Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cat Nap

Okay I'll admit it, the title to this post is silly even for me. However, I shut my eyes for a few minutes several days ago and when I got up and walked past my deck door I did a double take when I realized I wasn't the only one getting a cat nap. I don't have any official cats but there are quite a few unofficial ones that come and hang out in my garden, no doubt with their noses and ears poised for the careless bird or mouse. This particular cat is making me wonder though because more often than not it seems to be lazing around. This is the first time I caught it napping on my deck but I've spotted it more than once curled up on my garden chair underneath the crepe myrtle tree in my back yard. I'm far more low key about the cats in my garden at this point because although the birds still find plenty to eat in my garden and I think I have as many birds as ever, they aren't sitting birds anymore. I used to have so many feeding stations that gave the neighborhood cats central areas to lie awaiting for the birds but once I stopped feeding them in officials feeders, the birds are dispersed throughout my garden and aren't quite as easy prey or that's what I tell myself. I'm able to get a kick out of the napping cat without worrying about whether it's belly is full of one of my flighty friends. The drought is beginning to be noticeable but I'm amazed at how well so many of my plants are doing with only a cup of water here and there. I'm not doing any real irrigating but the rose bush I planted for my Mom who loved yellow roses is one of the few plants that gets the benefit of my leaky faucet. It drips into a big washtub and gives me about a watering can and a half of water per day to help out some of the plants that need the most help. Other than that they are on their own. It's funny because the white valves in front of the wash tub go with buried hoses from back in the days of whole sale irrigation around my garden but times and priorities change. At this point for the most part I'm happier having a garden with plants that are evolving along with the weather patterns. Good thing for me that I love Queen Anne's lace. Now that's one tough plant and it is everywhere, happy to take the place of less tough plants. Butterfly weed is another that's doing well with very little water. My city is starting year round water restrictions beginning in July and even has good information about drought resistant landscaping for people that are interested. I stumbled across that because I heard we were starting water restrictions soon and did a web search as I hadn't seen anything in my newspaper lately. I was surprised that they are finally getting smart and not having spot restrictions during the worse shortages but finally voted to implement permanent year round ones. I approve. I do hope the rain which is being forecast for the weekend materializes. If we can get some rain, I'm hopeful that my gerber daisies and coriopsis which are already going to seed will produce some new plants. It could happen. It probably will happen with the coriopsis but the gerber daisies would involve some major luck. They don't look too bad but are getting that end of summer look which is a little weird since it's only the last day of May.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Walking Window

I missed my window of opportunity to walk this morning because I slept in. It's already too hot for me to walk today. Odd how May is ending with August weather. I'm glad Bill and I went for a walk together yesterday because he called at 9:00 and I got it into gear and we went on a pleasant walk in the woods and then had brunch. Today I glanced at my clock and it was too early so I went back to sleep and then repeated that until almost 10:00. Too weird how I can sleep so late. It's a blessing in a way. I remember how sleeping until 7:00 am was sleeping late no matter when I went to bed. Now I can sleep later than I've slept since I was a teenager. This started after my surgeries for melanoma and I suppose may have something to do with the meds I take. I am very sympathetic towards people who are dealing with active cancer and insomnia or are dealing with insomnia without cancer for that matter but reading people's blogs who I've gotten to know through the MPIP, I hate it when I know that for some insomnia is a constant problem. Nothing is worse than needing sleep and not getting it. It's odd but sleep is the one thing I can almost always do these days. I will need to start going to bed earlier though so I can walk early enough to beat the heat which is coming on full force lately. For today though I'm getting my nature fix by going back through some of the photographs I took in the mountains. One of the reasons I'm not interested in walking at the indoor track at my YMCA or mall walking is that I don't merely walk for exercise although that's an important part of it. I also walk for the sights, sounds, and smells I get outdoors. I'm lucky in that I can go sit in the shade under my crepe myrtle tree and listen to the birds, smell the honeysuckle and be surrounded by flowers. Even with that option, I still like to walk away from my house to see the changes elsewhere. It's always interesting to me to see how much further along certain plants are in the neighborhood gardens as opposed to the greenway trails which cut through the woods in the little wild sliver the city has kept for walking paths. I can see the same thing for that matter in different sections of my garden, depending in large part on shade, sun exposure, and even different soils which retain or drain rainfall. I've come to realize that many sun plants actually do fine in more shade but they are slower to flower and aren't usually as big, even when started at the same time. I also like to check out the woods for wildflowers I like. That way I know what to weed and what to leave be. There are so many lovely flowers that volunteer all over the place and if left be they are a free treat. Wild rasberries is another one. I love rasberries and I have a lot of rasberry plants in my garden, not because I planted them, but because I didn't pull them up when they volunteered at my place. A few years ago I noticed wild rasberries along one of the trails near my house and I realized that they kept trying to volunteer in my garden, but I was pulling them up. Last year I picked quite a few rasberries for my cereal fresh from my garden because I finally knew enough not to pull the plants up.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Change of Scenery Part Two

On the road just before the dirt road which I am pretty sure is where Grandma and Grandpa Young had their farm (my great grandparents) we passed a field of yellow flowers. That reminded me of my father. I tend to think of my mother a lot when I'm in the NC mountains because that's where she's from. My father is from eastern NC near the coast so I have strong roots from the mountains to the coast. My father's parents died when he was a teenager so I never knew them. Similarly I never knew Carver Young, my mother's father who I was named after since he died when she was a baby. I'm so grateful that my daughter reached adulthood with both of her parents still alive and that she knew all four of her grandparents and one great grandparent. I don't know much about my paternal Grandmother but my father said that when he was a child and he was upset, she would tell him to think of fields of yellow daisies. He in turn would say that to his children sometimes. Although the field pictured here isn't daisies it reminded me nonetheless of my father and was a good image. If only my grandmother Sapp had known, she was ahead of her time teaching her child visualization techniques before they became a new age fad. Learning to think of field of yellow daisies from my father is particularly helplful to me because he wasn't one to sweep injustices under the carpet. There are times when putting the blinders on will perpetuate problems but that wasn't what I was taught to do. There are times when we have to go to a place of comfort and safety if we have one and regroup. A field of flowers, whether in the mind's eye or up close and personal, is a good place to do it. Although I have memories of Grandma and Grandpa Young, I didn't know the name of the place where their farm was until I glanced in a pocket bible I have that says: Carver Young, Grassy Creek, N. Car. March 10, 1918. Until I checked the inscription recently I thought it was a prayer book but it's actually a tiny bible. When I was a child we would visit my grandmother in Boone, NC fairly regularly and often drive from there for an afternoon at my Grandma and Grandpa Young's farm. I remember their spring house and rolling down a big green hill. This past weekend when Bill and I went to Grassy Creek one afternoon we discovered that it was basically a community with a post office, farms and a few scattered houses. The reason I'm reasonably sure we found what used to be their farm was the little hint like a road sign named Young Rd. When you go down Young Rd there are a few houses including one mail box with Young on it. At the end of the dirt road is an organic farm but we didn't make it there because I was put off by the chickens blocking the road. I did take pictures of the hill that reminded me of the one I would roll down as a child and of our trip down the road. I think it's likely the Young still living on that road is my Great Uncles' great grandchild. I knew that the Uncle that inherited the farm eventually sold portions of it while keeping the place where his house was. If I wasn't so shy I would have knocked on the door and said, hello I'm one of Walter and Loretta Young's great grandchildren, are we related? Maybe another time. Life is so strange. I am very saddened that I never knew Carver Young and of course sadder than that is the fact that my mom didn't know him. Since her father died when she was two months old it's not the same as missing someone you have a bond with but it's a loss of another kind. However, carried one step further, in order for my mother to have known her father, she wouldn't have had the sisters and brothers who were my grandmother's children with her second husband. That's the odd part of life to me. It's so tragic for a young man with a two month old baby to die when he's in his early twenties but once life moves on what follows can involve so many twists and turns that there is no going back even in the mind's eye. I can't imagine the Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and cousin's children not being born and that all came after Carver died and my grandmother eventually remarried. What an odd rambling post this has turned into.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Change of Scenery

It was fun to get out of town for a change of scenery. Bill and I went to the northern NC mountains near the Virginia border. We stayed about 12 miles from where my Great Grandparent farm was. We had pleasant hikes, a canoeing adventure I wasn't expecting, and drove around where the Grandfather I was named after grew up. We were both surprised by a wild turkey who crossed the path we were hiking on. I've drunk my share of wild turkey whiskey in the mountains but I've never seen one wandering around in the forest. It was a good time for me to go on a trip and stretch my boundaries a bit. I've been tracking my progress every 30 days since December when I decided on a fresh start. I decided to stop comparing how I was doing physically with how I did prior to my March 2005 LND but to start a new fitness log of sorts. The day before we left for the mountains I hit Day 150 and I'm averaging better than every other day on my walk or walk/jog. It was fun to see how well I was doing outside my comfort zone, 5 months after my latest effort. I've been on some hikes with Bill in the mountains, since all my chronic post groin LND for melanoma crap, but I felt like I carried my own weight better this time. A good walking stick helped with that. When Bill suggested we rent a canoe and paddle down the New River on our last day in the mountains, I was a little nervous. My shoulder has been much better since I got a shot in it but I wasn't sure about trying to paddle. I did much better than I would have thought that I'd do. The picture I'm posting here is me after we finished our canoe ride and I was even able to help Bill carry the canoe up the hill to the loading spot. Small victories but victories none the less. I know I'm repetitious when I mention how lucky I am but I do feel that way. I know at times I dwell on my limitations instead of focusing on what I can do and I can do quite a lot.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Finally, one of those ah ha moments . . .

I had to go to my office Monday to learn a new task and then back home to work on it. The timing of this new project is good because it's tedious work but I get a break for a planned vacation. I'm on vacation today. That's nice too. The way it's working out is I have some days off before my trip with Bill to the mountains so I can blaze some trails through my flowers. Being led down my garden path requires a bush axe not because of weeds but because the flowers are taking over. Boy do I love that but I am trying to keep at least a few of the paths. My ah ha moment took place in my car on the way to Durham in rush hour traffic. I allowed about three times as long as it should have taken because of how unpredictable rush hour is and because I figured I'd rather get there early and check my box and drop off some stuff at someone's cubby etc. as opposed to not allowing enough time and risk arriving late since there were a group of us getting remote training. That was too weird with speaker phone and someone in CA going over it with the people in NC who took turns at the computer. So I set off bright and early and ended up in the traffic pile up from hades. The weird part was it didn't bother me at all. I listened to NPR, I listened to music, when I realized I might not make it on time I called the office and was told I almost certainly wouldn't be on time because the person I called saw the accident scene which caused the back log in the direction I was driving. She got there because she was coming from the other direction but she told me that there were fire trucks and ambulances and that the traffic wasn't moving at all in the direction I would be driving. As it turned out I was only 20 minutes late since I set out so early but a 30 to 40 minute trip took me over two hours. I was sad for the people involved in the actual wreck but I was totally relaxed about everything else. It simply didn't matter in the scheme of things whether I had to spend the morning in a traffic jam. That's when I went ah ha and realized that a few years ago, before I was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma, I would have been having a fit about being stuck in traffic that long. I know because those kinds of jam ups were one of the reasons I couldn't stand it when I used to commute. I've struggled a lot with why I didn't have a sense of gaining perspective from being a cancer patient. You read about that all the time. My feeling has been that the annoyances are still annoying and that having cancer hasn't miraculously made my life better, duh. This whole week has made me feel like maybe I know what people talk about when they accentuate the positive of a lousy situation. In my case I guess I'm a slow learner but I do think that my experiences over the past few years have added up to my being able to be low key when confronted with something outside my control like a traffic delay. I am able to realize that I wasn't the one who had a bad Monday morning because I wasn't the one being rushed to the hospital after a pile up on the highway. I got to listen to music and talk radio on NPR and it simply wasn't that big of a deal. I guess I have a slow learning curve but I am learning. That doesn't mean that if my job had depended on me being there on time that it wouldn't have been pretty awful but my job didn't depend on me being on time and it was obvious that I couldn't control one of the worse traffic jams in some time. There have been computer issues all week too but there again, I've done my best and everyone has been dealing with them both in NC and CA in connection with this project. I've been lucky that after the initial training, I'm in the comfort of my home working when I start getting those system exception messages. I guess I'm feeling pretty damn lucky in general. So far my cancer hasn't recurred, I get to work from my computer at home, I only have to deal with rush hour traffic very occasionaly. My garden is growing like crazy. All this and a trip up the mountain to look forward to.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

I got the best Mother's Day gift in the world last night when my daughter called to let me know she was safe and sound in her new apartment. It took over 16 hours to get there and she sweetly called me at rest stops in Kentucky and Indiana and once on the road in Illinois. In a way I almost felt like I was on the road with her except I was home with computer access to check for sunset times in various states so she'd know if she needed to memorize a bunch of exits, etc. I hope that the next few years will be a great experience for her. She's been forewarned by people who have gone to law school about how hard it will be but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. I am once again an empty nester and I'm sure it will be an adjustment but it was relatively easy when she went to undergraduate school and that was after having her with me her whole life. This time she was only here for a little over 4 months. I'm sure part of why I have almost a greater sense of having an empty nest this time is because of the permanence. When she went to college I assumed she'd be home summers and didn't think of her as being an adult yet. It has sunk in that at 22 she's the same age I was when I got married and she's going to school 16 hours away in a car (three cheers for airplanes to close the distance). There is a sense of permanence I didn't feel when she was off before. I would so much rather it be like this though than for her to lack the confidence to move to far off ports as it were. I guess I'll wrap this up since Bill's taking me out for mother's day brunch. One good thing is Monday I have to go to the office and learn how to use a software add on and for at least 8 weeks work will be busy. Also, in there is my vacation trip to the mountains with Bill and I'm joining my sisters at the beach for a long weekend too. I guess my point is I won't have time to think too much about the whole empty nest business.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hiding Places

I've always loved hiding places outside. When I was a child, my favorite place was deep within the bushes on the corner of the street I lived on. There weren't any children my age in that family so I wasn't exactly an invited guest in the hide away but it was such a large expanse of overgrown bushes that I could crawl in and create my own world without anyone knowing that I was there. This time of year, my back yard is full of places like that. The main problem I have is not wanting to scare other animals and infringe on their hidey holes. Too bad they can't read. I could hang a sign around my neck and say, I'm a fellow creature looking for a safe place to regroup. I've mentioned before how I've always stopped to smell the flowers, heck, sometimes I wish I could jump into a flower and blend like the butterflies do. Today is my daughter's last day at home before she leaves for the long drive to the midwest where she'll be going to law school. I took some last day at home photos because I doubt either of us will be in the mood at 5:00 am when she leaves in the morning. It's funny because her room is getting pretty empty but the picture of her in the guest room where all her boxes and suitcases are at the ready for loading shows how much stuff has come out of her room bound for a medium size car. The big crossing of fingers at the moment is that she'll be able to fit everything in the car but in the scheme of things that's obviously a minor issue. Sometimes everything is minor, even big things. I've grappled with that concept long before I got to know so many courageous people of all ages in the thick of their battle to beat the odds with melanoma. I remember when my Godmother and mother died within a year of each other, I felt a certain amount of guilt about the depth of my grief. A woman I had gotten to be friends with when we worked together, lost a teenaged son in an automobile accident when I was in the middle of the grief process for my losses. I didn't articulate this to anyone but it bothered me that I couldn't seem to shake my depression after my mom died when I knew someone who was surviving the loss of a child. Besides the obvious fact that depression isn't about logic, loss isn't either. Obviously, in the scheme of things, we should all live normal life spans and younger people should never go first but that's not the way it is and losing people we love to death is almost always hard. Not sure what got me thinking about that. I guess it's because I've been a little worried about my daughter's 15 hour drive tomorrow and how she'll barely catch her breath before the summer session begins this coming monday. The minute that thought crosses my mind though I feel ridiculous when I think about the parents of children who die at a much younger age than my daughter is. This whole train of thought is ridiculous. It's not like life if a bartering process where we can say, I'll take a triple helping of ordinary stress if you'll make everything okay for people facing the worse things. In odd ways though I am more relaxed about everything the older I get. I know that some things have to be taken as they come. I was even able to laugh about something that made me a little insecure in terms of my job and realize it was an innocent mistake. I've worked for the same company for close to 10 years and since 2000, they have let me work primarily from home and keep a full time position. The company has grown so much that most people don't know me. I'll be working on a new project with people I don't know and have to physically go to my office Monday and get training for the new task but after that will be able to continue working from home. An email circulated that there were two new hires who would be at the office for training. I was listed as one of the new hires. The person who wrote the email isn't my PD and this is a situation where I'm being loaned to help out in a pinch but the point is it dawned on me that I've worked at the same place all these years and most of the people that work there are new since I stopped having to be physically at the office. The result of that is that in this case, through miscommunication I suppose, the person who will be going over the work with me thought I was a brand new employee. For the most part, I'm laughing. My solution to PVC pipes is making me laugh. I don't like the PVC pipes in certain parts of my garden which have function but aren't very attractive. I had a bunch of burlap which I covered some of the pipes with and now they almost look like garden guards. They make me laugh and as Martha would say, that's a good thing.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Gifts of spring and wild views

I was sure when we had our cold snap in April that one of the losses would be this years' blossoms on my corner white azalea which blooms later than the others. Oddly enough the dropping brown buds that got zapped by the freeze made room for a much more ethereal gift of spring. Hard to believe that so many of the buds died because to me this ended up being about right. Every year it is a surprise to me how fast my back yard goes from fairly barren to a veritable jungle. It's getting better and better too as the self seeding flowers I want and the yarrow and other plants I love are managing to choke out the weed I don't want. The hardest decisions I have to make at this point involve the volunteer trees, ornamental bushes and virginia creeper. The back garden is becoming much shadier in the summer as I've let volunteer cherry, mulberry, apple, crepe myrtle, red bud and dogwoods grow. I am getting better about making decisions and managed to make a lot of progress today cutting down the volunteer trees that are too numerous. Much easier to weed with loping irons when the weeds are small trees than to have tons of conventional weeds to pull up. That's what is happening. The flowers and trees are leaving very little room for weeds although I need to do a better job of staying on top of some of the vines. Or maybe I don't. In most regards the wilder my garden gets the more it suits me especially if I can continue to keep moving it with a little effort in the direction I want it to go. One thing I love about the overgrown parts is what a good habitat for the birds I have. Boy are they letting me know too when I'm too close to nests. I can't see them but when I was out today trying to do some very minor pruning the birds went nuts, screaming at the top of their lungs. I moved away to another area that needed work and they quieted down. Nice that they let me know when I'm encroaching on their homes because the last thing I want to do is expose defenceless babies or unhatched eggs. Then again if you feed the animals you feed the animals. You can't blame a cat or a hawk or a dog for being what they are. One of the reasons I stopped feeding the birds with feeders is because I felt like I was pointing out to the neighborhood cats where to lie awaiting. There's no way I'm going to keep the cats out of my garden, even if I try, but as long as the birds are scattered throughout the habitat garden, I think they stand a better chance. There is so much for them to eat, except in the worse weather, that they still find plenty to eat in my garden without the feeders. Also, when we have ice or snow and I do help them out a bit it's usually the kind of days where the cats stay at their warm homes and don't come to my garden to stalk. I remember when I used to think of my garden goals in terms of a sanctuary. A place where I could hide away when I needed to. I'm increasingly thinking in terms of garden rooms too. That's part of why I'm allowing volunteer trees to stay in some spots that may not seem logical but they are helping to start separating the areas I think of as rooms. I don't want it to get so shady everywhere that my sun plants won't survive but it doesn't hurt to have more shade in the summer. I've discovered that a lot of plants that are billed as sun plants do well in the south with a bit more shade than you would expect as long as they get some sun. Especially if the shade doesn't become too dense until the later part of spring and summer. In addition to my secret garden, sanctuary, and garden rooms themes, I also like a crazy quilt in certain areas. I can't wait until the colors which would clash in most contexts are bursting out all over the place for my crazy quilt made of summer flowers. As long as we don't get too dry this will be a great year for early summer flowers. There are tons of buds already promising me the reds, purples, pinks, black, yellow, white, orange, and lavender riot that is soon to come. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects in my garden at the moment is that it makes me laugh. I have a rose bough that has grown beyond it's boundaries and made an arch down into my lettuce box. With the help of a broom I managed to shift it a little so I don't get hit in the fact by thorns when I try to pick lettuce. That makes me laugh out loud.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Let them eat weeds . . .

I'll let you in on a secret. I love rabbits. Most gardeners I know have trouble with rabbits disrupting their gardens but I get the biggest kick out of the rabbits that hang out at my place. They almost never wreck havoc or even eat food that I want to eat. I've discovered that rabbits like weeds so they are a messy gardeners best friend. I kid you not, the rabbits in my garden never get to the plants I want to preserve because they have this whole feast of weeds to pig out on and they love it. It's a win win situation. I get to say, see that scraggly looking plant, that's rabbit food. I just thought of that this minute but from now on instead of saying, I really need to do some weeding, I'll say ah nice to see I have a good crop of rabbit food. I think this little rabbit must be young because it's about half the size of some of the big ones I've spotted in my garden. Also, this one posed for the camera and had zero fear of me unlike the large ones that hop off when I get nearby. It always makes me nervous when animals in the wild are too comfortable being photographed. I fear they will be open season for predators. It's not that unusual to see hawks circle overhead in my garden although I never have a camera at the ready for that shot. At one point there was an owl nesting somewhere in the vicinity because I heard it occasionally. I'm pretty sure that owls and hawks could make a meal of this little rabbit. In the meantime though it has lots of weeds to fill it's belly and so far it's short life appears to be okay. May has arrived with a blast of heat but a cold front is moving through tonight and we'll have a few days of spring again. We may also get some rain which is much needed. So far we've been getting the bare minimum of rain. It's been enough to keep most of the plants alive but we keep getting warnings that our area is at high risk for fire. The only big fire so far that I've heard about was at a scrap metal plant. Not sure what was behind that. Oh well, hopefully the rains will come and soak deeply into the soil.