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

A Morning in the Sunshine

I pulled more weeds today and I discovered that the problem with weeds is not so much that they grow back, but that it’s a never-ending job. All I was going to do was pull the most unsightly. I figured that once I did that, the others wouldn’t look so bad. Well, that’s not the case. I cleared away a large patch of weeds, then stretched and looked around, thinking to congratulate myself for a job well done, but the place looked just as bad as before I started to work. Apparently, once the highest weeds are gone, the second highest, which seemed rather benign, now stand out, so the yard looks like I never touched it.

Isn’t that always the way? You think the house is clean, so you decide just to pick up the worst of the clutter. Then, with the clutter gone, you notice dust, so you have to dust the furniture and fixtures. Then, with the dust gone, you notice that the floors look a bit dingy in comparison. So then you have to clean the floors. Next thing you know, a job you thought would take a few minutes has taken all day. Even worse, you now notice every speck of dust, so you spend all your time from then on, spot cleaning because although you know your house is clean, you are so focused on the dust motes that you can’t see the truth.

That seems like a parable more suited to some mystical or psychological or sociological problem rather than weeds, but I’m so exhausted from all the time outside that I don’t feel up to finding the wisdom in this blog post. It’s enough for today that I spent time in my yard.

And I saw a parade. Today was supposed to be the annual town festival with booths, entertainment, and a parade, but it had to be canceled because from what I understand, a lot of kids in the high school tested positive for The Bob. Someone decided enough was enough and so privately sponsored the parade, which I think is cool, sort of a celebration and a protest all in one. There weren’t many entries, and most of those were police cars, pickup trucks, and farm vehicles. Not many people watched either, but it’s the effort that counts.

So, some weeds gone, a parade, and a morning in the sunshine. Sounds like a good day to me!

***

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.

My Poor Trees

Last fall I planted three six-foot greengage plum trees that were advertised as orchard-size so they could potentially have blossoms the first year, but only one of them seems to be doing okay. The other two are still alive, though most of the branches are dry and brittle. The growth is coming from the bottom of the trees. It’s surprising to me that the tree that got the most moisture during the winter is the one that seems to be having the most trouble. It’s next to the sidewalk that extends from the house to the garage, so when I shoveled the snow, I dumped it around the base of the tree. That tree actually doesn’t matter so much — it was an extra tree I bought for a gift and then the giftee decided he didn’t want it because he was going to move, so I planted the extra tree in my yard. The only place to put it wasn’t a good location from my standpoint because if the tree ever grew fruit, the fruit would make a mess of my sidewalk. Still, it does show signs of life, so that’s something.

The other tree that’s not doing well is where I really wanted a tree, toward the back of the property. It too is showing signs of life, though also only toward the base. I’d purposely bought the biggest trees I thought I could handle because I didn’t want to go through those first six or seven years of growing a tree from the ground up, though it looks like that’s going to happen after all. Oh, well. I did everything I could, followed all the directions (which isn’t something I normally do — I have a terrible habit of just winging it), so there’s no use worrying about it.

I’ll just wait and see what happens. If necessary, I’ll try getting another tree, maybe a smaller one. Or not. I just checked the website, and they are sold out of all sizes.

Now, if the trees had been crossed with dandelions, I could have kept them alive. One of the few things I seem to be able to grow is dandelions.

***

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.

So Much Excitement

Yesterday I found, taped to my front door, a bright yellow paper with “Special Notice” blaring across the top. It turns out it was from the public works department stating they would be smoke testing its sewers. They went on to say that it was done periodically to locate sources of sewer odors, leaks, and breaks in sewer lines, but no one who has lived their whole life around here had ever experienced such a thing. If the sewers had been tested previously, apparently it wasn’t something they told people about.

The smoke is supposed to be harmless, but I was still worried about it coming out of my plumbing, as they warned it might. Since there was a three-day window for this “smoking” to be done, I wasn’t sure how to know the test was being done. Obviously, if I had a problem with my plumbing, I’d be able to smell the smoke, but if everything was fine, would I know when it was finished?

As it turns out, there wasn’t a problem. I was outside weeding when I noticed smoke coming out of a neighbor’s ventilation pipes and a couple of heavy pickup trucks with hard-hatted men driving up slowly up and down the alley. I went inside and to see if there were any signs of smoke and to hunt for strange odors. There seemed to be a bit of a smoke smell in the bathroom, but it was so faint, it was hard to tell if it was really there. And there was no smoke that I could see. I opened the windows to air out the place anyway, because “harmless” doesn’t always mean harmless. Still, it’s nice to know that my plumbing is in good shape.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, I went back outside after opening the windows to pull more weeds. (It seems that for every flower there are a hundred weeds, but it’s worth it to see those few colorful blooms.) Beneath a spreading bush, I found a few double tulips. They must have been planted when the bush was young to be hidden so. I’d noticed the tulip leaves the past couple of springs, but this is the first time they bloomed. What a lovely legacy!

I also hoed an area where I plan to plant some flower seeds. The seeds are old, so they might not do anything except feed the birds, but it’s worth a try. I was going to go ahead and plant the seeds today because the weather forecast calls for above freezing temperatures for the next ten days, but I decided to be safe and wait for the average “last frost” date, which isn’t for another week.

Besides, after all the concern with the sewer smoke and the effort at pulling weeds, I’d had enough excitement for one day.

***

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

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

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.

Waiting

Today has been a day of waiting. My car was supposed to have finally been made road ready by this evening, but even after a day of waiting — another day of waiting — the car still isn’t finished. It started several weeks ago when I took the car in because it kept bucking and stalling. It turns out that the spark plugs had burned out way too fast because of a leaky carburetor. (Too much air in the gas makes the engine run hot.) He ordered a carburetor, which took a couple of weeks. When it came in, I made an appointment for my day off. He likes having the car all day, and he leaves in the evening before I get off work, which pretty much limits his ability to work on my car.

When I showed up for the appointment, he couldn’t work on it. He was backed up, and because of the heavy rain, I didn’t mind waiting another week.

So the next week when I took it in, he changed out the carburetor, but didn’t have time to adjust the valves, and without that adjustment, the car runs like an old rusted out truck that hadn’t been maintained for decades. So, another appointment for today.

And I’m still waiting.

Luckily, he was able to put the car in a bay for the night, which not only protects the car but makes sure it’s at the head of the line for tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed!

I don’t know why a day spent waiting feels any different from any other day. I mean, I did the same things — read, play a game on the computer, take a short walk, wander around my yard, talk to neighbors. Oh, and I took photos of my tulips!

I guess it’s more that I don’t have my normal sense of untimeliness when I’m waiting because waiting for something almost by definition indicates a timeline.

I should be used to waiting by now, considering how sporadically anyone comes to do work on the house. I’ve figured out the problem — the same problem a lot of people around here have. The jobs are too small for a contractor to use a full crew, and many workers can’t work without supervision, so it’s hard to split crews into smaller groups. Or something like that.

Not that it matters. If I weren’t waiting for any of these jobs to be done, I’d be waiting for others since there always seems to be something that needs to be fixed.

Meanwhile, there are tulips.

***

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.

Uninspired

Without any great traumas, or even small ones, without any new flowers popping up or more work being done on the house or travels, there’s not much to write about. I hadn’t realized how many different things I used to do simply to have something to say, such as hikes or get togethers, and now that I have no place to hike and the impetus to get out among people has faded because of the social restrictions of the past year, the lack of stimulus is taking its toll. It’s not a problem for me, personally, you understand. I’m quite content on my own, but a quiet life without a lot of input for contemplation and deep thoughts isn’t very inspiring. In fact, the thoughts that do roam around my head are probably the opposite of inspiring, though the most recent spate of uninspiring thoughts might actually inspire me to do some work.

The workers who have been sporadically laying down rock around my garage and house have been keeping their wheelbarrow in my garage so it’s available when they need it. It wasn’t a problem in the winter because I was so seldom in the garage, but now that the weather is warming up, I might want to get to my tools and potting table and I can’t because that wheelbarrow is parked in the way.

I’d saved half the storage area in my garage for the workers to use, but that part of the garage has been filled up with various supplies and pieces of leftover wood. I really should go out there and try to rearrange the stuff to make a parking spot for the wheelbarrow because at the rate they work, this project could last for many more months, and I would like the wheelbarrow out of my way. Or maybe, the next time someone shows up, I should have them do the rearranging.

Eventually, perhaps, all the work will be done and I won’t have to worry about extraneous stuff in the garage. Well, actually, I don’t have to worry about it now. I don’t have to worry about anything. I just do. Besides, the wheelbarrow is really not a problem. It’s just that an empty mind often gets filled up with frustrations; at least mine does.

Luckily, there are plenty of bulbs coming up to give me something more energizing to think of, and it appears as if the lilacs are greening up. I even see a tinge of purple on some of the baby bushes, though I would have thought they were too small and too new to have blossoms. But who knows — most of what happens in my yard surprises me, whether it’s workers showing up or flowers blooming or weeds plotting to take over.

Luckily, there are always books to keep my mind occupied so I don’t fill my head with unproductive thoughts, but most books don’t provide fodder for blog posts.

Come to think of it, I should be glad I don’t have anything to write about it. It means there’s nothing I need to get off my chest or out of my head. It means my life going smoothly. And though a smooth life might not be inspiring, it’s a good thing.

***

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.

Fixing the Foundation

We’re having a spate of warm spring-like weather (complete with high winds!) in between the winter storms, so the people working on and around my house took the opportunity to fix the foundation — fill in the cracks and seal the concrete.

The foundation was white, and now it’s not. Like the original Model-T’s, I could have any color I wanted as long as it’s black. That’s the only color available for the sealer, an asphalt emulsion similar to that used to seal parking lots and roads. I wasn’t sure I’d like the dark foundation, but it really seems to define the house.

It will really look great once the ornamental rock is in place around the house. Not only will the rock be attractive, but it will further protect the foundation.

As usual, though, there is a weird problem. Nothing anyone has done around here has been easy; even a simple job turns out to be an arduous task, such as having to build a garage from scratch, rather than simply being able to fix the foundation of the old garage. (The ground under the garage was too wet to pour a foundation, in even the middle of a drought summer. We never did figure out where the moisture came from, though we did surmise the garage had been built over an old septic system.)

The current problem isn’t as drastic, but it is as mystifying. In one place on the foundation, something ate through the newly applied sealer. It looked like it could have been some sort of alkali, which would be no surprise, since the soil around here is extremely alkaline. On closer inspection, it seemed to resemble a mold. They’re going to try to putty over the mold with the same substance they’ve been using to fill in the cracks and hope that seals off whatever it is that’s eating the asphalt. It wouldn’t matter so much except that the weird spot is in the front rather than on a side where it wouldn’t be noticeable, but if it can’t be fixed, I’ll get used to it. It’s not as if this is a brand-new house (it was built in 1928), or as if the discoloration would bring down the value of the property (and if does, it’s not an issue I will have to deal with because I intend to stay here until my end if at all possible.)

It’s just nice seeing things take shape again, nice seeing work being done. And if it snows or rains later this week, well, that will be nice, too.

***

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

Workers!

I had a lovely surprise today. I heard scrabbling noises around my house, and when I went out to see what was going on, I found a worker preparing the cracks in the foundation so he could fill them in. He’ll have to let the filler harden, and then he’ll come back and paint the foundation with a sealer. The sealer is black, which I’m not sure I’ll like. If not, I can paint over it with a lighter color. Or I could wait until I got used to it.

But that’s an issue for another day. Today, I am delighted to see progress being made.

It’s funny how so often, one job depends upon another, sort of like a reverse of the nursery rhyme “The House that Jack Built.” The workers have rock to put around the house, but they can’t do that until the they put down the weed barrier, and they can’t put down the weed barrier until they build up the dirt around the house, and they can’t build up the dirt around the house until they seal the foundation, and they can’t seal the foundation until they fill in the cracks, and they can’t fill in the cracks until they dig out the dirt that’s around the foundation.

Luckily, I’m not the one having to do all this, and the person who is doing it doesn’t seem to mind the work.

Even luckier, the weather should hold for a few days until the filler has cured. It’s one of those projects that can’t be done in cold weather because the concrete filler would disintegrate, and all that work would go for naught.

[An interesting aside; interesting to me, anyway. Seeing the word “naught” made me wonder how it was related to the word naughty, since the two words don’t have much in common, and it turns out that “naughty” does come from “naught.” Apparently, in the fourteenth century, naughty referred to a person lacking in wealth, and over the years, came to mean someone lacking in morals. Does that mean back then that the poor were considered bad, perhaps poor because they were bad, as people so often surmise even today?]

But, neither naught or naughty have anything to do with the matter at hand, which is . . . workers (at least one, anyway) are here working!

***

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