Tag Archives: gardening

Creative Fire Journal, Day #4

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If I weren’t afraid of failing, I might…

If I weren’t afraid of failing, I might tackle a lot more home repairs. There are several waiting, if I ever feel brave enough.

Outside, I am unafraid. I have dug up and transplanted shrubs and vines and bushes like someone else might rearrange furniture. Eventually, they end up in a spot where they both look good and thrive…then I let them be. Until I decide to thin out, rearrange or redesign again. I built a low stone wall to border a wild area of the yard, and a stone walkway to my backdoor, though I don’t know a thing about the proper way to do either. The walkway in particular has several issues with holding water, growing weeds between the stones and tripping up visitors on its uneven surface. No matter. I’ve dug out every stone at least twice, in an effort to get it right; I can always try again. In my little vegetable garden, I built raised beds, tried out Ruth Stout’s “no weed, no work” gardening ideas, employed Patricia Lanza’s “lasagna garden” plan, used methods outlined in Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening…and many others. I have removed dozens of gigantic wild junipers from my property with a pair of long handled loppers and a “tromp and lop” technique I invented myself. I may not be using the right or the best method, but it doesn’t seem to matter much outside. I can figure it out, make it work, or try something else.

At the hardware store, I am always willing to tackle large organizing projects.After more than ten years of working there, I have a pretty good idea of what sells, and what things are used for. The company provides “planograms,” in many cases, as a guide for arranging an area. They can be very helpful, but don’t always work with our space or our inventory. I have gotten in hot water more than once, for veering off in a direction of my own. If I don’t know the product or it’s function, I devise my own method of arrangement. When I organized the spark plugs and later the oil filters, I laid them out in numerical order based on their product number. That way at least, it’s easy to find the one you’re looking for. In housewares, I organized by function: cooking, baking, table-setting, clean-up, and on and on. When I organized the fishing lures, I did it by size and color. When all else fails, make everything look pretty!

In my studio, I am fearless. I almost never know why I’m doing what I’m doing or where I’m going with it. I have always ignored hierarchical methods and hard and fast rules in favor of letting the materials dictate. Ooze, drip, squish and rub are my main techniques, though I have a few others, too. It doesn’t matter if  I’m working with clay, paint or charcoal, I want to give it full reign. I have a lot of failures, but I also have a lot of fun. I learn from everything I do, and gain insight into the materials as I go. When success happens, I know it’s something that has never been done before, in exactly the way I did it.

When it comes to jobs around the house, I am timid. I can’t shake the idea that there is one right way to do a thing, and that I am not privy to that knowledge. I feel clumsy and inept at most home projects. Those that I’ve tried, I have usually messed up. I can rearrange things without end, but I panic at the thought of hanging a door, cutting a mitered corner or putting up woodwork. Replace a window? No way! Put down flooring? Yikes!

If I could conquer my fear when it comes to home repairs, there is plenty to do!

Zoom!

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Today is an overcast, drizzly day here on Beaver Island.

This is exactly what I need!

I’ve been putting  many hours into getting my garden ready for Spring. My hands are dry and wrinkled from spending so much time in the soil. My joints are achy and my back is complaining, too, from shoveling dirt, forking compost and moving rocks.

There is progress. I have given away raspberry plants and strawberry plants that were taking over pathways. I thinned poppy beds and iris beds, and sent the extras home with happy visitors. Day-lilies left with everyone who would take them.

I have staked out my central flower bed, and am working my way down the row.

I first dig out the soil, to a depth of about twelve inches. I sift the weeds out as I’m digging, and have a bucket standing by for them. The next step is to rake the surface smooth, then roll out the weed shield and cover that with a thin layer of soil mixed with compost. Now I’m ready to move some plants. I dig up a clump of day-lilies, pull all grasses and weeds away, separate the plants, then settle arrange them randomly in the new bed. I want them to have distance between them so that they have room to grow, and enough nourishment to make the move without trauma. I do not want them to look  like I’ve placed them in regular rows. I want the tallest specimens mainly down the center of the bed, and the shorter  varieties nearer the stone border. I  cover them over with the rest of the dirt that I dug out, and border that section with rocks.Image

It’s coming along, but is still  only about one-third of the way done. This new bed runs right through space that last year had a 4’x5′ strawberry bed and – at the very front – a peony bed. Before I called it a day yesterday, I finished digging up the rest of the strawberry plants that were in my way. They seem fine, this morning, in their temporary home: a tub lined with soil and stored under the picnic table, out of the sun.Image

Today! Today, with the dampness outside, I will concentrate inside.

There is the usual, of course: rugs to vacuum, floors to sweep and sinks to clean. Every single horizontal surface in the house needs to be cleared of what doesn’t belong on it. Laundry to be done, houseplants to water.

In my studio, should I find time to spend there, I have twenty metal frames to assemble and fill with twenty sheets of plexiglass and twenty finished collages. I have four small paintings to frame and three others to order frames for. I have two large paintings underway and a dozen collages in various stages of completion. The studio could use a good cleaning, too!

I have committed to teaching an after-school art class to high-school students through five weeks in May. Today I need to complete that class plan to turn in to the program director here, and a materials list to send  to the Arts Council for dispensation.

Tomorrow I’ll be back at my regular job, so today I want to make a pot of soup so that I’ll have it to pack for my lunches, or to warm up for dinner if I don’t feel like cooking. As long as it’s drizzly, as long as I’m going to have soup bubbling on the stove, I’d might as well make bread, too! That sounds like it will warm the house up,  doesn’t it?

Spring

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Spring, at my house on Beaver Island, is a busy time.

There is a narrow window of opportunity – between the snow melt and biting black fly season – to get everything possible done in the gardens.

I used to say, “If I only had more time…”

I realize now, after a few free days that could have been dedicated exclusively to yard work, time is not the only problem! I’m no longer able to spend six to eight hours on my hands and knees tending flower beds. I cannot spend three hours with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, double digging each of my raised vegetable beds. How did I ever do it? I can’t do it anymore.Image

I’m aiming for one hour a day, every single day.

The temperatures have dropped again. Yesterday I worked outside in my parka and knit gloves!

I managed to remove leaves and pine needles from a bed of daffodils. That always reveals weeds and grass that have taken hold under the debris, so I dealt with that, too. Image

There is still so much to do!