Gorgeous Autumn Day

I’ll bet you can’t guess what I did today! Aww, you guessed it. Where else would I be on such on gorgeous autumn day but out working in my yard? Of course, if you guessed blogging or being on the internet, that would have been a sure bet, too, because here I am. Or if you guessed reading, that too would have been a win because that’s how I will spend the rest of the day.

Hmm. Sounds as if I live too narrow a life. I might have to do something about that eventually to keep from the dreaded stagnation (dreaded by me, that is), but for now, there’s a lot of work to do, not just the usual maintenance, such as watering and mowing the grass and digging weeds, but also getting ready for late fall planting (lilies and wildflowers) and preparing for winter.

It seems as if summer was never-ending, but then, in just a snap of the fingers, it was over. I know it was a long, hot four months, but in retrospect, the whole summer was truncated. Except for the work I did, though, there wasn’t much to distinguish the days from one another. There seemed to be few summer flowers, and those that did come up, like the lilies and day lilies were swamped in wildflowers or weeds. Now, though, there is plenty of color! Zinnias. Amaranth. Chrysanthemums. New England Asters. Marigolds.

In another snap of the fingers, winter will be here, but I’m not going to think of that — I’ll just enjoy the lovely fall weather as long as it lasts. (Warm days, cool nights — what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure whether I should use the term “autumn” or “fall” for this post. I recently came across one of those USA-bashing comments intimating that the sophisticated British use the term autumn but the uncouth and simple Americans use “fall” (named because of the falling leaves). I certainly didn’t want to bring ridicule down on my head for using the wrong word, so I looked up the origin of both terms. It turns out that “fall” is not something you can lay at our American feet. Both words originated in Britain. Autumn was first used in the 1300s. Fall was first used in the 1500s. But the correct term for this season is (or at least it was before 1300) “harvest.”

Still, whatever the name for this season — fall or autumn or harvest — it certainly has been a pleasant and colorful (and exhausting) one for me.

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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.

Suffering for Art

I’ve never been one to believe in suffering for my art. Not that “my art” is actually art — it’s more in the line of pretty photos I’ve taken to memorialize some flowers I’ve grown. And if art isn’t worth suffering for, then pretty photos — no matter how attractive — definitely are not worth suffering for.

Actually, there wasn’t much pain or suffering involved, and it was a silly thing anyway that’s not much to talk about. And yet, here it is . . .

Last evening, when I got home from work, I noticed this bright orange zinnia, and wanted a photo.

It was a couple of feet into the garden, so I used my walking stick for balance as I leaned over to get a photo, and the walking stick slipped on the foliage, making me lose my balance, and I went down. Sort of ironic, really — if I hadn’t been using the stick for balance, I wouldn’t have fallen. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt except for a small scratch on my arm. Even more luckily, I was able to get up without any trouble.

So that’s a good thing, I suppose — not the fall but learning that I can still get up. I’ve been wondering about that, but I’ve been hesitant to sit on the ground to test myself in case I couldn’t get back on my feet. So I passed the impromptu test and got up with very little trouble. Whew!

It’s been a while — years, maybe — since I’ve fallen, and hopefully it will be a long while before I fall again. I am very careful about such things because I’ve known too many older people whose lives as they knew them came to an end after a fall. (Not because of the fall itself, of course, but because of the injuries the fall caused.)

If ever I need another photo in a hard-to-reach place, I won’t try to balance myself as I lean over to get a close up — I’ll just step right into the garden, and the heck with any damage. One footstep would for sure cause a lot less damage to the garden than an entire falling body. Or I could simply pull out the plants that are in my way. (That’s why the reach was so great to get the photo — the garden had grown out of its bounds.)

I won’t have that same problem next year — that particular garden spot might be mostly empty. Although it’s on the north side of the house, it turns out the be the sunniest (and hottest) place on the property, which is probably why my cool-season grass browned out along there, so it will be the perfect place to plant the desert wildflower seeds I received yesterday. Because it might take a year for the plants to germinate, it’s possible there will be only dirt (and weeds, of course) in that spot.

But for now, there are still some pretty flowers for me to photograph.

***

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.

Garden of Weedin’

I was outside this morning clearing out weeds and dead annuals and digging up Bermuda grass in preparation for fall planting (lilies and chrysanthemums) and transplanting (New England Asters), when I happened to look up and actually see the garden I was working on. I do see my various gardens, of course, but I tend to focus on what I need to do or what I am actually doing — focusing on the not-so-pretty things, in other words — rather than the gardens as a whole.

It could be that this morning I was looking at the garden from a different angle than I normally do because I was standing in the middle of what was, just a couple of weeks ago, a mishmash of dense grass, weeds, and wildflowers. But whatever the reason, today I really looked and it astounded me to notice that this particular area is becoming something of a garden of Eden instead of the garden of weedin’ that I’ve been dealing with.

I wasn’t the only creature out and about this morning, enjoying the lovely day and the lovely view — a black swallowtail butterfly flitted from flower to flower, so focused on drinking nectar that it didn’t even seem to mind that I was standing there taking pictures.

There seems to be a dearth of butterflies in this area of Colorado, so seeing one is a special joy. It also makes all the effort to create a garden even more worthwhile — not just something for me to do, not just an excuse for me to go outside, not just something to look beautiful, but also something that is worthwhile to other creatures, too. (Though to be honest, I could do without the grasshoppers. Prejudice on my part? Perhaps, but the truth is, they are extremely destructive beasts, eating 50% of their body weight every day. They supposedly eat 25% of available forage in the western USA. And, in fact, they ate absolutely everything Jeff and I ever planted except lilacs and Siberian elms; they even ate entire three- and four-foot saplings, bark and all.)

But this is supposed to be a post celebrating the positive aspects of my garden, not the negative ones. And there is much to celebrate today.

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Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Stunning Developments

The weather we have been dealing with this summer — extraordinary heat, occasional wild winds, and periodic rain — seems to be the perfect incubator for weeds of a particularly voracious nature. Every time it rains, whatever weeds I have just pulled grow back and bring along their whole extended families. With as rough a time as I have been having keeping my vegetation under control, it could be worse — I could be dealing with a yard full of waist-high weeds like a couple of people in the neighborhood.

Instead, there have been a few stunning developments besides the unpleasant ones dished out by the ravaging weeds and the tireless sun. This heavenly blue morning glory, for example.

I have no idea where it came from, but oh, it is lovely! Another wonderful development were the orange poppies; like the heavenly blue morning glory, I have no idea where they came from, but they are welcome all the same.

One development of a rather weird nature is this marigold. It was supposed to be a giant marigold; instead, it’s a dwarf. But dramatic for all that.

The petunias, both light

and dark keep chugging along no matter what the weather, bringing cheer to me and my yard.

The final stunning development was (is) this green zinnia. I vaguely remember planting the seeds, but since I don’t really expect anything to come up, I tend not to remember what exactly I planted. That anything decides to grow in this bipolar climate is amazing. Though it’s not exactly bipolar, is it? If this were really a bipolar climate, it would be winter all year round (half Arctic and half Antarctic) instead of very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.

At least today the weather is rather moderate and will continue to be so for a few more days.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Just Flowers

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then this post is worth 6,000 words. Wow! I didn’t realize I had that much to say today!

***

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.

Playing the Rain Game

I’ve been playing a new game lately called, “Will it rain?” It’s a simple game, with no rules, no challenges, no rewards. All I do is track the possibility of storms with a weather app. You’d think it would be simple, a quick check to see what the day’s weather would be, and then the weather happens.

But not here, not now. Last night when I went to bed, there was a 75% chance of it raining in the early morning hours. It didn’t rain, so I checked the app when I got up, and it said there was a 95% chance of rain before noon. Again, it didn’t rain. So I checked the app again, and it said there was a 50% percent chance of rain by 3:00 o’clock. Not only did it not rain, but the sun came out and the temperature shot up about ten degrees more than was forecast. Now the app says 15% chance of rain after 7:00.

So, will it rain? Apparently, no one knows.

It wouldn’t matter what the forecast is, but with so many rain days that turned out to be non-rain days, I should probably water my lawn, but I certainly don’t want to oversaturate it. When we were getting rain, I got mushrooms in my lawn, and the brown spots where the grass died didn’t get any less brown.

I’ve decided worrying about the lawn is a foolish occupation of my worry time. Not that I schedule a time to worry, you understand, it’s just that there always seems to be something niggling at me. In the fall, I will have to reseed a few areas where the grass has receded (it hasn’t just receded, it’s flat-out disappeared, but I liked the reseed/recede homophone). I will also have to dig up the Bermuda grass that is launching a full-scale attack on the finer grass, so it doesn’t really matter if I have five spots to reseed or ten spots. So, since it’s already in the schedule, it’s not worth worrying about.

I had been wondering about when to mow with all the rainy days we were supposed to have, but today, when the sun came out, I went out and did the chore. I also took photos of flowers, which I’m sure comes as no surprise to you. The dark purple petunia with the pink highlight is one of the petunias that grew itself from last year’s petunias, though those petunias had no pink highlights.

Tomorrow looks as if it will be a repeat of today, starting out with a 68% chance of rain, so lucky me — I get to play the game again.

***

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.

Celebrating Small Perfections

A girl asked an artist how he knew when his painting was perfect, and he answered, “It’s never perfect, so I’ve learned to celebrate the small perfections.”

His response resonated with me because that is how I’ve learned to view my garden (as well as the rest of my life). When people drive by my house, they might see the finished art piece of my yard, but I see all the problems — the patches of brown grass and the encroachment of weed grasses in the lawn, the insect-nibbled flowers and the annuals past their prime, the overgrown areas and the undergrown areas, and all the other issues that make a landscaped yard less than picture perfect.

Celebrating the small perfections keeps me focused on what I can control. Not that I can control what blooms and what doesn’t, but there’s way too much that is beyond my control —weather, weeds, and insects being prime examples.

I can control the work that I do, and I can appreciate the results of that work, whether it turns out to be what I hoped for or not.

At this time of year, when the tomatoes seem to be wildly overshadowing all the other plants in their vicinity (even though I thought I allowed enough room, apparently, I didn’t), and when it’s obvious what will have to be changed for next year, it’s important for me to celebrate the beauty that I find in various nooks and garden spots.

It’s especially important to celebrate the small perfections when the rains and cool downs don’t happen. A garden is a collaborative effort between the gardener, nature, and the environment, and when one of those collaborators falls down on the job (what I view as their job, that is), there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.

Gardening is a learning experience — a growth experience in more ways than one — and while I am learning how to perfect my garden, I still manage to find some small thing (or several small things) to celebrate every 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.

Treasures!

This morning, before the wind got too strong to be comfortable, I wandered around my property looking for treasures. The first treasure didn’t take much looking — the red tulip really popped in the sea of green.

This was one of the many tulips I planted my first autumn in this house. None of those tulips had come up making me wonder about my ever becoming a gardener. And yet now, almost three years later, this particular beauty decided to make itself known. As did this grape hyacinth.

Interestingly, an acquaintance stopped by to drop something off, and he was so taken by these jewels in the grass, that he, too, called them “treasures.” But those aren’t the only treasures of the day. There are a couple of double tulips that are still blooming.

and two yellow tulips hold pride of place beneath the lilacs.

Speaking of lilacs, the purple lilacs I planted three years ago are blooming! So lovely!

As are the white lilacs that gleam among those shiny green leaves.

The people I bought the house from had planted some clove currents, and she occasionally asks if they are still here. I can honestly tell her that not only are they still here, but that they are thriving.

So many treasures! And with any luck, this is just the beginning.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Blessed Are They Who Can Laugh at Themselves

I have to laugh at myself. Whenever I write that I think I’m getting the hang of this gardening thing, something happens to make me realize I am a far cry from being a master gardener.

Even one tulip can make a person think they know what they are doing, but the truth is, only the tulip really knows what it is doing. The rest of us are just along for the ride. I am, anyway.

Dealing with grass is a whole other story! (The lawn kind of grass.) I was proud of myself yesterday for finally getting the lawnmower to work and the grass cut, but this morning . . . eek.

The place looks like a kid just gave himself his first haircut, with some patches cut way to short (before I figured the grass was too thick to cut short) and other patches way too long (the edges I haven’t yet gotten around to trimming).

If that weren’t bad enough, I seem to have missed a few spots in the middle, maybe where the wheels matted the grass, and since it was so thick, it couldn’t spring up right away to be cut on the next lap.

Interestingly, I had to pause in writing this blog to go to work, and there I happened to come across a quote: “Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves because they will never cease to be amused.” Isn’t that the truth!

Luckily, not only do I have something to be amused about, and not only will the grass grow again so I can do it right, but I have tulips in my yard.

So, it’s possible, amusement aside, I really might get the hang of this gardening thing. Eventually.

***

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 Promise of Good Things to Come

I had an enjoyable morning, watering my grass, bushes, and other plants. Seeing all the parts of my yard that are greening up made me think that perhaps I can do this gardening thing after all. I can even recognize some of the seedlings, such as the larkspur. Since I let the larkspur go to seed last year, there are large areas that should be covered with purple flowers later this spring.

I was also able to recognize some weeds that are sprouting, such as the wild mustard, which I pulled up. I was going to let it grow a bit thinking it wouldn’t do any harm as long as I didn’t let it flower, but as a neighbor reminded me, if I waited to pull up the mustard, I might pull up the larkspur along with the weed.

A lot of the tulips I planted are coming up, and most even seem to have buds on the way, so perhaps this time I planted them deep enough. A few of the lilies are coming up, too, which is surprising considering that the wrong planting depth was included with the bulbs, so I had to dig up the ones I could find and replant them in deeper holes.

My grass is doing astonishingly well. I have a hunch it’s way to early to mow since we are still way before the last frost, and I’m afraid that cutting the grass too soon would make it vulnerable during those late-season frosts. It’s possible it would do fine, but I don’t want to take a chance.

I wasn’t the only one enjoying my watering time this morning. I set the hose in the back yard, went to move the hose in the front, and when I came back, a robin was enjoying a private shower.

Loath to disturb the creature at its ablutions, I kept the water running in that one area way too long. Even after I went into the house for my camera, even after the robin preened a bit for me, I let the water run.

At one time, I’d considered setting up a birdbath because in a dry climate (and today was especially arid), birds appreciate any water they can find. Unfortunately, standing water is too risky in a place where mosquitoes are so much of a problem.

I always liked the idea of spring, but the reality — all that wind — made spring not one of my favorite seasons. Today, though, I got outside before the wind, so the day was all one expects of the spring — new growth, robins, and a promise of good things to come.

***

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.