Gardening Is the Answer

I finished digging the grass out of a soon-to-be wildflower meadow. For a few minutes this morning, I thought I’d get rained out and would have to save the last six-foot square until tomorrow, but the clouds spat a few drops at me, got bored, and moved one.

After I finished digging and shaking the dirt out of the clumps of grass roots, I raked the area flat, which oddly was the hardest part of the whole task. But I got that job done, too.

An experienced gardener left a comment on my blog yesterday that a wildflower field doesn’t have to be tilled, and I wondered if I had done all that work for nothing. And yet, that Bermuda grass is so strong and overpowering, I was afraid my poor wildflower seeds wouldn’t stand a chance if I didn’t do something about the grass. In fact, that grass is so strong it’s starting to go through the weed-barrier fabric on the north side of the garage. Supposedly, the contractor got the strongest fabric available, but as I said, that grass is strong. It looks like they are going to have to add another strip of the fabric, as well as finish putting up the gutters on the garage, but that is not something I can to do, so I won’t worry about it.

I’m glad to know about not having to till the soil for a wildflower meadow, so in some other spots where I want wildflowers, I can just toss the seeds and stamp them into the ground. Well, after I dig up the weeds, that is. And the grass.

A friend sent me a quote: “The answer is gardening. It doesn’t matter what the question is.”

I thought that was lovely. And it does sort of reinforce a surmise I made. A fellow griever once told me about an old woman she knew who had lost everyone she had ever loved and yet was the happiest person the griever knew. We both marveled at the possibility of finding joy despite all the sorrow, but now I know the woman’s secret. The woman was a gardener, so as I surmised, that’s the answer to the conundrum.

I wonder if I will be that person? More likely, unless gardening keeps me mellow and allows me a life of sorts without having to deal with too many irritations, I will become a curmudgeon.

Either way, gardening does seem to be the answer.

***

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.

Three Tons of Rock

Yesterday before I went to work, I posted a photo of the edging the workers were putting in place to contain the crushed rock pathway. To my astonishment, by the time I got home, they’d mostly completed the work.

That’s three tons of rock they moved!! Actually, it’s more like six tons because the younger worker shoveled it out of the hauler into a wheelbarrow and dumped it where it was supposed to go. The other worker shoveled it into place and raked it smooth. So each of them handled all three tons. I can’t even imagine being so strong. I’m lucky to be able to move an occasional bucketful of dirt when necessary.

They were disappointed that they weren’t able to complete the job. There is one small area by the back gate still to be filled in, as well as a few more of the edging pieces to be pounded into place, but before they can finish, they need to get more supplies, which is an iffy proposition since the landscaping firm they get it from is only open by appointment in the fall and winter.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the new look — and feel — of my yard. It’s great to be able to move around without worrying about stumbling in holes or tripping over weeds.

***

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

Lost in Time

“Describe one thing you did today. And tell us why you think we should know about it.”

I don’t know where I got that suggestion from — to describe one thing and explain why people should know about. If I had to guess, I’d say I probably got the idea from a book I read, jotted it down, and promptly forgot it. Today, I was trolling around in my notes to find a blog topic, and there it was.

I suppose I never followed through on this suggestion for a blog topic because I always follow through. Wow, that’s confusing! I mean I never specifically set out to follow through and describe one thing I did in response to this particular suggestion. Despite that, it does seem to be the current theme of this blog: to find one thing out of an otherwise eventless day to remark upon. I’m not sure if anyone but me needs to know about anything that happens in my life, but I do think it’s important for me to make note of at least one event or sight or thought every day, otherwise the days tend to pass unnoticed and unwitnessed. And I don’t want to be one of those people who, at the end of their life, look around and wonder where it all went. I’m sure I’ll do that anyway, because it does seem to be something we all think about as the number of our days shrink.

Still, here I am scrambling around in my mind trying to think of one particular thing I did today that I — or anyone — should know about.

I read, I dug, I watered my plants, I took a photo of my ice plant (although it’s pink, supposedly it’s called an ice plant because it shimmers as if icy), and because this is forecast to be the last searingly hot day of the year, I made a point to enjoy the heat.

The most noteworthy thing about the day, though, was how lost in time I felt. I had to keep checking my phone to see what day it was. (Checking a calendar doesn’t help, because if you don’t know what day it is, you won’t be able to tell what day it is.) Not that the day of the week mattered except to make sure it isn’t a work day, but for some reason, the whole concept of time and days of the week confused me today.

I’m sure the confusion is more of a reaction to three days off with no one to talk to rather than age-related discombobulation. (Surely, I talked to someone during these days, but except for a few brief words with a neighbor, I don’t think I did. Weird.) It will be interesting for me to see my reaction to time when my job comes to an end, especially if I immerse myself in writing another book. Then I really will have to make note of something each day to separate one day from another.

But that’s in the future. Today is . . . today. Monday. And despite the periodic confusion about time, it was a good day. And that’s important to know.

What about you? What did you do today, and why should we know about it?

***

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.

I Dig Digging

Lots more digging today! I did my morning stint after I came home from the mechanic’s shop without any work being done on my car. (The shop was closed, so I hope he’s not having another setback.)

I can’t do much digging at a time, only a strip of one or two feet by eight feet because the soil is compacted clay held together by the dense roots of Bermuda grass. To be honest, I don’t care how little I do. I’m just delighted to be able to do any physical work at my age. Apparently, I am considered elderly, which isn’t as bad as being called an old woman. I mean I am one, but still, it’s demoralizing to be defined in such a way. In my world, I’ve never been this age before, so it’s new to me. In fact, this is the youngest I will ever be, and besides, I still have the whole rest of my life ahead of me. Does that sound old-womanish? No, I didn’t think so.

But I digress.

After I did my morning dig, I relaxed a bit, so when the mail came with a package of plants that needed to be put to bed, I was raring to go. Luckily, it’s a lovely day with a cool breeze, so it didn’t matter that I was out working just after noon. (Last week, the afternoons were hot enough to give me heatstroke if I did anything outside.)

The plants are magnus echinacea. I ordered one plant a year ago, and it seems to be doing well, so I thought I’d try a few more. They are in their new home now. Since they don’t like to be transplanted, I hope they like where I put them.

One other gardening project I did today was start a notebook at the suggestion of one of my gardening readers. I got an empty binder, which I will fill with the planting guides that come with my purchases, descriptions of the plants, location in my yard, and whatever else I need to keep track of. The yard is a good size, but it’s not so big that I couldn’t keep track of all my plantings, but there is that elderly thing, so who knows when the memory will go. Having a ready guide to my various gardens should make up for any forgetfulness.

I’m glad I didn’t get a house with a yard that was already landscaped. I think it would have been too much for me to keep up at the beginning — it was complicated enough getting to know the care and feeding of a house without dealing with someone else’s idea of what a yard should be. This way, I get to figure it out as I go along. And if I eventually decide it’s too much and let it go, well, it will only be myself I’m letting down and not some master gardener.

Tomorrow will be another cool day before we hit the nineties again, so more digging is in my forecast.

***

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

Pat As Protagonist

Ever since I mentioned that I am getting the itch to write again, I’ve been becoming more involved in the process. Not involved in the actual writing, you understand, but involved in the thinking of writing.

A blog reader I respect gave me a good reason for not doing a sequel to Bob: The Right Hand of God — he said what comes next is best left to the imagination of the reader. I appreciate that. I’m not sure I want to go back to that world, anyway. Being involved in a world in flux was interesting at the time, but if I were do an Adam and Eve sequel, it would be years later, the world would no longer be in flux, and Bob would have gone on to another job. Which would mean it would be like any story of young people roaming around a fictitious world doing . . . something. Still, I do see Eve standing at the gate of the compound (Eden), while the polka-dot snake urges her to leave. As fun as that beginning would be, I have no idea whatsoever about what comes after that. So I will leave her standing there, trying to get the courage either to listen to the snake or to stay where she is.

I doubt I’d ever again be able to write the sort of books I started with — those first four suspense novels were the reflection and culmination of all the research Jeff and I had done, first on our own, then during our years together. I don’t think I want to delve into conspiracy theories any more. No, that’s not true. I know I don’t want to delve into conspiracy theories any more. All the shenanigans of the past couple of years — politics, pandemics, propaganda — has made any possible fictional story seem pale by comparison.

I thought of writing a book about a woman who is looking in a mirror, and her reflection does something different from what she is doing, but I’m not sure I want to delve into that story, either. Sounds like madness — both the story and the writing of it — though it might make a nice short story. And I do need a couple of more short stories to fill out an anthology of my shorter works, but not quite yet.

I have no interest in writing anything more about grief, either fiction or non-fiction, mostly because I have nothing more to say. Any protagonist, however, would have to be an older widow, probably years after the death of her soul mate, because I can no longer imagine any other character. I certainly can’t imagine a young protagonist — I don’t remember what that was like. Nor can I imagine a happily (or unhappily) married protagonist. Secondary characters can be anyone, but to get into the head of a major character vastly unlike me takes a leap I can no longer make. That’s okay, actually. I’m fine with writing about an older woman on her own, trying to live life the best she can on her own terms. It might not be the sort of book that would be published by a real publishing house, but I have no intention of trying to get someone to publish any future books. I’m to the point where I have no interest in setting myself up for rejection. If I ever publish another book, I’ll do it myself.

I haven’t been able to figure out what the underlying theme of a potential novel would be. A mystery, of course, but beyond that, I didn’t really know until today. Three separate incidents — a conversation, an email, and a blog comment — all seemed to point the way.

The conversation was about my book Daughter Am I, and how much the reader enjoyed the way the young woman gathered up old folks as she went about her task of finding out who her grandparents were. It reminded me how much I enjoy that particular storyline. First there’s one character on a quest, then two, then three, then . . .

The email was part of a discussion with a friend about getting older and how this particular birthday (the same one I had a few months ago) is scary because it’s about stepping into the unknown future of aging. This is a decade of rapid aging, and it is scary if you think about how close we are getting to a time of infirmity, but we still just march along, doing the best we can. She also mentioned a show she’s watching about all sorts of misfits who try to change their lives by participating in a dance production, which sounds like fun.

And the comment was left on an old post: Resuming my Lonely March into the Future, about well, about resuming my lonely march into the future.

Oh, and there was a fourth thing — the perfect name for a fictional town popped into my head while I was writing this blog.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another Pat book because too many local people are asking me to write one in the hope that they will be in it, but I’m not interested in putting real people in my books any more, at least not where they can recognize themselves, because that really is a good way to lose friends, and since I am here for the duration of my life, I can’t afford to alienate anyone.

Combining all this, it seems as if my next book should be another Pat-as-protagonist book, about setting up house, gathering confederates (perhaps people who are all lost in some way), and marching relentlessly into the future despite wonky knees, all the while solving some sort of mystery. Perhaps a murder that had unknowingly been done in Pat’s house years before.

Of course, by the time I actually clear my head of all the clutter and sit down to write, I might end up with something completely different, but this “Pat moving to a new town, gathering misfits, and solving a crime” scenario seems to be where my mind is heading at the moment.

***

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

Woman Power

I had a couple of lovely surprises today. First, clouds and coolness! Instead of the sweltering temperatures that had been forecast, the high today was twenty degrees below what it’s been for the past few weeks.

I made good use of the cool morning. Along the alley, partly blocking the entrance to my garage, were tall weeds, most waist height, some shoulder height. The way the driveway was built, the apron sloped downward a bit, as it should, to keep water from backing into the garage. The problem is that the slope ends below the bed of the alley, creating a gulley that collects any rain water and makes a perfect environment for . . .  you guessed it — weeds.

All spring and summer, whenever it rained enough to soak the ground, I’d go out and pull the weeds. Even though we haven’t had much rain for weeks, those weeds still grew immensely fast and even worse, they became cemented to the ground by the dry adobe-like clay soil. I’d asked the contractor to extend the driveway, which he agreed to do, but it’s not high on his list of priorities. Meantime, the weeds kept growing. He said he’d send workers out to whack the weeds, but the guys never showed up. Another worker said he’d send “his guy” to douse the weeds with weed killer, but he never came. Also, a worker said he’d drive past with his tractor, which would clear up those weeds in a few minutes. And of course, it didn’t happen. Someone told me that the city was supposed to mow the alleys, but that never happened, either.

So, I went out there to get rid of the weeds myself. As I dug and pulled, I couldn’t help thinking that one old woman with a shovel was doing what all those powerful men with their powerful chemicals and powerful machines wouldn’t do. Yay for woman power!

Once I cleared the weeds away from the driveway, I continued to dig up the weeds along the whole width of my property, a total of 150 square feet of tree-like weeds. Ouch. And I do mean ouch. I was out there for four hours and am stiff and sore from my shoulders to the soles of my feet.

But all those weeds are gone.

At least for now.

I’m sure they will grow back, but perhaps by that time, there will be some progress made on extending the driveway another two or three feet and filling in the gulley.

I also started removing the dead bindweed from the chain link fence. I wish there was a quick way to do that. The weed wraps itself around the wire, and clearing the wire is easy but time consuming. If it’s cool enough tomorrow, maybe I’ll take a chair out there and sit and pick.

Meantime, I can enjoy my other surprise. The New England aster are beginning to bloom! After their season, I’ll need to transplant some of them. Where once I had one plant, I now have five, and I’d like to spread them out.

Luckily, that can wait another couple of months. At the moment, I’m too tired to even lift the shovel let alone dig a small hole.

***

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.

The Spry Age

An older person in a book I’m reading was described as “spry,” which made me wonder if I’ve reached the spry age yet. Although originally the word “spry” meant any lively, energetic person who could move quickly and easily, in my lifetime I have only heard the word used in relation to older folk.

I suppose it doesn’t matter if I have reached the spry age, because even if I’m there, I’m not there because nothing about me, except maybe my mind, can be described as spry. Ever since my knee problem popped up, I seldom move spryly — I lumber more than I walk — though I hope that by continuing with my knee exercises, I will eventually solve that problem.

It’s a good thing one doesn’t need to be spry to work in one’s yard — one only needs . . . perseverance, perhaps. I generally have the grit to do whatever needs to be done, though yesterday, when the day was beautiful and relatively cool, I stayed inside and did laundry and other household chores. Today, when the temperature topped 100, I went outside to water and weed. Not the smartest use of those two days, so maybe I need to rethink that spryness of mind I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Still, spry or not, I managed to decimate a bunch of weeds. I always knew what the phrase “grows like a weed” meant, but now I have almost daily proof. Even though we haven’t had any rain recently, the weeds are doubling in size daily. Today I had to wrestle with weeds that were thigh-high, though the last time I was out, they were only slightly taller than my ankles. Luckily, digging up weeds needs a good shovel more than spryness.

I did find a few surprises in my yard. Gladiolus. Marigolds. And another daylily!

I planted these flowers, so there shouldn’t have been any surprises. The surprise comes when something actually blooms. I plant the same things in the same general vicinity so the soil is the same. I water them the same. They get the same amount of sun, but, for example, of the five gladioli I planted, only one grew enough to bloom. So, that was a surprise.

I’m getting off the topic of “spry,” which is probably a good thing. I’d rather think of growing flowers than contemplate my growing lack of spryness.

***

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

Moving the Earth

People say faith can move mountains, but more often, it’s men (and women, too, I suppose) in heavy machinery who move mountains. I first realized this when I lived on the western slope of Colorado and watched as a new flat road was built on what used to be a small mountain. To be honest, I doubt the protuberance was high enough to be called a mountain, but it was huge for a hill. And over the months, that hill disappeared. Just . . . gone. I doubt anyone who drives that once-new road even knows they are driving over the corpse of a mountain.

The current project here at my house is nowhere near as extensive as that earth-moving project, but still, a lot of dirt is being moved around, more than I could ever do with my 2-gallon pail (which is what I generally use to move dirt from one spot to another). The dirt being moved came from the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street. That area was filled with tree stumps, dozens and dozens of small trees growing out of the exposed roots leftover from those stumps, and huge, waist-high weeds. What will be going in that area is rock (yay!! No more trying to stay on top of that mess!) and three ornamental trees.

The dirt is being spread over the yard to fill in holes and gouges that were created by the skid steer that was used to move concrete from the mixer to the back yard when the ramp from the house to the garage was built. I suppose, over the years I could have smoothed the ground myself, but with machinery, it won’t take more than a few hours for all that dirt to be smoothed over the rough spots in the yard. This is all part of my taking care of the old lady I will someday become — I certainly don’t want her twisting her ankles on holes or tripping on uneven ground.

Although it’s hard to get anyone to come here to work — the contractor I hired (and the person these folks work for) always seems to have need of his entire crew at various other job sites — the worker who mostly comes is getting excited about the changes we are making and wants to see what it will look like when it’s all done. Which means, I hope, that he will do his best to stick with the job until it’s finished.

It is interesting how we humans can change a landscape. After the hardscape is finished, the yard won’t look at all the way it did when I came here. The old property lines (or what were assumed to be the property lines) have been replaced by the new surveyed lines and a fence placed around the property. The old garage is gone to be replaced by a raised garden. The old carport is gone, replaced by a new garage. The old driveway is gone, replaced by a red gravel walking path through ornamental rock. Diseased trees are gone to be replaced by young trees. Weed patches will be replaced with grassy areas and gardens. And oh, so many things!

Even if the hardscaping is finished this year as I hope, trees and plants take a long time to mature, so it will be many years before I can see the final project. It’s a good thing, then, that I’m enjoying the process of moving the earth around and creating special oases in my yard.

***

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.

Eventually

I spent most of the morning digging up weeds and grass, mostly prostrate knotweed, which serves for grass in this usually arid part of the state. Knotweed is hard to dig up because not only are the roots deep and extensive, but each grass blade ties itself to the ground with myriad roots. As always, I ended up doing more than I planned, and wore myself out, but that’s a good thing because it shows that I am strong enough to get the job done.

My original plan for today was simply to map out a garden area on the left side of the ramp going up to the house. On the right side of the ramp, there is a half-moon garden area, defined by the reddish path that leads to the back yard. It was so pretty a few weeks ago when the larkspur were in bloom, but I want to plant day lilies there so something will bloom once the larkspur is gone.

I found a place online that sells mystery daylilies ((lilies without a specific name or classification), and I wanted some for the right-side garden area. I figured I’d need more than twenty-five for all the places I want to plant a few, but if I bought two lots of twenty-five, it would cost as much as a lot of hundred. So I ordered a hundred. I’m not sure when they will arrive — it might not be until fall — but I thought I ought to be prepared to plant when they eventually get here. I also figured that the worker who will come eventually to lay the rock wouldn’t want to measure the ramp-side gardens to get them more or less even, so that was my self-appointed task today — to stake out the garden area. Of course, where the stakes needed to go were deep rooted weeds, grass, and knotweed, so I had to dig up the rim of the half-moon in order to pound in the stakes, and that prompted me to dig up the whole garden area.

The plan is to eventually put in a red rock (breeze) path on the left side that sort of matches the one on the right side until it needs to swing wide to go around the house. The left side of the house will have rock around the foundation just as on the right side.

On the right side of the photo, you can see sort of a squared-off mess of rock and gray weed barrier fabric where they’ve been dumping the loads of rock they’ve been bringing in. When that area isn’t needed for a dump site, it will be a gray slag parking spot. Not that I need another place to park since I have the garage and just one car, but there is a double gate in the fence right there, so it makes sense to have a corresponding parking area.

I haven’t done much with the lawn on the left-hand side of the yard. What grass there was in the midst of the weeds died back in the extreme heat we suffered through during most of May and June, but there really is no point in trying to revive it yet. The area needs loads of dirt to level it off before grass and an ornamental tree is planted. And before that, the weeds will need to be dug up. Eek. A lot of work to be done eventually

There still are too many “eventually”s in my landscaping plan, but at least I am doing my part, which, of course, is the only thing I can control — at least to some extent. Most of the time, I’m okay with the “eventually”s because what is going to take the longest is planting bushes and flowers and waiting for them to grow.

Now that the property is starting to take shape, at least in my mind, I’m getting excited. It should be rather awesome when it is finished, and hopefully, not that difficult for me to take care of in my perhaps feeble old age.

***

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.

There’s Always Something

We had big winds last night that blew leaves and twigs all over my yard, especially in the gravel areas and pathways. What seems strange to me, is that the winds always blow these things into my yard, but once here, they never get blown back out again. They just stay, which makes the ornamental rock around my garage and house look terribly unkempt.

The people who are laying down the rock told me I will have to get a leaf blower to keep the rocks clean, otherwise, the leaves decay and sink to the bottom of the graveled area, and will eventually destroy the weed-blocking fabric. I figured I’d have to blow the leaves off the rocks once a year or so, but the way things look, I’ll have to do it rather frequently. Also, to my surprise, plants do grow in the rocks, though supposedly, they are easy to pick out because of shallow roots, which is only partly true. Some are easy, but some are as difficult to remove as they would be from soil.

I always thought the purpose of xeriscaping at least part of a yard was to make it maintenance free, but as it turns out, I was wrong about that. Still, my main reason for the rocks around the house and garage was not easy maintenance so much as to protect the foundations, and the reason for the pathways was for my safety as I age. I don’t suppose I’d mind the work as much if it were my leaves and twigs settling in the yard, but they’re not. I don’t have any big trees any more. Mine were diseased, and had to be cut down. I will plant new trees, but it will be years before they would affect the xeriscaping areas of my yard.

Looking on the bright side, I get to buy a new tool! I’ll probably get a leaf blower that plugs in rather than a battery-operated one to make sure it’s not too heavy for me to carry around because there is a lot of area to cover.

Unless there is a way to redirect the wind to send the detritus back where it came from? I’ll work on that.

Meantime, the good news of the day is that the mechanic came to pick up my car so he could fix the brakes. Yay! I also enjoyed showing off my garage to the mechanic and his helper. It really is quite a wonderful building, and well organized, if I do say so myself, with metal shelves along one side, racks to hang long-handled tools on the other, and counters under the window for a work space.

More good news is that a daylily I planted a couple of years ago finally bloomed! I was surprised to see it was orange for some reason, perhaps because the other daylily, which did bloom last year, was yellow.

I’ve been checking out daylilies, and found a company that will sell untagged batches, so I wouldn’t know what I was getting. Sounds like fun! I discovered that it’s possible to plant them in the summer, so it would give me a more interesting project for the next few months than blowing leaves and twigs and such.

Good or not-so-good, there’s always something new, it seems, when it comes to landscaping and gardening.

***

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.