Yard Care

With all the trouble I’ve been having with my lawn, I still don’t regret having the sod laid and all the work I’ve been doing to keep it alive and healthy and weed-free. I’m winning part and losing part, but I’m not sure if there would have been a better choice considering what I started with.

My contractor suggested that I rock the whole weed-infested yard if I didn’t want to have to take care of a lawn, with perhaps a tree in the center of the front yard. I opted out of doing the whole yard, though perhaps half the yard has been covered with rock, such as the ornamental gravel protecting the foundation of my house and garage and filling in the right of way between the sidewalk and the street, as well as all the paths and sidewalks around my property.

The funny thing about gravel is that it isn’t as care-free as one would expect. Since a plastic weed barrier is illegal in parts of Colorado (something to do with interrupting the natural seepage of rain water), what’s left are various grades of a fabric weed barrier. Even with the heaviest option, the Bermuda grass is so aggressive, it pokes right through the fabric. And when it doesn’t poke through, it winds its way from way under the fabric to the outer edges, where — because of that exceptionally long root — it’s impossible to pull or dig out. Then there are the leaves and twigs and other things that fall on the rock. They all have to be blown off, otherwise, they disintegrate and sink down below the rock where they decay, turn acidic, and eventually destroy the fabric. There are lots of other weeds and things that grow in the dirt between the rocks, which they are easy to enough to pull up because of the shallow roots, but when it rains, there could be dozens if not hundreds of those seedlings to gather.

As I mentioned yesterday, I considered turning my yard into a wildflower field — like a mini prairie — but that option brings its own problems, such as weeds and grass that choke out the wildflowers. Eventually you end up with what you started with — Bermuda grass and weeds.

Considering how well Bermuda grass does here, I could have done what a couple of my neighbors do and just water and mow the Bermuda grass. It makes a nice enough lawn for the summer and lies fallow most of the year. Unfortunately, my yard was more weeds than grass, so it would have taken years of hard work to turn the yard into a lawn. Of course, I could have just let it go like one of my neighbors does, and occasionally mow the weeds before they get knee-high, as I did the first years I was here, but even that option isn’t as carefree as it sounds. A good rain, and suddenly, the weeds are shoulder-high, with stalks as thick and tough as saplings.

The only truly care-free yard I ever knew was the place where I’d rented a room before I moved here. The back yard was all concrete, an immense partially covered patio. The front yard was a lush lawn with flowers by the house that the owner never lifted a finger to care for. Perhaps saying it was care-free is a misnomer because, although the owner didn’t do any work, he had an automatic sprinkler system and a hired gardener who came every week and worked for at least a couple of hours, sometimes a lot more.

Come to think of it, I might as well be out there caring for a lawn and my various gardens. It’s as good a way to spend my time as any other.

***

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.

Feeling Herbicidal

I did something today that I never wanted to do — ordered an herbicide to kill off the Bermuda grass that’s taking over my lawn and choking my new lawn to death. The lawn isn’t really new anymore — it’s ten months old — but in places it’s really regressing, and I want to try to rescue as much as I can.

If I can.

The two biggest areas of grass are doing well, probably because most of the weeds had been dug up beforehand. I’d dug the weeds out of one section, and the people who did some of the rock work around the house dug up the other area almost by accident, but it turned out to be a good thing. The problem arises in those areas where the sod was laid over existing weeds. I remember asking if we should dig up the weeds but was told there was some sort of weed barrier to keep the weedy grasses from working their way to the top of the new sod, but apparently, that wasn’t true.

So, now a large swath of my cold-weather grass has been eaten by the warm-weather Bermuda grass. I’m hoping that the herbicide — which is specifically geared to this very situation — will help. Then I can simply reseed the lawn in those areas. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to dig up the Bermuda grass and then reseed my lawn.

So not my idea of fun!

I could, of course, let nature take its course, but then I will end up how I started — with Bermuda grass and lots of weeds. What will be working in my favor is that the weather will cool down eventually, the Bermuda grass will go dormant, and the cool-season grasses will (with any luck) take hold again.

It’s for this very reason (the complications of having a lawn) that I considered putting in a wildflower field instead of a lawn, but if the area where I did plant wildflowers is anything to go by, that sort of yard is just as problematic. Grass and weeds grow thickly among the wildflowers. I manage to keep the places I can reach looking okay — or at least I did until I all but gave up when the weeds overtook my ability to deal with them — but so much of the wildflower area is beyond arm reach.

It looks as if I will be doing a lot of digging to clear out as many weeds as possible this fall, though as I have learned, they will simply grow back. The weeds, especially the weedy grasses, are just too well-entrenched, which is why, as much as it goes against my nature, I ordered the herbicide.

Just because I ordered the grass killer, though, doesn’t mean I will use it. I guess it depends how herbicidal I feel when I receive it. Today, I wouldn’t have a problem using it. I went outside to get a photo of the brown swath mixed with Bermuda grass across the path from the pretty green area where the lawn is doing well to show what I’m talking about, and I couldn’t take the picture. It just looked too pathetic and made me feel sad and herbicidal. Instead, I’m using a photo of my zinnias to accompany this post and add a bit of cheer.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Moonflower

Last night wasn’t the full moon — that was the previous night, August 11th — but it might as well have been. Not only did the moon look full, it acted full. Or maybe I should say it acted on me as if it were full because I had a rough time falling asleep. (Apparently, I am subject to some sort of full-moon insomnia.) Luckily, this afternoon I had nothing planned except to read, so when I dozed off with a book in my hand, it wasn’t a problem. What was a problem is that when I awoke, I felt disoriented, not knowing day or time or what I was doing.

The disorientation lasted only a moment. By the time I got my eyes pried open and dragged myself away from the uneasiness dreaming always causes me, I was fine.

As for last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I went outside to look at my moonflower in the moonlight. It was too dark to take a decent picture, so I was glad to find the plant still blooming when I got up this morning. It faded quickly in the bright sun, but luckily, I now have a pictorial memory of the flower, though I might not need such a visual memory because it seems as if there are several more buds that will be opening in the coming evenings, so I will have the real thing.

Moonflowers are a perennial subtropical plant. In colder climes, like this one, it’s an annual, but because of its self-seeding nature, it acts as a perennial. The plants grow readily and quickly, and if the flowers aren’t lopped off, the seeds in their prickly casing can be easily harvested to grow more plants. Or to keep the existing plant from taking over since it has a weed-like nature (probably why I can grow it so easily).

Moonflowers are members of the nightshade family and, as you can probably tell by the trumpet-like shape of the flower, are kin to morning glories. “Moonflower” is rather a romantic name, but the plant’s other names are enough to make a person shudder (or, if ingested in great enough quantities, make a person hallucinogenic and maybe even dead): datura, jimsonweed, thornapples, devil’s weed, devil’s trumpets, hell’s bells.

Now that I know all those names, I remember doing this same research when I lived near the desert because datura grew as weed around there. Since this climate is similar to that one, I need to be careful so this plant doesn’t become invasive. Still, it’s a beautiful flower, and as long as I can control it (though my ability to control anything in my yard remains dubious), it makes a pleasing addition to my garden, even when the moon isn’t full.

***

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.

A Good One

When I was young, I had a five-book boxed set of Pollyanna books. Every time I got sick and so couldn’t go to the library for a fresh stack of books, I reread the ones on my shelf. Despite having read the Pollyanna books perhaps a hundred times, the whole “glad game” thing never took hold in my life. I simply could not see the benefit of being glad you didn’t need the crutches you received instead of the doll you wanted. I thought gladness should be effortless rather than a struggle to find something good about bad times.

Ever since Jeff died, though, I tried to play my own version of the game (though I didn’t know that’s what I was doing) by finding something to appreciate every day. I needed a way to ground myself because so often during those first years I felt as if I were teetering on the edge of the abyss, and without a firm footing, I feared I would topple into that bottomless black pit.

The lessons learned back then have served me well. I make sure to appreciate every flower that comes up, every blade of grass that shimmers in the sun. In a glass half full/half empty sort of way, I try to see what’s there rather than what isn’t. For example, to see the plants and sections of grass that are doing well instead of worrying about the areas of the yard that are desiccating no matter what I do.

Some days, however — like today — I find it hard to appreciate much. It’s been too hot for too long; it’s too much work trying to keep the weeds from taking over; and it’s too hard to focus on what is still growing rather than what once was doing well but is no longer thriving.

I took this same curmudgeonly attitude on my walk today to check out how my friend’s roof was coming along. The job site was deserted, but I could easily see why — the roof has been re-sheeted, ready for to be shingled whenever the rest of the roofing materials are delivered. On my way back home, I stopped to pick up an item at the dollar store, and when I checked out, the clerk said, “Have a good one.” Sometimes I can let that idiocy go, but on a day when I cannot even appreciate that I have glass, let alone whether it’s half full, I find it impossible to hold my tongue.

“Have a good one what?” I asked. The clerk had to think about that one for a minute, then said hesitantly, “Day?” The thing is, all the elderly people I have taken care of become fixated on their bowels (mostly because moving them has become a difficult non-daily task for them), so they are always pleased when they “have a good one.” Anyway, the clerk finally said, “Have a good day,” but then as I turned to leave, she said again, “Have a good one.” I just looked at her and shook my head.

Some things are just not worth dealing with.

Although I have temporarily given up on trying to keep the weeds in check, temporarily given up on caring about the less-than-appealing areas of my yard, I still do manage to find something to appreciate if only in passing, such as the lance-leaf coreopsis, pictured below. Now that was something effortless to be glad about — the original seeds were strewn three summers ago, and these perennial plants raise themselves without any help from me.

So maybe the “good one” the clerk told me to have was this flower. In that case, I should have thanked her for the pretty bloom instead of giving her a semi-rough time.

Anyway, have a good one, whatever “one” it is that you want to be good.

***

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.

Ice Cold Blog

On hot days, an “ice cold” anything sounds good, so how about an ice-cold blog? Not that this blog itself will be ice cold, because the blog can only be as cool as the running temperature of whatever device you are using to read this, but the topic is, for certain, “ice cold.”

In a book I skimmed through, the woman character ordered an ice-cold beer, which always seemed silly to me. Wouldn’t an ice-cold beer be a frozen one? As I found out, after wasting way too much time googling various “ice cold” themes, beer can be ice cold without being frozen.

The temperature of ice is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Water freezes at thirty-two degrees, but the temperature of the ice cools to the ambient temperature of wherever it is stored, so it can get down to 0 degrees or minus twenty, or whatever temperature at which the freezer is set.

Beer, on the other hand, freezes at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, so technically, you can have an ice-cold beer at 32 degrees, but why would you want to? If you like beer, that is. The colder the temperature, the less the flavor — good or bad — of beer is discerned, which is why it is suggested that lite beers be served ice cold. The optimum temperature for good beers to be poured at a bar or restaurant is 38 degrees, so that when it gets to the imbiber’s table, it will have reached its optimum drinking temperature of 48 degrees — cold enough to be refreshing, warm enough so that all the flavor (and the odor, which is a part of what we discern as flavor) is apparent.

After the woman in the book drank her ice-cold beer, she went home to her ice-cold apartment, because supposedly, that was the temperature that her ancient dog preferred. Really? That old dog who was near to dying preferred the house temperature to be set at 32 degrees? I think not. The ideal inside summer temperature for dogs is between 75 and 78 degrees, but for small dogs (as the story dog was) such a temperature is too cold, so for them, between 78 and 80 degrees is a better temperature. A comfortable winter temperature for most dogs is 68 to 72 degrees. So that gives us a comfort range for dogs from 68 to 80 degrees. That is a far cry from an ice-cold 32 degrees.

Such ridiculousness from authors who should know better leaves me cold (though not ice cold), so I skimmed through the rest book to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and tossed it aside.

I did learn something, though it wasn’t from the book but from my research into optimum temperatures. Unlike what I used to believe, it is possible to drink an ice-cold beer, and has been possible as long as ice has been a commercial product. In fact, the term “ice-cold beer” has been around since 1887 when the Wild White Elephant Saloon in Fort Worth apparently coined the phrase.

So now, after reading this ice-cold blog, do you feel a bit cooler?

***

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.

Learning About Roofs

I stopped by my friend’s house today to check on the progress of his roof, and I was shocked at what the naked roof looked like, though I don’t know why I should have been since the only roofs I’ve had any dealings with have been my garage roof and that of my gazebo. In both those cases, the construction workers built the roof from scratch, nailing OSB board (Oriented Strand Board) to the trusses.

Every step of the construction of those edifices seemed clean and sturdy, which of course, it would be since the materials were all new. This old roof, on the other hand, is . . . old. More than 100 years old, to be inexact.

At one time, my contractor — the same guy who’s doing this job — and I talked about a new roof on my house. My roof is less than fifteen years old and is in great shape, though some of the granules have come off the shingles, so our talk was more hypothetical than a serious discussion. (The granules were mostly apparent in the detritus after the gutters had been cleaned, so it could have been an accumulation over several years which is normal.)

Anyway, after seeing my friend’s roof with all the various layers of shingles pried off, the contractor told me that my roof could look the same since that’s how they used to build roofs.

He said that because of the additional cost of replacing the sheathing as well as the shingles, I shouldn’t even consider replacing the roof until it leaked, got damaged by hail, or shingles started blowing off. That’s pretty much what I had already decided because I see no point in replacing something that’s working, but it was nice to have the corroboration from someone who knows what he’s talking about.

I suppose it’s possible that when my roof was last reshingled, they replaced the sheathing too because that’s something insurance companies demand, but I don’t think they did it. There is a hump in the roof where the house and the back porch meet, and if the roof had been installed correctly, there would have been no hump. But who knows. They might have replaced the house sheathing but not the porch, or the porch could have been done at another time, or . . . any number of things. With any luck, I won’t ever find out how my roof is made because the roof could hold up for the rest of my tenure here. If luck deserts me, at least I have a vague idea of how much it would cost to replace. (“Vague” because construction materials are inflating at a much higher rate than other products.)

I always figured if the roof had to be replaced because of hail damage or something like that, the insurance would pay for it, but apparently they only pay a prorated portion, and because of the moderate age of the roof combined with the exorbitant hail-damage deductible prevailing in Colorado, I wouldn’t get any money from them. Makes me wonder why I’m paying such a high premium if they’re not going to pay out for damages, but for now, it’s better if I don’t think of that and simply hope for the best. (Normally, “hope for the best” is not a good financial plan, but at the moment, it’s all I have.)

It is interesting, though, watching my friend’s roof being redone. It’s like a dress rehearsal for if I ever have to replace mine, giving me some idea of how the process works. I just hope this second-hand lesson is all I ever have to learn about roofs.

***

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.

Loads Off My Mind

I miss having work done around my place. There is something compelling about watching men work.

There is still plenty to do around here, but other jobs take precedence right now, such as “my” work crew reroofing the house I’m looking after for a friend. I’d stopped by to check on the work earlier today, and had planned to be back in plenty of time to post a blog before I go to work myself, but I stayed to watch. As I said, it’s compelling to watch men at work.

It’s just as fascinating to watch things being destroyed as being built. For now, all they are doing on the roof is pulling off the multiple layers of asphalt shingles as well as the bottom layer of shake shingles.

It makes me wonder what’s lurking under the outer layer of my shingles. Probably nothing good — there is a bump on the roof where the house meets the back porch, so whoever did my roof did something weird. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with that right now. And except to make sure the guys do the work and to check on them occasionally, I don’t really have to deal with my friend’s roof, either. They seem to have it well in hand.

An extra benefit of having gone to check out the worksite was that I met up with the person who sodded my lawn. I told him my sad sob story (sad sod story?), and he will help me figure out how to fix it. That’s such a relief! I felt bad about the swath of grass dying and another swath being overtaken with Bermuda grass, so it’s good to have someone else helping to shoulder the burden and ease my mind.

And if he doesn’t get time to stop by, if other things take precedence (as so often happens with this overworked crew), then I’ll continue my original plans of tracking down the right seed, reseeding the worst places, and then waiting to see what happens during the fall.

Meantime, it’s good to know that my friend’s roof will be fixed so I don’t have to continue to check for inside leaks. Normally, of course, that wouldn’t be a problem since we’re in a severe drought, but we’ve been getting quite a bit of rain lately, and I sure would have hated for my friend to return after having spent so many months taking care of an ill wife to find that I managed to destroy his house.

So that’s two loads off my mind! Whew.

***

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.

Science Says

A physicist at École Centrale Paris posted a detailed photo of a distant world that had supposedly been captured through the world’s most powerful space telescope. After the image got thousands of likes and oohs and aahs, he admitted the image was not a celestial body but a slice of chorizo sausage. He claims he perpetrated this hoax to make a point about fake news and how easily things were misinterpreted. He wanted people to proceed with caution and to be wary of studies and experts that support a particular point of view.

It seems to me that if he really wanted people to be wary, it would have made more sense to simply tell people to be wary, but where’s the fun in that? This fellow seems to like practical jokes — apparently, he’d posted the same photo online four years ago, claiming it was the blood moon as seen in Spain. (It makes sense in a whimsical sort of way since a slice of chorizo is a full-moon shaped, blood-colored product from Spain.)

Whether this particular usage of the photo was an actual hoax that he tried to backtrack from, a joke, or a timely warning as he claims, what I found interesting was not that people fell for his trickery (because truly, there’s no way we ordinary folk can tell if a photo is of a distant world or is simply a piece of pork) but that people want to believe in something bigger than they are. Even more, they want to be awed.

According to the dictionary, science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” More simply, science is “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena,” and “the discovery of general laws or truths that can be tested systematically.”

Despite science being a discipline of shared knowledge that is changed or refined as more observations are made and more experiments are done, many people look to “Science” (with a capital “S”) as an immutable authority, a secular replacement for religion as something both to believe in and to be awed about. Even worse, “Science Says” is often used as an excuse, a not-to-be-argued-with dogmatism, or a justification of one’s beliefs or actions, when in fact, “Science” says nothing. It has no voice. Scientists say things, and as shown above, what scientists say may not be the truth.

We certainly don’t need to turn our attention to scientists for something to believe in or something to “awe” over. We can go outside, look around, and see what we can see. After all, that’s how science as a discipline started, with people simply looking. Admittedly, we won’t see a piece of photo-shopped sausage, but we might see something even more intriguing.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

New and Improved

I’d been buying a seltzer water at a nearby store for the past few months. It was simply carbonated water with natural flavorings — no sugar or salt or chemicals — but it hit the spot on those days when just plain water didn’t seem refreshing enough.

Unfortunately, it was a short-lived product for that store, and now it’s gone from the shelves. The manager told me they have a store brand of the same product, but like most so-called sparkling waters, theirs are nothing more than a clear soft drink, with most of the same ingredients (lots of chemicals!) as a diet soda.

This reminded me of all the other things I liked that were discontinued over the years, as if my liking a product sounded the death knell for it. One example that immediately comes to mind is Space Food Sticks. I really liked those things — they were the first energy and meal replacement bar, and helped keep my appetite — and weight — in check. And then one day, with no explanation, they were gone.

Other products, like Rely tampons had been misused, and girls who had no idea what they were doing died of toxic shock syndrome. The product, of course, was removed, leaving those of us who “relied” on them out of luck. The same thing happened with the original Sensodyne toothpaste, where the pain deadening ingredient was strontium chloride. Used as directed — only as needed — it was perfectly safe, but people used it every day, which caused problems. Now, there is no sensitive-tooth toothpaste that works for me, and to get a modicum of comfort, I have to use the products available every day.

Even something as simple as sassafras tea disappeared, or at least became uncommon, because of harmful side effects. But oh, I did so like sassafras tea and the root-beer-like flavor.

Some products that disappeared are available under the same name, but the product is completely different, such as Dreamsicles. The Dreamsicle of my youth was a creamy concoction, with a soft sherbet outer layer, melding into an ice cream center. Truly a dreamy treat!

Even something as ubiquitous as Dawn changed. The blue-colored Dawn advertises itself as the original scent, but it isn’t. The original scent had no floral undertones. But then, that’s just one of the thousands of products that have been “new and improved” to make more money for the manufacturers and less bang for the buck for consumers.

And on and on. Dozens of products gone or morphed into something completely different. That’s the problem of my having lived during a time of great population growth and growing corporate greed, though that may not be a fair assessment. The past several decades have also been a time of unprecedented product development, so there have been way more products available at any one time than ever before.

Still, it is tiresome always having to find and break in new items only to have them disappear on me a short time later. But maybe that’s a good thing? Who knows. Certainly not me.

***

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.