December 30, 2006

Another Exciting New Year's Eve

Yep, looks like Pa and me'll be celebratin another New Year's Eve the same ole way.

After a few stiff shots of moonshine-laced eggnog, we'll do the nasty on the front porch shellin last season's dried "Happy Beans". The one's we scored...eh... smuggled..er..hid in the trunk...uh..."someone sent to us" from Mexico. (Yeah, that's it: "someone" sent them to us.) Then we'll use an old recipe Pa picked up from Moondoggie back at Woodstock: where we mash em and roll em up in some good Jamaican papers I've had since the 60's, mon. Kick back, light up and rock in the New Year on our rockers with memories of Jimi, Janice and The Dead dancin on that ole front porch roun' midnight when the ball drops in Times Square.

About the same time Pa & me'll drop one last dime...toke one more for Crosby, Stills & Nash (pre Young), give in to the usual munchies and chill on the porch till dawn. Been a bummer of a year. Hope when the sun comes up and the clouds of smoked Happy Beans drift off...so do those old troubles and woes. Probably just making way for new ones. *Sigh* But....considering the alternative of not settin on that porch again next New Year's Eve with Pa (even without the Happy Beans)....I'll take whatever the New Year has to offer.

PEACE & HEALTH IN A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

December 21, 2006

ANGELS WATCHING OVER

Well, we got the tree afterall. Debated and debated. There was so little time to do much of any decorating not to mention so little energy. But, as I sat one afternoon last week in the vet's waiting room while Tyler was receiving one of his three-times-a-week courses of medicine, I decided that just as we had gotten a small tree for Tyler for his first Christmas with us (which I really didn't want to do because my first beloved cat, Mister, had died earlier that year and all I could think about was the first Christmas in nearly 20 years without him)...I decided we would have a small tree, again, for Tyler and now for Sandy as well. It would be a "Tyler & Sandy Tree".

It's a small tree. Bigger by some standards, but smaller in comparison to our past trees. About 4 feet high, resting on top of a two-foot table, it stands alone in the living room surrounded by only a few little soft Christmas sculptures. But it's the decorations which make it significant. After searching through all my own handmade and gifted handmade ornaments, I ferreted out only the angels and all the cat ornaments I could find. Or anything relating to either Tyler or Sandy or Mister.

Above it all rests the angel I made over 12 years ago. Above it all she looks down on the tree. Above it all I hope her symbolism and the message and hope of Christ's birth looks down on us all. In my home and in yours.

Blessings and Prayers to all.

December 05, 2006

CHRISTMAS IS A'COMIN...WITH OR WITHOUT ME!

I've always plunged full-tilt into the pre-holiday preparations for Christmas. But with each passing year and another yuletide clearing the pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving stuffing off the table to make way for fat red candles surrounded by holly wreaths and gold ribbons, I'm finding it more of an effort to plug in those twinkly lights inside my head and sparkle for the remainder of the month.

This year health problems have gone beyond hampering the final bed down of the garden and brought things outside to a grinding halt. Unplanted perennials, still in pots have at least been plunged into thick piles of freshly-shredded leaf mulch or are sharing residence in the finished, other compost pile. Pain and depression over said pain has broken through a normally strong demeanor and kept me hunkered down, fairly immobile inside for spells. When I have regained some energy, positive attitude and the pain lessens, I've ventured outside usually to cut back as many tall, unsightly annuals as I can and letting them lie for the birds to feast on. Or arranging them as a pseudo-ground cover for what would otherwise be bare beds because of my inability to spread my usual layers of shredded leaves. On even better days, I managed to rake some of the larger, wetter leaves from the perennial beds and my husband scattered some of the aforementioned shredded leaves and grass clippings around the more tender specimens. But, for the most part, as was the case two seasons ago when my father passed away, the garden is on its own. What comes back...comes back. What doesn't....well...


And now my two little ones - my cats, Tyler (to the left) and Sandy (right) - have been spending more time at the vet's office and the specialty veterinary hospital about 25 miles from here than even I've been spending at my own doctors' offices! Adrenalin is a strange body chemical, and it never ceases to amaze me how it can mask whatever debilitating pains you may have at the time, so you can accomplish what would otherwise be impossible - if you thought about it too long. When it's come to emergency duty and round-the-clock watching over of my little ones, that adrenalin pumps out those needed endorphins like those that washed over the woman who was able to lift the car off her injured boy. (I'm sure we've all heard that story, and I don't doubt its voracity for a moment!)

Whether it's lugging heavy cat carriers, sometimes two at a time into and out of the car; tackling frightened felines to med them; staying up all night to watch over them; who eats what, when and who leaves "deposits" and how much and keeping charts; relearning intravenous and intra-muscular injections and even with the help of my husband as a "handler" when trying to administer subcutaneous fluids till that 100mls. drip out of the bag ...that only reveals the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I'd do for them.

Then there's the inevitable bad communication between doctors. Only this time it's animal doctors. There's only one difference between animal doctors and human doctors especially when it comes to your asking questions, being aggressive, doing your own research, double checking their staff is administering proper meds and doses during hospital stays...and that single difference is this: One deals with two legged patients and the other deals with quadruped. In other words, they and the frustration they engender are identical. Oh, sure, you can luck into the occasional great sympathizer or compassionate caregiver, but that doesn't mean they're competent. So sometimes you have to sacrifice communication for competency. And that doesn't necessarily mean your (or your animals') treatment still won't get screwed.

I'm sure we've all had the feeling at one time or another when dealing with a human or animal doctor, that your name has been circled in red in their "secret little charts" and filed away under: "Difficult Patient" or "Difficult Patient-Owner". I suspect there's an internet site out there only privy to be logged onto by physicians where patients they consider to have attitudes are shared. "Attitudes" in doctor-speak translates to: "One Who Asks Too Many Questions". In my opinion, however, the unspoken (doctor-eye's only) full definition is "One Who Asks Too Many Questions For Which I As The Person Who Went To Medical School For Umpteen Years Should Know The Answer...But Don't And I'm Too Proud Or Conceited Or Egocentric To Let Her Know That, So That Makes Her A Patient With An Attitude Who Just Asks Too Many Questions". WHEW! Talk about off-gardening topics!

So the garden as well as the holidays take on a different priority this year. The survival of one and The Glory of the other will each do fine without my usual hoopla and hustle. One is up to Nature and the other is The Creator of that Nature. I respect and honor both. Right now, I trust the garden to Nature's quite capable hands and I hope I'm kept in the hands of The Creator to keep me going strong enough to keep my little ones in my care. Of course a little care direct from Him to my little kitts wouldn't be refused either. As long as I can keep that adrenaline flowing and those endorphins kicking in when they're needed. Painkillers don't help half as much as the desire to help them and that's a pretty damn strong desire.

November 13, 2006

LAYERS OF LEAVES & STACKS OF STUFF

Having lost their last bit of color and unable to cling one more moment to the tall oaks, browned, crinkly leaves are the only occupants of my garden bench these early November days.

It's gray, blustery and intermittently raining as I write this. The kind of day I'm just as glad the garden no longer demands my utmost and urgent attention. A day when merely viewing the leaf-strewn lawn and covered garden beds through my living room picture window is quite sufficient, warmer and calmer.

Oh a week or so ago, when my neck gave me a moment's respite from pain, I managed to rake some beds fairly clear of gigantic leaves twice the size of my hand. But within a few hours, another wave of leaves blew in and clustered around the remnants of annuals and perennial stalks in those same beds. My brother once likened it to raking Central Park. A New York reference, but pick a park, any park, in any part of the country and it conveys the same analogy.

Some areas that I've left "natural" (a euphemist title I've given to those areas beyond my physical abilities to properly maintain) will remain a blanket of brown throughout the winter. Only turning white with the first snow cover. When there's just a dusting it sort of resembles a marled, marbled carpet of browns, whites and tans. Quite pretty. Almost as if I designed it to be that way, which, of course, is what I'll tell those who remark how ingenious it was to just leave the leaves lie so as to create such an effect. I have no shame.

I'm relieved to know my bulbs were planted when I had the chance. One more thing off my mind. I'm unable to help my husband with the leaf gathering and shredding this year. Worsening neck problems are limiting many of my usual fall clean up tasks. But I make short forays outside when the weather and the pain allows.

Besides, I'm saving myself in the hopes of controlling any pain and regrouping some physical strength for the remaining indoor kitchen remodeling - which was to have been completed last winter but because of still other physical interruptions - had to be put on hold. It's not so much the bare, spotty-spackled and unpapered walls, or unpainted ceilings or ratty, beyond-ever-cleaning-properly kitchen carpeting that I can no longer bear to live with. It's the clutter. When you learn to gingerly maneuver around piles of "stuff" that shouldn't be where it is, then you know it's been there too long. As George Carlin once said: we all have too much stuff, and we just keep moving stuff from one place to another to make room for more stuff. I've just got too much stuff and have plumb run out of room to move it. Plus it doesn't help that I've married an enabler who can go toe-to-toe with my packrat penchant.

So now stuff just gets piled on top of stuff. Like archeological anomalies, the mini mountains rise higher and wider in each room, revealing sedimentary layers of summer stuff, preceded by a strata of spring stuff and bottoming out in cretaceous remains of last winter's stuff. When I have to dig down and retrieve a woolen sweater in a week or so and should I unearth a fossilized crumb of last Christmas's cheesecake stuffed in the pocket, I think that may be the last straw.

And speaking of Christmas, with the holidays fast approaching, the prospect of my usual full-tilt yuletide decorating and hauling in a tree to adorn - is beyond daunting - it's nearly impossible to contemplate. The only sensation worse is the guilt I feel for even thinking of eliminating that most special part of the holidays. Even last year when things were only slightly less chaotic here, we still managed to prop up a little four-foot charmer I found standing all alone - last in the lot - at Home Depot. Small as it was we still managed to pack over 300 lights on the thing and decorate with most of my handmade ornaments. Mess surrounded us but when house lights were dimmed, all clutter faded in the sparkling colored glow of that little tree and soothed our senses with scents of balsam.

I don't know how we'll manage this year, however, with chaos having turned into deer-in-the-headlight-carrying-cans-of-paint-and-rolls-of-wallpaper panic. I don't think even Rockefeller Center's goliath could have enough lights strung to blot out our additional "stuff".

A friend suggested if it helped to camouflage the eyesores and hold sway some semblance of holiday cheer and decor, I should drape colored sheets over the mini mountains and top each with gigantic bows. I laughed half-heartedly, but it's beginning to sound more and more acceptable. Perhaps a smattering of little twinkly white lights casually festooning each "package". Not exactly Christmas at Martha's, but Martha doesn't have piles of stuff, and if she did, she's got four houses to utilize as storage space and a staff to shuffle things around. It's also highly doubtful she's out there raking her own fall leaves, worried she'll not complete her fall garden prep "all by herself". An abundance of less-than-minimum wage assistance courtesy of former cellmates on loan through prison work release programs has no doubt seen to that. And should she, like myself, require the occasional suppportive neck brace, I'm sure hers is at least made of velvet and monogrammed.

I do suspect, however, she'd think the twinkly lights on the draped piles of "stuff" would be a nice touch. Perhaps...even...a good thing.

October 11, 2006

SHIFTING SEASONS

Fall is officially here. Changing leaves, a slight chill in the air, the white Boltonia asteroides in full bloom and I've got to call upon muscles that have only had two weeks of needed downtime: that short span between the lushness of the garden's last blooming gasp and the drop of the autumn's first frosty-shoe upon tender annuals. (The other shoe dropping sometime around November and reducing the hardier perennials to mush or stripped to bare stalks jutting through freshly fallen leaves.) Spring and fall are always the most hectic in the garden and they both expose only a small window of opportunity during which I can accomplish specific gardening tasks indigenous to each season.

The leaves still cling to the branches, yet they've begun their slow color metamorphosis. The trees here don't present the crazy quilt of brilliant reds and golds which blanket the New England countryside. Nor do they shimmer and quake with the yellows of western aspens. In my mid Atlantic region, the dominant changing colors are rusty browns and muddy reds with burnished coppers and golds jumbled amongst evergreen scrub pines and red oaks. The upside of the ruddier less spectacular fall foliage is the enduring red oaks' maroon cloak which remains a stark contrast to the backdrop of winter's white canvas till spring's arrival.

I'm hoping to put in more ornamental bulbs aside from the usual garlic bulbs. I've kept my promise to myself this year and purchased over 200 daffodils, 50 tulips and 100 crocus. For years I've wanted the area under congested stands of 50 foot oaks and pines to come alive in spring with clusters of yellow and white daffodils as well as drifts of purple and white crocus to herald the daffodils arrival. Throughout the summer I've been cultivating shades of emerald, olive and lime green moss in this mostly shaded area. Some ornamental grasses that can handle shade as well as fringed-leaf dicentra, sweet woodruff and late spring-blooming dwarf azaleas provide a bit of color along with the mossy lawn. But throughout winter and early spring, the sun opens the canopy. Along with a new driveway border of buddleias which I'm underplanting with magenta tulips, I can now envision a kaleidoscope of early spring color. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Of the bulbs I mentioned that need planting now, the one which takes priority at this time is my stalwart, trusty - and indispensible - garlic. I was so proud of my harvest this past season (especially after my disastrous garlic crop of the previous season) I just had to take one of those "proud parental" shots of my garlic babies. No, this isn't a rare quarter-embedded variety, it's actually Music Czech which I purchased from the a local, organic supplier.

Usually planted on Columbus Day weekend, I'm forced to delay my usual schedule this year. So many matters to oversee inside the house, I"m at least two weeks behind on gardening tasks. Maybe a bit more, because the garlic beds have to be prepped first with some kelp meal, compost, bone meal and baking soda. Planted "knuckle's deep" about 5 inches apart and only mulched after the first frost. All the food for growth is already inside that little clove so there's no need for any initial, additional fertilizing. Mulching too early can promote rotting of the bulb since the ground is still susceptible to too much moisture retention and temperature fluctuations. Always looking those few to six inches of top green growth from underneath a thick blanket of shredded leaves, most winters their little green tips can still be seen jutting not only through mulch but layers of snow and into the frosty air. The important thing is to get their roots established. Probably the only significant garlic acumen necessary is timing its seeding. Planting too early may leave overstimulated top growth vulnerable to damaging winter weather. Too little or two few shoots can mean the roots haven't grown sufficiently or strong enough to support the bulbs throughout the winter. In March, bright green lances thrust skyward almost before my eyes as the garlic awakens. Then a side dress of compost or a slow release, organic fertilizer (usually poultry-manure based) and a foliar feed of fish emulsion is applied. From there on, it's just a matter of weeding, steady (not over) watering and waiting till the ultimately 3-4 foot leaves begin yellowing then harvesting when about 1/3 to 1/2 the leaves have browned and begin listing a bit. But harvesting is a long way off considering I haven't even begun to separate the cloves.

Even though the temperatures have dropped and cooler rains have softened the earth for planting... and those daffodils, tulips, crocus and garlic bulbs are impatiently waiting to be planted, I can still take a moment to sit under my morning glory-tented gazebo and enjoy the last blooms of the season; a shift of seasons which won't come again. At least not until next Spring.

September 12, 2006

GARDENING ASIDE

The majority of what I write on this blog is garden-related. But since my life consists of a great many things outside the garden, it's only logical that my mood and mind will wander beyond its green borders. So, momentarily, I'll put my garden hat and gloves aside.

The best sense I can make out of my present mood is that I've run out of patience. Perhaps with some others...but mostly...with myself. Considering I've always come up woefully short in that department to begin with, that brings my tolerance level not to zero but to a minus. Whether my current state is due to personal introspection or related to the undeniable reality of this being the day after the fifth anniversary of the greatest tragedy that befell this country in my lifetime and perhaps all others'. Whatever the reason, I've an uncontrollable need for release and as always that pressure is alleviated by words. My words.

Mostly I'm tired of wasting time. Which is solely my own fault. I cast no blame other than in my own direction. I'm tired of frittering away even milliseconds on minutiae, and I finally realized that the real problem lay not necessarily in that pre-occupation, but in my inability to personally define "minutiae".

Optimistically (which is also not my strong suit), I am sensing an increased clarity - perhaps due to increased age - (so much for my momentary optimism) of those people, events, opinions and moments I've allowed to impact the precious time I think I have on this Earth. "Think" because that's the only gauge we have of our allotted time here.

We all acknowledge our mortality, yet we live our lives as if we are immortal. We waste; we obsess; we expend precious energy and time in futile pursuit and inconsequential worries. We are either exhausting ourselves by shaking our fists at shadows. Or lemming-like, we accept what we perceive as our pre-determined fate and resign ourselves to that permanent position under clouds of doom. Fearful of stepping a toe into the sunshine, to lower those raised fists, opening our palms and embrace ourselves for who we are, what true gifts we have and make the most - the very most - out of it all. Then raise our arms once again. Only this time to rejoice in eternal gratitude for recognizing and banishing the minutiae.

Because I sense I may be the only one to read this, then I must assume I'm the only one to find some benefit from these words, and...for now that's enough for me. For now they simply serve as a written reminder to myself the next time I find myself stalled at another "minutiae fork-in-the-road".
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UPDATE:
After all my blatherings about recognizing and eliminating minutiae and not allowing it to interfere with what really matters in my life...whoops! I did it again!!. I permitted a sorry, inconsequential, insignificant event to swill around in my brain for longer than it deserved (which was no time at all). What's worse... I actually considered spending even more precious time addressing it.

Until I remembered that by addressing something I'm validating it. Not "agreeing". Validation doesn't mean agreement. It just means: recognition, and when I consider the source, it would have made my addressing it even more ludicrous.

Perhaps if I wrote 1,000 times on a blackboard: "Skip The Stupidity!" it might make a more lasting impression. Sometimes I need to be hit over the head to have something sink in. So, in that regard, I suppose I should be full of gratitude for this reminder. Or full of something.

August 17, 2006

WELL WISHING

Is there anyone as hopelessly optimistic as a gardener? This question coming from Mrs. Skeptical, Logical, Plan-For-The-Worst? But, that's the human, female part of me. It's the non-gender-related gardening side of me holds more positive wishes for the future.

Why then would I lament and scorn the heat and humidity of summer each morning as I lug around the hose; shake my fist at the ever-voracious, nibbling voles who suck down plants overnight leaving only a gaping hole where once stood that plant and yet just as that hungry vole, I'll eagerly devour the first garden catalog which has already found its way into my mailbox. The bulb catalogs. Bulbs to be planted in the fall for late winter, spring and summer bloom.

You see, this way I reap the benefits of both my logical self my gardening self. (As any gardener knows, Gardening" and "Logic" are oxymorons when used in the same sentence. One doesn't garden because it's logical. It's fraught with illogic and contradictions. Nor does logic ever propel a person into gardening. After all, only Mad Dogs and Englishmen ...and gardeners go out in the midday sun to water a pot of parched petunias at the end of the driveway.)

My logical self tells me if I plan my bulb display now and place my orders early, I'll get what I want and achieve (with the squirrels', rabbits' and deer's cooperation) the look I want. My gardening self tells me...if I plan my bulb display now and place my orders, I'm apparently casting my hopes into that little wishing well of mine in my shade garden or that "Big" wishing well in the deepest recesses of my brain, that I'll be around next spring and summer to see that display.

"Wishing and hoping and planning...." Lyrics from an old Dusty Springfield song and music to a gardener's ears.

August 05, 2006

DEVIL DOG DAYS OF SUMMER

...and I don't mean the creme-filled chocolate cake we used to stuff in our lunchboxes as kids.

I was going to enter a picture here, but how do you photograph heat? Other than displaying pathetic images of crinkled leaves and withering, drooping plants that are now just hanging on, waiting...waiting for some blessed relief from this relentless heat.

But, the weeds...the weeds are thriving. Usually about this time of the season, I'm lamenting bare spots left by spent perennials or pooped-out annuals. But...strangely...this year there's very little spots that are without some greenery. Theose patches of green, however, aren't the welcomed, late-season volunteer salvias or rejeuvenated pansies. Nope. Weeds. Lush, flowing, healthy, stoicly rooted and nearly impossible to pull from even the most parched soil.

Weeds are normally insideously loathesome. The way they seem to grow almost from the same point in the ground where sprouts a beautiful celosia, or clump of phlox or a verbena. They hide amongst them. Use them as shields to protect them from the watchful (most times) eye of this gardener. Their little weed brains hoping that perhaps I'll overlook them, pass them by as they crouch behind a stalk...a stem of a prized perennial or flowering annual.

But when weather conditions are so torturous and relentless upon my cultivated garden as they've been these past few weeks with this intolerable, unceasing heat, the weeds assume a different personna. (Everything in my garden has a personna. What can I say? I have this penchant for anthropomorphosizing just about anything. Including, obviously...weeds.)

This opressive weather emboldens them. Gives them courage to come out from behind that leaf or stem of coreopsis. They brazenly reach and stretch; waiving their flowering seed heads over my poor withering beauties. Flowering seed heads just waiting for the next rain, a sprinkle of the hose or tiny cloud burst to spew their prodgeny over my garden bed and set the stage for their next generation's plague upon my little patch.

I think, sometimes, as I wander the paths, bending, stretching, pushing aside nearly bare stalks of hyssop and mildewed phlox, I think I can hear laughter. Mocking. Giggling amongst the weeds. Like I said: anthropomophosizing means I not only characterize them...I can hear them as well.

"Here, here...We're over here! See us? Waiving at you? You can try and pull us, but we've been hiding and growing and sucking the life and whatever moisture there is out of the soil and starving your..your little beauties...for so many weeks now, we can't be moved. You can pull on a leaf, even dislodge a root hair or two. But we're stronger now. We'll win this time. Put away that hoe. Pocket that weeding fork. Wipe the sweat from your eyes and give the garden over to us this time. For now anyway. Till us under or hack us out come fall and toss us in the compost pile. But for now, we rule the beds. The garden is ours!"

As my glasses smear with sweat dripping from my hair stuffed into the wide-brimmed hat which shades my face but does little else to afford comfort, I sigh. Put away my pruners. Swat yet another mosquito from my leg and give unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's. If Ceasar was a weed that is.

Before closing the door behind me and feeling that first gush of life-saving air conditioning from within the house, I can hear them again. Snickering. Cheering.

"Go ahead, laugh and smirk all you want. Your Ides of March are coming and that should be sometime around Labor Day. Beware. Beware. Bwaahaahaaa!",I remind them. Then like any good Roman citizen...I head for the baths.

Now where'd I put my toga?

July 10, 2006

LILIES OF THE FIELD

It's July and that means lilies in bloom. It means loads of other flowers bursting with brilliance as well. But, these lilies are especially attractive at the very center of the center bed in my garden. Can't for the life of me remember the name. They were a gift from the American Horticultural Society when I joined up about 8 years ago. I've just been calling them "AHS Lily". Seems appropriate.

The gigantic rudbeckias are in full glory as well. They've been volunteering for nearly 14 years. Haven't started seeds since then. I just love volunteers. Make gardening life so much easier. I always find it interesting and a bit frustrating that those seeds which germinate and forthcoming flowering plants, always seem so much stronger and bloom-filled than the ones I nurture inside my greenhouse. I think flowers respond better to tough love.

Probably the single biggest joy in gardening for me, aside from the creative aspect of it, isn't the newly discovered seedling or surviving prized perennial. It's the joy I find in the garden's other living inhabitants.The knowledge that many of them are there only because I've planted and designed such a hospitable environment for them in which to frolic, mate, set up nest-keeping and raise their broods.

It's extra satisfying to see the same (if not at least the same varieties) return year after year to do it all over again. Much like me. Except I'm sure they keep their nests cleaner than mine during the gardening season, seeing how most of my time is spent outdoors.

I keep hoping my cats will do the laundry, make the beds and prepare dinner. But, alas....they're kitties and kitties don't do housework. They eat and sleep and occasionally play and give back to me the same kind of rewards I get from that garden of mine. Peace, love, gentleness, serenity and sanity,

May 04, 2006

A NEW SEASON BEGINS

With the advent of the first real, gen-u-wine Spring we've had in ages, I've been throwing caution and my bad knee and hip to the wind and burying myself in the warming soil of my gardens. It's not a good day if I don't come in with at least some dirt under half of what passes for my fingernails and a smudged cheek or nose, clothes so dirty that I can't even put them with the other dirty clothes in the laundry and the iniability to lift my right leg to climb the garage stairs into the house. But even pain can give way to the satisfaction felt from having cleaned and prepped a new spring bed already sporting new life without any help from me.

Life can be good and even better when I'm allowed to while away a few hours on most days revelling in the solitude and respite of my garden. Marveling at the return of a late-entry perennial I put in the previous November when I was sure there weren't enough warm days and slightly warmish nights to help it establish roots and reward me in spring. Like this Celandine Wood Poppy, with it's bright yellow coins and oak leaves that was one of the first to greet me this year.

Seems each new season is begun with me forgetting just how very much it all means to me. It isn't just a new plant here and there, a load of mulch, or a steaming pile of black-gold compost awaiting. It's that. All of that. But, so much more. It's like a gigantic, impossible-to-swallow-pill that every therapist and analyst wishes they had at their disposal. It's my yearly fix and no matter what the side effects, (i.e. aches and god-awful pains sometimes) I still keep coming back for more. An incurable garden junkie I guess. With a resulting high of more pluses than minunses; more rewards than disadvantages. And always worth it.

April 13, 2006

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

With some encouraging news on the health front temporarily abated, my endorphins are being allowed to come out of temporary shut down and kick my gardening enthusiasm up a notch. Oh, it's been there. Just relegated way down on my priority list these days.

In between doctor visits & tests, I did manage to start some seeds. Not nearly half as many as I would normally have begun at the end of a winter/beginning of a spring season. But, the few I seeded, germinated and are coming along. S-l-0-w-l-y... However. But then...so am I.

So now with those enhanced endorphins I can get back into my "Seed-Starting Chamber" (aka: my writing & craft room) and start those seeds that would be direct seeded this time of year. While I will probably wind up having to direct seed more than I usually do, there are some (if given the opportunity------and I have) I'd just as soon start inside. I can manage them better. Don't have to worry about turning on the hose to water them outside if we don't get adequate rainfall or bemoan the deer tracks galomping and stomping down freshly seeded areas. No...I'm a masochist. I'd rather go through all the trouble babying my little seedlings inside; hardening them off in a safe area (no greenhouse this year, remember?) and then planting them out so the deer can galomp and stomp larger seedlings!

I know these poor little sprouts will sometimes get crushed by numerous hooves because those hooves are only headed toward some plant further back in the border that's already leafed out and just happens to be high on the Bambi Buffet Menu. *Note to self: Maybe if I moved all deer delights up front, they wouldn't have to go so far into the beds and borders to get to the main course?* A thought.

Most of the beds and borders have been cleaned and spruced up. At least things look a little neater. There's some early spring color from the creeping phlox and yellow wood poppy. The old fashioned bleeding heart, which I transplanted a week ago is taking well and is sporting buds. As are the two huge buddleas, a white and a rather unsightly yellow, we moved two weeks ago. I wasn't particularly fond of the yellow. It has a completely different, more open, almost spindly growth habit and much smaller inflorescence. It's positioning was way to prominent, being foolishly originally and naively planted in the border too close to the front of the house and despite seasonal whacking back to the bare ground, still managed to dwarf its neighbors and block a portion of the view of the house. But, the bees and butterflies still liked it (coming in a respectable fourth to the pinks, purples and whites - in that order.) So, as with any plant that doesn't fit the bill for one reason or another, it never haphazardly gets tossed! Just moved to a more suitable location. In the case of the yellow buddleia "Honeycomb", it fell into my plant logic of: "If you make it where I put you, fine. If not...well, c'est la vie!" So far it's pushing new growth and holding its own in between one forty-foot oak and an equally tall pine. It's a duking of the roots for dominance. The best I can hope for it is that won't die. Sounds cold. But, that can be life in the Plant World.

Heck, life in my Human Health World of late has seemed a little merciless at times. But, I'm holding my own and with digging in my roots as well. We don't always work out where or how we intended. Sometimes all we need is a little repositioning and someone - or some Entity - to give us a second chance.

April 09, 2006

IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I DON'T LAUGH

I'm beginning to wonder if the reason I've been getting off "fairly" lucky these past few years without any major health issues (aside, of course from the usual arthritis, fleeting and not-so-fleeting bouts of depression and various and sundry accidents that have laid me up and out of action for awhile) is because it's all been accumulating...saving up...to whomp me all at once. For the Chinese, this is supposed to be The Year of The Dog. For this half Italian/half Canadian, 2006 is playing out as The Year of the Bitch all right.

If it were one thing to have thrown my system..my life..my priorities...out of whack, it'd be enough of an upheaval and adjustment. But it's two, two, two-physical ailments in one (as goes the old jingle).

There seems no way to begin at the beginning, because I'm already halfway into the second act and trying to bring any latecomers up to date is a bother. Not the fault of the dear reader. But my personal dislike and impatience at having to synopsize three months of aggravation, fear, anxiety, impatience and still unable to conjur up a more picture. For now, it's a jumble of scattered puzzle pieces that (at times) do seem to fit....only if I whack them hard enough however.

When I'm not crying, or wringing my hands in worry, staring off into space, or staying awake till all hours (like now, at 3:30am)...when I'm not doing any of those, I'm trying my best to keep busy with the whatever I can. "Whatever I can" usually pans out to be the more mundane. That which requires the least amount of grey-matter usage or anxiety which I don't need more of right about now. This is where my gardening and all the precursors that attend it (the seeding, coddling baby seedlings, prepping the soil, etc.) come in. Having been around the gardenig rodeo for over 20 years, much is done by rote, although it's still not easy. The effort I expend is more physical and creative. The physical I can handle if I pace myself and the creativity is like manna for a hungry woman. It's the juice or grease which lubricates the brain gears. Makes the real arduous use of those synapses, electrons and neurons in my system work at optimum speed and agility when I need to kick them up a notch in prep for another test, another bit of blood drawn, another doctor visit and another arduous sretch in yet another hospital outpatient waiting room.

In this particular instance and at this particular place and time in my life, gardening provides a welcome respite in which to lose myself. Albeit temporarily while coddling a cotyledon or weeding a bed for seeding, it gently nudges me and my cares down that garden path and off into another direction.

All I have to do is glance at my calendar and see the week of scheduled appointments ahead of me. But, for today, I'll check my garden calendar and see what seeds best be planted now and which of my temporarily heeled-in perennials in my back "nursery" bed are stretching their reborn arms and crying to be replanted. Gotta go. The "kids" are calling.

March 30, 2006

BEGINNING ANOTHER SEASON & Garden Supplier Advisory

Have to haul this little guy out of storage pretty soon. "Elmer" I call him. After the title character in the very first story I ever wrote, "Elmer, The Ant", in kindergarten. Replete with illustrations courtesy of my mother and myself via crayons. My present-day "Elmer" keeps a sharp "bug" eye overlooking my front garden each year.

How this year's garden will fare is anyone's guess. My seed starting was thwarted by some illness-related setbacks, and then I found myself without my greenhouse this year. I'd ordered a new one late last fall from "Yardiac"with the intention of putting it up this past February. It proved to be disastrous and up until a final resolution granted from on high at the company where it was ordered, I would have been stuck with it to the tune of $300. And if I chose to return it - which was only logical cause the thing was flawed from the git go - I would have had to fork over upwards of $125 for return shipping.

In haste I opted for a portable greenhouse. Actually, a good design in its conception, but a flop in it's practical application. Perhaps if the manufacturer had allowed enough of the polyweave material on either side of the zipper door, then the door could have actually zipped. Bad enough I've got rotator cuff problems, I didn't need to be yanking it out of the socket trying to zip this thing closed. As it was, after only half a dozen attempts, I could see the zipper material pulling on and away from the polyweave. At that rate, I figured three or four times in and out of the thing, zipping it open and exhausting myself from zipping it closed... and the zipper would ultimately be "no more".

So, it's winging it's way back to the warehouse of the supplier. And - as I said - after vocally duking it out with the reps and only granted a "stay" of having to execute money from my wallet to pay to return the thing, because I made a rather lengthy, public post on a rather large online gardening community which rankled the feathers of my fellow/sister gardener, sending ripples back to the company...only then did they cave and give me my due. The product was flawed in my opinion, and the opinion of the sales reps, too, I might add. Not to mention even the manufacturer agreed it needed correcting and was in the process of revising and redesigning it for sale in Fall, 2006. (Which wouldn't have done me a heckuva lot of good now.

Now, between that brouhaha and a day planner that is strictly devoted to doctors appointments and tests for this month and into next, my available-time-dance card is pretty punched with everything but gardening penciled in. I will, however, endeavor to try my best at starting some seeds, replanting perennials I had to move last fall and no doubt having to plunk down more cash than I intended (or can ill afford) on purchasing annuals. Yuk. The thought of buying a flat of 48 plants for $8 or $9 kills me when I could have started that flat and probably another with just one or two packets of seed that would have set me back all of $3 or $4! But....a gardener's gotta do..what a gardener's gotta do. Suck it up...make the most of what's out there already...pray for volunteers by the bushelful and forget about buying those new, fancy earbuds for my iPod.
Oh well, it's not like I listen to music while I'm gardening anyway. At the risk of waxing too philosophical....(which never stopped me before)...I much prefer the music of nature to keep me "humming" along in the garden.

UPDATE ON YARDIAC

A "prompt" refund to my charge account was promised - back in early April. Late April statement arrived...no refund. Okay. Gave them another month's "grace" period, which I thought was treating them way more fairly and broadminded than they originally treated me. May statment arrived. Whoopsey Daisy! No refund! Why oh why...but I decided to wait till June! Gee. whiz. Guess what? Nada refundo on el credito. Call YARDIAC and get a sales rep who says (naturally) "Not my department, can't authorize that kind of credit". "Transfer me to the president, Mr. Ambrose. Believe me, he already knows all about the situation" I assured her. After fumphing and apologizing profusely and saying (no kidding): "Boy, oh boy, when we screw up...we screw up!" Again, I asked myself: No kidding! "It'll definitely be on the July statement. I'll even fax your credit card company w/the info so you're bank will have the refund on file. I can give you a transaction number right now." Fine and Dandy. (To quote George Carlin). But the whole scenario was neither fine nor dandy. It was a pain.

July statement arriveed and with much trepadation, I opened the envelope and lo and behold (*Cue the choirs of angels in the background*)...there it was. Full refund. Plus...$10 extra for "all the trouble they caused". Yeah, I know. Ten dollars is ten dollars. But, somehow I think my "trouble" had a little higher value than that. Frankly, though, they could have kept their $10.

February 18, 2006

February 17, 2006

UP ON THE ROOF

Had the roof redone. Work began around 8:00 yesterday and the guys finished up about 5:00. Considering it's a relatively small roof, I thought they might finish earlier. But it got done.

I just wish they'd been the slightest bit more careful of where they threw their gigantic leftover bundles of shingles when they were done. You'd think the driveway would be a likely place to toss the stuff. Wider, clear of any obstructions on either side. But, no. These guys had to chuck shingles, plastic, paper....whatever...all onto my little 3 or 4 foot walkway. My walkway which is surrouned on both sides by my planting beds! Can you say: Crushed plants?

I was hoping the snow wouldn't melt before we had the next phase of this done (the trim work and redoing the soffits and gutters). That work will bring galomping workboots even closer to the house and more ground work. Meaning: more direct traipsing in my flowerbeds adjacent to the house.

While I already moved most perennials out of harms way last fall, there's still some that just couldn't be moved. My hopes were the ground would be frozen enough to protect them and even better would be a nice protective cover of snow.


Sure, we had 18" of snow last week...but it's a memory now.Sigh! Oh well, nothing to do but hope for the best and look at it the way I've been adivsed to view it by some other gardeners: It'll give me an opportunity to redesign those areas I should have before, but never had the wherewithall to dig everything out. Sometimes. Some decisions are made for you. And....they're not always all bad.
Good thing I didn't take the time to sit and worry about it last week. My thoughts might have been a little chillier than usual.

January 25, 2006

TOMATO WEAVING

A novel, yet not uncommon, means to support and grow indeterminate tomatoes is BASKETWEAVING . Used primarily on larger-scale farms and operations, it can still be utilized for the backyard gardener. That picture was from my last year's vegetable garden. It was toward mid to late summer when the plants were just beginning to put on fruit. I usually grow about six different varieties of heirloom tomatoes in a 4' X 10' bed. Growing them this way is sort of like espaliering fruit trees. There's minimal pruning. But you do have to be dilligent about 'weaving' the stems through the cat's cradle of cotton twine. I find the twine best to use as it doesn't cut the stems while they rest on it and yet it holds them from slipping. Be prepared, also, to add new rungs of twine every week or so, depending on the speed of your plant's growth.