Wednesday 2 July 2008: Cloudburst


A sudden torrent of rain took us by surprise.  Our umbrella clothesline, newly transplanted from Krum and hung with several washer-loads of clothes, keeled over like a felled tree.  Happily, the clothes fell on clean grass.


Daniel’s MP3-playing stereo and alarm clock did not fare so well.  After the rain we discovered that the roof in his porch room leaks.  (It’s too bad about the stereo.  Daniel received it at as a gift at a karate Shiai, a three-times-yearly event at which students demonstrate what they’ve learned and possibly receive promotions; Kyoshi Robert Kristensen makes sure that every junior student who attends a Shiai receives a gift.)  A library book got a thorough dousing as well.  Daniel started drying it in front of a fan right away; we may have to pay for some damages, but the book ought to be quite usable.


Richard and Sheila left after lunch.  Now that we live in Kingsbury, we are two hours away from them instead of three.


After they drove away, we went out to the land where we intend to build, and just walked around.  Ann suggested this place as a building site years ago when we started seriously planning to move south.  If I recall correctly, two houses have stood there; one of them burned, and the other sort of fell apart.  A family named Burns lived there before Greg’s grandfather bought the property, and then a lady whose name I don’t remember, and then a hired man and his wife.  The hired man believed that that location was the best on the whole farm for gardening, and he did always have a good, productive garden.


Unfortunately, the site now contains a lot of junk:  metal, glass, and just plain trash.  But the road doesn’t flood, and after nine years of coping with Krum’s sticky black clay, I find the prospect of sandy loam very attractive.


The area around the gate is overgrown with lots of herbage, some of which looks an awful lot to me like poison ivy.  Greg doesn’t want to believe it is.  I could be wrong, but I think I’m right.  Neither of us has ever reacted to poison ivy before, but according to what I’ve read, this does not mean we are immune.  On the contrary:  the more times you have been exposed, the more likely you are to get a rash, because the toxin builds up in your system.  Some people are so sensitive that they break out after only one exposure.


I knew we were bound to run into poison ivy sooner or later on the land, so before we moved I stocked up on plantain and jewelweed from The Bulk Herb Store, which Shoshanna Pearl Easling says make a terrific remedy.  Still, I would prefer to avoid the noxious plant altogether.


Our goal today was to figure out where to plant our garden.  Heading west from where the vanished houses used to stand, we suddenly emerged from the brush and grass into a big rectangular area, almost entirely clear of mesquites, and retaining some of an old barbed-wire fence.  Greg said, “I think we’ve found the old garden site.”  (Ann later confirmed this.)  South of the garden site was another open area in which we could envision an orchard.  Inspired, we went home and got out our copy of Neil Sperry’s Complete Guide to Texas Gardening.


Recently someone posted some citrus trees to sell on Craig’s List, and that got us talking.  I have long desired to grow some citrus for home use.  Of course the trees are too cold-sensitive to be grown on a large scale around here; even in the Rio Grande Valley, where I grew up, citrus farmers suffered periodic crop losses whenever temperatures would drop below freezing.  (I well remember the drama of the infrequent cold snaps, listening to local weather people keep track of the temperature as it hovered in the low thirties.)  But individual trees can be grown quite nicely, provided they are well wrapped in freezing weather, which even here occurs infrequently.  Some people even keep the trees in containers, and move them to a garage or other shelter when temperatures drop.  It is one thing to protect a whole orchard against a freeze, and quite another to take care of two or three trees.  People do it in far colder climates than ours.


Greg continued to read Neil Sperry while I did other things.  He examined the zone map and studied the chapter on fruits; and he kept talking about the citrus trees.  It seemed that he was against the idea of keeping any, because of their cold sensitivity.  I explained again about the containers and about wrapping the trees in plastic, but Greg resisted to a degree I found unreasonable.  He was almost pleading with me to abandon the whole notion.  Finally I realized that he didn’t understand that I wanted only a few trees.  He thought I wanted a whole citrus orchard south of the garden and intended to raise the fruit as a cash crop.  My remarks about the containers only confused him further, giving him a mental image of a field of potted trees, standing in orchard rows, which our family would lug to a garage in case of freezing weather.  Daniel, listening in, also misunderstood, and had harrowing visions of midnight smudge fires as described in Edward Bloor’s excellent book, Tangerine.


It is always disconcerting to realize someone has spent the last several minutes thinking you are a complete numbskull.  Daniel and Greg were both relieved to find out what I really meant.  Greg should have known better, as I have spoken before about keeping a couple of citrus trees for personal use.

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