Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting Back to the Basics of Eden

Runner Bean Flowers

Edge of Pond - Cardinal Flower

Repairing Pathway

The things one does in the quest for perfection is mystifying. Many don't grasp the concept of good in nature.  We just don't get it.  We know in a perfect world everything lives in harmony, but we think harmony means something closer to a Disney cartoon than reality.  Astute gardeners know the cycles of life include death, otherwise compost would never happen.

Gardeners used to partner with nature, but somewhere in time in the name of progress and good marketing strategy, we were hoodwinked into believing there was a list of criminals in nature that needed to be pesticided, insecticided, funguscided, and herbicided.

Don't get me wrong.  There are always last resort times when the paintbrush and roundup come out of hiding from the garage to rid the yard of invasives, pyrethrum spray is grabbed from the back shelf to douse the bird house poles that ants travel, and liquid borax is purchased to lower the population of compost bin ants that make life hell for the gulf fritillary caterpillars in the planters they raid.

As a first choice, we too often saturate with poisons and convince ourselves that bugless and weedless is perfection. We make ourselves slaves to an environment that now has no way of protecting itself, and feel obligated to add dose upon dose of lethal poisons to keep our imperfect chemically dependent gardens appearing picture perfect.  Of course, they aren't even close to being okay.

Bees, ladybugs, toads, frogs, lizards, birds, pets, and children traveling across this landscape are traveling across poison, poison that doesn't discriminate.  It will take years to balance your little depleted ecosystem back to when it did just fine taking care of itself, back to that time before your community was formed and your house was built.

Ecosystems (Ecological Systems) - that word we don't understand and like to tag to tree huggers and environmental troublemakers.  Ecosystems have existed since the birth of life.  Basically, it's all individuals in an area - plants, animals, and microorganisms, all interacting with each other and their environment - soil, water, light, and climate. That's it!

Whether it's healthy or sick depends on how we have in the past or will in the future alter it, but in the very beginning it was ALL healthy.  All plants, all animals, all microorganisms, have their place in nature.  When we begin to chose which to keep and which to kill, we begin to alter the balance.  When the two scales of equality become opposite ends of the spectrum we are in deep trouble.

As managers of our estates, whether postage stamp size or an accumulation of many acres, it's easy to not pay attention to what's happening within and beyond our fence lines.  We like to think nature can take care of itself, but our naivete is short lived bliss.

In the beginning, nature did take care of itself, until curiosity, commerce, and the quest for beauty changed the rules and thrust many of our lands under siege of certain alien plants (plants introduced to an area outside their original range) that the ecosystem of that area couldn't compete against. Without natural enemies to limit reproduction, these alien plants become invasive and drastically alter their surrounding habitat, smothering the biodiversity of the area to create a monoculture (single species landscape) of their own kind among the ruins.

Amazingly, in yards this process doesn't need many seasons to proliferate or many years to become entrenched.  The problem is not so much the garden that harbors the enemy, the problem is that the enemy refuses to stay contained to the garden.  They migrate outward.  No fence will stop their invasion into the wilds.

While gardeners may be the proliferators of invasive species they purchase from the nurseries that sell them, it seems to take the whole of mankind to solve the problems the spread of these plants create.

Biodiversity (Biological Diversity)- a simple meaning as complex as you wish to make it.  Basically, it is the variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms living in a particular environment or the substantial number of these species, whether in a small area or a large region.  Usually, the wider the diversity, the healthier that habitat is.  Interestingly, the same species of plant growing in one region, will not always have identical needs as the same species of plant that lives in another region.

All species living in an area interact and depend on each other.  They filter air, provide food, shelter, and create healthy soil.  Usually the less diversity of all species, the less filtered air, food, shelter and healthy soil.  The less filtered air, food, shelter, and healthy soil there is; the more the fabric of life will begin to decline in that region.

A gardener's yard may exist of one or more ecosystems of great biodiversity (a self-sustaining yard), one or more ecosystems of some biodiversity (a yard that needs some help taking care of itself), or one ecosystem of almost none or no biodiversity (a lawn or large area of only one or a limited number of plants - think wheat or corn fields or a vegetable garden) which has a difficult time protecting itself against insects and diseases.  It is the abundant biodiversity of an ecosystem that usually keeps a higher quality of life preserved.

One self-reliant yard is good, a neighborhood of self-reliant yards is better, and a community of self-reliant yards creates a quality of life that could be a match for even Eden in all its glory.

As a master gardener, my yard was included in the garden tours that were held each summer.  It was the only yard in the tours that featured native plants and more of a wilderness atmosphere.  Then life got in the way, and the displays of garden diagrams and essays, free native seeds and literature handouts fell by the wayside as some rough biodiversity in my own life knocked me down for a while. Now I'm trying to start that tradition back up again.  The above is the text I've created to hang in the display box at the entrance to my front yard.  Do you think it makes sense or is even worth reading?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gardens...when one has cats

Blackberry Lily

First Salad from the Raised Beds

When one has cats, there's payback.  We could be talking about a little skeleton in the closet, cause the pet sitter forgot there were six cats instead of five; although all cat lovers know some closetholic kitties will run an obstacle course to streak or sneak through that open closet door before you unexpectedly shut it tight to keep kitty that's now inside of it out.

We might be talking about pens, keys, watches, eyeglasses, any small and surprisingly some fairly hefty bobbles re-positioning themselves from a non-secure location into another room, under a bed or inside one's shoe; although all cat lovers know some kleptoholic kitties will scale high places, climb over mountains of obstacles  or poke a moist nose where no respectable nose would ever go to find a forbidden new plaything.

We may be talking about houseplants within teeth munching distance morphing into bunches of stark naked stems sticking out of pots; although all cat lovers know some mountain goat want-a-be kitties will go to extraordinary lengths to reach that green stuff, then nibble and upchuck, ratting themselves out without an ounce of shame. 

This roster of feline charms knows the definition of infinity, as all people owned by cats have experienced that pit in the stomach feeling realizing the list could and will go on forever.  Only human and not a conniving resourceful cat, a certain feline with the tenacity of a pigheaded alligator got the best of me again :)


Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Pandemonium of Thoughts

Seriously, if you dote on resurrected Twinkies you don't need to be coming to my house any time soon for dinner.  You'll be extremely disappointed with my made-from-scratch chemical independent organic cuisine.  Does anyone remember when those brown whatever's of flawed filling used to be stuffed with something that actually resembled whipped cream?  Progress sometimes is regress when profit is involved.  Progress is always regress when junk food is involved.  What amazes and baffles is that no matter how inferior a product becomes there's still a humongous audience that LOVES it.  Does anyone have taste buds that actually work anymore?  Perhaps it's just the fact that my belief is if I'm going to stuff artery clogging heart attack eats into my mouth they had better be top of the line rockin' good.

I'm dragging my feet this morning that has all too fast turned into this afternoon.  I'm having a difficult time mentally adjusting to possessing no buying power, I guess.  I managed to render my Easter cactus deader than a door nail, and you know how dead a door nail can appear.  It needed new soil, fertilizer, better pot...I was thinking I could manage that a few months down the road BUT I guess that was going to be a few months too late.  When it was in its glory, the salmon blooms were magic after a long winter.  Now I just want to cry.

Andee's dragging to the end of the line also, and I'm doing all I can to keep his good quality of life in existence for one more day, for one more week, for one more month.  He just got over a bladder infection and now has an allergy to turkey, along with his already allergies to beef and chicken.  The bladder infection could cause the allergy...the allergy could cause the bladder one knows or at this point cares.  He loved munching on raw turkey breasts.  It's what has kept the meat still on his bones as he's become extremely finicky in his old age. Finally, after a two week search we have two  sources for raw bison meat and Andee's eating and happy once more.  Kidney disease has sealed his fate, though, and I just love him as much as I can while I can.

The raised vegetable beds sort of are okay.  I've searched high and low in my stash of yard goodies for makeshift supports and somewhere along the way I guess they all vanished, probably from pure exhaustion of use.  The runner beans are twining around themselves to their hearts content and hopefully they won't strangle themselves to death.  The soil hasn't compressed itself enough to support the corn very well.  It needs a year of weather and gravity to make it less loose.  With all the rain the corn lays sideways, then uprights itself when the sun shines again, but none of it is growing straight and tall anymore.  Only time will tell if it manages to succeed in spite of itself or me, or if it will be somewhat of a flop.

Knees, hips, neck...icing myself daily these past few months. Sometimes I think I should just bury myself in a vat of ice cubes and be done with it.  I would give up all wisdom learned and earned these many know, that wisdom that no one wants to hear, for two brand new knees and the hips of a young dancer; but alas, it's just me, my chiropractor, and ICE that makes or breaks my life.

Tonight I think I'm cutting my own hair, or a more accurate description of the deed I intent to do is...tonight I'm going to hack my hair off and pray it doesn't become a short bob.  Since I can't see the back of my head or my arms when they are wrapped around the back of my head; with hand mirror, ruler, sharp scissors and two hands less than I really need, I'll be cutting and re-cutting until it all layers appropriately or I scream and give up.  Of course, I won't totally abandon the ship, or I would be a topic of hilarious discussion when I return to work Monday.  I'll mess with it each ensuing day until it makes me happy or is too short to mess with any more.

Wow!  3:30 and yard work is still only a thought away.  Time to actually get dressed and brave the wild outdoors with pruners, saw, and rake in hand.  Small concrete statues still languish in the darkness of the storage room and my feet can find no place to set themselves down as I try to dig my way through all that crap that has accumulated this past year.  To end this on somewhat of a higher note, I fought off mosquitoes earlier this dry day to snap pics of what is left in flower after never-ending never never-ending rain.  Most flew out-of-existence into the recycle bin; these are the ones that escaped.  I'm getting dressed and disappearing into my happy gardens.

Odd flowers
This plant evidently had a mind of its own.

Fragrance of Beaman's Pepsin Chewing Gum

Wild Petunia

Carpenter Bee on Summersweet

Fragrance of Licorice 


Friday, July 12, 2013

The Woolworth Casino

When I was young, the concept of growing old never occupied my thoughts.  I was invincible; I would live forever. Of course, I wouldn't always last, but I was so removed from those decades I assumed would follow, that I never felt compelled to imagine what might lie ahead.  I was what life had chosen me to be, and life had a marvelous way of ignoring my desires and wants, and strapping me onto a lifelong roller coaster ride that would rise to heaven and plunge to hell without warning.  Woe is the idiot that gives fate full reign of their mortality.
Escaping the limitations of my small home town, I managed to remove myself to one hundred and twenty nine miles away.  With no car and only a small amount of money, I traveled by bus keeping myself well within the safety zone of mom and dad, in case I ever had to hightail it back home.  Stayed with my younger sister in her college dormitory room, then a month later moved into a rooming house where we all shared a kitchen with Skitzo Lady.  I use the word lady kindly.  Constant arguments with her imaginary friend or enemy, who knows, she helped herself each day to whatever eats were in the community fridge. She was allowed to continue this practice forever because we all valued our lives more than she did.

The name of the first casino escapes my memory, most likely for the simple reason I was fired from my job there.  One of those hiring agencies that get you a job you could have gotten yourself if you only knew sent me there, and I began work as a switchboard operator.  The hiring agency kept my first paycheck as payment. A Greek matriarch owned the place and every member of her family was employed there.  One of her gorgeous sons, a bartender, flirted and talked with me all the time, but I'm sure he was a big flirt with all the ladies.  His mom was always calling the switchboard and leaving me instructions on how to handle all the family calls each day.

To shorten this blight on my working record, let's just say I made the mistake of following her instructions on a day when I should not have followed her instructions.  The next day when I entered that building the hotel receptionist whispered that I had better leave like two minutes ago if I valued my life as Madam Greece was out to kill.

The sole supporter of my life, I was left no room to feel sorry for myself.  I needed a new source of income fast, thus began my second job far from home.  On the Graveyard shift in a smaller, older establishment someone once called the Woolworth of all Casinos, I was machine rolling all those blasted coins that the clueless emptied out of their pockets each day into the slot machines, and the casino collected each evening to make sure I had steady employment rolling them back up again to reuse. Simply stated, the job sucked!  I jumped at the offer of working in the credit-check cashing-cashier department without hesitating.  I really should have looked for another job in a non-gaming industry, but I didn't.

If you're under the delusion that the average John Doe is civilized, then you have never met a desperate tourist who has gambled away every penny to their name, credit card rejects, personal check insufficient funds, gas gauge on empty, nowhere to go with family in tow...they become blasphemous werewolves out to kill the world that is trying to 'get' them.  I've had every cuss word in existence thrown in my face and the back of my head, hairy arms shooting over the counter trying to grab me and I presume drag me over the counter-top if I had been slower on my feet, threatened, lied to, spit at...I quickly developed a healthy loathing of the general gambling public.

There NEVER was a sighting of me at a casino in that biggest little town out west on my off days unless I was dragged there kicking and screaming (not really) by a visiting family member or friend out to have a good time.  I worked for an old tyrant connected with the mafia and his two buck teethed bratty schnauzers who would drop in from their living quarters upstairs any time of the day or night to survey their dominion like sharks out for the kill.

To say circumstances were stressful was putting it mildly.  Tons of Excedrin tablets became my friend as I tried to stave off one headache after another for the next seven years.  I was considered exceptional, and we all know how exceptional is rewarded; we get the joy of twice as much work because we can do it in twice the less time than others.  Always in fear of losing my job, no sick leave,  no vacation time, no holidays, and a once a year small bonus to either collect (which I did) or use for the equivalent of vacation leave...the glamorous life of the glittering neon boulevard was only a myth.

The job was killing me.  A wedding was stuck in there somewhere, and my marriage was killing me.  While neither snow, rain, heat, nor gloom of night kept me from walking the five miles to work and the five miles home again each working day; husband always managed to have a car with no remorse for my plight.  When enough was enough, I started over again with not much more than that first day I stepped off a bus all those years ago all wide-eyed and hopeful.  This time I was determined to be more in control of my destiny, but sometimes determination just isn't enough. Sometimes one has to actually understand why they do the things they do.

Monday, July 8, 2013


You'd think poor folks could poof! up a budget in ten minutes flat, wouldn't you?  I labored away all know, probably that perfection quirk messing about with my noggin, accounting for every penny of my existence.  I can officially report that not even a moth is living in my wallet now.  I already forgot to bring the cash for the grocery store to work with me, so I think I'll be eating biscuits and jam for lunch tomorrow.

I get tired of customers who think the tax dollars they pay affords them the privilege of rudeness towards me as they expect me to bend over backwards for them and kiss my own butt.  Why in the world do others think I want to listen to a ten minute rant about how the new reservation system is a piece of crap...hey folks!  Give me a break...I just work here.  Do you really think when I come through for you as I always do, that you saying "I didn't really mean what I just said" or "I guess it really isn't your fault" make up for it all?  Duh!



:) Some days I just need to bitch a bit.

So------------look what I harvested from my raised beds this evening!


I ate a few...hotter than the wrath of hell!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

rainy day gardens...

Into the rabbit hole...

lovely green

Dropped husband off at work today so I could run an errand for him.  With only one car, we always seem to be waiting for each other...always.  Sat down to a blank screen in Word and sighed as my brain refused to shift out of neutral.  Sat down again with a hot creamed coffee and stuffed myself with two toasty Kashi 7 grain waffles covered with apricot preserves and real sour cream...mmmmm.  Diet???What diet?

Looked out the window at my yard refusing to soak up any more of the rainy deluge as the puddles overflowed into the street to whatever lies beyond, and I did what any crazy person would do...I stepped outside into the steady drizzle without a hat or jacket and started taking photos :)  With soggy jean legs, slightly damp shirt back, and hair that was a bit too unruly, I drove to the UPS Store after husband rudely interrupted my dewy photo session with a phone call reminding me that the clock was ticking down to the last minute and my errand was still just a plan in his head.

Dropped into the UPS Store per husbands instructions and was nicely told I needed to go to the REAL UPS Store over at the K-Mart Shopping Center, so-----I took my fanny over to the REAL UPS Store that looked like a carbon copy of the UNREAL UPS Store; the total sum of my very rainy trivial type of dragging my feet minimally challenged adventure.  Oh...that's right...I was supposed to pick up my husband from work five minutes ago. Rats...

crack plant

passion vine on a mission

ready to taste

leaf stems creating a dam

lovely confusion

splash of rain

reflections on a wet bench

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