Archive for April, 2011

Last week, I made a vow to make Tuesdays a day for inspiration and a special time to honor the Muse in whatever form she may come. Today, a rose and a friend…

Without Time
by Steve Mitchell

without time
no scent on the bloom
frozen rose

rich luxurious luscious velvety deep dark red rosy scented beauty

Very special thanks to Steve Mitchell: friend, poet, Haiku master, artist, painter, philosopher, wino…you know, all the good stuff! Steve has always been an inspiration to me because his house is filled with his own paintings and he’s the only man to have ever told me a Haiku knock-knock joke that he made up. Seriously. Who does that? Thank you, Steve, you inspire me to paint, even though I really don’t know what I’m doing.

Some people paint their world using words or ideas, others with flowers and colorful gardens, some with clothing, cosmetics, food or photographs. Whatever you choose, use your favorite colors, splash around in them and do not be afraid of extravagant flourishes. Even nature decides once in a while that a simple red rose is not enough and she creates the deepest, darkest, lush red she can find, just because she can.

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There was a story in the news this morning about a man named Andreas living in a town called Wiener Neustadt, which is south of Vienna in Austria. He was turning the soil over in his backyard and uncovered buried treasure. Hundreds of pieces of jewelry and baubles around 650 years old: a nifty reward for doing one of those ordinary mundane gardening tasks we all do in the Spring. Who buried it? Was it a pirate? I bet it was! The best part of the story is that he was considering loaning the collection to a museum instead of cashing in. I would do the same thing of course. Well, after I played “Pirate Dress Up” for a few weeks, THEN I would loan it out.


It reminded me of all the things I have unearthed while gardening. Mostly toys like little plastic soldiers or marbles, some tiny skeletons which I assumed were Halloween favors from long ago, animal bones, costume jewelry for little girls and strange articles of clothing. Every time I find something it gets my imagination working. How did that get there or what was the child like who was playing in this dirt, or how did that sock get buried under this tree and is it evidence in some serial killer’s murder spree? A few times I’ve hit a power line or a water pipe that I wasn’t supposed to hit – oops. The best ‘buried treasure’ story came from my grandmother. Apparently my grandfather was digging her a garden many years ago in Indiana when they were first married. He found a wedding ring, a real one. He immediately came in the house and asked her to marry him again. She always said “of course I said yes.” She wore both rings on the same finger for as long as I can remember.

Resist the urge to jump! - Kauai

Gardeners are like mini-archeologists. We are compelled to dig and till, turn over and stir up Earth, always with an eye open to what’s down there. We bury some things and we find some things. How many amazing and random objects have seen the light of day once again simply because some of us cannot leave the soil alone. It’s pretty awesome when you think about it. Makes me want to go garden.

My very own pirate, Tom, getting some morning exercise in Kauai with his new rooster buddy, who followed him around all morning.

All of today’s photos were from a trip to Kauai a few years ago because thinking about treasure makes me think of pirates and pirates make me think of tropical island paradise. And also Johnny Depp – the best pirate ever!

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When we were little, our mothers sent us outside to play when we were getting on her nerves. We thought she was being sweet and encouraging us to have fun when all she really wanted was a moment alone with her thoughts and perhaps a Highball or two. Well, I’m on my own nerves lately, so the moment I get free from work, rain or no rain, I’m going outside to play and I’m dragging Tom with me.

Carrots get curly if the soil isn't loose enough - be sure to prepare your soil!

In gardening news, it’s an excellent time to plant anything with an underground harvest such as root vegetables, like carrots before it gets too warm, or bulbs. Today I’m planting the garlic that was leftover from an olive oil roasting I did on Monday. When the garlic you use in the kitchen has little green centers, it means the garlic is growing again in your pantry and it will most likely be bitter tasting and it’s past its prime. Bury it and you’ll have fresh garlic later. I know I’ve said it before, but I really really want you to plant garlic! It helps keeps aphids off your roses and vampires will think twice before messing with your garden.

red Dragon Carrot - sweet and adds color to salads or cake - did someone say cake? 🙂

It’s also a good time to plant radishes if you live somewhere with a cool spring. I just harvested mine, so I won’t be planting more, but it’s not too late if you want to get another batch through before summer. I had the “Easter Egg” blend and they were delicious!

Spring Radishes - Easter Egg Blend - April 2011

The Moon is waning so it’s also a good time to prune where needed. My pruning is done for now, so I can take a break on that front. In fact, the garden seems to be doing her own thing quite effectively right now, so I can take a little breather. I have some extremely feral patches around the property, but I’ve put those off until summer when school is over. Thanks to the budget cuts, summer classes have been canceled so I have no opportunity to change my mind about taking the summer off. Tom and I are going to plan a little trip someplace we’ve never been. It’s very exciting.

I didn't really like carrots until I grew my own

This is also a good time to think about feeding your garden. Spring is a time when nature has a voracious appetite and plants need food and mulch and compost-y nourishment to reach their full potential fruit and bloom-wise. I like the pellet kind of food because I can walk around the garden with a bucket of it and toss toss toss. I’ve tried the Miracle Grow liquid with the hose attachment and, although the food itself works well, it’s not a great way to apply it and I think it wastes a lot of water while being inconsistent with the delivered amounts. I did see an ad in Sunday’s paper that they have a fairly new device with premixed solution, but I have not tried it yet. The bucket/toss method seems to work for me, for now. That’s the key with this gardening thing – do whatever works for you and you alone. Gardening is a much easier task than it was even a decade or so ago. When I started gardening seriously about 10-15 years ago, there wasn’t a huge online community of plant enthusiasts, garden blogs were rare, websites that explained how to care for plants were terribly incomplete, tools and products were still old fashioned and not much of it was geared toward those of us who choose the organic way. Now, the world is your oyster, or pea, if you want anything from a tiny pot of herbs on your urban balcony, to a farm in the backyard, and anything and everything in between. Information is instant online and there’s a huge community of people just like me writing about gardens just like mine and sharing information. It’s awesome, easy, rewarding and healthy, and will improve your mood considerably. Even if it’s just one Strawberry plant – the fresh and pristine pesticide-free fruit will have you hooked in no time. So, what are you waiting for? Go outside and play!

Inside a sea of Nasturtiums - March 2011

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Is it me or is this week a bit odd and even surreal so far? Maybe it’s the Moon or the gloomy clouds and rain of the last couple days, or maybe I can blame tax day. Tax day always manages to put me into a vortex of poopiness. Whatever it is, I want it to go away now please. Not only have I been a bit blue and devoid of inspiration, I have been seeing ghosts. Nasty, grumpy and unwelcome ghosts. I’m not talking about the ethereal howlers that inhabit Scottish castles or French cemeteries, or the ones that waft around the moors calling ‘Catherine!’ – I’m talking about those faces and names, sometimes objects, that pop up to remind you of painful things in your past, painful things about your history: things you thought you put behind you tidily and permanently. Emotionally upsetting ghosts that come with no warning signal and always manage to pull me into a royal funk, not the good psychedelic disco platform-shoe afro rollerskate kind of ‘funk’ either.

1921 photo "Storm Clouds" by Karl Struss

For example, I have been straightening up in my yoga/art studio so that I have room to do said yoga and art. Out from a box of paper images that I keep for inspiration, popped an old photograph of my father when he was a child. How in the hell did that get there?! The photo is large and just a head, so here are two large eyes, looking very much like my own, staring back at me in youthful accusation. Unprepared for the flood of emotions that came rushing into me, I’ve been unstable on the inside ever since. Angry even. My urge was to tear it up into a million tiny spiteful little shreds, but some nincompoop had it laminated. I had to suffice with tossing into the trash can with melodramatic exuberance. The trash can was overfull so the photo kind of popped back out onto the floor and I didn’t even get my dramatic payoff out of that little hissy-fit. Oh well.

Psyche Opening the Golden Box - John William Waterhouse

Perhaps everyone has those moments in life when some random event reminds you of the you you once were, the people who came in and went out of your life in a blaze of glory and trauma, the mistakes you made and the things you did that hurt people and all those shitty things that people have done to hurt you. It’s all one big lump of bullshit and we are all guilty of playing both sides of the net. You can’t run away from it and you apparently can’t put it behind you because it follows you around for the rest of your life like stink or a rabid zombie that you can’t seem to outrun even though it’s moving slowly and is missing a foot.

Sunset at Rancho Valencia - photo by me

Maybe we shouldn’t try to outrun it. What if it’s there to be useful in some way, a reminder of what to avoid, warning signs held up high by our past selves: “JUST WALK THE OTHER WAY” – What if I put that photo in the box of inspiration for a reason unknown to even myself? Can I somehow squeeze something positive out of all this anguish and inner torment instead of just stewing in it?

"Into the Mist" by Greg Martin

Yes, yes I can. From this day forward, Tuesdays will officially be a day for posting anything that inspires me. Photo, poem, colors, far away places, shoes or flowers…whatever keeps the ghosts at bay for another week. When you think about it, Tuesday is an ‘off’ day anyways. It doesn’t have the forward motion of Monday, the optimism of Wednesday, the toil of Thursdays, or the exuberance of Friday. It lacks the stability of Saturday or the authority of Sunday. Tuesday’s got nothin! Well now, ghosts or no ghosts, it has a Muse and I feel better already. See you next Tuesday, if not before, without the vortex of poopiness.

Hesiod Listening to the Inspiration of the Muse - Edmond Francois Aman-Jean

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The title of today’s post makes me very very happy. I’m going to say it again: Spring Break. Ahhhhh. One whole week without classes coming right up! It took a lot to get here and it’s a Full Moon, so today I’m going to rest and roll around in thoughts of what I’ve managed to accomplish over the last little while and pat myself on the back. We should all do that more often you know? Go ahead, pat yourself on the back right now. You are awesome and you know it! If someone else pats you on the back, it’s a great feeling, but why the hell should we wait for that?!

Spring Peas - April 2011

There will be no starting of anything new either. The week ahead will be spent finishing the things I normally don’t have time for. Work is caught up, but I will have the opportunity to do those projects that seem to get put at the bottom of my in-box over and over, like balancing the bank statements and taking inventory of my supplies, cleaning up computer files and reorganizing property photos…sooooo much excitement! There are also some weird and time-consuming school projects and one humongous botany paper to write. Yes, it would be more fun to flake more over the coming week, maybe even leave town a couple days, but my plan is to have everything done that I can do so the rest of the semester goes easy and when it’s over I have a clean Summer Slate to work with. Yes, I am becoming more pragmatic with age. Sigh.

Glamour and Drama in the Swiss Chard patch - April 2011

It will not be all work though…Tom and I have already started to enjoy the extra time together starting with a fabulous lunch out on Friday. I even pulled out a pair of four inch Louboutins to wear. We always enjoy our lunch dates, but the extra glamour went a long way towards starting the break on a positive, mildly self-indulgent foot. 🙂

Fresh Spring Strawberries - almost! April 2011

There has even been some gardening happening the last couple of days. Yay! My big red apple cookie jar is completely empty of seeds right now, which I believe has never happened. It got a good bath inside and out and all of the seeds except for a few odd ones have been planted. (By the time they sprout and get ready for permanent Earth homes, I will done with the semester) The last few remaining seeds will go in the dirt today to honor the Moon and I will not be buying any more for the rest of the year. The time has come to use what I have and clean out the potting shed of stuff I don’t use – I can hardly get in the door! It will be fun to see what germinates because most of these seeds are a bit aged. Some of them are even leftovers of envelopes that have not produced a single viable seed yet, Cantaloupes and Cucumbers among them.

Seed Inventory Day - January 2011

It always amuses me when that happens. Was there just a dysfunctional mother plant that put those seeds out? Most of the time it’s because they have been on the shelf too long and I always forget to check the date on the envelope. Perhaps that will be my nugget of advice for the day; always check for a ‘sell by’ or ‘use by’ date on your seed packages. They should be fresh and no more than a year old when you plant them. Yes, some seeds stay viable for much longer, but why take chances when they aren’t free? Also, I never buy seeds from outlet stores like “Big Lots” or odd stores like a drugstore where you normally wouldn’t buy seeds. If they are displayed in the direct Sun or outside, I don’t buy them either. In fact, I have discovered that seeds ordered online seem to be the most reliable in terms of germination. As far as storage goes, I’ve learned to keep mine in zip-lock baggies in my cookie jar or air tight glass jars, which I collect in every shape, color and size imaginable. They stay up on a shelf in my dark potting shed. It floods in the winter time, but my seeds stay dry and at a consistent temperature. Of course, the best place for a seed is in the Earth!

Boing! Grape vine tendrils....

So now I’m off to have breakfast with Tom and plan the rest of my day. It’s really a wonderful feeling to be able to take my time doing whatever it is I’m doing without feeling pressured to hurry up and finish so I can go do something else that needs doing. Ahhhhh. I can stop running now and enjoy the journey a little more, perhaps contemplate ‘things’ and ‘stuff.’ Contemplation has become a fancy luxury these days. Or maybe I’ll just go outside and sniff some roses – just for hell of it….

The bedroom window roses are in full bloom again. - April 2011

Happy Spring Sunday! and once again because I love saying it – Spring Break!

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by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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'Martha Washington' Geraniums - the most reliable plants in the garden!

The first Saturday of April and a New Moon to go with it! This is the most auspicious day to prune those plants in the garden that are still carrying winter or early spring damage/dead stuff, or that seem to be a bit stunted or are growing in directions contrary to your sense of order. My garden is full of those so I’m going to have a busy morning. I haven’t been able to do any pruning during this entire waning moon, so today is my last chance in so many different ways, and I need to water.

Spring Rose Leaf - March 30, 2011

What I really love about this time of year is that I start seeing ‘revival’ in the garden. Last month I stood out on my patio and felt sadness because things looked dead and scraggly and I couldn’t do anything about it. Not having time to do Spring things in the Spring garden is really frustrating for me. Yes, I know I chose to take on three classes, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to have to let things go. Then, about a week ago, I noticed things coming alive again, popping up out of the ground and bursting open in shiny green-aliciousness and saying ‘hey lady, we’re still here so get over it!’ So, okay I lost some plants while I was busy, but the bones of my garden are still alive and are beginning to thrive and I’m going to reward them with some special attention today – maybe even some fertilizer. They always reward me in turn by making me feel a little more alive and thriving, and I really need that today.

edible Nasturtium bloom - March 30, 2011

So, before I get distracted with cleaning my room, which looks like I need to call the staff from one of those ‘hoarders’ shows, doing homework or the laundry or cleaning the house….AAACK! – run! RUN outside before you get distracted and change your priorities and the clouds come out to rain on you and the G-Damned doorbell rings or the…..

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