Yesterday, we had a full day planned from riding around the tulip fields in Mount Vernon to gardening. The weather, however, had other plans.

With optimism, comfy clothes (no skintight bike shorts and matching shirts for us since we need to keep up our bumpkin image), and our bikes secured to the bike rack on Rich’s truck, we set out for a community park near the Skagit Airport. The weather was iffy with dark skies and an occasional raindrop. Nevertheless, we headed east on a country road.

It was a pleasant 15 minutes of pedaling, looking at tractors and farm hands busy in the fields; tidy houses with mowed lawns, flower beds, and vegetables gardens waiting to be planting; and a few horses, cows, and sheep.

Noticing a white llama, Rich shouted at me to stop. I rode over to a fenced field and watched the llama gallop to the fence, followed by two large, un-sheared sheep. Llamas are herd animals and no doubt, the sheep were part of his flock.

This was an extraordinary llama. Not only was he very curious, but frisky – running up to us, snorting, then bounding away only to sprint back to us a moment later. Sporadically, one of the sheep would get into the action, running after the llama.

The llama was particularly intrigued by my white helmet and couldn’t resist eating grass from Rich’s hand.

After getting our fill of the llama, we jumped back on our bikes, just in time for the rain to start. We pedaled madly back to the truck then waited, hoping the storm would pass. After the drops slowed, we decided to bike the opposite direction. After a few minutes, it became clear, however, that a few raindrops become many when you’re biking. In addition, wet clothes aren’t comfortable.

Once we got back to Mount Vernon, we changed our clothes and launched into the project-of-the-day, planting the High Country Xeric Aroma Garden in our front side yard. I’ve spent the 4-5 weeks clearing two layers of impermeable black plastic landscape fabric, ivy, junipers, weeds, and rocks from this area. Underneath the plastic was mazes of tunnels, dug by moles. While the plastic kept the moles dry and insulated, it prevented anything from putting out deep roots. The few plants that were growing had long roots that stretched across horizontally outward from the plant instead of straight down.

You can see the garden to the right, moments after we put in the last of the plants. The one remaining plant, the large azalea with the red flowers, should start to do better (i.e. it’s leaves will be more green then greenish yellow) now that it’s roots can grow down instead of across the plastic. In the foreground is one of our fabulous, 30-year old rhododendrons.

We also planted the pea pods and peas we’ve been growing from seed in our new raised beds. This week, we’ll be getting vegetable starts from a local community college, which has a horticulture program.

And we’re pleased to see that our potatoes are sprouting in our potato bin. It’s so easy and fulfilling to plant potatoes. You simply buy the potato starts from a local feed/country store. A day or two before you plan on planting, you cut the potatoes into large chunks, leaving an eye or two in each chunk. You then create layers of soil, mulch (can even be shredded newspaper) and the potatoes chunks. I have 7-8 layers of potatoes in my bin.

You then keep the bin moist. The potatoes will put out green shoots that pop out of the holes in the bin and from the top. After several months, you can start to harvest the potatoes (new potatoes) or wait until last summer (August/September) when you open the bin (it’s held together with bolts and wingnuts) and harvest a bounty of larger potatoes.

I planted six varieties of potatoes… and no, you’re not supposed to cram so many potatoes into one bin, but I got carried away!

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