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.

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

At War With Weeds

The weeds are definitely winning the war in my yard. For every one that I manage to eradicate, another three take its place. I don’t want to go the poison route — with more weeds than anything else here on this property, the amount of weedkiller necessary to do the job would probably be strong enough to kill me, too.

So, it’s one weed at a time, though I have been mowing some of them just to clear a space for me to walk.

Oddly, some of those that seemed the most innocuous have turned out the be the most frightening. Since I can’t dig up all of them, I’ve started with those that have seed pods similar to dandelions, because once those take hold, you never get rid of them. I’ve pretty much been ignoring a weed that seemed to have a shallow root system, with skinny “arms” and sparse leaves, that lays flat on the ground. I thought that with all the wind around here, it might not be a bad idea to leave those weeds be so that they could hold the soil in place.

Bad idea! Today when I was out weeding one of my garden patches, I went ahead and pulled up some of those weeds, which turned out to be a monumental task. Each one of those “arm” had grown to about two feet, and at each intersection where a leaf grew, the plant grew a root. Even worse, in some cases, it tied down plants that were in its way. I’d never seen anything like that. I thought bindweed was bad. Bindweed looks like miniature white morning glories, and if they are in a field, they lie flat and look pretty. If they are in a garden, they grow monstrously long and strangle any plant they can climb. Unless I want to resort to poison, the bindweed will always win, but I can sort of keep on top of it. Goat’s head is another plant that is prevalent around here, but I know what it is, and can — mostly — keep on top of that one, too. But this long, skinny plant that ties itself to the ground and to anything in its path is something else again.

I have no idea what the plant is called — I spent the past hour searching online for information about it without any luck — but I do know I have to be more vigilant about pulling it up. If not, I’ll wake up one day and find my whole house wrapped up in the tendrils of that weed.

*Shivering*

The thought is enough to give me nightmares.

***

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.

Stumped by a Stump

Shortly after I moved here, I had to have a Siberian elm tree cut down because it was interfering with the electric lines. Unfortunately, Siberian elms are tenacious creatures, and because the stump had never been ground out, the tree stump kept shooting up branches. I sure got tired of pruning that tree! Even worse, for every branch I cut, another half dozen would grow. Last fall, the workers who occasionally stop by to continue with a task they’d abandoned months previously, came back to try to dig out the stump. They told me they’d cut off all the roots that snaked off the main trunk, which should have made it easy to pry up the stump. Not so. They eventually abandoned the project — again — until they could arrange for a stump grinder, as well as schedule others with stumps needing removal to make the price of the equipment more affordable for all of us.

We thought that since that stump had been so mangled, it would die on its own, but that didn’t happen. In fact, this year, the thing grew even more voraciously than it did the previous year. I wasn’t too worried because the stump grinder was finally scheduled to be rented, though as always when it comes to my property, things weren’t that easy. Apparently, the grinder is missing a part, so . . . no grinder. When the part comes in, the grinding will begin. Meantime, I had that horrible mess with the unwieldy growth on the stump. I was thinking unhappy thoughts about the workers this morning as I pruned those dozens and dozens of branches. A new neighbor saw my struggles, and he commented that it shouldn’t be that difficult to dig up the stump.

He doesn’t have a high opinion of the guys who worked on my yard anyway, thinking they are doing me a disservice by walking away in the middle of my various projects and leaving me with half-finished messes, so he figured those guys hadn’t worked very hard on digging out the stump.

He came and worked on the stump for several hours, almost breaking his pickaxe and making his light-weight chainsaw smoke. (Tool envy! I sure would like a battery-powered mini-chainsaw.) He got the smaller stump dug up, but the big one “stumped” him, though he did manage to sever even more of the root arms that were holding the stump in place.

So now, I’m back waiting for the stump grinder.

It would be nice if the stump could be pulverized and the soil readied in time for a late season planting, since that part of the yard seems to be well nourished. Hollyhock seeds I threw in there a couple of years ago on the advice of the neighbor who had grown them and gifted them to me, decided to finally sprout this year, and the plants look like tall bushes with leaves as big as dinner plates. I’ve never seen hollyhock plants that big! And they are still babies.

I don’t suppose it really matters when the stump grinding is done since I am already over my head with work on my various gardens. The neighbor thinks that what he did today should keep any sprouts from growing, and that’s what I was really concerned about. I can deal with unfinished projects (most of the time anyway), but I do resent having to do chores that I wouldn’t have to do if the job had been finished in a timely manner.

***

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.

Gardening Chores

I went out this morning to do a couple of quick gardening chores. Two hours later, dirty, sweaty, and exhausted, I finally gave up. Each chore had led to another, until it seemed (and rightly so) that I’d never be finished. I suppose that’s both the frustration and fun of gardening — that there is always something that needs to be done, and that there is also always an excuse to go outside and play in the dirt.

I did accomplish some of what I wanted to do. I planted the bulb collection I got from the Arbor Day Foundation.

I realize this summer cutting garden will never look like the photo they sent — for one thing, the plants all flower at different times, and for another, I planted them in a straight line at the back of the flower garden I’m creating outside the one window I regularly look out of.

And then there is the problem with the gardener. (Meaning me.) A rank amateur, that’s for sure! Though admittedly, I am learning, and I am managing to keep some things alive besides waist-high weeds. As you can see, my marigolds and the cherry tomato plant are doing well despite the grass that insists on growing back.

After I planted the bulbs (being careful to follow the directions, which I don’t always do, but I wanted to make sure the bulbs at had at least a slim chance of coming up), I pulled weeds. Then I trimmed a tree/bush. It’s a locust that was cut down a couple of years ago, but it continues to grow. I’ve been undecided about keeping it since I’m not sure I want the responsibility of trimming it as I grow older, so I thought I’d have the tree guy grind out the stump when he comes to grind up all the other on the property, but I kind of like it. It looks like a fern with its tall, wavy branches.

After trimming the tree, I pulled more weeds. There are still more weeds to pull, and the weed patch I laughingly call my lawn needs to be mowed again. I also need to transplant some bulbs that will be buried under gravel if the landscaper ever comes back to do some more work, and then . . . yep, there’s always something!

***

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

A Hopping Good Time

When I went out my back gate this morning to pull weeds out in front of my driveway again — all this rain we’re having is making it impossible to keep ahead of the growth, especially since I’m used to a drier and sunnier climate — I got a glimpse of movement. It took me a while to see the culprit because it looked like nothing more than a clod of dirt, but then I looked closer and realized what it was.

Seeing a toad is good luck, not just because it’s a rare occurrence for me, but because toads prey on various insects, and all this moisture is bringing the insects out in force. I was bedeviled by gnats when I was out, and I’ve already been bitten by mosquitoes a couple of times. Despite the toad being a good omen, I have a hunch the mosquitoes will make this a miserable summer, though I do have insect repellent for my face and hands and I will spray my clothes to add a different layer of protection.

But that’s a problem for another day.

Today I just want to enjoy knowing that a toad visited 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.

Thought-Provoking

This is a hurry-up-and-write-something-post-so-I-can-say-I-wrote-something post. I don’t normally have a busy day, but this is one of those rare occasions. I had to water my garden, go check on a friend’s house and water her houseplants, check with my car mechanic about the brake part he ordered, and stop at the store to pick up a few groceries. As if that isn’t enough, I have to go to work early today. Which means there’s no time to write a thought-provoking post, or rather try to think of something thought-provoking to post (though I often fail in the thought-provoking part, I do try).

Hence, this bit of silliness.

I did get a chance to check out a neighbor’s roses as he suggested. He’s rightly proud of them, and I’m glad I got a chance to see them at their peak

And, since I was wandering around with my phone in hand, I stopped to take a photo of my larkspur. (Which, incidentally, originally came from the rose neighbor’s yard.)

Now that I think about it, I’d take flowers over a thought-provoking post any day.

***

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.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

My brother left a lawnmower here the last time he visited, almost two years ago. I’m sure he planned to come back and help with the yard whenever he traveled this way, but then The Bob intervened, and he hasn’t been back.

Last year, it was so dry, I didn’t have to worry about a lawn. To be honest, I have no lawn to worry about even now, but last year I didn’t even have any weeds in the yard, so the lawnmower just sat immobile.

Well, this year, with all the rain, the weeds are growing rampant. Even a bit of grass is growing. And it all needed to be cut back. For some reason, I felt nervous about using the machine since I’d never used it and didn’t remember how. Still, I dragged out the lawnmower, found the manual my brother left with me, and proceeded to read the instructions. The machine had been put into storage mode, meaning it was locked and folded and set in an upright position to get it out of the way. It took me a while to find all the right parts, first in the manual and then on the machine, and get it back to working condition.

I thought I’d read the instructions properly, but when I tried mowing, the blades never engaged. I called my brother to see if he could figure out what I was doing wrong, but he didn’t have the time right then. So I went back and read the instructions again.

And then it clicked. Literally. I had to push this button, pull that lever, and like magic, the thing turned on and I managed to get my weeds aka “my lawn” mowed.

No wonder the thought of mowing the lawn made me nervous. I’m out of the practice of concentrating, and it takes concentration to read instruction manuals and try to decipher the graphics.

It just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions, and if you still don’t succeed, read them again.

My next venture will be to see if I can figure out the string trimmer. The right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street is overgrown with woody weeds and tall tree sprouts growing out of the roots of a tree that had been chopped down, and it all needs to be cut back, but that’s a project for another day.

***

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

Garden Surprises

I was cleaning away weeds this morning when I discovered a patch of mushrooms. It’s always a treat — and a surprise — to find any sort of mushroom or toadstool in Colorado due to the generally dry climate. But so far, this spring has been anything but dry.

Although most of my wild roses are gone for the year, I did find a couple of yellow roses still clinging to their branches — another lovely surprise!

Then there is the candy bouquet flowers that I planted in a hanging pot. I doubt it’s the best place for the plant when it comes to enough sun or shade, but so far, it seems to be doing well.

And the final surprise is the new growth on the green-gage plum tree. The tree was a six foot tree, but except for a small sprout near the graft, the tree died.

I don’t really want to get another six-footer to plant in its place because this one seems to be doing well, but then, if I’d wanted a six-inch tree, I could have paid a whole lot less for the tree. For now, I’m just waiting to see what happens. I wonder if I could root the twig when it gets older so I can have my six-inch tree as well as a replacement 6-foot tree? I’m not sure why the tree needed to be grafted in the first place. Maybe because it’s really a bush? There’s so much to learn!

Luckily, I have the time to figure it all out.

***

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.

Rainy Days and Cloudy Skies

Rainy days and Mondays . . .

And Tuesdays. And Wednesdays. And probably Thursdays and Fridays, too.

Unlike what the song intimates, all those things don’t get me down, but recently, the days been cloudy enough that if I had a tendency to get depressed from cloudy days and rain, this certainly would have been the time. Luckily, I don’t have that problem, though I do have another problem, sort of an odd one. Many plants either need full sun or some shade, and when there’s no sunshine, it’s hard to know where the plants should go.

You’d think after two years and two months living here in this house, I’d know where the sunny and shady spots in the yard are, but those spots move. What’s shady in the winter is full sun in the summer. And vice versa.

I’d planned a container garden to go in a triangular area between my house and the back ramp. I couldn’t put it there because the workers hadn’t yet finished graveling that area, which turned out to be a good thing. It’s almost always in the shade (at least from what I remember back when we had sunny days), and the plants I bought need full sun. So I put the containers on either side of my garage door, thinking they will get sun in the afternoon. The trouble is, since it’s cloudy every afternoon, I can’t tell how much sun the plants would get. I do know that area is shaded by the garage in the morning; I figure that in itself should tell me the plants won’t get full sun, so today I moved the containers to what I hope is a sunny location.

I have to laugh at how I almost outsmarted myself. I put gravel at the bottom of the containers to help with drainage and to make the pots heavy enough not to get blown over in the high winds we often get, and they were almost too heavy for me to move. If they’d been any heavier, I’d have had to ask for help. (It’s not that I have a problem asking for help, but I do have a problem with waiting around for help to arrive when I am focused on getting something done, so it’s generally easier to do things myself.)

Apparently, without knowing what I was doing, I got the dahlia in the right place because it is doing well. Such a cheery color! Next time I’m by the hardware store I’ll check to see if they have any more. I do enjoy seeing spots of color in my yard.

We’re supposed to have a few rain-free days, which will be nice. The drainage in this town is terrible — I had to walk several extra blocks out of my way yesterday to be able to go the two blocks from where I live to where I work because so many of the streets, gutters, and sidewalks were awash with rainwater. Hip boots would have helped, for sure!

It’s funny that new people who come to town always try to get things changed, such as painting murals or setting out trash containers or opening even more pot shops than are already here, but no one addresses the drainage issue. I tried. I even went to some town council meetings when the new mayor was setting out his objectives. The matter was actually brought up by other people so I didn’t have to be one of those people who move to town and immediately try to change things. Although everyone at the meeting agreed there is a problem and that the standing water exacerbates the mosquito problem, nothing is being done. I suppose it’s too expensive — it would be something the town would have to pay for, while those who paint murals do it on their own dime.

But I’m getting off track here. The point is . . . hmm. I’m not sure. Rainy days and cloudy skies and lack of sunshine and gardening, I suppose.

***

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