What’s your COVID-19 project? The stay-at-home order issued in March released a flood of DIY projects across the valley and beyond. Here in the valley, I have seen projects range from homemade mountain bike trails, patios, bathroom remodels, expanded gardens, tree houses, animal husbandry like ducks and chickens, to new puppies and kittens. Our project was (and still is) a backyard pond. We are still working out the kinks, and like any DIY project, it hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as the YouTube videos would suggest.
First off, we had a hard time sourcing pond liner locally. Second, we needed a power source to run the filter pump. We invested in a small-scale solar set-up that works great when it’s sunny. But if you have noticed, June was rather cloudy and our pond went from crystal clear to brown to green. We’ve incorporated plants and now we are trying to manage the mosquito larvae so we don’t have a really nasty hatch as the weather warms up. The process is an evolving laboratory of aquatic life and each day offers an opportunity for observing nature do its thing.
Gardening so far this year has been better than most thanks to the stay at home order. In particular, the cooler temperatures in June have extended cold weather crops like lettuce and peas, and I have grown the biggest and best broccoli heads yet!
Now that school is out and summer is in full swing, gardening chores are a daily practice. Social distancing has become even more difficult during the summer as the nuclear family barbeque just doesn’t quite hit the mark. And now the uptick in cases across the nation is a testament to the social challenge we are all facing. Thank goodness its summer and we can be outside, at a distance, or find places to escape from the media and forget about COVID-19 for a millisecond.
I have found, as usual, delight in the wild bouquet of wildflowers in the mountains and weekly escapes into the hills have been a lifeline for our family. Each week, we venture a little higher to witness the bloom advance up the slopes. Flowers are fabulous anywhere from about 2,500-4,500 feet elevation right now, where the last of the balsamroot and lupine can still be found intermingled. My favorite flower this spring has been the small bitterroot relative, Lewisia Columbiana.
The Columbian lewisia appears on rocky outcrops and ridgelines with shallow soils in the full sun. It is common on ridgelines in the mid-elevation slopes. The base of the plant looks like a succulent of bright green spikes, almost like a mini aloe vera plant. The eight-petaled delicate flowers sit atop a slender stem that stands 6-12 inches from the ground. Each bundle sends up multiple, notched stems with pinkish flowers. At closer examination, each petal is distinctly striped, reminiscent of that old-fashioned candy-striped chewing gum. The sweetness of this flower is in its delicate, fine texture. When in mass on exposed outcrops and ridges, it creates a blanket of foam-like pink froth awash the ridges where it lingers.
As social distancing continues into the summer, I’ll share updates on COVID-19 DIY projects from around the valley and showcase a weekly flower. Please feel free to share your COVID-19 DIY project with me!