OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #6 Deep Summer comes early

Weather is always on the mind of gardeners. It can control how a gardening year goes. There are few things we can do to help things along but really we are not in control of what happens out there in the wilds of our gardens. This year seems to be a good example of that. So Natalie Goldberg’s statement posted at Two Writing Teachers today fits well. This is want I have been telling myself – there is no failure – just a big field to wander in.

I worked on and off all winter planning, designing and ordering plants. Spring came with cold weather lasting too long and now we are deep in summer heat and dryness. Looking around you might think we were moving into August not July.

Yesterday, we had high winds with temperatures at 100. The feels like listing was 106. There was little we could do outside safely. The plants one day later show the effects of a day of 100 degree winds. Many have leaves dried out and are dead. Some are curled up hoping to protect themselves and this is even with the rain we go in the middle of the night.

This clematis is in a more shaded front garden

So today I am working in short time frames given that our heat and humidity is still high but workable (85 degrees with winds still blowing but a bit more gentle that yesterday). I began running a sprinkler in back, which I never do, but now it is a matter of not losing the plants to dehydration. Rhubarb leaves are all curled up, the Hostas are wilting and the ground is cracking even with the rain. My Clematis has buds are drooping on the vine and look like they might just give up. There are very small raspberries but they look hard and a bit crispy. I am not sure they will develop into berries we will want to eat.

Given heat and age I started working early in the shade to weed and do light clean up. Next step was a water break for me and then the plants. Repotting a tiny tomato and some basil came next. More water with a few minutes in air conditioning. Little Man came and I pulled weeds around the sprinkler while he ran in and out moving his small plastic slide into the water stream to make a water slide. Red faced and dripping we sloshed into the house to clean up and have lunch.

While watching the sprinkler and Little Man I had this sad feeling and disappointment with myself. This garden is so far from what I imaged last winter. I have been moving forward but not in the way I had thought. A few beds have been redone or cleaned up but not according to my garden map. It has been more of my wander around and seeing what can I do in this small amount of time. Or what can I handle in the cold or now what I can handle in this heat. Plants have moved to new homes but not where I thought they were going to go. It is all mixed up and so far behind.

After hauling two large bags of mulch back up front by hand (my wheel barrel died yesterday) I covered one of the new beds and gave up for now. Cold water in hand I sat down to check Two Writing Teachers to discover Natalie’s quote.

Ok, new frame of mind. There are no mistakes. All that planning and drawing, the winter thinking was not a mistake. It was helping me see the possibilities of the yard. Now I am dealing with the reality of land, plants, weather and what I am capable of doing.

I need to keep this way of thinking in mind and also note that today is the first day of summer. We have reached the summer solstice. We stand today at the longest day of the year and so I have decided it is a summers beginning not a mid summers nightmare.

Coral Bells and Hosta

It will be interesting to see what really gets done by late fall frost. If we are lucky there will be raspberries, tomatoes and enough basil to freeze pesto for late winter night happy hours. Nothing like a fire, a glass of wine, cheese, crackers and summer garden pesto to start thinking about a new garden in winter.

Tomorrow I look at the garden with what has gotten done! Not what needs to get done. Tomorrow I think of possibilities and creativity when moving through the gardens. I will keep this thought in mind. There are no mistakes!

It might be wise for me to post this quote in my office as well. It might help me get back to my painting and drawing.

What does this quote spark for you today?

Peony
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #5 The Green of Summer

Greens with Purple Palace leaves hiding

Summer has hit in Minnesota. Today it is suppose to get to 96 degrees. Remember just a few weeks ago it was in the low 40’s and dipping into the high 30″s at night. It is 12 noon and we are at 90 degrees and climbing. I expect we will make that hot and humid temperature before the day ends. This means I was out early watering all the plants in the front gardens. Flower beds and veggies beds all got a long drink to help them make it through the day. The new garden beds in the back gardens are not planted yet and although that was on the plan for this afternoon I will wait till the temps come down a bit and the wind settles.

I am feeling grateful that the young guys who mow and weed wack the yard. They are out there working in the heat today – not me! This is one task that I turned over to someone younger this year. I have been mowing and hand clipping every year. (I don’t like the weed trimmer after having wrapped that plastic string around my ankle one summer. Don’t try it – it is not fun!)

These guys whip through the yard in 20 minutes – front and back. If I would be doing it the first 30 minutes would be the front yard. Then the back yard for 40 minutes and then I would need to start the trimming. You get the idea – it takes me a lot longer to complete these tasks. I am happy to write a check and hand it over each week.

But our topic today is green. The greening of summer is upon us. In Minnesota it is a wonderful event although for awhile I miss the color of flowers. June to mid July we find ourselves with a smaller amount of color. The spring is a wild burst of color. The flowering bushes – Forsythia, Spice Current, Lilacs, and more. The large trees are flowering way up in the sky with tiny flowers of reds and yellows that come raining down on us as the light green leaves begin to emerge. At the soil level there are all the spring ephemerals – Tulips, Daffodils, Bleeding hearts, Wild Ginger, May Apples to start with. These lists are things growing in my garden but if I go walking there is so much more to see. There is color everywhere and it is needed after the long months of cold, grey and white we deal with each winter.

Now it is mid June and the color fades, at least for awhile. I headed out to confirm my thinking on this field of green, I see out my air-conditioned window. The Hosta are at full size and are shades of green. The day lilies are all green leaves with no flowers for awhile. The trees are fully leafed out and there is swaying green limbs out there in the hot breeze. The spring flowers have faded away leaving the summer green perennials to grow and flower in a month or so.

Rose
Weiegela

So phone camera in hand I stepped out into the heat and my first find is the Weigela bush (Sonic Bloom) in full bloom – red with a touch of yellow. Wild branches everwhere. Proving my wrong about the green of early summer. In the south east bed there was the red Roses just coming into bloom and the deep reddish purple leaves of Heuchera Palace Purple (Coral Bells). Heading back to the south side of the house there was the sea of green Hostas and new Heuchera’s that are not in bloom yet.

Peony – White
Peony – Mahogany

The back yard and gardens are full of green lilic bushes and green grass and green weeds but there are the pops of color from the Peonies in full bloom. The bright white with a dash of red and deep pink shining both in the far back of the yard. On the north side there is a new peony bush that is deep red called Mahogany that has a touch of yellow. The large old fashion white peonies have not opened on this side of the gardens yet.

I left the back yard walking by another row of variegated Hostas (shades of green and yellow). In the front along the driveway were two smaller plants with purple blooms – both of which I have lost their names and will need to go look them up.

Then as I looked around I saw what is the promised of more summer color – the yellowish buds of Penstemon (Husker Red) that are getting ready to bloom. These blooms will be bright white. Over in the veggie garden there is a bed of Dahlias also developing buds that will bring the hot summer colors.

Dalhia bud
Penstemon – Husker Red

So although we have lots of green that signals summer there are flowers and color all along the way. Don’t get me wrong I love the green of summer but those splashes of color mean so much for those of us who know that the winter browns and whites will not be far off.

I guess that means I better enjoy this 98 degree day as well!

Happy Summer!

Do take time to find both the multiple greens and the high colors of summer flowers these days. A quick walk each day might surprise you in the colors you will find!

Summer Greens

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

OLG (Old Lady Gardening) #4 Native or Non Native Plants

Bleeding Hearts

We have reached June and the gardening season is in full swing. Flowers are blooming around the city and neighbors are spending Saturdays in their yards. It is fun to see what families are doing to improve their little piece of land. There are lots of veggie beds popping up in our area. There are also a few households trying to move past the “sea of green” lawns with a patch of wild growth (also known as weeds). Ok, most are trying to change over to native plants but the process is long, messy and the wild weeds are much faster at moving in before the clover or other native plants take hold.

I have been wrestling with this native plant decision for a few years now. As well as wanting to reduce the green grass in the yard but I can’t stand the mess of creeping charley, wild violets and all the other invasive plants that show up. I like the green grass to play in with Little Man and the grass to be able to walk barefoot in on hot summer days. So I am working to strike a balance.

My front yard has green grass but two medium sized flower beds that have both native plants and plants I love or have an emotional attachment too but are not native to this area. There are also four raised beds for veggies and herbs and a few flowers if I can squish them in between the veggies. I am working to keep the grass sections in my yard small and healthy without chemicals. (it is tricky for sure)

My yard is a good mix of native and non native plants. I am slowly moving to more natives as the years go on. But I love seeing the Balloon Flowers come up and bloom with little balloons that pop open. This plant comes from Russian Far East, China, Japan, and Korea. It also can be considered invasive. It was grown by my mother in her garden years ago. I keep it for that reason. I miss her and think about her when it begins to grow each spring. I just deadhead the flowers once they are done blooming to prevent self seeding and every once in awhile I dig up some of the plants and get rid of them to stop them from taking over. I have also planted natives close by and they are working to keep these guys in check. (I do think our long hard winters also slows this plant down from taking over.)

I also have things like Bleeding Hearts that are native to both North America and Asia. The one most of us know well is the Asian variety with the pink heart flowers that bloom in the spring (the one at the top of this page). There are the lilacs that I dug up at the family farm in Iowa. This common version Syringa vulgaris comes from Eastern Europe. There are lilacs with tiny flowers that come from Asia as well. I often see the Korean Lilac here.

It is interesting as I look into the plants I grow to find that most have come from other countries. The old family favorites may have been brought over on a boat – so many seem to have come from Europe and Asian countries. It makes me wonder why are native plants, the woodland plants got lost along the way. Why do we need to work so hard to bring them back?

My guess is that just like me wanting to bring a part of my family garden plants with me to my Minnesota home the long ago settlers may have wanted to bring a bit of their home with them as well. So seeds and bulbs and tubers were tucked into baggage and brought along to have a bit of home with them.

BUT – There was and still is the legal and illegal gathering of plants from other countries, like Asia, that started long ago. The high price sale of plants gathered from explorers who were not kind to native people in the lands they visited. The tulip has an amazing story of wild exploitation and high financial gain and failure. If you are totally crazy like me you might enjoy reading The Tulip Story by Anna Pavord.

This history of plants and their travel has more recently started to come to light for us home gardeners. It is helpful that many of our large private and public gardens are now acknowledging this long history and the valuable skills we in North America have learned from people in other countries. (Read here about this at Chicago Botanical Gardens –https://www.chicagobotanic.org/blog/learning/how_gardens_reflect_plants_and_people_asia)

So for me this wondering about native verse non native gardening has become a journey of learning more about the history of my plants and making choices about my garden with more knowledge and respect for the people who brought plants this way. I now look not only to what zone a plant grows in or the need for sun or shade but also what can this plant tell me about other people and cultures. I think about how I can be more respectful to our planet (what helps support the local ecosystem) but also how do I support other people who might be or have been marginalize over time.

Gardening just got much more complicated but also interesting as we/I learn respect and care of the world as a whole ecosystem in need of care for both plants and people.

Lilacs

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

OLG (Old Lady Gardener) #3

Species Tulips – tulips that grow in the wild

I sit tonight with sore hands and back. The wild spring weather has not settled yet here in Minnesota so the on again off again cool weather and rain does a great job on irritating old joints that have arthritis. I don’t want to be a complainer but darn old joints are just not fun.

I have managed to do some gardening in between the wind and raindrops. Most of the tomatoes are planted and some of the pepper plants are sitting nicely next to the basil that was planted weeks ago. The “weeks ago” is important because the basil is the same size as it was when I planted it. It is green but not growing. My only guess is that it does not like the cool rainy weather any more than my joints do. We both could use a few days of warmth and sun. (no hot – we don’t need to jump to 90 degrees like last week!)

We might also note that last year tomatoes and peppers were in the ground and much large by May 15th. Tomorrow we will see June one on the calendar. We are about 2 weeks behind your usual growing season. For those of us growing in the northland that is important to watch if frost comes early some veggies may not make it to maturity and and onto our tables or into the freezer for winter. Could make things interesting this summer as we watch the growing season move forward.

I have a hoop house which is holding little seedling and plants until I get them in the ground. So each day I open it up and try to put a few more plants out into the gardens. I have little pepper and tomato plants still oh so slowing growing. There are some perennial flowers also that are almost ready for the real garden. Then there are the Coleus plants that I transplanted a while ago. They were tiny tiny plants that were hard to even see when I moved them into these pots. They are growing but still not even as large as my thumb nail but you can now tell they are Coleus. I understand why we buy Coleus plants each year. If we are planting by seed next season we will start them in December and give them a full 1/2 year to get started. Yikes! Learning new things all the time.

Bleeding Hearts

I am adding grass seed in all the little and big spots that decided to go bare this year. This evening just before dark arrived (lucky for me that is after 8:30 these days) I could be found outside crawling around the yard scratching up muddy dirt and throwing grass seed around. The front gardens and lawn are looking pretty good and the bare spots are small so it was easy. The back is a whole different story.

I spend most of my time these days working the front gardens because it is what people see but it is the back that I need to get under control. I did walk the back yard this morning and there was a mix of excitement when seeing the Bleeding Hearts and Columbine in full bloom. The Coral Bells made it through the winter and a few are sending up shoots for their tiny pink flowers. In that excitement there was also a deep fear for the weeds are growing just as tall and healthy as the flowers I planted there, years ago.

Now is the time that I must turn to the back. I need to chunk each garden down into very small sections to clean and replant. It is clear I will need to work in small amounts of time and vary the tasks. Today the 120 minutes of heavy clipping around a fenced in garden at my neighbors (where I am growing veggies and dahlias) took a toll on my hands and shoulders. The repeated actions of pulling, digging and clipping are hard on the hands and shoulders. It all feels fine as I work and keep moving but then as night arrives I realize rather quickly that I have made a mistake. So typing tonight is an interesting process. (come on fingers you can do it!) Yoga is on the schedule before falling into bed to read and sleep.

My hands have told me to stop typing and dark is upon us so I am off to do a bit of yoga and find a good book to read. Here is too dreaming of flexible joints, sun and warm days ahead.

Species Tulips with Giant Snowdrops tucked in around the summer Hosta Plants. There are also the leaves of a Hyssops plant hiding in there as well.
Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

OLG (Old Lady Gardening) #2

Gardening like so many things is an art. You need to read the land, the weather patterns, the critters that patrol your gardens and your own physical abilities. All of these factors change from day to day or year to year. I have found the best laid plans fall apart easily and discouragement can come tumbling down upon us like a large pile of dirt.

The best thing to do when this happens is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off (or shower if it was mud) and begin again. I am trying but it is hard.

I plotted and planned. I organized and drew out the garden beds and what would go in them. I make charts and listed start dates and seeds, and live plants. It all looked easy and ready to go.

Then life and reality takes over!

The seeds did their thing – most of them grew but there were several that did not grow and who knows what happened to the tags. Then they just stopped growing – to cold – even inside. The warm weather plants are still struggling and they have yet to be put into the ground. (think tomatoes and peppers) The flower seeds have grown but again they sit under the hoop house with a frost cover and a blanket waiting for late spring and summer to arrive.

Little plant hoop house

While waiting for the new plants to do their thing I thought – great I will begin the spring clean up. I will go bed by bed to weed and clean out last years leaves. Well, wonderful plan but first it was to snowy and icy, then it was 90 degrees but I was out there pulling wet moldy leaves off of plants. Then the basement construction project pulled me back inside and chasing Mason also slowed the process of gardening.

Then the old lady issues reared their heads. We had some lovely evening to work but after following Mason (the almost 3 year old grandson) around all day and doing the daily task that just need doing I was ready to sit come evening not go pull weeds and cut down plants for three hours. My energy level is not what it was when I was younger.

The topper came when the cold weather slowed the flowering of trees, bushes and small plants. They finally decided to bloom but all at once. Every tree and bush in full glorious bloom all at the same time. The sights and smells are amazing but those of us with spring allergies took a hit. So I was coughing and sneezing with water eyes and a head so full I could not think straight. (yeah for doctors who come to the recuse with new meds)

Bleeding Hearts

So where do we stand now? We are just days away from June and the lettuce, spinach and radishes are starting to grow in the garden. The tomatoes and pepper are still either up in my office under grow lights (tiny little plants) or out in the hoop house with a frost cover and blanket over them shivering in 47 degree temperatures. The flower beds in front look ok – the tulips are loving the cool weather. The back flower beds are growing fast through the piles of last years leaves and dead plants. The early spring flowers don’t mind this crazy weather so Bleeding Hearts are blooming, Virginia Blue Bells are lovely, the Lilacs are joyful, the wild May Apples are taller than ever with their little flowers blooming under the umbrella roof and wild ginger looks great.

Lilac

If I can think of my garden beds as if they are the floor of a forest glen it is all very lovely. If I think about it as a city garden all cultured and neat it is a lost cause. Weeds, old leaves and wild looking plants and bushes out of control in the beds. The critters that patrol the area are loving the extra cover to hide in and make nests in. The rabbits and squirrels have taken over and are in charge. The garden is more like a buffet for them. They love eating green Hosta plants. Who knew?

Now as the old lady gardener can I wrestle this wild world back to some sort of order? It is a summer project for sure. Tiny steps each day might at least help. I know the plants will be far ahead of me in growth and wildness but it is worth a try. I am well medicated with allergy meds and I remind myself that my legs, back and arm muscles can’t do the 4 to 5 hours of gardening each day so now I need to pace myself.

Wild Ginger

The Peony bed has been weeded and mulched. Step one done! I have trimmed around the 4 garden beds in front. There are sign that it will warm today so we might head out to plant beans, sunflowers, beets and replant carrots seeds that seem to be eaten by the squirrels.

I remind myself not to compare myself to other gardeners who have pristine yards and gardens by now. I remind myself that gardening is an art form that takes time and patiences.

The weather remains cool and mixed clouds for the rest of the week. The ground is dry and needs water. (We had a drought last year and have not made up the loss yet even with a winter of snow and cold wet spring.) The weeds are loving this weather and so are the hikers, bikers and walkers but the gardener in me needs warm days and rainy nights to build up the water table for the summer. Since I am wishing can I wish of more flexible knees and fingers so weeding and planting are just a tad bit easier. I can dream can’t I.

May Apple
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thresholds – crossing over into a new view

“Write about a threshold you crossed—what you expected it to be like, how that differed from reality, and what it took to make it though.” Isolation Journal – Prompt by Lindsay Ratowsky

I am still in the throws of construction at my house so when I read the word threshold in the post from Isolation Journal’s blog I thought about the doors being installed in the basement and the space that it divides. The moving from one environment to another. I saw the door taking us from a large open room into the tiny bathroom or the door that does not swing but will quietly slide to the side showing us the small storage area along the back wall. A place for a few hanging shelves, an over sized gas meter and empty space for the extra things in our lives we are not quite sure what to do with. There is also the door into the laundry room that holds another door to the outside world.

Each of these doors moves us into new spaces and a very different view of the space. There are colors or things that connect all these areas together. They are the threads that pull our life into a whole but there is still a different experience in each space.

All well and good but that is not what Lindsay Ratowsky was talking about. She was not thinking of physical spaces or the wooden board you place on the floor at your door to step between rooms. Lindsay was reflecting on the emotional and internal change that happens when you experience an event in your life that is or becomes life changing. These life changing events can be positive or negative but most times I find them to be a mix of both. This space we travel through becomes a threshold if and only if we take time to reflect and learn from the change that happened.

I have watched many people experience a large life event and then just return to their day to day world. Maybe these are subtle things that change internally and we as outside observers never get to see a change but my thought is that some of us don’t stop to think about these big events so that moment of stepping across a threshold just does not happen for them.

May is a month that always, repeatedly, steps me through an emotional threshold that happened some 28 years ago. It is not so dramatic a shift now but I still feel it. Not the pain of the event but the glory of our world that I discovered after it. The wonders of tiny buds pushing their way out into the world to create leaves or apples or acorns. The green of trees and grass that in my eyes glow with color brighter than before. The world each spring is always powerful for those of us who live in the northern climates. For me it is several steps deeper now.

It is the power of life itself that rushes over me each May. The amazing miracle of living and breathing. Each living soul became precious and of value. The trees were no longer just trees. They had/have become friends that helped me breath and live. The flowers and plants all send joy slipping through my veins. It is as if spring actual happens within me as well as around me. I leaves me marveling at the world we live in.

I was 42 with two young children, a teaching career, husband and home. Life was good and on a roll until I noticed a slight change in my right breast. Yes, you know where this is going. Silently inside me growing were tiny cancer cells. They were a bit hard to track in that there was no tumor just the cells.

There were lots of them circulating around in that area. At that time life seemed to stop, to be put on hold as we went through the steps of sorting this out during the last months of winter grey and cold. It was very fitting for my emotional state as well. The color and life seemed to hang in an uneasy balance.

The next weeks were spent working out the steps we would take physically. The steps in how to express this to two small children and to my work also needed thinking through. I had a classroom of third, fourth and fifth graders. How do you talk about women’s breast and cancer, let alone my breast with this crew of children. Like my own children at home I could not just say “Hey I am sick and will be gone for awhile.” At that time I did not look or act sick in any way. Remember these cells are silent until they are not! Also remember this was 28 years ago and our society was not as free about sharing issues like breast cancer. Many women were still keeping those things private (hiding it from everyone). I found myself holding my breath often. I needed to remind myself to breathe!

I could go into the gory and the glory of this life event but that is not my point really. Yes, this could have been life threatening and we thought it might be. We/I was lucky. This turned out to be only cancer cells that had not yet traveled through my system. The gory was I lost a breast. The glory was I recovered fully with this new view of the world.

It was not sudden but as I spent May slowly recovering from surgery with family around me I began to see a change. We took drives around the city lakes. We took oh so slow walks at the nature center or just down the block at first. Each step with children and family by my side showed me how nature recovers. How plants fade away in the fall to sleep the winter away and rebuild themselves each spring.

I too would rebuild myself this spring of 1994. As I walked through this threshold of life, I understood that I could recover from this round – this life event. I learned that my family can also move forward with me as we learned to live with the many events that life gives us.

Over the years my family and I have faced many events and each one has held a new threshold for all or one of us. A time that becomes sacred. A time to pause, observe and reflect on what this event makes possible.

A threshold may be hard, scary or one filled with joy but each one gives us a chance to see a new view. Thresholds give us a moment of pause to see our life in a fresh new way. It gives us a moment to make changes and hold on to the precious moments of life itself.

This spring of 2022 I still feel the rush of spring in my veins as I walk the streets of my neighborhood and see the trees go from bare branches to tiny buds to flowers and leaves. I feel the hidden strength of the natural world around me helping me through each new threshold that arrives. (and there have been many of then. That is for sure!)

So today in mid May – take a moment to check out your local trees or bushes. Listen to the birds as they call to one another and hear the breeze blowing through the branches of the trees as the leaves appear.

Take a moment to breathe with the world.

PS – I know I did not follow the prompt – I was struck by the word threshold and all that word can mean. So this is where my thinking took me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Old Lady Gardening

Wild Ginger in the back garden

It has been a few weeks since I have gotten here to write. Today brings clouds and possible rain so I am not out in the garden. The workers, painters this week, are busy with the kitchen repair. We are coming up on the last few weeks of a long basement remodel. The contractor and us are all ready to be done. He wants to move on plus see the project as a finished example of work. We want our house and lives back. So here is to June when we should be back to “normal” whatever that is.

What does this have to do the gardening? It doesn’t really it is just that through this whole remodel I have also been trying to get my garden started. Seeds growing in my office with humidity rising as they grow larger. Snow and cold refusing to let spring come adding to the mix of things. When I was unable to work in my own garden I turned to the You Tube channel called Garden Answer. It is my garden treat for the day. A little 20 minute session of Laura planting, making arrangements of flowers and doing all things garden.

She is young, appears to have unlimited financial resources, a family owned garden center with plants on the ready and lots of hidden help with her kids or the super heavy work. She is or has made large gardening look like a light breeze on a sunny day. It is absolutely wonderful.

BUT… I then turn to my own garden – a complete overgrown weed mess, after being unable to work in it last year. The ground is rich but hard packed with roots from trees, weeds and who knows what else. I have a limited budget and time, with no real help to speak of. I am also old. A new decade awaits me just a few weeks from now when I join those who are 70 and older. You get it I am an old lady gardener.

A perennial bed in need of cleaning

So for the next few months I am going to try and document what it takes to really garden when old. There are not many of us, young or old, who have a clean slate of land, help, high energy and ready resources like Laura. Oh how I wish!!!

This idea began months ago when I realized my yard/gardens needed a make over but with the basement remodel my funds are limited but the need is great. I also know my time is limited. Five days a week I am following an almost three year old around. Talk about a need for energy! Whew!

After lots of reading and thinking I began by looking at the gardens and drawing them out in my journal. Then using the idea of divide and conquer I drew and created small sections on paper and planned for what might happen in each small space. Did the space just need weeding and cleaning up? Was this an area that plants needed to be divided and moved? Or maybe this was a section that needed to be completely cleared with new plants coming in.

I am working hard to not get anxious about all the stuff not being done right now. I am taking one small space at a time. Yes, I know that by the time I get all the way around the yard the first gardens I worked on will need help again. It is just the way of gardening. I am determined to have fun with this work and not let it drive me crazy.

New beds as seen from the deck

So for now – mid May with garden season here in the north just really getting underway I have 4 new raised beds in the back garden – two are ready for new soil and planting. Two need to be nestled into the ground and then will be ready. At almost 70, with a shoulder still getting physical therapy, digging trenches for the beds to sit in gets spaced out over many days. In between that digging I have cleared old leaves and pulled weeds in a few beds both in front and back yard. The over grown office of plants has been cleared out to a hoop house on the drive way where plants can get real sunlight and rain. They are slowing getting planted into beds as the ground warms. Many will move on to new homes in a week or so. (nieces and my daughter will claim plants for their gardens. yeah!)

Hoop house

The tulips and daffodils have bloomed all on their own so we can just enjoy those. There is lots to do and many sore muscle to be had but I am getting there. One small garden bed at a time. The goal being to enjoy and keep the aching body in check. So far so good!

We will see what next week brings and how far I am in the clean up process of gardening.

Catch you next week!

Tulips, Forsythia, Sedum, Hosta and weeds
Tulips
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday – finding time to write

Let’s start with the truth. I have plenty of time to write. I am retired and my children are grown and out of the house. Yes, I take care of my grandson daily and we are in the middle of a major basement redo. All that said there are open times every day. There is the time when Little Man naps. There are the times when he comes later in the morning so there is time after breakfast dishes to write. There are the unplanned evening that stretch out before me most nights.

So why have I missed the last few weeks of writing? I can give you a list of reasons. They are simple things and they are true but really it is procrastination on my half that is at the root of this lack of writing. This procrastination also is great at blocking my botanical drawing as well.

The procrastination goes something like this:

  • I need to call my sister
  • I did not sleep well last night so I need to nap
  • I need to check out the garden sites on you tube because I am upgrading my garden this summer
  • The construction crew is here or coming and they might need me.
  • I should check on Little Man since he is sleeping

All of it is craziness. I am just avoiding the writing. I think it comes down to not knowing why I am writing. This is a big question and that comes down to motivation.

For a long time I was writing to keep my brain active and thinking, once I stopped working. Which in some ways is still true. It is important to keep thinking and learning and doing new things.

Here in lies the issue. As life is quieting down there is not much new to write about. The day to day events are pretty much the same. My thinking runs similar to so many I know – frustration with politics, worry about the environment, what are we eating tonight and does that grey carpet match the grey tile in the bathroom. Nothing new!

It is life but not very exciting. There are the highlights of conversation with Little Man that we enjoy. The delights when we realize he is understanding letters and numbers or he all of a sudden writes a little word with chalk. Those are our delights but not always great news for anyone other than his parents when they pick him up each evening.

For the month of March the tale of home remodeling kept me going but even that has slowed down. Yes, the remodeling is still happening but who needs to hear about the daily pounding of nails into wood or sheetrock or the on going struggles with the plumber and his choices over mine.

Maybe I am really coming into the hard part of writing. I can put words on the page but how do we make the common everyday world interesting to others and also of value to others or myself? How do we write to pull out the more general messages that help ourselves and others learn from the craziness of our world?

These questions are what people, who are writing memoirs, face. There are tons of memoirs being published right now and I have read many of them. I find them interesting and I continue to read them often. I think it might be because I realize this weekly writing really could be my own little memoir. This idea of a slice of life written once a week is really the tale of our lives. It is a series of short essays about what we are thinking and doing. But does it matter or how do we make it matter?

Memoir could be the tale of ones life from a young childhood to adulthood. It could be the writing of a journey through one event that happens over a few years or months. Whether it is a short or long period of time it needs to say something beyond the daily events. It needs to reach into the meaning of your life and what you have gained or lost along the way. It should, through reflection of some kind, bring out what you learned and how you have changed.

Here is my struggle – each week I can write about events but what am I learning in all this daily craziness? Am I learning something that might be of value to another person reading this? Or can I write about this to help me learn something about myself?

What am I learning as I help Little Man move through the early stages of learning? Have a learned and changed from when I was raising my own children? What have I gained or learned as I work, over the last few months, with contractors tearing apart my house and rebuilding a part of it? How do I feel about so many people coming in and out of my house during the long drawn out ride of a pandemic? What other questions help me see how our daily lives teach us or change us along this journey of life?

This is where writing gets hard. It is where writing takes time and some research into others that have taken these same steps. Maybe this weekly writing is just the rough draft for deeper writing done after more thought, research and reading about others experiences.

Oh, my – this is not were I was going with this writing today but it is interesting how once I pushed myself to write I came up learning something. So what have I learned here?

  1. my writing needs to have more meaning than a report of daily events
  2. that this blog might be a start of my own memoir of learning and reflection
  3. that these weekly writings are or maybe really just a rough draft for deeper thoughts if I allow them to be that

So now for this to have meaning I am thinking about changes and steps I need/want to take. Maybe looking back over my blog posts to see what little learnings might be there that I did not bring out in my writing the first time or are there posts that I could expand on.

Another step might be to go back into the list of memoirs I have recently read (that means making a list of the ones I have read) and think about why I read them and what lessons or changes were being presented to the reader. Do I have lessons like that to share? maybe or maybe not.

The BIG idea for me in all this rambling is that my writing is not about finding time but finding meaning in what I write.

It is clear that I need to have more meaning or thought put into what I write. If am bored with my writing than my guess is my readers are bored with the day to day talk of plants, Little Man events and the pictures, and short tales of sheetrock, electrical and plumbing messes.

Time to find time but more important to find meaning in what I write.

P.S. If you were following me in March with the crazy basement redo – the rough plumbing in now done, the electrical is roughed in and they are currently taping and mudding the sheetrock as I write this. I expect we have another three weeks before it is finished and all the people, trucks and dump trailers will be out of our lives. Just in time for me to build four new garden beds in the back yard.

I just couldn’t stop the sawing and nailing yet. I guess it is alway important to have a project to think about and noise and mess to make.

Now what does that mean or say about me?

See you next week!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Spring is happening inside – sort of

Here in Minnesota our growing season is short so we need to jump start our plants if we really want veggies to eat and flowers to bloom before the frost hits us again next fall. Each year I always have a small production going in the basement under grow lights. It is usually a few trays with some basil, peppers and tomatoes. Other things like flowers I buy once it is warm enough to plant outside.

This year the basement was/is gutted for a redo. We are just at the framing in part. The new wiring is in. The new plumbing is roughed in and walls will be going up we hope later this week. All this means is I am not growing plants in the basement. It should really mean I should not be starting plants at all but well…

I bought a new shelving unit and new grow lights in January. I can’t just let them sit unused. I also can’t bring myself to go buy things like tomato plants, that grow like weeds, when it is so easy to start them at home.

So as I sit in my office listening to the wind and pouring rain typing I do not need to put lights on. There are three shelves of red blue grow lights shining away over pepper plants, some micro greens, Flack Daisies, Feverfew plants and two trays of tomato seeds, plus chive seeds. On the floor under my old grow light I have eight pots of Dahlia tubers starting to grow and six pots of new Dahlia starting from seed, because why not. (You do understand that Dahlias need to grow in full sun and I have more shade than sun in my yard. Where they are going I have no idea. – the hint here is that I am crazy for starting seeds and even crazier when I think about what I am growing.) There are 6 more Feverfew plants and 14 more Flack Daisies and a large round pot of Elephant Ear tubers all beginning to grow in this indoor spring time.

The issue here is Minnesota outside still thinks it is winter. The ground is thawing but there was rain today with snow showers tomorrow and temperatures dropping into the 20’s again for the next few nights. These young plants will not see the real sun for awhile yet.

What was I thinking? I did at least send the onion and the shallot seeds off to my nieces to place in her sunny window since I had run out of space. But really – I know that in my seed box there are a whole lot of seeds we plan to start in another two weeks. Where do I think I am putting those babies?

Then there is the other issue that plants grow just like kids. They putts along for a while and then suddenly they don’t fit into their pots (or clothes if you are a kid). You now need to move these plant babies into larger pots and large pots need more space. Think about it when your kids were little they grew – larger clothes, more toys and stuff needing more space. All well and good when you have one or two kids maybe even three but I did not stay with three plants or even three kinds of plants. There are 6 or seven kinds of plants and multiples of each kind. My little plant family is really out growing my tiny office. If I am honest this set of plants would have outgrown my basement set up as well.

So not only are we remodeling two sections of our house I have gone ahead and planted way more plants than normal. Plus Minnesota, like many other states, has decided to have a not so normal spring. Winter has decided to stay with us for much longer than usual. We are just a few weeks from May and I am still wearing my long underwear on some days. Geez, this is crazy!

There is crazy weather. There are a crazy numbers of plants and it is clear that I am also crazy.

As my husband has said “you have a large amount of dirty in your office.” My only reply is this is soil not dirt and a living being. It is keeping me sane as I wait for real spring to arrive.”

I am not telling him I know this is crazy and that I must indeed be crazy as well!

Here is hoping for a great veggie garden with lots of colorful flowers to share with you here on this blog come July and August.

Happy Spring Everyone! I hope you are all enjoying more spring than we are.

NOTE: There are the beginnings of Tulip leaves, Aconite flowers and Crocus leaves out in the front garden. This must mean that spring is close and will happen soon.

.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Stuck in the end of winter

Each day seems to be the same. We can’t seem to move forward. It is the late winter/early spring mud season added to a long deep winter that has us frozen in place. We wake to snowy ground and grey skies. The temperature hovering at the low 30’s. It is just cold enough to bring snow and slush instead of full on rain. The grey days progress and but late afternoon if we are lucky the air has warmed to 50. The snow is gone. The sun has come out and we are all joyously out walking, biking and taking a deep breath. Ah Spring! Then evening sets in the clouds appear leaving us with another round of light snow and chilly winds and a grey morning. I am fighting winter as much as I can. I am planting inside in the half finished sunroom. Hope is eternal right??

Inside our house we also have an on going pattern. We rise about 6:30 or 7:00 prepare for the day and by 9:00 or so a group of workers have arrived to try and move our remodel projects forward. Some days they are here all day. Other days it might be a few hours on and off. It is always just enough that I need to be here just to answer the occasion question that pops up. It is never enough time to slip away on an errand or just to do something fun.

Along with the chaos of contractors Little Man joins us most days as well. The full on energy of a 2 and half year old bounces into the house taking over our days.

This routine has gone on for weeks. Doing a full on basement remodel of an old house is not for the faint of heart. There are water issues once you disrupt the system. Things that were working fine are now not working or leaking water into odd places in the house. The on again off again snow and melting soil is leaving mud swamps around the yard as they work on the outside of a closed in screen porch or pulling old pipes, wood and crud out of the 72 year old house into the yard creates a lot of muck.

I never though of our house as old. It does not look 72 from the outside but as you dig beneath the surface it becomes clear that age has settled in and taken its toll. Each new step has had a side issue that must be addressed. A clear example is when they moved a large waste stack(pipe) in the basement the upstairs toilet sagged just enough to break the seal and send water leaking into the kitchen ceiling. There you go two new projects – reset the toilet and repair and paint the kitchen ceiling.

This cycle of workers and weather has been going on for a while now. I am ready to break the routine. I am ready to clean up the house and move forward with spring. I am in need of cleaned out gardens with fresh flowers and mulch. I am in need of cleaned out rooms and simple designs. I am in need of a cleaned out garage (anything that was in the basement is in the garage). I was basically ok until yesterday!

Yesterday the guys came to pour cement in the basement where the new plumbing is for the new shower and bathroom. They were great. They started about 10:00 am just after the upstairs toilet was fixed. Nice timing. They began quickly with lively Mexican music floating up from the basement as they worked. They were hard at it and we thought great by about 5:00 pm they will be done and we will walk up for a bit of dinner at the neighborhood bar and restaurant since weather had turned towards spring. Oh, no they kept working.

At about 6:30 I realized I had better find something of us to eat here since they were still working. I know cement takes a long time and many, many layers. At about 8:00 pm we were watching a movie when the guys left. Yeah – but wait all their stuff is still sitting outside the garage door. Are they coming back?

Yes, indeed- this was just dinner break for them. They returned, the music returned and they were singing along as we heard the cement mixer going and the scrapping of new cement to level and smooth the new floor. They did a great job and I image they went home dropping into bed. It was 11:20 pm when they were outside loading up their truck and the music went silent for the night.

I so appreciate their mood. They, well at least one of them was still whistling at 11:20 pm as they cleaned up. I was still on the couch reading but really wanting to be in bed falling asleep. I was not whistling. I am not a night owl any more. I know pouring cement is one of those tasks you just have to stay with until it is done. There is no waiting until tomorrow to return and finish. They were friendly, cleaned up well before leaving but..

After days of workers in and out. After days of weather on and off cold, wet and dreary this mornings rain and lack of sleep has me not in the best of moods. I am not interested in hearing any Mexican music for a long time. The 12 hours of Mexican polka music was enough for me for a long time. Well, actually 12 hours of any music is a long time so it is not just Mexican polkas but that is what we listened to all day yesterday.

The wet cement in the basement and the rain outside has made this a day of no workers. There is peace and calm in the house. I plan on doing a bit of cleaning where I can. Little Man is home with his Mom for spring break (he also has the flu so glad he is there and not here.) There will be a long afternoon nap and hopefully the weather will clear again today and we can go walking, talking and stop for a bit to eat.

A break day with a bit of extra sleep should change my mood and I will be ready for contractors tomorrow at 8:30 am. Let the pounding and sawing begin again.

We will get to the end of this project someday! Just like spring will come someday!

Small signs of progress – the new bathroom floor and the tiny tips of tulips peak out of the half frozen ground as the rain falls today.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment