Category Archives: Gardening

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 29

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List the happiest and funniest stories and news you’ve heard lately:

  • I cheered, just like everyone else, for the successful rescue of the young boys trapped in a cave. With water rising, monsoon season coming, and the whole world watching, it was high drama with a happy ending.
  • Rain, this week, was a relief for many of us around the state of Michigan. It has been a hot, dry season. Our “extreme fire danger” status has been lifted, which is excellent news in this season that brings so many campers to our woods.
  • My best friend, Linda, turned sixty-six years old yesterday. That’s almost unbelievable…and funny (though not unbelievably funny)…because my birthday is not that far away, and then I’ll be 66, too. How has it happened that we, who met in the sixth grade and bonded over a mutual love of mischief-making, have grown so old?  When we were both eleven-years-old, Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation made me laugh. Over the years, my best – rolling on the floor, laughing ’til my belly hurt, almost peed my pants – laughs have been with Linda. Our lives have carried us from marbles, pull-over sweaters and the Beatles; to husbands, housework and babies; to single-life adventures with teen-aged children; to all the things that make life enjoyable today. One of the best things is having Linda, who maybe knows me better than anyone (possible exception: my sister, Brenda), still in my life. We share interests in feminism, activism, art, cooking, gardening and books. And, after all these years, we still share some of the best laughs.
  • I have this Sunday off, for the first time since April. I’m almost giddy with all the possibilities! What I am not going to do is spend it sitting in this computer chair. So, as my mother used to say, “up and at ’em!”

 

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July 3rd, Fox Lake Road

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Tuesday, again. The last day of my “week-end.” It’s my last chance to catch up on my rest and get ready for the busy week ahead. The day to finish up all the home and yard projects I planned to get done on my days off. It’s blogging day. It’s the day I try to get to town for post office, transfer station and grocery store. As usual, one day doesn’t seem like enough time.

We’ve had a week of extreme heat, unusual for Beaver Island, resulting in a string of uncomfortably warm nights. There wasn’t a breeze to be found, here on the Fox Lake Road. My little fan barely made a difference in the oppressive heat in my house. I spent several nights tossing and turning, too hot to sleep. A storm came through on Sunday night, bringing welcome rain and cooler temperatures. I’ve been sleeping long and well the last couple nights.

This time of year, one of the busiest weeks of the whole year on Beaver Island, it is important to be rested. Businesses are stretched to their limits with thousands of visitors in addition to regular customers. The hardware store is hectic all day long. By the end of the long work day, I am exhausted. A walk or a drive to Fox Lake with the dogs, a bit of time to pull weeds from the flower beds and water the garden, then supper, a half-hour of cleaning time, and I’m done. I have no energy beyond that. All projects have to wait for my days off.

So, Monday and Tuesday are always busy days, and this week more than most. I finished setting up my bullet journal for July, with the month already underway. I finished a load of towels and another of rugs yesterday. I have dark clothes on the line now. I filled a wheelbarrow with weeds trimmed from around the stone-bordered flower beds, and started digging a new fire pit.

I have a large fire pit in the front yard, four feet in diameter, that I planned to use for pit-firing ceramics, and large bonfires with friends. I have never used it for either of those purposes. It is too big and deep to be useful for roasting marshmallows. I use it, mainly, for burning windfall branches and my household paper trash. A smaller fire pit will be more serviceable. The large circle in the front yard could be filled in and used as a flower bed, or simply returned to lawn.

So, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon digging a hole, and removing the sod from the surrounding area. I used the soil I dug out to fill in low areas of the back yard; I filled the wheelbarrow with roots to be hauled away. Today, I plan to empty the wheelbarrow, then fill it with large rocks to border the new fire pit.

Inside, I have two unopened boxes to deal with. They are filled with metal frames and pre-cut mats: almost all the materials I need to get two large paintings and a dozen small collages framed and ready to show. To finish, I’ll have to make time to stop at the hardware store, and cut a dozen pieces of glass for the collage frames. With the tourist season underway and a couple special art shows coming up, that has to be done right away.

Beyond all that, there are bills to pay and letters to write before I go to the Post Office. I need to gather up the recyclable trash to take to the transfer station. I should go through the magazine rack and get rid of those publications that have been hanging out since Christmas.  I have a short list of necessities to pick up from the grocery store, and should go through the cupboards to see what I’ve missed. I know I’m (dread!) out of ice cream! It would be smart to plot out a week’s meals so I can put lunches and dinners together with what I have on hand.

That’s what’s happening, or should be happening, on this third day in July, here on the Fox Lake Road. From the looks of this list, I’d better get busy!

 

 

Good Things, and Bad

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Often, I feel bombarded with negativity. The news is full of desperation and disaster. I will not go through life with blinders on, but when it all gets to be too much, I narrow my scope. In my small world, there’s always a mix, it seems, of good things and bad.

Good: Yesterday, on our arrival home from an outing to Fox Lake, my big dog charged through the snowball bush, which just happens to be in bloom right now. She came out on the other side, grinning, and covered with white flower petals.

Bad: She was grinning because she’d caught what she was after. She had a large garter snake dangling from that smile. Though I’d really prefer she not kill things, I have to admit, it added to the whimsy.

Bad: I’ve gotten, perhaps, a little too good at my karate-like moves for killing mosquitoes. The other night, one of them was bouncing around on the kitchen window. Lightning-fast, I flung out my open hand to squash it. Which I did. I also broke the glass, which dropped out in large pieces onto the sill and into the sink. Except for one large, jagged piece that is holding firm to the top of the window frame. Unbreakable! I’ve even tried hitting it with the rolling pin! It seems determined to hold its place, looking dangerous, waiting until I least expect it, to drop out and shatter.

Good: The poppies are blooming in my yard!

Bad: A Sunday night rainstorm resulted in two lengthy electrical outages, and foiled my plans to mow the lawn on Monday.

Good: The rain was exactly what the garden needed. Everything looks fresh and healthy.

Bad: While I was emptying the lint trap on top of my dryer, an ink pen freakishly leaped from the basket where I toss items found in pockets, rolled across the dryer and dropped into the hole where the lint trap goes. Now, when I turn that machine on, it rattles and clangs as if it’s going to self-destruct. Until I can take the dryer apart to retrieve the pen, all laundry has to be hung outside on the clothesline to dry.

Bad: The wet weather also foiled my plans for getting laundry done on Monday.

Good: Monday was set to be my day for doing a week’s worth of laundry and hanging it on the line, and for mowing the lawn. When that became impossible, suddenly I had a day off! I could read, or write. I could start a household project. I could spend the day in the studio. Endless possibilities!

Bad: I spent my day off mostly sitting around, watching movies, reading magazines and playing on-line Scrabble. I accomplished almost nothing of consequence.

Good: It was actually a very nice way to spend a day off!

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 25

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List the ways that you enjoy investing in your mind, body and soul:

[I read that direction last night, so I could think, before falling asleep, about today’s essay. I thought, “Ugh! I’ll be writing about meditation,  prayer and spirituality and other things that I think I should care more about, but don’t, trying to make it sound like I enjoy it, when I don’t…and I hate this assignment!” Maybe it was the word “soul” that threw me into such a fit of discouragement. I am still and always the product of my Catholic upbringing, after all. Anyway, this morning I read the same direction with an entirely different response!]

  • I like mild forms of exercise, in modest doses. I have the tiniest little yoga routine that I try do each morning…but if my back is aching or other activities are pulling me away, I do an abbreviated version of the tiny routine, and have no regrets. I like a bit of Pilates: some stretching, and simple balance and flexibility exercises. I enjoy lifting weights for strength and definition, though the heaviest weights I use are only five pounds. I like walking, swimming and bicycling, but not for speed or distance. I like to avail myself of the fresh air, open spaces and scenery while doing something that is good for me, but I’m not out there to break any records.
  • I enjoy walking. Not for exercise (though that is a bonus, no matter), but with my dogs, a camera, and a couple mesh bags in case I find treasures along the way. For the familiar walkways, the sound of chipmunks and birdsong, and the joy of two dogs sniffing along, walking feeds my soul.
  • I take pleasure in cooking a good meal. It’s better – though rare – when there is someone to share it with and to appreciate it, but still.
  • I make things. Calling myself an artist, it might seem that creating a drawing or painting would give me greater pleasure than, say, crocheting a pair of slippers or making an ornament out of baker’s clay…but it all seems to come from the same place, and the emotional reward is similar.
  • I write. Every morning, or just about, longhand, in a black and white covered theme book. Morning Pages lets me spill out whatever is on my mind, for no one else to see. Sometimes, I surprise myself with a bit of exceptional writing. Mostly, I whine or rant, or write down crazy dreams.
  • I read. I have, at this moment, two self-help books (Sorted by Gillian Perkins and How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White), a creative expression book (The Creative Formula by Holly Shaw), one book of short stories (Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson) and one historical novel (We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter) underway, so there is always something to read that will suit my mood, and the time that I have.
  • I garden. I grumble about the work involved. Work that is never done, it seems. My aching back and my throbbing knees grumble separately. Still, gardening enriches me. It feeds me. And it provides a steady link to childhood, and to my father. Dad was the gardener in our big family. I say that, knowing that most of the weeding,  watering and harvesting duties fell to his children, and that it was Mom that had to – with bribes and threats, begging and coercion – see that it was done. It was Mom that, with rolled eyes and big sighs, greeted bushel basket after bushel basket of beans or cucumbers or tomatoes or corn into her kitchen. Mom coordinated the work crew – again chosen from her children – and orchestrated the tasks that would get the vegetables cleaned, steamed and canned for the winter. Still, Dad was the gardener. He negotiated with Magabelle, who owned the half-acre lot beside ours, to use the land for his garden. He traded electrical work for truckloads of manure. He rose early after his late shift at the factory to plow up the space. He plotted out the garden each year with stakes and garden twine. When company came, Dad, grinning and with long strides, walked them out through the garden to proudly show it off. When I’m in the garden, I know my father is nearby, and I know that he is pleased.

Happy Father’s Day!

Yard and Garden

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Today, before another rain foils my plans, my intent is to finish mowing the lawn. Once the space has been returned from “overgrown field” status to back yard, I have planting to do.

My son-in-law got the mower started, and mowed the front yard a week ago. Since then, I mowed the side yard on the south side of the house, where the kitchen door is. I trimmed around the flower beds there, and worked on weeding. Then, busy days at work left me too tired at the end of the day to do more. Saturday, exhausted, I once again put off the job. Sunday is a short day at work; I’d finish the mowing on Sunday.

Saturday night, a rainstorm came through, leaving the tall grass far too wet for my mower to push through. Yesterday, it was better. I cut the grass on the north side of the house, where shade from the ancient maples keeps the grass manageable. I started the back yard. There, the lawn – which is a combination of quack grass, crab grass and other sturdy stalks – has grown to more than knee-high in places.

It was a challenge for the mower. Several times, the tall, damp grass choked the blades, and caused it to stall. Other times, I had to shut it down to clear the discharge chute.

It was a challenge to me. Before I could get into the serious back-and-forth of mowing, I had to fill several holes I’d made, when transplanting rhubarb and other plants. That meant hauling 50 pound bags of topsoil from the driveway where I’d unloaded them, to the very back of the rear yard. I trimmed along the back wall of the house, and moved the grill back into place. Windfall branches had to be picked up and delivered to the fire pit. The big dog’s toys, which she carries outside and abandons, had to be gathered up. Then, on to mowing.

The first part is the hardest. There is so much to work around, along the periphery of the yard: flower beds; raised strawberry bed; well pipe and outdoor spigot; compost bins; trees and shrubs; clothesline poles; rhubarb bed. After all of that is worked around, there is still the large, soft, bumpy area that used to be my large raised bed vegetable garden. The wheels of the mower tend to sink in to the soft earth; the lumps of old planting surfaces mean I’m always pushing uphill or down. Yesterday, I made a good start. Today, I’d like to finish.

In the garden, there is still planting to do. The weather is still so cool, it’s definitely not too late yet…but the time is right. I have bean seeds, cucumber and summer squash seeds yet to plant. There are pepper, cantaloupe and Chinese cabbage plants to get settled in. Finally, eighteen little marigold plants to add color throughout the garden space.

My day started with ibuprofen for my aching back. This day is still cool enough to make outside work pleasant. I have a pre-organized intermission in place, with a planned visit to see my neighbor’s gardens. Time to get busy here. So, on to the yard and garden!

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The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #22

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List the things you prioritize before doing what really makes you happy:

I imagine a life of rising to coffee, then yoga, then writing, that would then give way to a long walk with my dogs and a spin around the yard and garden before going to the studio. There, I would have time to fully develop concepts, try out guesses and whims and ideas that come to me in dreams, read, explore and grow. Another run through the garden, to gather vegetables for an evening meal, then a shower to signal the end of my work day. Dinner, then, mindfully prepared and enjoyed. Cleaning time next, then the rest of the evening for relaxing activity. I think a life like that would make me happy. But…

  • I prioritize things I have to do. Because my life falls apart if I don’t. Things like laundry, and dishes, and sweeping the floor. My life is so much better – and happier – when these things are done, I even incorporated “cleaning time” in my imagined ideal life. Then there are the seasonal “have-to”s. Like planting the garden or mowing the lawn. When it’s time, other things have to be put aside to make time.
  • I prioritize things I ought to do. I go to funerals. I make an appearance at benefits, showers and retirement parties. I attend the annual meetings of the Beaver Island Boat Company. I am a sitting member of the Amik Circle Society, and serve as secretary at their meetings. I occasionally attend township meetings. I vote. These are obligations. Still, there is satisfaction in fulfilling them.
  • I prioritize the things I need to do. I need to have a job with a paycheck I can count on. Though art sales and art classes have supplemented my income for the past thirty-five years, and I have imagined a hundred different scenarios (and tried out more than a couple) where art-related activities could support me, realistically, I need a job. I will probably have to hold a job for the rest of my life. I call it the “work until death” track. For more than twenty years, I worked as the morning waitress at the Shamrock Bar & Restaurant; I have been working at Powers Hardware for the last sixteen. Though I work because I need to work, I am fortunate that it makes me happy, too. I saved a few lines – I can’t remember the author, but have that written down somewhere, too – that would be perfect for my eulogy: “I slept, and dreamt that life was joy. I woke, and found that life was service. I acted, and found that service was joy.”
  • I prioritize joyous things that come along. Sometimes, it’s a grandchild or two, coming for a visit. Sometimes, it’s a day when I’m simply too exhausted after work to walk the dogs, so I load them into the car – along with a camera, a beer and a book – and we go to Fox Lake. We have the place all to ourselves, the dogs are happy and the water is beautiful, so I stay, ignoring all the things I should be doing. Most recently, it was last week, when two of my sisters and one cousin arrived, to open the farmhouse for the season. I didn’t get into the studio, even for a minute. I didn’t get my lawn mowed. I didn’t get my windows washed. I didn’t continue any of my organizing or deep cleaning. The trade-off was an entire week of family time: dinners around Aunt Katie’s farmhouse table with people that I love; good conversations; evenings of euchre, Bingo and Scrabble; laughter; good hugs; wonderful companionship. Worth every bit of time I could give!

Though my imagined “happy life” is a far cry from my life as it is, I am happy, and my priorities contribute to my contentedness. So!

What’s Happening

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After a lot of wavering on the issue, it seems spring has finally arrived here on Beaver Island. Though frost was threatened for last night, I don’t think the temperature dipped that low. Even if it had – a frost in May is not unheard of here – I stand by my assertion: spring is here. The proof is everywhere.

Our Beaver Island ferry boats are making daily trips, now, back and forth to Charlevoix. It has been a month since they’ve needed the assistance of the Coast Guard’s ice breaker. The shops and stores in town have restocked their shelves. There are cars – more than winter’s one or two – parked along the street; there are people – more than one or two – going in and out of the businesses.

Lately, I’ve encountered other vehicles on the roads, on my way to and from town. Sometimes, there’s a car ahead of me, kicking up a cloud of dust. Now and then, I’ve had to wait for a couple vehicles before pulling out onto the King’s Highway. In the winter, I am usually alone on the road for my seven-mile trek into town. Now, we have traffic!

In the woods, every view offers a hundred shades of green and yellow. Some trees are in bud; others are in various stages of unfurling their leaves. The forest floor is blanketed with wildflowers, mosses, grasses, piney ground-covers and wild leeks. I’m sure there are edible mushrooms there, too, though they escape my vision.

In my yard, the forsythia and service berry bushes are in full flower. Lilacs, hummingbird vine and snowball bush are just showing buds. The rhododendron by the back door is covered with magenta-colored blooms. I’ve been daily breaking off the drooping blooms of daffodils while welcoming other varieties as they open. Tulips are still blooming.

The peonies are pushing up their red leaves; poppies are showing their fuzzy, fern-like foliage. Day lilies and iris are displaying their sharp green leaves, to make their presence known, and remind me of what’s yet to come. The lawn, after a recent rain, is suddenly desperately in need of mowing. In the garden, one pea plant has just barely pushed a leaf out of the ground and, if I were to bring a magnifying glass, I think I could honestly report that the spinach is up.

After two weeks of spring-like weather without bugs to contend with, now the mosquitoes have hatched. I noticed them yesterday morning, while working out in the yard, but they were not a distraction. By the time I walked the dogs in the evening, they were impossible to ignore. I pin-wheeled my arms all the way down the road. This morning, every time the big dog comes in, she brings a swarm of them with her, all hungry for blood. This is the down-side of spring, here in the woods off the Fox Lake Road.

As one final testament that spring has arrived, I have family here! Yesterday, my cousin Keith and my sisters, Cheryl and Brenda, came to open up the family farmhouse for the season. They dug right in to projects, clearing and sweeping and freshening. I pitched in a little, while relishing their company. Last night it was red wine, pretzels and euchre around Aunt Katie’s kitchen table. The season is upon us!