Category Archives: Gardening

One Lazy Day

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I enjoyed a totally lazy day yesterday.

I started it off by sleeping in. The dogs went out at six-thirty. When they came back in, I went back to bed. They went out again at eight o’clock. At that time, I started the coffee pot. When the dogs were both back in the house, and with the coffee brewing, I thought I’d just close my eyes for a few minutes more. Well, that “few minutes” went long. I woke up with my big dog, Darla, standing beside the bed, looking into my face. “Raaooow,” she said. I think it was shorthand for “Rouse yourself!” And she was right…it was ten AM!

I moved from the bed to the dining room table, where I spent several hours writing, reading and drawing. Exercise was limited to getting up to let the dogs out and in, frequent walks to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, and an occasional trip to the bathroom. I fried an egg and made toast about 1PM. After that, I turned on the computer. I checked my mail, looked at social media updates, and played a few games of online Scrabble.

At three in the afternoon, I showered and dressed, dried my hair, and took the dogs out for a walk. Home again, I picked up another book and, for a change of scene, sat down in the comfortable armchair to read some more. I fed the dogs around six, then made myself a grilled cheese sandwich, and warmed up the last of the vegetable soup. A good “lazy day” supper. For dessert, a bowl of yogurt with fruit and granola.

Back on the computer, I went through my news feed, then listened to a couple podcasts. My daughter Kate sent me an article that made me giggle. I watched a sitcom, using the commercial breaks to do up the dishes and tidy the kitchen. My friend Linda and I messaged back and forth, comparing notes on diet and fasting. I went to bed at a reasonable time.

After a day of little activity, it didn’t surprise me when I had trouble falling asleep! I finally cried “uncle” and gave up on trying to sleep. I got out of bed at two-thirty in the morning. I found a movie on Netflix. “Leap Year” is a cute romantic comedy with a backdrop of the Irish countryside, that didn’t require a bit of thought or concentration on my part. I made popcorn, with no regard to my renewed commitment to intermittent fasting. Finally, I went back to bed at four AM.

Today, I’m waking up slowly. I am determined, though, to get moving soon. There is plenty to do, to make up for my indulgent, lazy Sunday!

Good in Winter

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There are, of course, negative aspects of this cold season. For starters, it’s cold! Weather can be problematic. It’s harder to get around. Boredom can be an issue. We’re barely into winter, and already I’ve been dealing with some of these things.

Last week, my art class had to be cancelled because the weather took an ugly turn. Sleet, high winds, and freezing rain make travel dangerous. No matter how anxious we all are for diversion during this slow time, it’s just not worth it. Even getting out for my daily walk with the dogs can be a challenge. I picked up a pair of – almost new – boots at the resale shop. They were a little too big for me, even with heavy socks, so I sent them out to one of my daughters. Then, I noticed that my trusty, old walking boots had a wide tear in one heel. I ordered a new pair and, until they arrived, went back to that tried-and-true trick of slipping my foot into a plastic bag before putting the boot on.

The planes didn’t fly for two – or maybe three – days this week. That means no mail. Which, on some winter days on Beaver Island, is the only thing to look forward to! And, needless to say, no new boots were delivered. Some folks came in for pizza this week, after having waited all day at the airport, hoping to get across. With no luck. I’ve done that before. I have to go to the mainland for a couple routine medical exams this month. Every year, I think, “why don’t I plan these things for summer?” But summer is busy with other things. So, I worry about cancelled flights, road conditions, and getting stuck on the mainland…but winter it is.

Last weekend, our phones were out, I think all over the island. I’m not sure what caused it. It may not have been weather-related at all. Even so, winter is an especially poor time of year to be without telephone service!

But, whether I love it or not, winter is here. And, in fact, there are many things I enjoy about this season. I don’t think I’d like the crazy, frenetic, busy summer season, without the winter, for balance. As it is, I enjoy both. It’s nice to have the crowds of people come when the weather is warm. In winter, it’s a relief to have a break from all that chaos.

Now, when the ground is covered in snow, I’m not bothered by thoughts of what I should be doing outside. I don’t have to think about mowing the lawn, or weeding and watering the garden, or any number of other activities that nag at my consciousness in other seasons. I lazily page through the seed catalogues, imagining the coming year’s perfect garden.

When I take a break from the garden plans, I have a small stack of new books that I’m looking forward to. I have others on the shelves that I haven’t gotten to yet. There are at least four magazines and a couple interesting catalogues on the side table waiting for me to go through. And, if it comes down to it, Beaver Island has a wonderful library, with even more choices.

This time of year, there’s more time for meal planning and preparation. Food seems to taste better, too, when it’s cold outside. In the last few weeks, I’ve enjoyed a couple pots of soup, a nice stew, and a surprisingly wonderful noodle dish made with bits and scraps of leftovers. I only wish I could duplicate the recipe! Having the oven going, whether for breads, cookies, or just a tray of granola, warms the house in more ways than one.

Finally, here in the north woods, wintertime is often stunning. Even on the most miserably cold days, I love the view!

A Wintry Afternoon

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We got some snow last night, here on Beaver Island.

The big, wet snowfall that arrived a couple weeks ago had completely melted, giving me time to get some – not all – of my fall chores done. I got both snow shovels out of my small garden shed. Once everything was put away, it would be impossible to access them. I’ve made that mistake before; that’s why I have two snow shovels for this household where there is only one “shoveller.”

I put away the tomato cages, pulled up the vines, and cut back the raspberries. After stacking the tomato cages against the back wall of the shed, I put the picnic table bench against the side wall. I pushed the mower inside, where it takes up most of the floor space in the center. Then, the old-fashioned metal lawn chair could be pushed into place, under the handle of the mower. Two folding lawn chairs were next, one standing on either side of the mower. Next, I rolled up the indoor-outdoor rug and slid it into place on top of the bench. Finally, I folded the table flat, stood it up just inside the door, and closed everything inside. I will hopefully not have any reason to get back in to the garden shed until spring time!

I moved three large agricultural panels – that will eventually be made into an arch to support my grape vines – from the front yard, where they were leaning against a tree, and creating a challenge to the woman that plows my driveway, to the back yard. Now, they are leaning against the garden fence. I had intended to lay them flat, but my cousin warned me that they’d be really hard to move from that position. if grass grew up around them. Clearly, I can’t trust myself to not let that happen!

I did not, as I’d intended, give the lawn one last mowing. I waited until most of the leaves had fallen so that the mower could chop them up as I mowed. That way, they could stay where they had fallen. Then, I’d only need to rake out the flower beds. A combination of procrastination and that early snowfall foiled that plan. As it was, I only got about half of the flower beds cleaned out, too, so I’ll have plenty of work waiting for me in the spring.

Last night’s snow was just enough to brighten the landscape. It covered the leaves that didn’t get mulched, the windfall that didn’t get picked up, and the bare patch of lawn where the rug prevented the grass from growing under the picnic table. There are a lot of reasons to dislike winter weather. I understand. I’d rather be warm than cold, and the cost of heating the house makes me shudder. I worry about falling when the roads get slippery. I’m not crazy about scraping walkways and car windows. Still, snow is easier to walk on than ice. I’d rather look at a white blanket of snow than the bare, cold ground. And, snow nicely hides all the jobs left unfinished around my yard. I may change my tune before winter is over, but for now, I welcome the snow!

Lazy Days of Fall

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I stay pretty busy all year ’round. Even now, at seventy years old and in semi-retirement, I have plenty to do. I work two part-time jobs in the summertime; when one of them comes, seasonally, to an end, I volunteer at a local non-profit. I am an artist, with several projects (along with a hundred more ideas waiting for when I have time to pursue them) going on at any given time.

I am solely in charge of the care of my house, yard and garden. That’s a simple sentence, and I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until I found myself on my own. When there is no one else to help make decisions, carry the workload, or accept part of the responsibility, it feels huge. Though I’ve been doing it now long enough to be used to it, sometimes it still seems like a lot.

I eat mostly alone, and at home. I prepare every single meal. And before that, there’s the growing, harvesting and preserving, the planning and shopping, and then the inevitable clean-up. This is just one small aspect of my life. I have two dogs, with all of the commitments that come with them. There are daily walks, medicine to dispense, and vet appointments to schedule, as well as all of the companionship that makes having pets so worthwhile.

I’ve never liked housework. I’d find it daunting if that were the extent of my home maintenance. In my house, though it was built more than thirty years ago, there are still things involving carpentry that have never been finished. Because of its age, there are other things that have deteriorated, and need to be fixed or replaced. Home repairs easily overwhelm me. Whether it’s hiring a contractor or tackling a project myself, this is not an area that I’m comfortable with.

I try to keep the grass mowed regularly in the summer. A mowed lawn gives the dogs a place to play, and is less attractive to ticks and mosquitos. Keeping the weeds out of the garden and flower beds could be a full-time job all by itself, if I had the stamina. I put in lots of rock borders around flower beds. When conditions are right, they look lovely. Too often, they signal the need for me crawling around on hands and knees to get rid of the vines and grasses that weave in around the stones.

Before long, snow and ice will determine my outdoor chores. I hire someone to plow the driveway, but I shovel paths through the snow from each of the doors. The amount of snowfall determines the size and frequency of that job. It’s out of my hands.

Right now, in these early days of fall, nothing seems very pressing. My little garden is finished for the year. The blackberry season is done; my grapevines did not produce fruit this year. I’ve decided to hold off on my last mowing until there are more leaves on the ground. I’m not yet ready to get busy in the studio. I have a few home projects pending, but am waiting for help to begin them.

Saturdays and Sundays, which were taken up by a summer job for the last four months, now seem like vacation days. Time has opened up, like a gift, and I’ve filled the time with only joyous things. I’ve been taking long walks, enjoying the fall colors, and taking lots of pictures. I’ve got a couple crochet projects underway. I’m reading. Making soup. Baking bread. I live a busy life; this lull won’t last forever. Right now, though, I am loving these lazy days of fall!

Well

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Lord knows, I can always find plenty to say when things are going badly. Sometimes I think the only reason I keep this blog going is so that I’ll have a place to voice my complaints! Many days, it seems like if I’m not grumbling about something, I have nothing to talk about. So, for everyone that endures the whining, I think I’ll get a few words down now when things are going well. And plenty of things are, in fact, going well!

Used to be, I’d fall into a terrible, self-pitying depression every year around my birthday. I’d take note of how little I’d accomplished in my life up to that point, how I wasn’t loved or appreciated, and how old I was becoming with nothing to show for it. No amount of well-wishes and birthday cheer could drive that blue mood away. And oh, if I had to work on my birthday, or if one of my children forgot to call, well…it was just that much worse. I’m happy to find that I seem to have outgrown that tired old habit. Now, my birthday comes and goes pretty calmly. This year, I managed to turn seventy without any melodrama.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having time to spend with people that I love. I took a day trip to the mainland to meet my best friend in Mackinac City. It was too short, but we had a good visit and a nice lunch in the time we had. I’ve had time to chat with several cousins when they were here on the island. Recently, my nephew and his wife came here on vacation. Then, my four sisters were here for a long weekend during the Emerald Isle Irish Feile’. I enjoyed the entertainment, some wonderful meals, good conversation and even puzzles and games, all in the company of some of my favorite people. The day after they left, four cousins arrived. It’s always a pleasure to see these women who I’ve known since they were small children.

Animals are active on Beaver Island this time of year. Wild turkeys walk in procession across the roads, and the migrating birds are starting to gather. The chipmunks and squirrels are busy, gathering acorns or just rushing around. I feel thankful every day that so far I’ve managed to get to work and back home without incident, though they seem to rush out in front of my car as if they have a death wish! On my daily walks, I often startle deer that are nibbling in the berry brambles.

My meager garden has been offering up loads of cherry tomatoes, and enough summer squash for my use. In addition, my cousin has shared the bounty from his garden. I’ve enjoyed lettuce, peppers and kale, and enough green beans to put several quarts in the freezer.

I repaired my clothes dryer. I was able to get my whole five pound bag of coffee ground. I cleaned the refrigerator, and the freezer above it. I started a new book. The dogs are both doing well. I won four dollars on a scratch-off ticket. I lost three pounds and, for five days in a row, at least, have not gained it back! There’s a hint of fall in the air, and that makes me appreciate every single warm day. Usually, I’m able to notice everything that’s going wrong. Right now, there seems to be an abundance of good things!

Coming Toward the End of Summer

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Here we are, one week in to September already. If the calendar didn’t tell me the end of summer is coming, the cold mornings certainly would. I put on my heavy, fleecy robe as soon as I get out of bed in the morning. It’s too early to light the pilot on the heater, but I think about it when I’m shivering in heavy socks and layers of clothes as I go about my morning activities.

The end of summer is always a mixed blessing. I love the warm, bright and sunny days, the bustle in town and the swarms of visitors enjoying our beaches. By the time September arrives, though, I’m looking forward to the quieter days of autumn. This year, these end of summer days bring special joy.

Right now, my nephew, who hasn’t been on Beaver Island in twenty years, is here with his young wife. They are both interested and enthusiastic visitors. Yesterday, we did a little tour of some of the businesses, beaches and historic sites. This evening, I’m joining them at the family farmhouse for dinner. We’re hoping to be able to entice my cousin Bob to join us for a couple games of Euchre.

On the same day that they are scheduled to leave on the boat, my four sisters will be arriving. They will be here for a long weekend. That is the weekend of Beaver Island’s Irish Feile, when we celebrate the heritage of “America’s Emerald Isle.” There will be lots of music and other activities that we are planning to take advantage of. Mainly, I’m really looking forward to spending time with my sisters!

When their visit ends, a couple cousins will be here. It’s always a pleasure to catch up with them, too. Late summer is an easier time for me to find time to enjoy company, as work is less demanding after Labor Day. Though the mornings are cool, the days are still pleasantly warm this time of year.

Though I don’t have much of a garden this year, I harvested enough tomatoes to cook up a kettleful to put in the freezer. I’ve had summer squash as a part of my dinner several times a week for the last month. Today, I’m going to pick beans at the farmhouse, and I brought cucumbers and kale home yesterday from that garden. My grapes are ripening, and so are the wild blackberries. I have an assortment of wild fall mushrooms brightening a corner of my front yard. As I don’t know the edible from the poisonous, I only enjoy the way they look.

The Northern Lights have been visible lately in our night sky, and the Milky Way can be very impressive this time of year, too. Next weekend, the full harvest moon will brighten the sky. Though I hate to have summer end, this end-of-summer time brings me plenty of joy.

Rain

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Today is my day off. I had a few things planned, but on top of my list was getting the lawn mowed. I call it lawn, but it’s actually just a mown field. If left to its own devices, it goes back to its true nature: a collection of various grasses, wildflowers, juniper, and blackberry brambles. That is what surrounds the area I’ve dedicated to lawn, and I’d be happy to let it all go, if circumstances were different.

As it is, I need to maintain a yard. The little dog becomes hesitant to go outside even when the grass is only a bit overgrown; from her vantage point, it must seem daunting, with grasses waving over her head. I walk the field, and I know how difficult it can be to navigate, in areas where the long thorny blackberry branches reach out to snag clothing and any exposed skin. I wouldn’t want to maneuver through it on my way to the garden, clothesline, or car. Also, there are all the critters – snakes and mice and mosquitos – that harbor in the long grass. I’d rather have some discouragement between them and my back door! So, I mow the lawn.

After a few days of rain in the last two weeks, it is ready. In August, the grass is slow growing, but the weeds thrive in summer’s heat. My yard is polka-dotted with long, tough stems rising up out of the grass. The blossoms of Queen Anne’s Lace are opening up randomly around the yard. Long grasses are crowding the rocks that border walkways and flower beds. It is definitely time to get the mower going.

So, that was my plan. I had already sabotaged it a little, by forgetting to put a gas can in the car yesterday, so I could stop at the station after work and fill it. So, that would mean a trip to town today, to get gas. To make the trip “worth it,” I would plan a trip to the bank and the post office as well. The bank had been unexpectedly closed the last time I stopped; I’ve been carrying around two small checks to deposit since last Thursday. I’d write a check for the phone bill that’s sitting on the dining room table, and drop that in the mail. Maybe, since I’d already be in town, I’d take myself out to lunch…or stop in at one or two of the little shops…or pop in for a visit with a friend. Because that’s just how my mind works.

By the time I got home, I’d think, “No sense is starting a big project now; this day has been wasted.” So, I’d take the dogs for a walk, or maybe for a drive down to the lake, and everything I had planned to get done today would be put off until tomorrow. Except, I woke up today to pouring rain. There will be no lawn-mowing on a day like this! All of my good intentions…that I would have probably frittered away on my own…have been set aside by circumstances beyond my control. Hurray! This is my day off!

Summer, Still…

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Three weeks ago, near the first day of summer, I wrote about my childhood memories of this season. I could have chosen to write about summer days when my daughters were young: long walks to the park, outings to local swimming places, and long hours spent on the white, sandy beaches of Beaver Island. I could have written about summers when my grandchildren visited here: mornings at Iron Ore Bay, days full of adventure, and evening drives to see the deer. In my memory, this warm season meanders slowly along, allowing me to savor every sensory summer offering.

But, here I am, in real-life summer. The days speed by. How can we be halfway through July already?! And all I feel, most days, is exhaustion. It’s not only that it’s busy, though it is. There are hoards of people in the shops and on the streets. The harbor is filled with boats, and the beach downtown is full of people, every time I pass by. There is also the tiredness that comes from the long list of “to-do”s that are not getting done.

Always, there are things to do, and I’m behind in almost everything. My income taxes have still not been filed; there are galleries to contact regarding future shows; I have to follow up on some paperwork for the state. My flower beds are weedy, and the lawn is ready to be mowed.

I gave up on the garden when July got here. If I did manage to find the time to clear the weeds, turn the soil and plant, there would still not be time left in this short season to see results. So, my vegetable garden, this year, consists of three tomato plants, a few kohlrabi, four hills of summer squash, and one row of beans.

I’ve closed the door of my studio. Expecting company, and needing to clear space upstairs for them to sleep, I used the studio – which was already over-full – to store two totes, three big baskets and a large piece of exercise equipment. Those things can now be moved back out, but it doesn’t solve the problem: there is too much stuff in that small space, and I don’t have time to do anything about it. Even if I did, I don’t have time, this summer, to work in the studio.

Last week, My daughter Kate came for a visit. I expected her, plus her husband and two of her sons, but at the last minute, work conflicts got in the way of any of the men making the trip. What a treat! I love my son-in-law, and seeing my grandsons is always wonderful, too, but I almost never get to enjoy Kate’s company alone. I loved it! Having her here gave me a reason to stretch beyond my little world, as well as a perfect companion.

We visited all the gift shops. We walked the dogs together. We took a drive around the island, and I got my feet in the sand, at the beach at Iron Ore Bay, for the first time this year. We went out to lunch, two days in a row! We had simple suppers at home, and spent the evenings playing games. Having come from a big, competitive, game-playing family, that’s one of the things I miss most, living alone. Kate and I got in enough Boggle and cribbage to satisfy me for a while!

Kate’s visit was short, but enjoyable. It reminded me what summer can be, if I allow myself to relax and take part in it. I intend to do just that…before this summer, too, is just a memory.

Summer!

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Just As The Calendar Began To Say Summer

by Mary Oliver

I went out of the schoolhouse fast

and through the gardens and to the woods,

and spent all summer forgetting what I’d been taught—

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,

how to be modest and useful, and how to succed and so forth,

machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back

to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,

the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn’t a penny in the bank,

the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

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I love all of Mary Oliver’s poetry, but this particular one spoke to me today. As we dive in to another busy summer here on Beaver Island, and I quickly get caught up in the rush, it is the summers of my childhood that appeal to me. In a perfect world, my days would be designed to mimic the hot, long and lazy out-of-school days that I remember.

Of course, I know that my memory is both faulty and selective. That’s what nostalgia is all about. I can set aside the garden chores that I hated, and the tedious, scorching days trying to entertain myself outside. I’ll choose my remembrances instead from the wonders of a childhood summer.

There was the swing set, and the big sand-pile next to it, always freshened with a new truckload of sand in the spring. And the hours spent swinging, or just laying on the warm metal slide, to bake in the sun. There were willow trees that offered cool shade: one in the back yard, one in the front yard, and one behind the house next door.

There was the orchard, just beyond my grandparent’s garage. Still within our allowable range of travel, but out of my mother’s sight, it allowed for daring and dangerous escapades that we couldn’t otherwise get away with. We ate green apples and pears, practically as soon as they appeared on the branches, in amounts that should have made us desperately ill. I don’t think we ever got so much as a stomach-ache. I still prefer un-ripe fruit, though not quite as green as when I was a child.

We took a million chances climbing the trees there. We always tried to navigate the high branches – by swinging on them, or crawling to the very ends of them – to access the flat roof of the garage. That was the challenge, and the ultimate goal. I don’t know if we ever succeeded.

There was a grape arbor, and a snowball bush whose growth provided a cool, sheltered space under its branches. There was often a playhouse in the yard. In the field beyond, there were thickets that could be made into forts or make-believe homes, depending on the storyline of whatever game we were playing.

Water could be found in buckets and kiddie pools, squirt guns and squirt bottles. Often, we hooked the sprinkler up to the hose, and kept it going until the grass was oozing mud. Sometimes, we took the long walk down to the Hilltop beach, herding younger brothers and sisters, lugging towels and snacks, and one pack of matches for the dreaded encounters with “bloodsuckers.”

The garden was beside our yard, and matched it in size. Some of its care fell to the children (as a child, I would have sworn all of it fell to us), and part of almost every day was given over to weeding and watering. Still, there is magic in watching things grow, and my childhood was filled with that enchantment. I could pick a tomato, and eat it warm from the sun. I could fill a large bowl with fresh peas, and take them into the shade to enjoy them. Strawberries gave way to raspberries as the summer marched on.

These are the bright memories that hold the essence of what I believe summer should be. I know it’s possible…I lived it!

Thursday Thoughts

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This blog is going to be a bunch of jumbled thoughts. I don’t have time to be fussy about it. Usually, I jot down a few ideas, and put them in a kind of sensible order before I begin writing. Then I edit as I go. I check spelling if I have any doubt, though I am a good speller; I go to the Thesaurus if I have the urge to re-use a word too often; sometimes I rearrange sentences or even whole paragraphs. Not today.

It’s already late in the day. I stripped the bed this morning, washed the sheets and comforter, and have yet to remake the bed. My supper is in the oven. It has been a busy, stressful day, and I’m ready to be done. I’ve been feeling guilty, though, about neglecting this blog. There are few things in my life that I have stuck with for as long as this, and I don’t want to let it go. So, here I am, rushing to get something down, while my chicken finishes cooking.

This is my first day off in a week! I started my summer job at the golf course, which takes up my weekends, now, until the end of September. At the Community Center, a couple of my co-workers were out sick, so I filled in. Some of those were short shifts, and nothing was too difficult; still, a day when I have to go to work is a day when I don’t get much else done. It all piles up and waits for me.

Yesterday, after working a couple hours in the morning, I went to the bank, the post office and the grocery store. I took the dogs down to Fox Lake for a swim, which was a nice break for all of us. Then, I hunkered down to put together a packet for a gallery where I’d like to show my work.

I had a good start on it a month ago. Knowing the deadline was in June, and knowing my propensity for procrastination, I was determined to be ready. Then, my family was here for a visit. Then, my little dog got sick, and then died. And my job at the golf course started. And a couple co-workers got sick. And suddenly, the deadline – June 10th – was right on top of me.

So, yesterday I rewrote my Artist Statement and cover letter. I opened a Paypal account, necessary for the entry fee, and I started revising my resume. Because I tend to go right down a rabbit hole when confronted with things like that, I spent far too much time reading about and looking at samples of resumes and CVs and went to bed last night with the deadline still looming.

A couple recent rains have sent my lawn into a growing frenzy. It really needs to be mowed! I have to get the garden worked up and planted, if I’m going to get anything out of it. I bargained with myself: take today to finish everything that has to be done in order to submit the application to the gallery, then tomorrow, take the whole day outside.

It worked! I submitted the packet just before 4PM. I did a little victory dance, then took the dogs for a long walk. I made a big salad, and put a couple drumsticks in the oven to bake. It should be done any minute now. Tomorrow, I’ll be outside. Maybe, I’ll get to some semblance of “on top of things” by the weekend!