Out on the Prairie

People who aren’t familiar with the diverse areas and ecosystems in Colorado are always surprised by how hot it can get. Admittedly, it’s cooler in the mountains, but out here on the prairie, a hundred miles from those chillier climes, it can get hot. No, not a lower case “hot,” but HOT!! Capital letters all the way. Today we will get in excess of 105 degrees, though at the moment, it’s rather pleasant. At least for me.

I have to work longer hours today, so I didn’t plan on doing any outside chores. I went out thinking to walk around and check on my various garden spots. Some plants seem to thrive in the desiccating heat, but others, even supposed sun-lovers, don’t like as much direct sun as they’ve been getting. We’re not as high as Denver out here, but we’re high enough to be considered high altitude, and with altitude comes searing heat. (Shade generally mitigates the heat, but with the shade comes stinging insects, so it’s a trade-off for me.) It’s because I don’t want to be seared by the sun that I wear long sleeves even on the hottest days — oddly, though it might look ridiculous, it’s also cooler because it gives protection from the sear. And, of course, it’s why I wear hats. I certainly don’t need to char what brains I still have.

All of this to say that although I wasn’t planning on spending any time outside, I had to water some of the plants that weren’t doing well in the heat. And because I wasn’t planning on being out long, I didn’t wear my permethrined gardening clothes, but instead I wore my go-to-work black pants and t-shirt, so I expect to be covered in mosquito bites tomorrow. But it’s worth it, I suppose, to keep my plants alive.

Although many plants are supposed to need full sun, I’ve noticed that even that flora does well with a bit of shade, though there are some that do well regardless.

Among the plants that seem unfazed by the heat are the hollyhocks

And moss roses.

I’d never heard of moss roses (portulaca grandiflora) before this spring, but I am enjoying the various colors of blooms that come from one plant. It’s an annual that supposedly seeds itself and can become invasive, which sounds good to me — a carpet of flowers would be nice. For now, I’m counting blooms in the low numbers, but later on in the summer, they might do even better.

Other plants that seem to enjoy the heat are my cherry tomatoes and marigolds.

And the cactus, of course. The only problem with the cactus is that they have so few flowers, and each perfect blossom blooms for a single day. Which teaches us, I suppose, to enjoy the ephemeral things while they are here.

As for me and the heat? All I can say is thank heavens (and Willis Haviland Carrier) for air conditioning!


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.

Today’s Garden Surprises

Shortly after I moved here, a neighbor let me transplant a bit of her far-ranging prickly pear cactus. I might not have been interested if I hadn’t just spent several years in the high desert of California. I’d often encountered such plants when I wandered in that rather tame wilderness, and her plant seemed to bridge some sort of mental or geographical gap in my psyche.

The prickly pear never really did well — most of the paddles gradually died, but there was no way I was going to touch that thing to remove it. It all but maimed me when I dug it up and replanted it that I didn’t want to ever do anything with it again. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Those prickles really hurt. Even wearing heavy work gloves didn’t keep my hands safe from all the pricks.

Last year I noticed a bit of green, and this year, although the dead paddles are still lying on the ground to remind me of less sublime times, the prickly pear is doing well. And look!

It bloomed for me!

That wasn’t the only surprise today. The rock roses seem to be taking hold.

The snapdragons are really going strong. Such pretty candy colors!

The calibrachoa flowers I’d planted in a hanging basket are also going strong.

And more hollyhock blossoms are peeping out at me.

It’s funny to think of myself as a gardener. I was one of those people who were seemingly born with a brown thumb — I couldn’t keep even the simplest plant alive. And now, so many flowering plants adorn my yard that it amazes even me.

Admittedly, most of the yard is dirt and weeds, and even the garden spots are rather sparse, though if you just see my photos rather than the yard itself, you’d think I have a lush yard. Maybe someday I will, but for now, I’m thrilled with any bits of life and color that manage to survive my inept 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.

Major Miracles

I was snacking on a few radishes I’d picked from my garden when it dawned on me what a miraculous thing that was. I had tossed some tiny seeds on the ground, scuffed them about, and a little more than a month later, those seeds had become . . . food.

I was going to entitle this post “minor miracles,” but planting seeds and what grows from those seeds is not minor at all. It’s a major miracle. Without food, we wouldn’t be here on this earth. And I helped in that process of creating food. Well, technically, the seeds were the process. All I did was throw them out there and give them an occasional drink of water. They did all the rest.

Truly miraculous.

And then there is the hollyhock forest that is growing at the back of my lot. In the fall of 2019, a neighbor gave me a handful of seeds from his hollyhock bed, and told me to plant them. Which I did. I was sure I’d done something wrong, because the following spring, I saw no sign of those seeds. I ended up planting other things — mostly lilac bushes — so the area was watered all through the summer. And in the fall, a few hollyhock seedlings popped up.

And then this spring — wow! What a showing! I’m really not sure what to do about the plants because they’ve enveloped one of the lilac bushes. I considered cutting them down now rather than waiting until the season is over to protect the bush, but for some reason, the bush is growing strong in the confines of the hollyhock forest. That, too, is rather miraculous, because cooperation among plants isn’t all that common. (Though I did plant marigolds near my cherry tomato plants because those two apparently like each other.)

Today when I was out, I caught an unfamiliar glimpse of color in the midst of all that green, and look what I found:

The first hollyhock of the season.

When I was a girl, hollyhocks grew wild in the alleys, and we’d make hollyhock dolls from the flowers, using the blossom for a skirt and a bud for the head, but I’m just as glad there are no little girls around who understand the lure of hollyhock dolls. I prefer the flowers on the stalk. And I especially prefer the buds on the stalk because that means there will be more flowers.

Definitely a major miracle.


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

Stumped by a Stump

Shortly after I moved here, I had to have a Siberian elm tree cut down because it was interfering with the electric lines. Unfortunately, Siberian elms are tenacious creatures, and because the stump had never been ground out, the tree stump kept shooting up branches. I sure got tired of pruning that tree! Even worse, for every branch I cut, another half dozen would grow. Last fall, the workers who occasionally stop by to continue with a task they’d abandoned months previously, came back to try to dig out the stump. They told me they’d cut off all the roots that snaked off the main trunk, which should have made it easy to pry up the stump. Not so. They eventually abandoned the project — again — until they could arrange for a stump grinder, as well as schedule others with stumps needing removal to make the price of the equipment more affordable for all of us.

We thought that since that stump had been so mangled, it would die on its own, but that didn’t happen. In fact, this year, the thing grew even more voraciously than it did the previous year. I wasn’t too worried because the stump grinder was finally scheduled to be rented, though as always when it comes to my property, things weren’t that easy. Apparently, the grinder is missing a part, so . . . no grinder. When the part comes in, the grinding will begin. Meantime, I had that horrible mess with the unwieldy growth on the stump. I was thinking unhappy thoughts about the workers this morning as I pruned those dozens and dozens of branches. A new neighbor saw my struggles, and he commented that it shouldn’t be that difficult to dig up the stump.

He doesn’t have a high opinion of the guys who worked on my yard anyway, thinking they are doing me a disservice by walking away in the middle of my various projects and leaving me with half-finished messes, so he figured those guys hadn’t worked very hard on digging out the stump.

He came and worked on the stump for several hours, almost breaking his pickaxe and making his light-weight chainsaw smoke. (Tool envy! I sure would like a battery-powered mini-chainsaw.) He got the smaller stump dug up, but the big one “stumped” him, though he did manage to sever even more of the root arms that were holding the stump in place.

So now, I’m back waiting for the stump grinder.

It would be nice if the stump could be pulverized and the soil readied in time for a late season planting, since that part of the yard seems to be well nourished. Hollyhock seeds I threw in there a couple of years ago on the advice of the neighbor who had grown them and gifted them to me, decided to finally sprout this year, and the plants look like tall bushes with leaves as big as dinner plates. I’ve never seen hollyhock plants that big! And they are still babies.

I don’t suppose it really matters when the stump grinding is done since I am already over my head with work on my various gardens. The neighbor thinks that what he did today should keep any sprouts from growing, and that’s what I was really concerned about. I can deal with unfinished projects (most of the time anyway), but I do resent having to do chores that I wouldn’t have to do if the job had been finished in a timely manner.


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.