Winter Interlude

Well, today was the day. A warm spell between two cold, dry spells. So guess what I did? I watered my grass.

It seems silly to water the lawn in the middle of January, but this isn’t an ordinary January. The average temperature seems to remain about the same, but we go from above normal to below normal, which averages out to . . . normal. With no moisture except one decent snowfall and one light dusting, the recommendation from the people I bought the grass from was to make sure it got plenty of water even in the winter.

So I finally caught the right day. I missed the last perfect day because I had to work, and although the highs have been respectable, the lows were way low, so the hoses didn’t thaw out. And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have thawed out. I tend to sprinkle myself as well as the lawn when I set the hoses, and I don’t fancy myself as a Patsicle.

I don’t expect to have this situation once the grass takes hold, but the lawn is still too new to be left to the vagaries of the weather. And anyway, it was a pleasant day, and I had a chance to be outside for a while and soak up some sun, though how much sun I soaked up wearing a winter coat and a sun hat, I don’t know. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

Tomorrow will be another day much like today, but I doubt I will water again. With a new cold cycle starting, the moisture won’t be evaporating any time soon. So, a whole day to myself with nothing on the schedule! Wow! I’ll certainly enjoy the freedom.

[I just deleted a whole section that mentioned plans for after my day of freedom. The Tarot cards today warned me to be prudent, keep silent about future plans, and take into confidence only those I absolutely must. I figured since I go through the trouble of reading the cards every day, I ought to heed them when they offer good advice. I certainly don’t want to advertise when I’ll be away, even though I have nothing anyone wants, except perhaps the house itself.]

I hope you’re doing okay wherever you are, and that those caught in the winter storms sweeping across the USA will be safe and warm.

Incidentally, those aren’t my sprinklers in the photo, and that’s not my grass. The sprinklers I have are the kind that can be held by hand or placed on the ground. I use them both ways, on the ground for large areas, by hand for the narrow strips. In the spirit of prudence, I thought it best not to post a photo of my house and lawn, though I have done so many times before.

***

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

The Wisdom of the Wildflowers

We’ve been having wintery weather the past few weeks, mostly just cold and wind, but also a storm that left several inches of snow behind. It’s been gradually warming up, and the past couple of days have been spring-like. In fact, it barely got down to freezing last night and quickly warmed up because of the searing sun. I’d planned to water my grass this morning to make sure it didn’t dry out, but instead I was called in to work.

So not only did my grass not get watered, I spent this lovely day inside. It might as well have been a winter day, for all the good it did me. Still, it was a nice day, no great hardships or catastrophes, and besides, there will be more such days, though not for a while. Tomorrow winter weather returns, accompanied by a high wind warning, removing any possibility of giving my lawn a drink. I hope this lack of water won’t be a problem, but even if it is, well, all I can do is what I need to do, and today I needed to work.

I did notice that a few larkspur are timidly poking above the ground. Apparently, the cold spell followed by warm weather tricked the seeds into thinking it’s spring. Larkspur are hardy things, especially when they plant themselves as these did, and I tend to trust what a blog reader said, that the wildflowers know what they are doing. So chances are, they will survive the next winter spell or two.

I hope my grass borrows some of the wisdom of the wildflowers and will find a way to survive these up and down times.

This photo of the larkspur is from last year. Bits of green might be poking through the soil, but no wildflower that I know of is so wise as to be able to survive weather extremes. It’s amazing that we humans can, but then, we are lucky enough to be able to create our own indoor habitats that protect us from the worst of the weather.

***

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

Lazy Days

Yesterday was a lazy day for me. The winds were so strong, I barely made it to my mailbox. There was no way I could water the grass or take a walk or any other outside activity. And because of those gale force winds, I was too unsettled to do much of anything, so I spent the day reading and playing games on the computer.

Gale force winds is not a figure of speech. Gale force is 34 to 40 miles per hour, and I’m sure the winds were at least that strong. In a nearby town, the wind was clocked at 107 mph, though luckily, we were well below that number. Still, the winds wreaked a considerable amount of damage, so today was anything but a lazy day.

When I went out to water my grass, I was shocked to see the lawn covered with leaves. I have no idea where all those leaves came from because I made sure that there were no leaves on the nearby trees when I did my final raking — or rather, what I thought was my final raking. Before I turned on my hoses, I had to rake up all those leaves. It was so not a job I was prepared to do, yet I did it. I also had to gather shingles that had rained in my yard from the roof of my neighbor’s garage, and I’ll probably have more to do tomorrow since I only dealt with the largest pieces today.

I should be grateful (and I am!) that those were the only two problems I had from the wind. Other people spent the day clearing out the downed tree branches and getting estimates from roofers. I had to call someone, too, though not for me. A neighbor of the people whose house I am looking after called someone who called someone who called someone who called me to tell me that shingles had blown off the roof. (Come to think of it, next time I see that neighbor, I should give her my phone number so she could call me directly.) So I called my contractor who went out to take a look at the damage.

If that wasn’t enough for one day, I still had to go to the library to return books that were due and to get gas for my car. Now that inclement weather is popping up, I don’t like my tank to get too low in case of emergencies. Nor do I like the idea of running out of books to read. I’m sure I did a few other chores, though I can’t think of any offhand. Not that it matters — what’s done is done, right? (Obviously not, or I wouldn’t be sitting here listing all the things I did today.)

Considering the dryness and the winds, I’m glad I haven’t yet planted my wildflower seeds — they would have ended up all over the neighborhood and come spring, I’d have wondered why I didn’t get a single flower out of the bunch. I’ve been waiting for the first snow before planting, which helps glue the seeds to the ground, but I might have to make alternate plans, such as waiting for a week when the highs are only in the forties, and those weeks are coming. Around here, so I’ve been told, February is the coldest month, and this area is noted for its late snows. Besides, I’ve had enough to do without worrying about those seeds.

Tomorrow might be another lazy day, and if not tomorrow, then Saturday. The best I can say about the weekend forecast is brrrrr.

***

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.

Rain Dance

Even though there is no sign of rain or snow, and neither is forecast for the near future, I hoped that by going out to water today, it would act as a sort of rain dance so that the clouds would release whatever moisture they were holding.

But no rain came. At least, no water came from the sky. I suppose the sprinklers can be considered artificial rain, so from that standpoint, my sort of rain dance brought results.

Despite my best efforts at taking care of the grass, it’s starting to brown out a bit, but I suppose that’s understandable. Most nights the temperature hovers around freezing, though sometimes the temperature drops down to the single digits. (Fahrenheit.) In fact, although the day had warmed up to about fifty by the time I got out there, what water hadn’t drained out of the hoses was still frozen. I had decided I wouldn’t water when the temperature is in the forties because it’s way too cold, especially since I seem to get as wet as my lawn. Now I know I probably couldn’t even if I wanted too. It’s hard to water when the hoses are blocked with ice.

Can you tell I really have nothing to say? I’m just spinning my mental wheels, going nowhere. Actually, I’m not even spinning the wheels. I seem to be mired in the doldrums. Oh, I’m not depressed or anything like that, it’s more like the sailor’s doldrums — a place of such calm that ships get stuck on the windless waters. That’s me — my words are getting stuck on the windless calm of my mind. Nothing is roiling around inside for me to work out. No big questions or lessons are waiting for a resolution.

There is one lesson, come to think of it. I checked to see which came first, the doldrums meaning mental stagnation or the doldrums meaning the stagnating seas, and it turns out that the first definition came first. In fact, the “dol” of doldrums is related to our word “dull.”

Whether I am becalmed or simply dull, I do know one thing — this place itself can never be likened to the sailor’s doldrums. There are no seas for one thing, and too much wind for another. I feel bad for the neighbors. No matter how much I try to keep from watering their driveway, the winds shift and their driveway gets wet anyway unless I water by hand. Which I do — I lay out a sprinkler hose in one part of the yard while I hand water another part.

It’s been working.

So far, anyway.

p.s. The photo is not mine, and that’s not my yard, but I didn’t think to take a picture when I was out there earlier, and now it’s too dark, so I used a free photo available from my blog platform.

***

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.

Water, Water Everywhere? Not Here!

I happened to catch a part of the news yesterday where they were talking about the drought in California, and how some communities were limiting the amount of water a person could use. One man, determined to keep his foliage alive, showed the newscaster the fifty-gallon containers where he collected and stored rain water. I just glossed over that bit about his collecting rain water because I was thinking of myself and wondering about the wisdom of putting in grass during a drought year.

I’m not in California, and there are no restrictions here, at least not yet. The mountains are getting some snow, so there might not be any restrictions, but I’ve always been water conscious, so I do feel a bit guilty about the grass. Still, if a thousand square feet of lawn is my worst offense against conservation, then I’m doing pretty good. In fact, until recently, I have never in my entire life used even half the water I paid for every month, so I’m just sort of evening things out.

I didn’t think anything more about the fellow collecting rain water until the early morning hours when I suddenly awoke, wondering where he was getting so much rain water in a drought. I mean, here in my corner of the world, we haven’t had any moisture for months, not even a cupful let alone gallons.

I finally was able to put the rain-collection conundrum aside and fall back asleep, but apparently, I didn’t forget it because here I am talking about it.

It did seem odd to me, though, that someone could brag about collecting rain water. If people here were to collect rain water, they dare not mention it because it’s illegal to collect rain water in Colorado. (Colorado is the only state with a ban on rain barrels, and is only one of four states where rain harvesting is illegal.) I actually know someone who got cited for collecting rain water.

The theory behind the ban on collecting water is that any rain water you collect could affect the water rights of others and also could disrupt ecosystems because any water you collect won’t go into nearby streams, rivers, and other bodies of water. Seems specious to me. I mean, if I collect rain water to water my foliage, then all I am doing is collecting water from one part of my yard and directing it to another. I can’t see that it makes any difference what I do with the water that falls on my property — it’s still going to end up where it would have ended up anyway. Come to think of it, isn’t that what rain gutters do? Collect the rain that falls on the roof and direct it elsewhere? So why aren’t rain gutters illegal?

Despite the ban, some people do collect small pans of rainwater to water their indoor plants (making sure the pan isn’t visible from the street), but I don’t even do that small bit of collecting. It has nothing to do with illegality, and everything to do with laziness. It seems like a lot of work to me.

For the next few days, at least, I won’t have to feel guilty about wasting water on my lawn because it will be too cold to water, and in a day or two there is a vague chance of some precipitation. Hmm. Just thought of something. Why should I feel guilty at all? If it’s illegal to collect rain water because it prevents water from draining into rivers and ponds, then shouldn’t watering my lawn be a good thing since it’s putting the water back where it belongs?

That question, too, will probably wake me in the early morning hours. Oh, well. Who needs sleep?

***

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.

Raking Up the News

I didn’t watered my grass for a couple of days — the first day was too cold, the second day was very warm but I had to work all day. Even though I didn’t notice any difference in the grass, I gave it a good watering today, letting the hose run while I raked up leaves. Odd how I have no trees except a couple of babies, and yet I get a yard full of leaves from all the neighbors’ trees. In previous years, I never paid attention to the leaves, but I need to make sure they don’t damage my sod, so I did the work. I considered giving the leaves back to the neighbors, but despite my blisters, I was glad to get the leaves. I dumped them among some bushes, thinking they will help rejuvenate the soil when the leaves break down. As someone once said to me, “Compost happens.”

I had to unfortunate task of laying off a handyman who was working at the house I’m taking care of. He was in such a panic over the loss of income, that I hired him to do a couple of small paint jobs the contractor has been putting off. I was kind of surprised (but just kind of) when he never showed up, so even though I’d paid twice for those jobs, I ended up doing them myself. At least the raw wood surfaces are protected now.

A friend had some good news today — my contractor is going to work on her house, which was left unfinished when her husband died. It’s a huge job, and they are both glad to be connected — she needs the work done, and he needs to keep his employees busy. I’m not sure what it will mean for me, though I tend to think my jobs as always will be delayed. I’m not really sure I care, at least not all that much and not all the time, because the undone work gives me a sort of lien on his time. When I have an emergency, he comes right over or sends one of his guys. If all the work around my house was finished, perhaps he wouldn’t be as conscientious about taking care of my problems. On the other hand, he probably would especially now that I recommended him for that big job. And anyway, he does try to look after me when he can.

I asked my friend if she minded if I mentioned her and her unique situation, and she said okay. She was born in Malaysia of Chinese parents, and educated by Irish nuns. She has three sisters — one lives in Malaysia, one in Singapore, one in Australia, and she, of course, lives in the United States. Talk about a far-flung family! Luckily, there is Skype. The sisters talk every weekend, which is more than I do with my own siblings, and they live here in this country.

She would make a great character for my book, though I’m not sure how her story would contribute to whatever story I come up with. For now, I’m just collecting interesting characters and waiting to see if they want to engage with one another, literarily speaking.

Well, that’s about all the news I can rake up for you. I hope you had a more exciting — and blister-free — day than I did.

***

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.

Life’s Path

The weather pattern was weird today. Normally, at this time of year, the highest temperature is around 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon, but today started out in the fifties (Fahrenheit), and got increasingly colder. Luckily, I checked the weather before I made plans — though to be honest, my plans are rather uncomplicated. In fact, I had no plans (plural) for the day. I had just a plan (singular). And that plan was to water my grass. Since I checked the weather, I was able to get out when it was relatively warm (relative to the expected lows of 18 degrees), though relatively warm still meant wearing a coat.

I must admit, I do feel silly being out there watering in these last brisk weeks of fall, but I would feel even worse if my grass were to die of neglect before it even rooted itself. And anyway, it gives me a chance to meander around my paths. They don’t form a labyrinth, but as with walking a labyrinth, walking my paths seems to center me. A labyrinth is a journey into wholeness, a symbol of life’s path, and a reminder that we are on the path we are supposed to be on, and with my paths, I am literally on the path I’m supposed to be on. I don’t need the symbolism of a labyrinth. (The photo is of a labyrinth I walked when I was on my cross-country trip.)

I am hoping that over the years as I become more adept at gardening, every bend in my paths will lead me to something beautiful to contemplate, whether flowers, a bit of artwork, and of course, the grass that I am so assiduously caring for.

I still haven’t planted my wildflowers yet. I’m waiting until right before the first snow, though despite the chill today, it doesn’t seem as if we will have snow for a while. If there still isn’t any snow by Christmas, I’ll plant the seeds anyway and hope for the best. If they don’t come up in the spring, I can always plant more in the spring.

I’m trying not to hurry myself through the fall and winter months (I try to take each day as it comes), but I am looking forward to seeing where my paths (both life and garden) lead 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.

In Isolation Again

For the first time since this whole “Bob” mess started, it feels like an epidemic to me. Until now, I knew only a few people who got sick and though I didn’t personally know anyone who died, I was acquainted with a couple of women who lost their husbands, but each of those incidences seemed tragic and remote as if they were unconnected to anything else going on. Now, however, almost everyone I know is sick, helping to take care of someone who is sick, self-quarantining because of a positive test result, or exposed to someone who tested positive and is waiting to see if any symptoms show up. A lot of people who are negative have a cold or some other illness that prompted a test. And people are dying, though oddly, not from The Bob. Most are elderly people who sailed through the pandemic only to die of age-related illnesses.

As for me, I am fine, though needless to say, I am in isolation. There is simply too much illness out there for me to want to deal with anyone in person. I even returned my library books today so that I don’t slip up and accidentally go to the library during business hours. Luckily, I have a few emergency books, and I have been toying with the idea of reading The Wheel of Time series once more, which would see me through a couple of weeks.

I finished planting my bulbs today, though I have admit, I got careless, and in a few places, I dug up a daylily. When they are small, they look like grass, and since most of the weeds were a grassy type (prostrate knotweed), it was an understandable mistake. I did replant them, so I hope they survive. If not, I can replace them next year.

I had to laugh at myself (the only risible moment of the day) when I saw an ad for lily trees and clicked on the link to order them, but better judgement prevailed. I will wait until I see what and where and if any of the bulbs I planted come up in the spring, then decide what to do. After all, gardening is a project for a lifetime. It doesn’t all have to be done right now.

Although I wore myself out today, not wanting to have to deal with planting bulbs again tomorrow, I took a short stroll this afternoon to enjoy the lovely weather. Eighty degrees!! The last such warm day for the year, I’m sure, since tomorrow will hit seventy, and then fifties and sixties will be the highs for a while before the temperatures drop to winter lows.

I’m waiting for the eve of the first snow so I can plant my wildflower seeds, and then I will be finished with planting for the year. I will still have to water my new grass most days for a while, though I imagine that when the ground freezes, I’ll be able to skip that chore. For now, though, it’s a pleasant enough task, feasting my eyes on all that green as well as a flower or two, such as this Colorado Gold Gazania I found today.

I hope you all are staying well and safe and enjoying your day the best you can.

***

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.

Warm Novembers

The warm weather we’ve been having, while unseasonable, is not unprecedented. I remember another such November — I was young and becoming more in tune with my surroundings as I became more in tune in with myself. I walked miles and miles that November. I remember walking the five miles from my apartment to my parents’ house to celebrate Thanksgiving. It felt so good to be out unburdened by a coat or a sweater, it was if I were dancing all the way.

So much of my distant past is lost in the shadows of time, but I distinctly remember that walk, and how lighthearted I felt.

Here I am, decades later, enjoying that same sort of warm spell. This year, Thanksgiving won’t be as warm as the one I remember, but these recent days sure have been.

I feel almost as lighthearted as I did then — apparently, this weather has that effect on me — but I feel leaden footed without a hint of dance to my step. Of course, that is probably due as much to age as to the hours spent working in my yard earlier today.

I decided to dig up the lily bulbs I planted too shallowly, so I dug up the entire lily garden. To my surprise, I could only find about half the bulbs. Even the ones I clearly remember planting were missing. It’s possible I planted some deeper than I thought I did, especially since I did dump more dirt on top of the garden, but still, I should have found more of them. Well, I’ll have to wait until spring to see what happens, and if necessary, I can order a few more next fall to fill in empty areas.

After that, I planted a couple of dozen tulip bulbs, then I watered the lawn. Not exactly a day to remember decades from now, but a lovely day nonetheless.

I keep telling myself that this will be the last year I do this sort of planting, and that might be true, but I realized when I was out there earlier that the place where the shingles for my gazebo are being stored (they were actually dumped there, but saying they were stored makes it seem less haphazard) would make a perfect daffodil garden — a bright spot for the spring blooms, and yet out of the way for when their season has passed.

Even if the weather is back to normal or unseasonably chilly next year, I should be able to manage to plant one small garden.

Meantime, the next two days will be much like today, which will give me a chance to finish planting the tulip bulbs before the temperature begins dropping again.

***

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.

Underestimating Gardening Tasks

I am enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures. The late mornings are still a bit chilly when I go out to work in my yard, so I don’t get the full benefit of the 70+ high temperature, but it’s still nice to be able to work without freezing my fingers and toes.

I have learned that when it comes to gardening, I always underestimate the time it takes to any task, and planting this last batch of bulbs is no different. I am placing them between the daylilies I planted a couple of months ago, so I figured the ground would be easy to work, but unfortunately, I let the prostrate bindweed take hold. I started out digging it up, but discovered that I was also digging up the newly planted daylilies, so I decided to wait until it was time to plant the tulips and do it all at once (weed and plant). And so I really have my work set out for me.

I also have to decide what to do with the lily trees I planted. The first twenty had a note on the package to plant 3” deep, which I did. A second batch from another company that I received ten days after the first batch said to plant 6” deep, which I also did. Concerned about the disparity of depths, I checked online, and the online instructions from the company where I bought the first twenty said to plant 10” deep. If I can figure out where the bulbs are (I raked the area flat, so it’s anyone’s guess), I might try to dig them up and replant them, but if the cooler weather comes too quickly or if my knees give out, I will have to wait until next fall and buy the bulbs again. Which I do not want to do because they are relatively expensive.

I am so not a gardener! Though I suppose, by the time I get my yard landscaped, I’ll at least know a bit more about what I am doing. It’s too bad about the lilies — I was really looking forward to an eventual lily tree forest of six-foot-tall plants. Apparently, the plants die back every winter, and every spring for three or four years, they come back taller than ever until they eventually grow to their full height. Planting new bulbs next fall would put the “forest” back another year so I wouldn’t see the full growth until the fourth year.

The good news is that if I decide to try to replant, and if I can find the bulbs, it should be an easy enough task since the ground was worked to at least a 6” depth.

But then, there is that comment I made earlier, that I always underestimate the time it takes to do any gardening task. Still, I can take comfort from knowing that at least the weather will be warm for a my bulb hunt.

***

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.