Yard work: October reflections

Self-tutoring about yard work: the tutor follows a family tradition.

Although I’m trying to reform, I haven’t done much yard work these past few years. Perhaps absurdly, I did much more ten years ago, when we didn’t even have a garden. Now we have one, yet I do much less.

When you’re not involved with something every day, you can lose your place, so have trouble knowing where to start. Today I mowed the back yard first, then looked at the leaves out front, under both ours and the neighbours’ oak trees.

I’ve beheld those fallen oak leaves for many days; we haven’t had a powerful south wind that would blow them away. I decided to rake them, then till them into the garden patches in the back yard.

Collecting the leaves into the wheelbarrow, then walking them to the back yard, next digging them in, took about two hours. While doing so, I reflected about my father doing the same in our family garden back in the Annapolis Valley in the early ’80s (see my post here). There, we had maple and oak trees, and others: autumn leaves were plentiful. Much as I did today, Dad would collect them, then till them into the soil. There’s one main difference: he used a rototiller, whereas I use a shovel.

Dad observed next fall, when he dug the soil to bury that year’s leaves, the buried leaves from the previous fall were gone. He even recalled that, when planting in the spring, the buried leaves had been noticeably reduced. During the winter, organisms in the soil, including earthworms, perhaps, consumed much of them. He acknowledged the idea to be surprising, since we were in the Annapolis Valley, where winter is typically cold for a few months, and very cold for a few weeks. Somehow, while the soil seemed locked in frost, decomposition continued. He mused that perhaps, under the soil’s surface, the decomposition of the leaves produced enough heat to be self-sustaining through winter.

Like any gardener, I patiently await the soil’s development this winter:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: garter snake in the garden

Self-tutoring about garter snakes and gardening: the tutor shares about garter snakes.

Until 2012, I used to see snakes fairly often in the yard. Since, I’ve wondered where they’ve gone. After all, reptiles are sensitive creatures whose presence usually suggests environmental health. Furthermore, to my knowledge, we have no poisonous snakes on Vancouver Island. Therefore, a snake here is never a worry:)

A couple weeks back, I finally encountered a garter snake in the garden, to my relief. Maybe they’ve been here all along, but hiding? Perhaps we’ve just been missing each other. Anyway, there it was, alarmed at first, but soon much less timid.

The snake might have been 45cm, brown with red stripes down its sides; I suspect it to be northwestern garter snake.

I decided to research what benefits, etc, accompany snake presence in the garden. Apparently they eat anything they can – rodents (which would have to be very small for the snake I saw), grasshoppers, slugs, etc. Early last evening I observed slugs emerging: I hope that snake is taking notice:)





Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Composting: putting rhubarb leaves in the compost

Self-tutoring about composting: the tutor shares a find about composting rhubarb leaves.

Rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Yet, can they be composted? The other day I noticed someone advising not to.

I had assumed rhubarb leaves are compostable, and I’ve found several sources that agree.





Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

What is the point of gardening?

Self-tutoring: the tutor delves into the philosophy behind urban gardening.

In the late ’80s I talked to a farmer, and survivalist, who lived way up north. He didn’t have a garden. His wife did; he snickered at its mention.

“You’re a survivalist…why don’t you believe in gardening?” he was sometimes asked.

“It’s much cheaper to buy produce at the grocery store,” he would smile. “If you think of the money you could earn for the time spent tending a garden, you come out way behind, gardening.”

He didn’t talk much, that man, and he was almost always right when he did. Back then, he could make $20/hour for working…why would he garden?

My father had a garden in the 80s in a region where agriculture is favourable. Yet, our home sat on a sand hill; our soil wasn’t so good as that of our neighbours across the street, who lived on the flat.

I came to learn that my father loved gardening. Evenings from late spring to early fall, he’d spend out in the back yard. Sometimes he tended the garden, while other times he’d stand there, smoking a cigarette, surveying it. He was proud of the garden. No-one else could see it; our garden lay behind a bluff that backed onto woods. He took personal pride in it, regardless.

About a third of his time out there, he spent planning what he’d do next year. If I went out to talk to him, he’d discuss the crop, but soon begin about how the soil was better than last year, and what he’d yet do to improve it. We were surrounded by deciduous trees whose leaves he collected each autumn, then tilled into the garden. He loved talking about compost.

During our three years there, he improved the soil a great deal, from almost pure sand to darker stuff more like loam. However, he was a military man; we had to move. All that progress was lost to him when we moved away to live on a base.

My father had known, when we arrived there, that we were destined only to move away in a few years. Yet, his compass, first to last, was improving the soil. We ate delicious produce from the garden – I still remember the first tomato we picked from it and how good it tasted. However, he didn’t mainly talk about that. Rather, he talked about how good the soil would be next spring or how much it could improve after ten years of composting.

My only conclusion is that Dad’s point to gardening was to improve the soil. Whatever produce we ate from it – and we certainly did – was a bonus.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Yard work, exercise and fitness: the unintended work-out

Self-tutoring: the tutor shares about yard chores.

Yesterday, I thought perhaps I wouldn’t get enough exercise. I thought wrong.

For the seeds I found in our shelves, I decided to open up more garden space from a rectangle of the lawn. It was a spontaneous decision that meant using the shovel and pick-axe.

Turning over the sod took me about 45 minutes. A pick-axe is handy to have for such jobs.

When I was a kid, my Dad had a roto-tiller that would’ve done the job in under 10 minutes, no sweat. We lived in a farming place, then. Now we don’t, so I till by hand:)

I’ll keep you updated on what I plant; I hope to start today.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Gardening: planting a rose cutting inside a potato

Gardening self-tutoring: the tutor tries a trick he saw on YouTube about starting some rose cuttings.

I’ve been trying to spiff up the yard with new plants lately, including some rose cuttings. I started them in potatoes – an idea I saw in this video from Fast Remedy.

The potato stabilizes the cutting, making it much easier to plant. I’ve done the trick with two roses, and hope for the best.

I will let you know how they turn out.

Best of luck with your gardening:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle, yard work: watering reflections, part 0

Self-tutoring about watering: the tutor reflects….

I can’t remember when summer 2018 started (see my post here about when summer starts); irrigation is in full swing. (I began about this year’s watering efforts in the post here.)

I’m no pro at watering, but I’ve observed a few helpful hints:

  1. When working with several sprinklers, turn off the one in a sensitive area (eg, near the sidewalk) first. If you turn off another one instead, the one near the sidewalk may then receive more water, and spill beyond the yard.
  2. I typically water one spot for, at most, around 30 minutes. I suspect once it’s soaked, the rest of the water probably doesn’t help; rather, it may just leach out nutrients to runoff.
  3. Single plants or bushes that need water but are outside of the main sprinkling areas, I do with a watering can. I don’t sprinkle the whole yard, just main areas.

Best of luck with your yard:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.