The Garden

These past few years have had my gardening gene a tad stifled and confined to containers on the deck. It has not been ideal for someone who views plants and flowers as one of her favorite palettes.

So I was very, very pleased with the possibilities just beyond the back door of my new home ~ a lovely, natural canvas of green just waiting for a touch of color to be woven through it.

Of course, that natural canvas also includes deer, squirrels, deer, wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, deer and geese. 

Minor challenge.

I purchased a boatload of deep blue iris bulbs, bright yellow daffodil bulbs, rich purple lavender and an assortment of colorful mums, all of which were deer resistant according to the memos attached to the containers.

uh huh.

Everything was planted in the next day or two, the hundreds of bulbs snuggled in the cool, damp soil and awaiting spring’s warmth, the mums and lavender dancing in the light rain that had begun falling. And I was content, smiling over my deer resistant flower beds.

Evidently, the deer had neglected to read the memos.

Within twenty minutes, a herd of deer were happily munching on the plants.  A few minutes after that, the squirrels were digging up the bulbs.

Sigh.

I’m now officially on watch patrol, chasing away deer and squirrels.  The turkeys have not yet made an appearance and the raccoons are far more interested in my neighbor’s garbage can. The geese are just loud and make a mess.

It reminds me of a time a few years back when I was in a relationship with a man who lived on a couple of acres of similarly natural landscape.  He had installed a beautiful hardscape of small patios and paths nestled among spreading oaks and towering redwoods before a California drought halted everything.

Finally, the winter rains came once again, so that spring we enthusiastically started on the garden, which meant I designed and planted flowers while he designed and installed multiple obstacles in hopes of thwarting the deer and squirrels.

The magic began as spring edged towards summer. Flowers bloomed, birds made themselves at home and the garden was a delight, except for one very sunny, barren area. I started looking for ideas to remedy the problem area.

I found an article in Sunset Magazine detailing a design for a copper spiral that started low on the outside and got to about four feet in height at the center. The spiral was probably eight to ten feet in diameter, filled with soil and planted with herbs and vegetables.  It was unique, beautiful and functional. It was perfect.

The fresh veggies and herbs would also be an ideal complement to a new kitchen even though cooking was not on either of our top ten lists. But, it was still the perfect addition for a very sunny area, so I showed him the article.

He reviewed the proposed project with a critical eye.

Ah yes. he smiled.  It is perfect.  And the deer will love it. They won’t have to bend over to eat the plants.

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Read the memo, dammit!
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Through my office window, I watch the enemy that lies in wait just beyond a struggling flower bed…

Autumn Leaves

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Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but, given our mild weather, it is not a season we Californians fully celebrate.  We seem to slide from summer to Indian Summer and then suddenly, it’s overcast and rainy.  Well, sometimes rainy.  We’ve been in a severe drought the past few years and are beginning to forget what rain is.

A long time past, I lived in Pennsylvania for almost a year.  They definitely embrace autumn.  I have a vivid memory of stepping outside to retrieve the mail, an apple in hand.  I could smell the dampness of an early rain as I walked into the crisp fall air, surrounded by flurries of falling orange, red and yellow leaves. Walking down the long drive to the mailbox, I bit into the crisp, cold, so very sweet apple and in that moment knew that it was the taste of autumn.

Last spring, I moved to the Sierra foothills, an area that does believe in autumn despite the drought.  With the lack of water, the leaves are struggling to change colors although, as you can see, there are still some very vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves decorating the landscape. While I haven’t found an apple quite as crisp as the Pennsylvania one, the memory remains and surfaces now and again as I walk amid the color and dried leaves swirling to the ground.

For me, autumn brings the end of another cycle and another year.  It’s a time of quiet reflection and review. Am I on the path I supposed to be walking or simply wandering in the woods enjoying the view?

This is the first time in my life where there has been little drive or passion. No to-do list; no have-to list. A blank piece of paper.  I always assumed there was a reason for one’s existence, une rasion d’être, but now, at this stage, that too seems to have gone missing.

There’s an admitted calm and bit of disconnect from the more grueling aspects of life.  Perhaps it’s a function of age; perhaps a function of location.  Nonetheless, the mind wanders and wonders although, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what about.

A few weeks ago, I went in search of an artificial Christmas tree, as my last one looked a bit too sad last year.  I stood next to another woman, about my age, as we evaluated the artificial forest before us.

She asked what I was thinking.

I was honest.  I’m looking at the prices, wondering how many more Christmases I’ll have, and whether the investment will be worth it.

She smiled and said she was thinking something similar.  I remember my mother teasing about getting too old to buy green bananas. Maybe she wasn’t teasing as much as I thought.

My friend Bill puts things in a slightly different way. He says to get a long measuring tape, measure out one inch for each year you’ve lived and then add another inch for each year you hope to live.  It’s certainly a sobering exercise.

Autumn is indeed a gentle time, and at the same time, there is a chill in the air bringing the promise that the next season is on the cusp of arriving. Sometimes, not often, I wonder what it will bring.

In the meantime, lacking a really crisp, cold, so very sweet apple, I think I’ll put an apple in the oven to bake while I watch the leaves just a little longer.