Babies, Don’t Let Your Mamas Grow Up To Be Bloggers

You know that you haven’t posted recently when your blog host has FORGOTTEN WHO YOU ARE.  There have been a series of small, normal kid crises here, the kind that happen so perfectly in sequence that the cynical part of my brain suspects that they may actually be a choreographed series of events.  So, I have been in full mother mode, and therefore on autopilot for absolutely everything else in my life.  I know we had Thanksgiving, but I have almost no memory of it.  Christmas will happen whether or not I pay any attention (Santa does the gifts, the kids do the decorating; I’m not really necessary).   And, fortunately, we have discovered that we do not actually have to sacrifice a goat on the winter solstice in order for the days to start getting longer.  It’s such a time-saver!

Despite all the distractions, however, I continue to work outside just about every day.  The work this time of year is pretty mundane.  I spend a lot of time cutting back dead and dying herbaceous perennials.  Then, as these sprawling clumps get cleaned up, I find weeds lurking under them which I pull and finally the whole area gets raked smooth and enrobed in mulch.  I have been doing a little planting, and am starting to plot the wintertime plants-are-really-dormant-so won’t-notice-what-you-do-to-them moves.  Mostly, though, I have been rearranging potted and out-of-the-ground plants for the winter.

I have spent the better part of the last two weeks simply moving plants from one storage area to another.  I have several motives for this.  First of all, I am sick of entering my house through a thicket of plants.  If they were planted it would be lush and romantic, but that sea of black plastic pots is both ugly and nerve-wracking in that it constantly reminds me of all the plant-tending jobs I have to do.  Every time I come home I experience a tsunami of silent reproach: weed me, label me, divide me, plant me.  I do a lot, but it is never enough and I just have to accept that, which having the problem in my face all the time does not facilitate.   Second, it makes this area always dirty, which then gets tracked into the house, which then makes me depressed.  Third, if the plants are here they get worked on here which creates a giant mess that takes me forever to clean up, so it is making way more work than I want to do.  If I work on them elsewhere the mess will stay there, well away from the house.

Lots of plants, not organized.

Lots more plants, somewhat organized.

Under an elderberry, blackberries cleared, wood chips spread, ready for plant storage.

So I started moving them, cartload after cartload after cartload.

And, after several days and many trips…

I filled this space up…

and emptied this one.  Nearly all the plants I moved belong to the plant sale; the few left here on the edges are mine, which I can now see clearly to place and plant.

I even filled up the sandbox.   Passing time had made it obsolete for its original purpose, so now it will make an excellent holding bed for those plants which are just temporarily (meaning anywhere from two days to three years) out of the ground and therefore do not require potting up.  Yes, these would be far better off potted and labeled, but a combination of relentless optimism (“Oh, I’ll get that replanted right away!”) and chronic time shortage makes this a reality.



And I even filled up the space next to the sandbox…

which now houses even more plants.

I have pretty much finished tidying all the plants away, and I am really enjoying having everything in more organized spaces.  It makes it much easier for me to house plants after I take them out of the ground, and when I want to plant something my plants are now clearly separated from the plant sale plants so I know exactly what my choices are.  With a lot of work and a little luck we hope to sell a lot of plants at the sale, and I will keep getting mine in the ground so that there will be many fewer plants by the summer. (She said with conviction.)

There is only one little wrinkle in all this effort.  I did exactly the same thing last year at this time.  Then I accomplished it in just a few days, but I got all the plants put away, the driveway clear and swept completely clean (including getting the dirt out of the expansion cracks with a fish-tail weeder) in time to host Thanksgiving.  I could barely walk, but I was so happy.  Then, over the course of 365 days almost exactly, plant by plant, indecision compounded by indecision, laziness upon laziness, I filled it all up again.  This year my vow, of course, is NEVER AGAIN.  We shall see.

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A River in Egypt

When I am out working, I get so warm I have to take off my jacket.  I am having to water again, especially any newly planted plants.  The furnace has been turned off.  Even though the witch hazel leaves have turned to crimson, and are shedding, and the Katsura is golden and looking threadbare, there are new flowers on the Welsh poppies and the big Campanula, the hardy fuchsias are going strong and the Verbena bonariensis is in full bloom.  I see as many flocks of geese heading north, back to the island each evening as I see heading south in the morning;  the geese are unafraid.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the grass is growing and we are already a week into November.  It can only mean one thing.  This is the year that winter skips us altogether!  I can plant and transplant, weed and propagate straight through until spring.  I don’t have to worry about the unplanted plants still lining the driveway.  Clearly there are no bitter winds, no Arctic air masses headed our way this year.  The air is soft and the soil still warm enough to encourage root growth.  Yes, there are still a few mosquitoes here and there, but nothing compared to June and July.  Sure, the moles and gophers are still very active, but we will push those back to the woods.  After all, we have all those benign months ahead in which to do so.  This is clearly the year I have so often dreamed about.  I am not late, I am not behind, and the soil is never going to freeze solid again.  I am so very, very happy!

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I do a lot of gardening, but on occasion I change out of my muddy pants and go into the larger horticultural community.  Plant shopping is a given as recent posts attest. However, this is also a very rich community for all kinds of other activities.  The Hardy Plant Society offers many open gardens throughout the growing season.  The Yard, Garden and Patio Show has a wonderful roster of speakers each year.  There are special events at many nurseries and events at public and open gardens such as the Leach Garden, Crystal Springs and the Japanese Garden.  Because of this I like to be on lots of different email lists so that I get notification of all these special events.  Most I am unable to attend, but there are so many that I get my fill of garden-related activities quite readily.   I never feel compelled to spend a month touring gardens of the Cotswolds or the Dordogne, or even Vancouver B.C..  There is far more happening in Oregon than I could ever manage.

Most of the time events have to fit into my schedule in order for me to attend, but every once in a while something come along that is so exciting that I make sure I can attend and all other activities are deemed secondary.  Such an event occurred a couple of weekends ago.  Weeks earlier I had gotten an email from Garden Fever, a lovely nursery in N.E. Portland, inviting me to a lecture by Jeffrey Bale, a spectacularly talented garden creator.  I have been a fan of his  for a number of years, collecting magazine clippings of his work and heartily envying his lucky clients.  So the chance to hear him speak, see slides of his work, and visit both a client’s garden as well as his own personal garden was just incredibly exciting to me.  The last I had heard of him was in a very extensive article in the New York Times back in December of last year (here is the link  I read the article, was very happy that he was getting such great publicity, and figured that was it.  The hometown boy belonged to the world now.  So I was stunned, but thrilled,  that he was speaking locally and nothing was going to stop me from getting to that talk.  I called and reserved immediately, panicked when  a subsequent email misstated the date, and hectored my poor husband all the way across town when we left late due to an over-long gin rummy game with a child.

The theme of the talk was dealing with water run-off and permeability issues and how creating more permeability in our hardscapes (necessary because sewage systems are overwhelmed with rain run-off) can actually be a jumping-off point for enhanced garden design and incredible detail.  I should say that Jeffrey Bale is probably best known for his beautiful and intricate pebble mosaic work, but he is a landscape architect and has a stunning way with stone of all kinds, as well as water and plants (his website is and there are lots of great pictures).  We watched the slides and listened to the talk and I just got more and more excited,  the helium balloon in my stomach getting bigger and bigger.  As a gardener I am far too plant-centric.  I am very bad with three dimensions and four (all gardens include the dimension of time whether we want them to or not) just makes me feel overwhelmed.  But buying plants, planting them, moving them (endlessly), combining and contrasting them is what I do all  the time and is fun and easy.  It isn’t really fully gardening, though.   Jeffrey’s talk brought me back to the point that gardens are as much about the structure, the hardscape, the architecture, as they are about the plants.  (I feel very strongly that this has been taken too far in recent years particularly with the resurgence of the mid-century modernist aesthetic.  Gardens which consist of  some horizontal boards, a sheet of concrete, and grasses planted in soldier rows don’t float my boat, but they sure are popular right now.  Fashion is a very funny thing.)

Jeffrey Bale spends several months a year traveling and seems to alternate his time between ancient cultures, both European and Asian, and intensely wild places, like Patagonia.  Either way he is experiencing a lot of stone, both in its native habitat and after it has been shaped by man’s hand.  Seemingly all of these experiences are absorbed and then inform his landscaping work.  I respond to his work very viscerally; it seems right to me.  His gardens balance their elements so well that they are both visually and emotionally exciting, while also very comfortable and humane.  These are truly gardens meant to be inhabited.  They do not seem to be intended to be status symbols or displays.  They are generally quite subtle and often very personal, incorporating imagery meaningful to the owner.  They also often incorporate elements that invite human participation.  Some have bathtubs, or fire-pits, or dining or meditation areas.  To use a cliché, they are outdoor rooms, but outdoor rooms that are utter works of art.

Our photos won’t compare with those on the website and the day was very wet and gray, but here they are.  First we went a client’s house where Jeffrey worked on elements throughout the garden.

A bubbling pool seemingly emerging from the ground

A boulder and pebble wall framing the pebble mosaic patio

A larger view of the patio. Notice the pebble lines continued up and through the adjacent wall.

Old concrete, jackhammered, re-used to create larger pavers.

Stone pavers, incorporating pebble mosaic.

A pebble mosaic pad in the parking strip leading to the house.

Next we went to Jeffrey’s own home, which is actually two houses side by side.  He has had his own house for well over two decades, and bought the other, a former crack house which he remodeled into a guest house, in the last ten years.  The back gardens are joined, although quite different, with more stone work in guest house half.

Plantings in the front.

Watchful eyes. Steps up from the sidewalk. Stone and pebble mosaic.

A pebble prayer rug.

More steps.

A pebble rattlesnake path neatly lined with buckets of pebbles awaiting a future project. 

East meets West. Raspberry bushes growing under banana trees. True luxury.

The fountain of natural and carved stone, inset with Buddha images.

Finally, this has nothing to do with gardening, but it is way too beautiful and amazing not to include.  Jeffrey spent two years tiling the bathroom of his guest house, incorporating images from the Galapagos and S.E. Asia.  He must really like having guests to do this for them.

The wall surrounding the tub.

Octopuses like hiding in nooks and crannies, awaiting their prey.

The day was a revelation, and I feel as though I am seeing with different eyes now.  When we were working on some new stone steps in the hydrangea dell I told my husband that we needed to make an element more “Bale-ish”, to which he replied that Jeffrey should be pleased to be turned into an adjective.  And if he ever reads this I hope he will be .

Many thanks to Jeffrey Bale (and to his host, Garden Fever)  for a day which makes gardening even more intensely a pleasure and a passion for me.  I feel so fortunate to have seen this true garden artistry, which I hope will enrich my own, humbler, efforts.

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Looking Up

As a gardener I spend a lot of time looking at the ground.  Digging, weeding, plant placement, mulching, all of these are at my feet.  It is a good idea to look up once in a while, though.  It rests my back and feeds my soul.  And it reminds me that for all my fussing, with my garden and everything else in my life, I am still just a speck in the universe.  I find that very soothing to remember now and again.

The sun set in the west.

The moon rose in the south.

And all without any help from any of us.

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The last thing I need is more plants.  I am awash in plants around here.  Granted, most of them are not my plants, they belong to the plant sale, but they certainly give me that feeling of cozy abundance (which lives right next door to soul-destroying clutter) that I think many women are seeking.  As an aside I believe, as the gatherers half of the hunter-gatherer equation, we have long since evolved to feel that more equals better.  Ten thousand years ago this compulsion would have kept our kids alive, which was pretty much our entire agenda as mothers (was life more or less stressful when getting into Harvard was irrelevant, but we had starvation and diptheria to contend with–way more is always my conclusion).  Now we live in a time and place of staggering abundance and many of us feel as though we are drowning in stuff, most of which we have dragged in the door (women are responsible for 80% of consumer spending in the U.S.).  I know I often have this feeling, but I am still bringing stuff home with regularity, which is the point of this post.

I love Cistus Nursery.  Going out to Sauvie Island, crossing Multnomah Channel, driving past the farms and fields always feels like a little vacation, leaving the world behind.  And then to enter the nursery is to enter another world.  Sean Hogan and the now sadly deceased Parker Sanderson really expanded Portland’s plant palette with this wonderful place.  To go to the nursery is, for me, to become instantly horticulturaly ignorant since there are so many unfamiliar plants.  I have never even heard of the genus of most of the plants they carry.  Their display gardens are truly special, with something in flower, and often wafting delicious fragrance, much of the year.  And the nursery itself is handsome, with high walls of wire fencing separating different plant areas, yet permitting transparency and a view of the entire collection.  Someday I will have a vegetable garden fenced in just the same way!

I have only two issues with the place, both of which are personal.  I garden to low USDA Zone 7, and they trumpet themselves as the home of “zonal denial”.  Excepting only the lone, sad banana tree that shivered its way through the winter every year outside of Thiele’s long-gone (still missed) restaurant at 23rd, they brought us the idea of bananas, palms and cycads as reasonable Willamette Valley plants.  I went to a Sean Hogan lecture a few years ago when he announced in all seriousness that he now believed Portland to be a Zone 9 climate!  Then the last two winters hit and we all lost those plants that had barely been hanging on through the milder preceding winters (seven fat and seven lean…weather fluctuation has been with us for a long time).  I don’t like to lose plants.  I don’t like wasting the money, and I also get pretty emotionally attached to them.  So, if I don’t set my sights above Zone 7 I am usually quite safe.  It has been hard to find many Zone 7 plants at Cistus in years past.

Furthermore their prices are often quite high.  Now, I don’t think that they are unreasonably high.  They take a lot of risks with their plant offerings.  What if nobody wants a plant that looks like tangle of wire with tiny leaves attached at 2 inch intervals?  Then they are out the time and the money that plant required (right now people will kill for plants which fit that description, but tastes change with utter caprice in horticulture as they do everywhere else).  Their selection is always abundant, always changing and always inspiring.  That’s not cheap to pull off.  However, my budget does not meet theirs very often, so my garden is not Cistus-plant rich.  I have a lush carpet of purple New Zealand burr that I got from them in three four-inch pots.  Parker Sanderson was very patient with that tiny, but lengthy, sale as I quizzed him about this new-to-me plant.  I have a deep purple Monarda from them that is slowly expanding its territory around the garden.  My sister gave me the lovely gift of a shopping spree there once and I got an Epimedium and a Veronica that have both done very well, as well as the beautiful dwarf Jane Platt Schizophragma that lives and thrives on the porch.  But generally my choices from them come in four inch pots and are very judiciously selected.

So I was thrilled a few years ago when they announce their first “Tough Love” parking lot sale.  Gallons and smaller were a dollar each at that sale–these were my kind of prices!  I think I went three times that year.  The big score that I remember was multiple pots of a variegated Japanese forest grass, unlabeled, with about two blades per pot.  They have done fine and turned me into a complete fan of this wonderful plant.  That first sale was a little rough.  There were few labels, and the plants were in pretty poor condition, but nearly everything I took home did fine.  Mostly the plants needed to get out of those pots and into the ground.

Cistus started this year’s parking lot sale last a couple of weeks ago, so I rearranged my plans (thank you all for help in that, potting party ladies) and got there first thing.  This sale has grown up.  Nearly everything was labeled, the plants were really in good condition, too shabby for the main nursery, but clearly healthy.  I went with a friend and we had a ball.  We compared notes, we shared plants when we both wanted something and we acted either as one another’s consciences or enablers, it’s hard to decide which.  Either way we went home with the car stuffed full (literally) of great plants for not too much money.  Here is my share of the haul.

Yes, I got over fifty plants!  Included are Hosta ‘Stained Glass’ and ‘Sum and Substance’, two ‘Belle Etoile’ Philadelphus, some dark purple columbine and dark purple Geranium phaeum,  one of my all-time favorite plants.  There is also a dark purple ninebark, some Gaura ‘Siskiyou Pink’ developed by alpine specialist and nice guy Baldassare Mineo when he ran Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery, and some green coneflower (it won’t be as striking as the gorgeous pink in a previous post, but for a buck I couldn’t resist).

So, I got all these lovely plants home, started planting a few here and there and then a few days later I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  We talked plants and gardens and then she suggested that we go to Gardener’s Choice, a really wonderful nursery on 99 in the Tigard/Sherwood/King City area.  They always have great plants that I don’t see elsewhere and this time of year they get rid of a lot of their four inch pots for 99 cents each.  It is always fun to rummage their bargain tables and look for treasures.  So, I went along, feeling horticulturally sated from my binge at Cistus, and quite certain of my ability to resist too much temptation.  Wrong!  They had a huge selection of Campanula, another genus for which I have a great weakness; I got three of each species.  They had two prostrate golden Veronica of which I had never heard before, but they looked great and I have good luck with Veronica here.  I got a couple miniature daisies (continuing my gardening tradition of doing the little stuff before the big stuff–first plant the bulbs, then put in the trees), and some plants from Xera simply because their stuff is so great (I am still kicking myself that I left behind a couple of little sea hollies from them).  Anyway, by this time discipline had been flung to the winds, I was careening downhill without any brakes hollering “Get out of my way” and grabbing every plant I love.  I moved on from the 99 cent table, where the damage is minimal, and hit the 50% off table where I found a gorgeous pie-crust farfugium, learning that these are actually Ligularia, which the slugs and I adore equally, but for different reasons.

Then I asked the lady stocking tables about farfugium hardiness, and she very cleverly led me over to the Ligularia section of the nursery (now, how many nurseries have a Ligularia section–this is what makes Gardener’s Choice a great nursery) whereupon I was so enraptured by several plants I had never seen before and instantly coveted that I got a little dizzy (the horticultural equivalent of Stendahl Syndrome–maybe we could call it Linnean Vertigo or something like that).  I started stroking and fondling the leaves of several plants simultaneously, and as I turned one over the clerk squealed “Ooooh, felty!”  We were deep into plant porn now.  Felty leaves (just the undersides, mind you, we don’t want anything tacky)!  It just doesn’t get any better than that.  So now she was stroking the leaves, telling me that she hadn’t ever felt them before, and we were ooohing and petting and talking a mile a minute.  And what can I say, Ken Starr (the money manager, not the prosecutor) married a stripper, that judge bought drugs for the gal who gave him a lapdance, and I paid the full retail price for a plant.  Here it is.

It is Ligularia ‘Last Dance’.  The leaves are quite thick and leathery, with that wonderful felty underside.   I am hoping that the slugs are as repulsed by leathery and felty as I am enamored of them, but if not those big leaves will hide a tuna can full of cheap beer very nicely.  And here are the three flats (!) of 99 cent plants that I got.  A lovely selection.

So, the upshot of all this activity is that, in the space of four days, I brought home about 100 new plants.  Granted, all told I spent less than the price of a pair of shoes at Nordstrom, but when you buy a pair of shoes at Nordstrom you don’t have to dig 100 holes (unless you have a very punitive arrangement with your credit card company).

It is going to be a busy fall.

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Stormy Weather

I have always loved this song title (although the song itself is very sad), and living here I think of it often.  We can see the storms sweeping across the valley and anticipate when they will hit our hillside.  We refer to many of them as “the wall”, as in “the wall is about to hit”.  That means that we are dry right now, but there is a solid sheet of grey to the west which has completely obscured the mountains and the valley, and that in the next few minutes we will be inundated.  Often the arrival of the wall is preceded by an increase in the wind, the turbulence which accompanies thermal and pressure changes.  If we are working outside we pick up the pace, if we are indoors we may run out to collect tools, bikes, stray bits of clothing or anything else we don’t want to have drenched.  Windows facing south and west get closed.  We batten the hatches a little bit, and then we enjoy.

The rain cleans everything.  The pollution generated from cars and trucks is swept away.  The driveway turns to mud, but the dust is laid.  The leaves on the trees are polished, the stones and concrete pathways, which all summer we have swept, but have never gotten truly grit-free, are scrubbed.  The lawn turns emerald and instantly needs to be mowed.  There is no better sound than that of the raindrops on the leaves, the roof and the windows.  And the accompanying wind makes all the trees bow and dance.  It is so beautiful.  And, perhaps the best of all, it means the end of watering.  The thousands of plants which share our home are all watered by hand, with sprayers attached to hoses.  I heartily dislike sprinkler systems of any kind.  The underground ones always seems like they are leaking, and I am completely inept around the above-ground ones.  I have routinely sliced though other people’s soaker hoses.  They are always very gracious about it, but I feel terrible.

The rainy season stopped very late this year, and has started up very early.  I usually estimate that the rain will start mid-October, and we are a month before that.  We are thrilled, but it does mean some change in our routines.  I am washing more muddy clothing.  I have reverted to rubber boots from garden clogs, and my hat has changed from absorbent cotton to resistant wool.  And, as much as I want to be a gardener undeterred by the elements, the other day I did let the rain rain drive me under the cover of the front porch where I have my potting bench.  I was digging and every time I bent over to lift a shovelful of soil out of the hole the rain hit the bare small of my back.  I was still wearing summer clothing so they were too skimpy.  Instead of going in and rooting around for the extra-long shirts I keep for wearing in the cold and wet I just retreated to the porch.  I always have immense amounts of potting back-logged.  There were tiny Douglas firs rescued from some ditch or other, dozens of Portugal laurel seedlings to pot up, some boxwood cuttings (a euphemism, I had stepped on the plant and broken them off), to apply with hormone and pot.  There is also my eternal potting project, which is to go into the winter with no plants left in 4 inch pots.  Every year I make this vow, and every year I fail to keep it.  Maybe this is the year I succeed!  But probably not.

So I worked away the afternoon and evening, snug on my porch, turning on the porch lights when the combination of the thick cloud layer and impending nightfall made it difficult to see.  Everything I potted got set on the Ajuga and Rubus borders of the adjacent path to get gently watered in with the falling rain.  The porch has its own roof so I could hear the raindrops patter, and the woods are so near that the rise and fall of the wind, and the sound of the rain on the leaves was very clear.  It is still very warm, so I was warm, and, other than my wet backside, I was dry, and I was busy with all my plants.  Each got my full attention as, one by one, I tucked them in, gave their roots room to spread and grow, straightened their stems, and set them out to be blessed by the steady evening rain.

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Hissy Fit

I do believe that the garden is my responsibility.  I am the one who decided to have a garden.  I know that it is a cultural convention, but we could easily just have native forest around the house.  It might even be better in some ways.  But I wanted  flowers, and foliage, and now I am hooked on new plants, and tinkering with plant combinations.   So I am O.K. with the fact that I garden alone most of the time.  I wish it were otherwise, but the garden-mad wife with the garden-indifferent husband is a fairly common pairing.  And there is a lot to tolerate.  Our house is surrounded by plants, and not in a good way, these are plants in pots, not lush manicured beds.  On occasion, if I have been on a potting binge, it is hard to find a path to the front door.  He likes working with rocks, so will move huge ones for me, using a hand-me-down hand truck, a come-along (a ratched winch device), and a homemade dolly.  This is in the spirit of improvisation that seems to be a hallmark of this garden;  when my back was hurting recently I used my son’s skateboard to move a large Viburnum davidii by myself.  But the day-to-day stuff is mine alone.  The kids help me water, and for a number of years my Mother’s Day and birthday present was a day of uncomplaining labor by all of them, but even that has fallen by the wayside.  I miss it; we always got a lot done.

The one task which I have asked my husband to do consistently (and by consistently I mean daily, which he interprets as sort-of weekly) is to keep after the moles and gophers.  He is an excellent mole trapper, and has even successfully trapped gophers, which is notoriously difficult.  We have many more of these animals than we are supposed to, partly because I use a lot of manure so my soil is loaded with worms which are a mainstay of the mole diet, and partly because there are lots of weed plants to satisfy the herbivorous gophers.  I stopped vegetable gardening a couple of years ago when I looked out the kitchen window and saw a gopher pulling my loaded bean vines hand-over-hand (paw over paw?) down into its tunnel.   I have elaborate plans for a tunneling-mammal foiling vegetable garden, but it is so elaborate that its realization is either far in the future or only in my head.

Life has been extra busy recently, which is always an excuse for not going after them, so the moles and gophers had gotten the upper hand (the dirt mounds pictured in my last post are gopher mounds).  Therefore this last weekend I asked him to PLEASE do vermin patrol THIS WEEKEND.  I hate having to do this.  I have already asked him to take on this job, he has agreed, why do I have to keep asking?  He doesn’t have to remind me every morning to remember to raise the kids, I do it because it is my job.  It’s like we are constantly renegotiating a contract, except I am never in on the process.  And, in the meantime, my garden is being systematically dismantled. Anyway, he agreed yet again to address the vermin.

Part of the job is replacing the soil after traps are removed, and generally restoring the area.  So, he spent some time moving traps, setting off smoke bombs and generally doing mole and gopher patrol.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention,  it isn’t my job and I was busy with other tasks.  The day wore on, he went back in the house and I kept working.  Than, along about dusk I encountered a big gopher mound in the area he had supposedly addressed.  They tend to cluster, so I looked in and around the plants and there was another and another.  I was beside myself.  It was Sunday evening, there was no chance of any help until the next weekend, and even then it is always dicey, and to make matters worse this was all in an area where I had let a patch of Shasta daisies run amok, so there were six-foot tall dying daisies smacking me in the face every time I turned around.  I decided that the only way to reclaim the area was to eliminate the daisies and level out the mounds.  By this time it was nearly dark and I was in tears.  My husband came out to see what I was up to and that was it.  The candle was lit.  I kept digging and crying and added shouting to it.  Bear in mind that I wear a respirator while I garden to reduce my mold spore exposure, so this was very muffled crying and shouting, but the digging was extremely vigorous, fueled as it was by anger and worry.  I wailed over and over that I get no help, that I do it all by myself, that I only ask for help with this one garden job and that he can’t even do that.  Shouting and crying and digging.

The upshot was that he grabbed a shovel and helped me dig, stayed out and continued to dig after I could no longer see in the dark, and got up early the next morning to finish digging.  All the Shasta daisies are gone from that bed.  I now have mounds of dying daisy plants all over the place (they aren’t really dying, they’re just faking; nuclear warfare couldn’t kill a Shasta daisy), and a lot more got composted in the woods, but the bed is clear and I will always plant Shastas in much larger beds after this.  I have learned another valuable lesson: I need to cry in the garden a lot more often.

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