In Isolation Again

For the first time since this whole “Bob” mess started, it feels like an epidemic to me. Until now, I knew only a few people who got sick and though I didn’t personally know anyone who died, I was acquainted with a couple of women who lost their husbands, but each of those incidences seemed tragic and remote as if they were unconnected to anything else going on. Now, however, almost everyone I know is sick, helping to take care of someone who is sick, self-quarantining because of a positive test result, or exposed to someone who tested positive and is waiting to see if any symptoms show up. A lot of people who are negative have a cold or some other illness that prompted a test. And people are dying, though oddly, not from The Bob. Most are elderly people who sailed through the pandemic only to die of age-related illnesses.

As for me, I am fine, though needless to say, I am in isolation. There is simply too much illness out there for me to want to deal with anyone in person. I even returned my library books today so that I don’t slip up and accidentally go to the library during business hours. Luckily, I have a few emergency books, and I have been toying with the idea of reading The Wheel of Time series once more, which would see me through a couple of weeks.

I finished planting my bulbs today, though I have admit, I got careless, and in a few places, I dug up a daylily. When they are small, they look like grass, and since most of the weeds were a grassy type (prostrate knotweed), it was an understandable mistake. I did replant them, so I hope they survive. If not, I can replace them next year.

I had to laugh at myself (the only risible moment of the day) when I saw an ad for lily trees and clicked on the link to order them, but better judgement prevailed. I will wait until I see what and where and if any of the bulbs I planted come up in the spring, then decide what to do. After all, gardening is a project for a lifetime. It doesn’t all have to be done right now.

Although I wore myself out today, not wanting to have to deal with planting bulbs again tomorrow, I took a short stroll this afternoon to enjoy the lovely weather. Eighty degrees!! The last such warm day for the year, I’m sure, since tomorrow will hit seventy, and then fifties and sixties will be the highs for a while before the temperatures drop to winter lows.

I’m waiting for the eve of the first snow so I can plant my wildflower seeds, and then I will be finished with planting for the year. I will still have to water my new grass most days for a while, though I imagine that when the ground freezes, I’ll be able to skip that chore. For now, though, it’s a pleasant enough task, feasting my eyes on all that green as well as a flower or two, such as this Colorado Gold Gazania I found today.

I hope you all are staying well and safe and enjoying your day the best you can.


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.

Triply Blessed

In a novel I recently read, a fugitive was found by tracking the water usage of his known confederates on the assumption that one’s water usage suddenly increases when another person moves in.

In my case, of course, that would be an erroneous assumption because I am still living alone, though I now have a lawn to take care of. I just got my most current water bill, and my usage has gone down because I was watering less due to cooler temperatures. The new billing cycle started a day or two before the grass was put in, so next months’ bill, which normally would be even smaller, will go sky high. I sure hope no one knocks on my door wondering if I am harboring a fugitive.

Nope, no fugitive. Just grass. The lawn kind. I was going to say the legal kind, but in this weird culture, sometimes in drought-ridden areas, it’s illegal to have the ground cover sort of grass but perfectly legal to have the getting high sort of grass.

It did feel strange, though, to be out there, on the first of November, bundled up in a winter coat and hat, watering my lawn.

I’d planned to plant a few of the bulbs I ordered, but as I suspected, the order was sucked into the black hole of the Denver postal system. They now say it could be another two or three days before it gets here, which should be okay. By then, this bout of cold weather will have passed, and we’ll have a short spell of high sixties and low seventies temperatures. By then, too, I’ll be going through planting withdrawal and will be glad of a reason to get my hands dirty.

There is one tiny section of my yard that will have to wait until next year for a makeover because there’s a pallet of shingles sitting there, waiting for the builders to come and use for a roof on my gazebo. And who knows when they will get here — such a small job is not exactly high on their list of priorities. I don’t have anything planned for the area blocked by the shingles, so maybe the wait will give me extra time to come up with an idea for a separate garden, something special.

And oh, yes — the raised garden. That hasn’t been built yet, either, but I don’t need that until next May, though considering how long these guys take to get here to do any of these minor (comparatively speaking) tasks, it might behoove me to prettify the rectangular space so that it doesn’t detract from the rest of the yard.

I do feel blessed being able to do this sort of physical work at the moment. Too many friends have health issues, and one younger acquaintance had to quit a job she loved and get a higher-paying job so she can help take care of her elderly parents (who, by the way, are my age). Also, I just found out that this county has the highest rate of deaths from The Bob in the state. So, I am triply blessed — not just physically capable, but also able to isolate myself as much as possible, and to have something as captivating as gardening and landscaping (as well as my modest job) to stave off any loneliness.


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.

Planting Day

Since this was going to be the last warm day for a while, perhaps until next year, I’d planned to spend the day planting the bulbs I’d ordered.

And I did . . . spend the day planting bulbs, that is. I am utterly exhausted, but the problem is, I only planted half the bulbs I ordered. The rest are lost in the black hole of the Denver postal system as so often has happened since I’ve moved here. Apparently, getting mail to the hinterlands is not a priority. And it’s not just the postal system. UPS recently lost a package, too.

I’m sure the bulbs aren’t lost, just waylaid, but by the time they get here, we’ll be in the midst of a rainstorm, according to the weather forecasters, so there’s no telling when I’ll be able to plant the bulbs. The sellers always urge haste in planting, but since there doesn’t seem to be much haste in getting them to me, I’m not sure how critical it is to get them in the ground right away.

According to the seller, “After arriving on a cargo ship and then clearing customs, the bulbs were transferred to a carrier service for delivery.” Considering the current cargo ship problem, the bulbs could have been in transit for months. I do know they’ve been in the USA for over a week, and it will be close to two weeks by the time I get them.

None of that indicates urgency to me, so when they get here, I’m going to take my time planting them. Luckily, despite the coming cold spell, the ground shouldn’t freeze, so that won’t be an issue. What could be an issue is my soreness — I probably overdid it today, and I am moving like a movie version of Frankenstein’s monster, but since I can’t do any work until the bulbs get here, I should have plenty of time to recuperate.

It was worth it, though, getting these bulbs planted. The lily trees take a few years to get established so they can grow to their full height, but someday I should have a lovely lily forest. (The lilies aren’t really trees, just very tall plants, a cross between trumpet lilies and Asian lilies.) And I planted tulips along a part of my path that’s out of the way so it will be a surprise seeing them when I turn the corner. I was particularly careful to plant them the necessary depth, so I have a good feeling about my chances of having tulips next spring.

Meantime, if I get antsy, am not hurting, and want to do some work outside until the rest of the bulbs get here, there is still a small section of the garden that needs to be prepared for wildflower sowing before the snows hit.

To be honest, I am stunned by the work I’ve done and am doing. I never planned it, and I certainly didn’t think I had the physical capability to do the work even if I had wanted to plan such a project. Still, by taking one step at a time, digging one shovelful of dirt at a time, clearing one foot of weedy grass at a time, I accomplished more than I ever imagined.


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.

Taking a Break

I don’t know when I last took a break from working out in the yard — from what I remember, I’ve been out there every day for months — so today was a rare treat.

I had considered pre-digging some holes for the bulbs that are due to arrive today and tomorrow, and I should have watered the grass (it’s still so new that it needs to be watered at least once a day, though I only managed a double watering once) but when a friend asked if I’d like to go to the “big” town (7,000 people!) for a shopping trip, I dropped everything and went with her.

I doubt it will hurt the grass any to be neglected one day. I gave it a good soaking yesterday, and will do so again tomorrow. Nor will I miss out on the sunshine. Tomorrow will be warm — perhaps the last warm day until next year — so I will be out for longer than is probably practical trying to plant as many of those bulbs as possible.

Besides, it was good to be able to fill up my refrigerator, which had been almost empty. And I had the opportunity to shop for Thanksgiving dinner since I doubt I’ll be going back there until December sometime.

I got a turkey breast, and to be honest, I’m not expecting it to be very good since the additives are about 20% of the weight. It might make for easy cooking, especially since it’s a freezer-to-oven product, but I also bet it will have a plastic feel as such highly processed meats often do. But in this case, it truly is the thought that counts. Neither my friend nor I want to be included in other people’s family plans, so we’re going to celebrate on our own. We really don’t have to fix a traditional meal, I mean, it’s not a requirement, but at least this way we won’t waste time trying to figure out an alternative menu. And anyway, who knows — the turkey might be excellent after all. One thing I know, we won’t have to worry about the grief upsurges that are so often brought about by being with couples. After all this time, it’s still hard for me, and she’s coming up on her third anniversary, which would make it doubly hard for her.

This day does show that there is life after gardening when it gets too cold to be out working, though today was a bit of a cheat because of the companionship and the shopping expedition. But as with all other changes I’ve dealt with, I’ll survive the coming winter.

And anyway, there’s always next spring to look forward to.


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 Pot of Olio

Olio is one of those words beloved by crossword puzzle creators because it can fill spots where a lot of vowels are needed. That’s the only place where I ever heard the word. One of the definitions is a highly spiced stew originating in Spain and Portugal and made from pieces of beef, mutton, venison, poultry, bacon, pumpkins, cabbage, turnips, onions, spinach, endive, marigolds, and various herbs. The other definition of olio is “a miscellaneous collection of things,” and that’s the meaning I am using here because of the disparate comments and updates I will be including in today’s blog.

Last night, after the “Nite at the Museum” featuring a mystery I wrote, the woman in charge called me all excited because the mystery worked, they had a great turnout, they made money, and people had fun. I think people around here enjoy this sort of mystery where the characters don’t have to memorize anything — they just wing it — and the “audience” can participate or not as they listen to the entertainment, have a bite to eat, and wander around looking for clues. The mystery I wrote for a dinner put on by a guild I belong to didn’t work because no one wanted to participate, some of characters didn’t want to circulate but instead huddled together and mumbled their lines, and very few people knew what was going on. If that guild wants a non-participatory mystery, I will suggest they buy one. But that’s not until next year, and who knows what will happen between now and then.

My grass is still green. It’s turning brown on the edges of some of the sod pieces, but I pay particular attention to those areas to make sure they get plenty of water as well as to make sure water seeps beneath the sod to keep the ground wet in the hope that the roots will seat themselves more thoroughly by winter.

I received email notices that my bulb orders are on their way. I panicked when I saw what I’d ordered — three hundred bulbs? Really? I can only hope my knees hold up! Luckily, the weather will cooperate. Although the week after I get the bulbs will be getting a bit below freezing, the high temperatures will be in the fifties and sixties, so I should be able to take my time with the planting.

And speaking of knees — I chatted with a neighbor for a few minutes this morning about his plans to turn a bus into an RV. I asked if he was going to outfit the vehicle with solar panels, and he said yes since he plans to camp off the grid. Too many places with electrical hookups charge a bundle for the night, and he doesn’t want to pay it. We talked about being able to camp on BLM lands, and I mentioned my defunct plans to go on a year-long camping trip, and he said that I was too old now and my knees are going bad. His comments took me aback, but he’s right. I couldn’t do that sort of trip anymore, and in fact, it’s why I moved here and spent my trip money fixing up the place.

I could do shorter trips, if I wanted and could get the money together, but I have responsibilities now. Grass itself is a huge responsibility! And then there is the house and all the rest of it.

I also made plans for Thanksgiving. A widow friend, like me, feels out of place having dinner with other people’s families, and though we both are pleased to be invited, it does turn what should be a celebration into a reminder of what our lives have come down to. So we’re going to celebrate together. I doubt either of us is up to dealing with a turkey, but we’ll figure something out.

Meantime, happy week before Halloween!


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.

Garden Dreams

The tenant in the house next door told me that when he looks back on this time in his life, he will always remember me with a shovel. That’s a fair assessment. When I look back on this time, I’ll also remember me with a shovel. I must have dug a ton or two of dirt, removing weeds and grass from what I hope will one day be a mini wildflower meadow.

You’d think after all those weeks and all that effort, I’d be glad to hang up my shovel (literally, hang it up — my long-handled tools are hung on a rack on the wall of my garage), but apparently not.

I got a notice that one of the bulb collections I ordered will be here in a couple of weeks. The place where I want to put them was once part of a graveled driveway. I figured it would take me a while to dig through all that gravel to get deep enough for tulips and daffodils, so I decided to get a head start on the project. It did take a while, but now I’m ready for those bulbs whenever they get here.

Still not completely fed up with shoveling, I’ve spent the last couple of days digging up more weeds. Although this property isn’t particularly wide, it’s long, and hasn’t been taken care of, so there are a lot of weeds to dig up. I cheated in the spring and early summer and simply mowed them down, so I made use of this gorgeous weather to dig up the roots of some of those weeds. Luckily, a lot of the worst areas for weeds are now covered by weed barrier fabric and rock, though I’m not sure how long that will last. Although the fabric was the strongest available, grass is poking through the fabric. Come to think of it, it’s called a weed barrier, not a grass barrier, so I can’t blame false advertising for the holes in the fabric.

I’m planning on taking the day off from shoveling tomorrow, but since I have nothing else planned to take the place of the “fun,” I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself outside with a shovel again.

I’ve managed to keep enough plants alive to give me hope that one day all this work will be worth it, though it’s worth it anyway — it gets me outside, gives me something to do, and fills my head with garden dreams.


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.

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

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

Possible Dreams

As I water my various plants, I daydream about what the yard will look like in the coming years, assuming I can keep up with the work. I hadn’t realized I would like lilies, but I find them amusingly cheerful. I looked up my order for the lilies I planted and discovered they are orienpet lilies, a combination of oriental lilies and trumpet lilies. To be honest, I hadn’t remembered planting them. Luckily, they remembered! Apparently, their lying dormant the first year is not unusual. Even better, every year they’re supposed to get bigger than the previous year, and eventually they will grow to be six feet tall. Now I am dreaming of a lily forest. I bet it will be beautiful, especially if I order more lilies to fill in the space around where these lilies are growing. And since I water and weed that area anyway, there won’t be any extra work once the lilies are planted.

Although the lilies are supposed to be strong enough not to need staking, mine are still so young that I need to invest in some garden stakes. Right now I am using wooden stakes leftover from the various concrete jobs around the property, but although functional, they detract too much from the flowers.

Another place I have dreams for is the area in front of the lilacs along the path next to the garage. It seems perfect for tulips. I water there anyway, just like with my future lily forest, so once the bulbs are planted, there won’t any extra work. And it won’t look like a mess once the flowers have faded.

I felt more like playing in my yard today than I have the past couple of weeks, so I harvested hollyhock seeds, which I am willing to share with anyone local who wants some. Just let me know. I also cut down a couple of the spent hollyhock stalks that were unsightly, but that only made the weeds along the fence more apparent. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to extend the slag driveway along the fence line to help with the problem. There will be way too much inside the fence for me to take care of without having to worry about anything outside the fence. I also did a bit of weeding, but wore out quickly. And anyway, I had to put the gardening on hold because I needed to start my car. Even though the brakes aren’t fixed yet (the brakes work, but the brake warning light still comes on), I’ve been doing a bit of driving just to keep the car mobile.

It still amazes me how gardening has gotten into my blood. When I first moved here, all I could think of was putting in some sort of landscaping that would take care of itself, and now I’m dreaming of a mini estate that will take plenty of work.

But we all need dreams, right? And not impossible ones either.


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 Chores

I went out this morning to do a couple of quick gardening chores. Two hours later, dirty, sweaty, and exhausted, I finally gave up. Each chore had led to another, until it seemed (and rightly so) that I’d never be finished. I suppose that’s both the frustration and fun of gardening — that there is always something that needs to be done, and that there is also always an excuse to go outside and play in the dirt.

I did accomplish some of what I wanted to do. I planted the bulb collection I got from the Arbor Day Foundation.

I realize this summer cutting garden will never look like the photo they sent — for one thing, the plants all flower at different times, and for another, I planted them in a straight line at the back of the flower garden I’m creating outside the one window I regularly look out of.

And then there is the problem with the gardener. (Meaning me.) A rank amateur, that’s for sure! Though admittedly, I am learning, and I am managing to keep some things alive besides waist-high weeds. As you can see, my marigolds and the cherry tomato plant are doing well despite the grass that insists on growing back.

After I planted the bulbs (being careful to follow the directions, which I don’t always do, but I wanted to make sure the bulbs at had at least a slim chance of coming up), I pulled weeds. Then I trimmed a tree/bush. It’s a locust that was cut down a couple of years ago, but it continues to grow. I’ve been undecided about keeping it since I’m not sure I want the responsibility of trimming it as I grow older, so I thought I’d have the tree guy grind out the stump when he comes to grind up all the other on the property, but I kind of like it. It looks like a fern with its tall, wavy branches.

After trimming the tree, I pulled more weeds. There are still more weeds to pull, and the weed patch I laughingly call my lawn needs to be mowed again. I also need to transplant some bulbs that will be buried under gravel if the landscaper ever comes back to do some more work, and then . . . yep, there’s always something!


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