Fury Road and Arrival: Underrated and Mindbending


This last week I watched a couple of films that I think have gotten some critical attention, and success, but are still underrated. And, for me, kind of mind-blowing. But, maybe I’m thinking too much.

Okay, first of all, both of these films were nominated for Oscars. Fury Road won 6 of the 10 for which it was nominated! Arrival only won a single gold statue but garnered 8 nominations. So, it’s a bit stretched to say these were underrated films. I’m not suggested people didn’t realize these were good films. Obviously they did. Arrival has made nearly $200 million dollars worldwide on a $50 million budget and Fury Road made nearly twice that! No, these films have critical acclaim and lots of tickets sold. To me, what’s underrated is what each film managed to do and discuss in the course of their narratives. Namely, Fury Road honestly should make no sense whatsoever but, it’s completely coherent and even appears to be a relentless action film high on style but low on meaning. And, Arrival wants you to think of it as science fiction film but is much more of a meditation on the nature of our existence, our place in the cosmos, and how we think about the world and perceive it. Both of these films should leave you asking yourself about your place in the world, the universe, and society. What is civilization? How did we get here? Where are we going? And… why?

Why?

It’s the question that starts it all. We have been asking “Why?” since we learned to ask questions at all. Why is the sky blue? Why are there so many stars? Why does it rain? Sit down with a three year old and get ready. Every declaration you make will inevitably be met by the interrogatory “Why?” from the toddler.

“You need to eat your vegetables.” “Why?”

“We don’t hit our friends.” “Why?”

“Let’s put on clean clothes.” “Why?”

And so on. You just can’t answer enough times. There is always another why. But, it seems like as we get older, we stop asking why. At some point we just accept it. It is, that’s why.

So, Arrival has one answer to “why.” Because that’s the way we think and the way we think is predicated upon the language we speak. I’m going to try not to spoil the movie but if you haven’t watched either film yet, it would be a good idea to do that before reading the rest of this essay. Arrival uses the science fiction film to make us think about how we think and speak. It gets taken for granted. Most of us never think about the words we use and why we use them. And, it probably never occurs to most people at all to consider how our language, the diction, the syntax, is actually a framework for how we look at the world. We have all heard the (false) story of how the native Inuit people have 20 words for snow. It sort of makes sense that if your entire world is snow then you might have a more intimate relationship with snow and need more descriptive words for it than the one.

On the other hand, we have one word, “love” to describe a range of feelings. I love ice cream. I love my wife. I love heavy metal music. I love the smell of sage on summer mornings. I love my kids. All of these feelings but only one word.

Arrival uses the idea that a language you use changes the way you think. As a result of learning the alien language, the main character, Louise (played by Amy Adams) sees the world in a very different way and is able to save the day. But, the part of this film that blew my mind is it is also asking us to consider if we really understand fate versus free will. The predominant philosophy today is that we have free will. Even if you believe that God has a plan for you, you probably think that you have a choice to follow that plan or not. Few would say that our lives are predestined and we are going to fulfill our destiny no matter what. We, especially, Americans, like to see ourselves of agents of our own destiny. We can do what we want, be what we want.

But, Arrival asks us to consider: what if we don’t really fundamentally understand time and as a result, we don’t understand our place in the cosmos?  I have an amateur understanding of physics, basic and incomplete. I once read a book written by Michio Kaku called Hyperspace in which he tried to explain higher dimensions. Paraphrasing, because it has been many years since I read it, he gave the example of 2 dimensional beings who live on a sheet of paper. They might conceptually understand a third dimension. But, they wouldn’t be able to perceive it. Or, fish, living in water, might not really be able to understand the world on the other side of the surface of water, even though they can see some of it,

Is this what time is like? What if you could fold time like a piece of paper? We see time as linear experience, moving from the past to now into the future. But, what if that’s only because we are limited in our perception of time? And what if it’s because of the words we use? Our language is actually very much predicated on this understanding of time. We have verb tenses based on time, the past, present, and future.  Our very words indicate time and it is impossible to speak about almost anything without also defining time. The ball is red. The sun was hot. The boy will be here. Every complete sentence has a verb and every verb specifies a time. So, our very language structures our thinking about time as a linear, one way experience.

What if our language is actually limiting our experience of the world?

The other thing that occurred to me watching the film is how utterly alone we must be in the universe. Or, maybe we should hope we are. It’s comical to me, but scary, that the film explores the idea of what it would be like if aliens suddenly arrived. This has been done over and over. War of the Worlds, Independence Day, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, The Day theEarth Stood Still, and more. The story usually varies between the good aliens that have come in peace and want to help us, or the evil aliens here to destroy us and we have to fight them. If there are other advanced civilizations and if one does show up here, we better hope that they are the peaceful, helpful aliens. The truth is, if aliens were to visit us now, or in the next 1,000 years, I have to think that their technology will be so far advanced from ours that they will be essentially gods to us and we could only cower, grovel, and depend upon an advanced sense of ethics to go along with their advanced tech allowing them to travel the vast distances of space.

I regularly will reflect upon the distances in the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe. Interstellar travel is impossible. Or, it is if our understanding of physics doesn’t change in the future. People used to think a human being would die if they ever traveled on a train going over 30 mph. People wondered if humans would be able to survive the forces of air travel or going into space. Go back 20 years and tell someone that they will carry around the internet in their hand, using a computer the size of a candy bar, with a touchscreen, wirelessly connected to every other networked computer in the world, and they will think you are talking about science fiction. They might even say, “what’s an internet?” My first home computer in 1987 has 20 megabytes of hard disk space. That’s insane. I carry around a USB flash drive with twice that much and it cost me under $10!

To say something like “interstellar space travel is impossible” feels a bit foolish if only because it displays a hubris that we know all there is to know about the universe. In fifty years, much can change. In 100 years we may be seen as barbarians in much the same way a Civil War doctor seems like a butcher for hacking off limbs off left and right that today a doctor would save. But, what would it take to change the situation? What would make interstellar travel possible? We would need some way of dealing with vast time, and space, or both, in order to travel anywhere beyond our solar system. Time, itself, is a kind of distance. It is a measurement of the distance from one moment to the next. But, unlike other distances, we see only one direction to travel in time.

I have no clue how, or if, we will be able to do this. Will we learn to manipulate spacetime such that distances become inconsequential? Instead of traveling through space, we travel around it. I don’t know. Right now, it’s impossible. So, if any aliens were to show up in giant ships and they want our planet, then we will just have give it to them because fighting them would be like Seal Team Six fighting a tribe that has lived isolated in the Amazon for centuries. It won’t even be close.

Mad Max: Fury Road is utter madness. It is also utter genius. What other film is like it? Is it a Western? A Fantasy? A Science Fiction film? Mindless action thriller? It’s all of that. I’ve watched this film several times and, on one hand, it’s completely bizarre to think about the world of this film. The setting is our future, it appears. Or, a future. But, it looks like our world but also not our world. Those look like our cars and trucks and motor bikes. The technology looks familiar. They have crossbows, leather, spears, hand grenades, and machine guns. One of the characters tells his machine gun, “Sing brother Koch!,” a reference to the brand Heckler and Koch. The war boys chant “V-8! V-8! V-8!” We have heard of the V-8 engine. We know what that is.

Yet, you have to ask, what the hell happened to get them to that point? And who lives that life and is okay with it? Those characters all appear to live in a world of constant stress, constant flight or fight, constant trauma. And maybe the worst thing is that no one seems to think anything is abnormal. Oh, water is rationed? But, you’re going to pour it out on the ground in a giant wasteful cascade? Okay. You wear a respirator with a skull face all of the time? Sure. Someone affixes a skull logo to your codpiece for you after someone else blows powder onto your festering, scared back? Yes, that’s reasonable. Or, what kind of outlook on life do you have if you take a prisoner and make him into a literal bag of blood for you? What kind of value do you put on humanity if you think it’s okay to make people live their lives with metal cages on their face? Or their genitals (the wives of Immortan Joe wore chastity belts that looked like gaping mouths filled with steel teeth). All of the world says life is cheap and that existence is brutal and short.

But, that’s not even the most mind blowing thing, to me. That George MIller had this vision and put it on screen represents a remarkable achievement. But, the fact that it makes sense is the craziest thing of all. Why do we watch it and buy into any of the madness? Why don’t we reject it for the fever dream it is? Shiny and chrome? Witness me!? We look at the skulls, the wives, the strange masks all of the bad guys are wearing, and we accept it! What in this film is coherent and familiar enough to make it palatable to us?

Fury Road at once seems futuristic and anachronistic and medieval. It takes the fascism of Nazism and combines it with the brutal warfare of the Middle Ages. It is a perfect amalgam of genres that is the specific domain of post-modernism. Hand to hand combat with blades, crossbows, saws, knives, and spears gives us that medieval anesthetic as do the armors, the “cavalry” of the car chases. But, the guns and explosives make us think of the modern action film, the war film, and even the Western. The desert setting must be a deliberate allusion to Monument Valley and the classic Westerns. Max Rockatansky makes sense to us because his anti-hero character resonates with Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” and Dirty Harry.

Is it a heist film? Furiosa is stealing Immortan Joe’s prize possessions, his breeding wives. Is it a quest film? A love story? Will Max and Furiosa learn to trust and to love and redeem the world of it’s hate? No, he’s leaving. He’s not going to help fix the world, he’s going to disappear into the wilderness again, just like the High Plains Drifter. Maybe it’s like a pirate film. The war boys and Joe seem to have a pirate culture and instead of ships, it’s cars and trucks. Instead of an ocean, it’s a giant expanse of sand and sun. Look at the “pole cat” warboys who swing on giant poles to attack other trucks and cars. It clearly echoes the way pirates would swing from rigging ropes to board enemy ships.

The reason that the gibbering instantly of Fury Road makes any sense at all to us is because it combines, cutting and pasting familiar elements of multiple genres. But, the true genius of the film is that it does it so well and still remains introspective and thoughtful.

Wait, the film with a guy strapped to bungee cords and playing random heavy metal power chords atop a super custom rig that has the sole purpose of driving him around with amps all while flames shoot out of the end of the guitar is thoughtful?

I think so, because the film seems to question culture itself. Why do we do what we do? How do we build culture? What do you have to go through to get to a place where reality is as depicted in Fury Road? Another reason that Fury Road makes sense is because Miller has clearly thought about this world and has created a mythology, a history, and there is depth there. A common criticism of post-modernism is the lack of heart and emotion. Fury Road threatens to go there. The nihilistic cult of Immortan Joe, woven of threads of death and destruction, and itself a pastiche, equal parts Viking myths (Valhalla), Christianity (water symbolism, the savior of the people, etc.), and NASCAR.

The film asks us to consider where our culture is taking us. Do we blindly follow our leader? Or, are we fighting for freedom? Are we victimizing others in order to enrich ourselves? Maybe it isn’t important exactly what “killed the world” in Fury Road as it is important to ask ourselves how far we are to making it possible. Are we killing the world? Are we worshipping death? Are we treating human life as worth only what we can take from it?

Both films ask the audience to consider the fundamental things that make us who we are, our language and our culture. What makes us do what we do? Here were are, rotating on a small rocky planet inside of an outer arm of relatively average sized galaxy, one of millions? Billions? Trillions? Do we even know how many galaxies there are? And, there we are, tiny little people, mere specks of dust when scaled against the cosmos, and we think what we do is sensible and obvious. But is it? Why do we do the things we do? We build houses, walls, fences, and lock the door at night. We used to live much closer together for safety but not now. Is that better? By what metric would we judge? Here we are, on this tiny planet, floating through a hostile vacuum of space, making up the rules as if we know what we are doing.

Why does anything we do make sense? Why are we not howling insanities at the skies above us all night long as we stare into the existential crisis that is interstellar space? How can we look into the blackness above us and not be utterly disturbed by how insignificant we really are in the face of it all. Part of the reason is because we don’t think about it. And, the other reason is that it doesn’t matter. Does it? All we have is ourselves and our lives here. What can we do in the face of such insignificance and powerlessness? Nothing. Or, rather, we can’t change that, so we create significance. Try to find “the green place” for each of us. Live with respect for the humanity in each of us. Try to see life from someone else’s point of view. Try to speak their language so you can truly understand them. Find love in the desert. Love someone even though you know they will one day leave you.

Live in the incoherence. Dwell amid the insanity. And, try not to be mediocre.

Rows of gold

I love this shot because it shows the poppies lining my walkway all the way back. Below the Showy Penstemon is a monkeyflower bush. And there are still more flowers to bloom this season!

Spectacular Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis)

It may not seem like it looking at these photos, but I actually have had trouble keeping Penstemon spectabilis alive. I’m am almost sure the problem is too much water. I mean, they look lush and as if they want water. But, I don’t think so.

I took these shots this morning because I liked how vibrant the color was with the sunlight slanting in behind them. The time of day makes the flowers seem to glow! Then I took a couple close-ups because the flowers are so interesting to look at.

Plus, knowing me, I’ll kill this one soon overwatering it.

I planted this penstemon in Fall of 2016. So it has been in my garden for just about a year a half. It was very small when I bought it, probably six to eight inches. It is now pretty close to 4 feet tall, I’d guess now.

Showy Penstemon at Las Pilitas

Resurrection?

The plant with the blue flowers looks an awful lot like the Foothill Penstemon, Margarita BOP. But, the thing is, I was pretty sure it had died. Yet, here it is, blooming amid yellow wild flowers.

I don’t always remove dead plants. It’s not a plan. I just don’t feel like it all the time. This is the second “dead plant” that has seemingly come back to life. So, some plants can keep living in their roots and re-emerge when conditions are right.

It’s good to see it, regardless. Those are some pretty flowers.

Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus)

I got a few packets of wildflower seeds from my favorite nursery, Grow Native at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens in Claremont. This lupine is from those seeds. I only had poppies last year. I’m enjoying watching the wildflowers grow this year.

Part of my plan is that these wildflowers will help crowd out weeds. It has been a struggle to eliminate weeds from the garden. There was a time when the entire yard was all weeds. I have tried using mulch and removing weeds by hand. I will admit to using some Round Up but it’s difficult to use around my plants.

Wildflowers should help by both crowding out the weeds and also by helping establish the underground microorganisms that feed the native plants.

In the meantime, they are beautiful to see.

Baby White Sage Sneaks In

Above, you’ll notice the very large White Sage (Salvia apiana) at top left. It’s about 5′ tall. When the flower wands sprout, it will touch 7′. But look down and toward the center. In the bottom right corner is a California Golden Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Just above and to the left is another smaller White Sage. Two branches sticking up about a foot or two. I didn’t plant that sage. I’m assuming it is an offspring of the larger plant there! And if you look closely to the right of he larger sage, there is a Penstemon centranthifolius (or eatonii, I’m not sure which it is) that has also sprouted there.

I love that new plants are growing in the garden that I didn’t plant myself. I take that as a sign that things are going well for those plants.

Spring: 2018: Back in the garden

A friend suggested posting something each day, even if it wasn’t much. I am going to try something similar. I have been very interested and amazed to see the changes in my garden. Spring brings on new growth, blooms, and color. And this is the third year many of my plants have been in the garden.

First they sleep, Next they creep. Third they leap!

This is, I am told, an old adage among gardeners and has mostly been true in my experience with this garden. Most of my plants barely grew at all the first year. Little buds here and there.

So, this being the third Spring, I’m seeing some good growth in many places.

I’ll try, if nothing else , to post a picture and a sentence or two about it. At least 3 per week. More if possible. Why? I don’t know. Why not?

I had some physical limitations get the best of me over the winter. I’m limited in some activities, like lifting heavy objects or bending over. That makes garden chores more difficult. Or expensive. It cost me $60 for my son to help me weed this month. I don’t mind paying him. He’s doing a lot of work and he does well at school. So, he deserves some pay. I could not have done it without him.

Please enjoy these pictures from my garden in the last week.

California Poppy “‘Mahogany Red” from seed.

Below is my stream area. White Sage, Upright Rosemary, California Morning Glory, some succulents, Jelly Bean succulent, Firesticks, and some other succulents. I’m not so knowledgeable about the succulents, I admit.

Above, a wide shot of my garden showing my California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum. There’s a big bunch up front, behind that, and another to the right. Up front is also Penstemon “Margarita BOP”, some black sage, white sage, Bee’s Bliss sage, ceonothus, manzanita.

Below, Penstemoncentranthifolius ScarletBugler with some buckwheat creeping behind it. I didn’t plant this. It grew from seed from another plant!

California Morning Glory Calystegia macrostegia and a California Golden Poppy.

Below, some wildflowers from seed I got from Grow Native nursery at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens. Also, I think there’s a Margarita BOP penstemon at the bottom. I swear I thought that thing died. Note to self: ignoring plants seems to help them live after a point.

Above, lupine, monkeyflower, poppy.

Below, a black sage with blue flowers (all my other black sage plants have white flowers), poppy, and California Sagebrush.

Fall Planting Season is Here!

On October 21st, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden’s nursery, the Grow Native Nursery, and my favorite place to buy plants, had their annual Fall Planting Festival. As a member, I got to go in at 8 a.m. with other members and pick out plants early.

I had done my research. I lost a good number of plants this summer. I lost four “Winnifred Gilman” Cleveland Sages, several White Sages, a couple Penstemons, all four or five sticky monkey flower plants, a “Canyon Sparkles” manzanita, and a Desert Willow. I might have left some out, but that’s what I’m remembering now.

My research was to find the plants that are not only native to California, but native to the same kind of area in which I live. The site for Las Pilitas is a treasure trove of information. There, I learned that my area is a Chaparral plant community. I had previously thought it was Coastal Sage Scrub because Las Pilitas said my zip code was in that area. But, I live in the “Inland Empire” a region characterized by heat and wind and little rainfall. We are in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains but my elevation is about 1500 feet.

So, although this might be a Coastal Sage Scrub area, the heat and wind means the plants need to be able to put up with all of that. And, as I look at the areas of land that aren’t developed, it most resembles a Chaparral area. The Coastal Sage Scrub (CSS) is a cooler area. And, the plants get a significant amount of fog that drips on them and is a source of moisture, while the Chaparal plants have to deal with more heat and little to no fog. The Chaparral community gets around 15 inches of rain per year, maybe slightly more than that.

Plants staged for installation. There’s two white oaks (for the front yard), deer grass, california sunflowers, a desert willow, and monkey flower

Accordingly, I used Las Pilitas to find plants that do well in that environment. There’s some cross over between Coastal Sage Scrub and Chaparral among plants.

Some of my sages were good, Black sage and “Allen Chickering” sage for example. Ceanothus and many manzanitas are ok, too. Diplaucus monkey flowers are okay, but not Mimulus species. But there were some plants new to me that were suited to the Chaparral community such as Toyon, Coffeeberry, Lemondade berry, and flannel bush. I’m really looking forward to seeing those grow up. They are great for birds and we really enjoy having our winged friends in the yard. (We get visited by finches and sparrows (of course, probably the most common birds around here), but also mockingbirds, black phoebes, and hummingbirds. There’s also a big flock of pigeons. Recently, scrub jays have been coming around and I saw a Western Meadowlark.)

Salvia “Pozo Blue”; a Cleveland Sage cultivar introduced by Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens.

I tried hard to choose plants that deal well with heat and dry conditions. I made my list, considered where I would put such plants, and I picked out 47. It was a lot of plants. In fact, at checkout, I had no less than three people say, “Is this all one order?” Because it was unbelievable that one person would buy so many plants.

There seem to be two schools of thought, for planting California natives. One group says you should only plant when weather is cool as in Fall or Winter. Late fall is best. I agree with this. But Las Pilitas says you can plant all year long if you want to as long as you are willing to make accommodations for your plants, like watering them.

That being the case, I planted 19 last weekend. To me, it’s better to have a plant in the ground than in a plastic pot. But, disturbing the roots, as planting can do, is stressful to the plants. That’s why planting in the heat can be harder on them.

That weekend and the last week have been hot, though. Very hot. We went over 100 degrees a couple days in a row. And then the wind was awful, too. In fact, the weather was ugly all together. Heat, wind, and extremely low humidity. Also, the high pressure in the atmosphere kept the heat trapped. So, for several days in a row, the temperature didn’t drop below 85 degrees, even at night. Heat, low humidity, high wind, and no cooling at night? Brutal for new plants!

Finishing the corner, I planted California Wild Roses, Cherry Holly, and yarrow.
California Morning Glory, a vining plant. I’m really looking forward to it spreading across the wall and covering it with pink/white flowers.

Summer Refuses to Leave

Last year, I watched as a beautiful Grinnell’s Penstemon withered and died over a timespan of about two weeks. It had spread to about 3 feet wide since I planted it, starting from 6 inches high and barely five inches wide. It had bloomed during Spring and looked completely healthy and happy.

Until it didn’t.

The leaves all curled and it took on a sickly purplish color. Then it shriveled and dried up. It was dead. Had I watered it too much? Not enough? Was it getting too much shade? Too much sun? Did it get a disease from the soil? I had lots of guesses but no way of knowing what killed my penstemon. So, I contacted a graduate student who was working over at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden Grow Native Nursery and asked him what happened. I sent pictures and described as much as I could. His answer? No idea. He said, “If you can figure out why any plant dies then you have answered the million dollar question.”

I guess it makes me feel a little bit better that even someone with a formal education in gardening/botany can be as mystified as I am. But, it’s also a little bit frustrating. How are we supposed to keep our plants alive if even experts aren’t sure how to do that?

I’ve lost several plants this summer. Heat? Gophers? Disease? Too much water? I just don’t know. The casualties (so far, the summer ain’t over…) as of today: two penstemons, three monkeyflowers, a desert willow, a black sage, a ceonothus (that I moved after it sprouted from a seed dropped from another plant), two other ceonothus that I bought, a Jeffery pine, a couple of dudleyas, and a manzanita.

The weather is supposed to be cooling off. Today the high temperature was supposed to be 95. It’s currently 102 degrees in my yard as I write this. That’s hardly cooling off! Then again, we live in the Inland Empire, a region of heat, wind, blue skies and sunshine. And, I just read on my favorite weather blog, Weather West, this has been the hottest summer ever on record. It shouldn’t surprise me, I guess, that the summer just refuses to go away.

It’s a Wet Heat: Unusual Weather This Week

There’s been a bit of exciting weather this last week. And by exciting I mean different from what we usually get during this time of year. Normally it’s hot with clear skies, little to no wind, and humidity around 20%. Hot, dry, clear. Weeks go by with little variation other than if it will be 100 degrees, 105 degrees, 110 degrees, or merely 95 degrees.

Last week we had a couple of thunderstorms pass through! We had actual rain and actual lightning right here. Thunderstorms are pretty unusual in this vicinity. Thunderheads will develop over the mountains 20 miles, or more, to the north, or even further away to the east. Storm cells often form and pass through Temecula, Lake Elsinore, and out near Baker and Needles. They very rarely pass over the Fontana/Rialto/Rancho Cucamonga area. But, this last week we had two days where storms passed right over us, drenching the yard with .07 inches of precipitation. Oh, frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Then, we had four or five days of heat with temperatures over 100. Ugh. I’m so done with the heat. It’s hell on the younger plants and I’m forced to water, even when I don’t want to.

My current plan is to water only the youngest plants that were installed this last Fall every other day. Once exception is my Gambel Oak tree. It isn’t a California Native, but rather is from the Utah/Colorado area. It’s drought tolerant once established but it’s used to much more rain than we get normally here. Well, for that matter, my other two oak trees also usually grow in areas that get more rain, too. So, I have been watering the Gambel about three times a week and watering deeply. The Chrysolepis oak and the Wislenzeni oak both are being watered deeply once per week. Lo! And Behold! The Wislenzeni (aka Interior Live Oak) has sprouted new growth of several inches on multiple branches. The Canyon Live Oak (Chrysolepis) also typically gets much more rain but it has not sprouted new growth much recently. It’s sleeping, I guess.

Quercus wislenzeni (Interior Live Oak) getting some water.

Then, once per week, because it is so hot, I’m spraying the plants down and watering the older plants, too. Well, not the ceanothus plants. They get sprayed but not watered. They hate water, apparently.

The other thing I’m doing is trying to confuse the gophers. I have at least one gopher active in the yard right now. I want to catch him but it has been too hot and I’ve been too tired from work to get in the garden and dig so I can set traps. I think that the gophers are attracted by the water in the soil. So, when I water just the foot or two around a plant, it tells the gopher where the tasty roots are. So, instead, I’m watering much more broadly. The mulch is doing a pretty good job of limiting the weeds so I can water more areas in the yard. This way the soil is wet in a lot of places, not just where the new plants are. It seems to work somewhat. Last year gophers would dig up right where the young plants were, killing them. But, this year I’ve seen gopher mounds where there were no plants at all.

But, I’ve still lost five or six plants to the heat/gophers. Two ceonothus plants are dead and three monkey flowers plus a couple penstemons. I don’t like that. But, maybe that’s just how it goes in a garden. I once counted over 120 plants in my yard, not counting the vegetables in the raised beds. In that case, less than 1% of my plants died. I guess that’s pretty good. I’m still done with all of this heat, though.

An eclectic mind garden. Cultivate, prune, mulch, compost.