A Day in the Life of a Gardener

I’ve never particularly liked a-day-in-the-life-of-whatever blogs, either reading or writing them, but it’s finally dawning on me that’s what I do. I started out blogging about a day in the life of a writer, then went on to write about a day in the life of a griever. Later I blogged about a day in the life of a dancer, hiker, traveler, new homeowner.

And now, apparently, I am writing day-in-the-life-of-a-gardener blogs. Although I do things with my days other than garden, I can’t write about my job as a caregiver, because those hours belong to the client. Although I occasionally slip in a blog about the myriad books I’m reading, for the most part, when I close a book, that’s the end of it for me. I also spend way more time than might be good for me on a hidden object game, but it’s not interesting to talk about except perhaps to mention that I con myself into believing that the game is exercising my brain. (I tend to think it’s more ruinous for my eyes than good for my brain, but that’s what a con is — making one believe something that might not be true.)

So that leaves . . . gardening.

With that lead up, I’m sure you can guess what today’s blog is about. Yes, you guessed correctly — a day in the life of a gardener.

It’s not really that exciting a day, to be honest. The night never cooled off much, so it was already hot at daybreak, and the rising sun only added more heat to the day. Even though I was out early, I didn’t have much energy to do anything very arduous, so I watered my plants and then harvested the larkspur seeds that are ready. They are tiny things that look like poppy seeds, but luckily, they grow in a small pod that’s easy to get to. A lot of the seeds will fall wherever they will, but those I harvest will be strewn in strategic places in my yard next fall. The photo, of course, is the way the plants looked before they went to seed. It’s possible that after the seeds fall, I’ll have resurgence of flowers later in the summer.

Despite the ever-rising heat, I still managed to drag myself around the yard to take photos of the newest developments:

A white hollyhock next to the pink.

The latest blooms on the dahlia.

A few bachelor buttons that volunteered to grow in my yard.

And what might be the last cactus flower of the season.

I’m also starting to make a list of things that will need to be done in the fall besides plant the larkspur seeds, such as replant the New England aster. I notice there are several plants now where there once was but a single plant, and I’d like to spread them out. The photo is from last year. Because they are a fall-blooming flower, I won’t see any blossoms for a few more months.

It amazes me that I am starting to think of myself as a gardener. I’m really just a dilettante still, but with practice, I will become more expert. And then there will be more and prettier photos for my day-in-the-life-of-a gardener blogs.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Out on the Prairie

People who aren’t familiar with the diverse areas and ecosystems in Colorado are always surprised by how hot it can get. Admittedly, it’s cooler in the mountains, but out here on the prairie, a hundred miles from those chillier climes, it can get hot. No, not a lower case “hot,” but HOT!! Capital letters all the way. Today we will get in excess of 105 degrees, though at the moment, it’s rather pleasant. At least for me.

I have to work longer hours today, so I didn’t plan on doing any outside chores. I went out thinking to walk around and check on my various garden spots. Some plants seem to thrive in the desiccating heat, but others, even supposed sun-lovers, don’t like as much direct sun as they’ve been getting. We’re not as high as Denver out here, but we’re high enough to be considered high altitude, and with altitude comes searing heat. (Shade generally mitigates the heat, but with the shade comes stinging insects, so it’s a trade-off for me.) It’s because I don’t want to be seared by the sun that I wear long sleeves even on the hottest days — oddly, though it might look ridiculous, it’s also cooler because it gives protection from the sear. And, of course, it’s why I wear hats. I certainly don’t need to char what brains I still have.

All of this to say that although I wasn’t planning on spending any time outside, I had to water some of the plants that weren’t doing well in the heat. And because I wasn’t planning on being out long, I didn’t wear my permethrined gardening clothes, but instead I wore my go-to-work black pants and t-shirt, so I expect to be covered in mosquito bites tomorrow. But it’s worth it, I suppose, to keep my plants alive.

Although many plants are supposed to need full sun, I’ve noticed that even that flora does well with a bit of shade, though there are some that do well regardless.

Among the plants that seem unfazed by the heat are the hollyhocks

And moss roses.

I’d never heard of moss roses (portulaca grandiflora) before this spring, but I am enjoying the various colors of blooms that come from one plant. It’s an annual that supposedly seeds itself and can become invasive, which sounds good to me — a carpet of flowers would be nice. For now, I’m counting blooms in the low numbers, but later on in the summer, they might do even better.

Other plants that seem to enjoy the heat are my cherry tomatoes and marigolds.

And the cactus, of course. The only problem with the cactus is that they have so few flowers, and each perfect blossom blooms for a single day. Which teaches us, I suppose, to enjoy the ephemeral things while they are here.

As for me and the heat? All I can say is thank heavens (and Willis Haviland Carrier) for air conditioning!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Sweating the Small Stuff

I try to live by the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff,” but sometimes it is impossible to do especially since some of the really small stuff seems to be the biggest stuff.

Some of the small things I am currently sweating are mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects. They wouldn’t be a problem if they left me alone, but already, so early in the season, I am dealing with mosquito bites, gnats up my nose, grasshoppers eating my petunias. (Luckily, so far the petunias are all the hoppers seem to like, though they have nibbled on other plants to see if that foliage were to their liking.) There’s not much I can do about the gnats or the grasshoppers, but I have sprayed permethrin on my gardening clothes (khaki pants rather than my usual black because mosquitoes love black) and I use eucalyptus lemon oil on my face and hands, but they still manage to get me despite those precautions. It’s possible they get into the house at night and feast on me then, but I’ve only seen one mosquito in the house so far. (Although I would never hurt a fly, I have no compunction about offing critters that drink my blood.)

Another small thing that I sweated was an eyelash that got caught in my eye. I couldn’t get it out last night, though after a while I couldn’t find it anymore, so I thought perhaps I’d removed it without knowing I’d done so. Today, however, I woke up with a sore eye. I finally found the lash masquerading as an inflamed blood vessel. I eventually managed to work it over to the corner of my eye where I was able to scrape it off. That is one “small stuff” I had to sweat because it’s not good to have something foreign in one’s eyes.

And yet another small thing that looms large is that each of the past few evenings, I’ve had tearful moments of missing Jeff. After eleven years, most people would think that missing him should no longer be an issue, especially since I’m doing okay, but occasionally it is. I’ve been trying to be upbeat, to see the good in my present life, to not look back but not look forward, either. Neither looking back nor forward does me any good. There is nothing I can do about the past because it’s done and there’s nothing I can do about the future because that is out of my control. Besides, aging is a factor in my future, though people often disagree and tell me that it isn’t. The truth is, looking to the future, I can see myself getting older and feebler and trying to do the best for myself with diminishing strength and energy, and that’s not something I want to dwell on now.

So I look to today, but sometimes, as it has the past few evenings, that concentration on today seems . . . phony. As if I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

Still, there’s nothing I can do about Jeff being gone, and all I can do about missing him is let myself feel bad for a few minutes then dissipate the sadness with some sort of activity. Last night I dissipated those sad energies with dusting the furniture and dry mopping the floors.

Nor can I do anything about the other small stuff I’m sweating, including literally sweating — it was already eighty degrees when I went out to water the garden this morning. (It’s now 95 degrees Faranheit, 35 Celcius.)

Although a more positive or upbeat attitude seems phony to me, as if I’m not being true to myself, I tend to think it’s not really phony but simply another way of dealing with whatever comes my way. And what’s coming my way, for the most part, are a few flowers here and there.

I am glad to have the flowers, and glad that the hoppers around here aren’t as voracious as they were where Jeff and I lived. I blamed myself for my inability to grow a garden back then, thinking it was due to a brown thumb, but it was actually due to the large, brown grasshoppers that ate everything down to the ground, even the three-foot trees we planted. (The only things they left alone were lilacs and Siberian elms.) So I am grateful that I’ve managed to grow anything!

See? Even in a post about my various “small stuff” troubles, I end up with a glad and grateful attitude, though that wasn’t my intention.

Phony or not, that seems to be the way I am now.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Today’s Garden Surprises

Shortly after I moved here, a neighbor let me transplant a bit of her far-ranging prickly pear cactus. I might not have been interested if I hadn’t just spent several years in the high desert of California. I’d often encountered such plants when I wandered in that rather tame wilderness, and her plant seemed to bridge some sort of mental or geographical gap in my psyche.

The prickly pear never really did well — most of the paddles gradually died, but there was no way I was going to touch that thing to remove it. It all but maimed me when I dug it up and replanted it that I didn’t want to ever do anything with it again. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Those prickles really hurt. Even wearing heavy work gloves didn’t keep my hands safe from all the pricks.

Last year I noticed a bit of green, and this year, although the dead paddles are still lying on the ground to remind me of less sublime times, the prickly pear is doing well. And look!

It bloomed for me!

That wasn’t the only surprise today. The rock roses seem to be taking hold.

The snapdragons are really going strong. Such pretty candy colors!

The calibrachoa flowers I’d planted in a hanging basket are also going strong.

And more hollyhock blossoms are peeping out at me.

It’s funny to think of myself as a gardener. I was one of those people who were seemingly born with a brown thumb — I couldn’t keep even the simplest plant alive. And now, so many flowering plants adorn my yard that it amazes even me.

Admittedly, most of the yard is dirt and weeds, and even the garden spots are rather sparse, though if you just see my photos rather than the yard itself, you’d think I have a lush yard. Maybe someday I will, but for now, I’m thrilled with any bits of life and color that manage to survive my inept care.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Major Miracles

I was snacking on a few radishes I’d picked from my garden when it dawned on me what a miraculous thing that was. I had tossed some tiny seeds on the ground, scuffed them about, and a little more than a month later, those seeds had become . . . food.

I was going to entitle this post “minor miracles,” but planting seeds and what grows from those seeds is not minor at all. It’s a major miracle. Without food, we wouldn’t be here on this earth. And I helped in that process of creating food. Well, technically, the seeds were the process. All I did was throw them out there and give them an occasional drink of water. They did all the rest.

Truly miraculous.

And then there is the hollyhock forest that is growing at the back of my lot. In the fall of 2019, a neighbor gave me a handful of seeds from his hollyhock bed, and told me to plant them. Which I did. I was sure I’d done something wrong, because the following spring, I saw no sign of those seeds. I ended up planting other things — mostly lilac bushes — so the area was watered all through the summer. And in the fall, a few hollyhock seedlings popped up.

And then this spring — wow! What a showing! I’m really not sure what to do about the plants because they’ve enveloped one of the lilac bushes. I considered cutting them down now rather than waiting until the season is over to protect the bush, but for some reason, the bush is growing strong in the confines of the hollyhock forest. That, too, is rather miraculous, because cooperation among plants isn’t all that common. (Though I did plant marigolds near my cherry tomato plants because those two apparently like each other.)

Today when I was out, I caught an unfamiliar glimpse of color in the midst of all that green, and look what I found:

The first hollyhock of the season.

When I was a girl, hollyhocks grew wild in the alleys, and we’d make hollyhock dolls from the flowers, using the blossom for a skirt and a bud for the head, but I’m just as glad there are no little girls around who understand the lure of hollyhock dolls. I prefer the flowers on the stalk. And I especially prefer the buds on the stalk because that means there will be more flowers.

Definitely a major miracle.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Days Are Just Packed

I tend to think I don’t do much, but lately I’ve had to revisit that thought. Ever since gardening weather has hit, I spend a couple of hours outside every day, either watering, transplanting, weeding, mowing, or whatever catches my attention that day.

Although it’s hard work, I enjoy having the excuse to be outside. I don’t like to just sit for more than a few minutes outside with nothing to do, and I get too distracted to read. I’m also not one for playing outside. Even if I wanted to ignore my age (and sometimes wonky knees), I don’t have anyone to play with, so I appreciate having an excuse — even if it’s work — to enjoy my yard, especially the watering since it’s easy and gives me a chance to see how each plant is doing. I don’t yet have a lawn (and haven’t decided if I will have one, though I am thinking a small patch of grass might be nice) so I don’t use a sprinkler but hand water my bushes, shrubs, and flowers. All of these things are still babies, but I’m hoping as the summer progresses, I’ll have more things to enjoy seeing while I play at gardening.

Today I spent my outside time digging up prostrate knotweed, an almost hopeless endeavor, (though I have been told it makes for a good lawn in these parts; it’s just not good in a garden).

Afterward, I walked to the hardware store to see if they had any plants left. Though the pickings were slim, I did get a couple, as well as a bit of a discount because of it being so late in the season.

On the way home, I met a friend out walking her own errands, so we visited a bit.

Then I went to check on the house I’m looking after for an absent friend.

And to put a cap on my day, a worker came to start painting my basement. Admittedly, I wasn’t the one doing the work, but I can’t really relax when someone else is in my house, so it felt as if I were working.

Yep, days are just packed!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

New and Improved Email

A few weeks ago I got an email from my domain provider telling me they are switching to a new and improved email platform.

I liked having my own personal email address at my own personal domain (@ patbertram rather than @yahoo or whatever), so I used that email frequently. I also used that email address to sign up for various websites because if I got inundated with junk, it didn’t come to me via the phone. I had to wait until I went online to check my email.

Ever since that notification, I’ve been making a list of people and businesses I have to contact to change my email address, as well as sites where I have to change my email login address. Making all those changes in the two months allotted seems insurmountable. (After two months of a free trial, they will be charging me monthly, though how being charged for a service that used to be free can be considered new and improved, I don’t know.) Because of the monumental task (and because I am rebellious and don’t want to do the work), I’ve been considering going ahead and paying for a year or so until I either get everyone changed over or until attrition makes some of the changes unnecessary.

Today the changeover happened. And the new and improved is nothing more than Microsoft’s Outlook. I already have a Hotmail email using that same platform, but since it’s dedicated to family emails, I don’t have to use it very much, which is good, because I find it tedious cumbersome.

The only good thing about the changeover today is that it made the decision about keeping the account for me. Since it’s a platform I don’t like, and one, moreover, that I already have, I see no point in paying money for the service.

I bet you can guess what I’m going to be doing the next couple of months! And it won’t be me having fun, that’s for sure.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Meeting With My Contractor

I spent most of last evening working on a list of projects for my contractor that included projects that have been started and paid for but not finished, projects that have not been finished but were included in a bulk payment (two installments of which I still owe), and projects that have been contracted for but not started and not paid for.

Whew! What a task! But to the best of my knowledge, the list includes everything we’ve talked about and planned over the past couple of years since I bought this place.

This morning, I met with the contractor to go over the list. A lot of the items could be knocked out in a day if he brought his whole crew here, other items will take longer, especially if he’s only able to send a couple of men here to work. One of those men is new and I haven’t yet met, but the other has been here working on occasion. Still, when they work their way down the list to the projects inside the house, I want the contractor here, not just his minions. Although I like and trust the one who has been here before, I still prefer for the person I hired to do the work. That way there are never any questions about who is working in my house and who might be responsible for any mishaps.

As for the rest of it, though, I’m not sure I care who does the work as long as someone does it.

One of the problems of running a business such as my contractor’s is hiring help. The truly trustworthy workers who can get the job done without supervision seem to be hard to find, so when it comes to a “shopping list” of jobs, such as I have, rather than one big project, he needs to delegate others to do the work.

Another problem with a plethora of jobs, especially those that call for dump truck loads of material such as rocks, gravel, and dirt, is actually getting the stuff here for the delegates to work with.

Hopefully the delegates will be here tomorrow as planned to get started on some of the jobs. The huge amount of rain we had this spring (300% of normal, more than 600% of what we had been getting the past couple of years) spooked me. Water poured off the roof rather than into the gutters because the fascia had been wrongly installed by some previous owner, so I ended up with a gully wash. Also, the workers had dug dirt away from the house to fix the foundation and never got back here to fill the ditch. The combination of the faulty gutters and the ditch created a moat around the house. Although it was a big enough problem to make me worry about the basement flooding, it wasn’t big enough to attract dragons or other moat dwellers. (The mosquitos, however, are ravenous this year and I am their smorgasbord.)

One of the first things they will be doing is building my raised garden in the middle of my rear pathways. I have a hunch it might be too late to get plants to fill the garden by the time it’s done, but perhaps not. I suppose it’s a matter of whatever I can get, wherever I can. Since the brakes on my car still aren’t fixed (I haven’t been calling to nag the mechanic but maybe I should), I only have the sparse selection at the local hardware store to choose from.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One meeting with a contractor in no way equates to jobs finished. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Mangled E-Books

A few years ago when Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare was first published, a local book club read the book and invited me to be a guest at their meeting. I really looked forward to the discussion because I thought the club would have enjoyed reading a book where one of their members was a character, and where their town itself played a part. If nothing else, I would have thought they would have been interested in what parts of the book were a true reflection of the dance class, and what parts of the book were pure fiction.

As it turned out, it was a miserable experience. Not one person had a question. Not one person had a good thing to say about the book. In fact, the meeting was dominated by a woman who grilled me about the editing. Who edited it? Did you edit it yourself? Did your publisher edit it? Did anyone else edit it?

Then she said she’d never seen so many typos in a single book. The truth is, I’m sure there are some errors, but considering all the people who proofed it for me before I turned it into my publisher, I have a hard time believing that the half-dozen proofers all missed the same myriad errors, though it is possible. It’s almost impossible for any book to be 100% accurate, especially this one considering that my then publisher had a penchant for making unauthorized changes to my books. I didn’t mind another set of eyes, of course, but I let him publish the book with the caveat that he was to inform me of any changes he made. Which he ignored. Foolishly, I did not do a word-by-word check of the book again when I got the proof copy, but I simply could not handle another argument if by chance I found something that needed to be changed. Nor did I ever see an electronic version of the book, so I have no idea what it would have looked like, though, as it turns out, it would probably have been a good idea to check it over.

But I’m getting off the point, which is that book club meeting.

After that woman grilled me about my editing skills, I asked her if she could tell me the pages she found errors so I could perhaps correct them on future editions. She said she’d read the ebook, which didn’t have page numbers, but that there were errors on every “page.” Then, almost as an aside, she asked if there were ever translation errors when a book was made into an ebook. I told her there were often such errors and mentioned a book I was reading at the time where the name of the love interest, Illyena, was consistently mistranslated as Hyena, which had turned a touching story into a farce.

But even that isn’t as egregious a mistranslation as the book I am currently reading. This current book is so badly mangled that way too many passages were almost impossible to understand, such as this one:

“They made a lovely pair, the two women wand honey-skinned, their laughter gay and slim and young ads ruffling in the sultry Puffs Of and sweet, their dark and he and air off the desert.”

Really? This was a passage in an ebook by an internationally acclaimed bestselling author that had been published by one of the biggest publishing houses. How did they ever let such a mess get through?

Still, I bet if he had been a guest at that book club meeting to discuss his book, no one would have thought to grill him about the mangling.

I do know that the typo discussion was a way of putting me down, though I have no idea what I could possibly have done to those unknown women to merit such disparagement. All I know is that I was glad when they went onto other business and I could gracefully make an exit.

***

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare.

Killing friends is a good way to lose friends, even if the murder is for play. When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Then the murders begin. Tapped by the cops as the star suspect, author Pat sets out to discover the truth curtained behind the benign faces of her fellow dancers. Does one of them have a secret she would kill to protect? Or is the writer’s investigation a danse macabre with Pat herself as the bringer of death?

A Small House and a Large Garden

A friend sent me a verse written in the seventeenth century by poet Abraham Cowley:

May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.

No wonder she thought of me when she saw that snippet — it seems to describe my life perfectly. A small house, a large garden (not quite yet, but in the making!), a few true friends, and many books, though too few of those books, perhaps, are true. Actually, I don’t own many books except those I wrote, a few reference tomes, some tarot books, and quite a few alchemical texts that I have yet to study. Most of my “many books” are in the library that is a mere four blocks from my small house. As long as I can manage to get there, all those books belong to me. In fact, when I was there earlier today, the only person in the building besides me was the librarian. So, not just a private library all my own, but a personal librarian to take care of all my books!

On the way back from the library, I picked up another two plants for my ever-expanding garden. I was going to say ever-growing, but too many plants haven’t started to flower or even spread. My hanging lobelia is doing fine, though.

And so, of course, are the weeds.

When I returned from my errands, I took the time to mow the weedy lawn. Workers are supposed to come later this week, and I thought it might be a good idea if they could actually see where they needed to work. Of course, my having done the job pretty much guarantees that they won’t come, so I suppose it would have been smarter to leave everything the way it was. But then, if I waited too long, the mower wouldn’t have been able to cut the weeds. As it is, there are a couple of very tall, very tough patches of grass that defeated the mover. It seems as if next on my shopping list will be grass clippers.

I paused here to look up battery operated grass clippers and found one that might be a fun and useful tool to have to help me create my “large garden.” Now I know how I will spend my next paycheck!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator