First Week of Spring

Kicking the season off with some checkbook gardening; obligatory, because our minds are willing but our backs are middle-aged. This morning I met the tree guy and he ground out 10 stumps that we needed removed: 5 dead juniper/arbor vitae skeletons, the aforementioned hated Pieris X 2, and 3 variegated Euonymus that were another nursery for powdery mildew. All 10 were ugly and eagerly bid farewell. There is so much bed real estate to plant in now, I’m giddy.

Grinding.JPGThe utility companies come the night before and mark everything – see the red spray paint on the lawn sort of pointing to the electrical box? Right in front of the place where the giant blade is eating the tree stumps? Yeah. That’s a bit unnerving, especially for the guy doing the work. When he was done, he warned me about planting anything deep rooted there (like that giant pine tree we’ll talk about in a minute). Though I’d love to camouflage the electrical box, there will only be medium to small perennials going into that bed, nothing very woody or large.

The pine tree is a story too. It’s beautiful. Mature, pyramidal, lovely, and full of some bad news beetle – Buprestids probably and maybe some Cerambycids. I saw D-shaped holes when I came for the inspection on this house (I thought asking for an arborist to come inspect as well might be going too far), so I knew there was trouble. The tips of last year’s needles are yellow, another indicator. There’s also pitch on some of the lower branches. The trifecta of conifer woe. So today the tree is getting some much needed chemo – injections of strong insecticide to try and save it. I do not want this story to end with “We used to have a pine tree out front.” We’ll see.

Clean up after stump removal is fairly intense – there are huge holes in your garden and tree debris scattered around, I am good and filthy. An excellent start to the day and to spring and to the beginning of some sunnier, warm days.

I realize there are two more things I should do before buying any plants.  1. Pull apart the raised beds sitting right in the middle of the border in the backyard, so I can redistribute the media and shape the beds, and 2. Order a few/ten/many yards of mulch to go over everything and tie the beds together while tidying things up. Mulch is to your garden what vacuuming is to your house: instant facelift.

Happy spring weekending!


2010, I hardly knew you

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I last updated.  Thank you, WordPress, for hanging onto the blog while it languished.

Vox Hortus has its own domain now, so you can find it at or at the WordPress address.

So much has happened in a year.  I’ve finished my third field season for my research project, I’m writing my thesis and looking for a job.  I graduate this spring, into an economy that is, as we know, underwhelming.  I remain optimistic.

In 2010, I stomped grapes for Chardonnay, drank a good amount of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, read a metric tonne of journal articles, wrote some papers, took a few classes, went to Idaho, went to Washington, went on one date, took up birding, dropped the ball on knitting, took up spinning, identified 4,150 insects, learned and forgot a bunch of statistical whatnot, sat through 5 successful graduate defenses in my cohort.  I’ve made great strides in getting over my fear of arachnids.  It’s been good.  Strange, but good.

Vox Hortus is 5 years old!  There are new features in the works and lots of ground to cover in gardening, insects, science, and the natural world.  The blog has a new theme and it’s all new from here out.  Welcome back!

Century Egg


See that black and green region on this plate?  Century egg.  Why is it that color you ask?  Well, because it’s rotten.  Why is it on a plate instead of in the trash?  Because it’s a delicacy.  You will eat some, and you will like it.

And I did, and I did.  It’s got an earthy flavor and creamy texture, and you only taste the “offness” of it a few seconds after you’ve swallowed it.  I split it with 2 other people, and we pretty much ate it with great relish and exclamations of bravado.  The tofu chaser next to it makes everything okay again.  Follow with white fungus soup and a steamed pork bun.  Yum!

I expected to have stomach distress of various kinds in Taiwan but it never happened.  In fact, the relative richness of food back here in the states after being on a pretty clean diet for 2 weeks caused the most distress.  The richest thing I ate was fried duck – served whole, of course, so we could make meaningful eye contact while I dined on his innards with a nice guava nectar.

Run in Circles, Scream and Shout

I always feel this way by the second week of school: like something heavy is sitting on my chest. And it’s not my 13-pound complete volume of Flora. There’s a plant ID midterm this week, another weeds quiz, a club meeting, a statistics assignment, a weed specimens collection, more red clover to count, club activities to plan, places to go, people to see. And I have psychogenic fatigue.

Evidently I’m not alone: more students are using the psychological services we pay for each term, and that’s a good thing I think. I choose coffee.

Here’s a nice photo to calm us down. Weeds can be so lovely.

So I have a tremendous amount of statistics to cover this evening before I retire; I’ll just be excusing myself now.