Warm Novembers

The warm weather we’ve been having, while unseasonable, is not unprecedented. I remember another such November — I was young and becoming more in tune with my surroundings as I became more in tune in with myself. I walked miles and miles that November. I remember walking the five miles from my apartment to my parents’ house to celebrate Thanksgiving. It felt so good to be out unburdened by a coat or a sweater, it was if I were dancing all the way.

So much of my distant past is lost in the shadows of time, but I distinctly remember that walk, and how lighthearted I felt.

Here I am, decades later, enjoying that same sort of warm spell. This year, Thanksgiving won’t be as warm as the one I remember, but these recent days sure have been.

I feel almost as lighthearted as I did then — apparently, this weather has that effect on me — but I feel leaden footed without a hint of dance to my step. Of course, that is probably due as much to age as to the hours spent working in my yard earlier today.

I decided to dig up the lily bulbs I planted too shallowly, so I dug up the entire lily garden. To my surprise, I could only find about half the bulbs. Even the ones I clearly remember planting were missing. It’s possible I planted some deeper than I thought I did, especially since I did dump more dirt on top of the garden, but still, I should have found more of them. Well, I’ll have to wait until spring to see what happens, and if necessary, I can order a few more next fall to fill in empty areas.

After that, I planted a couple of dozen tulip bulbs, then I watered the lawn. Not exactly a day to remember decades from now, but a lovely day nonetheless.

I keep telling myself that this will be the last year I do this sort of planting, and that might be true, but I realized when I was out there earlier that the place where the shingles for my gazebo are being stored (they were actually dumped there, but saying they were stored makes it seem less haphazard) would make a perfect daffodil garden — a bright spot for the spring blooms, and yet out of the way for when their season has passed.

Even if the weather is back to normal or unseasonably chilly next year, I should be able to manage to plant one small garden.

Meantime, the next two days will be much like today, which will give me a chance to finish planting the tulip bulbs before the temperature begins dropping again.

***

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.

Dreaming a Garden

After Jeff died, I did many things that ordinarily I wouldn’t have done, such as taking dance classes and joining a hiking club, because I worried that otherwise I’d stagnate, that I’d become the crazy cat lady sans cats, the one who was so alone that she’d be dead a week before anyone ever noticed she was gone.

Even after I moved here, I kept up with socializing, and I did rather well for a year until The Bob came and changed everything. Now I spend most of my time by myself, with only my job, a weekly visit to the library, and a monthly get together with the art guild to take me out of myself.

Perhaps I am on the way to stagnation as I feared, but the one saving grace is my interest in gardening, which means I won’t be the catless cat lady, I’ll be that old lady who is only seen when she is outside working on her garden. There are people around who, I am sure, would make sure I don’t devolve into that woman, but more to the point, there will be the garden.

I’m still such a neophyte that no matter what I do, a percentage of what I plant ends up dead, but that is not discouraging me. In fact, just today, I received a mailer from a plant company for things to plant this fall. Cold hardy hibiscus. Carpet phlox. Oriental poppies. Shade loving astilbe. Even the names are evocative! My ability to keep plants alive in both the burning heat of mid-summer and the bitter cold of mid-winter isn’t what I would like it to be, though I wonder at times if the problem is solely with me and if perhaps the soil, the plants themselves, or the seller share some of the blame. There’s only one company I ever purchased plants from who sent plants that are all still alive a year later. The plants from other companies don’t fare as well; in fact, all but two of the plants I got from a company that specializes in prairie plants never made it through the winter.

Still, I try. It seems to me as if my gardening expertise is a lesson in hope over reality. But I continue to dream anyway. And as long as I can dream, even if it is only dreaming a garden, I won’t stagnate. Oh, I might well become the neighborhood crazy lady, though in my own head and in my own garden, I’ll be active and spirited and very much alive.

One of these days, too, I’ll get back into writing, though I haven’t yet thought of a story or characters I’d be willing to live with for the year or so it will take to write the book.

Meantime, it’s a matter of deciding what plants to order and where to put them.

***

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

Standing Still

For lack of a better topic, today I’m going to write about . . . me. That, of course, is a joke because all I ever write about is me, in one way or another. Writers are often told to write what we know, and pretty much all I know is me, at least to the extent that any of us know ourselves.

Oddly, I seem to be standing still, always in the same place, waiting for workers to come on Friday, waiting for my brakes to be fixed on Monday. I’m not sure what the problem is with the workers not showing up — probably the contractor, as always, is way behind, and so has no one to send over here. Getting the brakes fixed is a different story every week — either the part didn’t come in or the wrong part was sent or the mechanic is dealing with lingering “Bob” issues from his very bad bout with the virus or . . . something.

And so, once again, I am standing in that same place, where the workers are supposed to come on Friday and I’m supposed to take my car to the mechanic on Monday.

On the brighter side, one of my new day lilies has bloomed!

And one of my original daylilies has bloomed again.

Surprisingly, my cherry tomato plants are fruiting. I didn’t really expect to get any tomatoes; I just planted them because I could. There aren’t a whole lot, just a small handful every other day, which actually is perfect for me. Never having planted tomatoes of any kind before, I am amazed at how big the plants get! I might need to invest in tomato cages next year to keep them contained because stakes and string don’t really do the job.

Despite these small successes, I seem to be standing still in regards to my gardening, too, always planning for next year — what to try, what to do differently, how to battle the ever-encroaching weeds.

I suppose standing still isn’t so bad. At least I’m not running in place, wearing myself out, and getting nowhere.

***

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

Things to Worry At

In a book I just finished reading, the character often stayed awake at night worrying about all the things in her life that she couldn’t do anything about. As it turns out, the one thing she should have been worrying about, the thing that will change her life forever, is something she could never have imagined. But that’s not what this post is about.

Mostly, her worrying got me to thinking about my worries. Luckily, my worries at the moment are all minor. Even better, “worrying” in my case doesn’t mean causing anxiety; it means to tug and pull at things. Like a dog worrying at a bone, I worry at thoughts — I poke and prod them, pushing them around in my head, looking at them from all angles.

The current bone that I am worrying at is what to plant in the “island” between my two sidewalks. The space lends itself to some sort of formal desert garden, or rather it would if it weren’t for all the shade that area gets. A garden like that would take more studying and preparation (and money!) than I want to deal with right now, though I can always plan such a garden at a later date. My latest thought is to take all the seeds I have, mix them together — cultivated flowers and wild flowers, annuals and perennials, new and expired — and then next summer toss them onto the space, cover them with dirt, water, and see what happens.

The summer after that would be the key to what I ultimately decide. If enough perennials take hold, then the decision would be made for me and I wouldn’t have to do anything. By then, too, the prostrate knotweed that passes for grass around here might have taken over, since it’s almost impossible for me to keep on top of it, and in that case, I wouldn’t have to do anything, either, except give up and let it be.

Ideas for that garden particular area are not all that I am pushing and pulling around in my head. Behind the currently roofless gazebo, in the middle of the reddish pathways, there will be a raised garden, and that, too, is something I worry at. It will be the focal point of my secret garden (because when all the bushes along the fence grow up, that space will be utterly private), and I’m not sure what one plants in a raised garden. It would seem as if tall plants would overpower the area and perhaps make it claustrophobic. And low-lying plants might get lost. I’d originally thought it would be a good place for a vegetable garden, but since I’ve killed a couple of my tomato plants and can’t even manage to grow a zucchini, I’m not sure it’s worth the time and effort to plant vegetables.

None of this matters, of course. It’s not as if the fate of the world lies in the decision of what to plant in my various garden spots. It’s not even as if my own fate lies in the decision. It’s that I like having some idea of what I am going to be doing. More than that, apparently, I also need things to worry at, and with nothing major to worry about, I worry at my gardens.

***

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

Days Are Just Packed

I tend to think I don’t do much, but lately I’ve had to revisit that thought. Ever since gardening weather has hit, I spend a couple of hours outside every day, either watering, transplanting, weeding, mowing, or whatever catches my attention that day.

Although it’s hard work, I enjoy having the excuse to be outside. I don’t like to just sit for more than a few minutes outside with nothing to do, and I get too distracted to read. I’m also not one for playing outside. Even if I wanted to ignore my age (and sometimes wonky knees), I don’t have anyone to play with, so I appreciate having an excuse — even if it’s work — to enjoy my yard, especially the watering since it’s easy and gives me a chance to see how each plant is doing. I don’t yet have a lawn (and haven’t decided if I will have one, though I am thinking a small patch of grass might be nice) so I don’t use a sprinkler but hand water my bushes, shrubs, and flowers. All of these things are still babies, but I’m hoping as the summer progresses, I’ll have more things to enjoy seeing while I play at gardening.

Today I spent my outside time digging up prostrate knotweed, an almost hopeless endeavor, (though I have been told it makes for a good lawn in these parts; it’s just not good in a garden).

Afterward, I walked to the hardware store to see if they had any plants left. Though the pickings were slim, I did get a couple, as well as a bit of a discount because of it being so late in the season.

On the way home, I met a friend out walking her own errands, so we visited a bit.

Then I went to check on the house I’m looking after for an absent friend.

And to put a cap on my day, a worker came to start painting my basement. Admittedly, I wasn’t the one doing the work, but I can’t really relax when someone else is in my house, so it felt as if I were working.

Yep, days are just packed!

***

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 Cycle of the Seasons

Despite all the snow that fell here this winter, we’re still in a drought situation. The snow was the light, airy kind that couldn’t hold together to make a snowball. Not that I wanted to make snowballs, but a couple of people in snowless country wanted me to make a snowman or snowwoman or some kind of snow creature. Apparently, the sort of snow we got didn’t hold much moisture, hence the lack of snowballs.

I don’t imagine the lack of winter moisture will make much difference to me and my garden. When the ground dried between storms, I made sure to water my greengage plums and a few other prized plants. I’m hoping that will be enough to give them a good start this spring.

Spring? Wow, that’s not so far away — only nineteen days! We generally have late snow storms and late frosts, so planting time isn’t until May, but maybe I should start thinking about what I want to plant when the weather becomes optimal. Or not. Since I don’t want to drive a long way, and don’t really have much luck with mail order plants, I’ll be at the mercy of the local hardware store. I suppose I could buy the plants early and keep them inside to give them a better start, but that decision is still many weeks away.

Meantime, I am enjoying the sun and the warmer weather. And I certainly will appreciate the lower heating bills!

One of the odd things about having lived so many years, is that time moves faster in relation to one’s time here on Earth, and so it’s easier to feel the seasons cycling from one to another. Which, of course, is a good reason to enjoy whatever the day brings because before you know it, arctic temperatures will return. But perhaps, with a bit of luck, not until next year.

***

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

Thrilling and Not-So-Thrilling Developments

The most thrilling new development is that my contractor came with a couple of his workers yesterday and finished framing my sidewalk and stoop. He’d hoped to have the sidewalk poured today, but apparently, all the concrete guys are up in the northern part of the state installing or re-installing windmills. I’m not really sure what the story is. All I know is that no one could come do my job until Monday. Meantime, I can enjoy the esthetics of the framework, especially since, as you can see, it used up a bunch of scrap lumber leftover from other projects.

If all goes as planned, sometime next week, I will actually be able to go out the backdoor. Even better, I will be able to go directly to the garage. Yay!

Now I just have to figure out what I want to do with the island between the sidewalks. Plants of course, but do should I fill in the hilly area with dirt and then do some sort of ground cover? Do I do a container garden? (I will be doing a container garden between the house and the ramp at the bottom of the photo, so perhaps that will be too many containers.) Should I put in a bush or some sort of fancy boulder? Or do I leave as is, and just plant whatever and see what happens. So many choices!

On the middling thrilling front, I should be getting a few plants next week that I’d ordered from a desert nursery, in an effort to see what will grow in this alkaline, dried-out clay soil. I could put some of those plants in that island, but I think I’d like to something less haphazard since it will be the most visible and visited garden spot in my yard.

On the not so thrilling front, I’d ordered some protein bars to add to my scant emergency food supply. (As of now, that supply consists of a couple cans of beans, a couple cans of tuna, and three freeze-dried meals leftover from my camping days.) The bars were supposed to be low carbohydrate, but it turns out they were high carbohydrate. Apparently, they did some sort of shady math to subtract out the carbohydrates. They didn’t subtract out the carbohydrates themselves, you understand, just played around with the numbers to get a “net” figure. Luckily, I hadn’t paid a lot for these bars — they were a sample pack that I somehow got for half price. And anyway, they are just for emergencies. (You notice that I use the full word — carbohydrates? No “carbs” for me!)

But truly, those bars are a minor non-thrill. Greater by far is the thought of finally getting some of the necessary work done on my back yard!

***

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

A Garden of Sorts

A friend is planning on stopping by later this month to visit for a few hours on her way east, and she mentioned that she is especially looking forward to seeing my garden. I had to laugh at that — she’s already seen my garden. And so have you. At least what there is of it, which isn’t anything, really, but a few isolated flowers that bloom then disappear. What I mostly have is dirt, dead weeds (you know how bad the drought is when even the weeds are dead), a few baby lilac bushes and some transplants that are struggling.

What I also have is an appreciation for any bit of color, even a single flower, and a good photographic eye, which makes it seem as if I have a garden.

Someday, there might actually be a garden of sorts. I still have to wait until the garage is finished (high winds and rain the past couple of days and now mud today have delayed the work again), dirt is brought to fill in around the garage and the big depression where the old garage was, the sidewalks and pathways laid down, and the ornamental gravel arrayed around the house and garage. Then, maybe, if it’s not too late, I’ll try planting some things.

I did get a large planter and some potting soil, but I haven’t yet decided what to do with it or what to plant in the pot. It was supposed to go on a tree stump to add a pit of color to a dead spot in the side yard, but the top of the stump isn’t level, and I worried that with the high winds around here, the planter would be too unstable.

I’d also planned to get a couple of hanging plants to go on either end of the house, but I’m glad I haven’t yet done it. The wind the past couple of days was scary enough without having to worry about damage from flying planters.

Today’s bit of color: trumpet vines that found their way into my yard. Such welcome visitors! I’m glad they decided to settle in.

I might not have a garden to show off to others, but I must admit, I do love the flowers that show off to me.

***

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.

Holes!

I dug holes yesterday. Lots and lots of holes!

I’ve been told (and I’ve read) that one needs a plan when gardening, and my plan was to plant as many bulbs as I could as quickly and as easily as possible. There’s no real design to my holes — I just dug where it was easy to dig; if my shovel hit a hard spot where I planned to plant, I moved to another spot where the soil was softer. I don’t really care if there is any discernable design. I just want some color mixed in with the mostly brown grass. Also, once the flowers die and the leaves turn brown, the whole thing can be mowed, which seems like an interesting idea.

I’d gotten a bit carried away when ordering bulbs, and as it turned out, for the holes I dug, I got the right amount since the holes were big enough to house more than one bulb.

Of course, now my muscles are stiff and my throat sore, but it’s good to have it all done.

Now it’s a matter of waiting for spring to see what I have wrought!

***

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.