A sense of imminent doom hangs in the air

today at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Northern California's biggest series of winter storms since 2005 arrives tomorrow around lunchtime. We expect wind gusts up to 50 mph, and perhaps 5 inches of rain by Sunday. Elevations of 1000 feet expect 75 mph gusts and the North Bay and Santa Cruz could get 10 inches of rain.

I resume my volunteer activities in the garden on Monday. I expect there will be a lot of clean-up work to do.

In the meantime, it's sunny and there are pretty flowers.

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Erica canaliculata.





There's something wrong with this picture.


Once upon a time, a squirrel cached a berry in this tree, and now the berry is a shrub.


Weird, huh?


The tree is fine.


My friend and I had lunch at a restaurant we go to a lot. The proprietor stopped to chat with us, as she often does. Her conversation deepened today's theme of doom. A consultant she met recently told her to expect startlingly higher food prices this year as the price of oil increases demand on corn and food oil for fuel. She feels pessimistic about business in 2008. I know San Franciscans have idiosyncratic concerns, but this is not the first time I've heard someone I know be worried about this.

Then when I got home, a book I ordered with a Christmas gift certificate arrived. Steve Solomon started Territorial Seed and has written several books. He's a huge name in the west coast organic gardening scene.

"The decline of cheap oil is inspiring increasing numbers of North Americans to achieve some measure of backyard food self-sufficiency. In hard times, the family can be greatly helped by growing a highly productive food garden, requiring little cash outlay or watering.

Currently popular intensive vegetable gardening methods are largely inappropriate to this new circumstance. Crowded raised beds require high inputs of water, fertility and organic matter, and demand large amounts of human time and effort. But, except for labor, these inputs depend on the price of oil. Prior to the 1970s, North American home food growing used more land with less labor, with wider plant spacing, with less or no irrigation, and all done with sharp hand tools. But these sustainable systems have been largely forgotten. Gardening When It Counts helps readers rediscover traditional low-input gardening methods to produce healthy food.

Designed for readers with no experience and applicable to most areas in the English-speaking world except the tropics and hot deserts, this book shows that any family with access to 3-5,000 sq. ft. of garden land can halve their food costs using a growing system requiring just the odd bucketful of household waste water, perhaps two hundred dollars worth of hand tools, and about the same amount spent on supplies - working an average of two hours a day during the growing season."

By March last year, I was calling bees the big garden story of 2007. This year, will it be...doom?


Frances, said...

You are probably right, doom seems to be all around these days. Time to hunker down and sharpen your tools. Thanks for the book referral.

Anonymous said...

You know Chuck... the worst part of doom is its impending nature. We are all doomed, but there is joy and beauty aplenty while we await the axe. I see no reason to make doom worse than it already is.

I am not a Buddhist, but they have 4 basic tenants which I find helpful in my daily life. They are called the the "Four Noble Truths." They are best grouped in the following 4 catagories:

I. Suffering
II. Causation
III. Cessation
IV. Eight fold path

It is the first Noble Truth that I think of most often: "All Life Is Suffering." This is a truth. And once we recognize it, then suffering is no longer a surprise. Trivial or Profound, we live in the shadow of some kind of doom. Rather than endeavor to spend a life without suffering (which is impossible though we TRY SO HARD to the contrary), it is EASIER to spend a life where we find the good among the suffering.


I know, I know... You are thinking "what the hell?"

But I started your post looking at a berry bush in a tree and ended it reading that I might not have enough to eat.

I'll learn from the bush. It is beautiful.

chuck b. said...

Well, and doom comes and goes. It so often impends, and fails to deliver. The quality of impending doom depends a lot on the charisma of the sayer.

I'm not advocating that anyone should feel impending doom. Or that they shouldn't.

I'm just living in the moment, and marking down what's going on around me.

I would love to grow vegetables with a single bucket of gray water tho', whether I'm facing doom or not.

Christopher C. NC said...

I try not to think ahead to the doom and just let it arrive when it will and deal with it then.

I have however been thinking a great deal about my first real vegetable garden in many years and hope that my first year can be a test run in a place with start and expiration dates.

Anonymous said...


Start dates and expirations!


(Forgive this apostrophe of a comment. I'm drinking bourbon now... 'cause it is way too cold and I think that I might die. But I'm laughing and that is something. No?)

Anonymous said...

Here to tell you that, yes, when you come to the Garden on Monday, there will be plenty to clean up.

The Botanical Garden and Conservatory of Flowers are closed today due to heavy winds and rain...

Good thing nobody is out there - large branches are falling left and right.

Two large ones have already fallen on the County Fair Building this morning, one missing F's office and the Garden Club room window by a few feet. It took out a large chunk of the Brugmansia that is growing on the back patio. Yikes! The whole building is shaking.

I should have brought a helmet to work today ;-)

chuck b. said...


My whole house is shaking and making strange sounds. So far we have power and the garage hasn't flooded. It looks like giants are shaking all the trees. I should take a video. I've been hearing police and fire sirens all morning.

The kitties don't know what to think. They're alternately sleeping, or looking at me like "WTF?"

Meanwhile, I'm kinda bored. I want to go for a walk, but I'm afraid a falling tree or power line might kill me.

lisa said...

Man...weather can be a mean bitch, eh? I really like that bush growing out of the tree...amazing how it still manages to get enough nutrients. I wonder if it's a naturally parasitic-type bush, or did it become that way from the circumstances? Can all plants do this under the right conditions? I mean, the bush is too high in the tree to possibly be rooted in the ground, so it must be diverting nutrients from the tree, right? Heh, you might even say that the germinating bush seeds were facing "doom", but found a way around it! Lesson for the rest of us?

chuck b. said...

Thanks for letting me know. I can fix that! Apparently, the default is no pop-up. I don't notice these things because I'm not an end-user.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Hang in there Chuck! (I mean that literally - you guys have been wind blasted.) I so enoy looking at pics of plants on yucky days like today. I don't grow Kniphofia, but I love your photos of it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I enjoyed the guys' philosophical musings on doom this morning. But Chuck, I hope the weather is not feeling end-of-the-worldish in San Francisco right now.

Anonymous said...

i don't want to come off as a masochist, but there can ofttimes be more knowledge gained from embracing a bit of doom than shunting it. that is, as long as one doesn't let it take over. for whatever reason, it is a side that most people do not let themselves experience. as a result, they may miss things like the dramatic shadows cast by houseplants in power-outage-inspired candlelight; the way an outdoor lamp appears to be surrounded by a pale and very jagged halo when the rain is at its heaviest; or how the desciduous trees jettison their autumn leaves, sending them forth to traverse the gray-green sky as they will, when tornado-like winds come swirling in; et cetera. Also, when you live with doom for a bit, the undoom seems to possess a magnified brightness.
hopefully my two cents make sense.
i look forward to reading more posts.