Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

This post (I kind of hate that word to describe writing here) is going to be piecemeal, a quality that is indicative of my life right now as I float or rather scramble from one task to another in an attempt to keep up with the season and my workload. I’ve been trying to write something cohesive here for over a week now. “Just focus and write on one topic,” I say. And then I am up and off to do that thing that must be done immediately or taking reminder notes for future tasks that are later lost. I’m a multi-tasker by nature. I thrive when there are lots of physical and creative tasks to challenge me. It just makes writing in this space a bit tricky. The two don’t really go hand-in-hand. Things are probably going to be spotty here in the coming months as I try to negotiate these contradictions.

The other challenge to choosing a topic comes in the form of the many things I am not allowed to write about. The many assorted secretive magazine assignments, projects, things that rhyme with “look”, etc I am supposed to keep under wraps. Unfortunately, it seems that everything in the gardens is related to these secret projects this year. Tell me I can’t speak about or write about something and you can bet it will be the single focus of my thoughts. There is nothing else to discuss but that single thing or assortment of things. Nothing. And since I am not allowed to write or speak about the things I am most enjoying right now, I am left at a loss for words.

So… ummm… in the category of Things I Can Talk About….

I made some stuff this weekend. A film maker was coming by on Sunday night to shoot the roof garden for a short film she is making and so I naturally thought, “Gee, I have nothing better to do, what with the fifty million things on my to-do list so why not make a skirt for the occasion!” I am often most inspired when time is limited. The skirt is a reworking of an old skirt that was so long and bulky it looked like wardrobe for “Big Love.” It had a useless and heavy piece that wrapped around the front like a faux wrap, making the skirt weigh a ton and not suitable for summer gear. So I took it apart, chopped it down, resized it, and put it together as a slightly a-line skirt. I then drew the little seedling illustrations onto potato halves and printed with fabric paint. I was a bit distracted, applying the first print askew so that the “seedlings” look more like Ginkgo leaves, but whatever. It works. The end.

I wanted to make good use of the potato stamps while they were still viable so I sewed up a new runner for our small table. It is dark chocolate brown (everything in brown!) with a light linen strip that I printed in green. I would take a picture to show you but the light isn’t right in the kitchen and I hate using a flash. And if I get up to do one more thing this post will never be done. I also sewed up coasters for the living room (did not use the stamp), a little catnip pillow for the cat (She actually rests her head on it!) and hemmed a curtain hung with a raw edge over a year ago. Getting shit done! And adding new tasks to the list. Woo!


In the category of actual gardening… where do I begin? The community garden is pretty much planted. As far as this stage goes anyways. I have a few secondary things that I want to get in soon and there are a few seedlings currently residing in the roof’s “waiting area” that I REALLY want to squeeze in somehow. But how? I’ve cultivated quite a knack for making something out of nothing but there are two things I can’t make for the life of me: Making money grow on trees and making more space. The space is maxed out and can’t be maxed any further.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

The plant I especially can’t let go of is the ‘Haley’s Purple Comet’ tomato. The seeds arrived a little late so this seedling had a late start falling behind the other seedlings that were planted out long ago. I tried this variety at a tomato tasting party last year and HAD to have it. It produces the most delicious, small, dark purple fruit. Back in the 80′s when Halley’s Comet was coming around for its once in a lifetime world tour I got a cheap telescope for The Holidays and hoped with nerd-like enthusiasm to catch a glimpse of the comet despite the fact that it wasn’t really visible from our side of the earth. I never did see it but I did spend a few nights looking at the stars and the moon or gazing up from the top bunk of my bunk beds at the poster of the moon that came with the telescope that I had affixed to the ceiling with tacks. Sometimes those tacks fell on me in my sleep, that’s how dedicated I was to astronomy.

If I could allow my skin to be pierced in my sleep by falling tacks then damn it, I can find a spot for this tomato! The comet has a special place in my heart so how can I resist a dark tomato named after it? I have GOT to find a space for this plant but there is nothing that can give. There are no plants to be removed. There is no more space!! My last ditch attempt will be to get another container… to put where, I don’t know. It’s a horrible dilemma.

Cat Scat

Last week, on an impromptu late evening visit to the garden I laid down some fresh compost in an area I was set to plant later in the week. When I went back a few days later the local cat, whom we call Crazy, had used that spot for a litter box. Delightful! It wouldn’t be enough to simply remove the poo because once a cat has claimed that spot they like to go back to it again and again. And based on the evidence it was clear that Crazy REALLY liked that spot. Luckily this was just a casual visit. I hadn’t arrived with an arm full of seedlings to plant. Instead, a friend and I had stopped at the garden to sit under the trees with our coffees on the way back from the market. I had a couple of oranges in my sack so I peeled them and scattered the peels all over the area. It worked! When I arrived back a few days later the area was untouched.

The Roof

I’ve entered the home stretch! I’ve planted the bulk of it and cleaned up the mess. I was actually able to lay down our twig table runner and candles last night which marks the first time anyone has been able to use the seating area for its intended purpose since I started hardening off seedlings well over a month ago. We’ve been eating lots of salads and the peas are coming in strong. We’re just days away from the first ripe strawberry. I’m most impressed by my potato plants. They are already getting close to the top of the garbage can they are growing in. The Nicotiana alata flowered for the first time a few days ago and I’ve got peppers forming earlier than ever. Everything looks so lush and smells wonderful. I can’t help brushing my hands over the various smellerific plants every time I walk past them. who needs store-bought perfume when you have a garden?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

11 thoughts on “Grazings

  1. It sounds like you must be in the same zone as Oregon. I’m eating peas, marveling at my large potato plants and just ate my first strawberry and raspberry. This is the time when you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

  2. 1) Dig the skirt.

    2) Container for the Haley’s Comet, even if it is in the middle of everything.

    3) I’d have never thought of the orange peel solution to cat scat–thanks for the inspiration!

    4) Smellerific is my new favorite word.

    Don’t be frustrated by the multiple parts and pieces of this “post”–all gardeners are multi-taskers. We understand the scattering of ideas.

    Good luck on all the things you aren’t supposed to talk about. How exciting!

  3. I must try the orange peels!! I have a problem with the neighborhood cats using my flower beds as a bathroom, so thank you!!!
    Love the skirt!

  4. The skirt is cute as hell!
    Your garden looks so nice and organized! I must get to transplating all those plants outgrowing their lodgings on my porch now, you hath inspired me…

  5. Orange peels… huh. Will try, though I think the neighborhood cats are more interested in sitting on the window ledge peering in at my cats than they are in the garden.

    At my last house, where I did have a cat thinking “hey, dirt = litterbox!”, I planted native cactus species. Problem seriously solved, though it made weeding much more challenging. :]

  6. Do not think about white rabbits for the next 60 seconds.

    No, seriously, I can’t wait to hear about all the secret projects!

  7. the skirt is cute. it’s not a ginkgo, it’s a leggy seedling. :)

    also, i recently read an article about productive procrastination. i do it and it sounds like what you were doing. you get all the stuff done on (and off) your list that you’re not supposed to be doing because you should be doing other things. that’s ok, you’re getting things done!

  8. Michele: I’m in Toronto which is a different zone and climate then Oregon but it is possible we start some things around the same time. I suppose it also depends on where you are in Oregon. Portland is mild enough to grow some cold crops year round but I am guessing some other parts of Oregon aren’t.

    Quant: That’s exactly what it is although I didn’t know it had an official term or methodology.

  9. Ciao Gayla-

    HPC will do just fine in a container, it’s not a huge plant. It’s also not sucker-crazy so it won’t bush out rambunctiously like some indeterminates will. Where there’s a will there’s a way and if I know you, you’ll find a way!

    We should all do VERY well with our pea harvests this year with all the rain we’ve been getting!

    It’s certainly a relief to be close to the end of the tunnel with all the planting and yard waste removal, eh? Now comes the weeding and the tying and the waiting.

  10. Container; I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve been considering the use of 2 L empty cola bottles, with strings through the neck. I wanted to hang strawberries from the balcony. Use the aerial space!

    Or hey, if you are already in so deep, might as well start a terranium with grow lights. I heard that the cheap white lights will do as well (I have a planted aquarium that relies on sunlight during the morning, but it’s a pain when I want to move stuff.)

  11. When we moved here a year ago, our back garden was the neighbourhood litter box for about six cats. I’ve been using the citrus peel method and it works quite well, but you must remember to add fresh peels after it rains. Once the peels get wet, they lose the effectiveness.

Comments are closed.