Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Who gardens this way?

These are the dreams of ordinary gardeners
those who have seed beds of all sizes
a watering can at arm's length
a reservoir of hope
tucked in every corner.

Only a few of these seedlings will survive transplant, fewer even will survive hungry bugs or chirpy birds.

So, why do we garden this way?

We feel blessed in all this hoping.
We feel lucky when we try new seeds, and eat new plants.
If we don't do this, we can't blame the supermarket for stocking the same tomatoes, the same greens, the same "expensive" herbs.

Back in 1980, my mother who lived in Italy, visited me for a year in California, as we waited for my baby Brian to be born. Noticing that my garden lacked her favorite home-grown greens, she promptly sent a request for arugula seeds, tomatoes and cipolline to our relatives in Italy.
Back then, nobody served arugula or cipolline. The tomatoes were all watery!

In just a few weeks, we were eating anew!
From that day on, I swore I'd maintain a kitchen garden of my favorites no matter where I lived:
fava beans, artichokes, cipolline, arugula, basil, tomatoes, cicorie and anise.
I've added berries, apples and pears, and dill for my Northwest dishes.

Yesterday, I dug out potatoes I had forgotten in the ground!
In their spot, I laid roots of berry canes. 
This morning, my soles are hurting from all that digging.

What favorites plants do you cultivate? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Watching the eclipse and other sights.

The sky darkened last evening, but it was shrouded by mist and fog and clouds. No way to see the sun, or the moon, or both of them shadowing the western world. My camera noticed a blue hydrangea and stopped to focus there. I would have missed it, I thought, my eyes still trying to see anything unusual in the sky.

We came indoors, disappointed. Dinner was prepared and eaten. Dishes gathered, washed and put away. Our neighbors remained outside in the cold, enjoying each other's company; children running around the yard, squealing with delight. It was a bust of a day for us, I thought. If we had children around, it wouldn't have mattered at all that the eclipse was invisible.  The children would have kept us busy, delighted. Our cameras would have captured their every move.

We do tend to focus on the big things, the once in a lifetime event. We mark our days and hours by these events, ignoring everything else around us. Yet, our comfort, our pleasures, our survival, depends on the little things we do everyday. Cooking, shopping, walking, delighting in watching our young ones full of life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Staying active.

When we first retired, we jumped right in, volunteering for all kinds of things. Our first foray was in coaching and sponsoring the local youth baseball team. Hubby saw an ad in the local paper for a coach, and the next day  he was signing people up, ordering uniforms, knocking at doors to get sponsors, preparing the field, driving kids and parents to games and practices, and cleaning up after every game.

By the end of the season, exhausted and broke, the coaching job had felt like a full time job, three days a week with direct activities, twice a week with all the follow-up activities, driving three hours to pick up uniforms or trophies, subsidizing families with basic equipment for their children,

I volunteered to teach a parenting class that included organizing babysitting and hot food as well. Since the material was not familiar to me, I spent hours previewing videos and organizing activities to keep the young fathers and mothers engaged and motivated.  By the end of the term, I had worked harder than on any other course I had ever taught before.

Hubby and I ended up accompanying the other to most activities. When he chaired the local food pantry board, we drove over two hours to pick up food, spent hours on the phone to suppliers, write grants to obtain upgrades for the building. Our SUV was always full of boxes and supplies for some group we were volunteering for.

Ten years later, we have slimmed down our commitments mostly because of health reasons. Yes, you will get tired more often in your old age, and driving for a couple of hours in bad weather is not something you want to do when your arthritis is flaring up.
Here are our do's and don'ts for volunteering:

1. Seek opportunities so you can share what you love.

2. Be upfront. Commit for the time you really want to spend, or until you know the activity is a good match.

3. Start your own group/activity. You know what passions you have. If no volunteering opportunities exist in your area, start one.

4. Get to know your neighbors,  local churches, service clubs.

5. Take classes. Most states offer free tuition to people sixty-five and older.

Do not:

1. Expect any rewards, like instant friendships.  Friends  are natural extensions, but not guaranteed.

2. Turn down invitations because you have never done that activity, Tell the organizer that you are new, and you need someone to show you how.

3. Continue with an activity if you do not have the strength or the desire for it. Everyone will suffer from  lack of enthusiasm, especially you.

4. Skip an activity because you think you can't afford. Just because you are on a fixed income it doesn't mean you can't afford the wine club!

5.Lay blame and walk away. If something isn't working, make it better.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some things, keep you sane.

This is the driving we do these days, on this two-lane road, one or two cars in front, one or two cars in the rear mirror. The sun shines more often than not, and the air is crisp and clean and smelling of fresh pine or seafoam, all day and all night.

I've escaped to this. I'm sane because of this. I'm in a constant state of reverie and contemplation and gratitude. There is no Heaven for me. I'm already there. How I longed for this all the years we lived in a congested city where even going to the supermarket meant a sure trauma or sorts. Someone would certainly take your parking place just as you were about to pull into it; someone would scrape your car while you were shopping and leave without notifying you; someone out there was always invading your viewfinder.

I always thought that we couldn't have lived here before retirement. My children needed certain benefits that we couldn't have provided without good jobs. My husband's job was highly specialized-his research work was not something he could do here. Our salaries afforded us a beautiful house, in a classy neighborhood, and bought tickets to the theater, dinner at up-and-coming restaurants, and opportunities all around us. Our mortgage, our car payments, our fees, needs,  particular services specialized to city living, all those expenses kept us looking for ways to advance, get promotions, obtain bigger salaries to keep experiencing more and more things.

The irony?

Everything we had in the city we can have here with just a few adaptations, such as traveling longer distances, driving three hours to see great theater in Ashland from the resident Shakespearean Company;  drive further and stay a couple of nights in Portland  to see and hear theater, opera, symphony, great indie groups. With a little enterprising, we could have lived here and adjusted our lifestyle. Our boys could still have pursued their science studies, and our girl, her arts program. Sure, competitions and variables would not be the same. A city tests you in different ways, but a city's biggest advantage is the seemingly endless opportunities that keep people searching and searching all the time.

My folks were country folks. The three of us, my brothers and I, all flew the nest as soon as we could to find our fortunes. Yet, in our old age, each of us looked for those things we had growing up, things we understood, things that nurtured us, and kept us whole.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sitting as the world goes by.

Old people sit around most of the time. Here, at a zoo, and in the streets of San Francisco, on a weekend trip, we tend to people-watch, and animal watch, and generally observe as the world parades in front of us.

Take a seat, and join us. Two children, two monkeys, clothed and unclothed, walking or biking, all on a sunny day parading unashamedly.

Fisherman Warf, San Francisco, May 2012.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Making a dream.

(my apologies for not knowing where this photo comes from!)

I'm in  a state of anticipation.

Getting serious about gardening/landscaping means putting up with destruction as well as construction. So far, I'm happy with movement, any movement. People with big machines have cut down trees, removed them, left big trench marks on wet soil. They'll be clearing more land, grading the driveway, constructing arbors and benches.

The deer are lost and disoriented. Newkie, my cat, is keeping her distance. She doesn't like noise. So, she hides from everybody, and changes her hiding place so I can't find her right away.  She has been hesitant to go off beyond the immediate perimeter. Now, this perimeter is being opened up and reshaped with much fanfare, and she is dismayed.

But I am not worried. I'm building an autobiography right in my yard. Traces of me all over the place with everything I choose, every rock I position.

This work would have been done slowly by the two of us, just a few years ago. I'd decide on something or other. Hubby would try to talk me out of it. I'd insist. He'd balk. Finally, I would find something that we could compromise on. Frankly, it would never be just what I had had in mind. And so it would continue for each small or big project.

But we are in a new state now. We have become fragile. We no longer try to do things ourselves. We call experts, and we negotiate with them what is possible; compromise if it is too expensive and elaborate; try to do what is doable and still  live up to our overall vision.

Did I say Our Vision?
I meant My Vision.
Though, it is newly retouched, by everyone we talk to, even my loving husband who insists on interpreting my thoughts to the men with machines. I've learned to put my foot down when I need to.

Before we even had this project, we had talked ourselves out of another that included a swim in place pool, a necessity we both could appreciate.  Hubby had other priorities at that time, visioning changes that would have transformed the garage into a pool room. He called people, consulted, received estimates, and then balked at the cost and the possible liability of the project.  It turns out that a pool needs to be in its own building, so the fumes and the humidity do not affect the rest of the house.  A pool room would have cost us more than the cost of driving down to Gold Beach where we swim in a hotel pool for peanuts a day, with no liabilities and no maintenance.

 When a noted landscaper showed up and prepared an estimate to upgrade our front yard, we had already gone into shock a few times before. Hubby knows he and I cannot do any of this work any more. What we can do is get the place in good shape to age in place for the next ten or so years.

Our children will love to vacation on this coast after we leave this earth. Here, they can bring little ones and big ones and truly appreciate the great outdoors. By then, they will have forgotten what the place looked like before the upgrades. Lucky them!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Signs of life.

Dark pellets in a clump. A family of deer has come and gone.

Deer seem to know just when to come out to play, and when to hide in safety during a storm. My front yard is full of these tell=tale signs, at times right at my front step.  We are used to them; walk around and bypass these pellets most of the time.

We wear sturdy shoes here. Not tennis shoes. Not shoes with heels either. We wear clogs, weather resistant and skid proof that allow us to walk in and out easily. We are always prepared for a downpour too, with rubber jackets by the door, and an extra set in the car.

We could clear this mess and compost it. But, we would be doing this a dozen times a day, a full time job! Instead, we ignore it, and somehow, it no longer bothers us.  When raccoon or other critters show up, we may notice these new signs then.

We protect young trees for years, until they reach a height when deer can't eat them up.  Mostly, we let things be, grow where they may. This is forest land, and forest critters need to survive very harsh winters.

Rhododendrons, camellias, magnolia and azaleas seem to thrive here. And bulbs too, especially iris.
Everything is now  in bloom or about to bloom. We're so busy enjoying the blooms that we walk right over the leavings regularly.

Thank goodness our clogs can be left right at the front door.