Tag Archives: gardening

When Self Care is the Hardest is When We Need it Most

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Cultivated purslane going to seed. I saved a bag of the seed. Hopefully it’ll grow true to the plant – not sure it will – this is what often stops me from saving seeds in my small garden, worries that the seed will not grow true. I don’t often plant hybrids, I do plant all OP (except for my beloved Sungold tomatoes, those are hybrids and might not even be OP) but I have a small garden space and often grow multiple varieties of a vegetable a year. Cross pollination in a small garden is a real issue. But I’ve decided to save a few seeds anyway. Purslane, red Orache, and summer squash this year.

I have not been taking good care of myself. For ten days we didn’t drink too much. Then we went right back to drinking lots of beer. I don’t exercise because of how much it always hurts my feet or something else. It’s always something. I have been eating way too much cheese. The only thing I do right any more is to drink lots of water. I also still eat a lot of produce, but this is largely cancelled out by all the cheese. I don’t sleep well (though I never do, so is that even worth reporting?) I’m depressed and anxious all the time without any breaks in it to come up for air. I wasn’t taking my meds regularly for a little while but at least I’ve really cracked down on that and for the last couple of weeks have been very consistent with taking them every day.

So little writing for all of 2016. This is the worst thing of all. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to the desk and be disciplined about writing no matter what. That’s why I’m here this morning. Earlier in the year I was working hard on my survey and by the summer time, when I started to actually sit down to write, all the energy I had was sucked up by work, which I quit, and then sucked up by trying to re-boot my business because Philip got laid off and I couldn’t find a job. No writing. Then I tried writing but it was all about my brother and grieving. Anyway, I got on a single track before he died and couldn’t get off it. Every time I sat down to write I would end up on the same track, saying the same things every single time. No matter where I started off, I’d end up in the same place. So I just stopped writing at all.

Yesterday I woke up really late and felt like garbage  because I stayed up ridiculously late and drank an insane amount of beer while watching Leonard Cohen videos on youtube. I was angry with myself and then I had a very rich, way too rich even for me breakfast that made me feel even shittier. So I got out into the garden. For over an hour. I pulled up all my tomato plants, the dying zinnias, the summer squash plants, and the woody rosemary that never recovered its last trim. I planted a baby rosemary in its place. I picked the first few ripe radishes which my mom said were almost too hot to eat. They aren’t a hot variety so it must have been the growing conditions. I also harvested a bunch of our everlasting spinach. I planted my boxwood plant in the side yard bed finally (I will be topiarying it), got our cape gooseberry planted too. I got completely covered with soil and for the first time in a long time I felt a little better.

Why is it so hard to get myself to do things I know are important to my mental health? Once out of the habit it’s so tough getting back into it. Yet when I do – I feel so much better. It’s creating the daily habit that has to happen. Once you do, it creates a momentum.

My body is really craving greens and vegetables. More than I’ve been eating. The other night I roasted some cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots with some rosemary salt. I ate a big bowl of them with ketchup but no cheese. It was so good! Another dish I made is one I’ve been wanting to make for a while – I made pulau rice. My friend Rohini gave me some of her favorite packaged spice mix and told me two methods of making the rice and it turned out so well! I didn’t have any frozen peas which I really wished I’d had but it still turned out great with carrots, onions, and potatoes diced small. Then I made a palak paneer to go with the leftovers. I have made paneer before but didn’t feel like doing that and I don’t know where to buy paneer in my city (probably could get it at one of the Asian markets but I haven’t checked yet) so I ended up using this cubed feta I had in the fridge. I hadn’t used much of the feta before because it was really dry and kind of chewy. Good flavor, but not what I wanted for my salad or couscous. So I used it in the palak and it was so good! It was tangier than paneer, but texturally very similar. I used a garam masala blend I made from scratch last year but never used. So it was a little old but it was really tasty!

That’s the kind of cooking I’m craving. I can’t be attempting totally authentic Indian food or Greek food, necessarily, but doing my take on them is where it’s at. At least my spice blends were authentic. (The one I made was from my vegetarian Indian cookbook by Monisha Bharadwaj) I especially love spinach dishes. Palak paneer, spanikopita, and spinach quiche are a few favorites.

I can’t be on facebook as much as usual. I have way too many people I love on there to stop checking in and hanging out a little, but I’m skimming past political and ranting posts. I’m bypassing as many angry posts as possible. If I soak up any more of that I risk letting more passive suicidal thoughts to take root in my spirit and heart. I can’t afford it. If anyone thinks I’m a cop-out or don’t care about all the people hurting right now, all the scared people out there right now, all the abused and threatened people – then you don’t know me AT ALL. If there is anything in me to contribute to the world to make it a better place, to help people become safer – then I have to shut everything out for a while. Dead people can’t help make living people safer or heard or lift them up. That’s a fact.

Unless you’re religious, then I suppose you always turn to dead people to lift you up. But never the less, not even Jesus can vote or march or step in to literally give you a hand when you need one.

For mentally ill people to be of service to others, they have to take care of themselves and that often means shutting out the noise. That often means disengaging for long periods to recharge. Our batteries do not hold charges for very long.

I feel guilty so much of the time not being able to do more, needing to be in retreat mode so often. Honestly, when I’ve gotten myself to a better place, I don’t know that tackling political things is where I’m needed most anyway. I need to get back to my Suicide for Beginners book because those of us with serious depression and anxiety need intersectional support more than most people. We have a lot to offer others in empathy and action and support, but not when we don’t have enough of it ourselves. Depression and anxiety don’t give a shit about your gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, they hit people across all lines, across all borders both literal and figurative.

I have to keep acknowledging the guilt that I’m not stronger than I am and keep letting it go. I’m strong in ways that aren’t necessarily evident. But if I don’t take care of myself, that strength is inaccessible to everyone, including myself.

So, if you’re like me and struggle with serious depression and anxiety, please let me entreat you to do a little check – are you practicing good self care? Or have you been neglecting it like I have? What is the self care you need to practice? (Feel free to literally tell me in the comments) If you’re not practicing much self care at all, or worse, like I have been doing – you are being self destructive (even if mildly), how about doing one thing for yourself today that you know will help you feel better and stronger that you’ve been neglecting to do? Don’t worry about ALL THE THINGS you should be doing, how about just do ONE thing today that you haven’t been doing?

Today I got up, grabbed my cup of coffee, and headed upstairs to my computer to write a post. A post that isn’t about death, or politics, or the hatred that’s consuming the world. I wrote about the thing I did yesterday that made me feel so much better for a little while. And in doing so, I have (today) done something else that I’ve neglected for so long I don’t even recognize myself anymore – I wrote a post before doing anything else. No matter what else I do today (or don’t do), I will have done something today that I need to do every day.

About the writing – I believe that all writers (and I believe this is true of all artists) sometimes must go through fallow periods. Periods of time when they aren’t writing but are just experiencing life. You have to recharge your writing brain. It used to be that I would write at least a blog post or a journal entry every single day even if I wasn’t writing poetry, non-fiction, or fiction. It was a discipline that kept my writing muscles flexed. But regardless of whether or not you continue to write little journal entries, there are periods of time where you must let ideas germinate, or invite new ones in by going out and doing things and getting out of your head. Just as fields must lie fallow to rest in order to regenerate and be able to support more demanding plants in a later season or year.

But I have lain fallow long enough. It is now unhealthy for me to continue to eschew the writing. I have to find my way back. But I can only think about today or I’ll crumble. Today I wrote.

Gardening is Like Religion

Echinacea Purpurea

I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God(s) or Deities that are imagined in the likeness of human beings. I don’t believe in higher powers with lists of rules and regulations that must be followed to avoid spiritual stagnation, or worse, damnation. The idea of a higher power with a thirst for blood, vengeance, and world domination seems like a shabby reflection of humankind rather than an elevated and evolved energy/being/power. Most depictions of Gods and Devils bear a striking resemblance to the emotional maturity of a human toddler.

Every time I talk about my garden, about gardening in general, about how I feel when I’m in the thick of my plants, I’m talking about my version of religious practice. In my garden there is no plant that is lord of all the plants, there is no law that is the law of all beings, and the idea of virtue is egalitarian. I give dandelions pride of place just as I give roses pride of place.

My garden is a small ecosystem, a universe constantly expanding and contracting with the seasons, with new information, new ideas, established roots, thick bark and thin. Within the small ecosystem of my garden there are micro ecosystems and all of them reflect the greater universe all around it.

When I finally got myself a diagnosis for my mental illness it was clear that I needed the support of medication to keep myself safe and healthy, but my psychologist asked me what I do in my life that is calming, that makes me feel good, centered, and happy. I told him that deadheading my roses always pushed my anxieties aside, that it brought a quietness to my brain that I rarely experience otherwise. I told him that one of my keenest pleasures was to cut roses to place around my house. He suggested I make my roses part of my daily self-care, part of my mental health-care routine.

This morning I watered my front and side gardens and then deadheaded my roses. I brought my cup of coffee out there with me. I was still in my pyjamas. When I’m out there with my plants I’m not an infirm obese middle aged woman, I’m just another spirit among kin. The plants speak to me in color, in shade, in density, in volume. They speak to me in shattered petals, old scabs, and new sap. When I’m in my garden I make sense, I belong, I am never shunned nor judged. I am not lord of my garden, I’m part of it.

My garden full of wild sproutlings, sudden inexplicable deaths, and regal insectary towers reminds me at all times simultaneously of my insignificance and my influence on the outcome of universal truth. I matter here, I just don’t matter more than anything else does. I am equal with the plum tree and dandelions alike. When I’m weeding I know what’s truly bothering me the most because nothing amplifies my worries more than total silence and the bitter tears of false dandelion smeared across my hands. I can’t make my brain stop playing the endless tapes that cause it so much distress, but when I let them play while I’m buried waist high in my wildflowers, their power over me is diminished as everything is leveled among the plants and the locusts chewing on them.

I’m struggling pretty hard right now to be okay with humans, with BEING human. I’m struggling pretty hard right now against my own brain that doesn’t exist peacefully in the world in which it must function. Even with medication I can’t shut out all the noise of all the pain others are going through, all the spirits being crushed  by systems that oppress love and celebrate hate.

My garden is my religion. My religion is the smell of hot blackberries hanging heavily sweet on the summer air. My religion is camouflaging myself among the Lacy Phacelia as though I grew from a winter seed up into a six foot tall flower that looks like a synchronized Busby Berkeley number performed exclusively by purple caterpillars.  My religion is trial and error, accidentally thick pasta, opera playing full blast over a bowl of rising bread dough, my accordion playing Amazing Grace into the golden hour. My scripture is knowing to deadhead roses to a 5 leaf set.

It isn’t my place to give benediction, it isn’t my place to request favors of a God I don’t believe in. What I CAN do is let my plants breathe with me and you and the stars above.

My garden is my religion. It’s a place of healing, belonging, and perspective.

Inertia, Garden Talk, and My Bicycle

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Don’t dew drops look so refreshing? Like little siplets of water for fai-

Dudes. I’m so tired all the time these days. That whole spoon thing? WHAT THE FUCK ARE SPOONS, ANYWAY?!* I don’t feel depressed in an emotional way but this level of inertia is indicative of a depressive cycle. I think somewhere between forgetting to take my meds frequently since getting a day job and the fact that in my job I must talk to humans on the phone all day my energy level has hit a patch of zero gravity and is floating somewhere just out of my reach.

It’s also exhausting trying to spend more time not drinking alcohol. It takes way more effort than you can imagine if you’re not me.

What I tell other people with chronic depression is that even though you can’t lift your  body out of your chair or out of your bed and you know for fact that even if you could get up, doing so will render you into a pile of useless insensate fleshy matter, you have to try. If you don’t make the attempt you will absolutely sink deeper and deeper into the dark place of no return. That’s what I tell other people.

So that’s what I’ve been telling myself. I try not to be the kind of person who gives advice I don’t follow myself because those people suck. I know that one of the best ways to combat inertia is to push through it, to get your body moving. So last week I walked to work one day. It honestly felt fantastic. A couple of days later I walked to work again but got a ride home. As I expected, my feet hurt all weekend, but whatever. I also gave my bicycle a test ride. I haven’t ridden in in ages because the last three times I rode it my tires went flat. Flat bicycle tires are a real set-back to forward motion. I rode my bicycle to work the day before yesterday and dropped it off at the shop on my way home because the gears have been slipping and that’s kind of freaky and not awesome.

I’m not going to lie, the thought of walking to the shop down the street to pick up my bicycle sounds absolutely exhausting, it felt good to move this past week. I know that if I ride my bicycle a few days a week it will help me break through the inertia without making my feet scream. So I’ll walk down there and ride my bicycle back and I’ll feel good afterwards.

We’re also getting 3 yards of compost delivered today. I got all my bare root plants last weekend. I got a Morello sour cherry tree (to match my other one), a Strawberry Free white peach, a Pink Pearl apple, 3 pomegranates (Wonderful, Sweet, and Desertyni**), and 3 table grapes (Thompson, Flame, and Black Corinth). All of them need planting this weekend. It’s also time to do winter pruning on my roses and fruit trees. That takes energy.

Everything takes energy. Jesus. Except for drinking coffee. Making coffee takes energy but at least drinking it gives you back some of it. I love coffee.

I also love rain and so far we’ve had a pretty rainy winter. It’s such a relief after so little rain in the last few years. I’ve gotten so much sweet rain on my garden that my lettuce bed is doing fabulously well. Have a look for yourself:

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I haven’t been able to get really good lettuce going in the whole time I’ve been back in California. What’s managed to grow has been bitter and gone to seed quickly from the heat and insufficient watering due to drought. But for the last two weeks Max has been eating ham sandwiches with lettuce on them that I grew in the garden. So fucking satisfying! This lettuce is sweet and tender. I’ve also got corn mache*** growing in there. Last year the corn mache I grew was still small when it went to seed so I never tasted it. I love it in my salad mix! You might also have noticed my shallots in there? I didn’t think they were going to come up at all because they took so long but at last! There they are.

I’ve got a bunch of wild flower seedlings coming up that I spread in late fall. I can’t wait for them to bloom! I do have a blooming calendula right now but it’s one that self seeded from my plants last year. Though I noticed that I’ve got calendula seedlings everywhere I put wild flower seeds too because it’s part of the mix. I love how a small garden can yield so much pleasure for so little effort. I mean, setting the whole thing up took some effort but the lettuce that’s giving so much pleasure now literally took 5 minutes to sprinkle the seeds and scratch them into the soil. Because of the rain I haven’t had to water at all. Now I have a bed full of baby lettuce to pick. The wildflower seedlings? Same thing. A couple of minutes to scatter them, a couple of minutes to scratch them into the soil.

I just saw a goldfinch on the hedge across from my window! The birds are very busy in the neighborhood this morning. It’s such a wonderful noise. I wish I was a bird.

It’s time for me to get dressed. Drink more coffee. Get out in the yard for a few minutes before I melt back into the haze of inertia that swallowed me whole.

 

*That’s the precise number of spoons I have.

**People who name plants piss me off sometimes. What a stupid name. As though adding a “y” in there makes it exotic or cool. I got it in spite of its stupid name because the lady at the nursery says it grows well here and has gotten rave reviews from everyone she knows who’s tried it. What can I say? I bought her sales pitch.

***On my seed packet it was called “corn mache” but Wikipedia indicates that it’s generally called corn salad OR mache (or any number of other names, the list is long) but not corn mache. Whatever, sticklers, it’s delicious!

The Garden Wins The Morning

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I’m hypnotizing myself with this pretty rose picture. This is the first Abraham D’Arby bud that popped out this year. Now the bush is covered with them. In fact, I need to get out there and deadhead.

There are so many things vying for my attention right now I don’t know what to turn to. It’s time to get vegetables into the garden and some flowers I’ve been waiting to put in (penstamon is one) but to put the veg in I need to get a ton of compost first. If I get a ton of compost then I’m going to have to distribute it first. But to do that I have to do some cleanup first.

I also need to be working on my products so that when I have labels I can take new photographs and load them up on my site and start promoting my business so that I can get some income and not have to look for work.

But I’ve had a great writing week and I want to keep the energy going. So I thought I should map out the rest of the chapter I started on Thursday and THEN do garden stuff or business stuff. But it’s cool outside right now so I should probably get outside FIRST before it’s too warm. But if I –

See what I mean? How about a couple more garden pics first?

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They’re much bigger now. This pic was just a few weeks ago.

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Now there are several of these babies in bloom. You know, I really can’t tolerate much sun and warmth so I think I’m going to suit up right now and get my ass outside.

43 MINUTES LATER…

I got some good weeding done, planted my sungold tomato, and deadheaded all the roses in the front yard before I had to run back inside because it’s already too hot out there for me. That felt great, though. Maybe I won’t get as much done in the garden as I really want to this weekend but at least I got out there. Maybe I’ll get out there this evening for a bit too if I have the energy.

Now I will plan the rest of chapter 12. I tried planning it while weeding but couldn’t concentrate. My mind likes to wander when I weed. It would be cool if the energy of weeding could be harnessed to help me work out plot points for my writing but it’s also okay not to constantly multitask. In fact, I think it’s healthy to let the mind do what it wants sometimes while the body is busy.

Finding My Walking Groove Again

I am a walker.  I was never into sports or the gym or jogging or hiking but I can walk across a city with great enthusiasm and speed.  When I lived in San Francisco I walked everywhere.  I rode my bicycle sometimes and of course I took Muni at night or when I didn’t have time to walk to where I was going or if I was headed for a rougher neighborhood than I wanted to walk alone in.  Though there really weren’t many neighborhoods I wouldn’t walk in.

I especially like walking while listening to music on headphones.  I get to block out the noise and the world turns into a silent film with my own hand picked soundtrack.  I love to look at architecture, people, gardens, graffiti, dark alleyways, open doorways.  I love to walk through neighborhoods at dusk when lights are just turning on and the smell of dinner wafts out of windows into the evening air.  It’s such an intimate moment in people’s lives – when they’re sauteing onions and baking things – those smells reach the street and it’s like seeing inside a person’s life through those ordinary and constant daily rhythms.

(This has always been one of my favorite houses in the McDonald neighborhood)

Some cities are better for walking in than others.  Some cities offer more interest to the eye and the nose than others.  What scenery inspires you to get outside and walk is terribly personal.  If you like to walk in one city more than another it isn’t a failing on the part of the city you don’t like to walk in – it’s just not your place.  That’s how McMinnville was for me.  There are a couple of pretty neighborhoods there with cute vintage houses and there are a few interesting gardens to see – but for my tastes it was a tedious place to walk.  A huge proportion of the town was developed after the 50’s so the major building styles are low ranches or the newer developments that are trying to be modern Victorian or fresh takes on bungalows for people who really want mansions.  And most people are fixated on 1 of 3 garden styles and they pretty  much all look the same.

It was a pretty little town in its way but there wasn’t enough variety to hold my attention as a walker.  What I did love were the bulbs in the spring – I have never seen so many beautiful bulbs than I have in Northern Oregon.  The lilacs are stunning and smell wonderful.  And the peonies – which don’t do reliably well here in Northern California – are breathtaking.  I will miss all of those things as the seasons here come and go.

But Santa Rosa is one of the best cities for walking in – for me.  For one thing – there are sidewalks everywhere.  (In McMinnville there were a surprising number of streets that had no sidewalks.)  I remember when I first lived here in Santa Rosa how surprised I was that I could go walking every day and find a new garden to admire, a new hidden street I hadn’t walked through before, and a new neighborhood tucked behind a familiar one.  There are parts of Santa Rosa that are hideously ugly.  No question about that.  There are several strip malls that are like pockmarks of doom in the city.  All of Santa Rosa Avenue is one endless open-air strip mall.  There are also plenty of gross planned McMansion neighborhoods you can live in if you like that sort of thing.  But most of them are on the outskirts because the city was developed quite a long time ago and the only room for new developments were on the edges of the city, expanding it’s boundaries.

I live downtown.  So from my house I can go in any direction and hit a cool neighborhood predominantly comprised of vintage houses of the charming kind.  Whether run down or poshed up – there’s lots of variety.  I can go a long way without running into a modern planned development.  When I first came back here I was so bunched up and worn out and ragged that taking walks for exercise seemed like more effort than I could bear.  I got a gym membership at the Y and started off using it a lot.  I love the Y.  However, collecting walnuts in the neighborhood brought my feet back to earth and fresh fall air to my lungs and I’ve been working myself up to more regular walking.

The thought of going to the Y now seems tedious.  Chick needs exercise and she’s not allowed to use the treadmills at the Y.  So.  I haven’t been to the gym in weeks but I’ve been out in the fresh air with Chick.  The side benefit to this is that the gardens I see on my walk have been stirring my hunger to get back out into the dirt.  I don’t have a big area to garden here, as I’ve mentioned, since the back yard is almost all shade and filled with a huge oak tree and a big stand of bamboo.  But there’s plenty I can do with the small front and we’ve decided to build some beds in the stupidly long driveway that gets tons of light.

So I’ve been getting out into the yard between rains this week.  Just maintenance stuff like sweeping the crepe myrtle crud off the sidewalk to avoid lawsuits.  I trimmed up my potted bay trees.  I cut back the enormous salvias choking the little walkway under my office window.  Yesterday I took Chick to the McDonald neighborhood for a 45 minute vigorous walk.  It’s where all the rich people live who like old houses (as opposed to those who like to live in mansions in new developments).  Many of the streets in the McDonald neighborhood are double wide.  There are quaint little alleys between streets where service people enter. Yep.  Service people.  And that’s where the trash cans go too.  You will never see a trashcan on the actual streets there.  I used to walk that neighborhood frequently.  I love the old houses and the gardens.

I’m a happy walker again.  My hip sometimes hurts afterwards for a day or two but I’m trying not to notice.  Just keep moving… just keep moving…

The Birds and the Bees and the Pippa

There is a cold wind blowing through the windows this morning.  The heat is finally, blissfully, thankfully gone.  The frogs are piping up outside.  (As well as in the basement where one has taken up residence.)  I love hearing the frogs.  My cough is coming along nicely (as in – gettin’ real good) and now my throat is feeling a little rough all over again.  New cold?  Or just the established one kicking up a fuss?  The news about the HAMP trial period is fully processed now.  I think.  So much so that Philip will be picking up free bricks from an acquaintance’s house.  We love bricks.  At the Beaver Street house I made a potager with brick pathways.  It was beautiful.  Philip hauled those bricks too, and laid them himself.  I wish I had pictures of it but I lost all of the ones I had on the first hard drive that crashed and burned.

The rain just started.  Beautiful sound.  It was a hard rain for a few minutes.

I have made no progress querying agents.  It has been all food preserving and work for the last couple of weeks.  I want to say it’s winding down but I know it isn’t yet.  Still catching up with my paid job and there’s still more preserving to be done.  Now that we’re going to have to go back to serious food budgeting (and meal planning, which I suck at and don’t like) it will not be a bad thing to take advantage of the cheap food of harvest season.

My main thought this weekend is how much joy our animals bring us.  Pippa is a daily joy – she’s so silly and so sweet and all that purring is very good for us.  Penny is funny and spunky and a little bit like Ozark (grumpy and complaining) but then she’ll curl up with us at night and be the sweetest girl.  Chick is extremely annoying with all the barking but then she does things like scare off proselytizers and strange men and I feel protected in our house, plus she is cute as hell and sweet and makes those old lady noises when she sighs.  Nadia (my mom’s dog) brings a lot of joy to people everywhere she goes.  Unlike Chick, she’s calm and doesn’t bark a lot and will shake your hand or give you a high five (such useful skills!) and she is such a good companion to my mom.

I also think about the wildlife all around us that make us happy.  The visiting bat, the frogs I’m listening to right now, the butterflies, and the gold finches my mom has brought to the yard.  The mourning doves that coo all over the neighborhood are also great and the dragonflies.

I hope that you all have a life rich with pets and wildlife too.  I am constantly reminded that the matters of men aren’t so important but the matters of bees and spiders and bats are important to us all.  Man (as  a whole) contributes nothing to the eco-system but its wanton destruction.  A friend of mine in Austin was just saying on her blog that one of the most important things people can do during the serious drought they’re having is not to stop gardening but to create a habitat for wildlife because the drought has decimated so much of it.  It reminds me that we should all be doing that all the time anyway.  You can garden for yourself, of course, and grow the things that bring you joy, but it’s possible to simultaneously provide shelter, water, and specific foods to your local wildlife.  It just takes a little thought.  Just a little care.

I had a neighbor in Santa Rosa who got her garden certified as a habitat for birds and insects.  It was gorgeous.  She also grew food but all over her property she had things growing that specifically feed local varieties of birds and butterflies.  She grew milkweed for Monarchs.  I never specifically planned my garden that way but every single garden I’ve ever inherited was nearly barren of birds, bees, butterflies, or anything living that wasn’t a bad pest* (earwigs, slugs, etc).  I’ve left every garden I’ve ever worked in richer in beneficial insects and bird life.  That has always been such a marvel to me.  How if you remove lawn, remove gravel, feed the dirt, plant herbs, plant flowers, plant wild things, plant food, and have thickets, you will bring life, you will invite a fuller, sweeter, more colorful cycle of lives all around you.

I’ve had my mind on this for a couple of weeks.  I don’t do much good in this world but I know I’m not doing all bad when every year I hear more frogs in my yard, see more bees, spot a lacewing or two, see hoards of ladybugs come through in spring, find a preying mantis, see more and more varieties of birds at different seasons, and watch the Damselflies and dragonflies floating through the roses and across the vegetable beds.

A couple of huge orb weavers have been keeping me from the tomato beds because their webs seem to be connected to every branch I touch and I am terrified that I will walk right into one.  I have big spider fears.  But the whole time I’m out there I’m telling them how glad I am to see them busy in my garden.  I tell them I don’t want them to leave and ask them politely to stay in the same spot every day where I can see them but they don’t oblige.  In spite of my fear of them, it is a sign of great garden health that we have so many of them keeping the other insects under control.

These things make me feel good.

Now I must get some work done, make some Damson jam, and hustle Philip to make breakfast and go haul bricks.

Have a great Sunday!

*This is relative.  Earwigs aren’t actually “bad”, they just happen to like to eat some of the same things people do.  Same with slugs.  They are pests because they like what we like and compete for our food and sometimes destroy ornamentals we enjoy.  I simply want to point out that I don’t actually think of them as being bad, so much as I like them to be in balance with other insects.