Climate Change

Daily Prompt High Noon At noon today, take a pause in what you’re doing or thinking about. Make a note of it, and write a post about it later.

Uh, no. Writing a blog post is my first activity of the day.

Yesterday I bit the bullet and went to Walmart in Alamosa. I don’t like Walmart much and I don’t like shopping. As last week I spent driving around the state of Colorado, I was also not all that eager to get into the car, but I felt the ticking of time. Spring is here. It’s April. If I don’t get that stuff in the ground, I might as well forget it. I also didn’t want to repeat the snow shovel embarrassment. I didn’t have tools. No leaf rake. No shovel. I felt nostalgic for the wonderful pickaxe I left behind in CA, but maybe I could replace it.

This isn’t California. People aren’t lining up for a parking place and then fighting over it. As everywhere, Walmart was full of people on Saturday, and the Saturday before Easter, even moreso. There was a huge banner saying, “Our Garden Center is Open!” I was happy, but it didn’t look very open. Within the chain link barrier that controls the migration of bags of peat moss and decorative bark, everything was tightly wrapped in green plastic.

I grab a cart in the lot and head in. It’s an obstacle course since, naturally, there are all kinds of things piled prominently in front to catch the attention of the impulse buyer. I’m here because of that. Last week when my house guest and I stopped here to buy dog food for the local shelter, I impulsively bought peonies and lilies…

All I really want to plant are iris, but not till fall, I understand. In CA I just put stuff in the ground (or in a pot) whenever I found it. Here? There’s frost, frozen ground, fourteen below and other obstacles to whimsical gardening.

I make it out to the Garden Section and find it’s more or less bereft of products. A few tired forced-for-Easter hyacinths and tulips, some pots, some bags of potting soil, lawn fertilizer. I think, “I have a lawn. Oh man, I’m going to have to deal with that.” Soon? Already dandelions are smiling sun-ward and I grapple mildly with the idea that I must kill them or pull them out. My mind wanders momentarily to family discussions between mom and dad about how to contend with weeds in the lawn; poison or the dandelion digger in the hands of a kid? For the past eleven years I had a dirt yard. Dirt doesn’t burn and dirt is low maintenance and has minimal watering requirements — perfect surface for drought-stricken California. Of course, there were the deadly foxtails that came up unbidden every spring. I fought with them constantly and dreaded their burrowing in my dogs’ fur or climbing up the narrow channels of their ears or nostrils. Foxtails can kill. No joke.

Nothing in the garden center, not that I need, anyway. I know I’m jumping the gun, but my bags of lily bulbs and the peonies say “Plant between mid-March and mid-April.” I have a week. I go back inside and find a sharp shovel and a leaf rake. A woman and her husband look around with expressions like the one I feel I must have. “Not much out yet, is there. I’m just looking for peat moss,” says the woman to me.

“Me too,” I say.

“Maybe it’s outside.”

“I looked and didn’t see any, but maybe I missed it. Maybe we’re jumping the gun.” Her husband smiled quietly behind her. Ah. There was their whole relationship. Well, she’s a lucky woman.

“There’s all that stuff wrapped up out there. Well, they can just unwrap it,” she says and they head out the door to that world of dismal faded bulb plants and philodendron. I pick up two bags of potting soil. I can mix that with the dirt outside to give my new little friends a better chance and warmer ground.

The leaf rake gets stuck in the shopping cart and a young man passing by un-sticks it for me. “Turn it around and it won’t get stuck.” “Thanks,” I say, remembering where I am in the anonymity of Walmart. I’m in Alamosa. People are friendly. It still shocks me.

There are already some crops in the fields between Alamosa and Monte Vista. I don’t know exactly what crops are grown all around me. Potatoes and barley. What else? The immense sprinklers have begun trekking slowly over the newly green mystery.

I suspect that I’m going to end up getting a green house. I know that my California clock isn’t going to change. I know I’m never going to believe that I can plant something in May and have any chance of seeing it ever.

I feel alien and strange here now. The excitement has worn off. It’s still beautiful, but I’m not part of it. Will I ever be? Do I want to be? I don’t have answers for either question. I’m probably fine as I am. In the supermarket I heard two big guys — tall and old — discussing cattle. I love that, but all I can do is love that. I never owned a cow and it’s not the same to simply like them (I do). I eavesdropped while pretending to be in a torturous dilemma over the choice of butter.”I had a heifer,” said one, “but I sold her. I regret that now.”

I imagined regretting a cow. “Cattle can be expensive,” said the other one, “they don’t always pay off. I’m still running them, but every year I think it’ll be the last.”

“That’s true, but she was a good heifer. I can’t replace her now for under $500.”

“I got some cattle a year ago for $150 a head. Some old boy wanted to unload his feed cattle.”

“Were they healthy?”

“Yeah, they were fine. That was a good deal. Can’t always find one like that, though.”

I get home with my potting soil and tools. I spade up a patch of dirt by the front door for the peony and mix in the potting soil. I lay out the peony rhizome careful not to set it too deep. It’s already leafing out. I see a woman running across the street, an older woman, and I wish I could run across the street. She comes to my gate and Dusty barks his head off in protest? Welcome? I go over to meet her. Another nice neighbor. Retired teacher, works as a substitute for the school district here. I hear her life story. People tell me things; it’s always been that way. I know the inevitable question about church is hovering in the conversation and sure enough; down it comes. I have an answer for it and I use it. Still, I think that question is more personal than, “What color are your underwear?”

I like her and hope we talk again. I return to the second part of my job; planting the lilies in memory of my Lily. Six stargazer lilies. I hope they grow.

22 thoughts on “Climate Change

  1. I tended my garden for 15 years, it was my first when we bought the ground floor appartment, actually two gardens, one front one back. Yes it is work, a lot of work, so much so that Mr. Swiss and I decided to organise the gardener. He does not do it for nothing, but he does it well. The advantage with the spring bulbs is that they arrive every year regularly. I learnt a lot of the arriving every year stuff tricks and it saves a lot of work in the long run. Bushes and perreniels are the rescue of a golden oldie. My back does not like the garden. I am sure with time you will have a perfect garden. Peonies are good, they arrive every year without doing anything, they even throw up seeds now and again. I now have two patches, where at the beginning I only had one. Have fun, it can only get better.

    • I had my first garden in the spring of 1984. My landlord said, “Why don’t you plant a garden there?” I never gardened and never thought I’d want to, but I really liked it. My current yard is pretty easy-care. It has an automatic sprinkler system and grass. I can see the sense in leaving it as it is, but I like flowers and I like the ritual of tending a garden. I haven’t really figured out how I want to deal with this, but there is a strip of dirt on the east side of the house that I will plant. Beyond that? I don’t know. I’d like forsythia and mock orange somewhere… Like you, I like stuff that comes up every year and I love irises. My yard has a VERY TALL hedge of lilacs. It will be cool to see what they are like when they bloom. In fall, I plan to hire someone to cut them down a few feet — they are 3 meters high and more right now.

      • I am way up north near Kalispell! I have family in Greybull WY which is near Billings. We used to go to Billings to shop, it was cheaper and didn’t have taxes. 🙂

      • I’ve been to Greybull. I don’t think many people can say that. My mom was from Hardin MT and my dad from Missoula. I miss Montana and hope to get up this summer. Where I live — in the San Luis Valley of Colorado — reminds me a lot of Montana. It’s a high valley (7000 feet) as big as Connecticut and ringed with mountains. It has a big sky. Not AS big, but big. 🙂

      • Colorado is beautiful, spent some time there growing up. Sounds like you live in a great area!

  2. I am not much of a gardener, but I can relate to listening in to the interesting conversations of strangers. I have always done this, and people I don’t know will talk to me about the most personal things. I don’t know why. I guess we both have sympathetic faces.

  3. I spend much less on gardening here, with such a short season. I’m trying to keep it low maintenance. I planted a forsythia last fall; I’d forgotten about that. I love lilies and lilacs.
    A neighbor came over last night to invite us to his church. Now he knows we’re heathens.

    • I believe religion is for the faithless. God doesn’t shut anyone out but churches do. I’m pretty much with Robert Service on that question. I love lilacs and irises, then there are other flowers that are OK with me. Roses and lilies and columbine and lupine and peonies. I like those too.

  4. After SoCal it might be really pleasant when everything bursts into color this spring in Colorado. I’m trying my hand at roses this year, which I suspect will not end well:0)).

    It sounds like you appreciate the good things about your new town and I’ll bet you’ll find a balance that you’re happy with between solitude and connection with others in the community. I get by on minimal socializing here in this little town, but it’s always relieving to know that I have good neighbors who would help if I needed it and vice versa. I had some difficulty with the church question. I usually say that I appreciate wisdom from lots of religions and leave it at that. It seems to sort-of-appease the ones that believe that a person has to be religious to be a good person and it also keeps others from pushing me to try their church. I find it an incredibly intrusive and assuming question.

    • Oh I’m glad I’m not the only one. So far people have accepted my “I’m good with God but don’t want to belong to a church.” I like your response, too.

      Roses are not hard to grow. They’re really tough plants. There are only three things that can mess them up (assuming you don’t have gophers). 1) Overwatering — roses don’t like having wet feet. Too dry is better than too wet. Once the roots are established (about a week after planting) limit watering to once a week deep watering not shallow. 2) Aphids and thrips: a great solution to that is diatomaceous earth — a fine powder, non-toxic, you can kind of puff on the roses to keep the bugs off. I also just used my fingers to kill aphids. I also got a lot of ladybugs. 3) planting it too deep — make sure the graft is above the soil. That’s it. They’re easier and more rewarding than almost any other flower. I’m looking forward to planting three in front of my house.

  5. Thank you so much for the extremely helpful information about roses! I’ve been using diamataceous earth for Viburnum Beetles, so will have some on hand. I’m planning on just adding some potting soil around them when I plant them and will be careful about keeping the graft above the soil like you mentioned. I like White Wisteria and put in two new vines this morning to cover two more of the porch posts – on the shadier side of the porch, so am hoping they make it.

    You’ll be a Colorado-climate gardener in no time.

    • I love wisteria. I never had any success with it, but others did and I really appreciated the beauty of the vines and flowers in the spring. I was just now remembering rhubarb which I couldn’t grow in CA and can grow here. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

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