Saturday, October 20, 2018

20. A New Water Source and a Set of Pliers

I’ve lived in this for fourteen-and-a-half years. Only this summer did I realize there was a water spigot on the back of my house. This was a revelation.

I have happily dragged my hose back and forth between the back and front yards, but it did seem convenient that I could have one hose in the back and one in the front. It would save me a little time and effort.

I separated the two hoses that had been one long hose, and attached the second hose to the spigot in the back yard. And then I went to work on turning it on. I worked and worked and could not budge it. I was annoyed and didn’t have time to mess with it, so I skipped watering that morning and told myself I’d ask my neighbor to check it out in the evening.

I came home from work and wasn’t interested in dealing with this hang up, so I didn’t water again, and skipped asking my neighbor for help. I was motivated to try early in the morning before work because I didn't want another hot day to pass without watering. Sometime between then and the next morning, I remembered that I hadn’t tried pliers. I needed to employ a tool stronger than my hand.

If the pliers didn’t work, then I’d definitely ask my neighbor for help. A few years ago, my dad restocked my garage with tool basics. I went to the garage to grab a set of pliers. I took them to the spigot and sure enough, it was just what I needed! The water started flowing through the hose, and I got the plants rehydrated. I can’t tell you how satisfying these little moments are for me as a solo homeowner. I texted a friend that I’d figured out my water problem without asking for help. His “nice work” was so nice to read.

I’m really glad that I figured out a way to cut down on the hose hauling. The convenience of two hoses has enhanced the gardening experience. Life really is made up of the little victories. My confidence continues to blossom like my garden.

Friday, October 19, 2018

19. A Moment of Decision

Since I’ve never grown anything from seed before, I was hesitant to do any weeding for a while. I had no idea what zinnia, sunflower, and wildflower sprouts looked like. I kept watering and sending these little sprouts my love and affection.

As the sprouts got taller and stronger, I began noticing something that was growing vigorously was also growing in places where I hadn’t planted seeds. Then one day, I noticed the same plant growing up out of a seam in my driveway. That third location sealed the deal for me. That plant wasn’t supposed to be where it was growing and it needed to go. I didn’t want it to choke out the burgeoning plants that were growing in their neat little rows.

It was a cool moment. I’d given the plants enough time to establish themselves and deduced that this particular plant didn’t belong. I could hear the catchy Sesame Street jingle in my head, “One of these things is not like the others.” And I didn’t consult anyone, either. This was my decision alone, and it proved to be a good one.

The offending weed appears directly behind the zinnia bud in the foreground.

A few days later- the flower is opening more and there's no more weed.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

18. Snake Break

Gardening is teaching me about time management and the power of committing a little time to one task. When I finish it, I reassess my energy and what is next and determine if I'll keep at it or wrap up for the time being. Either decision is the right one, depending on the moment.

I'm also being reminded about the importance of cleaning up after oneself as a metaphor for life. A good amount of my latest sessions in the backyard are cleaning up piles of clipped decorative grasses or other weeds that I pulled last year or the year before.

I spotted my first snake and knew that these piles are invitations to snakes and other unsavory “wild life.” Metaphorically, the piles remind me of the things—emotions, bad feelings, unhelpful habits—that grow bigger when left unattended.

I don't feel bad about it. It's cathartic and the hard work will teach me not to take that approach anymore. Moving forward, I will clean up the yard refuse as I go. The piles are also visual clutter which has a tendency to weigh down my mind and energy. No more piles of yard waste unless it's going into my compost pile.

And as for the snake, I was proud that I didn’t freak out. I simply stopped what I was doing, backed up, and gave him some space to do his thing. I needed to get some water anyway.

I haven’t seen him since, so my theory about clearing away the piles must be spot on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

17. Something to Talk About

I am one chatty gal. But as I get older, I notice the value of silence as a way of combatting all the physical and digital noise around us. It’s easy to get enveloped in the noise, so I’ve worked on being more intentional about the words I say. I choose more carefully when I speak up and when I use silence to speak for me.

As I contemplated this shift, I began noticing that most people aren’t comfortable with silence and so many fill it with things like talking about the weather. In an effort to move closer to more authentic conversation, I decided to cut out the weather small talk and to see what happened.

My reasoning was that there isn’t a single thing I can do about the weather. I can’t make it stop snowing or make it rain when the ground is dry, so if I’m looking for an easy place to cut out conversational noise, the weather was a good place to start. I also chose to practice this conversational boycott to conserve energy for more meaningful interactions with strangers and acquaintances alike. Standing at the sink in the women’s restroom got a lot quieter when I stopped initiating conversation to fill those awkward few seconds in the presence of someone else. And then…

I started gardening, and I became dependent on the weather to know how to plan my watering schedules. I used to hope for rain, specifically on weekends when I was likely to mow, so that I could put it off for another day. But now that mowing isn’t such a chore, I depend on the rain to nourish my flowers, and to ease my daily watering schedule. I’m constantly looking at the clouds to predict whether or not rain is on its way. I check my phone’s weather app to see what the weekly forecast is. I am cheery and enthusiastic when rain does fall, and lament when the rain doesn’t come as forecasted or stops before it reaches my neighborhood (which has happened repeatedly this summer).

Talking about the weather now has purpose. I feel grateful for the four seasons in which I live and no longer see the weather as a filler topic of conversation. It has always been important, but I was less directly affected by it when I wasn’t gardening.

I relate better to farmers and to their dependence on the weather. I recognize now in a new way how vulnerable they are to wind and excessive rain as well as drought conditions.

This gardening thing broadened my perspective in ways I wasn’t prepared for, and I am grateful. Now, I talk about the weather, and it isn’t idle conversation. It is meaningful and holds significance in my day-to-day life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

16. My Garden as a Mirror

This new pastime served as a mirror. It helped reflect back to me how I feel about my life, and for the first time I can say almost across the board, I feel great.
I found renewed energy that for once doesn't feel like a burst that will soon flame out. My gardening showed me that I've weathered a hard pass and am stronger on the other side.
The time outdoors nourished me in ways I never knew or expected. I woke up earlier and actually got up. Hours before I had to go to work, I completed an evening's worth of housekeeping or bill paying. Sometimes I baked something or worked in the garden. I let go of the idea that I should wake up and dread going to an office job. In doing so, I gave something far too much power.

By the time I go to work these days, I've accomplished so much already that I have momentum to keep going. I've also noticed that I don't let little things pile up like I used to. I do the task when it's smaller and easier thereby freeing mental energy and physical time for other things I'd rather be doing. Like watering my plants, weeding a bit, laughing and hanging out with my daughter, reading a book, or writing a blog post.

Could I really have gotten all of this from working out in my yard? Yes.

Going to the place I loathed the most and seeing it with new eyes allowed me to see other parts of my life from a new perspective. 
I like what I see.

Monday, October 15, 2018

15. Flower Power

I see a pattern forming in how some of the most important things I do in my life develop. I wanted to write for years, but couldn’t muster the courage or belief that I had anything worth saying. In those intermittent years, I read everything I could get my hands on about authors’ processes, their strategies, and their successes and failures. By the time I started writing seriously, I had a firm handle on what was required of me: persistence and discipline. Those two things were what I could control. 

This summer taught me that the same thing was happening as I looked outside my back windows season after season. While I didn’t know a lot of technical things, I knew what I liked and what I wanted. I knew that I wanted flowers and plants that remind me of my beloved home state of Kansas.

The afternoon that I decided to take the leap and turn part of one cleared area into a flower bed, I chose zinnias and sunflowers for my starter garden. I had no idea what would come of it. Did I have even a remote chance of inheriting my grandparents’ green thumbs? Would the seeds take?

I borrowed my neighbor’s pitch fork and tilled the ground and then added potting soil on top of the dirt. I read the instructions on the back of the seed packets and planted the seeds. I watered religiously and in four days I saw zinnia sprouts. I was thrilled. This early success built momentum.

I purposely started with a small bed. I was more interested in a little bit of success than biting off more than I could chew or losing interest. Plus, even if none of the seeds sprouted, I was only out $5.

The plants made steady progress, and one evening I took my daughter out to see the sprouts.

“I'm proud of you, Mom. I can see your hard work.”

There’s nothing better than the admiration of an eleven-year-old. I was delighted with my garden’s progress and motivated to keep watering and capturing its progress day by day.

Sprouts appeared days after I planted the seeds.

I could not believe the progress I saw from day to day, week to week.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

14. Poison Something

I’m not one to use a thimble when I needlepoint, and until recently I didn’t much care for using gloves when I weed. Even though I don’t like having messy hands, I don’t mind the feel of dirt on my skin or under my fingernails.

As I began de-weeding my jungle, I kept an eye out for poison ivy. I had reason to believe there might be some up there in the mess, but I wasn’t too sure if I’d recognize it as I yanked weeds. I googled it once or twice and what I saw did not match what came up in the google search, so I kept pulling weeds and making giant piles while wearing tank tops and bare hands.

A day or two after the most recent session in the yard, my wrists and the tops of my hands began itching. And then they began burning. The skin reddened, swelled, and became really uncomfortable.

It was peculiar how the breakouts were in nearly the same exact places on each arm. A friend looked at my arms and suggested it was time for hydrocortisone cream. The cream definitely helped and the discomfort began dissipating a few days later.

I’m still not convinced that it was actually poison ivy, but it was poison something. I feel like this brush with whatever it was was a warning: Cover up and use gloves. Next time could be worse. There’s no need to suffer unnecessarily.

I now wear long sleeve shirts and my overalls. I also wear gloves. I found some that have grippy material on the palms, so not only do they protect my skin, but they help with stubborn weeds. 

I know my grandma would be pleased that I’m taking this precaution.