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


Although I enjoy writing this blog, perhaps because nowadays it’s the only writing I do, I somehow end up procrastinating when I open the computer instead of getting right to work. Today’s procrastination activities centered around a search for a cheap but sturdy outdoor dining set for my gazebo. Not that the gazebo is finished — it’s not. It’s still the same bare-wood, roofless crib that has been taunting me for the past year.

When I talked to the contractor a few weeks ago, going over all the work that still needs to be done, he mentioned he’d be coming to finish the gazebo himself rather than sending one of his employees as he has been doing. I’m sure he will eventually do the work, since eventually most things do get finished, and though I have no real expectations of the gazebo being done this summer, suddenly today I decided I needed an outdoor dining set of some sort for when the thing is finished. I found one I like, but it only comes with two chairs, which shouldn’t be a problem considering how seldom I have company, but I have it in my mind that I need four. So far, I haven’t found a four-chair set that I like, but then, I don’t have a finished gazebo either.

It’s kind of funny, but when my new neighbor moved in and saw how seldom the workers came, he thought they were taking advantage of me. I suppose they are, in a way, but mostly, I don’t care because the longer they draw out the work, the longer I’ll have the excitement of work being done. And then, with my car taking forever to get fixed (one weird mechanical malfunction after another that entails weeks of waiting for the parts to come in), he thought the mechanic was taking advantage of me, too, which is possible, but I don’t really need to go anywhere, so it doesn’t really matter. None of that is what’s funny; what I find amusing is that now he has the same issues with people promising to do things and then not showing up. And a vehicle of his has been in the shop for months now, and no sign of it ever being finished.

We’re not the only ones — a woman has been waiting for several months to get a window replaced, a friend can’t find a contractor to do some needed work on her house, and another neighbor has someone sporadically working on his house when the worker feels like it.

We’ve come to the conclusion it’s the area that somehow fosters a lackadaisical attitude. His dog, a rescue animal, was hyper when they first got here, always wanting to be on the go and running away when she didn’t get enough walks in a day. Now she’s so laid back that she sleeps most of the time.

I doubt the dog has become lazy — I’m sure her somnolence has to do with the heat. And when it comes to contractors and mechanics, I’m sure that’s not laziness, either. In fact, so often the problem is these people have too much to do, not enough time to do it, and too few employees who are willing to work, but they do seem to be able to ignore their broken promises and to make changes in their schedule they don’t bother mentioning.

Still, today, I had to go searching for a patio dining set for a gazebo that might not be finished until next year. Or the year after.

I didn’t buy anything, of course. It would have taken too much effort to overcome my own lackadaisical attitude.


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

The Mountain Comes to Pat

I was going to start this particular essay with the quote about Mahomet going to the mountain when it wouldn’t come to him, but when I researched the saying, I discovered that Muslims find that quote offensive for some reason having to do with racism. I’m not sure why it’s racist. Do be honest, I don’t know why a lot of what is currently racist is considered so. But that isn’t germane to this particular post, which is, in fact, about the mountain coming to me.

I arranged for rocks to be put around my house and garage to protect the foundations, and more recently, to fill in the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street with rocks instead of unsightly weeds and rampant tree growth on leftover roots from a felled tree.

This has been a long, drawn-out process. The first of the rocks, which had sort of an ochre tone, were laid last fall and another installment this spring. The rock project has been on hiatus for a few months, but the workers were here last week to get more rock to finish putting around the house, creating more paths, as well as doing the right-of-way. Unfortunately, the current batches of rock are more rose than ochre. (The pile of brick red rock you see in the photo below is the breeze for the paths.)

The workers used all the pink stones for the right-of-way, since it doesn’t matter as much if those rocks don’t match the rocks around the house, and they went back today to see if they could get the right color. Although we thought the pink rock was a mistake, it turns out that all the rocks are from the same quarry, just a different “dye lot.” Technically, it’s not a dye lot since the rocks were never colored (except by nature), but still, the rocks are a completely different color. Luckily, the people at the place where the workers have been getting the rock dug down beneath the pink rock and found a couple of tons of the original color.

I’m sure the workers are even more pleased about than I am because they are the ones who would have had to take up all the old rock, mix it with the pink rock so that there wouldn’t be two separate colors of rock around the house, and then lay it all back down. Tons of rock!! Yikes.

So what does this have to do with the mountain coming to me? Apparently, the quarry is a mountain that is being blasted to smithereens, and some of those smithereens are ending up here on my property. I suppose, since I haven’t been able to get to the mountains since I’ve been here, I should be grateful that the mountain is coming to me. Seen in such a light, it will give me a better appreciation of all the rock that’s being laid around here, though I must admit to feeling a bit guilty because of my participation in the destruction of that particular mountain.


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.

Stay Cool

I’m sitting here trying to think of something to say that sounds at least halfway intelligent, but I’m falling asleep at the computer. It might be that I’m tired or it could be allergies, though most probably it’s the heat. It’s so hot it feels as if my eyeballs are boiling. Not a pretty image, for sure, but then, neither is this heat. At the moment, before noon, it’s 100 degrees and the temperature will continue rising for the next several hours.

I’d be cooler, of course, if I turned on the air conditioner, but somehow it feels wrong to sit inside the cool when a couple of men are here moving rocks around my yard. I realize that’s misplaced guilt or some such, but still, it does make me hesitate to turn on the cooling. That’s one of the reasons, anyway. The woman I work for doesn’t have central air conditioning, and if I went from a cool house to her much warmer house, I’d feel the heat over there even more than I already do, so I usually refrain from cooling my house down until I get home.

Whatever the reason for my leaving off the air conditioner, it doesn’t really matter. Compared to outside, it’s cool. Cooler, anyway. I can’t imagine how those guys who are working outside my house are faring. Luckily, they brought plenty of cool water, and if they want more, I will be glad to oblige. They’re also using the hose to shower off the sweat occasionally, which is amusing to me. It’s not amusing that they’re using such a method of keeping cool of course, but I do find it amusing that today I rolled up the hose and set it aside where it wouldn’t be in their way, and the next thing I know, it’s back where I normally keep it, sprawled all over the yard.

Part of me hopes they will knock off work early to get out of the heat; part of me hopes they continue working. It’s so hard to get people here that I’m certainly not going to make waves or rock the boat or upset the applecart or whatever cliché you prefer.

Luckily, it will cool down tomorrow. The high will be at least fourteen degrees lower than today’s high. A veritable cold front!

I hope you’re managing to stay cool.


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.


I spent most of the morning digging up weeds and grass, mostly prostrate knotweed, which serves for grass in this usually arid part of the state. Knotweed is hard to dig up because not only are the roots deep and extensive, but each grass blade ties itself to the ground with myriad roots. As always, I ended up doing more than I planned, and wore myself out, but that’s a good thing because it shows that I am strong enough to get the job done.

My original plan for today was simply to map out a garden area on the left side of the ramp going up to the house. On the right side of the ramp, there is a half-moon garden area, defined by the reddish path that leads to the back yard. It was so pretty a few weeks ago when the larkspur were in bloom, but I want to plant day lilies there so something will bloom once the larkspur is gone.

I found a place online that sells mystery daylilies ((lilies without a specific name or classification), and I wanted some for the right-side garden area. I figured I’d need more than twenty-five for all the places I want to plant a few, but if I bought two lots of twenty-five, it would cost as much as a lot of hundred. So I ordered a hundred. I’m not sure when they will arrive — it might not be until fall — but I thought I ought to be prepared to plant when they eventually get here. I also figured that the worker who will come eventually to lay the rock wouldn’t want to measure the ramp-side gardens to get them more or less even, so that was my self-appointed task today — to stake out the garden area. Of course, where the stakes needed to go were deep rooted weeds, grass, and knotweed, so I had to dig up the rim of the half-moon in order to pound in the stakes, and that prompted me to dig up the whole garden area.

The plan is to eventually put in a red rock (breeze) path on the left side that sort of matches the one on the right side until it needs to swing wide to go around the house. The left side of the house will have rock around the foundation just as on the right side.

On the right side of the photo, you can see sort of a squared-off mess of rock and gray weed barrier fabric where they’ve been dumping the loads of rock they’ve been bringing in. When that area isn’t needed for a dump site, it will be a gray slag parking spot. Not that I need another place to park since I have the garage and just one car, but there is a double gate in the fence right there, so it makes sense to have a corresponding parking area.

I haven’t done much with the lawn on the left-hand side of the yard. What grass there was in the midst of the weeds died back in the extreme heat we suffered through during most of May and June, but there really is no point in trying to revive it yet. The area needs loads of dirt to level it off before grass and an ornamental tree is planted. And before that, the weeds will need to be dug up. Eek. A lot of work to be done eventually

There still are too many “eventually”s in my landscaping plan, but at least I am doing my part, which, of course, is the only thing I can control — at least to some extent. Most of the time, I’m okay with the “eventually”s because what is going to take the longest is planting bushes and flowers and waiting for them to grow.

Now that the property is starting to take shape, at least in my mind, I’m getting excited. It should be rather awesome when it is finished, and hopefully, not that difficult for me to take care of in my perhaps feeble old age.


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.

Never a Dull Moment

There’s never a dull moment when one owns a house. Actually, that’s not true. There are a lot of dull moments, but the not-so-dull moments quickly remove any complacency that might arise during the dull times when nothing goes wrong.

Today was one of complacency-breaking times. I went down to the basement to change the air filter on my furnace/air conditioner. I’ve done this many times in the past couple of years, so I didn’t expect a problem, but problems are what I got.

When I pulled the handle to remove the old filter, the handle came away and left the filter in place. This has happened before, and all I did was use my fingers to get it out. This time, however, instead of pulling it out, I somehow managed to push it to the side. The more I worked on it to try to get it out, the more recessed it became. Which is silly. Why wasn’t there some sort of framework to hold the filter in place and keep that from happening?

I finally gave up and send a frantic message to my contractor asking him if there was anything he could do. He responded saying that he was sending a man right out. The worker was there almost immediately. He couldn’t dig out the filter, either, so he removed the entire connecting piece between the vertical air duct and the furnace. (The thin black rectangular space between the connecting piece and the furnace on the picture is where the filter goes.)

A little later the worker came to find me and said the furnace had shocked him. He’d taken the panels off the front of the furnace looking for a tool (they had the impression I’d dropped a tool into the space when I tried to get the filter out) and when he put the panels back, the middle panel shocked him and shorted out the furnace. Apparently this had happened to previous owners because there were several black spots on the panel where it had previously made contact with the prongs of some sort of switch. He fixed panel to make sure it couldn’t short out again, but when he reinserted the panel, the air conditioner wouldn’t go on. He checked one of my circuit breaker panels and I checked the other (weird, huh? I have two, one inside and one outside), but none of the circuits had been tripped.

He took the switch to a furnace guy he knew to see if he could get a new one, but the furnace person said the switch was good, that he must have burned out the fuse. The fuse? Apparently, there is a separate fuse, the pre-circuit box kind, inside the furnace.

He replaced the fuse, so now I have a working air conditioner, an extra fuse (they came in a package of two) and a new filter.


People often wonder why I stick with this contractor, and this filter situation is a good example of why I do. He might be slow getting things done around here because he always has way too many jobs to juggle, but in an emergency, he (or one of his guys) is always right here. And if they make a mistake or cause any damage, they go out of their way to fix it.

That, to me, is priceless, and helps me greet any of these not-so-dull moments with an equanimity I might not otherwise be able to summon.


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.

Meeting With My Contractor

I spent most of last evening working on a list of projects for my contractor that included projects that have been started and paid for but not finished, projects that have not been finished but were included in a bulk payment (two installments of which I still owe), and projects that have been contracted for but not started and not paid for.

Whew! What a task! But to the best of my knowledge, the list includes everything we’ve talked about and planned over the past couple of years since I bought this place.

This morning, I met with the contractor to go over the list. A lot of the items could be knocked out in a day if he brought his whole crew here, other items will take longer, especially if he’s only able to send a couple of men here to work. One of those men is new and I haven’t yet met, but the other has been here working on occasion. Still, when they work their way down the list to the projects inside the house, I want the contractor here, not just his minions. Although I like and trust the one who has been here before, I still prefer for the person I hired to do the work. That way there are never any questions about who is working in my house and who might be responsible for any mishaps.

As for the rest of it, though, I’m not sure I care who does the work as long as someone does it.

One of the problems of running a business such as my contractor’s is hiring help. The truly trustworthy workers who can get the job done without supervision seem to be hard to find, so when it comes to a “shopping list” of jobs, such as I have, rather than one big project, he needs to delegate others to do the work.

Another problem with a plethora of jobs, especially those that call for dump truck loads of material such as rocks, gravel, and dirt, is actually getting the stuff here for the delegates to work with.

Hopefully the delegates will be here tomorrow as planned to get started on some of the jobs. The huge amount of rain we had this spring (300% of normal, more than 600% of what we had been getting the past couple of years) spooked me. Water poured off the roof rather than into the gutters because the fascia had been wrongly installed by some previous owner, so I ended up with a gully wash. Also, the workers had dug dirt away from the house to fix the foundation and never got back here to fill the ditch. The combination of the faulty gutters and the ditch created a moat around the house. Although it was a big enough problem to make me worry about the basement flooding, it wasn’t big enough to attract dragons or other moat dwellers. (The mosquitos, however, are ravenous this year and I am their smorgasbord.)

One of the first things they will be doing is building my raised garden in the middle of my rear pathways. I have a hunch it might be too late to get plants to fill the garden by the time it’s done, but perhaps not. I suppose it’s a matter of whatever I can get, wherever I can. Since the brakes on my car still aren’t fixed (I haven’t been calling to nag the mechanic but maybe I should), I only have the sparse selection at the local hardware store to choose from.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One meeting with a contractor in no way equates to jobs finished. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


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 Small House and a Large Garden

A friend sent me a verse written in the seventeenth century by poet Abraham Cowley:

May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.

No wonder she thought of me when she saw that snippet — it seems to describe my life perfectly. A small house, a large garden (not quite yet, but in the making!), a few true friends, and many books, though too few of those books, perhaps, are true. Actually, I don’t own many books except those I wrote, a few reference tomes, some tarot books, and quite a few alchemical texts that I have yet to study. Most of my “many books” are in the library that is a mere four blocks from my small house. As long as I can manage to get there, all those books belong to me. In fact, when I was there earlier today, the only person in the building besides me was the librarian. So, not just a private library all my own, but a personal librarian to take care of all my books!

On the way back from the library, I picked up another two plants for my ever-expanding garden. I was going to say ever-growing, but too many plants haven’t started to flower or even spread. My hanging lobelia is doing fine, though.

And so, of course, are the weeds.

When I returned from my errands, I took the time to mow the weedy lawn. Workers are supposed to come later this week, and I thought it might be a good idea if they could actually see where they needed to work. Of course, my having done the job pretty much guarantees that they won’t come, so I suppose it would have been smarter to leave everything the way it was. But then, if I waited too long, the mower wouldn’t have been able to cut the weeds. As it is, there are a couple of very tall, very tough patches of grass that defeated the mover. It seems as if next on my shopping list will be grass clippers.

I paused here to look up battery operated grass clippers and found one that might be a fun and useful tool to have to help me create my “large garden.” Now I know how I will spend my next paycheck!


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

At War With Weeds

The weeds are definitely winning the war in my yard. For every one that I manage to eradicate, another three take its place. I don’t want to go the poison route — with more weeds than anything else here on this property, the amount of weedkiller necessary to do the job would probably be strong enough to kill me, too.

So, it’s one weed at a time, though I have been mowing some of them just to clear a space for me to walk.

Oddly, some of those that seemed the most innocuous have turned out the be the most frightening. Since I can’t dig up all of them, I’ve started with those that have seed pods similar to dandelions, because once those take hold, you never get rid of them. I’ve pretty much been ignoring a weed that seemed to have a shallow root system, with skinny “arms” and sparse leaves, that lays flat on the ground. I thought that with all the wind around here, it might not be a bad idea to leave those weeds be so that they could hold the soil in place.

Bad idea! Today when I was out weeding one of my garden patches, I went ahead and pulled up some of those weeds, which turned out to be a monumental task. Each one of those “arm” had grown to about two feet, and at each intersection where a leaf grew, the plant grew a root. Even worse, in some cases, it tied down plants that were in its way. I’d never seen anything like that. I thought bindweed was bad. Bindweed looks like miniature white morning glories, and if they are in a field, they lie flat and look pretty. If they are in a garden, they grow monstrously long and strangle any plant they can climb. Unless I want to resort to poison, the bindweed will always win, but I can sort of keep on top of it. Goat’s head is another plant that is prevalent around here, but I know what it is, and can — mostly — keep on top of that one, too. But this long, skinny plant that ties itself to the ground and to anything in its path is something else again.

I have no idea what the plant is called — I spent the past hour searching online for information about it without any luck — but I do know I have to be more vigilant about pulling it up. If not, I’ll wake up one day and find my whole house wrapped up in the tendrils of that weed.


The thought is enough to give me nightmares.


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.

Showing My Life

People often express concern about my posting photos of my house and my yard. They think I am setting myself up for theft or home invasion or some such, and perhaps that’s true. However, most people who read this blog don’t know exactly where I live — in fact, most live in distant parts of the United States or in other countries — and those who do know where I live, know because they have actually been to the house. Despite that, I realize anyone can find anyone nowadays, probably with just a few keystrokes, so it behooves all of us to be careful.

In a way, posting photos works in my favor because although my rooms look inviting, it’s quite obvious there’s nothing of value in the house. The furniture is old, handed down from relatives; the kitchenware was inexpensive when I bought it decades ago; and whatever tools I have are both handed down and inexpensive. Still, when it comes to a more expensive tool (expensive compared to old rakes and shovels, but still relatively cheap), such as the lawn mower I use, I make sure not to post any photos, though truly, that’s not the sort of thing that goes missing around here. The tools people like to steal are the sort they can pocket and perhaps pawn — or maybe even pawn off on an unsuspecting buyer.

I am careful, though, at least as careful as I know how to be. If I were to go on a trip, I wouldn’t talk about it until I returned home again. It really is nuts the way people post their vacation photos while they are away, as if to tell the world, “No one’s home. Feel free to break into my house.”

I did post photos when I took my cross-country trip, but even then, I waited until I’d moved to my next stop before I posted the previous stop’s photos on the off chance (the off, off, off chance) that someone would be stalking me. At the time, I had no home, so it didn’t matter if people knew I was away, but I had enough people telling me how dangerous it was for a woman to travel alone that I took a few precautions. I’m glad nothing dire happened, and even more than that, I’m glad I took the trip. Although I thought that trip would be the first of many, it turned out to be the first of merely a few. I tend to think my traveling days are now over, especially since I spent my travel money on a garage. But truly, if I do ever take off, I won’t be announcing to the world that my house is empty.

Still, whether I heed people’s warnings or continue showing my life, I do appreciate the concern. It’s nice to know people care.


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.