Before You Know It

Time goes so fast! The fun thing I’ve been looking forward to for months, the hike in the Grand Canyon, is only six days away. I know from experience that it will only be a short time and I will be looking back on it and wondering how it could be over already.

While believing (strongly) in living “in the moment”, I also love to plan ahead, and I enjoy remembering good things from the past. So to alleviate my disappointment on having one adventure end, I like to have one always cooking for the future. I’ve picked my next enjoyable, spring activity! I’m already excited about the summer garden.

I love gardening. Almost everything about it is fun for me. Even if nothing were to grow (this has never happened) I just enjoy being out in the dirt, spending time in the sun, watching bugs and birds, loving on my plants. I know plants are not people and they don’t have feelings (not actually sure of that, but…). However, they do respond to good, thoughtful care which makes them seem kind of like people.

And so, I like to think about what plants will be in my garden, what kind of soil will be prepared for them, how I will keep other plants (weeds) from competing with them, and all that kind of stuff. I like to buy seeds and starter plants. I like to watch the garden grow from its early stage to being full of greenery and fruitful. I like to keep the edges neat.  Experimenting is allowed and there is always something new to try.

My brother Dennis says hi.

This year there will be a new garden location. My brother has chosen a plot in his yard, close to a water source and has it all worked up. There were a lot of grass clumps in the topsoil so he is tilling it up every couple of days to dry them out and hopefully kill the roots. I can already imagine being out there laying out the rows, mulching, getting dirty.

I’ll enjoy the hike thoroughly and concentrate on it while I’m there, but thankfully, I am a good multi-tasker and will probably have a thought or two about the garden while I’m trying to fall asleep, on the hard ground, in my tent… just sayin’.   

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things O

Orchids

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You have to love these cute little faces. Seriously, look closely at them!

The first one for me was in high school, probably it was at the prom. It came in a clear plastic box and was so ornate, almost bizarre looking, that I could hardly believe it was a real flower. It was delicate green with dark burgundy stripes and it lasted for a whole week in the refrigerator before it started to decompose. It was an orchid.

One of the best things about life in Florida is that orchids will grow here, outside, unattended for the most part. Of course, they do better when cared for, but even I with my frequent lapses in attention to my plants, even I can keep orchids alive. April is a very good month for orchids. They bloom and stay beautiful for weeks.

Here are some pictures of my favorites. I get to see them every day, hanging in the pergola outside my dining room window.

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these deep purple ones are some of my favorites

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I bought this orchid having not seen it in bloom.  I waited for a whole year before coming out one morning and seeing this flower stalk – not at all what I expected.  Since then, it has bloomed every spring and looks like this

 

 

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My surprise orchid in full bloom.

A neighbor has an “orchid wall” and I use it as an example of what they can look like when they are carefully tended.

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I wonder if other people stand outside her house and stare like I do…? Creepy

Anyone else have a favorite flower this spring?

#atozchallenge: Pineapple

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I don’t do anything to deserve the many pretty pineapple plants (couldn’t resist the alliteration) growing in my yard.  They are such a forgiving plant.  I started with fresh pineapples from the store, once long ago, and have not bought very many since then.  The tops get cut off and if they are laid on the ground where they can touch soil, they will find a way to root themselves and survive.  They have a life cycle of about 18 months, so depending on when you plant, you can expect some to be coming ripe every 6 months. Right now I am seeing most of my next batch slightly past the flowering stage.  A few are big enough to be ready probably in June or July.  I do not water or weed, although I’m sure the harvest would be better if I did.

The taste of homegrown is exceptional – I rarely find pineapple in the stores that tastes as good.  As they begin to mature they turn yellow, little by little, and become fragrant.  This is when the critters in my yard start to gnaw on them.  I haven’t figured out how to protect the plants yet although I’ve tried a lot of things (wrapping them in cloth, putting cages over them, making sleeves out of plastic milk jugs…  nothing works).  I’m not even sure who the culprits are, but likely squirrels or rats.  Because I have so many plants, probably 3 or 4 dozen, I usually get enough for us to eat.  But I have to be diligent.  Nothing is more disgusting than watching a nice, big pineapple approach picking time and then on the day I go out to pick it, it is half eaten or lying on the ground picked clean.

This is what I’m getting when I eat my pineapples.  They are high in vitamin C, and B complex vitamins. They have some vitamin A as well.  They have a proteolytic enzyme, bromelain, which is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and anti-cancer substance.  They have a large dose of fruit pectin which is a soluble dietary fiber.  Round it out with good amounts of minerals – especially copper, manganese and potassium.

I just enjoy having my own mini-plantation of pineapples.

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McMaster Carr and other helpers

I am taking a break this noon while my pain killers take hold.  It is yard clean-up day week.  Let me introduce you to McMaster Carr who has helped me in my job.

Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.
Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.

McMaster Carr is a company that makes and sells virtually everything that other things are made from – every little tube, bolt, bushing, wheel, piece of metal, plastic, rubber or glass that you can think of.  Every year they send out this huge, six inch thick catalog, of which I have three.  I use them for various purposes, most having to do with how well they weight things down.  But today I discovered that they make excellent fire starters.  I have enough paper to start my recreational fires (I have to call them that – explain later) for the rest of my life and probably the first few years of eternity.  Fires are an important part of my clean up, or at least they are fun.

I started yesterday and quickly got overwhelmed with all that had to be trimmed and taken out of the way before I could even mow in the oneacrewoods.  Things got a little out of hand, you might say, over the summer.  But I did make a little bit of progress and  decided to adjust my attitude.  I’ll not be overwhelmed, I’ll just work at it real hard for a week and then it will be winter and most things will go dormant, I hope.  I can do this.

This is awful.
This is awful.

This is awful too.
This is awful too.

This is trying to get better, but it's still awful.
This is trying to get better, but it’s still awful.

I’ve pretty much stopped trying to grow food, unless you count the pineapples that I grow for the unnamed animal who eats most of them. And I’ve kind of stopped trying to grow anything ornamental, unless it volunteers.  I can keep completely busy just deciding what I will not allow to grow and removing it. Really, that’s all I do now is take things out and burn them.  Now you know why fires are so important.

God knew what he was doing when he put the first people in a garden.  There aren’t many things as satisfying as takiing something as beautiful as nature, and then organizing and cleaning it up a bit.  Nature can go a certain distance toward keeping herself beautiful and there are some fine examples of that in the oneacrewoods, but it’s often every plant for itself and that can get wicked.  Someone, me, has to be in charge and keep peace between them.  God called it “dressing and keeping” – good description.

Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way...
Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way…

My other helpers are various rusting implements, bought at garage sales and held together with duct tape, several tarps that I use to pull debris from one place to another, and my Toro mower (the one piece of equipment that I brag about here). Without this stuff, well, we don’t need to go to that dark place…

This year I’m going to take pictures after I’m done and hope I can see how much better the yard looks. I have to add that a couple weeks ago when I was outside on the driveway an oak tree threw a fairly large limb at me and barely missed. I’m just saying, I sometimes wonder if plants have a different perspective on my activities.  But, I’m not ready to call it war yet.

This is what I do to tree limbs that don't stay put, grrr!
This is what I do to tree limbs that don’t stay put, grrr!

Don’t We All Have a Favorite Machine?

Florida. Spring. Getting warm but the tropical rains haven’t started yet so everything outside gets pretty dry in between showers, in between days when we are allowed to irrigate.  The grass (and in my case, the weeds) know it’s growing season though and already mowing needs to be done about every five or six days.  Mowing is a dirty, dusty job but I do it because I am a farm girl at heart, and this is as close to the land as I get in my present situation.

Machine love....
Machine love….

I am also a fan of tractors (at length in this post  ) and this wonderful machine, which is as close to a tractor as Iget in my present situation is my favorite ride.  It almost always starts when I turn the key, it holds enough fuel to mow the oneacrewoods, it turns on a dime with very little effort, the seat is comfy and it has cup holders which I don’t use but they are a nice touch.  The zero turn concept is really cool once you get used to it – almost like the way you move your body.  I mow a mean swath, not to brag, just a fact.

My last mowing session, however, almost did me in. The air became so thick with leaf dust and dirt that I had to go in the house to clean my eyes out and get some fresh air.  I decided to don “the costume” which I usually skip. Masks of all kinds make me feel claustrophobic but this kind of mowing calls for extreme measures.  The fact that I can breathe and see outweighs the shame of looking like a panic stricken alien flying around in clouds of dust.

All this to say that if I didn’t love this machine so much I would  probably consider hiring someone to do this job for me, like maybe a real alien.

Me in my hazmat face gear.  Fighting panic....
Me in my hazmat face gear. Fighting panic….

Today’s Marvel, Sunday January 18, 2015

There are times when I feel so glued to the screen. When both of “my devices” are busy notifying, flashing messages and asking for my attention, it begins to feel like I can’t get enough.  I get almost obsessed with staying in touch.  Time to get outside and touch some real things.

Even though it’s Florida and we hardly ever get a freeze, I like to bring my orchids in for the winter. Every couple weeks I take them back out and spray them down, give them a good drink.  That’s what I did today. I was surprised how many of them have bloom stalks that will soon be flowers, in addition to those already blooming.  Taking care of my plants is part of the joy of having them – it is SO an antidote to computer paralysis.  They are a dose of fresh beauty right from the hand of God.

Here are my beauties, and the marvel of the day is at the end.  I think he lives there permanently.

just look at their cute faces...
just look at their cute faces…

these deep purple ones are some of my favorites
these deep purple ones are some of my favorites

Their thick healthy roots really anchor them
Their thick healthy roots really anchor them

...and my little marvel.
…and my little marvel.

Beep, beep, boop?

What?  Who did this? To those of you reading who are not also bloggers, I will explain.  One of the latest updates to WordPress, my blog host, includes a cute little “beep, beep, boop” message wiggling around in the center of a blank screen for a few seconds after certain commands are instituted.  It’s a thing to look at while you’re waiting.  Evidently someone thought that us bloggers would lose interest and wander off if we didn’t have something new to look at for three seconds while our post is being published.  I’d like to meet the originator of this idea and try to figure them out. I’m always amazed at the things people will think to do.  Actually, sometimes I’m also amazed at the things people don’t think to do – the old rule, never say never,  applies equally to never say always. Both good things to remember.

This last week, every time I sat down at the computer I lost interest and wandered off.  One day I didn’t even turn the thing on.  But that’s ok.  A week of inactivity online doesn’t bother me much and gives me the opportunity to write about what I have been into while I haven’t been writing.

– Equate extra strength Headache Relief,  for the headache that doesn’t seem to want to quit.  Although I’m probably not doing my stomach any favors, I’m grateful for the four or five hours of relief and super wakefulness that I get from swallowing a couple pills.

Hello headache, my old friend...
Hello headache, my old friend…

– Intraocular injections (shot in the eyeball), for the eye problem that was dramatically improved, in the doctor’s own words.  I’m grateful that it’s working and that I don’t have to get another one for five weeks, although I am getting used to everything about them (except the cost…)

the back of my eye
the back of my eye

– Childcare, for several of my yòoung friends who I realize I’ve been missing.  How come you guys can grow up in what seems like no time at all? Gracie, Lydia, Josh, Zeke, Shiloh – grateful for time spent with you that makes me feel younger even while I marvel at you getting older.  I’m troubled by the fact that I’ve never played X-box.  Is that weird?

Childcare for her, adult care for me...
Childcare for her, adult care for me…

– Old letters and old files, for the urge to purge and to organize. Lots of stuff has been burned or shredded, but lots else has been rediscovered and readied for the next project, memoir writing.  I’ve always been alarmed by my lack of memory for details of the past.  Not only did I forget all those details, but I forgot that I’d written them down in letters to others.  This morning, reading letters written to my mother ten years ago, all I could think was “Really, I did that?” and “Did some other person’s life sneak into my letters?”  Grateful for the written record of the past.

I'm more prolific than I remembered.
I’m more prolific than I remembered.

– Appliance shopping, because the washer and dryer that have wanted to leave my house for years, finally broke free.  Grateful that within hours of starting to shop for replacements I came across a used set that is probableyten years younger.  After only one session with the furniture dolly, the truck, the hoses, wrenches and plumbing tape, they are installed in my laundry room and functioning almost correctly.  The printed message under the temp dial that says “all rinses are cold only” really means they are scalding hot only.  I think I know how we can fix that.

the Laundry twins, Hi and Dri
the Laundry twins, Hi and Dri

– Air travel websites, for the supposed improvement of doing it yourself.  Instead of calling a knowledgeable person and telling them when and where I want to travel I can now spend hours online hunting for the best connection at the best price.  And American Express Delta Frequent Flyer card, how dare you revoke the companion ticket feature without telling me.  Planning my revenge…

Did. Not. Happen.
Did. Not. Happen.

– the garden that was, the heat that is, that yard that will be.  Grateful for the healing work that takes place in me when I’m outdoors.  Grateful for green things, if they’re plants – not, if they’re worms.

Good green
Good green

Bad green
Bad green

 

– Face time, with friends and family who care.  I am realizing that the purpose and value of life is all in the relationships I find and nurture.  Realizing also that God is that friend and that family member who makes it all possible.  Having less work away from home has given me more time to nurture the relationship with him and I am so grateful for that.  Gives me some precious times of discovery, comfort, peace and excitement. Arlette and I took a lovely walk yesterday and talked of all these things.

Nature walk with my friends Arlette and God.
Nature walk with my friends Arlette and God.

 

My friend Arlette (and maybe God too, on her left)
My friend Arlette (and maybe God too, on her left)

Things I Put Off: Episode 2

Busy people (like me) are able to procrastinate in pretty nearly every area of life. Cutting back on my work schedule allows me the opportunity to look for these “put off” things and experience the wonderful satisfaction of getting them done after months of having them on the “to do” list.  If you have never gone through this cycle you are missing out.

Having made great headway scheduling my “every 7 year” physical exam, this morning I turned to the oneacrewoods, which has been… well, neglected at best.  If you don’t love nature, gardening, dirt and sweat go read somewhere else right now because you won’t understand.

It’s the compost bin.  The compost bin is where you can put all your vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, leaves, etc… in the hope of making new, rich soil.  Presumably you are making this soil to put somewhere else where the ground needs improvement.  However, if you never do anything but put stuff in the bin, there is not much point in doing it. Ideally it should be fluffed up, turned over and watered once in a while too but I never get around to that.  And because I have such a big yard I actually have two compost bins to play with. Lately they have been looking full.  I can’t remember that last time I emptied them.  It’s a nasty job.

Did you know that cockroaches fly? Did you know that some of them are actually white like albinos? They love, love, love compost piles and when disturbed they take off in flying, jumping swarms to find some new place to hide (up a pant leg, under a shirt collar, in hair, aaaghh!)  I have absolutely no cockroaches in my house and I think it’s because I provide this much more favorable place for them to live.  I think of it as pest control.

I chopped and shoveled through both my bins (after the roaches left) and there was some pretty good soil in there.  I added it to my small garden area which is fallow – fancy word for nothing growing in it – because we are already in the hot season here. Lots of things do grow in this season but not many traditional vegetables. I’m preparing for September when it cools off.  One more thing off my list, and truly, it was so beautiful outside this morning that I didn’t even mind the roaches, much.

 

Compost bins after being emptied.  No "before" shot - too gross.
Compost bins after being emptied. No “before” shot – too gross.

New, rich soil layer on this bed.
New, rich soil layer on this bed.

Pineapples are about the only thing growing now that we can eat.
Pineapples are about the only thing growing now that we will be able to eat.

Lessons from The Natural World

The Natural World

I could feel the blisters coming up, but I couldn’t stop.

We have a beautiful tree in our yard, a somewhat rare tropical Kapok tree.  It’s very tall, having grown up in a grove of oak trees – it had to go up to get the sun.  Most of the year we don’t pay much attention to it, other than to admire the trunk.

What  a beautiful trunk you have!
What a beautiful trunk you have!

But in the spring it flowers, and for two to three weeks  the ground below is showered with the red blooms.  These are not like the delicate white dogwood  flower but the type that will put a dent in your car should it happen to land there. We put a parking area under this tree. What were we thinking?!

big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage
big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage

The mat of squishy, slippery rotting vegetation is hard to walk on or drive on and it creates a brown, moldy looking paste that is death to a car’s paint job.

Die, paint job, die.
Die, paint job, die.

I was considering all this while raking the debris into heavy piles of “stuff” and my usual outdoor thought surfaced.  What is nature teaching me? Could it be that we are all parked in places in our lives where “stuff” is falling on us that is damaging us? I had no trouble connecting that to some relationally toxic environments that I’ve been in lately.  And I had just read a blog post about dealing with self-absorbed people who drop words and thoughts on others without awareness of the effects.

I’m not exactly proud that this was my first evaluation of the nature flower bomb situation, because the next place my thinking went proved more valuable.  What if I am the tree?  What’s happening to the people who are parked in my vicinity during the hours and days of my life? What kind of clean-up chores are necessary after I’ve been around?  Now there was food for thought.  It gave me a whole new perspective on spending an afternoon doing crafts with a child, or taking time to shop for my quadriplegic client, or the contacts with people in my study group.  There are a lot of people “parked” under my tree of influence and I can make decisions on how I affect them, for good or bad.

Yes, the blisters are there.  On other days, it’s a sore back, or a sunburn or just being dog-tired.  Is it worth it? I say yes, as I look at the results – a clean drive and parking area and new incentive to interact in a better way with my friends and neighbors on planet earth .  Surrounded by trees, plants, sky, dirt and fresh air we open ourselves to hear some really valuable messages.  I’m just  sayin’, whoever created the natural world had a really good idea and today I get it.

Dirt

I have noticed that I feel so good after spending a day outside working in the yard, and I’ve decided it’s the dirt. Therapeutic dirt. I always make sure I have a lot of contact with it – wear my sandals and shorts, and somehow manage to get smudges from head to toe.

Today’s dirt was AMAZING stuff.  Two years ago it was a huge leaf pile and now it is all broken down, dark brown with nice fat earthworms crawling through it.  It grows healthy looking weeds, which I pulled out and put in next year’s compost pile.

In Florida it’s the time of year to plant the spring garden.  At the vegetable stand where I get the weekly fresh things for our meals, they also had tomato plants so I decided to get some instead of growing my own.  An interesting aside – the stand is at our church and is “donation only” for whatever you want to pay and goes to the orphan homes in Cambodia that I visit. I call that a win-win transaction when I can support my special kids and get something to eat at the same time.  I know the farmer who supplies it and he farms very successfully. Bet his tomato plants are going to do wonderful things for me this season.

So I pulled my earthboxes to the only sunny spot I could find in the oneacrewoods.  It happens to be right near the fence line.  The neighbor has cut down a lot of his trees and has a much sunnier yard than I do and some of the light sneaks through to my side of the fence.  I think that my somewhat “iffy” results from the gardening I do is because there is so much shade.  Good for keeping cool, bad for growing plants.

The other outside chore for today was harvesting my carrots.  They have been growing for a whole year and are pitiful.  This is what happens when you don’t thin out the seedlings.  I’ve never been able to get carrots to germinate in my Florida gardens so I was really excited about all the fluffy greenery and couldn’t bear to pull any of it out.  This is probably why they are so small after a whole year! (could also be the shade, or the inconsistent watering, or the general inattention they received).

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So, other than the fact that some bug is eating all the leaves off my strawberry plants, things are looking much better in the garden today. And I feel great.