Garden – adverbs, adjectives and other qualifiers

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Around here we’re talking spring and that means priorities. I mean prioritizing the garden

I am apparently not the only one who feel an almost overwhelming desire to be outside in the garden come end of winter. Seemingly important things fall by the wayside in the rush to get things done for the new season. Some feel a sense of peace at this point, I have never felt that in the garden, I must admit. My reward is a sort of exhilarated rightness, like a boss jubilant that your work has done the company proud

Another observation is that I can get downright irritated at what seem to be small issues. Like not having a seedling house fit for purpose. I was upset at several of my seedlings dying when the wind ravaged the existing improvised housing areas (what flapping plastic will do to tomato seedlings cannot be borne or described!). It’s not even so much not having the seedling house but not having the materials to make one at a time of the evening when no shop is open anyway. Grrr!

The other thing I found is that I can be very intolerant once fully converted to an idea. The current idea is that if you only have a small garden then make it productive! I walk on the street looking at gardens, and I do so in a state of mild irritated boil-over (it’s ok, I have low blood pressure!) at how many ornamentals that are not even ornamental are gathered on places where a fruit tree or bush would at least soothe the above-mentioned growling beast in me I find myself nodding in approval when I see the almost ubiquitous here lemon, grapefruit or feijoa bush, as if it were any of my business, really!

Does that sound like I really should get over myself already and maybe not get so irritated with things that are at best out of my control and at worst uncontrollable?

You can blame it on my abundance mentality, fostered by the course I am currently completing. Grow a lot of food that is fit for divinity, is the motto. That still sounds mildly OTT even when considering external divinity, let alone when you are encouraged to nurture the sacred part of yourself…

Which only gets me more irritated… yes, truly! Have we really become so entrenched in the systems, so defeatist, so relativistic (is there even such a word in the vocabulary?) that we take our lives for granted, that we consider that inner spark our due, or worse, that we think it is nothing special?

Are there really so many of us that we cynically consider ourselves just replaceable cogs in the big wheel, that our lives and deaths will be utterly useless, eminently forgettable and no big deal to begin with? Do we truly not feel part of history?

Gardens are dangerous, especially in spring…

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Hobby

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Interesting to note the link with horses and names… why am I so fascinated by the root and original meaning of words we use nowadays? Is it the connection with the past I am looking for? Is it just curiosity?

Let’s talk frequency here though.

Connecting with people, reading and thinking are activities that I perform every day, both at work, before and after it too Isn’t it strange that work (in the sense of “job”) relegates everything else in second place? Isn’t it sad that, while I chuckle at the absurdity of doing my job without that triad, there are way too many people who have to? Is this why we have been given life and minds and souls and spirits?

But I digress.

Second tier are the activities that, with short interruptions, are part of my life. Listening to music, being outside in the garden/bush/forest, writing. Sometimes I stop these because I am stressed out – I am reliably told that’s unusual because they are supposed to help with de-stressing; it’s just that for me they are my normality, and stress is taking me out of it. The only other time when I stop these activities is when I am involved in one of the third tier activities.

These last are varied, short lived, intense and cyclical. I get interested, I start researching and accumulating materials, I get very involved very quickly in performing that activity… and then it passes just as quickly, only to reappear in a couple of seasons or years’ time… which means that I tend to stock up equipment. Let’s see: loom weaving, sewing, mosaic, crochet, dancing (oh, wait, that might have to go up to second tier… I don’t do it because I don’t have time or a partner), de-cluttering, jigsaw puzzles, food experimenting, preparing natural skin products and medicine, looking at architecture and house decorating, learning to play an instrument etc.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I tend to become fascinated by activities with very much visible potential results, whereas my usual activities tend the other way. I am also very much aware of the short and cyclical nature of them. I am starting to use this to my own advantage – shameless opportunist that I am! For example, I am currently in a decluttering phase (my husband thanks you, Marie Kondo! 😛 ) so I am pushing myself every minute I can spare as I know it won’t last long and I want to get as much done as possible. But there is this pink cotton tape that might just become a very pretty dress for the little one just as soon as I can get my hands on a crochet hook that thick. And there is that keyboard piano I saw going cheap… and those old decorative tiles I hid under the bookshelves…

Did you know that at least one course assessment is due this week?

Mayhap I am just procrastinating?

Minute

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Not the time unit, but the adjective. Same origin and journey, really, but funnily enough you pronounce them differently 🙂 Don’t get me started!

It occurred to me while talking to some people that not only are the minute things the most annoying but they are also the building bricks of our lives. We live our lives (the good parts, and the bad) second by second, not day by day, and definitely not year by year. Even if we look at events that change lives, we realize that it’s what’s going on before and most often what happens afterwards that make the change, not the events themselves. So with a death, that is over quite quickly, but the lead up to it, and our grief afterwards, change the weave, the pattern and ultimately the fabric of who we are.

They are also the ones that we are not supposed to sweat, that we are supposed to pay attention to and that we are also supposed to be grateful for. Perhaps not at the same time, but the contradiction is there nonetheless. 🙂

So here are some of the minute things of my life, in no particular order:

Having a cat that doesn’t scratch, shed, rip or otherwise damage people and property.

Not having any carpet in the house that a spill would ruin.

A 4×3 cm edition of Pablo Neruda’s “Twenty love poems and a desperate song” in Spanish.

Wooden joinery that gets wet and then doesn’t close properly.

Potatoes that taste of something, a lovely casserole and the stories that go with good company and eating together.

Using a Niwashi Shark to tidy up jasmine – soooo satisfying!

Finding out what a morepork sounds like – I thought it would be a deeper sound… you know how we say to-wheeet – to-whooo when we read to children? Deeper, ain’t it?

Finding out how big your garden actually is when you get around to clearing up.

An app that actually works and does what it says it will.

Finding that exact perfect gift for your friend without even searching for it, just walking by.

Rummaging through the pile of bills and discovering the piece of paper on which you wrote the phone number of the person who’s going to make your life a lot easier.

Mentioning a problem you’re having and someone coming up with a solution that sorts out not only that problem but a few more as well.

Enough for now, I’ll pay attention to more as I go.

Garden – a rant

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I am sure that, should you wish, you could find on YouTube several hilarious videos with bouncy music about the perils of having a garden and not taking care of it. I intend to find those videos and enjoy the companionship 🙂

For a garden is a terrible thing to have… when you don’t have time or money or both. Not that I am complaining much, as I still enjoy having said garden. It just doesn’t look good and that brings me down sometimes. There are a few plants that take over. Weeds, we call them. Pests, really. Invaders, you could say. Wandering jew, orache, bindweed, kikuyu. They make the others look tame by comparison. The other weeds, you see, once you pull them out they’re dead, dead, dead. Not so these ones, unfortunately. Deep under your reach some defeat you with taproots the size of melons. Across the entire garden some defeat you with stolons and nodes and roots that travel to the ends of the world it seems… definitely to the end of your patience! A single fragment left behind and in one season it is back to how it was before you spent that afternoon kneeling and cursing under the blazing sun.

You develop odd types of pleasure it seems. Measuring kikuyu after you pull it out. Discovering moist soil teeming with insects right under that mat of wandering jew that made a tropical looking corner under that bush. Yanking orache out of olive trees or digging that tap root out . Sitting down and willing yourself to patience while you unwind bindweed from your other plants (can’t yank it out, you break everything!).

Mulching would help… except you don’t have anything to mulch with. An animal would help (even benefit from orache and kikuyu)… but you don’t have it. Planting other things would help motivate you to weed more often – if you have the plants to plant there and the time to weed. Frustrating, it was! I have stopped weeding just for the sake of weeding (as in, appearances). I will weed if I want to plant there something. Most of the time it is a bush I have rescued or has been given to me.

I have grown quite fond of my overgrown jungle… most of the time. Of course, then I visit a well tended garden and I don’t feel so good. I take comfort from counting the perrenial edibles currently growing amongst the weeds. In a couple of years there should be enough to show for the work done, an orchard is beginning to take shape. Good signs are here: a handful of blueberries, apples and grapes and peaches ripening, five cherries, lemons, strong healthy growth on the loquat we saved, flowers on the feijoas, the scent of lemon verbena peeking through the towering Jerusalem artichokes, the wavy fronds of asparagus, the rambling fragility of Cape gooseberries.

I have also relented and started buying flowers. A bit of care and the pot-bound yellowing wreck the shop put on special 6 for 1 dollar starts to glow in shades of rainbows. I have seen more bees and bumblebees this year than in all the years before combined! Maybe in a couple of years, when I have planted more flowers, a hive would not come amiss nestled amongs the fruit trees.

One hopes… and weeds! 🙂

Priority

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I was having a Xmas dinner this week with two very good friends in a nice place with lovely food that could be shared… how am I grateful? Let me count the ways…

But I digress. One of the dishes ordered was noodles with prawns and other things in it. I happen to adore prawns so I ate one. Thing is, I cannot eat prawns, I get heartburn every time I try, since about 10 years ago. Sure enough, I got heartburn and suffered for a little while (until I got home and drank chamomile tea and took a teaspoonful of raw honey). Do I regret it? No

But it made me think of choices, especially around health and lifestyles. Say I have this non-threatening issue with prawns. I can put up with the discomfort in order to satisfy a wish. I am also addicted to shopping, which is annoying as I have this wish for financial independence and early retirement (hello, Mr Money Mustache!).

It is about loopholes with personal choice, it seems. The prawn-induced suffering is easily allayed and shopping can be justified in a thousand ways (my favourite ways of justifying un-necessary purchases are 1. buy an edible plant for my garden, preferably perenial, preferably on sale and preferably grown locally; 2. gifts for friends).

But there is an area where loopholes seem to apply waaay less, if at all. That’s the domain of life choice. That’s like personal choice but with a  priority somewhere in the stratosphere! Say I don’t eat red meat. I do, but just as an example. It is my life choice not to eat red meat. There are no health factors contributing to this choice. And say I would go visiting and on the table most of the food either has red meat in it or has been cooked with red meat. There may be some peanuts, a salad, some fruit. I am very, very hungry, ravenous to be precise. Would I eat red meat?

NO. Because it is a life choice, so I would have to fight myself in the most intimate way in order to eat that dish.

Could I be persuaded by others in a non-compulsory way (saving a life is compulsory, friendly peer pressure is not)? Again, NO. I would probably get angry and dig my toes in and that relationship would become quite strained – it’s a question of trust and respect – “don’t you like me the way I am?”.

This applies to many more areas that are apparent at first: the cosmetic products one uses, the jobs we choose, the families we raise, you name it, life choice is at the bottom of a myriad things.

Is it the be all and end all of things? NO! One ignores society, upbringing, time, history and the like at one’s own peril. But it is a very, very powerful thing. How powerful?

Well, how about if I made financial independence a life choice?

*the initial post was crystal clear in my head but logically muddled on screen (hmm…) due to definition issues. Editing done! 🙂

Learn

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Mulch the garden. You have better things to do than weed every single hour you are in the garden.

Don’t plant more than 2 courgette/zucchini plants. You still have the boxes of grated marrows from last year, which you had planned to mix in casseroles.

Enjoy the ranunculus. For the southerly will topple the heavily petticoated blooms to the ground.

Replant before the flowers appear. You do want fruits, don’t you?

Be merciless. That small plant you have ignored? It will take you half a day to cut it back in a year’s time. Yes, that includes jasmine.

Plants are resilient. Especially fig, in the place where you don’t want it.

Cover the strawberries. There are more birds than humans in your garden.

Scatter clippings over your beautifully raked garden bed. Your neighbours’ cats see your garden as the toilet anyway, do you have to give them a litter box as well?

Crush snails. Dig them in.

Try to crush slugs when they’re small, later only sharp implements can help – yuk! Or hedgehogs.

Speaking of hedgehogs, don’t poke your ungloved hands in a pile of leaves.

Speaking of hedgehogs again, go around your car in the morning and have a good look down the driveway. Those creatures are worth their weight in gold. Or slugs 🙂

Be patient and resigned. You may never have the lilac and paeony you desire. But it’s worth a try.

Save the bumblebee queen. They are heavier and less delicate than honeybees. Your flowers don’t really care.

Ignore the roses. Once the delicate grafts have died down, the rootstock will outlast you. You may even get some rosehips.

Plant garlic. Nothing so satisfying as anticipating using it in 6 months’ time… except maybe actually using it and enjoying it – congratulations, you are now self-sufficient in garlic!

Consider visiting the open gardens during the festival. But only on good days. You will feel inadequate anyway.

Smell the hyacinths, daffodils, wait for the snowdrops, admire the cherry blossoms and stop to stare at magnolias. Rhododendrons will follow.

Encourage the pansies and the marigolds.

Go to sleep. 🙂