another lazy day

I woke up early this morning. I probably dream all the time, but I rarely remember them. Today I remembered the dream. Yes, another gardening dream!

In the dream, I used a favorite spade, one that belonged to my grandmother, who also gardened. My mother “inherited” it when she and Dad brought Gram up to the house when Gram became unable to care for herself. I still have it. It’s a favorite gardening tool.

The spade slid easily into the perfectly tilled dream soil, which I turned one more time to complete the process of double-digging the garden space in preparation for planting. I love the smell of freshly turned loamy soil! Though I didn’t have this smell strike me in the dream, the pleasant sensation I feel in that circumstance woke me up.

What kind of dream is that? Ha! Not much action. I suppose there is some Freudian significance in digging soil, Mother Earth, but let’s keep our thoughts pure! Gardening dreams are my favorites because I like the effort and sensations of gardening, that little miracle of a planted seed germinating into something that tastes good to eat and is healthy, too.

I got up, fed Dougy and Andy, who were very grateful for the timely food, washed some dishes, heated up some leftover French toast in the microwave, and made some tea. (I forgot to roast coffee beans yesterday, so had none ready to grind today.) I watched “Morning Joe”, amazed that for the second day Mika told Joe “Shut up!” several times, and he shut up several times. Perhaps he reads the comments on their facebook post because the most frequent complaint about Joe is he interrupts everyone all the time.

During “Morning Joe”, both the cats’d found a spot to sleep off chicken-lobster (ugh!) cat food. My little angels looked so sweet and happy, I decided they had the right idea: Go back to bed!

Back to bed I went. I ordinarily don’t benefit from extra sleep, but those extra four hours this morning hit the spot! I don’t remember them, but I woke up from my extra sleep with that happy feeling I get when I have gardening dreams.

yard nazis, part 1

A friend of mine, the late Margaret V., lived in a retirement community in Arcata, California. Though she wasn’t a major gardener, she did like to plant a few flowers on the borders of her lot and place potted flowers on the steps up to her home. Every summer, I’d get at least one letter from her complaining about “yard nazis”, maintenance staff who weed-whacked this border flower she’d nursed all summer or, inexplicably, knocked over that potted flower on her steps. She’d be livid!

I lived in a regulation house at the time, and always had a big garden in back, nice flower beds in front, that I worked years to get just so. I worked very hard to improve the soil until it required almost no effort to turn, it was so loamy. I double-dug all beds and amended the soil every year. All that in a yard that started with clay soil.

Then I had major illness (Wegener’s granulomatosis), which made maintaining a yard of that size more than I could manage. We moved that fall to the retirement apartments where I live now, a pleasant if not fancy duplex that started out as WWII housing. The yard maintenance, we were assured, was handled by staff, as was snow removal, and so on. One could, however, have a small garden along the foundations of the apartment, if one wished.


Bluebells are pretty, but, like morning glories, have a weedy growth habit. I dug out tons of them at the house. They return without mercy and they spread like the weed they are.

I tried small scale gardening at the apartment the first summer. Someone before planted a variety of flowers and roses I didn’t particularly care for (other than one climbing yellow rose): Bluebells, morning glories, some wimpy plant that hates dry conditions and looks like hell when fully hydrated (name?), iris (which are lovely for a couple of weeks once a year, then not so much), snow-on-the-mountain, two awful artificial-looking red roses with no scent, and a nice yellow rose (also no scent). Not to my taste mostly, but, well, not tragic. I’d try to work them out over years. Gardening, if nothing else, is an exercise in patience and planning. Oh yeah, and hope!

yellow rose

This yellow rose has a clean, floral scent, and grows outside my bathroom window. It is the one rose at the apartment I do like.

Management or an earlier tenant used crushed rock to cover unplanted areas as a weed control and to make things look pretty. Like hell! Hell to dig, though I finally broke through using a garden fork I fortuitously brought from my old home on the chance I’d one day be able to garden again. What I found under the rock was compacted, worn out soil much like I’d started out with and spent years building up with composed leaves and grass at the house. “Shit,” I thought! No, at that point, shit of the right kind would have made me very happy!

Also, I left a huge rhubarb patch at the house, thinking it wouldn’t be right to take any with us when the new owners could enjoy it as much as we. The new owners tore it out and tossed the plants in the trash. (My old neighbors tattled on the new owner…!) They had no idea what to do with it or that a couple of the neighbors always enjoyed large amounts of it each year because we shared it with them.

There were some neighborhood rhubarb patches at the apartment complex, a plant here and there, but the old neighbors scouted it out and usually beat me to it. They’d lived here longer. They knew the routine. I resolved to plant my own, which I documented elsewhere in this blog. It took two, three years to get an amount of rhubarb that gave us a taste of it each year, if nowhere what we had at the house.


I was so happy when I finally got rhubarb to grow in the dead soil out back! I added lots of compost and fertilizer to the spot where I planted it, and, unlike my first, failed effort, had the lovely early spring surprise you see in the photo!

faith, the other kind

I have faith. I am, in fact, an elder in the local Presbyterian church. But that’s not the type of faith I’m writing about today.

A few weeks ago, I received a small box in the post. It isn’t that unusual that I receive such boxes, but I was curious to open it to find what I’d ordered this time. I slit the tape sealing the box and opened the flaps, expecting music CDs, perhaps movie DVDs, because the box proportions suggested those treasures might be inside!

I cleared the packing away, and looked down in shock. Horror? Instead of something lovely, like a new J.S. Bach CD, the treasure turned out to be… three shrunken, black, organic somethings, the nature of which I could not guess. Then I found the packing slip under the black, mummified remains. Rhubarb! I’d forgotten I’d ordered rhubarb last fall, and these three scary things were it!

I have a rare form of vasculitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis) that nearly killed my body five years ago, but rekindled my faith, the first kind. Since then, the path to recovery left me less able to do gardening at first, though the strength needed (and a move from a house to an apartment, where the garden is much smaller) has returned mostly. I can do such things as plant tomatoes, if I wish, or lots of flowers (which I always have around me), or dried out, mummified rhubarb starts.

That’s where the other kind of faith comes in. To look at the starts, I would guess the best place for them would be the compost heap, if I had one, or the trash. Yet I have received such unpromising “bare root” packages before that turned into magnificent roses, lavender, grapes that were ambrosia and nectar in one, right off the vine! “I dunno,” I thought, because the “bare root” rhubarb starts looked, umm, unpromising!

I put the rhubarb starts in a plastic tub I’d filled to the top with water. “Over night” is the usual time you soak “bare root” starts, but I couldn’t imagine a week of soaking doing much to revive these specimens! I checked the next morning, decided to soak them 24 more hours. At the end of 24 hours, I checked for: 1. any sign of life, and, 2. any indication of which end was up because the starts, in the mummified state, didn’t give many clues. Both questions answered, at last! One end showed growth that suggested the top to me, even if the little shoots almost looked like roots.

Maybe another night’s soak would sort out the ambiguity….Which it did! The rooty-looking sprouts turned out to be the start of stalks. That’s all I need to plant the starts, which I did this morning after preparing the ground with lots of organic matter and rich, loamy garden soil, the way rhubarb likes it.

I told you this was about faith. It is! Gardening is an act of faith, a belief that working the soil to create a perfect environment for the flowers, fruits, and vegetables you like and want to grow will result in a harvest- in time, the Lord willing, and if you have faith, the other kind!