Perfect Spring Day

Today was a perfect spring day — warm, slight breeze, clear skies. It’s been a while since the last rain, so I took the opportunity to water my grass and other plants. In retrospect, it would probably have been a good idea not to walk to the grocery store first, but I needed to get a few things, and besides, it hadn’t yet warmed up yet enough to water when I left to do my errand. (It has to be warm because I tend to drench myself, and I don’t particularly relish the idea of catching a chill.)

Now — ouch — I am sore all over. I’m not used to being on my feet that long, nor am I used to all the walking, not just to the store but around my yard. Because of the configuration of the greenery, with long swaths of grass rather than one huge lawn, I have to keep moving the hoses. I set one in the front and one in the back, and by the time I get back to the front, it’s time to move the hose. So then I return to the back yard and move that hose and head to the front again. A soaker hose would be a good idea, but that’s all it is — a good idea. I’ve never found one that does the job. And anyway, it irritates me having to set a hose, come inside until it’s time to move it, and then just when I’m getting involved in doing something, having to go back outside. It’s far easier, though perhaps more painful, just to stay outside and enjoy the day until the task is finished.

When it heats up enough to where I have to water more frequently, it would probably be a good idea if I did the grass one day and the flowers and bushes the next. Doing it all in one day is what set my poor feet on fire. But it’s worth it. The yard is looking good!

I never particularly cared for grass; it seemed rather a frivolous plant, so I find the pride — and joy — I take in my lawn amusing. And I do take joy in it. Although the grass had faded somewhat during the winter, it’s greening up again, and oh, is it bright! Gemstone bright.

Also sprouting up are the larkspur that planted themselves last year after I let the flowers go to seed. The wild mustard is sprouting, too. I will eventually have to pull up the mustard, since it’s a weed that takes over, but now, when it is young and ferny, it is so pretty. The lilacs are coming alive, too, and it looks as if a few of those young bushes might even have flowers this year.

So perfect weather. Lots of green. Signs of growth. All that adds up to such a perfect spring day, I don’t even mind how sore I am. Well, not much.


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 Coming Seasons

It’s been ten days since the grass was put in, and it’s still alive! Yay! Maybe my brown thumb is gradually turning green. I’ve still been watering the grass every day, but strong winds are bringing in cooler temperatures, so it won’t be long before I switch to every other day, and then gradually fade out as winter pushes its way into my world.

I’m not especially fond of winter, but I have a hunch this year I will appreciate it more than normal — no watering grass and plants, no digging, no landscaping. Except for the watering, I’m mostly done with the digging. My final two hundred bulbs should be here Friday, and after they are planted, all I have to do is watch the forecast for the first snowfall, then scatter my wildflower seeds and tramp them into the ground before the storm hits.

Then it’s all about waiting for spring. Or not. Too much of my life has been about waiting, so perhaps I should change my focus to something beyond my yard and garden. Playing house and cleaning all the corners that have been neglected during the past few months perhaps. Walking, probably. All too often, I was too tired from the gardening chores or my knees too incapacitated to walk this summer, so winter would be a good time to concentrate on mobility. Ooops. But snow! I don’t walk in the snow, so that might not be the best thing to concentrate on. Still, there are my knee exercises to do to make sure they are as strong as possible as I sink deeper into old age.

The only thing worse than waiting is planning, so I’ll be better off not planning what I will do when the yard chores are finished especially since there is a good chance they won’t be finished for a long time. After all, the neighbors on all sides have trees, and somehow most of the leaves end up in my yard. It will be good to have the leaves, but I don’t particularly relish raking them off the grass and blowing them off the rocks. Still, tools are always fun to use, so it will be just a different focus.

It is interesting the way having a yard and spending time in that yard every day makes one cognizant of the seasons in a way that merely staying inside and switching from heat to air-conditioning and back to heat does. Even walking didn’t make me as aware of the seasons, perhaps because I wasn’t as involved with my environs as I am with yardwork.

Next year should be interesting. I’ve dug up about all the weeded areas I could, and those I couldn’t will be sown with wildflower seeds. If my raised garden is built by then, I will have a garden to plant, but if not, I’ll mostly be taking care of what has already been planted. Though, come to think of it, the lure of bedding plants is strong, so I’m sure I’ll find some place for a few. Or even more than a few.

Last night I was thinking about age, brought on by a neighbor’s comment that I was too old to go tent camping, which I might be. But I do think in another decade, I will look back on this year, my first year of unarguable elderliness as a time of relative youth. I mean, look at all I’ve accomplished with the landscaping. Admittedly, I did not lay the sod, the ornamental rocks, or the crushed rock for the pathways, but I have been out there every day doing something to turn my property into a micro estate.

It has been a good experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing where all this takes me in the coming seasons.


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.

Gardening is Like Writing

I’ve heard it said that there are two kinds of writers, plotters and pantsters. Plotters outline, so before they sit down to write, they know exactly what they are going to say. Pantsters write by the seat of their pants, so when they sit down to write, they never know what they are going to say.

Me? I’m neither. I start with an idea, then add another idea, and keep adding ideas until I know where I am going to begin and where I am going to end. The middle part is a matter of finding ways to connect all my disparate ideas, so by the time the book is written, the story seems inevitable, as if had been written by a plotter.

As it turns out, I garden the same way. I started with a few lilac suckers from a neighbor’s lilac bush. At the time, I just planted them more or less at random because there was no order to the yard. The fence that was here at the beginning of my tenure enclosed only a small part of the back yard, which to me was a selling point because I didn’t want a huge yard to take care of. Between the fence and the alley was a carport, and next to the carport was a decrepit garage.

I had no plans for anything back then except to shore up the garage, but eventually a sibling talked me into fencing the property, which turned out to be a great idea, even though I ended up with a huge yard. The fence adds a modicum of safety, from marauding dogs if nothing else, and it defines the property. Eventually, old garage and carport were removed and a new garage built.

And during all these projects, I added a few more bushes. Then other plants. Then the pathways. Then the grass. Now I am filling in the gaps in the landscaping, and suddenly, the yard looks inevitable, as if it had been gardened by a plotter.

The truth is, I did everything wrong. The hardscaping is supposed to be done first before the first greenery is planted, but in my case, the hardscaping grew along with landscaping. And I planted by trial and error, which is a gardening faux pax, even though that’s how I do everything. (I’ve heard there are two kinds of geniuses — the early bloomers who are born super intelligent, and the late bloomers who learn a sort of genius through trial and error. I still have a long way to go to reach genius status, but through trial and error, I might get there someday.)

I suppose with gardening, like writing, rules don’t matter as long as what you do works and you end up with cohesive plot, whether a novel plot or a garden plot.

I will be interested to see what it all looks like next spring, though as long as nothing major occurs to destroy the grass and plants, it should be beautiful.


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 Grass is Greener

Today was one of those special days you cannot plan. Or maybe you can, but I sure didn’t. When I was unexpectedly given the day off, I’d planned to go to the library, run a few errands, then work on clues for the mystery at the museum. I got as far as going to the library. Then things changed.

I noticed that the “open” sign was lit at my mechanic’s shop, which is a rarity since he’s been dealing with The Bob and various Bob related side effects for almost a year. I stopped by to see how he was doing, and he seems to be doing well. I asked if he was ready to work on my brakes. When he said yes, I asked when would be a good time. He said, “What about now?”

So I left the car walked home, lugging my books.

A little after that, a trailer full of sod was pulled in front of my house.

A couple of workers started laying the grass. And wow! That grass sure is greener on my side of the fence!

By now, most people’s grass has started to fade, which made mine look fake.

But it’s not fake, and that sort of worries me. All along, I wanted a relatively easy yard to take care of, but I thought one patch of grass in the front would look nice and be easy enough to take care of. But eek! A local landscapers had a couple of pallets of sod left over, and they asked my contractor if he thought I wanted it. I figured a couple of pallets might be a bit more than I wanted, but if so, I thought they could keep laying the sod until they ran out.

Well, they kept laying it down and laying it down, and not only did those rolls of grass cover the front yard, but also all down the side of the house as well as the patch of yard I was going to turn into a wildflower meadow. (Never fear, those seeds will be used to fill in other places in the yard to give it some color.)

There is still more grass left, so tomorrow, they will lay it down where I planned to put a parking space. Why not? I don’t need a parking space and if a rare visitor came and needed to park there for a bit, well, it shouldn’t hurt the grass. And anyway, I have the grass and I don’t have the gravel for the parking space.

All that grass looks great, but now I’m locked into watering and mowing that meandering lawn forever. Perhaps not forever, but certainly for as long as I live here. One mitigating factor is that the grass is so very thick that any weeds will have a hard time finding a place to roost, so just like that (a snap of my fingers) any future weeding will be relegated to a few garden areas.

As for my car . . . apparently, the parts company sent the wrong master brake cylinder. Although it’s listed as the right part, it’s missing a hole or has an extra hole (something about clocking?). Anyway, the car still is not fixed. Maybe Monday.


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.

Just Like That

Awhile back, I accepted a job as a part-time caregiver (more of a companion, to be honest) for an older woman. I promised to stay a year, and wow! Just like that (snapping my fingers), the year is gone. I signed up for another few months, which is nice for all concerned. I get along well with the women, both the client and her permanent caregiver, they get a break from each other, and I get help with some of my expenses, most notably, my gardening expenses.

I spent a nice chunk of my paycheck on bulbs to plant for this fall. I got carried away, and so my spare time (weather permitting), will be spent preparing the soil for the bulbs. I have a good idea where the bulbs will go, so that’s good. Tulips will go alongside one of my garden paths, and lilies will go to augment the lilies I already have, so that eventually I will have a lily forest.

One area of the yard I have no idea what to do with is the six-foot space between the two sidewalks in my back yard that lead from my back door to the garage and gazebo. This year, I just planted whatever seeds I had plus any extraneous purchased plants. What seemed like a good idea has devolved into rather a mess, and I don’t want a repeat of that next for next year.

I’ve been considering a combination of cosmos, zinnia, larkspur, and baby’s breath because all of those go well together, but since those are all tall plants, I’m not sure how well they’d fit in the overall scheme of my yard. I considered various flowering groundcovers, but none of the samples I bought and planted seemed to take hold. In fact, some of them simply disappeared.

Luckily, I don’t have to make any decision about that particular garden space quite yet. We haven’t even made it through this summer. But the fall and winter will go fast (in fact, by the time next spring comes around, my most recent job stint will have come to an end), and I’ll need to have some idea what to do. I guess if inspiration doesn’t strike, I’ll go with my idea of zinnias, cosmos, larkspur and baby’s breath. Considering that those are all annuals, it would give me an extra year to decide what would look good in that area. Maybe a perennial about a foot tall with big showy flowers. I have no idea what that would be, but it would give me a place to start looking, because (snap) just like that, it will be spring and time to plant.


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

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

Moving the Earth

People say faith can move mountains, but more often, it’s men (and women, too, I suppose) in heavy machinery who move mountains. I first realized this when I lived on the western slope of Colorado and watched as a new flat road was built on what used to be a small mountain. To be honest, I doubt the protuberance was high enough to be called a mountain, but it was huge for a hill. And over the months, that hill disappeared. Just . . . gone. I doubt anyone who drives that once-new road even knows they are driving over the corpse of a mountain.

The current project here at my house is nowhere near as extensive as that earth-moving project, but still, a lot of dirt is being moved around, more than I could ever do with my 2-gallon pail (which is what I generally use to move dirt from one spot to another). The dirt being moved came from the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street. That area was filled with tree stumps, dozens and dozens of small trees growing out of the exposed roots leftover from those stumps, and huge, waist-high weeds. What will be going in that area is rock (yay!! No more trying to stay on top of that mess!) and three ornamental trees.

The dirt is being spread over the yard to fill in holes and gouges that were created by the skid steer that was used to move concrete from the mixer to the back yard when the ramp from the house to the garage was built. I suppose, over the years I could have smoothed the ground myself, but with machinery, it won’t take more than a few hours for all that dirt to be smoothed over the rough spots in the yard. This is all part of my taking care of the old lady I will someday become — I certainly don’t want her twisting her ankles on holes or tripping on uneven ground.

Although it’s hard to get anyone to come here to work — the contractor I hired (and the person these folks work for) always seems to have need of his entire crew at various other job sites — the worker who mostly comes is getting excited about the changes we are making and wants to see what it will look like when it’s all done. Which means, I hope, that he will do his best to stick with the job until it’s finished.

It is interesting how we humans can change a landscape. After the hardscape is finished, the yard won’t look at all the way it did when I came here. The old property lines (or what were assumed to be the property lines) have been replaced by the new surveyed lines and a fence placed around the property. The old garage is gone to be replaced by a raised garden. The old carport is gone, replaced by a new garage. The old driveway is gone, replaced by a red gravel walking path through ornamental rock. Diseased trees are gone to be replaced by young trees. Weed patches will be replaced with grassy areas and gardens. And oh, so many things!

Even if the hardscaping is finished this year as I hope, trees and plants take a long time to mature, so it will be many years before I can see the final project. It’s a good thing, then, that I’m enjoying the process of moving the earth around and creating special oases in my yard.


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.

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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Garage Update

It feels as if it has been months since the men were here working on my garage, but it hasn’t even been three weeks. Wow, time sure goes slow when one is having fun — or not!

There have been a couple of things stalling the work — one is that although the lumber yard ordered my door and opener over a month ago, they haven’t had anyone who could deliver it. Something to do with The Bob. People laid off due to falling revenue or out sick or some such.

Another reason is that although the contractor can do the electrical work and in fact had included it in the overall labor cost, the county demands that the work be done by a licensed electrician. I’m not exactly happy about that since it will be adding tremendously to the cost of the garage, but perhaps it won’t be as much of a financial burden as I fear. I can only hope for the best (and hope that the contractor will be able to work out a deal for me.)

There is only one licensed electrician that would agree to do the work and would agree to coordinate with the delivery of the garage door. The last I heard, they will be here Thursday. Or Friday. Or . . .

It’s interesting to me how so much of the work I need done is dependent on other work being done. For example, I need a stoop level with the back door so I can actually use the door as a door. (That extraordinarily deep step up and done is what destroyed my knee, so I can no longer go outside that way, though it’s only me that has a problem. None of the workers have any difficulty going in and out that door, but then, they are all a lot younger and stronger than I am. And anyway, I’m the one who has to live with that hazardous step so it’s my ability or lack thereof that counts.) But that can’t be done until the concrete for the garage apron and the sidewalk from house to garage ready to be poured, and of course, none of that can be done until the garage is finished, and it can’t be finished until I get the door installed and the electricians here.

Nor can I do any landscaping or have them work on the house foundation (fill in some cracks and coat the concrete to protect it) until the garage is done and the old carport removed and . . .

You get the point.

In other words, there is no garage update because there has been no more updating the garage. But soon!



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.