Monday, August 29, 2011

Fresh as a daisy

It's late August, and weeks of temperatures in the high 90's have left much of the garden looking like faded paper flowers. Even a faded rose is beautiful- they remind me of  a Fleetwood Mac song, which I'm sure will be stuck in my head all day. 

Some flowers look better as they age than others, just like people I suppose. 

My potted flowers must be jealous of Rose.
I won't even mention the every cheery and fresh Daisy. 

Oops. I guess I just did. 

I can certainly sympathize. I'm feeling a bit like a faded out flower myself these days, surrounded by a sea of daisies. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tick tock

My boys returned to school today. Summer went so fast, I feel like I didn't even have time to organize the things that I wanted to do-let alone have time to do them.  The quiet house had me in a bit of a funk this morning, until I walked outside and saw this:

Summer can't be over yet- the tomatoes are just starting to ripen! This is the largest tomato I have ever grown. Some people may not be impressed by this, but for me-having spent 20+ hopeful years attempting to grown tomatoes in Seattle- this beefstake is nothing short of miraculous. This tomato isn't alone either-far from it. My pear and cherry tomatoes are fruiting out like crazy!

Big, ripe tomatoes always remind me of a sandwich that a spanish friend of my in Barcelona made for me. He sliced the tomato in half and rubbed each side of the crusty, country style bread with just enough tomato goodness, drizzled on a good olive oil and salted it lightly with sea salt (similar to this). I know what I'm having for lunch today!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fitting in

Following Mom's death, we decided to move our family from the city to a small, eastern Washington town. This move was in large part designed as an effort to take care of my aging father. Dad's at sort of an 'awkward' age. His health is not great (diabetes, heart disease-and as of last week, ulcers), but his mental state is pretty good. He still gets around, goes for walks and works at his office the better part of each work day. In other words- he's not ready for a retirement or nursing home situation, but really can't live alone either.

We knew there would be sacrifices, and there have been some big ones! We left behind the city that we loved living in for 23 years. We left our home (which was financially devastating), our friends and our jobs. As grown ups, we made these decisions willingly (which is not to say that I don't sometimes have dramatic moments of total mental fatigue-inconsolable moments where I feel the loss of all of the above). The kids however, my two lovely little boys didn't yet have the tools to anticipate what was ahead of them.

We have been living with Dad for a little over a year now, and for the most part-the boys have adjusted really, really well.  If given a choice, I know that they would not choose to return to the city. ( I know because I have asked-sometimes hoping they will say 'yes! we must go back', but they never do.)

If you are thinking that this post is not about gardening-your right. I am taking liberties, but it does take place in my yard-so there.  I promise this is all leading somewhere. (See photo below-faces not shown to protect the privacy of those involved.)

As our home in the city hasn't yet sold (see for sale sign in front yard), we head back about once a month to do maintenance, mow the lawn, etc. We  usually allow the boys to take a friend with them. This little boy, 'J', is a very sweet and funny kid. However, he is obsessed with the fact that we are vegetarians, and never misses a  chance to take a jab. Comments include things like "My Mom brought home veggie burgers last night, and I was so mad! It's like she's trying to make me a vegetarian!" and "If I couldn't have meat, I would die. Meat is the healthiest thing for you to eat!'  Keep in mind that we have been friends with J. for over a year, and his comments have continued long past the polite few months. He eats with us often, and-as far as I can tell, he enjoys the way we eat (he's known to ask for seconds, and sometimes thirds).  I don't try to recruit or preach to anyone regarding the virtues of a vegetarian or vegan diet. It's our choice.

So on this particular evening, my kids asked for a dessert called  cinnamon 'snails'. J's eyes got all buggy at the concept of eating snails, and the boys and I launched a plan. I gave each of the boys a bag, and sent them out into the front yard to hunt for the snails. Of course, cinnamon 'snails' are nothing more than bread, cream cheese, butter and cinnamon sugar-but for now, J. didn't need to know that! The boys spent a good twenty minutes hunting down 2 or 3 snails, and eagerly brought them  inside. I banished them all to watch TV in the basement while I prepared the 'snails'.

When the timer went off, the boys came bounding up the stairs to receive their individual plates of 'snails'. J's plate came back virtually untouched-he said he could taste the snails! Now at this point I'm feeling a little mean about our trick, and I know I'm not going to win any parenting awards for this-but I let him sit with it for a few more hours. When my son T. informed me that J. was feeling a little green, I had to come clean.

"J," I said, "I promise that no snails were harmed in the making of your dessert. I promise never to feed you anything as gross as a snail or a dead body." J. little cheeks got a bit red, and I apologized for having a laugh as his expense.

I have to say though- it's been a few months, and I haven't heard any more cracks from J. about our diet. For the record, I did make it up to him  the next evening with an extra large serving of cinnamon 'snails'.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Playing favorites

If I had to choose one particular spot in the garden as my favorite, this would be the spot.

All around the rock, corsican mint has sprouted. I did not plant it there, nor did anyone else. My Mother tried for years to get the mint to grow between the stones of the walkway that lead to the bridge, but it wouldn't grow there.

Now, 18 months after she has left us-the mint is still here. Here deciding for itself where it would like to grow. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bumps in the road

It's been roughly a week since I have been able to spend time in the garden. I have been spending my days in the emergency room of our local hospital, patiently waiting for the doctors to locate the source of internal bleeding that my 74 year old father has been experiencing. It has been a very stressful week, to say the least.

I developed an aversion to hospitals and doctor's offices after three years of cancer visits with Mom. To be back again was traumatic, especially given the circumstances. Not only did I feel helpless and frightened that I was about to loose Dad, the proximity of tragedy sent me to cry in the bathroom more than once. Listening to the family of the woman who had just had a stroke, behind that thin privacy curtain to our left, broke my heart. I felt their sense of desperation as they coaxed her to open her eyes, to speak, to squeeze a finger.

In the end, we were lucky. They were able to deal with Dad's bleeding, and (fingers crossed) the danger is over for now.  I am so grateful for another day with Dad, who  is a wonderful person. He will turn 75 next week, and I will meet his girlfriend for the first time-at his birthday party, not his funeral as I had feared.

I returned to my garden this morning to find that the daisies are beginning to bloom.

I even spotted a few lady bugs, who were a little camera shy.

This week should be better than the last. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rolling thunder

I carried my camera out to the garden this morning expecting to find things just as I had left them. Sadly, the storm that moved through last night left my roses looking like this:

While the weather has improved substantially since last night, the bright blue skies and warm sun still have not made an appearance this morning. I contemplated not taking photos at all, until I spied this beautifully bright bloom hiding behind a more faded and wind whipped, older version of itself.

Without the sun, it's difficult to make out the dew gathered in the folds and along the edges of the petals. My disappointment was short lived, as I realized that-once I dead head, I have several weeks of these gorgeous coral roses to look forward to.  Now, I won't go through the poetry of comparing gardening to life in general. I'll let you do that yourself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oblah dee oblah da....

After my Mother died, I was in a fog for a very long time. Actually, I believe the fog started during her illness, probably as a coping mechanism. Watching someone you love endure cancer requires many, many coping mechanisms-some of which work better than others.

It hasn't been that long really since she passed into peace, only 19 months. In the beginning it felt like I would hurt forever. Then, one morning not too long ago I was going about my day, toiling in Mother's garden, and I realized that what had felt like a sharp pain had now dulled substantially. With that realization came guilt.

I now spend a good part of each day working in the garden that she loved so much. Even when she was so weak that she could hardly hold a blow dryer, she would walk out to her garden and show me how beautifully the roses had recovered from the hard winter, and how the orange lilies were placed just where the garden needed a little more color. No one- not the gardener that cared for the rest of the yard and certainly not my father- was allowed to tend her garden until she became too ill to do it herself. Then she would supervise, watching me or my brother pull weeds, making sure that we weren't unearthing anything that had promise.

The garden went untended for most of the past year and a half. I made a short-lived effort to care for it last summer, but the sheer size of the garden, which stretches out for roughly a half-block means constant weeding and tending. What felt like work last summer now feels like therapy. I can't go a day without spending at least a few hours in the garden, and it's now beginning to show. Mom would be proud.