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!

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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

Gardening As Exercise

Gardening is often touted as good exercise, though when I was young and able to run and hike and even lift weights, I didn’t understand why it would be so.

Well, now I do understand. I spent a couple of hours this morning pulling weeds and digging a few holes for planting, and I could barely do anything the rest of the day because everything between my ankles and neck hurt. It’s possible the aches have more to do with my relative lack of exercise lately than the gardening itself, but it does show me that gardening can work a variety of muscles as well as beautifying a yard.

Most of my yard is still a mess. There are bare spots that were torn up by the various machinery used by the workers I hired. They are supposed to bring in fill dirt, but haven’t done it yet. That’s only one of the many things they haven’t done, but I have hopes that some year they will finish all they promised.

Meantime, I am planting bushes, trees, shrubs, flowers — whatever vegetation I can get my hands on.

When I bought the house, a relative who has experience designing gardens volunteered to do the landscaping. She did all sorts of research, and I was excited when she finally came, expecting her to help me work on the yard. But no. She wanted to . . . actually, looking back, I don’t know what she wanted to do. All I know is that she shrugged off the yard with a simple sentence, telling me that planting can’t be started until the hard things are in place.

I paused here to look that up online, belatedly wondering if she were leading me on, but apparently, she was right. Topping a to-do list of landscape design essentials is that you have to do all the hardscaping before you set any plants in place.

Even assuming that the hardscaping is the first step, that’s not how I’m going about things. I’ve been told I’m contrary. I’ve also been told I march to a different drummer. To me, it’s not about either of those things but doing what I can when I can.

Even before the fence went up, I started transplanting lilac seedlings from a neighbor’s yard. (With his permission, of course.) I also transplanted some of his larkspur, which have now reseeded themselves for the second spring in a row. In fact, they are filling in the “island” between my two sidewalks. The garden I had originally planted around that area became defunct when the sidewalks went in, or so I thought. Apparently, clearing out the weeds and grass and tilling the soil made the seeds from the original larkspur take hold.

The bushes that are planted along the fence were dug up and transplanted from the area off the alley where the driveway now is. They went in before the pathways — those who laid the rock worked the paths around the plants that were already there.

The same will be done for the rest of the yard. I am creating a swath of garden on the left-hand side of the sidewalks, and eventually, another path will sweep alongside that swath.

There are some parts of the yard that I am not even thinking about at the moment and won’t until a bit more of the hardscaping is done, but it doesn’t matter. I have more to do right now than I can easily accomplish in the next couple of years.

It’s odd — the property doesn’t look all that big, but each small section I am working on seems to loom large. There is no way any one person could landscape this place in a matter of weeks or even months, and I certainly don’t expect that from myself or the people doing the hardscaping. (I like that word, have you noticed? I’d never heard it before, and it’s a fun one.)

This is a project for a lifetime.

I remember reading a story once about a woman who planted a hillside of daffodils — acres of them. People came from miles around to see her hill of daffodils. There was only a single sign in the field, and that said “One at a time.” Apparently, everyone wanted to know how she’d planted so many daffodils, and she must have gotten tired of the question. Hence, the sign.

That’s my gardening philosophy — one at a time. Over the months and years, some things will die, others will take hold, so I’ll have a changing landscape. Meantime, I am learning to accept what grows here and what doesn’t (and how little control I have over either). Except for weeds — that I don’t always accept. Unfortunately, although I like to think everything has the right to grow, I have to draw a line somewhere, and I don’t appreciate anything — or anyone — encroaching on territory that is not theirs. So I pull up whatever encroaching weeds I can. (No poisons. I haven’t crossed that line yet.)

Yesterday a neighbor mentioned that in five years, after everything grows up, I will have a beautiful yard. That’s something worth working toward.

Besides, all that exercise will be good for me.

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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

So Much Excitement

Yesterday I found, taped to my front door, a bright yellow paper with “Special Notice” blaring across the top. It turns out it was from the public works department stating they would be smoke testing its sewers. They went on to say that it was done periodically to locate sources of sewer odors, leaks, and breaks in sewer lines, but no one who has lived their whole life around here had ever experienced such a thing. If the sewers had been tested previously, apparently it wasn’t something they told people about.

The smoke is supposed to be harmless, but I was still worried about it coming out of my plumbing, as they warned it might. Since there was a three-day window for this “smoking” to be done, I wasn’t sure how to know the test was being done. Obviously, if I had a problem with my plumbing, I’d be able to smell the smoke, but if everything was fine, would I know when it was finished?

As it turns out, there wasn’t a problem. I was outside weeding when I noticed smoke coming out of a neighbor’s ventilation pipes and a couple of heavy pickup trucks with hard-hatted men driving up slowly up and down the alley. I went inside and to see if there were any signs of smoke and to hunt for strange odors. There seemed to be a bit of a smoke smell in the bathroom, but it was so faint, it was hard to tell if it was really there. And there was no smoke that I could see. I opened the windows to air out the place anyway, because “harmless” doesn’t always mean harmless. Still, it’s nice to know that my plumbing is in good shape.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, I went back outside after opening the windows to pull more weeds. (It seems that for every flower there are a hundred weeds, but it’s worth it to see those few colorful blooms.) Beneath a spreading bush, I found a few double tulips. They must have been planted when the bush was young to be hidden so. I’d noticed the tulip leaves the past couple of springs, but this is the first time they bloomed. What a lovely legacy!

I also hoed an area where I plan to plant some flower seeds. The seeds are old, so they might not do anything except feed the birds, but it’s worth a try. I was going to go ahead and plant the seeds today because the weather forecast calls for above freezing temperatures for the next ten days, but I decided to be safe and wait for the average “last frost” date, which isn’t for another week.

Besides, after all the concern with the sewer smoke and the effort at pulling weeds, I’d had enough excitement for one day.

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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