The Nature of Nature

I was frustrated yesterday at how slowly everything moves when it depends on nature, whether human nature or . . . nature. Trees and bushes grow slowly, humans work slowly, at least sometimes. That’s their nature. About the only things that move fast when it comes to a garden or landscaping are weeds.

Generally I don’t mind that the contractor has me at the bottom of his list of priorities. So much of his work is seasonal or comes from county contracts, so I understand those things have to come first. I also understand that workers come and go. When he has a lot of workers, he takes on extra jobs to keep them all busy, and then when his guys take off in the middle of a job, he’s left playing catch-up. I’m also mostly okay with their sporadic work because that way I can keep up with my part of the landscaping, working small areas at a time.

Besides, my yard was never supposed to be a quick project. I’ve always known it would be a life-long endeavor to find plants that will grow under my care and to wait for flowers to spread and bushes, shrubs, and trees to fill out and grow to a pleasing height.

Despite knowing all that, sometimes I find it hard to accept the human nature part of this endeavor. I suppose, of course, I could find someone else to do the work, or rather a lot of “someone else”s. These people do it all, whether home repair, concrete work, building, plumbing, landscaping, whatever. And if I have an emergency, they come immediately, which is important since I’m a first-time homeowner with not a clue how to do anything or even how to find someone to get things done. Still, I get frustrated.

But that was yesterday.

Today I’m back to being patient and waiting for things to work out in their own time, though I do reserve the right to nag when necessary.

I think it also helps that the people I bought the greengage plum trees from were helpful. As it turns out, one tree is doing great. One is mostly dead except for a bit of growth just above the graft site. One is alive but barely. They gave me credit for the dead tree and told me how to deal with the still dormant tree. Mostly it reminded me of the importance of patience when it comes to the nature of nature, because the truth is, when something does finally work out, like the lilac bush pictured below, it’s worth it.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

My Rocky Garden

Ever since I moved to my house, whenever I came across a rock in the yard, which was frequently, I’d toss it onto a pile with the other rocks I’d gathered. I used some of them to form circles around small plants, like my hen and chicks, so that neither I nor anyone else would trample the plants. But still the pile grew. So today I decided to do something about it.

There’s a large rock in the yard that some people say is the fossil of a sea slug. I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I piled a bunch of rocks around the maybe fossil to emphasize it, because no matter what it is, it is interesting. It’s sort of hidden in the back of the garden, but there is no way I’d ever be able to move the thing. Maybe I’ll find tiny flowers to plant around the base of the structure to make it even more interesting, but for now, I’m happy with my rock formation.

I’d planned to paint a few rocks solid colors to form rock flowers, but I didn’t get around to it, so I made the flowers anyway. Now that I look at the rock flowers, I see they don’t need to be painted. They’re fine as they are. As the lilacs grow and take over the area, I might go ahead and paint the rocks to make them stand out more, but they are fine for now.

And then there is my lovely little gnome home, a gift from a neighbor. I’m hoping the figures are in a secluded enough spot that the winds will leave them alone, but I’ll keep my eye on the little guy and rescue him if necessary.

Now, of course, I’m worn out. Even though these were all relatively small rocks and pebbles — the largest about six or seven inches in diameter, the aggregate weight was more than I’ve lifted and carried for a couple of years. I’m surprised my knees held out, but they must have been as glad to see the garden take shape as the rest of me was.

Although I would have liked a real rock garden, my rocky garden will still be something to enjoy.

***

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.

Winter Redux

In the light of a warm spring day, it’s hard to remember the harshness of winter. It’s even harder to believe that winter weather will be returning in just a few days.

Winds will be bringing in a new storm, and snow is forecast. The lowest temperature on those supposed snow days will only be about 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so I wouldn’t believe snow was coming (and not just because of the bright day) except for the fact that I put away my snow shovel today. It’s been residing in my enclosed back porch for the winter to make it easy to grab when it snowed. Previously when I left it in the garage, I couldn’t get to it. Not only did snow pack in around my back door, but I needed the shovel to shovel my way to the garage to get the shovel.

But now it’s back in the garage, hanging up on my newly installed tool bar. I didn’t know if I should take a photo of the bar since it would show my oh, so valuable, discount store tools, but decided it would be okay since I doubt anyone would want them. What people steal are small power tools that are easy to sell, and the only thing powering my tools is me. And to be honest, that power source is not worth much of anything.

No one will be here working for the next few days. They have a lot of tree work that needs to be done before the winds hit, but maybe they will come on the windy days.

Meantime, I am enjoying the work that has been done.

It’s amazing to me how nice the place is shaping up to be. I never imagined owning a house, never imagined a garage for my aged car, and I certainly never imagined a landscaped yard (though there will be some wild and weedy spots) and yet it seems that I will eventually have all three — not just the house and garage, but a nice yard.

In my pre-grief years, I’d never been one to talk about the good things in my life thinking it was akin to bragging, but now I know it’s about acknowledging my blessings and being grateful for the way my post-grief life is going.

And I am definitely grateful.

Who knows, I might even be grateful for the coming winter redux.

***

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

More Work Done!

A couple of workers showed up today to continue working on my yard, and they did enough that it actually looks like they are making progress.

This following picture is the side of the house where a long disused driveway used to be. The crib-like structure toward the end of the pathway is a gazebo being built over a concrete slab that was in front of the old garage. There were enough materials leftover from building the new garage — including shingles — that it’s mostly paid for. I’m not sure I will ever use the gazebo, but it’s something I’ve always wanted. Besides, a concrete slab is a terrible thing to waste.

This second photo is the rear of the yard where the old garage used to be. The squared off space in the center of the red pathway will eventually be a raised garden.

I do have another garden spot (the “island” between my back sidewalks) though who knows how much I will ever be able to do with it. Getting down on my knees, even with the help of a garden kneeler is, I am afraid, a thing of the past. This May, when the risk of frost is past, I’ll probably just toss out some seeds, water the area, and see what happens.

Meantime, I am enjoying watching my “estate” take shape.

***

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

What the Wind Blew In

I had a lovely surprise today. I went outside as usual to check the weather, though I really didn’t have to — I could hear the strong winds and knew they would be pushing mountain air our way — but I wanted to see what if anything the wind blew into my yard. What I discovered was . . . workers!

I didn’t expect them today. The one worker who lives nearby comes on the weekend if he comes at all, and with the wind, I was sure they’d find a different job rather than battling with the weed blocker fabric that needs to go under the ornamental rock around the house and the breeze pathways.

And yet, here they are!

Apparently, it’s too windy to do any of their other work, especially putting on siding and trimming trees, so they came here to get caught up a bit. One is working outside and the other — lucky fellow! — is working in the basement out of the wind. I’m especially delighted with the work being done on the basement. It’s an old project that was never finished. The cement floor was put in, which I was most concerned about since the old crumbled concrete floor seemed so dangerous and gave the basement a dungeony feel. I haven’t really been concerned about the cracks in the walls being fixed since they are superficial, and more importantly from my standpoint, I won’t be using the basement for storage. If I do need it for storage, I have a much bigger problem than an unfinished project because I should be getting rid of things rather than accumulating more stuff.

I am concerned, though, about having the sump pump put in, which I reminded them about today. The water table here is high, and when there are copious rains, as there occasionally have been, basements get flooded. It’s sort of silly to be concerned about it during a time of great drought, but in my experience, droughts tend to end with huge rainfalls.

Still, whether necessary or not, it would be good to have one project completely finished.

We also talked about what to get to hang my tools, and once those racks are up, the inside of the garage should be completely finished. The gutters would then be the only extant garage project, but installing them is not a project for a windy day.

I am truly delighted with the paths that are going in. Not only will they add to my safety, they will define the yard as well as fill in a lot of the space I would otherwise have to care for. Right now, caring for the yard is not a problem. To be honest, it’s not a problem because I haven’t been doing anything to care for the lawn, but when I do need to start taking better care of my yard, a couple of patches of grass will be about all I can handle. And I do want some grass since it adds to the curb appeal. Besides, what’s the point of having a lawn mower if you never use it?

The paths aren’t far enough along to show in a photo — mostly all you’d see is the gray fabric, so here are photos of the hen and chicks I planted last year. They are doing surprisingly well considering the harsh winter we had.

As you can see, the dandelions are also doing well.

***

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.

Neighbors

For a hermit, I see rather a lot of people, at least on a casual basis. This morning, I talked with the woman who is helping me look after the house of mutual friends who are out of town dealing with a medical emergency. On my way back from watering their plants, a friend pulled her car up in front of me, and inquired about those friends. We talked for a while, then I headed on home. I spied my next-door neighbor outside, and so I stopped to chat with her for a few minutes. And then I chatted with the fellow who recently moved to the house on the other side of mine.

I’d been worried about having neighbors on both sides since I’m not one for noise, but so far, it’s been nice. Although the new neighbor has a dog, he’s been quiet, which I appreciate. It means that since he doesn’t bark at any little thing, there have been no major problems. I might rethink this once the new guy starts working with his power tools to turn a bus into a motor home, but I can’t really complain since I’ve been the source of noise over the past two years — building the garage, for example.

This is a temporary arrangement because when the bus is finished, the new neighbor will take off, but for now I like having neighbors on both sides. Not only is it a friendly way to live since the neighbors on both sides are nice, but it makes me feel safe.

The electricity isn’t turned on next door yet, so the guy asked if he could use my electricity for a couple of projects. My tendency is always to say yes and regret it later, so I told him I would have to check with my brother. My brother’s tendency is always to say no, so it helps give me reality check. In the end, his main objection was that the neighbor would take advantage (which I told the neighbor, sort of as a joke as well as a warning), but if that doesn’t happen, the good will would be worth it. (The owner has always been nice to me in a rather distant way, though he did let me transplant some lilac shoots, which was truly neighborly.)

Besides these neighbors, there is a third neighbor who lives across the alley behind me that I talk to frequently, as well as one across the street I talk to occasionally.

I’m surprised, but I like having friendly neighbors. It is fun, especially at this time of year when we are all outside more. In a way, it feels like it did when I rented a room in a house, where everyone had their own lives and their own space and yet the casual encounters were friendly. It’s also nice knowing that someone would be aware if something happened to me. My permanent next-door neighbors and I have a sort of code — when I wake in the morning, I raise a certain shade, and they tend to look for it. So far, I’ve not had a problem, but if I didn’t raise the shade, they would at least send a text to find out what was going on.

It’s amusing to me that of all the situations I could have imagined before I moved here, I never imagined that I would end up being so much a part of a neighborhood.

And speaking of neighbors, these tulips belong to another, more distant neighbor, but I had to take a photo to assuage my tulip envy. Maybe someday, I’ll have a patch of tulips as extensive as hers!

***

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.

Things Are Happening

I dragged out my hoses today and watered my plants. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, since I don’t know if they need water, but I am erring on the side of wetness. We haven’t had any moisture for several days now, and the last time it rained for any length of time was more than a couple of weeks ago. Considering that today was the first of a series of 80 degree days, the water seemed called for, but I might be sorry when the temperatures drop again. And they will. The last frost around here is around the fifth of May, and that’s still a month away.

The problem with an area like this with early warm temperatures and late frosts is that so often plants grow expecting it to be spring and then go into shock when they realize they woke too early.

Eventually, I’m sure, I’ll be more confident when it comes to gardening, but for now I have to do what I think the plants will appreciate during these unseasonably warm days, and that is give them water and hope I’m not overwatering.

So far, it seems, most of my bushes came through the winter okay. The only ones that seem to have given up the ghost are those that struggled all last summer. Luckily, I am in this for the long haul, so the garden spots in my yard don’t have to be perfect. It’s more important for me to cultivate plants that will survive the wide swings of temperatures.

The most surprising thing so far this spring is that bulbs are springing up all over the place. The first fall I was here, I planted 300 bulbs all around the front lawn area, hoping to see flowers midst the green, but not only did a scant few of the bulbs peek out of the ground, the grass remained inert, too. I figured the bulbs were a lost cause, but apparently not.

It’s amazing what even a sort of wet winter will do! So far, though, only the greenery is visible. No buds. The crocuses bloomed, but they were short-lived. Now the glory of the snow is coming up, and they seem to be hanging around a bit longer than the crocuses did.

Someday, maybe, I will have a yard to be proud of, but for now, the bushes are still tiny, the greengage plums are trying to decide if they want to live here, and many of my fall plantings seem to be hibernating.

Tomorrow, perhaps, a couple of the workers will come to lay out more rock. (Another reason I watered today. I didn’t want to get in their way if they do show up.)

So little by little, things are happening.

***

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.

Satisfying

There is something so very satisfying about living — and shopping — in a small town. A friend and I had an errand we needed to run, and on the way back, we stopped at the grocery store. After we walked out carrying our purchases, I noticed the truck of a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, so I ran back inside to find her. We said a few words, exchanged a couple of hugs, then I had to get back to where the other woman was waiting.

I was almost to her car when I saw a neighbor drive up. I’d talked to him a couple of hours before that, and he had lamented that his hens were laying, four new eggs today, and he didn’t know what to do with them. He said he wished he knew someone who wanted them. I raised my hand, of course, and said, “Me!” Since he was busy and couldn’t get the eggs for me right then, we decided he’d come by later and leave them on the back porch. Which he did. So I made the detour in the parking lot to see him and thank him for the gift, then hurried back to my friend’s car before I saw anyone else I knew.

It’s very nice being able to see people I know when I’m out and about. I’ve never really lived anywhere, either in a smaller area or a larger city, where just serendipitous meetings happened. It’s these casual encounters, I think, more than anything, that make this such a nice place to live. Well, that and the frequent conversations like, “She’s the daughter of the son of the uncle of his cousin’s husband.”

It still surprises me, that in a town where people have lived for generations, people welcome newcomers. Other towns I’ve been to where the same families have lived and held sway for generations have been so insular, they never bothered to get to know anyone new, though of course, they sure liked the money newcomers brought in!

As soon as I finish writing this blog, I’m going to do another small town thing — walk to work and visit with one of those folks who have spend their whole life here.

Besides all that, the sun is shining, the air is still and warm.

Yes, so satisfying!

***

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 Thrill of Rain

It rained last night and most of the day. The dreariness of the dark clouds and the windblown drops could have made this an unpleasant day, but instead, there seemed to be a feeling of excitement, as if the sodden ground was thrilled by the possibilities of spring.

Or maybe it’s just me feeling thrilled. After the dryness of the past years, seeing so much rain is a joy. Besides, the chance of seeing green shoots this year, perhaps some flowers, adds a bit of effervescence to the grayness, though I don’t want to get too excited. After all, there are still weeks of possible freezes coming up, and around here, any freeze after the start of spring can kill off incipient blossoms or keep them from budding in the first place.

Still, it’s fun dreaming of greener days.

During the fall, when the workers were here putting in the sidewalk, they used a skid steer, which pretty much tore up my lawn, though lawn is a misnomer. Since I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the yard, last year I didn’t water what grass there was, so basically the workers just created more bare spots in the brown grass.

People tell me that Bermuda grass is hard to kill, so I’m hoping the rain will resurrect the grass in the dead zones. If not, I’ll think of something to plant once the pathways are in. That way, I’ll know where to plant things so I can take care of them. The scattershot approach to planting bulbs seemed like a good idea, but without knowing where I’d planted things, I didn’t know where to water when rain was scarce. This year, every time I see a bulb, I mark it with a stake, so I’ll know where to water. For now, the clouds are doing the watering for me, dumping plenty of moisture on the grateful ground. We won’t be warming up too much in the next few days, so perhaps the ground will remain wet for a while, giving any lazy bulbs time to wake up.

The gray day put the croci to sleep, but one more dwarf iris did find its way to the surface. A pleasant surprise in a surprisingly pleasant 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.

Croci

The plural of crocuses can be crocuses or croci, but either way, a plurality of crocuses is a beautiful sight.

I didn’t realize it, but crocuses are from the iris family. Even more interesting to me is that crocuses were originally grown as a spice — saffron — though not all crocuses yield saffron. Saffron only comes from the saffron crocus, a fall blooming crocus.

I don’t know why, but I never particularly liked crocuses. Maybe they weren’t showy enough for me or too low to the ground or some such, but now I am delighted with mine, especially since the blooms were a surprise. Only yesterday, the plants looked like tiny tufts of grass, and considering my non-green thumb, I wasn’t expecting anything from them, though did I hope they might bloom eventually.

When I stepped outside this morning to see if there were any new signs of life, the croci were in bloom, a welcome splash of color in my otherwise drab yard.

I made my rounds, checking the ground for other signs of life, and found another area where crocuses might be coming up. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, though I don’t collect the plants, I merely mark them so I don’t end up walking on them.

I planted the crocuses this past fall, and I spent a lot of time digging a flower bed, measuring the proper depth, and making sure they had enough water all through the winter. In the rest of the yard, the shoots digging their way up to the sun are a surprise since so few of them came up last year, and because of the drought, I figured they’d all died. Such a surprise to see so many potential flowers!

Once my paths are in place, I might even find the courage to plant more bulbs this fall. Or I might chance planting a few bulbs this spring in the hopes of summer blooms. The problem is that because of our winters, the spring-planted bulbs need to be dug up every fall and replanted in the spring, and I haven’t want to do that, but as time goes on, and I get more comfortable with gardening (and the plants stop taking one look at me and dying in despair), I might be more willing to do the work.

Meantime . . .

Croci!

***

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.