Saturday, September 25, 2010


Autumn already! - But why regret the everlasting sun, if we are sworn to a search for divine brightness, - far from those who die as seasons turn.
Rimbaud, Farewell

For several years now, I’ve been planning to install a shishi odoshi, or “deer scare” adjacent to the old pond where we had one many years ago. Here is the site before I began: the water feature is in the deep shade beneath the palm leaf, and behind the potman on his little chair.

The shishi odoshi has a large bamboo rocker arm closed on one side and open to a small stream of water at the other. The arm is then mounted so it pivots at the balance point. As the tube fills with water, it slowly overfills and tips; emptying the water and making a lovely sound as the bamboo strikes the rock. The sound of the hollow bamboo tube, knocking on a large rock every time the tube fills with water, pivots, and tips to empty is strangely peaceful. I doubt that it scares anybody, but unlike every other standing water feature in my yard, birds do not seem to drink from this new installation, so maybe it does scare them.

We got a new shishi odoshi several years ago at a local craft fair, but I finally got around to beginning the project to hook it up. The challenge isn’t plumbing so much as excavating, cleaning out the overgrown spot where ginger colonized in the shade of an old palm.

The site held several years of accumulated weeds and dirt, rocks, as well as black widow and other spiders. This is one of the few tasks that I will only undertake wearing good garden gloves. When moving stones and rocks, gloves are necessary to protect my hands from being cut, and to avoid encrusting the cuts with dirt, but more importantly to protect me from disturbed spiders as I evict them from their lairs.

The water drip is fed from a small submersible aquarium pump inside a completely contained reservoir that re-circulates the water – we have electricity nearby to power the pump. Because of inevitable leaks and drips, the entire arrangement must sit on top of the reservoir. This assures that water is lost only to evaporation and not to drips that don’t return water to the reservoir.

By the time I was done with the preparation, excavation and placement of the reservoir, I realized the black plastic storage box was too small to contain both ends of the shishi odoshi AND the drip-line of the sounding rock I had chosen. Since I really wanted to use the hollowed out hypertufa pot as the source of my mountain spring, I was forced to choose either the shishi odoshi or the hollowed out rock itself. I went with the rock, and Tech Support Guy drilled a hole in the bottom for the tube leading from the reservoir. He also drilled a handful of small holes in the lid of the plastic storage box/reservoir to allow the water to drain beneath the rocks and return to the reservoir.

I even took some of the plentiful moss from the ground beneath the big old pine tree, and smooshed it into some of the grooves in the tufa pot. I’d love to see the moss naturalize itself here. I have found that I get algae in the other tsukubai, and have to pour in a splash of Clorox in once in a while to keep it from looking greasy with algae. Since the tsukubai gets direct sun half the day, I think that may be the source of the algae problem. The new water feature is in full shade all day, so I’m hoping the moss will thrive and the algae won’t.

Later, I’ll try to install the shishi odoshi elsewhere in the garden, perhaps at a spot where it can be powered by a solar pump. But meanwhile, I now have an inviting cool spring bubbling qieetly over moss, near the place where the new stone table and benches will go, replacing the old decomposing stone table and benches - but that's another project.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who knew?

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of partiotism and exposing the country to danger."*

"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor - with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it." **

* Herman Goering

** Douglas MacArthur

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Potheads of a Good Kind

"Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence— whether much that is glorious— whether all that is profound— does not spring from disease of thought— from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect."
- Edgar Allen Poe, "Eleonora"

“My short-term memory is fine! What I may lack in attention span, I make up in…”
- A Pothead I have known

My lampshade pots are now in place, but many of the succulent cuttings dripping down the sides through holes in the top of the pots are not yet firmly rooted.

The grass in the top is a lovely but dangerously sharp striped variegated green and white grass. The transplant on the left got a major head start over the other because the grass in the right pot was previously planted in a place where it got less water. It should take off now.

The hanging man and woman, my potheads, each have a different grass. The coolest thing about the potheads is that when watered, the man actually cries since there are holes in the pot where his eyes were carved.

I’m thinking of calling them Eleanora and Benny. I name many of the inanimate objects in my yard. This tradition began with Simone, the 2 foot long rubber lizard/alligator that once served as J’s burglar alarm and who now lives on the rocks of the old waterfall, overlooking all the nighttime predators that have decimated my koi pond.

The best thing of all about this arrangement by the front sidewalk is that one of the few surviving drip systems waters them daily, making them lovely but pretty ignorable. The biggest potential problem is that the pots on the ground, purchased for < $20 at a lamp store are so dangerously thin and delicate; they can be tipped over by a heartfelt sigh of admiration within two feet. Accordingly, they are each staked from behind with pieces of tomato cage that, I hope, will keep them upright in anything short of a stampede of raging buffalo.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Family Visit

“Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.”
Prophet Mohammed,
Sahih al-Bukhari (صحيح البخاري‎)

We just finished a lovely weeklong visit with family. Keeping good relations with relations is indeed better than fasting and prayer, but then again, even my appointment tomorrow for a root canal beats fasting and prayer in my book. What’s even better is catching up in ongoing casual conversations, eating good food, drinking good beer, making vineyard peach and raspberry jam with cardamom, and watching old episodes of Max Headroom.

Now it’s back to frugal eating and drinking, paying bills, and of course, to blogging. Today I’m making stock using some nasty looking soup bones and left-over carrots and other miscellaneous vegetables from the farmer’s market. Tonight we’ll have the last two gorgeous artichokes. Later this week, I’ll be making a veal stew using today’s stock.

Now, it’s also back to the interrupted yard project: removing ubiquitous Bermuda grass from the “dry” riverbed where the pond overflow drains if the pond is over-filled. I attain a certain Zen-like peace sitting on my rolling wagon seat and lifting baseball-sized river rocks, yanking out grass and debris, and then putting down a new layer of the hardware cloth that’s supposed to keep the grass from growing amid the rocks.

Summer may be over and school may be back in session, but there’s still plenty of mild weather ahead for me to finish the yard projects before the days become too short and chilly to entice me outdoors.