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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sow There! Making the best of the ‘bitter cold’ holiday season 12-1-16

Winter-blooming daphne is a most appropriate holiday gift.

Winter-blooming daphne is a most appropriate holiday gift. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Recently I was chatting with a friend about how it had suddenly turned very cold.

First off, Minnesota is cold. My Scandinavian relatives would listen to our Golden State grumbles and tell cold-intolerant California natives to go jump in a (frozen) lake.

Very cold for this part of the world means one week in January when we need to cover the Meyer lemon tree.

We can and will get through yet another winter, because in reality it only lasts for 2 ½ months. From now until the end of December we’ll be power walking through shopping aisles and warmed with overly sweetened coffee drinks. During another week we’ll prepare to rejoice, rejoice, then repair from rejoicing over the New Year. Next we’ll have just a few weeks to shiver in the “bitter cold” before the almonds bloom in mid-February.

As for gardeners, if we really start to feel down in the dumps, we can shop for winter-blooming plants including cyclamen and camellia. I like to start out with a primrose plant on the kitchen table then give it a place in the soil after the plant gets tired indoors.

About the time we can’t stand winter, daphne is ready to pop on Valentine’s Day, preceded by the timely daffodils and flowering quince.


As regular readers know, the Handsome Woodsman died in a car crash exactly one month ago. I won’t pretend that I plan a happy holiday season, but I don’t feel lost and alone. People I don’t even know have sent kind words. Last week when I couldn’t bring myself to write something cheery, a reader sent an email saying he hoped I’d be writing again soon, and that he understands.

Thanks for that.

Each of these gifts of encouragement have arrived at the right moment.

Those in my close circle have made a point of moving closer.

It’s strange to be the recipient of love for two people — the comfort my people want to give to me, as well as the love they wish they could still give to Dave.

The extra care helps on those “bitter cold” nights when all I can do is talk to photographs.


It’s the giving season, and Dave received some going away presents.

Suellen Rowlison of River Partners sent a nice card and said that a tree had been adopted in his name.

I’ve already decided I’m going to allow the oak tree in my yard to grow, the one he repeatedly tried to mangle with the oversized wheels of his 7.3-liter diesel truck.

Thanks as well to the folks who said they planted things in their own yard, while thinking of him.

My sweet friend Sharon made a Dave donation to Heifer International. Families who receive a boost through the group are often given a basket of chicks.

I can only imagine the chicken puns Dave would have made: “I wonder if they know how to raise chickens. I guess they’ll just wing it.”

My friend Katie owns Abundance Flower Designand is dreaming up some fantabulous flowers for the musical memorial. I can’t wait to see how she uses moss for her Handsome Woodsman/musician theme. (I’ll snap photographs for a later column.)

So many others have pitched in to make his memorial this weekend a special event.


Of course, we need to help prop up our local economy, so some gift ideas for your favorite gardener seems like an appropriately cheery topic for a “bitter cold” week.

• Share some love with that guy at the Saturday farmers market who makes bird (and squirrel) feeders. To take it up a notch, paint the contraption in your sweetie’s favorite colors.

• How about a purple garden hose?

• Fill a spice shaker with poppy seeds, available in bulk at Northern Star Mills.

• Bare-root roses can actually be wrapped and put under the Christmas tree. They’re dormant this time of year and will never know the difference.

• My stepmom Lynda likes to attach a blank check to a fancy gardening catalog. Locally you can buy a gift card from a nearby nursery.

• Create a handmade coupon to attend a plant workshop, with a nursery shopping trip to immediately follow.

• Colorful rain boots.

• Macabee gopher trap.

• Freesia bulbs.

• A silver-handled trowel engraved with an message.

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Sow there! – Looking forward, planting bulbs, Oct. 20, 2016

Chico Enterprise-Record (Chico, CA) – October 20, 2016

e happened lately within elbow’s distance of my little sliver of the world. Two friends had surgery to remove cancer. Both of my parents and one of my favorite Santa impersonators have retired. My nephew started college. My friend Samantha asked me to be her maid of honor and my mother’s nearly-perfect boyfriend died of a heart attack.

I don’t mean to belittle any of these events by stringing them together, because each is a very big deal, indeed.

My point is that life happens, all around us, all of the time. It’s beautiful, and sometimes sad and often one step in a direction that leads to the next big thing.

More than a year ago, my doctors told me I had a very early stage of uterine cancer. The pea-sized yuck was surgically removed, along with other body parts that were no longer needed.

It’s all good now, but in February 2015, my knees were wobbling.

An acquaintance told me that my outlook would change. He said this had been the case for him, and I knew it was true. He had this wispy sound to his voice, as if he was remembering his first love “You will never be the same,” he said.

I have not experienced the transformation he predicted. Yet, I feel as if life’s dramas have become blurred.

If the joys and sorrows of my life were colors, those colors would blend.

Planting hope

Of course, all of this musing circles back to gardening.

When I plant bulbs this fall, I’m counting on being here to enjoy them in their prime.

The necessary step, of course, is getting my hands dirty.

Up until a few weeks ago, my big bags of bulbs were in a big pile at the base of the television. The theory was that if I tripped over them, repeatedly, I would be more likely to put those puppies in the ground.

My beau invited his band mate to the house to practice for a gig. He cleaned up by shoving things out of sight. My bulbs were tossed into the outdoor plastic storage locker, where we keep the Sluggo and trowels.

At least now if I forget to plant the bulbs this year, it will officially be my boyfriend’s fault.

Food bulbs

While we’re talking about flower bulbs, this is a good time to plant garlic bulbs as well.

The folks at in Gilroy point to November and December as the prime bulb-planting months.

Some folks suggest planting garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvesting garlic on the on the longest day of the year.

That’s easy to remember right now. However, getting bulbs in the ground while you’re thinking about is better than continuing to trip over a bag in the living room.

Garlic is related to the lily family and the plants also send up a nondescript, lily-esque flower. It’s best to snip the blooms so that more energy is sent into the bulb.

Garlic World also states that garlic needs twice as much fertilizer as most vegetables, and that planting garlic near roses will make roses more fragrant.

Bulb season

Last month when I chatted with Jerry Mendon, of Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise, he said his nursery has cut back on bulb sales and now carried mostly daffodils.

At this point, big-box stores sell bulbs cheaper than Jerry can purchase them wholesale, he said.

That makes me really sad, but I’m one of those people to blame because I’ll buy a huge bag of bulbs on impulse when I’m shopping for toothpaste and toilet paper.

Jerry said he hates seeing bulbs planted in rows.

“It drives me nuts. It’s not natural,” Jerry said, getting close to a bulb-induced rant.

When he was a young man he was doing some work on the side for an English gardener employed at a fancy estate.

The gardener “took some ranunculus and threw them in the air, Jerry recalled. Whereever they landed, that’s where they were planted. He also never planted an even number of bulbs, and never, never in a row.

Bulbs do need phosphorous, a nutrient that does not move within the soil. For this reason, it’s best to put phosphorous in the bottom of the hole, then cover with a light amount of soil. The roots from the bulb will grow through the phosphorous zone.

Bone meal, feather meal or cottonseed meal will do the job.

Jerry and his crew will be glad to help you pick out good all-purpose fertilizers, or soils amended with nutrients.

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Sow there! – Gypsum and leaf mold in the garden, Oct. 28, 2016

October 28, 2016

About this time of year the battle with the fall leaves begins. The muted colors are beautiful while dangling in the branches of trees. Next, leaves become a sticky, slippery nuisance on the sidewalks, hood of our cars and on top of our favorite plants.

Chico residents can rake the leaves into neat piles near the street and eventually they will be picked up.

However, a portion of that tree litter can be used in your yard. Last year we swept a big pile to the edge of the cyclone fence.

The fact that the pile sat there for a year has more to do with oversight than good soil intentions. The result was a weed-smothering mulch mat, and eventually some good leaf mold.

A Monterey Bay Master Gardener article, makes a good case for adding leaves to the compost pile. Ideally, the gardener would rake the leaves into small rows, then run over them with the lawn mower. If the mower has a catch bag, you can easily dump the leaf confetti into the compost pile.

Most people don’t keep their compost pile hot enough to cook weed seeds, so try to keep weeds out of your leaf mounds.

Great garden gift

Thank you, thank you to my friend John who dumped the ginormous California Master Gardener Handbook ” on my chair at work a few weeks ago. I haven’t had this much fun reading since “Taylor’s Weekend Garden Guides,: Soil and Composting.”

When it comes to allowing leaves to decompose, the garden book recommends adding nitrogen, which could mean steer manure or synthetic nitrogen. This replaces nitrogen that is lost when leaves decompose.

What to do with clay soil

For many years, Bob Scoville has been my Glenn County go-to guy for plant information. I gave him a jingle this week to talk about leaves. As is sometimes the case, we ended up talking about other things.

On Bob’s side of the river, much of the soil is heavy with clay. You may notice your soil is heavy clay if you use garden soil in pots. When the plant dies and the soil dries, the dirt looks like a giant hockey puck. I think this is actually how curling was invented.

People with heavy clay soil might dig a hole and fill it with water. It could be hours before the water drains.

Bob’s solution on the west side of the river has been to add bags and bags of gypsum. We’ve talked about this before, but perhaps not in as great of detail. Gypsum is material you find in sheetrock, which makes up the walls in your house.

Bob buys gypsum for about $6 for a 50-pound bag at Northern Star Mills in Chico. “I just bought eight more bags last week,” Bob bragged.

The material looks like white flour and in the winter he sprinkles it on soil beyond the canopy line of his fruit trees. That’s where the roots reach. A good ratio is one pound per 10 square feet, he noted.

Bob gets very excited when he talks about is Alberta peaches. Apparently they should be entered into the world fair, and he’s intent on producing another mouth-watering crop next year. Having great soil is important.

I envision him working late at night, humming incoherently, wearing a white 19th Century bed cap – as each fist filled with gypsum is unleashed into the air, the sky is filled with a white mist.

When he’s not sprinkling, Bob also mixes gypsum with compost to work into the soil.

Why gypsum works

Good soil has four requirements, Bob explained – minerals, organic matter, water and air. Gypsum helps loosen the soil and minerals are made more accessible to plants. After five or six years, and many years of gypsum, Bob said his heavy clay soil has improved.

Leaf mold

Leaf mold sounds like something yucky you would scrape away with a spackling knife. However, leaf mold is basically a pile of leaves that you have allowed to sit in pile for a long, long time. See my example above.

This brief and informative article from Tulare/Kings counties Master Gardeners, k notes that leaf mold “mixed in with your garden soil will improve soil structure, increase water retention, and provide a super habitat for good soil organisms like earthworms and beneficial bacteria.”

You can also used leaf mold as a compost, once the soil looks like crumbly black cake.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like to look at a rotting pile of leaves for a year, the master gardeners suggest packing a black plastic bag as full as you can with leaves. Before tying the bag, thoroughly wet the leaves with the spray from a garden hose. Next, poke some holes in the bag. Finally, hide the bag out of view and out of full sun. Sun will cause the bag to deteriorate. You can venture into the bag seasonally and give the leaves another good squirt of water.

Just about the time you have given up on the project, the leaf mold should be ready and good to use on your garden beds.

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Sow There! One more song for the Handsome Woodsman, 11-10-2016

Dave Kahl
Dave Kahl in Fort BraggDave  in Fort Bragg Photo by Heather Hacking

The Handsome Woodsman died Nov. 1 in that terrible head-on collision on Highway 99. His job was to “sell the sun” and he had been driving back to Chico after an appointment. Another driver veered into his lane and both drivers died.

There’s absolutely nothing good about this, but I’m so grateful that it had been a good day.

Hours before the accident, we had a tender moment in the driveway. I had arrived home after lunch with a friend. Dave was ready to leave, but had lingered to grab a quick kiss.

I noticed for the first time that he was growing a beard for winter, and petted his face.

Later in the day he sent a sweet text, but my phone battery was dead, and I didn’t get the message until after the accident.

That afternoon he talked to his son, Ben, who lives on the East Coast. It’s likely that the last words Dave heard were “I love you Dad.”

I am also so glad I was not at work that day. We listen to the police scanner in the newsroom and I think it would have been terrible to hear those early accident reports, to watch my coworkers dash out to cover the news story, then to find out it was my guy.

I know this grief thing will take a while.

A lot has happened in a week and a few days. Its tragic, yet beautiful, how people have reached out, most of them awkwardly and not knowing what to say. I feel loved. I know Dave was loved. I hope people will turn to the left and the right and love on each other.


Dave was a singer/songwriter and I’ve had his songs in my head almost constantly this past week.

The thing about living with a musician is you rarely hear the song in its entirety. You hear the guitar riff, perhaps 10-12 times in a row. Then there’s a chorus. The lyrics might even change each time you hear them. I would laugh sometimes at a gig, because the songs sounded so different when I could hear them from start to finish.

Now I’m listening to the songs in my head more closely, and wishing Dave had written down his lyrics. There are several songs “about a blonde” that will be lost except for in my memory.

Thursday morning a song popped into my head that was not part of Dave’s repertoire, “Let it Rain,” by Eric Clapton. Somehow, the last four lines of that song said everything that remained to be said.


Dave loved mushroom hunting, the rugged California coast, creating his own parking places, petting our cat and afternoon naps. He was a strong believer in God, and almost always apologized for his part in an argument. He had recently grown to tolerate my rubber chicken and couldn’t help making puns.

When we first started dating about five years ago, I was impressed he could rattle off most of the names of plants in his neighborhood, or maybe he had studied just to win my heart.

He also loved gardening, but his approach was much more functional. His job was to grow the vegetables. I took care of the flowers.

Much fun has been had ridiculing his eggplant and the black, plastic truck-bed liner used as a raised bed.

These days I visit his part of the garden more often, talking to him and imagining him sitting in the faded, green resin lawn chair, smoking a cigar.


A few weeks ago the Handsome Woodsman texted me a photograph.

“Why did you send me a picture of dirt,” I asked.

“Look closer,” he wrote. “We are going to be proud parents of lettuce.”

I did look closer and saw the tiniest of green sprouts emerging from the big brown blotch in the digital pic.

His timing had been perfect. Seeds in the ground, then came the rains, then warm weather. Now his winter garden is my gift.

He also removed the rest of the summer plants, leaving just one eggplant with several purple fruit hanging like early Christmas ornaments.


I know some of you who know me through the column will want to reach out. A few people have sent me flowers, and I love them, but my house is small.

I would encourage you to buy a gardenia plant, or some other fragrant favorite, and give it as a gift to someone you love. Please send me a photograph of your plant, in honor of Dave.

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Sow There! You’re doing a great job if you plant bulbs before Christmas, Nov. 17, 2016

There are bulbs in there ... probably.

There are bulbs in there … probably. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

This has been the first year in many that I finished planting all of my bulbs before Christmas. The fact that I did not buy as many bulbs as in previous years and gave some bulbs to others should not detract from my overall sense of bulb accomplishment.

I’ve planted bulbs as late as mid January, and honestly I do not remember if those blooms were less vigorous because of the delay. The point is to get them in the ground, rather than allow them to get lost in plain view just inside the door of the shed.

A good goal is to plant bulbs before Thanksgiving (which means this weekend). After the big food holiday, we switch into holiday mode — gift buying, tree decorating, party hopping, parking place hunting … If you haven’t planted your bulbs by Dec. 22, you might consider sticking a bow on the bag and making them another gardener’s problem.


Theoretically I have a lot of bulbs already in the ground, primarily daffodils. By this time of year I would expect to see the very earliest of green stems pushing up from the soil.

Not yet.

The drought hasn’t been kind to a great many growing things, and I won’t be surprised if some of those daffodil bulbs became emergency squirrel food. Squirrels tend to dig up daffodil bulbs, wiggle their noses in disdain, then return to their search for tulip bulbs.

At this point I have more bulbs in pots than in the ground. After the potted bulbs bloom, I lug them to the back of the house, out of sight.

One day in late summer I was feeling brave, and perhaps bored. I dumped the soil into a wheelbarrow and sorted through the bulbs. Perhaps an eighth of the stash was rotten, but most seemed ready to grow again, especially the hyacinth. Sorting through all of those pots was a big job, and by the time the day warmed, I was hot and cranky.

Yet, the advantage of bulbs in pots is you can give the blooms as a gift, take them to work or move them to the kitchen table.

Another step forward

Of course, chit-chat about bulbs is not what is primary in my mind right now.

Perhaps if I started right now I would have enough time to write all the thank-you notes that are merited. So many people have provided small and large kindnesses after the death of my Handsome Woodsman Nov. 1.

I’m trying my best to take people’s suggestions. I had a counseling session, went to a grief meeting, indulged in a massage, soaked in a friend’s hot tub and took several day off from work. I must admit, I did some of those things in case people started telling me what they thought I should do. This way I can say I’m taking good care of myself.

The reality is simply that things will be tough for a while.

Luckily, my job does not include operating heavy equipment nor being in charge of the lives of small children.

One day one of my sweet coworkers saw me crying at my desk and stopped to offer comfort.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked so sincerely.

“No, there’s not.”

However, it is helpful to know that so many of you are willing to do anything I needed, if I knew what I needed …

The Handsome Woodsman’s adult son is staying with me right now, which has been important. We’re both muddling through, aching in nearly the same way and missing the same, very tall man.


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Sow There! Bugs in the garden are easy to spot when you have a day off 8-6-15

  1. Aphids are slimy after being sprayed with soapy water. The Portulaca has not been doing very well after aphids and ants found the plant to be the perfect snack zone for the suckers.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

    I had an extra day off work this week and nowhere in particular to go.

    As a treat to myself I decided not to go to the gym, not to wash clothes and to forget about the dirty dishes in the sink.

    It seemed perfectly reasonable to spend my idle time staring at my plants.

    Just a few days prior, my beau had spotted the first hornworm of the season.

    Mom was visiting and I guess I was showing off. I grabbed the hornworm carefully between the blades of pruning shears and sashayed around the patio with the green gobbler.

    Mom cheered me on and shared the oft-told story of Uncle Jimmy and the hornworms.

    Long ago, mom’s grandmother offered a nickle per bug, which sent the grandchildren into a hornworm finding frenzy. Uncle Jimmy demonstrated exceptional zeal, laying his hornworms on the ground and systematically stomping on them: “five cents, 10 cents, 15 cents,” he chanted.

    In another version of the story, the hornworms are fed to the chickens after payment.

    Farmers are harvesting almonds this week, which is ahead of schedule. It may be my imagination, but it seems like tomato hornworms are ahead of schedule as well.

    If you have 8 minutes you can watch a video of the entire life cycle of the critter, from egg to gorgeous sphinx moth:

    This video was personally reassuring that I am not the only one who spends hours staring at plants.

    One reason we don’t spot hornworms earlier is because the eggs are tiny, about 1.5 millimeters. For perspective, the length of a flea is 1.5 mm.

    Also, the small, medium and large hornworms are the exact color of the tomato plant upon which they are feasting. The best way to spot them is to find a stem where all of the leaves are eaten, and travel with your eyes toward the center of the plant. Hornworms also give themselves away by dropping dark-green globs of worm poop. Look for the worm several inches above the leaf covered with worm poop.

    While continuing to stare at plants, I also found some great praying mantises in the sunflowers.

    The biggest bug jackpot was in plain view and sucking the life out of the poor Portulaca.

    Portulaca, also known as moss rose, is a great container plant known for surviving abysmal heat. As the petals drop, you can often find a little bundle of black seeds, which are fun to sprinkle in bare soil.

    I dug my fingernails into some black spots, only to find something black and sticky.


    Fortunately, I did not need to rush off to work this day.

    Almost every stem of the succulent plant was covered with tiny black bugs – aphids.

    Ants were also standing periodically, keeping care of the aphid herd to collect honedew (the excretion of plant-sucking aphids).

    Nature is fascinating.

    Similar to early ranchers in the Sacramento Valley, the ants saw this portulaca as a vast prairie, perfectly suited for aphid ranching.

    Never mind that a monstrous woman with a squirt bottle filled with soapy water would come along and dash the ants’ pioneering spirit.

    If I had a few more days off from work I would take an eight-minute video to show what happens to aphids after being sprayed with soapy water.

    After mom’s visit, my sister stopped by. I offered her a basil plant for her kitchen window, but she was afraid the pot might have bugs in the soil.

    I had no idea what she was talking about. The aphids, ants, hornworms and praying mantises were currently preoccupied with other greenery.

    Yet, when we reached for the basil plant, a particularly fuzzy spider made a quick exit.

    Over the next few hours I had fun putzing around the yard, offering my sister plants. Even though there were no more spiders, every once in a while I squealed as if a spider had jumped onto my arm. No matter how old I get, its still fund to tease my older sister.

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