Archives for category: Roses

I’m in a strange headspace this morning. It’s a long weekend. My anniversary with my Traveling Partner coming up. 11 years married. 🙂 Worth celebrating. Where would life have taken me if I had not taken this path? I don’t know, and never will know; it is the path I took, and the path I travel now. I’m okay with that.

The headlines in the news are pretty grim. Every day more terrible news about the war in Ukraine. Nearly as often some terrible family killing or murder-suicide or mass shooting or femicide or report of a child killing someone with a gun left too easily accessible is the story of the moment. If you’re reading the news in America, you’ve likely got a news feed filled with violence. It’s fairly shameful that this is who we are. (Oh sure, “not all Americans…”, but we vote, and we put the people in power who do nothing to make the changes we need to keep people safe and free. We each have a chance to do better.)

So, today I sip my coffee. I figure I’ll help out today by not killing anyone, by refraining from acts of violence against others, by embracing calm and contentment and making merry with my partner. I’ll treat passing strangers kindly and with courtesy. If I run an errand, I’ll drive gently and considerately, and I’ll refrain from flipping off stray asshats who drive like they own the fucking road and have nowhere to go other drivers. Choices. I’ll do better, myself. It’s a place to start.

The seedlings on my windowsill are doing well. Promising. New life. Fresh vegetables grown at home. 🙂 I’m excited to have “a real garden”, although admittedly I begin every gardening adventure with maximum enthusiasm and commitment and I acknowledge the variable outcomes. lol I think my own best previous gardens were the balcony garden I had in my first apartment with my Traveling Partner (herbs and roses, and later some wonderful tomatoes), and the garden I had in the garden at #59. That one was lovely – just steps away from my apartment, with water right there easily available. I grew tomatoes, carrots, and some salad greens, that I recall were delicious, but bolted quickly in the summer heat.

I rarely took pictures of my vegetable garden, and the few pictures I had were lost when #59 was burglarized (my laptop was stolen). So… here’s a squirrel visiting my container garden on the patio there.

I sip my coffee and think about my parent’s garden when I was growing up and still living at home. At the time, I felt like an involuntary laborer most weekends. The whole family would have breakfast, usually my Dad would cook. Then we’d all go out and work in the garden in the mid-morning, on weekend mornings. It was a lot of weeding, as I recall. As kids we didn’t do much of the heavy work, or planning. I had my own 4″x4″ square plot to call my own, too. I rather foolishly planted it in Jerusalem artichokes, which thrived beyond my wildest expectations, filling the bed and coming back year after year. lol Why was that a problem? No one in my family ate them. LOL There’s something to be learned there.

…There’s almost always something to be learned…

My Traveling Partner is making me a raised bed for our front yard. I’ve planned it modestly – a manageable size that I can count on myself to take care of. I’ve outlined an “L” shape that will “nest” within the edges of the flower beds, and give about a 30 inch (about 72 centimeters) walkway between the flower beds and the raised bed. I’m excited about it! It’s a very sunny spot, well-suited to growing food. The grow bags in the back are excellent for cooler weather vegetables and things that like a bit of shade during the heat of the day. I like having both. It’s not a lot of square footage in this new bed – just 20 sq ft, but I know I can manage that comfortably without help, and that matters. I get about 3 sq ft out of each grow bag (of the size I have), and the four of those give me another 12 sq ft of growing space. 32 sq ft doesn’t sound like a lot of garden, but it’s the most I’ve had since the 20 ft x 20 ft community garden plots I had back in the very early 00’s. I had two of those; they were completely beyond my ability to manage them, but I hung on to them year after year, puttering around and playing at gardening without much to show for it. I don’t think we ever actually ate any produce from my own garden there (it was mostly herbs, roses, and flowers). My greed overcame my ability. There’s something to be learned there.

So, this time, I am hoping I’ve found the right balance between ability and will, between sunshine and shade, between yearning and having, and even between vegetables and flowers. I’ve learned some things. I’m sure there’s more to learn. There almost always is.

I find myself thinking about my parents, their garden, and the things that motivated so many of their choices and practices. Their garden was not “just for fun” – they fed us from that garden. We often didn’t have a lot of cash resources, and were not “wealthy”. In fact, I’m fairly certain we were “poor” by many definitions of that word, but that garden fed us and it fed us well. It set my expectations of what vegetables taste like way too high to eat supermarket produce and be happy with that (it often tastes almost flavorless without a lot of seasonings). I miss those flavors! My parents were not “doomsday preppers” or serious survivalists, but my Dad had an interest in survival, bushcraft, and the practical details of life without “extras”. He hunted, and we ate game. I grew rabbits, and we ate those, too. We fished, and crabbed, and ate our catch. The house we lived in was in quite an ordinary residential neighborhood, crammed pretty close to other houses, but we explored the countryside through family visits elsewhere, and trips to see my Dad’s friends out in the rural areas of the state. Most of the backyard was garden. We had a complete set of the Foxfire books and I read them eagerly. There were often evening conversations at the dinner table (or in the kitchen or by the fireplace in the winter or outside while working on a project together) about “what if…?” – What if the power grid failed? What if we use up all the oil? What if there were a new ice age? What if there were a serious drought? What if there were a major food shortage? What would we do to live, survive, and thrive… if? We were encouraged to really consider it, and to develop useful skills.

I have my doubts that anyone is truly “self-sufficient”. We are interdependent, each of us contributing something to a larger whole. Family, community, workplace… it’s not just one person standing in a garden, selecting that perfect ripe tomato. Where did the seed come from? The garden tools – were those hand-crafted individually by that gardener? The water… what is the source? How much of what is being used in the garden has to be purchased elsewhere? I sip my coffee and think about self-sufficiency vs interdependence. I think about “what if”… and wonder what my own life might be like if I suddenly found myself without electricity. What if there was none to be had? (“Generators!” Sure, sure …and when the fuel runs out..?) I slide contentedly down this rabbit hole on a sunny morning, as a rather large gray cat makes his way along the fence beyond my window.

A stranger passing by, curious about what I’m up to on my side of the window.

I call out to my Traveling Partner to come look at the hefty visitor making his way along the fence so carefully. I haven’t seen this cat before. He moves on; he has things to do, clearly, and no time to waste on us.

Today I’ll finish cleaning up the aquarium and put it up for sale with all it’s parts. I’ve been slow to finish this project, less out of reluctance or sorrow than avoiding the effort involved. I’ve been working at it a bit at a time, but now the time has come to finish it off and get it gone, and reclaim that space for other purposes. Here, too, there’s something to be learned.

…There’s almost always more to learn. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Progress is progress – even in small barely noticeable steps. Incremental change over time says nothing about the size of the increments, or the length of the timeframe. Your growth, change, and forward progress in life are yours to pursue, to limit, to choose, to determine, to embrace or resist… No one else really gets to tell you how, when, or why to take a particular step on your path. Doesn’t stop folks from trying, sometimes, or thinking themselves in some way the moderator of your experience.

(One note, before you jump ahead, I’m not presently considering experiences such as childhood, incarceration, or military life, all of which do indeed include a considerable amount of one’s time being “told what to do”, for reasons outside the parameters of this discussion; this is not about that.)

I woke early this morning, a sunny, somewhat chilly Sunday. I woke feeling rested and eager to embrace the day. Feels good. A hot shower, meditation, and my first coffee were enjoyed without waking my still-sleeping Traveling Partner. Instead of bustling about on housekeeping chores or gardening (that would require rattling some things on the deck to get at tools and such), I head out for a short walk and to pick up donuts, hoping to start my partner’s day well. I arrived home to find out that he woke with a severe headache, and a request to be very gentle with him this morning. My greeting is quiet and less boisterous than usual when I open the front door; headaches suck.

We enjoy coffee together and hang out for a few minutes. Pleasant and agreeable moments, shared, are a lovely way to begin a sunny Spring morning. 😀

The garden begins to take shape.

I sit down here with thoughts of gardening and a smile. I’m eager to face even tasks like weeding this year. My vision of our garden is slowly coming together, just as our life here in our own home takes shape a bit at a time. It’s lovely. I wrote myself a gardening “mission statement” for this year’s endeavors (a suggestion by Huw Richards that I found especially helpful for focus and a sense of purpose).

To connect the garden to the kitchen through beautiful edible landscape, and create an oasis of flowers for passing butterflies, hummingbirds, and artistic inspiration.

I reflect on this each morning (and weekend) when I consider what to do next, and how I want to see the garden develop – and what matters most about each plant and seed. The thoughts feel more connected with each other, and I have been less prone to just going nuts with new plants that won’t thrive, or vegetables with cool pictures that I won’t actually eat, or may not be well-suited to the growing conditions here. It’s also helped me refine my thoughts about questions regarding raised beds, additional trees, and placement of objects – all things I sometimes tend to be rather haphazard about, resulting in unsatisfying chaos, and unmanageable workload for the likely return on my time and effort.

I have seedlings coming up in grow bags outside. Seedlings coming up in seed trays on the windowsill in my studio. Seedlings coming up in the front flower beds. Recently planted herb plants establishing themselves in the front beds are thriving – all but the pineapple sage, which I can tell has not been happy about the unexpectedly frosty handful of recent mornings. Looks like it will bounce back, though. I purchased some additional seeds for later sowings, with the eventual return of winter in mind. Planning ahead will ideally mean I am never scrambling to complete the next seasonal task. Somehow having this small “seed bank” of open-pollinated, organic, (often heirloom) selection of seeds that don’t have patent-protecting limitations on reproduction has me feeling more prepared for potentially worsening supply chain issues that may make buying produce challenging. It may be an illusion, but… I like having a garden. I like feeling secure. Having seeds on hand feels good. The time and consideration of each choice – and each source – feels well-spent.

Seeds – the planting, the nurturing, the harvesting of the results – are a fond metaphor, for me. So much of life’s quality is in that “we reap what we sow” sort of place. The idea that “we get out of it what we put into it” appeals to me. I think it is likely a bit more accurate to observe that regardless of circumstances, how we deal with those circumstances is key to the outcome over time and our subjective experience of living our lives. Sometimes the circumstances are garbage. Sometimes “the hand we’re dealt” is pretty fucking crappy. We don’t always choose the shores on which we stand – but we get to choose the direction in which we proceed, do we not? 🙂 So… planting a seed is a small beginning on a new adventure – what we do once that seed is planted has a lot to do with how things turn out, once the fruits of our labor begin to ripen. I sip my coffee and follow the threads of this favorite metaphor as I look out the window to the pear tree beyond the fence, and the small bright yellow bird looking back at me. (I think it is a Yellow Warbler…)

I make a couple notes about things I want to do today, out in the sunshine… place a couple lovely large river rocks that were once part of my aquarium decor… tie the pea trellis more firmly… check in with my Traveling Partner regarding potentially adding a raised bed out front… weeding (and sketching & photographing weeds for later identification)… it’s a lovely morning to plant a seed – and begin again. ❤

Springtime is flowers, morning coffees on lazy Saturdays, sunny mornings that still feel too chilly to take my coffee out to the deck… and seasonal allergies. Yeesh. These fragile meat suits we wrap ourselves in to tackle this mortal lifetime are annoyingly prone to stuffy heads and sneezes.

The pollen count is high. Trees are blooming. My Traveling Partner’s Spring allergies are going absolutely nuts. Mine are not so bad, but they crop up in Spring. There’s some particular tree… I’m not sure which one. It isn’t all of them, and it’s a brief period in the season, for me. I know other people whose seasonal allergies associated with pollen are all Spring, all of the summer, and right into autumn when the last of blooming things gets done with blooming. My mother didn’t care for flowers, much, her allergies were pretty bad. I could – for most of my life – bury my face in flowers loaded with Spring pollen and have no reaction other than pure delight in their fragrance. That’s less true now, than it was then, but my allergies are nothing like his. As I said… there’s a particular tree. It happens to grow plentifully in our community here… whatever it is. LOL

Blue skies and flowers; it’s Spring.

I’m not really bitching about my allergies. They’re not that bad. Maybe you’ve got it much worse? If so, it may dull the shine of Spring for you, and if so, you have my sympathy, and my well-wishes: I hope you find relief. Allergies suck. If you’re among the ludicrously robust and strong-of-constitution, be kind to those who suffer. Just saying, the suffering is very real.

I see the sunny day beyond the neighbor’s fence. There are two pear trees and a cherry tree in my neighbor’s yard. They’re blooming. It’s quite lovely. There is so much I love about Spring. I’ve been watching a lot of gardening content on YouTube. By far my favorite gardening content, at least right now, is from a UK gardener named Huw Richards. His climate is rather similar to the climate here in McMinnville in most regards. His philosophy and practical approach suit my own inclinations. I’ve got a much smaller space, but the basics are the basics – are they not? I bought his book. lol It’s excellent with my morning coffee on a Spring morning.

What can I say? I like books.

I spent a portion of yesterday’s sunshine out in the garden, planting kitchen herbs in the front flower beds. I’m not personally a fan of the American “standard Pleasant Valley Sunday suburban curb appeal landscaping” that is so common in suburban communities and neighborhoods. I know, it’s a template that’s easy to work from, but omg – so lazy, and unpleasantly homogenous! I get that developers building a community of homes to sell to consumers would want to be easily (and cheaply) able to purchase and plant the necessary landscape, but for fucks’ sake would it really be that hard to provide some variety? In the case of this little house of ours, it’s easy to point back at the developer although the house is 18 years old; it was clear that most of the landscaping was wholly original, never altered by the previous owner. He wasn’t a gardening sort. lol (I’m sure the handful of recently-added primroses in the flower beds was something the realtor thought of to prepare the house for sale.) Now, a couple cycles of seasons has passed, and I’ve got a sense of where I’d like to take this garden… it’s time to get to work out there!

Kitchen herbs waiting to be planted.

…It was very satisfying planting some thyme, oregano, sage, and flowers. The lupines and nasturtiums that I had planted last year are making an appearance this year. That delights me. The roses are wide awake and growing fast – soon the small buds will be blossoms! (Well… soon-ish.) The veggies are planted in grow bags, along the rock walk that tops the retaining wall, just past the deck. Later, when the weather is warmer, I’ll plant peppers in hydroponic buckets. I also plan to have some Japanese eggplant (most of the veggies this year are chosen for stir fries, which I’m doing a lot). The eggplant has a lovely form and flowers; I’ll tuck a couple of those into the front flower beds as “showy annuals”. 😀

My thoughts are in the garden on this lovely Spring morning… it’s a distraction from the task ahead. I’m taking down my aquarium today, permanently. Oh, no tragedy, it’s not like that. It simply takes a lot of time to maintain, and in this little house there just isn’t an ideal location for it that suits the purpose. Where it sits now, it is too close to a big sunny window, which has led algae to proliferate and I’m over fighting with it. It’s noisy to live with, and it’s adjacent to the bedroom wall… and the entire point originally was a soothing “noise cancelling” device to allow my living space to preserve some sense of privacy and solitude in the midst of a noisy household that was triggering my PTSD regularly. I don’t need that, now. Now the noise is an unwelcome distraction, and the tank has become problematic to maintain. So.

…The hardest part has been re-homing “Teller”, my now-at-least-seven-year-old clown pleco. He’s the one creature in that tank that is truly “a pet” to me. The rest are well-cared for, greatly enjoyed, delightful décor. Hardly seems reasonable to keep creatures captive for that purpose. So… today I will carefully remove the creatures and take them to their new home. I’ll shut down the filter pump and the heater. Tomorrow I’ll finish taking down the aquarium. In the long term, that’s one less complex, highly demanding, time-sensitive household chore to tackle every week. I could use that added bit of ease; I no longer have the boundless energy of my youth, and honestly, I’m neither surprised nor complaining. I’m just taking care of myself the best way I can figure out how to do. There have been a few intensely poignant moments along the way – making the decision was the hardest part. Writing about it? Probably the next most difficult piece; just saying it, acknowledging it, and allowing it to be part of my reality. 🙂

It’s hard to say good-bye.

…Not all of our choices, however wise they seem, or may in fact be, are easy to make – or to implement. It’s a very human experience…

It’s time to begin again.

It’s the last day of “winter”. It hasn’t felt much like winter for a handful of weeks, aside from an occasional frosty morning, and one brief cold snap with temperatures below freezing. Tomorrow? Spring.

The primroses know Spring has arrived.

The hardy primroses in the front flower bed are blooming. My impression when we moved in was that the trio of tidy clumps with their merry blossoms were (probably hastily) added as part of the sort of flurry of activity a homeowner does to prepare a house for sale. Chasing “curb appeal.” I like them fine. They’re not fancy. I’m not particularly attached to them. They do reliably make me smile when I pass, each time I leave or return home. That’s worth something. I don’t see myself pulling them out… probably just add more, other colors, shake it up a bit with some variety, or something of the sort. Certainly, I don’t hold my lack of passion for primroses against these durable show-offs; they are blooming quite generously, and this time of year, they’re really all I’ve got for flowers. The handful of tiny grape hyacinths here and there bashfully do their best, and I appreciate each of the wee flowers opening up as the days become sunnier. Over time, I hope to create a splendid cottage garden full of flowers, and scents, and things to take pictures of. For now? It’s primroses.

The roses in the garden know it’s Spring, too. There is more new growth every day, and already I regret not “taking a firm hand” with “Baby Love“; she is thriving (and then some), and was still blooming in December. (My failure to prune her was mostly to do with that. I was enjoying the rose being in bloom.) Now she’s a chaotic mess of last year’s foliage, this year’s tender new foliage just unfolding, and withered hips from the last flowers that bloomed. It tickles me to see this rose do so well; my Traveling Partner gave this rose to me, back in 2011, after we moved into an apartment together. It did well in a container, and has never let me down – almost always first and last to be in bloom. We’ve had a good decade together. (The rose, and also the partnership.)

Although I’d kept several roses going for (almost 3) decades in containers, when we moved from that last rental into our home, and I prepared to move the roses, I was caught unprepared for how many were doing so poorly that I had concerns about bringing disease or insects to the new location, which is very close to a natural forested area, with a creek running through it. When I got the closer look needed to move pots that had been in one place for a couple years, I was dismayed by their poor condition. Potbound. Roots rotting. Infested with ants. I hadn’t left myself enough time to deal with all of that. Most of them didn’t make the trip, and went, instead, to a rose-loving neighbor. “Sweet Chariot” and “Nozomi” made the trip – but they were both replacements for ones I’d had for many years, and were only a few years old. Another, “The Alchymist“, I bought thinking fondly of my Traveling Partner, not too very long ago. One rose in the garden was the first rose purchased specifically for this garden; “Easy on the Eyes“. No doubt there will be more, eventually, when I have a better idea where I might want them.

…Funny how much I enjoy roses. It was rather “accidental”. My first husband bought a little house in Texas when we were separated, to get me to come home. (Rather stupidly, that worked and I quickly regretted my life-threatening short-sightedness.) In the front of the house were some massive roses, overgrown, stiff, tall, and straight – they blocked the front window with enormous red blooms that were powerfully fragrant. “Chrysler Imperial“, “Olympiad“, and “Mister Lincoln” were so bold, so red, and so… rose-y

I didn’t yet know what I didn’t know, and I pruned the roses back aggressively, without a second thought. I learned some things from that experience… like… wear long sleeves and garden gloves when tussling with thorny roses. Ouch. In the backyard of that house, along the back fence, the previous owner had planted quite a few small “shrubs” of some sort. They weren’t doing well, and I wasn’t sure what they even were. We mowed them down entirely, figuring that would make short work of them – and some weeks later, they came back stronger. Miniature roses. I learned then that roses are not hard to grow – they’re glorified sticker bushes. LOL I fell in love with the miniature roses. I undertook to learn more… and here I am. I grow roses.

I love roses. I don’t even mind the thorns. I like hybrid tea roses, and species roses. I like climbers and ramblers and minis. I love the many scents of rose that are each so different – and somehow reliably also very much rose smelling. I love the varieties of different sorts of blooms, and the many shades of green of the foliage of roses. Oh sure, some hybrids are so delicate that one may as well claim to be farming powdery mildew as stake a claim to growing the rose, but I confess; I “shovel prune” those and move on to a cultivar or species that will do well in my garden. It’s easier than arguing with powdery mildew, I promise you that. LOL

Why am I sharing this bit of myself with you, tonight? No particular reason, besides Spring. Tomorrow, I’ll spend some portion of the day in the garden, rain or shine. Tidying things up for later plantings. Assessing the damage left of winter. Making up my mind about which greens to plant in the vegetable garden, with the onions, garlic, shallots, and herbs that I know I’ll want for cooking. Carrots? I think I’d like to plant some carrots, too. Maybe some peas or green beans of some sort. Things for stir frying? Maybe so. The garden is where my thoughts are this evening, and that’s worth sharing (and enjoying) – if for no other reason than that my thoughts are not on warfare, or sorrow, or global conflict, or mired in the lingering recollection of some task to deal with at work or some spreadsheet I can’t stop thinking about. I’m more than content to have my mind in the garden. I’m even happy with that.

I’m working on doing a better job of taking care of the woman in the mirror. I’ve been a bit shit at that, lately, and I can do better. 🙂

So, here I sit. No coffee; it’s evening. After I finish this, I will retire and meditate, maybe read awhile, and maybe even sleep in tomorrow. It’s not a fancy way to enjoy an evening – but it’s enough, and I am okay right now. 🙂

This particular blog post is about several things that are more than a little interconnected, but probably also entirely coincidental, and more likely still? I may not actually ever get around to mentioning any of those details in any specific way, because I’ve got this headache “peering over my shoulder” and distracting me. I sip ginger ale in a dark room. My tinnitus is louder than my computer, and I double-check to “see that it’s on” and laugh, immediately realizing how fucking dumb that actually is; I’m at the keyboard, writing. God damn this headache makes me fucking stupid. 0_o How annoying.

I’ve been very introspective these past few days. June 25th has some gravitas these days – the anniversary of my Mother’s death. It’s also got some serious joy – the anniversary of buying our home (we did not select the date). “Mixed emotions” doesn’t even come close to explaining where this put my head these last few days, as we approach the 1st anniversary of the date we actually moved into our home. So many boxes! Last year, all of the days between those dates were midst the COVID-19 pandemic, in the early months of “the lockdown”… strange to discuss it in months, but here we all are. I write a few more grim sentences, then remember I honestly don’t know enough to legitimately have an opinion of some of these things. I delete them, and let my mind wander.

It was hot this week. Like…intensely bold-red-text-heat-warning hot. No kidding. It was… Phoenix hot. Fresno hot. Death Valley hot.

I’m not even exaggerating.

Fortunately, it cooled off quite a bit day by day. It was so hot I couldn’t think. Writing would have put more heat into my studio, so I kept it to the minimum needed to work, and then shut everything down. My Traveling Partner and I mostly sat around bitching about the heat, keeping the things as cool as we could, in darkened rooms, drinking water. Is it weird that my recollection of those hot days is pretty pleasant? I enjoyed my partner’s company when I wasn’t working, and I’ve no memory of discord or fussing at each other. We were a team fighting a common “enemy” – the heat. We were armed with ice cream and humor. LOL Much fun was had by all. I mean… that’s how I remember it.

Memory is weird. I’d link a particular song that comes to mind…but I can’t remember the title… and then, when I do, I can’t find a link to it… I’m no longer sure I’m remembering it correctly, at all.

…On the other hand…I clearly remember exactly what a summer night in Maryland smells like, how it sounds, how the humid air clings relentlessly to sweat…

Memory is weird.

…I had forgotten how much I like ginger ale…

I sit quietly awhile, just listening to my tinnitus and sipping ginger ale. I could do without the headache that persists in hanging out with me. I rub my neck and remind myself it won’t last indefinitely – what ever does?

…Wow. That went downhill fast. LOL

Roses in my garden

It’s summer, I guess, for real. Hotter summers now, that seems clear. The summers definitely were not this hot 10 years ago (and more recently than that, Portlanders could be heard making jokes about “June-uary”, because summer didn’t really arrive until July). My garden didn’t die this year, when the heat came; my Traveling Partner set up a simple drip irrigation system for me. My tomatoes did not seem to suffer with the heat at all, quite the contrary; I think we’re going to have “too many tomatoes”. LOL Win. 🙂

This headache, though…

Time to begin again.