Spring On the Comstock

DSC09012 (2).JPG(Garden Series)

Working in my garden brings me joy.  I live in the semi rural high desert of Northern Nevada. It’s the lower  west side of the infamous Comstock Lode.  I love it here, but it’s not without it’s challenges.  We were listed as the 2nd windiest place in the United States, which is saying a lot.

Mark Twain lived just 8 miles east of my home for awhile and he wrote about our wind in his book, “Roughing It.”  It is one of my favorite passages:

This was all we saw that day, for it was two o’clock, now, and according to custom the daily “Washoe Zephyr” set in; a soaring dust-drift about the size of the United States set up edgewise came with it, and the capital of Nevada Territory disappeared from view. Still, there were sights to be seen which were not wholly uninteresting to newcomers; for the vast dust-cloud was thickly freckled with things strange to the upper air – things living and dead, that flitted hither and thither, going and coming, appearing and disappearing among the rolling billows of dust – hats, chickens, and parasols sailing in the remote heavens; blankets, tin signs, sage-brush, and shingles a shade lower; door-mats and buffalo-robes lower still; shovels and coal-scuttles on the next grade; glass doors, cats, and little children on the next; disrupted lumber yards, light buggies, and wheelbarrows on the next; and down only thirty or forty feet above ground was a scurrying storm of emigrating roofs and vacant lots.

It was something to see that much. I could have seen more, if I could have kept the dust out of my eyes.

But, seriously, a Washoe wind is by no means a trifling matter. It blows flimsy houses down, lifts shingle roofs occasionally, rolls up tin ones like sheet music, now and then blows a stage-coach over and spills the passengers; and tradition says the reason there are so many bald people there is, that the wind blows the hair off their heads while they are looking skyward after their hats. Carson streets seldom look inactive on summer afternoons, because there are so many citizens skipping around their escaping hats, like chambermaids trying to head off a spider.

The “Washoe Zephyr” (Washoe is a pet nickname for Nevada) is a peculiarly Scriptural wind, in that no man knoweth “whence it cometh.” That is to say, where it originates. It comes right over the mountains from the West, but when one crosses the ridge he does not find any of it on the other side! It probably is manufactured on the mountaintop for the occasion, and starts from there. It is a pretty regular wind, in the summer-time. Its office-hours are from two in the afternoon till two the next morning; and anybody venturing abroad during those twelve hours needs to allow for the wind or he will bring up a mile or two to leeward of the point he is aiming at. And yet the first complaint a Washoe visitor to San Francisco makes, is that the sea-winds blow so, there! There is a good deal of human nature in that.

– Roughing It

We also get a lot of sun. In the summer it’s blazing hot.  Add the wind, and only the hardiest of flora survives.  I’ve opted to keep my yard fairly “desert-like,” partly for just this reason. But also because with so much development going on, it’s harder for the wildlife to find natural forging close to town.  I don’t mind helping out, and enjoy watching nature go by my window. There it always a lot to see.  The desert in not as barren as you might think.

Right now, it’s Spring.  The Daffodils are blooming; that’s our first sign of better weather to come. Then will come the Tulips, Sand Cherry, Forsythia, Phlox, Lilacs, and Desert Peach.  There is also Brittlebrush, Rabbitbrush, Mullein, Globe Mallow, Poppies, and more.  It’s really a spectacular time to see the desert. Later on, as things heat up, the hardier plants flower, such as the Russian Sage, Butterfly Bush, Broom, and Hollyhocks.

Spring  brings on tons of garden chores. I used to think that because I was keeping my yard natural, gardening would be simple.  Hah, the joke was on me.  Keeping it rural is not that easy. There are weeds to manage; we have these horrible goat head thorns that are murder on tender feet and dog paws. There are paths to rake, trees to trim.  Somehow there is always something to be repaired or painted. There was a lot of flooding this winter  from our storms and our dirt road washed out pretty badly. It’s an easement, so the neighbors share ownership of the road. We’ve spent the last several weeks shoveling, raking, and tamping it back to respectability.

Water is precious, so I’m always looking for new ways to irrigate the many trees and in my yard. This year, I’m experimenting with a combination of soaker hoses, and drip lines.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Our soil is poor. I heard someone call it “young” soil, meaning that it doesn’t have a lot of nutrients that come from nature’s composting process. It also has high mineral contents from the mining that went on above us.  That adds to the challenge of trying to get new plants to grow.

We also have cornered the market on rocks and stones.  Planting or building can be challenging.  For every hole you dig, you will get huge bucketful of rocks, and a few teaspoons worth of soil.  It makes for a lot of raised garden beds and creative landscaping.

Lastly, there are the animals. Hubby and I have two cats and two dogs as pets.  We also have a long list of unofficial pets: Mustangs, Cottontail Rabbits, Raccoons, Quail, Mourning Doves, Coyote, Hares, Barn Owls, and Skunks (I have lots of stories about dogs and skunks). They can play havoc on the garden as well. My first year here we had a band of mustangs stomp down the fence between my house and the neighbors, when they got spooked by a truck going by.  So sometimes you just never know what you’ll come home to.

As I go through the seasons on the Comstock, I’ll share my joyful garden adventures on my blog. There is never a dull moment around here.  I hope you’ll grab a cup of coffee and join me.

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