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Monday, April 29, 2013

Warm Monday

This morning I awoke to temperatures that apparently will be higher than the highest temp for the week starting Wednesday. We have a chance of snow (yes, in May) and a chance of frost. Winter won't let go in Kansas.

I'm going to try to stop talking/writing about it. I'm tired of listening to myself, so I know you all are tired of hearing about it. You're cold, too. And if you're not, I suggest you keep it to yourself. I'm in no mood.

I bought a van-load of flowers this weekend, some perennials, some annuals. I have until Tuesday to get them in the ground before the snow and frost will kill them. I'm writing this while I wait for the sun to come up. I can get a few planted before work. I'm going to spend as much time outside during the next two hot, sunny days that I can.

It occurred to me yesterday my sleepless nights might be caffeine-related. Due to the cold weather, I've been drinking hot tea in the evenings and hot lattes whenever someone offers. That all stops. I'll drink hot water instead. I also took Valerian root last night and slept until 4:30 without waking up for the first time in seven days.

While turning the compost piles yesterday, I realized I may not get any more shreddable leaves out of last year's bags to use as mulch. Thanks to the rain and snow - yes, I'm trying to be grateful - the compost is composting quickly. If I don't add more to the pile I've got, I might get usable compost in a few weeks at this rate, and that's as good as mulch, I guess.

Well, the sun's up and I can see the ground. That means I'm out into The Swamp to plant.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Catch a few rays if you can and think of me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Relief in Sight?

I'm tired - literally and figuratively - of waking up around 1 to 2 AM and not going back to sleep. It's happened to me every night this week, so it's little wonder why I'm bouncing back slower than usual.

I don't like it when my schedule gets disrupted. Maybe it's my propensity for motion sickness, but turning my world upside down makes me angry and upset. I don't like being out of control and I avoid it whenever possible. Not saying this is a good thing. Just sayin'.

TT: Most people would agree with the above statement, but it's been my observation that most people handle stress better, or invite it into their lives faster, than I do. Why else would people marry and have children? Or join social clubs? Or date? Pure chaos, all of it.

All the areas of my life are swirling this week. The job is getting more stressful, and, while answers are coming, they don't seem to be coming fast enough, which leads to stress about failing at what I do. Normally, I would go out into the garden to restore some perspective, but the weather has been less than cooperative, which leads to more stress. Finally, my "alone" time is being infringed by social demands I'd rather not meet but must, which leads to more stress.

In short, I'm having a bad week.

However, I have learned that eventually everything smooths out again. Stress, like life, is cyclical.

Happy Friday, dear readers. I feared it wouldn't come but here it is. Let's make the best of it. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No Stress Relief for the Weary

I garden to reduce stress. That hasn't been working for me lately.

For the third time this month, I have covered my lilac bush with pillow cases to protect the five potential blossoms from killing frost. Why? Because that lilac has never bloomed before. Thirteen years it's lived here without blooming, and the first year it tries, we get 25 degree lows and 40 degree highs in April on a regular basis.

I've laid awake this month thinking about the garden. How to protect the plants. When to harden the seedlings. How many more should I plant because these might be frozen to death in May? When can I shred leaves that won't result in electrocuting myself or ruining my Leaf Hog? Is the whole year going to be wet and cold or should I buy mulch while I can because May will launch the Summer of 100 Days of 100 Degrees?

I'm not kidding. I'm more stressed about The Swamp this month than I have been the last two years of my depression.

I have no business being upset. We desperately need the rain, so if it comes with unseasonably cold temperatures, I should just suck it up. Lower temps also mean less likelihood of damaging storms, so I'm getting a pass on storm phobia in April. That should make me happy. It doesn't.

I want Winter to be over. I want sun-drenched Kansas skies, not snow. I want to open my windows and stop paying heating bills for one month before I have to pay air conditioning bills.

Most of all, I want my lilac to bloom this year. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Swamp April 22, 2013

If the universe revolved around me, I'd say some Higher Power doesn't want me to grow beans this year. I'm pretty sure the four I planted outside are dead, the seven Skamper chewed on are near dead and the twelve more seeds I planted last week aren't sprouting. Even if they were, I wouldn't have a place to put them because we seem caught in the Groundhog Daymare of a cold front a week sweeping in snow and freezing temperatures. In late April. In Kansas.

In the way of humans, I'm not rejoicing that all but one pea plant is doing well. I even like peas better than beans. What I don't like is failure, and, yes, apparently I believe I have the power to make things grow.

This weekend involved a myriad of projects. The south side planting was intended to be low maintenance, but when bermuda grass is involved, there's no such thing. I've not fought it as hard as I should because I don't like being on the south side of the house. It's hot and the neighbors are weird over there. But, those neighbors are selling their house, so I need to pretty up the south side.

I've broken my own rule and started using grass killer. It's really the only way to keep bermuda grass in check. If you're not familiar with this Kansas jewel, bermuda grass grows anywhere, spreads through seeds and runners (both above and below ground) and can smother existing plants in less than one season. I hate it. I don't know if it's a native plant or an invasive import, but it's a pain in any gardener's back and I will do what's necessary to kill it.

The south side has barberries, a rose bush, lamb's ear (unintentional but it thrives, so I'm leaving it) and maroon chrysanthemums. The mum had split into several tiny mums so I transplanted them. Now I have to mulch and water heavily this year to keep them, but it's worth it. I'll be checking on the stupid grass anyway.

Sunday saw more transplanting. I broke up a healthy patch of lemon thyme. If the basil I planted lives (highly doubtful at this time), it also goes into the herb bed. The bees and I loved the basil last year, so I hope to triple the number of plants I put in. You can't really see the thyme in this pic, but this is the herb bed. The containers hold my "peas in a pot" seedlings. Glad they're cool weather plants.

Finally, I did something I've meant to do for a while and broke up a few big clusters of plants into several small clusters of plants.

The far left plant is a pink shrub rose. I'll regret putting it here because it grows like bermuda grass and sports more thorns than your average cactus, but it survived the arborists, so I kinda respect it. The green onion looking things are daffodils. Wrong time of year, I know, but the weather thinks it's fall, so I'm going with it. I divided the grape hyacinths, too. The bright green babies are variagated hostas, and the fluffy, parsley looking things are true geraniums, bloody cranesbill by common name. The only problem is these are shade plants and this spot is no longer shady. They may all die in a month or two, but they survived last year's drought and 100+ temps, so they may not. I'll mulch the crap out of them, too.

My biggest garden concern this year is the lack of earthworms. I don't know where my little garden buddies have gone, but I've found precious few. I can only assume I'm not mulching enough to give them cool, moist earth to work. That will change this year.

Happy Monday, everybody. If you see the sun, think of me. I'll be dreaming of seeing it again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Swamp April 16, 2013

Since the only part of Spring showing up this year is the longer days, I've decided I'll garden anyway. Yesterday I pulled on my sweatshirt and heavy socks before trudging out back after work. If it's not raining tonight, I'll use earmuffs, too. Would you believe we have a chance of accumulating snow by Thursday night? Normally, we'd be in the 70's.

I spent about two hours unwinding from a day with cemeteries by - what to call it? cleaning the garage? It's going to take about four weeks' worth of trash pickup for that to happen, but I started.

See, I like my newest van, and I'm concerned about hail damage, but I have never, ever parked one of my vehicles in my garage. The garage is sliding off its foundation and down the gentle slope of my back yard, so the door is tricky and not worth fighting with on a daily basis.

TT: I wish I had the expertise to repair the garage. Whenever I ask a man/contractor, I get a look that, well, let's just say I'm tired of getting that look. To my untrained eye, I need to jack up the building, remove the broken concrete slab with a jackhammer, pour a new slab and new concrete supports and put the garage back down. Then I could have a solid garage I could electrify and convert from a wild animal shelter to an actual place for my vehicles. However, I don't know how to do any of that and most men seem to believe the cheaper and easier version is to demolish the garage and put up a new one. That's assuming I could get a permit for another garage, something I'm not convinced I could do. Not many houses around here comparable to mine have garages. Since I'm not made of gold, I guess I'll just let it demolish itself.

Where was I?

I have about four cubic yards of horse manure left, and I raided (with permission) the departing neighbors' compost pile for another six, and I dug through my own compost pile until I found the useable stuff way at the bottom, so I'm good with dirt for a bit. I'm setting up all my bins, too. They've been stored long enough. Time to remember who I am.

The four green beans I planted last weekend are hanging on, barely. I don't know if they'll survive snow. Should I pull them up and bring them inside until the weather warms? Except Skamper has a taste for beans now. I doubt they'd survive him. Another excellent reason to have a garage.

Oh, well. This post has turned into a bit of a downer. My apologies.

After filling my trash bin with garage overflow, I mowed the lawns. I need to rake up fall debris out front to add to the compost bins and maybe do some reseeding, but I have seed and dirt, so that's doable. While mowing the tiny strip in the back, I saw the seeds I planted in March are sprouting. That pleases me.

I finished the evening's workout with the section of garden around the "Early Girl" tomato plant, where I pulled enormous dandelions, worked compost into the soil and set up the beginning of the support trellis. That's the trick with The Swamp. One bite at a time, one bed at a time, one plant at a time.

It's a journey, not a destination. We'll grow beautiful and strong together.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Look for the happy today. We all need it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Longer I Live the More I Wanna Be a Zombie

Forget vampires. Vampires have become the yell leaders of the undead, sparkling their way around high school campuses and charming the blood out of the down-trodden.

That's too social for me. The more I interact with people, the more I see the bonus in eating them alive and moving on.

Why do people get worse as they get older instead of better? Why don't we get softer? After a lifetime of practicing life, shouldn't we be more patient, more rational, more flexible? That's not been my experience. Add a few years to anybody and you're dealing with an impatient, bitter hardhead. Is this American entitlement at work? The "I'm too old for this ...." syndrome?

Here's a reality check. No one is too old to practice civility.

I suppose it's another manifestation of the Fall and my old nemesis Entropy. Everything falls apart over time.

A nice segueway into a profitable weekend in The Swamp. I've planted lettuces and beets after preparing their bed with horse manure and potting soil. I put out a few of the beans and peas, although I'll have to cover them later in the week when our temps dip below freezing. I knew it was a gamble. Last frost date in Kansas is April 15. I've held a few plants back just in case.

We have unsettled weather for the next few days, which means we may get rain for my new plantings or we may just get frightened by predictions of severe storms. I'm praying for the former and God's grace for the latter.

Finally, I scraped my knee Friday afternoon and I can't describe how much it hurts, even four days later. I'm not kidding. It's kept me awake at night when the blanket rubs across it. Walking hurts. Bending it hurts, sometimes so much my breath catches and my eyes tear. It's been a long time since I've scraped anything and I don't remember this kind of pain. I have no idea what I'm going to wear to work that won't irritate it more.

Which is another reason I'd rather be a zombie. They never worry about what to wear and they don't seem to mind getting limbs ripped off their bodies, let alone a quarter-sized piece of skin.

Yep. Zombie good.  Happy Monday, dear readers.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A House of Bed

Have I mentioned I tend to go to bed when I'm cold? I should put on a sweater and jump around until I heat up, but that's just not my nature (as my increasing backside will attest).

Warmth has stalled out somewhere to the south of Kansas. Even with a shining sun, we just can't get rid of the north wind. That sends me to bed with an electric blanket instead of outside where The Swamp so desperately needs my attention. This wouldn't be so bad if I did something productive while I'm in there - writing or reading, for example - but I don't. I curl up under the simulated warmth and dream of truly warm days, fresh asparagus and potted peas with blueberries.

Most people think Spring is Summer Lite, but I understand Spring is that mix of Winter and Summer that sometimes means you're happy and sometimes means you're miserable. It's felt a bit miserable the last 10 days.

The sun shines. I'm truly grateful for that.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Put your coats on.