Tag Archives: garden

Not Quite

Standard

IMG_1153

This is the season, it seems, for qualifiers. My birthday is almost here; I am not quite sixty-five years old. Summer is nearly over; fall is coming soon. It’s that “in-between” stage that begs for evaluation and invites plans. That’s where I’m at right now.

Summer. It came in slowly, with cold, rainy days through most of June. Even when it warmed up, it seems the hot summer days were often balanced by chilly nights or cool, windy or rainy days. Mosquitoes were never unbearable. I almost always slept under a light comforter.

I spent the early part of the summer getting my back yard reconfigured and my garden planted. Though it was a lot of work, it has pretty much taken care of itself since then, and has been a source of satisfaction and fresh vegetables for weeks now.

Most of my flowers are finished blooming, though the ones that are still offering their bright faces are more appreciated than ever. The low hedge of  “Autumn Joy” Sedum is healthy and bright green. Before long, its flat flower heads will be glorious bronze tones.

Aunt Katie’s illness dominated the summer season. When she was home, the goal was to buoy her spirits; the wish was to see her improve. “How are you today?” I’d ask whenever I stopped. “Not good,” she’d answer, discouraged. “I wish I had a different answer,” she once said, vehemently.

I brought her a large potted tomato plant, to grow on her kitchen porch. My cousin Bob planted a tub of salad greens just outside the door. His sheep grazed just behind the farmhouse. She watched them from her kitchen stool as he did her breathing treatment.

Morning Glories came up from seeds dropped in other years. Aunt Katie was never well enough to put up the rows of string for the flowers to climb; I never thought to do it for her. Now, in August, the vigorous  vines have tumbled over and formed a thick mound, reminding me of my neglect.

When she was getting care on the mainland – between two hospitals and a rehabilitation facility – telephone calls became a focus. There were calls to Aunt Katie’s room and to her cell phone. There were calls to the keyboard and to the nurse’s station. Because she was often out of her room, away from her phone, or unable to talk because something else was going on, and because the nurse’s station was poorly staffed in the evenings when I was able to call, I was usually frustrated. When I was able to get updates, I called family members downstate to spread the word. My cousin Keith changed his route to be able to visit with Aunt Katie on the way to and from his cabin. His phone calls were highly anticipated and welcome for the good information on her spirits and her progress.

When Aunt Katie finally came home, she knew – as we did – that she was coming home to die. Friends started calling, and stopping by. Dishes of food were dropped off. Family members altered their summer plans to get to the island. Though she was clearly weak, struggling, and in decline, I thought she’d be with us for a while. I packed a week’s worth of clothes, to bring to her house, and anticipated being there a month or more. That was not the way it worked out.

On, then to the services to honor my aunt. Bringing together many of her nieces and nephews and their families, islanders who knew and respected her and the contributions she made in her long life, and friends who wept openly at the dear heart we had lost. It was exhausting…and wonderful…as many events like this are, but a fitting send-off to a wonderful woman who has been a big part of my life.

The funeral was a sad start to the planned, week-long vacation on Beaver Island for my sisters and their families. Still, good company, fine weather, and lots of little children helped to bring perspective and joy to a transitional time. For me, especially this year, their presence was a blessing.

Work was the second major focus of my summer. Extended hours at the hardware store made for long, busy days. In addition, there was writing, event-covering and business to be taken care of for the news-magazine. Getting artwork where it needed to be – and myself where I was supposed to be to promote it – was another pull in yet another direction.

Though my diet and exercise plan went out the window less than two months into the New Year, I have somehow managed to lose about eight pounds. Walks with the dogs went from daily – as promised – to a couple times a week, as time and weather allowed. Our rides down to the Fox Lake were often foiled by other people and dogs on the shore. I only made it to the Lake Michigan beach a couple times this summer, and I never went swimming. That should be considered at least a venial sin in the evaluation of both my summer and my 65th year. I live on an island, for God’s sake!

So, as I look back over the year, and the summer season, I’d have to say it was not quite as successful as I would have liked. That’s okay. There was joy, and progress, and change. It was not quite a failure, either!

 

Advertisements

Nothing’s Lost In God’s Kingdom

Standard

IMG_6931

I have a co-worker who insists that, to find anything, one must state – out loud and with confidence – “There’s nothing lost in God’s kingdom.” I have to admit, it has proven to be a pretty reliable method when I can’t remember where I left my coffee cup or when one of us has misplaced the hand-held computer. It’s not working so well at my house.

Losing things is easy for me. I spend far too much time looking for stuff. To compensate, I try to have a place for everything, and stick to it. In an extra file drawer, there is a slot specifically for tape, another for tape measures, and a third for staples and staple guns. Pens and pencils always belong in a cup on the desk; the dogs leashes go in a basket by the back door; my purse always hangs on the back of my desk chair. Those designated spots have added hours to my life, that otherwise would be spent searching.

It’s a good system, but there are flaws. Sometimes, that’s because an item is unusual or new, and doesn’t have a designated place. Most often, it’s because I neglect to enforce my own rule about putting things where they belong…or, I get scatter-brained. Lately, I’ve been doing lots of talking out loud about nothing lost in God’s kingdom while tearing around looking whenever a new possibility crosses my mind…and – so far – to no avail.

First, I lost an envelope. A customer handed it to me while I was working at the hardware store. It was addressed to the Beaver Beacon, and I believe it held a check for three subscriptions. I didn’t open it, but folded it twice, and tucked it into the left front pocket of my blue jeans. Then, I continued my work day. When I got home, I worked out in the garden for a couple hours. Later, I showered, put on pajamas, and dropped my clothes into the laundry basket.

I woke up the next morning with a start, having remembered the envelope. It was not where I expected to find it, in the pocket of my jeans. Then the search began. Could it have fallen out in the garden? In the car on the way home? At work? Might I have shifted it to another pocket? In my jacket, maybe? Or tucked it into my purse? Could I have accidentally thrown it away, with stickers, tags and other detritus that I pick up at work and carefully only put in my right-hand pocket?

You can see where this is going. For three days now, I have been looking for the missing envelope. I have searched the house, yard, garden, car, and the hardware store. I have gone through all pockets and every trash receptacle. I have gone through every pile of papers, every nook and cranny. The envelope is lost.

Yesterday, in an amazingly productive day, I finished mulching the raspberries, put up tomato cages, fenced in the garden, and finally completed the mowing of the back yard. At one point I brought the camera out, to document my progress.

I photographed the lawnmower, nearly invisible in the last patch of really tall grass. I took pictures of the garden, the flowers, and the finished lawn, complete with towels hanging on the clothesline in the background. I photographed one hundred feet of deer fence rolled out over the grass in my front yard while I trimmed twelve inches off, so that it would be the right height. I documented the tangled snarl of deer fence after it was dragged to the back, and as I fought to wrangle it around the posts that border the garden. I took one final picture of the fence, finally in place.

In between pictures, I was careful to put the camera on the potter’s wheel, along with other necessities I had brought outside. When I was done for the day, I gathered up scissors, pruning shears, staple gun, two boxes of staples, graph paper tablet, pencil, camera and coffee cup, and carried it all inside.

It was after my shower, while the dogs were having their dinner and mine was cooking, when I went to download the pictures from my camera. Where was the camera?  Scissors and pruning shears were in the basket by the back door; the tablet and pencil had been deposited on the dining room table; staples and staple gun were in their proper file; my coffee cup was in the sink. No camera!

I checked outside. I retraced my steps inside. Then I did it again…and again. I tried bribing the dogs, “Find the camera, and I’ll give you a treat!” I chanted “There is nothing lost in God’s kingdom” while continuing to search. Is it sitting in plain sight, and I’m just overlooking it?

Disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to post photos of my productive day, I decided, instead, to share photos of my “reward.” On the day that I got such a huge list of things accomplished, I was treating myself to a T-bone steak dinner with asparagus spears and sauteed mushrooms on the side. I’m not big on photographing food, but it would be compensation for not being able to show the other pictures. Then, it struck me. Without a camera, I can’t photograph my meal or anything else. The camera is lost!

Just a Glance

Standard

IMG_0771

 

This time of year, there are blooms bursting open all over my yard. The intense red of the poppies always makes me smile. Day Lilies are opening in yellows and oranges. Purple Iris stand along the walkway to my kitchen door. Peonies are just starting to open.

Can I share? Maybe. It takes a little thought. Too broad a view will show the things I’d rather not reveal:

  • A huge swath of backyard, still unmowed, is looking more like a field every day. When it is dry enough, I continue to plug away at it; I mowed for an hour last evening. When the grass (which, in my case, means anything green that grows in the yard) is three feet tall, it holds moisture and tall stalks bend rather than break as the mower passes over them. It takes several passes to get it down. The back lawn is not yet photo-ready.
  • I’m making progress every day in the garden spot. Still, there are several beds that are not yet planted, that have taken this opportunity to grow back up in weeds. They need – when the ground is dry enough to work – to be hoed and raked before I can put the seeds in the ground. The whole area is surrounded by a series of poles all standing at various angles. When the young man came to help me, I had him dig the holes and stand the posts in the holes. I told him not to “set” them, with small rocks and dirt, as I wanted to go out with my level, to make sure they were straight, before making them permanent. Once that is done – if it is ever done – I have to take a chalk line and line level to mark the top, and have someone come with a chainsaw to cut the tops off in a straight line. Then, the  whole area has to be enclosed in deer fence. And all before the deer discover that I have good things growing out there. Until that is done, it’s not ready for a picture.
  • The large area that used to be part of the garden, with beds for strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and asparagus is a mess! It is a combination of tall grass, holes where I have dug up things for transplant, and lumps of sod left behind. The tall grass makes raking impossible. I’m thinking this way: Once I get the rest of the lawn mowed, so that a major incident with my mower would not bring everything to a grinding halt, I will take my tough little lawnmower through that area, letting its blade break up the clumps while cutting off the tall grass. Then, I should be able to rake it out smooth. Until then, no photos.
  • There is still a large cluster of  stuff – for lack of a better term – that was removed from the old shed before it was torn down, that won’t fit in the new shed. Included in the mix are an old rain barrel and a pile of five gallon buckets used for hauling weeds or covering tender plants if frost is threatened. Important, but not photogenic.
  • Another mound sits near the outdoor spigot. Some things are trash from this year that I just haven’t yet taken away for recycle: empty flats and plant pots and fertilizer bags. Others are things that used to have a “home” on the inside of the fence line (funny how a fence creates a “room” and things get shoved to the edges) that now – since the big fence has come down – do not have a place. The compost bin, for instance. And the trash can that houses my charcoal and barbecue supplies. Not good subjects for a photograph.

So, I go around to the flower beds, and zoom in. Close enough to see the ants on the peonies. Close enough to note the tall stalks of grass among the poppies. Close enough to see the chewed day lily blossom, and the many spent blooms that a bit of time spent dead-heading would eliminate.

 

I may as well just show the whole thing!

IMG_0774

IMG_0773

IMG_0772

Late!

Standard

IMG_0756

I’m up early today, trying to make up for all I didn’t do yesterday.

I don’t set the alarm clock on Sunday morning. I don’t have to be at work until 10:30; sunshine streaming in and the dogs needing out always assure that I’ll be up in time, no matter how late I was up the night before. Not yesterday.

Yesterday morning, the dogs had each made a trip outside before 6AM. I had taken the opportunity – while I was up – to empty my bladder and get a drink of water. The windows were open to a cool breeze; gentle rain was coming down. I was cozy and warm under a heavy comforter, with Rosa Parks curled up at my feet, Darla snoring from her bed close by. A cloudy sky blocked the morning sun. There was nothing to drive me from my bed. I thought of waking up, then let myself drift back into sleep…until I finally reached out to turn the clock around, to get an idea of the time.

TEN O’CLOCK!!!

I jumped out of bed. First, to the kitchen, to start the coffee brewing. To the bathroom next, where I ran the sink full of hot water for the sponge bath that would have to replace the shower I had planned. Having gone to bed with damp hair the night before, my hair was sticking up in a dozen directions. I wet it down and dried it into what could only be described as “better than before.” I washed, dressed, and brushed my teeth.

I filled two tiny dishes with soft food for the dogs. By that time they had roused themselves, too, and were not-too-enthusiastically considering another trip outside in the rain. “You’ll be fine,” I told them, “stay inside.” I filled my thermos and poured a cup of coffee. As I put down the dogs dishes, I reminded them that this was a short day, and told them to take care of things. Purse, thermos and coffee cup in hand, I was out the door.

Seven and a half miles is the distance to town. When I was considering this property, my Dad said, “That’s an awful long way from town, Cindy.” At that time, I was living outside of North Branch, driving ten miles to bring my daughters to ballet lessons, fifteen to visit my parents, and more than twenty for my classes in Flint, Michigan. Seven miles seemed like nothing…until I moved here.

Gas prices are high. I consolidate trips. I almost never come home and then go back to town, no matter what exciting event is taking place. The roads are, for the most part, unpaved, narrow and curvy, often littered with fallen branches. One must always be on the lookout for wildlife: chipmunks, black squirrels, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer think nothing of crossing the road without warning. So I did think about Dad on Father’s Day, and his sage advice about the long distance from town, as I made my way to work.

It gave me some comfort to have that cup of coffee nearby, though it was much too bumpy a ride to try to get a sip. As I rounded the church hill, I was glad to see Mass was still in session, for the church-goers often make their way to the hardware store as soon as the service is over. I made it to work no more than three minutes late, with customers already waiting at the door. I mixed two cans of paint before I had my coffee, and the day continued busy.

By the time I got home, I was ready for a break. As it was too wet for gardening or yard work, I took the dogs for a short walk. We then convened on the sofa to watch a movie and nap. After that, a drive to Fox Lake and then down to the frog pond. A late dinner completed the day’s theme.

Yesterday, I was behind all day. Today, I’m getting an early start.

Rain Today?

Standard

IMG_0601

There was talk of rain moving in yesterday. It came, but not until late afternoon. It didn’t last, but the temperature dropped and the wind came up. That, combined with the few sprinkles, was enough to bring me back inside. Today, it’s still up in the air.

Will it rain? The day dawned bright, but the sun is hidden behind a cloudy sky. The air is moist; mosquitoes are out in force. It feels like it is going to rain. If it rains, I have indoor plans that far exceed the hours in this day. There is banking and bill-paying and bookkeeping to do. I am behind in my writing. House-keeping has been neglected except for the bare necessities on busy days that included garden work. I could take an entire day just to catch up! The studio calls to me, with projects underway and ideas in my head. A whole day in the studio would be heavenly!

If it is not going to rain, the yard and garden will have my attention. Yesterday, I placed my newly constructed raised bed in place, lined it with weed barrier, filled it with soil, and transplanted strawberries. I have – after many evenings spent with diagrams, garden books and graph paper – decided where I can fit asparagus and raspberries in my new -smaller – garden. It’s now just a matter of staking out the perimeter and doing the transplanting.

Then, it is more than time to get working in the actual vegetable garden. Though it’s not too late to plant – bean seeds could wait another two weeks here on Beaver Island – it is definitely time, especially for the cool-weather lettuce, spinach, chard and peas. The frequent rains have taken the “fluff” out of my newly tilled garden spot, and allowed the roots of weeds and grasses to take hold once again. It needs to be attended to with hoe and rake, to get it back in shape. Then, the rows could be staked, and many seeds planted.

The grass, as I look out my back window, is more than knee high in places. There have been good days for mowing, that I have chosen garden work instead. There have been many days that I had the time, but the weather didn’t cooperate. There were many long days when I simply didn’t have the energy. It can’t be put off much longer!

So, the only question today, as I pour my third cup of coffee, is “will it rain…or not?”

Pushing On

Standard

IMG_0690

So, what is it now, that has kept me away from writing? I’ve been busy, sure, and tired. There have been a lot of things going on here on Beaver Island, and in my life.

Saturday, for instance. I worked at the hardware store. It was our busiest – by far – day this year. The side of the building has become a nursery, with stacking shelves arranged under a sun shade for perennials and shrubs, annual flowers, vegetables and herbs. Folks were flocking in to our store for necessities for lawn and garden plans as well as all the usual painting, plumbing and home repair projects.

I had started the day loading art work in the car, so that I could drop it off at the Beaver Island Gallery, on its first open day of the season. I did that in the early afternoon, just before running out to attend the memorial gathering to honor my friend, Roy. I then ran to the point, to attend the annual shareholder’s meeting of the Beaver Island Boat Company. Then, back to the hardware to finish my work day.

Home, I changed clothes, doused up with mosquito repellent, and headed for the garden. I’ve been forcing myself to get in at least an hour of work out there every evening, no matter how much I want to collapse. Saturday, I raked, dug stubborn weeds, hauled away another wheelbarrow full of roots, and assembled a raised bed for my strawberry plants, before coming in to shower. I ate dinner in my pajamas, and was in bed not long after.

In addition to long and busy days, I’ve had a few side-line inconveniences that have further complicated my life. I picked up a tick, while working in the garden, and didn’t discover it until it was firmly embedded in the skin of my inner thigh, and fairly well engorged with my blood. That was the most traumatic (and gross!) thing that has happened to me in quite some time! A trip to the medical center, a dose of strong antibiotic, a few instructions about prevention and how to handle it should it ever happen again, and I was on my way…though the nightmares continue.

My car is in the shop for repairs. That has caused me to be using vehicles that I’m not familiar with (Oh! No cup-holder? And where is the knob for windshield wipers?), changing one car for another, begging rides from here to there, and sometimes walking. It’s not a big deal. It will all be over soon, and I’ll have my own dusty, messy car back, with a nice fat repair bill to boot!

Next, my little dog, having worked herself into a frenzy over having her nails clipped, managed to get out of my grasp…and bit me. By the next morning, redness and swelling made another trip to the medical center necessary. “It was an accident,” I explained, “she was trying to bite the vet.” My tetanus vaccine was still good; another dose of antibiotic, and I was finished. All dog bites have to be reported, so next came a visit from the deputy. My dogs are up to date on all of their shots. Still, according to standard protocol, Rosa Parks had to be placed in quarantine (“House arrest,” I told her) for ten days. No rides to visit the inland lakes; no walks down the Fox Lake Road. “That’s what you get,” I tell her, without sympathy.

Yesterday, it rained. That put all yard work on hold. After coming home from work, I took a lovely, long nap. I got up in time to feed the dogs and make my own supper, then went shortly right back to bed. Today, I feel rested, and like I just might make it. The sun is shining. The grass is desperately in need of being cut. The dogs and I could all use some outdoor time. That’s where I’ll be, then, for the rest of this day.

 

My Life as a Dig

Standard

IMG_0708

Today is Tuesday, the day I set aside for memoir-writing-based-on-belongings. My inspiration came from my friend, Mary, who is working on a similar project. She calls it “My Life as a Dig,” as she excavates memories through possessions accumulated over a lifetime. I – wanting to be different while appropriating her idea – called my entries “Artifacts to Memories.”

Not today. Today all excavation has been done in the garden. For that, I have stolen Mary’s title, because it is most appropriate to my day’s activities. With necessary breaks to refill my water bottle, doctor my persistent head cold, or check on what our president is up to, I have spent this day with my hands in the soil.

Though I wasn’t feeling well, I forced myself to get outside to work at least part of the day yesterday and the day before. Progress was slow; there was still an awful lot to do. Today, my last full day off, I started the day with a long list of things I wanted to accomplish. Sprinkles this morning made everything seem more urgent. Rain will bring the mosquitoes: then every chore will be complicated by protection – in the form of netting, added clothing, and chemicals – from the biting insects.

Also in my plan was transplanting strawberries, raspberries and possibly rhubarb. If rain was coming, best to get those tasks done so that the showers could help settle everything nicely into its new location. In order to do the transplanting, I had to prepare the bed. When my young helper was here last week – with the rototiller, no less – I purposely had him avoid that spot, as there were a few stray poppies I wanted to relocate first.

That’s what I started with today. I moved four Oriental Poppies to the long flower bed. Also a bulb that I believe is a Casa Blanca Lily – long forgotten among the overgrowth there – and a couple day lilies.

Next, I dug out four lengths of vented PVC pipe that I had buried between tomato plants as a means of getting the water down to the roots. I used to bury plastic milk gallons, with small holes along their bases, and their spouts above ground. Every day I would fill each jug with water, so that it could seep out at the root zone. The jugs got brittle after a season, and would break apart in a mess of plastic shards. The PVC pipe was my attempt at a similar but more lasting solution.

Finally, I was ready to begin digging the bed. It was overgrown with blackberry brambles, wild strawberries, clusters of a noxious weed that sends a thick beige root straight down into the earth – impossible to pull – and grasses. Quack grass and crab grass are both plentiful. Just like with buttercup and butternut squash, I can never remember which is which.

I think it’s the quack grass that grows in a circle, in a dense mound that is hard to pull, and that the mower scrapes across, leaving an ugly scar. If that’s right, then it’s the crab grass that is my worst enemy. Crab grass, with its long, white roots that travel miles, it seems, to make it into my flower beds, that twist around the day lily tubers or the corms of iris, ensuring that to pull it and its offspring out entirely would mean disrupting everything else in that bed besides.

I attacked both today, and anything else that kept company there, one shovelful at a time. Push the blade into the ground, tip it back, flip the mound. Drop the shovel, then, and dig in, pulling out plants and roots. Shake every bit of earth away, as topsoil is precious on this sandy island, and toss the rest into the wheelbarrow. Check the hole for rocks and roots, then dig in again. One scoop at a time, one row after another.

I hauled away five wheelbarrows full of roots and weeds. I doubt my knees will ever be the same; I wonder if I’ll ever get the dirt out from under my nails. I have not yet put together the raised beds for my berries, or laid down the weed barrier, or transplanted a single strawberry. Still, it was a productive day.