Summer??? NO! NO!

Seed catalogs start arriving here in the back of beyond immediately after Christmas, and I mean (given it doesn’t fall on a Sunday) December 26. They are porn for the snowbound. In past years I fell prey to their siren song and was captivated by their air-brushed photos of juicy tomatoes and suggestive images of Genovese basil, almost, but not quite pesto. Not having lived through “real” winters in a while, I thought, “I’d better start some seeds!” and ended up with incubators (I call them) that I had to keep moving out of my way; my house doesn’t really have room for baby plants. But the “children” emerged with their two little leaves and my heart expanded with hopes that they might someday fulfill their potential. Tiny tomatoes emerged in mid-March and I defied many experts who said, “You can’t grow basil from seeds!” Well, I did.

Not this year. Still, a cue from my subconscious caused me to dream of last summer’s zucchini. It wasn’t a good dream, either. I think it combined with sleep paralysis or something. Dark times.

Last year I planted a raised bed of tomatoes, basil, chard and zucchini. It had been decades since I’d grown zucchini, and I thought it would be fun. I forgot that I don’t really like it. The zucchini grew to epic proportions (really! leaves almost as large as my dogs) It was beautiful and interesting and fascinated people from far and wide (my street and anyone who drove down from Colorado Springs or up from Durango to visit) but in the end, the result was zucchini.


This year? Salad. I’m planting salad. The best part of my garden last year was going out, picking the leaves of the Swiss chard and bringing them in for salad. The zucchini brought that to an end. The giant leaves covered the chard and attempted an invasion of the sacred ranks of tomatoes and basil (no no no no). I fought, but admit to being amazed by what the zucchini was doing. Three plants conquer the world… Then the fruit started coming.

I also am not crazy about cooking, but I made many mini loaves of zucchini bread. Some are still in my freezer. I don’t like zucchini bread all that much, either, but others do. I “shared” meaning, “Please for the love of God, take this!!!”

If I could only plant Gruyere….

Butterfly Sanctuary, Quotidian Report #35

That elastic spring in my step is gone, I mean LONG gone. But…I think maybe elasticity of mind is as important.

Yesterday, after my adventure at Great Sand Dunes, there wasn’t much elasticity left in the joints in my legs, but I took the dogs out anyway. It was a beautiful day for a walk and they were happy. Me too, though, honestly, it hurt most of the time.



Snow is forecast for Monday and the first “real” freeze, so I spent this morning out in the yard explaining to all the little plants why they have to be pulled up or cut back.


I hate working in the yard in front of my house in the summer. First, it’s a south facing house, which means it’s BLASTING hot. Second, it’s on a major US highway, so there I am, a little old lady in shorts, bending over to tend plants. No. This is not to be born. At a certain point, a couple months ago, I just stopped. I didn’t want to be on TV. As a friend pointed out, you never know when Google Earth is going to come by.

This morning was very cool (bordering on frigid), and the summer traffic is done, making my street just a street in a town. I cut the grass and, simultaneously, using the same tool, “raked” leaves. I cut back plants that will go dormant and pulled out stuff that will die. I found the sunflowers had given me seeds. Most wonderful of all, my neglected lawn — invaded by Piñon asters — was full of Painted Lady butterflies. I did not mow their little sanctuary. They need what the flowers give them more than I need to mow…



P.S. I did not take the photo of the butterfly. I tried, but whenever I got near, they flew away. I took it off the Internet.

Garden Again

There is no fragrance like that of Genovese basil. This little guy tangled with some caterpillars, but so far he’s more than holding his own.

I planted a small meadow. It went nuts. As my neighbor said, “You have a jungle.” Next year I plan to plant a much larger meadow. The plants are not all that fragrant to me, but I planted them for butterflies, bees and birds who seem to be getting the full enjoyment from the blossoms. 🙂



Late blooming Zucchini in a border garden.




Meadow Closeup

Cultivation Update

My stragedy of gardening against Old 45 is pretty tiring sometimes. Yesterday I trimmed back at least 12 feet of lilac hedge. It’s four feet deep and ten feet tall — not a small job. I still have a long way to go to get it down to a safe and manageable height and depth.

I’m using simple tools. Pruning sheers, hedge trimming sheers and a hand branch saw. It’s really satisfying to see change for the better emerging as the result of my two small hands.

I called it a day when I already had a pile of branches and stuff in the driveway that would make it impossible for me to back out of the garage. More than my trash can could hold. Trash bags are a joke, but there we are. Four of them. Anyway, I was out in the driveway most of the day and pretty achy and tired by the time I walked the dogs in the evening. The dogs were sensitive to my suffering and tried to harmonize their pace to mine.


Hard to tell but some of the branches are 10 feet tall

This Is a Real Miracle

When I had my first real garden, back in 1988, I planted vegetables and raspberries and cantaloup. I planted red cabbage and Swiss chard and zucchini. One of the most amazing moments was seeing a REAL and PERFECT head of red cabbage come out of the ground. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. All of it was great, even when the chard took over. The cantaloups were delicious, the zucchini grew like mad — the raspberries? To go out to the garden in the morning and pick a handful of raspberries seemed like a dream event.

The next year I got dogs. Truffle picked the berries before I got there. I didn’t plant veggies, I let the perennials take over the garden, I was teaching more. The vegetable garden was a one shot deal.

So I have a small vegetable garden again, as everyone who reads my blog knows. This afternoon I was tending to it. We’ve had rain for the past few days — not today — and I wanted to see what was going on.

There were small tragedies. Little caterpillars from white butterflies have been at the chard and have tried the basil. Bad caterpillars. I shook the chard and watched the caterpillars fall and said, “Sorry, guys, but you’ve forced me to do this” and went to the garage and got my bag of diatomaceous earth and began to coat the leaves. A couple of zucchini had attempted zucchini life before their parents were sufficiently above the edge of the raised bed and were stunted, growing into the ground. Poor wee things. Some leaves were tired and yellow. Snip. The basil is blooming. Snip.

And I found a giant zucchini hiding under giant leaves. It’s beautiful, perfectly formed and not past edible and it hit me again how miraculous it is that a seed, dirt, water and light make food. Three nearly microscopic tomato seeds and I have 3 foot tall plants with tomatoes set on. Eight flat seeds 1/2 inch long and I have squash. Ten tiny seeds that look like brains and I have chard. Three specks of black, smaller than a ground of pepper, and I have basil.

Earth is just amazing.

P.S. I wrote this post last evening but it’s what I would write for the prompt today. 🙂

Bumbling Blog

I bumble around a lot. It’s a normal stragedy for a kinesthetic learner. Yesterday I spent an hour or so bumbling around the front yard around the lilac hedge with a saw designed to cut branches. The bumbling was effective. While I cannot get the stupid elm trees out of the hedge myself, I can control their top growth. It wasn’t even hard. In fact, I didn’t know it would be that easy. I got rid of the visible evidence of two elm trees yesterday before lunch. (Rocky Theme)

After that, I got a ball of string and tied up all the elm branches into semi-neat bumbles, I mean bundles, so that the trash can easily carry them away. I would like to recycle them, but it’s not an option at the moment. My little town is bumbling its way into modern times.

I have two more trees to contend with, but I might wait until fall when the leaves have, uh, fallen. I might not. It is fun to see a real change for the better in something.

In general, lilacs here are taking a kind of revenge, I think. The hedge is 10 feet tall (cut down to 5 feet two years ago). The backyard (dog yard) is a jungle of volunteer lilacs. In the yard are two huge lilacs (which will fall to my saw and pruning shears) and all around are little “weed” lilacs. “So, you missed lilacs when you were in California? HA! I’ll give you lilacs.”

I’ve seen people get a backhoe and drag out their entire lilac hedge, and all I think is, “good luck with that, you bumbling fools. You cannot win.”

Along with my new found aborist autonomy, I have had another retirement epiphany. Why did I buy a compact, economy car when I don’t commute? Yes, it’s nice that it has comfy leather seats and gets 37+ miles to the gallon, but what I need is a Jeep.

Return of the Triffids?? Garden Update

At the end of April and all through May I was setting up a garden. “Vegetables,” I thought, “besides tomatoes.” Tomato babies had been growing inside the house since March along with a couple of basil started from seeds.

Four feet square raised bed. All my research said this would grow a lot of veggies. 1 foot victory garden and all that.

So I planted a row of zucchini (four plants) exactly as the package said. I planted a row of Swiss chard, as the package said. There was room for two tomato plants and the basil could fit in somewhere, somehow. Yay! A little garden.

And then…

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I’ve already eaten six zucchinis. I have bought a zucchini recipe book. I can see the future and it is zucchinis. I never imagined anything like this. There is another zucchini plant in the ground in a sunny location. It’s leaves are 6 inches or so across. The ones in the raised bed are easily 18. When my neighbor asked how my composter was working out, I just pointed at the Triffids…

The tomatoes have begun to set on. The basil is happy, if a little crowded. The chard likes it cooler and a little shady so it’s happy (and makes good salad).


(Warning! Not the most interesting post you will ever read. It’s about a longterm relationship and as we know, they are long slogs from time to time.)

A garden is a commitment.

When I moved here nearly three years ago, I wasn’t sure about having a garden. First because there was a nice lawn all around the house, and, second, there is a sprinkler system. I thought, “Wow. Low maintenance. I’ll just have to mow.” This seemed like a break after the 1/4 acre of dirt and foxtails I’d been fighting with for eleven years in the mountains of Southern California. Out of that wilderness — populated by gophers — I’d managed to carve out couple of flower beds, but it was constant labor to keep things under some kind of control. And you can forget controlling gophers…

The first summer I learned I’d rather go at a plot of ground with a pick-axe than mow. I hate mowing the grass. I do it, but I’m out there pushing the mower, muttering, “I hate this, I f@*&ing hate this.”

I understand that a sprinkler system is a labor saving thing and so on, but it turned out that don’t like it. It means one cannot freely sling one’s pick-axe. One must worry about hitting a sprinkler. Raised beds seemed the answer, but what did I know about that?

The first spring, I tentatively made a commitment to a garden. I planted peonies and stargazer lilies that March. The lilies have done well every year (so far)

Stargazer lily, summer 2016

The peonies finally bloomed this year.

Pink Peony, June 2017

I needed to grow tomatoes and basil because I love caprese, and you can’t have that without tomatoes and basil. Home grown tomatoes are better than store bought (as everyone knows) and fresh basil is essential. That winter I had started tomatoes and some flowers in the house, so when spring arrived (or what, with my still-California mindset I thought was spring) I dug two flower beds in the back yard (now the dog’s yard) and put the tomatoes in containers. Everything grew. When fall arrived, I ordered a giant bulb assortment from Breck’s, dug more beds planted spring bulbs, daffodils and tulips and crocus and some other stuff but ran out of space and gave the rest of the bulbs away. Oh well…

Last summer I tried a big fabric raised bed and put flowers in it. I bought tomatoes at the nursery instead of starting them myself. The flowers were grand, but the tomatoes never really did anything.

Last year’s flowers, tomatoes, basil and Rosemary

Meanwhile I’d ordered fancy iris from Brecks and had iris last spring. When fall came around, my neighbor gave me dozens of iris and I had to plant them right away, so now the garden has iris that I will have to move this year, but that’s OK.


My next door neighbor — who is an amazingly talented gardener — gave me some plants so I dug more beds. Then, this week, I found a hardy hibiscus at the grocery store and decided to bring it home and put a little California in my Colorado garden. So far she seems happy.


This past winter I again started tomatoes in the house (I like growing things from seeds), a little too early, but they don’t seem to mind that. When it got (absurdly) warm in March and April, I decided to build the raised bed kits I ordered three years ago. The fabric raised bed looked pretty grim after the winter, so I shoveled out the dirt and tossed it.

I had big plans, but the big load of dirt to realize these big plans didn’t arrive, so it was A Little Lady dragging several 85 pound dirt bags into the back yard. Now there are two raised beds; one is wild flowers (it’s doing too well) and the other vegetables — tomatoes, basil, Swiss chard and zucchini. I’ve already eaten chard from my garden. I remember, now, why a vegetable garden is so great — it’s a supermarket in your backyard. Next year, I’m growing more vegetables.


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I have a garden and stuff is growing in it. Some of it is blooming, too. The peonies I planted three years ago bloomed this year — it’s my fault that I did not protect the buds from freezing in past years, but live and learn.

The late hard frost meant very few lilacs this spring. The frost was hard on the iris, too, but some made it into bloom before and some after; those caught in bud in between suffered the most.

The yellow rose that has been in my yard since godnose how long — maybe as long as the house has been here — has been poorly since I moved in. It’s a nasty rose, covered with grasping thorns, and somehow I was just never quite sure what to do with it. Each year it pumped out some blossoms then faded into a white-fly ridden mess of faded leaves.

But this year I decided, “OK, rose, you bloom every June no matter what. I’m cleaning the ground around you, I’m going to fertilize you and do something about your parasites. I hope you end up happy about it.” She’s very happy.


The downside of the rose (beyond the thorns) is that it spreads like a son-of-a-bitch, as does everything else — aspen, lilac and elm. It’s a war out there, I tell you, a war. This is the season of pulling minuscule elm-trees out of the places they don’t belong. You have to give it to elm tree, though. They bloom first and with an inspiring ferocity. “Nobody likes us. We gotta’ get out there and on that ground before anyone else and before the humans notice.” I know they think this.

baby elm trees

I’m not a great gardener. I’m just a person who putzes around the yard. I like best the gardens that grow on their own hook out there in “nature” (it still seems weird to me that “nature” is a place apart from my house and yard, but there it is). I am attempting such a garden in my yard. I bought wildflower seeds and followed the directions for sowing them. I do not think that the people who wrote those directions expected the results I have gotten. At the back, near the fence, I planted a Colorado Columbine. This thing is a dense mass of sprouts which I have thinned and thinned. Still…


Even Bear, seeing this as a cool place to lie down after a walk, had no effect on its determination to grow like crazy. I’m very eager to see what the flowers will be — I recognize some of the plants — sweet alyssum, flax, cornflower and California poppy — but what else is there???

Another seed I planted is Love in the Mist. A few years ago one or two came up after I scattered wildflower seeds in a small garden. I had never seen such a lovely thing before. I bought seeds — 1/4 pound — and shared with everyone around, so maybe it will be a big winner in my literal corner of the world.

Love in the Mist

Last but not least — though no blossoms, yet — is my little veggie garden. Tomatoes, basil, chard and zucchini.


After all…

Garden sign:mine