A Winning Situation

Lots of activity today! I’d ordered some hydrangea bush/trees from The Arbor Day Foundation (well, actually, I donated a token amount of money, and the hydrangeas came along as a gift), but hadn’t received them, so I thought they forgot me. But the hydrangeas came today, which surprised me. I mean, a couple of days until December is still fall, but not what we generally think of as fall. It also surprised me that the ground was thawed enough to plant. I guess a little sun during the day offsets a lot of cold during the night. I thought I was only supposed to get four of the plants, but they sent me five, so I cheated and put two in the same large hole. It’s a place where I particularly want the bushes, so hopefully, at least one will survive — Arbor Day Foundation trees are notorious for not growing. In fact, all the trees I got from them died, and although the lilac seedlings didn’t die, they didn’t grow, either. Maybe next year!

A couple of workers planned to come early this morning to spread the breeze (crushed rock) for part of my walkway in the yard, but they couldn’t come that early because the breeze was frozen solid. I guess the snow had made its way down the heap, and that’s what froze. I can’t imagine that rock itself freezes, but what do I know. I’m new to this gardening/landscaping thing.

The workers did finally come, and in fact, they are still here.

Wow! That breeze rock sure is red!! It’s supposed to dry to a paler red, but we’ll see. I don’t suppose it matters. It’s all earth tone — the garage, the decorative rock around the garage, and the breeze. In the middle of the red pathway is a long rectangle that will be a raised garden.

It’s really interesting to me that although I am doing these things — the raised garden, the pathways, the ramps — for practicality, it’s all turning out to be so lovely.

People keep asking me why I need pathways in my yard, and the truth is, although I will appreciate having smooth walkways, I don’t really need them yet, but as I get older and unsteadier on my feet, I certainly will need them. I wouldn’t want to risk stepping into a depression in the grass and tripping and falling. So many older people’s lives are irrevocably changed by a simple fall. Also, since so many people not that much older than I am using walkers, I want to be prepared. If it got to that point, I wouldn’t want to be housebound just because I couldn’t get around my yard. And if not me, then my friends — I already know several people using walkers or wheelchairs, and I will be ready if ever they were to visit.

Another practicality — the more rock covering the ground, the less lawn or yard to take care of.

Many people either don’t want to think that that far ahead, or simply don’t think of these things, but since I am the only one who will be taking care of me when I get old, I figure the person I am now needs to prepare for the agedness of the person I will become. If I’m lucky, I’ll never need as much accessibility as I am having put in, but at least it will be there in case.

And anyway, it really is fun watching my mini estate taking shape. What’s also fun is seeing how the people who work on my yard really get into it. Although it’s hard work, it also gives them a creative outlet. And I let them do many of the things they think of. So it’s a winning situation all around.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

Watching Workers Work

I’ve spent a nice lazy day watching men be anything but lazy.

My contractor has a new employee, one who is old enough and knowledgeable enough and conscientious enough to work by himself, so he’s been coming to lay decorative rock and dig pathways to fill with crushed rock called “breeze.” Why is it called breeze? I don’t know. All I know is that it will be nice to have flat paths to walk on as I get old and unsteady.

It’s interesting to me how everyone who has come to work on this house or yard has become caught up in the planning and offered fun and practical ideas for improving the lot and making the place accessible for the old lady I will become. (Of course, since these men are all considerably younger than me, they probably already see me as that frail old woman.)

I certainly hadn’t planned on doing all this (or rather, having it done), but once I can see where the worker is going with his idea, I can’t unsee it. And so, gradually, my yard is taking shape. It truly will be a mini estate when it is finished, with wild areas, garden areas, grassy areas as well as big bushes and small trees creating various “rooms.” And amazingly, when it is all finished, the entire cost of the house and landscaping will be a tiny fraction of what a similar property in any other part of the country would be.

It also looks as if the foundation will be repaired soon. This same worker who is laying down the rock will be digging away the dirt around the foundation, fixing the cracks, and then putting it all back together. As much as I appreciate the aesthetics of the landscaping (and the practicality of it), I am especially looking forward to having the cracks fixed. The house is sound even with the cracks, but since the biggest cracks are in the corner where my bedroom is, fixing them will give me great peace of mind. Not that I worry about it, but fixing the foundation ensures that I will never have to worry about the house collapsing while I am sleeping.

I’d take a picture of the work, but to be honest, all it looks like right now are rocks and dirt. Hmm. Maybe I need a waterfall. Then I’d have an interesting photo to post!

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

It’s Alive!

I’ve never had a green thumb. Any indoor plant — and most outdoor plants — I ever had took one look at me and promptly expired, so a few months ago when a friend gifted me with a plant she’d grown from her mother’s purple passion plant, I accepted with an outward smile and an inward groan.

Luckily, she said it wouldn’t hurt her feelings if the plant didn’t make it, which made me feel a whole lot better. And also, luckily, the plant isn’t picky about being watered — once a week or thereabouts is all it needs.

Despite my benign neglect, the plant seems to like it here. It’s in front of southern window with a light curtain that I mostly keep closed, so the purple passion plant gets plenty of diffused sunlight.

Surprisingly, not only has the plant thrived, but whenever it gets too tall and stringy, I lop of the top of the plant and stick it in the pot, and that bit thrives, too. Because of this, it doesn’t have nature’s symmetry but a rather wild appearance.

But it’s alive, and that’s what counts. Or at least, I think it is.

***

My latest novel Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published!

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

The Grass From Hell

I malign this poor grass. Bermuda grass is only the grass from hell if you’re trying to dig it up. It’s a chore, that’s for sure! Because of it’s extensive — and deep — root system, it takes several stabs with a shovel to get deep enough to pull out even a small chunk of the grass. And it does come out in chunks of soil and roots.

I imagine this ability to bind soils makes it a good grass in windy areas, such as this one. I certainly don’t lose any topsoil (assuming there is any at all in this ancient yard) during the high wind storms. The deep roots make Bermuda grass hard to kill with neglect. Even if it turns brown in the heat of summer, it will always come back with a touch of rain. Despite that — or maybe because of that — it is heat and drought resistant. When I figure out what areas of my yard I want to be green, I’ll water the heck out of the grass and end up with a lush looking lawn.

For now, I know one area I don’t want the grass — it’s between the two sidewalks and would be hard to mow. Besides, that island will make a great zinnia bed. And so the grass has to go, though to be honest, right about now, I’m rethinking that plan. I’ve worked a couple of hours today and yesterday, and oh, am I exhausted! To say nothing of sore and weak-kneed. The area is approximated six feet by sixteen feet, and I’ve managed to dig up maybe 24 square feet so far. Lots of hard shoveling! And even after digging up all those roots, chances are the grass will come back because not only does it have such an extensive root system that it’s impossible to get every bit, it also propagates by seed, and there’s no telling how many seeds are left behind. No wonder the preferred method of removing the grass is to zap it with Round-up, but that’s not anything I would ever consider.

I have a hunch this is the wrong time of year to be digging up grass or doing any gardening other than planting a few things that prefer to be settled in the fall, but the way I figure, I’m here now, the grass is here (and by no means green, not even on the other side of the fence!), the ground is still faintly damp from the recent though long-melted snow so the digging is a mite easier, and it’s a good reason to be out in this perfect fall weather.

The weather will change again next week, but with any luck, I’ll have most of the island grass-free, ready for spring fertilizing and planting.

I did mention, didn’t I, that we planted my greengage plum trees? (Well, my contractor and his helper did, I just stood around and pretended I was working.) I had an extra tree (I’d ordered it for a friend who no longer had a place for it) and without any better idea of where to put it, we planted in the middle of the island. I’ll have to prune it every year to keep it small, but that will make the fruit easier to reach — assuming there is fruit and assuming the birds leave any for me. In a way, it will be like a birdfeeder without all the work and the mess. (Though I am sure there will be other messes, but I don’t want to think about that.)

If by chance, I’ve whet your appetite for digging, you are welcome to join me in my yard tomorrow around mid-morning. I have an extra shovel.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
Click here to purchase the Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Frigid Temperatures on the Way

I spent the morning getting my yard ready for the frigid weather that’s headed our way. I did one last watering, then stored the hoses and insulated the outside faucets.

And I planted bulbs.

After last year’s fiasco, where I planted many bulbs and almost none came up (due probably to my following directions and not watering them during the early spring drought as I probably should have), I hadn’t planned to do any more bulb gardens, but I donated a few dollars to the Arbor Day Foundation, and they sent me bulbs for a purple garden.

I followed their directions exactly. Dug down deep to loosen the soil in the whole garden area (as difficult as it was, it was easier than it sounds because this particular garden is only about two-and-a half by four feet), planted the bulbs at the requisite depth, and watered extremely well.

I took a picture of my garden, but it looks like . . . dirt! So here is the photo of what it would look next spring in the hands of a real gardener:

Halfway through all this work, I wondered if I was jumping the winter gun because I was HOT. By the time I finished rolling up the hoses, however, cold winds had sprung up, bringing a promise — or a warning — of cooler weather. Although the high today will be near seventy, the low tonight will be in the twenties, and tomorrow we won’t warm up beyond the mid-forties. Saturday will be warm again, in the seventies, and then it will get really cold, down to 10 or 15 degrees with a high around freezing. Brr. Just the thought makes me shiver.

Luckily, I just stocked up on tea! Nothing warms me — body and soul — like a special tea. The one I’m drinking now is called Breakfast in Paris, and is a combination of black teas, lavender, bergamot oil, and vanilla. Very nice! Though truthfully, I could still enjoy the tea if frigid temperatures weren’t on the way.

***

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
Click here to purchase the Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Concrete Developments

The long awaited day finally arrived. Such excitement! First, the Cat skid steer came to the party.

While waiting for the everyone else to get here, the early arrivals scavenged cinder blocks and bricks from around the property to cut down on the amount of concrete that will be needed. And such an easy way to get rid of unwanted scraps!

Then the cement mixer showed up, and the party began. The work party, anyway. I just sat and watched.

It was amazing how, with so many guys working, there wasn’t a single problem. They each seemed to know what they were supposed to do, and they did it.

The skid steer definitely made things easier. Originally, the work was going to be done by two men with a wheelbarrow since there was no way the cement mixer could get all the way into the back yard.

As it was, they had to rip out part of the fence so they could get the Cat and the concrete into the yard, but luckily, these were the very guys who had installed the fence in the first place, so they put it back as good as new.

I worried that having so much concrete would take away from the expansive feeling of the yard, but it doesn’t. It becomes a bit of a focal point as well as creating an island garden.

One thing I liked about the way these people worked, was even though the skid steer tore up my yard, they pretty much drove it along the pathway where they will be building a walkway.

The only bad part about all of this is that I have to wait until the concrete dries to be able to use the back door again. But soon. Three days at most. Yay!

There will be handrails, in case you’re wondering, but those haven’t been made yet.

***

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

Building a Garden

I just added another category for filing my blog posts — gardening. It appears as if I am writing quite a bit about my yard, what I’m doing to it, and what I’m planting. And today’s post is one of those.

A while back, I had ordered a few plants in pots (much nicer than bare root twigs!) and they arrived yesterday. So today, I went into my beautiful garage, grabbed a shovel, and started to dig. There was a lot of digging! I had to remove dead tree roots, Bermuda grass, weeds, and rocks. Then I had to sit down on my bench to plan what to put where. I had already decided, but apparently I didn’t realize how big some of these things would get, and hadn’t taken size into consideration.

I also had to translate some of the instructions into neophyte language. For example, they said not to plant the seedlings where they would get the afternoon sun, but at least two of the items need full sun. So I had to plop the plants wherever it seemed they would do best in the long term.

One thing that had surprised me because no other plant supplier had mentioned it: these instructions said that after I removed the plant from the container and before putting it in the ground, I had to cut the root ball in several places and fluff it up so that the roots would spread easier. So I did that, or at least what I presumed they meant by those instructions. We’ll see.

I’d planned to go walking afterward, but I sat back down on my bench to rest (gardening is hard work!) and exhaustion kept me there until it got too hot to walk. But sitting was nice. I got to survey my domain and imagine building a beautiful garden one plant at a time.

***

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