Things to Worry At

In a book I just finished reading, the character often stayed awake at night worrying about all the things in her life that she couldn’t do anything about. As it turns out, the one thing she should have been worrying about, the thing that will change her life forever, is something she could never have imagined. But that’s not what this post is about.

Mostly, her worrying got me to thinking about my worries. Luckily, my worries at the moment are all minor. Even better, “worrying” in my case doesn’t mean causing anxiety; it means to tug and pull at things. Like a dog worrying at a bone, I worry at thoughts — I poke and prod them, pushing them around in my head, looking at them from all angles.

The current bone that I am worrying at is what to plant in the “island” between my two sidewalks. The space lends itself to some sort of formal desert garden, or rather it would if it weren’t for all the shade that area gets. A garden like that would take more studying and preparation (and money!) than I want to deal with right now, though I can always plan such a garden at a later date. My latest thought is to take all the seeds I have, mix them together — cultivated flowers and wild flowers, annuals and perennials, new and expired — and then next summer toss them onto the space, cover them with dirt, water, and see what happens.

The summer after that would be the key to what I ultimately decide. If enough perennials take hold, then the decision would be made for me and I wouldn’t have to do anything. By then, too, the prostrate knotweed that passes for grass around here might have taken over, since it’s almost impossible for me to keep on top of it, and in that case, I wouldn’t have to do anything, either, except give up and let it be.

Ideas for that garden particular area are not all that I am pushing and pulling around in my head. Behind the currently roofless gazebo, in the middle of the reddish pathways, there will be a raised garden, and that, too, is something I worry at. It will be the focal point of my secret garden (because when all the bushes along the fence grow up, that space will be utterly private), and I’m not sure what one plants in a raised garden. It would seem as if tall plants would overpower the area and perhaps make it claustrophobic. And low-lying plants might get lost. I’d originally thought it would be a good place for a vegetable garden, but since I’ve killed a couple of my tomato plants and can’t even manage to grow a zucchini, I’m not sure it’s worth the time and effort to plant vegetables.

None of this matters, of course. It’s not as if the fate of the world lies in the decision of what to plant in my various garden spots. It’s not even as if my own fate lies in the decision. It’s that I like having some idea of what I am going to be doing. More than that, apparently, I also need things to worry at, and with nothing major to worry about, I worry at my gardens.

***

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

Just Like That

Awhile back, I accepted a job as a part-time caregiver (more of a companion, to be honest) for an older woman. I promised to stay a year, and wow! Just like that (snapping my fingers), the year is gone. I signed up for another few months, which is nice for all concerned. I get along well with the women, both the client and her permanent caregiver, they get a break from each other, and I get help with some of my expenses, most notably, my gardening expenses.

I spent a nice chunk of my paycheck on bulbs to plant for this fall. I got carried away, and so my spare time (weather permitting), will be spent preparing the soil for the bulbs. I have a good idea where the bulbs will go, so that’s good. Tulips will go alongside one of my garden paths, and lilies will go to augment the lilies I already have, so that eventually I will have a lily forest.

One area of the yard I have no idea what to do with is the six-foot space between the two sidewalks in my back yard that lead from my back door to the garage and gazebo. This year, I just planted whatever seeds I had plus any extraneous purchased plants. What seemed like a good idea has devolved into rather a mess, and I don’t want a repeat of that next for next year.

I’ve been considering a combination of cosmos, zinnia, larkspur, and baby’s breath because all of those go well together, but since those are all tall plants, I’m not sure how well they’d fit in the overall scheme of my yard. I considered various flowering groundcovers, but none of the samples I bought and planted seemed to take hold. In fact, some of them simply disappeared.

Luckily, I don’t have to make any decision about that particular garden space quite yet. We haven’t even made it through this summer. But the fall and winter will go fast (in fact, by the time next spring comes around, my most recent job stint will have come to an end), and I’ll need to have some idea what to do. I guess if inspiration doesn’t strike, I’ll go with my idea of zinnias, cosmos, larkspur and baby’s breath. Considering that those are all annuals, it would give me an extra year to decide what would look good in that area. Maybe a perennial about a foot tall with big showy flowers. I have no idea what that would be, but it would give me a place to start looking, because (snap) just like that, it will be spring and time to plant.

***

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

Possible Dreams

As I water my various plants, I daydream about what the yard will look like in the coming years, assuming I can keep up with the work. I hadn’t realized I would like lilies, but I find them amusingly cheerful. I looked up my order for the lilies I planted and discovered they are orienpet lilies, a combination of oriental lilies and trumpet lilies. To be honest, I hadn’t remembered planting them. Luckily, they remembered! Apparently, their lying dormant the first year is not unusual. Even better, every year they’re supposed to get bigger than the previous year, and eventually they will grow to be six feet tall. Now I am dreaming of a lily forest. I bet it will be beautiful, especially if I order more lilies to fill in the space around where these lilies are growing. And since I water and weed that area anyway, there won’t be any extra work once the lilies are planted.

Although the lilies are supposed to be strong enough not to need staking, mine are still so young that I need to invest in some garden stakes. Right now I am using wooden stakes leftover from the various concrete jobs around the property, but although functional, they detract too much from the flowers.

Another place I have dreams for is the area in front of the lilacs along the path next to the garage. It seems perfect for tulips. I water there anyway, just like with my future lily forest, so once the bulbs are planted, there won’t any extra work. And it won’t look like a mess once the flowers have faded.

I felt more like playing in my yard today than I have the past couple of weeks, so I harvested hollyhock seeds, which I am willing to share with anyone local who wants some. Just let me know. I also cut down a couple of the spent hollyhock stalks that were unsightly, but that only made the weeds along the fence more apparent. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to extend the slag driveway along the fence line to help with the problem. There will be way too much inside the fence for me to take care of without having to worry about anything outside the fence. I also did a bit of weeding, but wore out quickly. And anyway, I had to put the gardening on hold because I needed to start my car. Even though the brakes aren’t fixed yet (the brakes work, but the brake warning light still comes on), I’ve been doing a bit of driving just to keep the car mobile.

It still amazes me how gardening has gotten into my blood. When I first moved here, all I could think of was putting in some sort of landscaping that would take care of itself, and now I’m dreaming of a mini estate that will take plenty of work.

But we all need dreams, right? And not impossible ones either.

***

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

Unexpected Treat

I had an unexpected treat today — a couple of guys showed up to work on my yard! One left quite quickly — I got the impression he wasn’t really into shoveling dirt and rocks — but luckily, the person who has been doing most of the work stayed a little longer. He’s really getting into the artistry of the work, which helps keeps his interest.

He mentioned he’d seen a photo online of the flagstone path I put in from the sidewalk to the mailbox, and I felt a moment of panic as I always do when I discover that someone in my offline life read my blog without my being aware of it. It’s not a problem, of course, since that’s the whole point of posting what amounts to a personal diary on the internet. The panic comes from not knowing if I said anything that the person could misconstrue — or even construe, for that matter.

Although I try not to be unkind, sometimes I get frustrated with how slowly the work is going, especially when I can’t keep up with something I shouldn’t have to keep up with. For example, I got overwhelmed trying to clear away a mini forest that grew from the roots and stump of a cut-down tree, and that frustration showed up here on this blog. Luckily, they finally ground out the stump, the mini forest was dug up, and that whole area is now covered with rocks so I will never have to deal with the mess again.

Generally, though, I don’t mind that everything is taking so long because the longer it takes, the more I can enjoy the process. I lead such a quiet life that there is a certain amount of excitement that comes with work being done, and when everything is finally finished, that excitement will be finished, too.

But perhaps not. With a house, there is always something to be done, and this contractor doesn’t seem to mind when I call him with emergencies that are really more in the handyman category than in the construction category.

Speaking of things I can’t keep up with — a few more plants are fading in the heat. I don’t seem to be able to water them deep enough. I’ve been considering putting in a small lawn (about 300 square feet) in a corner of my front yard, but now I’m not sure I’d be able to water it enough to keep it alive, but other people in the neighborhood manage to keep their lawns green, so I suppose I could too.

Not everything is fading, though — another lily showed up today! It’s successes like these — someone coming to work for a few hours or new flowers — that keep me focused on my yard. Though I must admit, I’ve been letting the weeding go lately. It’s too hot for such a thankless job. I’m just grateful the workers who do show up are willing to put in the time despite the heat. I certainly wouldn’t want to do the work!

***

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

Lily Selfies

I’ve been disappointed with my garden lately. On second thought — it’s not the garden that’s disappointing me, it’s the lack of photo opportunities. The plants themselves are doing what they are supposed to be doing. For example, the hollyhocks have stopped blooming and are now going to seed, which is great, because I want those seeds, but the plants are not very pretty. The stalks are brown and scraggly, and the leaves have huge holes where the grasshoppers have been feasting.

Today, however, I was surprised by the lilies. I had forgotten I’d ordered and planted the lilies almost two years ago because only one ever poked its way above ground, but this year, several are growing and a couple of them are even blooming. And wow! Those flowers are big!

I had a hard time photographing the flowers, because they are shy things and hang their heads.

Luckily, I remembered that my phone’s camera has selfie capabilities (the function was easy to forget since I never take selfies), so I put the phone in selfie mode and managed to get a good look at the lilies. Lovely! And such dainty colors.

As I was heading into the house, I happened to see a pairing of flowers that looked so beautiful together that I took that picture too.

I enjoy growing things, but photographing the blooms adds to my enjoyment, so much so that sometimes I wonder if that’s why I like gardening — it gives me a reason to use the camera.

***

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

Walking to Walk

For the past few days, I’ve been taking walks, and it’s felt strange. I haven’t walked simply to walk in months. Ever since the advent of gardening season, I’ve spent the cooler hours in my yard — digging, planting, weeding, watering, mowing, sometimes for several hours at a time. Supposedly gardening is exercise, and if sweat is a meter to go by, then for certain I was exercising. By the time I finished my gardening chores, it was too hot to walk, so I stopped walking. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve been walking all along, but any walking I did had a purpose — going to the grocery store, stopping by the dollar store, visiting the library, heading to work.

With gardening upkeep at a minimum right now (nothing to plant, whatever grass there was is dead, and the big weeds haven’t grown back) I’ve suddenly had the time and energy and inclination to walk. So I did.

That’s what feels so strange — walking for no other reason than to walk. To be honest, I’m pleased I still have the ability to walk. I think a person ages rapidly once the ability to walk diminishes. Right now, I’m walking less than two miles, which at one time felt like no more than a walk around the block, but now . . . well, come to think of it, it still feels like a walk around the block, but I’m not ready to ramp up my walking to a more challenging distance. I need to ease into it to make sure I don’t overtax my knees.

It’s a shame there’s no open space with trails right around here — the closest place, from what I can gather, is about fifteen miles away, and although it’s a nice place to walk, driving to walk feels even weirder to me than walking to walk.

Once the garden season comes to an end and my flowers start dying, I’ll probably have to do a lot more digging and hoeing to get rid of the old plants and to try to tame the grass and knotweed that creep into my flower beds, but perhaps I can work just a bit at a time so I can keep up with my walking.

But that’s getting too far ahead of myself. I’m just glad to be able to roam around town even if there is no real reason for the walk — other than to walk, that is.

***

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

Harvest!

When I was out watering my newly bedded day lilies, I noticed that most of the plants had a bit of green on them. If I had watered according to their directions — once a week — those things would have been fried in this heat. Out here, many things have to be watered every day in the middle of summer, though mostly I try to stick to every other day. Unfortunately, some plants die under that regimen, though fortunately others, even others of the same ilk, do well.

A couple of my cherry tomato plants seem to be dying, but a couple are doing so well that I was able to harvest a tomato off one of the plants.

I had to laugh at myself when I bought the plants — I spent more on those plants than I do on a year’s worth of tomatoes, and yet, it has been fun watching them grow. And the tomato I harvested and ate today was exceptionally delicious.

When the radishes were growing, I’d pick them while I was watering, wash them off, and eat them on the spot. I’ll probably do the same with the tomatoes. Now I just need to find other edibles that will also allow for grazing. I had considered a berry patch, but with all the birds around here, I’d probably never get a single berry unless I built a contraption to keep all flying creatures out and all berries in.

I did try to grow greengage plum trees, and one is doing well, while the other two will have to be replaced, but either way, it will be years before I get a single plum, and then there is the bird problem with those, too.

Well, it’s too late to plant anything else this summer and too early to plant anything for fall, so I have plenty of time to decide what I want to do.

Meantime, I’m looking forward to another tomato or two.

***

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.

100 Plants Planted

Well, I did it — planted the 100 dayliles I’d ordered. It turns out I needed that many. I really thought I only needed twenty-five for each side of my walkway, and I would have made them work if that’s all I’d ordered, but since one hundred pretty much cost the same as fifty when I took such things as shipping into consideration, I’m especially glad I ordered twice as many. And especially glad that the planting is now done. It took me several days to prepare the soil, so today’s planting took only about three hours. Three hard hours.

They sure doesn’t look pretty, but that’s the way the plants came — yellow and scraggly. With any luck and a bit of water, they ought to green up and maybe even establish themselves before winter comes.

A prettier surprise was the blossom on this mangus echinacea. The tag I’d planted with along with the echinacea had blown away, so I had no idea what the plant was until it bloomed and I was able to look it up. So now I know.

And my zinnias are doing great.

Anyone who plants a garden is planting hopes and dreams and perhaps poems, and this is even more true when it comes to an amateur gardener. Without any extensive knowledge about how to care for plants, one can only hope and dream that one day blossoms will appear.

So, in a couple of years, when the newly-planted daylilies take hold, I hope I will have copious blooms to show you!

***

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

Busy Day Tomorrow!

I am going to be busy tomorrow — busier than I normally am, that is. I just received my shipment of daylilies, which are supposed to be planted immediately. Immediately, in this case, has to mean tomorrow because I go to work this afternoon. Besides, it’s very hot and very humid right now, so I wouldn’t want to take a chance on getting heatstroke.

Everything takes longer and is harder than I expect, and I suspect it’s going to take a long time to plant one hundred daylilies. Luckily, I prepared the garden beds, removing the weeds and grass and digging down several inches, so it’s mostly going to be a matter of putting the plants to bed.

Still, one hundred is a lot of plants!

I’m hoping the two beds I prepared, one on each side of my front ramp, will be big enough for all the daylilies. If not, I’ll probably have to store the remainder in wet dirt until I can prepare other areas.

I hadn’t planned on getting so many of the plants — I figured I needed about twenty-five per bed since they have to be planted at least a foot apart, but two batches of twenty-five with postage cost the same as four batches with free postage,, which is why I ended up with that many plants. So tomorrow I get to work!

Touch-up paint for my car also came today. The paint below the gas cap rotted either because of the fumes or because of drips, and that discolored strip of paint recently fell off. Luckily, the gray primer is intact, so all I have to do is hope that the paint people sent the right color and that I can paint it on without it looking too sloppy.

That chore can wait a couple of days or even weeks, if necessary, but the planting can’t wait. It will be good to have something fun growing in those front-yard areas. Weeds and thick-bladed grass are not the sort of things I want greeting me when I get home from work.

I’d planned to take it easy today so I wouldn’t be too sore for the chore tomorrow, but the contractor assigned a worker who assigned a different worker to come and fill in the moat around the house that they’d dug up when they fixed the cracks in the foundation. That wouldn’t have been a problem, but the guys who were supposed to have come on Saturday to whack the weeds around the house never showed up, so I ended up helping dig out the worst of the weeds so the worker could fill in the moat. (Some of my stories about the contractor and his workers sound like a Judge Judy show waiting to happen, but I’m not a litigious sort, and besides, the work will get done. Eventually.)

Still, I’ll rest this evening, perhaps with a bit of luck even go to sleep early, so that I can play in the dirt tomorrow before it gets too hot.

***

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.