Tag Archives: garden

The Secret Life of Holes

The notorious "double hole"

The notorious “double hole”

This weekend my husband and I decided that the little barn needed a bit of sprucing up – specifically, a plant, larger than my perennials, to take care of a bit of naked lawn.  I don’t know why it didn’t seem naked until the little barn was built but, there you go – sometimes you just have to trust your aesthetic sense and go with it.

We spent the morning wandering around the local nursery debating the strengths and weaknesses of dogwoods, cherry trees and hydrangea.  The shrub expert there, patiently answered our questions and showed us various plants until he introduced us to the dogwood that we fell in love with and decided to adopt.

Of course adopting a tree requires a bit of preparation, namely, digging a spacious hole for it to spread its roots in.  The first task was to decide exactly where the hole should be.  We took turns holding a 20 foot board (I’m a visual person) in various places in the yard, standing back and seeing where the new tree should live.  We finally settled on the perfect spot and set about the chore of digging with optimism and shovels.

The hole needed to be about 24” deep and as I got closer to my goal, I was astounded that I only needed my husband’s muscle and the pry bar a couple of times to remove some nasty rocks.  This is the New Hampshire, the granite state, after all.

We took a break in the early afternoon to go for a walk and check out a local trout stream for next spring.  I decided that I still had enough energy to finish up the hole so that it would be ready for the delivery of its esteemed occupant.  At exactly 24” I hit a rock that I thought should be removed and called over the pry bar expert.  Right square in the middle of my beautiful, deep round hole was a rock the size of Vermont.

We tried to remove it.  We really did.  But when the pry bar sings that particular ringing song that means it has hit something immoveable and you can’t find soft soil around even the perimeters of the bottom your hole, even true stubborn New Englanders know that it is time to let the earth be what it is and to re-examine expectations and move the damn hole.

Our tree will find a lovely spacious new hole in the ground to wiggle its youthful roots in when it arrives.  It will grow into its home, spread out so that it too becomes a part of that secret world that hides underneath the sod.  We will enjoy its blossoms in the spring and its shade in the heat of summer.  It will be wonderful, albeit, slightly to the left of perfect.  After all, this is New Hampshire, the granite state.

Around 11

Sometime around 11

Sometime around 11

The sundial in my herb garden reads “around 11” in this photo I took the other day.  The time it reads depends on how careful I was at orienting the gnomon properly.  I suppose it could be more precise if I took my computer out and rotated the stand until the dial read exactly what the computer said – starting with the day of the week, the date, the hour, the minutes…..hmmmm….at least until the next rainstorm when the dial tips slightly in the rain.

Part of the pleasure of the structure of my “new life” is that time has because amorphous.  Days of the week are important because Saturday is the start of the weekend when my husband is home and Sunday is the day before he goes back to work.  Dates are important sometimes.  I have a paper calendar with wild animals on it that hangs in the kitchen.  I write down my doctor’s appointments, the day that some chore needs to be done, or dates with friends.  The hours on the days that I have marked are often important because doctors still follow their watches (although the guys who come to fix the furnace are not so prompt).

The rest of the time and days and weeks?  It’s not about time anymore.  These days, it’s about what I want to get done and who I want to see.  It is important that I finish picking the garden in the morning before it gets too hot.  It is more pleasurable to eat lunch when the shade from the trees out front hits the table and chairs in the yard.  The mail comes sometime after lunch so my walk to the mailbox is in the afternoon.

The sundial works perfectly for my new sense of time.  It is morning or afternoon or hmmmm…. S should be home from work soon or I wonder if the mail is here yet.  Time is much bigger and less precise.  It is harder to be on time and it is easier to get lost in time.  As the shadow moves around the dial, lengthening as the afternoon wears on, my days are filled with the experience of the day and not the marking of time.

 

What Do You Do?

New shelves inside the little barn

New shelves inside the little barn

How do I answer the question “What do you do?” in my new situation?  I can tell people that I am retired although I have a hard time making that word come out of my mouth.  The word retired seems too passive – to retire is to go to bed or withdraw, to retreat or remove oneself.  OK, I have removed myself from the trading time for money world but I certainly have not gone to bed or withdrawn from the world.  The word just seems to be loaded with images of sitting in the living room with my feet up waiting for someone to come visit me so that I will be entertained. 

No – that’s not what I am doing.

Someone offered “refocusing your life” but that seems odd also since I try not to spend my time focusing on my life but instead figuring out how to live each day.

One of the challenges for me has been the lack of routine that was so easy when I got up and went to work.  The clock was very important.  I had to be out of the house by 6:50 to beat the busses so that I could be at my desk at the appropriate time.  Lunchtime was 11:30 to avoid the long line of students and have a quiet table to eat with my co-workers.  There was always a small congregation around the coffee machine in the mid-afternoon where we chatted about our lives, our children, our spouses and the general state of the world.  5:00 was time to go home and try to fit in the personal living part of my life; the part that wasn’t attached to my paycheck.  Days at work looked very similar to each other.

Now my days are filled as I please and I am in charge of what I fill them with.  There are still the daily chores; the ones that I used to do on the weekends or in the evening – cooking dinner, laundry, and cleaning.  A small part of each day is used to “keep the house”.  The rest, I am figuring out.

My energy has been returning as I recover from 6 months of chemo.  The garden is always there and patiently lets me sit or weed as I please.  Last week, the little barn needed shelves.  This week the peaches are ripe.  I only focus on the clock now to see when my husband will arrive home from trading his time for money.

Rather than closing the aperture on my life’s lense to “refocus” on something other than work; it seems like it has opened up to its widest setting.  With this new time, there is also new possibility, there is new light and new energy.  I have only to imagine.

Back Among the Living

The Little Barn

The Little Barn

It’s been quite a summer, this summer of 2013.  I have a new shed dubbed the “Little Barn”.  I have pints and pints of pickles and dilly beans in the cupboard.  The garden is lush and producing as much as we can eat and I can process.  I spent a week on the coast of Maine with my new husband (oh ya – I got married…) and another week with my sister in the Maine woods.  I am officially retired or “re-focusing my life”.  It’s amazing what a bout with cancer will do to shake things up.

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last November.  Had surgery, 6 months of chemo and that, thank you very much, is enough of that, for now.  So – in case you were wondering where I have been – there you go.

I’m not sure where my writing will be taking me.  I am jumping in today with the first post in a long time because honestly, it’s too cold outside right now to pick the basil.  No promises here – just day by day.

Casualties of the Bittersweet Wars (Almost)

This is the arch after the birds have been saved and the bittersweet (at least temporarily) defeated.

I am at war with bittersweet.  This weekend I ripped it out of three blueberry plants, tore roots out of my raspberries and almost killed an entire family of robins by chopping it out of the archway that is the entrance to my garden.

To be honest, the first bittersweet vine in my yard is one that I planted.  Years ago, some friends had made me a beautiful arch for my birthday and decorated it with grapevines and tiny white lights and autumn leaves.  It looked incredible as the twinkly lights invited me into the garden.  The grapevines eventually rotted away and left the bones of the arch.  These are made from old iron fence posts and black plastic tubing.  It was not the most lovely feature in my yard.  I planted trumpet vine gifted from a friend’s garden on one side but it was taking a long time assert itself so, on the other side, I planted the bittersweet.  It grew like a weed.

It grew larger than the arch – it grew across the arch barring entry to the garden.  It grew 12 feet high and then bent down to grab me every time I walked near.  All of this rampant growth required me to arm myself with the clippers weekly and hack away at the aggressive tendrils.  The vines bloomed and fruited with those incredible red and orange berries that just scream AUTUMN! Then the birds ate the beautiful berries (I did make wreaths out of the lovely vines and berries and placed them in tempting spots for the birds).  Through their efficient digestive systems, the birds dropped the seeds all over my yard, planting dozens of vines wherever they perched.

Which brings me back to the present.  This summer I have been watching as a pair of robins nested in the bittersweet on the arch.   I hoped that the bird that Jack ate on my front step was not the mother robin (turns out he chose a different bird family to decimate).

And then, this weekend, I attacked the bittersweet and in a fit of irritation with the efficiency of Mother Nature, forgot all about the nest and hacked down the branches where their home was built and scattered 5 baby robins across my lawn.

Horrified, I did the best that I could to carefully lift the babies back into their nest and prop the remaining bits of bittersweet branches up against the fence where they were in direct eyesight of that feline terror – Jack.  I felt guilty and sad and worried as the parents screamed at me and finally, later that day started feeding their family again.

This was by no means a permanent solution.  The nest was wide open to any and all predators that might wander by including my sweet, adorable kitties with their sharp claws and large teeth.  I let the parents have their temporary home overnight.  The next morning, my partner and I cut the nest out of the wilting bittersweet and carefully placed it into the trumpet vine that remained on the arch.  Then we got out of the way and waited for the parents to once again find the constantly moving nest.

The picture you see here is of the vine that now holds the nest.   The nest is in there (really!) and Mom and Dad robin have found their babies and are busily feeding them in their new home.  All seem well despite my efforts to wipe out the entire family. Thank goodness for the persistence of good parenting and partners who understand the importance of averting crisis!

This is my partner in crime, having helped save the bird family and finished his martini, he is scoping the magazine pages for our next great meal – what a guy….

Runaway Bunny – A Eulogy

Sometime in the spring I looked out of my kitchen window and saw a rabbit.  Rabbits are an unusual sight in my area.  I just don’t see them that often and having one grazing in the middle of my lawn in the middle of the morning, is just plain odd.  I stealthily moved from my window view to the front door, opened it quietly and slowly snuck out into the herb garden.  From there I could see it was a small rabbit, greyish, with tiny ears.  It took a look at me and went back to eating.  I moved closer.  It stayed where it was and continued with its breakfast.  This rabbit was used to human company.

After an entertaining hour where my son and I tried to capture the rabbit (I do have a garden and rabbits are voracious vegetarians) where we tried to corner it in the woodshed, capture it with a rake, and toss a tarp over the elusive thing, I gave up and decided that I could use the company in the garden more than the occasional leaf of kale that he ate.

One day during the summer, my sister and I caught him.  We snuck up on him while he hid under the tomato plants.  She distracted him from one side of the bed and I grabbed him from the other.  As I held him, I felt his heart pounding wildly while he snuggled into my chest.  It felt like he wanted to be close to me while trying to overcome his fear.  His fur was rough and hard as though he had had it spiked with gel.  Along his backbone the stiff hair was beginning to fall out, leaving soft black fur that was pleasant to stroke.  I held him for a short time and let him go near the broccoli where he nibbled on the leaves.

I was worried that he would destroy my garden.  I expressed my fear to my son who replied that it was time to either “shoot him, or name him”.  We started to call him “RB” for Runaway Bunny.

All summer as I weeded and harvested, RB kept me company.  He stayed at a cordial distance, always close enough so that we could share each other’s presence and far enough to be sure never to be caught again.  I talked to him in the morning as I visited my plants and I looked for him in the evening when it was his habit to nap under the peach tree.

My son left for college and I continued to check in with RB every day.

Last week there was a chill in the air as I sat in the yard enjoying an apple with my sister and a friend. The leaves were in full autumn color and it was a glorious sunny day.   Jack, my black and white yearling cat was crouched, tail twitching.  He was obviously on the hunt.  He darted across the yard and from a cloud of dust and leaves, emerged with RB in his teeth.  Jack had him by the throat and was carrying him like a lioness carries an impala, furry bunny body between Jack’s front legs.  I tried to catch Jack, to rescue RB, but he was determined that RB was to be his prize of the day.

Jack finally let go and RB ran under a tarp in the yard where I was allowed to pick him up.  His fur was thick and black, the spikiness had been shed over the summer.  He lay limp and resigned in my arms.

I put RB in a small cage, fed him some of my kale and started to look for a home for him.  RB died the next day.  I don’t know if it was a physical injury that I couldn’t see, if his heart gave out from the trauma of the attack, or if he just lost all hope in the tiny cage after a summer of freedom in my garden.

I wrote to my son to let him know that RB had died and that I was feeling sadder than I had imagined I would.  He wrote back “That’s too bad about bunny but he was kind of a miracle anyways.  Just think of it as a good story”.

Yes, he was kind of a miracle.  My first summer as a single parent, my son involved in his own life, planning for college, and this little furry being appeared out of nowhere to keep me company.  He kept his distance, allowing me to feel the quiet of my new life but he was always there to remind me that I wasn’t alone.  He visited with me in the garden because it was what he wanted.  He chose my yard, my garden, my company.  He was a reminder to me that a life lived in freedom is a life worth living even if it is dangerous and perhaps short.  I’m glad I let him go that day earlier in the summer.  I’m glad that he got to live like a wild bunny for the months that we shared.

I am sad that he is gone and I will miss him.  He and I shared a slice of our lives this summer.  And of course, he gave me this story.