on becoming purple.

Cold weather plans

The good news, of course, is that we can just shake off the summer, grab our sweaters and move into the next season. The trustworthy UC Davis Plant Sciences planting guide,, gives the green light for planting lettuce, spinach, peas and fava beans by seed.

I’m also busy at my house tucking poppy seeds into the cracks in the pavement.

Leave a comment

Sow There! Life as it will be for a while 12-8-16

The feline unit and the wild mushroom bouquet.

The feline unit and the wild mushroom bouquet. Heather Hacking – Enterprise-Record
Simple wild mushroom bouquet with simple rock.Simple wild mushroom bouquet with simple rock.Heather Hacking – Enterprise-Record

Why do people use flowers on special occasions? I’m thinking it makes sense for a wedding. Once upon a time, baths were a luxury taken twice a year. To save the species the bride needed to smell good enough so the groom could follow through with post-nuptial rituals.

As for funerals, the use of flowers apparently dates back to Neanderthal times. Flowers masked the smell and antlers were used for decorative effect. Some cultures gave flowers a break after embalming was invented by the Egyptians.

Somewhere along the line, people must have planted flowers on the grave, or perhaps even crops if land was scarce.

In my zombie apocalypse imaginary screenplay, the cinematic critters might arise in darkness, shrouded in mist, and have flowers (or crops) to devour.

If my Handsome Woodsman had his choice of zombie arrival scripts, he would have wanted to see wild mushrooms.

Lovely Katie, of Abundance Flower Design, lent her delicate expertise for the musical memorial last weekend. She assembled bouquets of white alstroemeria, roses, gladiolas, hydrangea and mysterious light green plants.

Then she went above and beyond. A soggy slope exists behind her house. I envision her out there, hair falling over her face and grubby green stains where one would normally find kneecaps. She carved large chunks of moss and placed them over floral foam. She also spotted wild mushrooms and found them a mossy home in vases.

She should start a new niche market — wild mushroom bouquets. If they were edible, as she claims, she could advertise in frou-frou food catalogs like Williams-Sonoma.

We have a friend in our circle who donated a well-loved, yet worn guitar, to which she attached more flowers.

After the service, my dad and I found some of my Handsome Woodsman’s guitar strings, sitting right where Dave had left them, and now the guitar strums just fine. Now I have a guitar in case an itinerant musician, namely Dad, wants to play a song I know.


Dave’s last gig was as perfect as an event like this can be. We had 150 chairs and there was standing room only. Someone brought me a Christmas tree, which I would not have considered buying this year.


Dave was a songwriter and I’ve been fearful that some of the music will be lost from my memory.

I hum the songs in my head, nearly constantly, but must admit I never knew all the words.

During the funeral, Dan Casamajor found me in the crowd. Dan runs the open mic nights at Has Beans, which was an infrequent destination on nights when my guy wanted to strum and I wanted to buy vegetables at Thursday night farmers markets.

Unbeknownst to us, Dan records all of the open mic sessions. The kind maestro had tracked down the recordings from the nights Dave had played. Dan presented me with a CD with some of the songs I had dreaded I would forget.

These kindnesses, and more, reminded me that I am so very much surrounded by people who care, and perhaps more importantly, who loved the same man we have lost.


Now that the visiting relatives have left town and the hoopla of the “party” has come and gone, the new normal has begun.

I have time to think and remember and to talk out loud like a crazy woman. I talk to him in the garden and when I drive alone in my car.

At Trader Joe’s Wednesday I realized that a lot of normal things will just be sad for a while. Dave would have taken two of the chocolate-covered star shortbread cookies served as a free treat. He might have circled back around for a third.

We loved when TJs sold Brussels sprouts on stalks, and we played with them in the aisle as if they were swords. As I shopped, people reached for our favorite Asian vegetables and held each other’s hands in the aisles. I cried quietly while staring absently at Trader Joe’s brand flavored water.

I will find ways to fill the quiet times. For now, I still have his songs in my head.

Leave a comment