More Stories than Successes – This Year’s Garden

“Now that’s a story.” Miss Franny Block, the librarian in Because of Winn-Dixie, would start out her stories like that. Opal, Amanda, and even the dog would settle in to listen.

My garden has been more successful in generating stories than in producing vegetables. I’ll let storyteller Grandma Daisy tell the tales.

Oh, yes, that was quite a year, 2017. Families worried about the potential for war. They worried about our president being, well, not all there. Gardening was an investment in feeding the family and it was cheaper than therapy, too. Well, that’s a different story. 

Everything was planted, and not much was coming up. Broccoli? Nowhere to be seen. Beans? They were okay. Peas? The vines looked good, but didn’t bear fruit. Other gardeners blamed the weather, so I joined in. 

I’d planted zucchini near the raspberry, but I didn’t realize how little sun would reach that spot. That zucchini finally sprouted after I cut off a few low-hanging branches from the neighbor’s tree. It’s okay, kiddos. It’s legal to trim a tree that hangs over your own yard, even if the roots are next door. But the zucchini. Since nothing was happening, I put in a few seeds near the tomatoes. Brilliant! I thought. The squash plant will provide ground cover. When it starts putting out blossoms and needs pollinating, the vines will be near the flowers and the peas will be done. No such luck, my dears. The variety of zucchini I’d planted wasn’t going to crawl along the ground. This was determined to reach for the sky, more bush-like than vine. 

I ended up transplanting two tomato plants that were getting swallowed up by the zucchini and putting them in a container on the deck, near the French doors. At least there I couldn’t forget to water them. 

Then there was the lettuce. The lettuce didn’t come up, either. I wondered if the seeds were bad or if the soil was drained of its nutrients from too many years of planting? No matter what, I needed to do something about it. I decided to plant more lettuce in a different section of the garden. 

And then I left the seeds out overnight. Remember? That about did me in. I scattered some seeds where the broccoli hadn’t grown, and then I tossed a layer of commercial topsoil over them. A little water, and life was good again. I also planted a few heads of lettuce started not from seed, but from the tails of lettuce from the store or the market. “Grow your own food from your kitchen scraps!” the video bragged, and where lettuce was concerned, it worked. 

I scattered a lot of the soaked and dried seeds (thank goodness for grow lights!), and not much happened. Dill? Nope. Parsley? It’ll have to reseed itself from the first patch. Spinach? We’ll see. I put it behind the garage in a partial sun area. There’s still hope. Maybe. 

But the best story of all is this: the pollinators were coming back. I saw three – 3! – round and fluffy honeybees circling the flowers in the front yard. I had planted more blooms than usual, hoping for just that result. 

Now that’s a story – or more than one. Lettuce, zucchini, transplanting tomatoes – soaking seeds, too. Grandma Daisy covered the major points. She didn’t finish the summer story because – well, because I don’t know the end yet. Stay tuned, readers. School starts soon, so I’ll be busy, but gardening is therapeutic. It helps me slow my mind and lower my blood pressure. I’m sure there will be more stories.

Actual Phone Call to Customer Service

“Chuck” called the cable television company – let’s call them Looney Tunes – to have them remove their cable off the house so we can do the siding. It was a never-ending story.

  • “You’re not a current customer… I’ll transfer you.”
  • “Those aren’t our cables, do whatever you want with them.” So he will have to climb a ladder and cut the cable which will then be lying on the street.  That’s not good, so he should climb the utility pole and cut the cable there? He told them he would want the company to sign a release that he wouldn’t be held liable for any damages or loss of service to all the customers in the neighborhood.  “I’m speaking to my team leader and that’s what he says.”  “Let me speak to him please,” Chuck responded.  “Certainly, sir. I’ll transfer you.”
  • “Hello. Billing. How may I help you?…I’ll transfer you.”
  • “Oh, you need to speak to a local office…I’ll transfer you.”
  • So the local office has contracted a 3rd party person to take care of it sometime within the next 2 weeks.  And it is their cable and their responsibility.

And that’s why we’re not Looney Tunes customers.

Ah, the grass roots.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Anyone who has converted a patch of lawn to a garden knows the strength and tenacity of grass roots. I fight back the grass roots in my gardens, but in real life, I’m part of a grass roots effort to get like-minded people elected to public office.

Yesterday a young person came to our door. He was carrying a clipboard, so I thought “Aha. Canvassing. I wonder which candidate he represents?” I sent Chuck to the door; it was his turn, really. The last time I met a canvasser on my porch, our Wisconsin presidential primary was coming up and the young woman was supporting Bernie Sanders. We talked for a little while, and I reminisced a bit about volunteering in support of President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Then I turned the topic a little bit, bringing it back to the current election. I hear you, readers. You’re thinking, “What? Daisy, the young volunteer on the porch was the one doing the canvassing, wasn’t she? What do you mean you turned the topic? That was her job!” 

Yep. Uh-huh. Yours truly has had plenty of training and practice in messaging, staying on message, and bringing a conversation to an angle that benefits my candidate or my cause. By the time the young woman left my porch, making her entries into the database on her phone (new wrinkle this election), I had talked her into supporting Hillary Clinton. She was probably wondering, “What just happened there?”

Back to the most recent clipboard bearing youth at our doorbell. Chuck chatted for a few seconds and then sent the young man on his way. He wasn’t canvassing for a candidate, Democrat or Republican. He represented College Painters. We’re planning siding, so we didn’t hire him or his organization. I guess the lesson learned from this encounter is Never Assume Anything.

I still would have worked on convincing him to vote for Hillary.

Thinking Spring in the Snow

It’s March. Correction: It’s March in Wisconsin. That can mean anything, weather -wise. So of course, what am I doing? I’m planning my garden.

I was reading about blueberries when I stumbled upon a fact that I hadn’t known: blueberries like acidic soil. Raspberries prefer a less acidic bed. Last summer we planted raspberry canes salvaged from the area behind the garage (pre-garage replacement) back into the topsoil salvaged from the same garage project. We bought a few raspberry starter plants from the Plant Station to supplement and maybe cross pollinate the originals. As long as they were on sale, we bought a few blueberry canes, too.

Oops. If my research is correct, one berry will grow well and the other won’t. I haven’t tested the soil for pH yet (duh, it’s still frozen!), and maybe I won’t. I bought myself a soil pH meter last year as a treat – gardening for geeks! Yea! – so I will probably measure at least the pH in the main raised beds. I like to rotate “crops” anyway, and this will help me place my vegetables where they’ll grow best.

But seriously, I’ve never gone to the trouble of testing my soil. I just stir in homegrown  compost, dump the rabbit’s litter boxes (now there’s a source of acidic fertilizer), and plant away. Maybe the best plan is to watch the berry canes for a year and see what really thrives.

I’ll monitor the berry situation – eventually. For now, the snow has to melt.

The Garage Replacement Drama

I haven’t decided if it’s a tragedy, comedy, or just straight up entertainment, but the replacement of our garage has not been uneventful.

I came home from school on Thursday, introduced myself to the worker who was carefully taking down the garage door to be reused later, and I am not making this up this conversation.

Worker Dude: Do you own the house?

Me: Yes.

Worker Dude: How long have you lived here?

Me: About 20 years (it’s really 19, but I rounded up).

Worker Dude: Really? ‘Cause I used to live in this house.

Whoa! He lived at this address about 30 years ago. My next door neighbors (the wife is the fourth generation of her family to live in that house) remember the guy.

The next day I watched the demolition crew destroying the remains of the garage sides and roof. One commented that it went down “easier than expected”. Um, yes, people. There’s a reason we’re having this done.

Then the contractor came to the door and told us he’d run into a snag. Any project in a house of this vintage (1890) is unlikely to run smoothly. They had encountered a second slab of concrete under the main one. Since this would increase the weight of the waste, which would increase the cost of dumping, this discovery required a signed change order. No problem, except we were climbing into the car to attend my stepfather’s funeral. Chuck took a minute, signed the change order, and we still made it to the church on time.

So on we go. Over the weekend, we dug up a few of what I call “fun rocks” – souvenirs that may not have value, but might have history. I might be able to guess at the history, or I might not, but these pieces make my rock garden more interesting. Pictures and stories to follow – sooner or later.

Our next door neighbors also loaned us their metal detector to search the area where the garage used to be. We found several nails, a few industrial staples, and a tiny glass bottle. I’ve gotten most of the dirt out of the bottle. Again, pictures to follow. 

How will the drama play out next? Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of… wait, wrong script. Tragedy? Comedy? I know one thing for sure: it’s entertaining.

It’s March, and it’s Madness.

My March Madness doesn’t revolve around a basketball.tournament.

The only brackets in my March Madness are those that hold up shelves.

On the outside, my March Madness looks like this.

Snow on snow on snow.

Snow on snow on snow.

Indoors, I decided to fight the Madness with this.

Planting time!

Planting time!

I planted seeds for pepper plants. There’s something about the smell of dirt that helps release the madness of March. There’s a sweet satisfaction in filling a bucket with snow (see it, on the right?) just to let it melt, and then watering seeds with it. The rain barrels are still upside down and snow-covered, but I CAN and I WILL find ways to be green.

The deck may be snowy, but spring is on the way.

 

Summing up the year

The post on Facebook was simple, or so it seemed. “What one word sums up 2013 for you? And what word reflects your intentions for 2014?”

2013: For me, the word was Survival. My episode that resembled a stroke happened in late 2012, but I spent a great deal of 2013 recovering. Physical therapy, walking with a cane, gradually and slowly reconnecting the left side of my body to my brain.

A few highlights on Survival in 2013:

Choosing a word for 2014 is harder. I picked one on an impulse, of course. We’ll look toward the future – tomorrow.

Curb Pickers in Minivans

Topped with a basket ($1) at a rummage sale and a hanging pot from a previous year, you see my garden table. We, and by we I mean me and my dear darling husband “Chuck”, found the table at curbside after someone moved out. Yep: a curb picked gem.

Handy Dandy planting table

Handy Dandy planting table

Sometimes I resist. I left a stool that almost matched one in our basement and didn’t pick it up. I did stop, I admit it. The stool stood on the curb with a pile of scrap wood. On one piece of wood was a sign saying, “FREE: Measured once, cut twice.”

Right now, the only things turning up curbside are branches. I think I’ll stay home.

Neighbors

The Living Room

The Living Room

They called it their temporary living room.

Chairs, table, phone

Chairs, table, phone

Really, what more did they need?

Ye Olde Rotary Phone

Ye Olde Rotary Phone

Someone discovered that a rotary phone worked while the up to date touch tones didn’t. Without Internet access, the old fashioned phone book came in handy.

Camp stove and tea kettle

Camp stove and tea kettle

Camp stove plus tea kettle for boiling water equals coffee and social time!

It wasn’t the most beautiful day in the neighborhood, though. At the other end of the driveway, the next door neighbors’ house looked like this. They were still gracious and friendly shared their hot water with me every morning. Thank heavens for good neighbors.

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

The Office – not on TV, just my spare room.

It’s looking a lot better. In fact, I’m blogging from my New Office even as we speak. Desk, file drawer (one might be enough), desk chair — and more.

Summer School, here I come!

Summer School, here I come!

Back to inventory. Desk, file drawer (to the left of desk), pencils (found in file drawer) and pens (also found you-know-where), clipboard, document camera, desk chair, and pillow.

Pillow!

Pillow!

You can’t see the last line. Here’s the verse.

Rain or shine, fail or pass

With crayons or computer, lad or lass,

Teachers never lose their class.

It was a sweatshirt. La Petite made it into a pillow, and it’s perfect for a desk chair.

The room isn’t fully converted, but in my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can do whatever I want to do! (with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein, of course)