To Buy or Not to Buy

The last two times Arbor Day Foundation sent me a gift to thank me for my donation (though really, it’s not so much as a donation as payment for the gift), the plants and bulbs were worthless. The plants were too tiny to plant, though in retrospect, I should have put them in a pot and babied them, but considering that I didn’t remember ordering them and didn’t even know what they were, it didn’t really matter what I did with them. The bulbs I got at the beginning of summer were a disappointment. Only one gladiolus bloomed, and I’m afraid if I dig up the bulbs like they suggest and replant them next year, the same thing will happen, so I’m going to cover them with some sort of mulch and leave them where they are. Maybe with an earlier start, they’d be okay.

Normally I’m not disappointed in the failure of Arbor Day Foundation “gifts” because I know how seldom they thrive, at least with me as their caretaker, but I was disappointed in the bulbs because the bulb collection they sent last year did well.

Because of the disappointment, I’d decided to toss away any further solicitations unread, but today, as I started to shred the card with my name on it, I noticed the most beautiful blooms. These are yellow, light orange, and apricot, and last year’s collection (the one that did well), was pink and purple.

I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t tear up the card, I mean. I know even if the bulbs bloom, they will never look like the photo, but even if one of the bulbs comes up, it will be a delight. So I’ve added this card to the stack of planting items to order this weekend when I have time to concentrate.

In my defense, I received a flower catalog yesterday, and though the gardens portrayed made me envious, I set aside the catalog and didn’t order from it, so perhaps my will power was all used up, and that’s why this gorgeous sunset-colored collection of bulbs got to me.

And the plants I’m not buying? Well, there is still plenty of time for me to change my mind, and if I remain steadfast and don’t change my mind, there’s always next year. So, it seems, when it comes to plants, bulbs, and seeds, my quandary is not “to buy or not to buy,” but “to buy now or to buy later.”


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


It’s amazing how sore a person can get doing a bit of gardening if it’s at the beginning of the season and she is not yet used to digging holes.

This morning when I went outside to see what the day was like (still the most accurate way of checking the current weather), I noticed that a few of my tulips were budding, and one was in bloom!

I was so thrilled with the discovery that it gave me the energy and inspiration to transplant a couple of lilac bushes. The bushes I planted last year from the Arbor Day Foundation all just stared at me when I watered them, and though they greened up a bit, they never grew. And this winter killed them. I was able to get a couple of “volunteers” from a neighbor to replace the poor moribund twigs.

It didn’t take me that long, and I thought I was outside for a short while, but now? Oh, my. I am sore from head to foot.

So tomorrow, whatever happens inspiration-wise when I go out to check the weather, I will simply enjoy the tulips and resist the urge to do more.

The tulips that flowered are those I planted this past fall. Considering the massive failure of the previous fall’s plantings, I was very careful to prepare the soil and measure the proper depth and distance to plant each of the bulbs. And they did well.

Many of the original bulbs are growing leaves this year (to my surprise and delight), but very few are budding, which according to one gardening site, could mean they weren’t planted deep enough. So next fall, I will have a choice — pile more dirt where the bulbs are, or dig them up, spread them out, and make sure they are replanted at the proper depth.

Or, of course, I could do nothing and see what happens.


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 Winning Situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Printer problem fixed! I finally found a place to download the patch to the computer update that screwed up my system and made the computer unable to connect to the printer. Why the fix wasn’t automatically uploaded like the original update, I don’t know. I have a hunch it would have uploaded in the July updates, but now I don’t have to worry about the printer not working. At least not until the next update.

I’d received five lilac twigs from the Arbor Foundation a few weeks ago, and they were all alive and all doing well, and for no reason that I can see, one died overnight. (In case you haven’t noticed, plants are as much of a mystery to me as everything else.) On the other hand, some old morning glory seeds I strewed out there have started coming up, so at least that’s something.

There’s been no further activity on my garage. That’s disappointing, of course, but at least it’s enclosed so the wood and tools and such that are inside won’t go missing. Admittedly, most stuff is too heavy to be casually carted off by the larcenous folk in the neighborhood, but I wouldn’t have put it past someone to pull up in a truck and load it all up. They’ve done that before. It was just a board they came and got, but other people have lost workshops full of tools.

My knee is doing better. I wear a brace part of the time (until it starts digging painfully into my leg), and that seems to help. So does massage, isometric exercises and the herbal poultices I have been using. (Frankincense and myrrh are a couple of the ingredients, which tickles me.) I even walked a bit outside until the pit bulls running loose had me scurrying back inside my fence. (Too many people around here don’t want to walk their dogs, so they let them run loose for a while, which is a real problem, but since they are back in the yard by the time the code enforcer goes on duty, nothing is ever done about it.)

I’m still working my way (again) to the last battle in The Wheel of Time series. It’s odd how the poor fellow who was born to fight the dark powers and save the earth is so underappreciated by everyone. They all think they need to control him (they think they know everything, and they think that if they don’t force him to go, he won’t do what he’s supposed to). What I’ve been thinking about this time through is freedom. The world of the story is a sort of chivalrous feudal matriarchy, with women asserting their rights and men trying to protect women at all costs. What it comes down to is all the disparate factions, as well as powerful individuals, are trying to control everyone else. It seemed weird to me, all this insistence on obedience, until it dawned on me that modern society is rather unique where individuals can try to form their own destinies if they will, rather than conforming so much to the will of the powerful.

I think these are all the recent updates to my life. Well, the tarot. Today’s card was the two of pentacles, which told me to be flexible and adaptable. Good advice, especially in light of all these updates.


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.

Needing Heartenment

After writing what was supposed to be today’s blog post, I was so disheartened that I decided to save it for tomorrow and post something a bit more heartening today. A lot more heartening, actually.

Although the yard is still cluttered with building materials and scrap lumber, and although the yard is still mostly dirt and dead weeds, there are a few bright spots, such as this gorgeous poppy. I’m not sure where it got that color because the seeds came from a red poppy, but I love the bright pink.

Most of the trees (twigs, actually) that the Arbor Day Foundation sent me aren’t doing anything, and a couple for sure are dead, but one crabapple is showing signs of life. Yay! Even better, the lilacs I received because of a different offer are all doing well for only having been in the ground a little over a week. I water them and shower them with love and hope that’s enough. I know that particular area of the yard has soil compatible with lilacs because there are two other bushes in the vicinity, so there’s that.

The cactus I transplanted from my neighbor’s yard that I thought was dead is alive and shows new growth. The poor thing was so white and limp I considered digging it up and throwing it away, but the thought of having to deal with the prickles stayed my hand. I am so glad! It looks so green and stalwart that it lightens my heart.

And oh, I so needed that today!


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.

Long Day, Short Post

It was a long day, and because I overused my knee and am tired and sore, this will be short post.

The workers came and worked on my garage — put in the doors and windows, added the trim, and built the frame for the concrete apron.

The garage is starting to look so very nice, but it will be awhile until it’s finished. The overhead door still hasn’t arrived (tomorrow for sure, they say). The electrician was here to give me an estimate on electrifying the building, but they won’t actually be able to do the work for about ten days. And after that, there will be more work — insulating the place, putting up the inside walls (OSB board — whatever that is) and the ceiling.

And then there will be more concrete work — a back stoop as well as a sidewalk from the stoop to the garage.

But still, it’s all coming along nicely.

The workers so kindly cleared away some detritus from the corner of the yard and helped me plant the lilacs that arrived today from the Arbor Day Foundation. Yay! These at least look alive. Another couple of lilacs the foundation sent were simply skinny little twigs with no roots and no sign of life. But I’m treating them as if they are bushes, and who knows, they might surprise me.

Maybe by the time the garage is built, there will be enough stuff planted that it will look like the beginning of a small “estate.”

One can hope!


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.


Planting Hope

I received ten flowering trees yesterday that the Arbor Day Foundation gifted me when I sent a donation. (It wasn’t really a donation, because I only sent the money to get the trees.) If you have ever responded to such an offer, you will understand the irony of the term “tree.” These seedlings might someday be trees, might even be the beginning of a small forest in my yard, but for now, they are nothing but skinny little twigs between six and twelve inches long with barely a growth that could be considered a root.

I’ve planted seedlings from the foundation before, and not one ever grew to babyhood, let alone achieved grown-up-tree status, but even knowing that, I sent the money. I figure I wasn’t out anything except my donation, and maybe not even that if the foundation really does plant trees with at least some of the money they receive.

Of course, these “trees” came when there is no way I would take a chance on injuring my knee further by digging holes, so I considered not planting them, but a teenager a few houses away agreed to do the work for me. That was a double blessing, not just because having someone else plant them saved my knee, but also perhaps because the trees will not immediately realize who their caregiver will be. And maybe, just maybe, when that realization dawns, one or two of them will decide they like it here anyway.

Even if none of the seedings live very long, it’s the thought that counts. Planting trees is like planting hope — hope for a future, and a more beautiful future at that.

And all of us right now can use a bit of hope.


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.