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Winter Gardening by the Fire

 Winter Gardening may seem an oxymoron. But I consider it to be just as pleasurable as handling the summer soil. After pruning trees, planting bulbs, and cleaning up yard debris, essentially putting my garden to bed for the winter, I do my winter gardening while I delve through landscaping books and seed catalogs. I examine my memories, contemplate last year's results, and anticipate next year's plans. I realize the mistakes, and dream of new possibilities. Winter gardening is a lot like having good dreams. This year is strikingly different because of the wildfires we‘ve had this year. My family members, living in Southern California were threatened by the fires right down to evacuating. Fortunately none lost homes. I had ash on car, windows and plants. I could look in any direction and see large billows of smoke, like storm clouds angrily climbing the nearby mountains. I had to increase my asthma medicine four-fold and keep myself locked in the house, or leave town.

 So in the winter, snuggled warmly on my chaise, listening to the cacophony of rain pouncing on the roof and crickly flames safely dancing in the fire place, I envision the spring garden, and ponder. Will the effects of the fires cause permanent damage to local landscapes? I remember the air clogged with smoke. If it made my own breathing difficult, what was the effect upon the green environment? Did the ash that fell like snow carpeting the earth, seep strange chemicals into the soil of my gardens making it too acid or alkaline? Or poison?

What about the landscape of the wild lands? Without roots to hold the soil, erosion results, which equals mudslides or uncontrolled flooding when it rains. Most of the winter here the weather is rainy. What about the fire retardants released from airplanes to smother the fires? What kind of toxic soup is brewing in the rushing rivulets flushing mud down to the shores? I want to tell myself, it can't be that bad, at least not here. Southern California had it worse I tell myself. Why am I brooding?

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