It has been eight years now since it first happened. The constant evolution of space and time in the garden of snails and squirrels allowed me to expand my web of relationships with life. The first day, I don't remember if i actually took stock of my backyard as it stood. I was 17 years old. I had just moved on up to a nearby enclave. "The Cheviot Hills California Country Club Estates" was a fairly tale island of Stepfordesque proportions, named after a developers contest picked the name "Cheviot Hills" and British theme of street names. The neighborhood was once a Spanish Land Grant Rancho, and for a short stint, a golf course, was built in the 50's on a platform that it constantly aimed to pitch itself as a step above every other neighborhood in the immediate area including Palms, Mar Vista and Beverly Wood. The one edible thing on the property was a lemon tree that was hanging over the fence of an adjacent property. Other than that a fine sample of poisonous and exotic mid-century horticultural nightmare. Thorny bougainvillea, rodent dominated ivy, the sappy mess of giant bird of paradise and heavenly bamboo, (not a real bamboo) and the worst canopy tree, the ficus. Above ground, ficus harbor crows, squierrels, below grounds the destructive roots break pipes and sidewalks. A diverse group of animals inhabit the hills of cheviot such as the coyote, raccoon, opossum, crow, sparrow, hummingbird, parrot, duck, squirrel, rat, mice, lizard and an abundance of insect critters were the primary players in this ecosystem. Many of them lived on site, or in the nearby sewer drains, golf courses, freeway underpasses and basements of the area. In the house and yard (and somewhat beyond for brief periods) lived a canine, (owen) contributing feces, urine and fur mostly on the back side of the guest house, and a feline (boo) contributing the same on a smaller, more discrete scale. This area is also where things like urbanite, planters, mulch bags, straw bales and garden tools and fertilizer concoctions were kept, in an area about 3 feet wide.
The design parameters have changed about five hundred times, a wide range of species have been encouraged, cultivated, tolerated and contained. This can also be seen as a Venn diagram with these overlapping themes. The original banana was planted near the guest house, so it could be picked from the flat roof, which could be reinforced for a rooftop garden, passive and active solar panels, ovens and dishes. It could be a great place for summer fossil free bbq. Other flora I have tried to include both things that are expensive at markets or just unavailable. Things that you wouldn't see in a neighbors yard. I have taken note of some of the fruit trees in the neighborhoods where i grew up, and everyday I find new trees. Typical fruit trees like avocado, oranges, lemons, loquats, kumquat, blackberries, apples, apricots, plums, grapes, peaches and bananas. A much wider exotic variety exists on a lesser obvious note, (papaya, mulberries, guavas, macadamia nuts, pomegranates)in public and private areas. For over story trees, I have let the volunteer peruvian pepper tree colonize along the fence among the vines. I planted a pear tree that will be ready for grafting soon, a passion fruit vine, a kiwi vine (male and female), chayote, raspberries, blackberries, three large artichoke plants, a suriname cherry, elderberry, pineapple guava and loquat. In the front yard, I have put in more bananas, two dwarf tangerines, a nectarine, low chill cherry, pakistani mullberry, strawberry guava, hawaiian kona coffee bushes, allspice and an apricot tree have encroached their way into the stagnant landscape of suburbia. Most of the trees were planted close enough to be picked from the sidewalk.
I manned the jackhammer for days on end into steel reinforced concrete, every last foot provides space for food, animals, medicine, fibers, and wood for small projects, snacks and barbecues. Once the concrete had been plowed and sculpted to the flow path of my zones and sectors of influence, I had set into motion a modest yet powerfully change. Long before Craig's list had a farm and garden page, I was perusing from cheap and free plants, mulch and stones. I happened to find a gold finger banana tree for $5-15 dollars US. In small, lesser known suburb of sprawling West Los Angeles, it is rare for the person to be three blocks away when communicating over the internet. The banana sat in the shaded corner of the patio pre-construction for about a year. It grew about two inches and shrunk maybe three. Once I planted it in a better solar location, in deep, rich soil and organic compost with mulch, it has grown to a height of about twelve feet in less than 2 years.
Some of the other pest that are usually tolerated cross a threshold that demands immediate action to prevent further damage. It is best to gather all the interested parties into one area to determine the best outcome. In a recent snail infestation, I began to study the snails in my area. I had been fascinated with them since childhood. My grandmother even made me a snail birthday cake one year. Oddly convenient to find that the common garden snail of California was brought here as an immigrant (by immigrants chefs) of the gold rush era as a delicacy to be fed to wealthy miners who struck it rich.
Today the fauna were in an uproar over the heat wave. The resident squirrel came into my room for the first time, brave soul. When I emerged in the late morning, there were two hummingbirds perched on the line to our house, enganged in a uproar of clickety chatter. The usual large black carpenter bees that live in the wood fence were present at their favorite yellow flower vines I have yet to identify. The parasitic wasp was having a feast of aphids and grubs on the late season brussell sprouts, and I was enjoying the raspberries with the honey bees placidly browsing the white flowers that they turn in to berries. Soon the herbs, raspberries and lettuce will all be in arms reach of my favorite outdoor reading spot, and I will eat the raspberries while laying down and reading. it's even better than being fed grapes.