Don’t mentally flog yourself with a bar you haven’t reached yet

We’ve had some cold wet weather recently on the High Plains, and it has really ramped up the cabin fever. I’ve got the gardening bug bad, and this week I bought plants and got busy outside, cold wet weather notwithstanding. Today, finally, we have bright blue skies and warm temps. So I went out to check on everyone to see how things are progressing.

One of my favorite plants ever is the Bleeding Heart. My Grandmother always had one in her back yard, and it was something I always looked forward to seeing bloom. I can’t believe I just now got around to buying one. Hopefully the deer won’t find it tasty! I lose a lot of things in my yard every summer… it’s like a deer buffet. This year I bought some deer netting, so I hope that it will keep them away, especially from my tomatoes and peppers.

While digging a hole to plant my Bleeding Heart, I found something that looks very much a zucchini. I planted them last year, but nothing came up. This year I have this lovely little volunteer, so I kept it and will see if it’s what I think it is.

I also planted Thyme, Rosemary, and Basil next to the chives. The chives are already blooming, so I’ll let them be and just cut them back when the bloom is done. They are so pretty when they bloom!

This is the 3rd year the zombie hand has been in my garden. It’s survived some nasty winters, so it gets to stay again this summer. I added the little fisherman this year, and we will see how many years we can keep him around.

The front porch always needs so color, so I put some pots together, and I’m hoping they do better than the ones last year.

Over the winter I forget how relaxing it is to putter outside with the gardens. It’s I’m looking forward to a long summer of that.

So, The Summer To Do list is starting to shape up, for outdoors, and indoors too:

1. Paint the kitchen/entry/hallway

2. Finish the side yard

3. Build a compost container

4. Fill in holes in the back yard and plant grass

5. Redo the rock beds- kill the weeds and put down new plastic under the rock

6. Finish the work area in the basement

7. Clear out the pantry, paint it and put it back together

8. Spiff up the basement utility area

It looks like I have my work cut out for me, and the list feels more than a little daunting. Lots of projects to do, and a pledge of help from the Flirt will go along way to get all of it accomplished. We’ll see what it looks like in September! Usually I get to the end of the Summer, and feel terrible and guilty about anything that didn’t get accomplished. No more of that noise. If it doesn’t all get done, I’m not going to have stress about it, and I’m going to enjoy what did get done. Life’s too short.

Here’s hoping you all have plenty of happy projects to keep your minds happy and your hearts full. Just remember having a bar to reach for is all well and good, but only worry about getting done what you can, when you can. Don’t mentally flog yourself with that bar if you don’t end up reaching it. Blessings all!

Day 34 – Killing despair at the end of a North Dakota Winter

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to write, and I am starting to think that it’s because I have so much rambling around in my head that I can’t begin to know how get it out in words. Sometimes there aren’t words to describe exactly what is going on in my head.

Most of my problem lately has been the weather. We’ve been blessed with two or three good warm spells, which have melted much of the snow that was dumped on us at the beginning of the Winter in December. That has been a big help, but Winter just can’t let Spring Owl - Nopego, and I wish he’d just pack it in and go to sleep for the season.

Just recently, we’ve had some awful storms in northern North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan. The amount of snow we got isn’t great in amount, but the winds whipping it around at 60+ mph is the real evil here. Minot didn’t get it so bad, but mostly everyone north of us did, and it’s ugly. People have dug their way out now, but it appears that we are getting more snow cold this week. As my favorite weather app (WTF Weather) tells me today, it’s “snotcicle weather”, with a low of -1, and a projected high of 10 above zero. That’s really not terribly cold, but we have been teased with 40-50 degree temps, which makes it feel cold all of a sudden.

I don’t want to give the false impression that we have been beleaguered by a long nasty winter, because we really haven’t. Our first real accumulation of snow came late in December with a whiz-bang blizzard, and we have been struggling along ever since, but to only have snow and cold from December through March is a gift. I’ve known years where our first blizzard comes in October and Winter keeps us in his grips right through some of April. When Old Man Winter stays around for so long, it gets really demoralizing. If I were to personify Winter, and I often do, I would guess that he likes it that way. Mean old bastard…

Why demoralizing? Well, for one thing, it’s painful. The cold makes your bones hurt, and when the weather changes and storms blow through it can cause throbbing aches which are hard to get rid of. That’s part of my problem now. I’m really done hurting all of the time. I would love nothing more than to just sit in the sunshine, soak the heat into my bones and be ache free. It was not lost on me that I didn’t hurt the whole time I was in Las Vegas, and when I came back to North Dakota the old aches just fell back into place. Wow…going somewhere else can make my knees stop hurting. Hmmm…food for thought.

Spring Sprouts
If you look really close, you can see little sprouts in the middle.

Something else I am keenly aware of is my need to be surrounded by greenery and things that I can nurture and grow.  I believe what happens when you grow things is that you plant a little hope with those seeds, and to watch them grow is very sustaining in times when regular daily life just isn’t. I’ve started some seeds on my kitchen table, and it’s nice to check on it daily to see the growth and change. This will tide me over until I can get outside to plant in my yard.

It is still only the middle of March, so it is not out of bounds to still have cold and stormy weather. However… we are witnessing the death throes of Winter, and the rattle and wheeze of his last days are loud. Underneath all of that complaining racket I can just hear Mother Nature plotting with Spring and Summer in whispers and grins of anticipation. Their time is coming, and the long wait is soon to be over.

Here’s hoping that your weather is just right. If it isn’t, just hold on…better weather is coming. Blessings all!


Day 31 – Making do in the moment

Today I walked into the living room to take a walk on the treadmill, and (Poof!) the light died.  Time to go light bulb shopping.

Great. Now what?!

Well, sometimes you just have to suck it up and make do. I turned on my phone so I could see, found the treadmill and turned it on. It was weird walking in the dark this morning, but it got the job done.

Making do seems to be a theme around here, but that’s ok. It’s better to make do, than to just lay down and take it when life throws you a curve ball.

As I sit here writing the sun is starting to rise, and it’s only 7:10am. It’s rising earlier and earlier this days, and it makes me so excited for Summer. I don’t thrive much in the dark. Sometimes I need the dark just to help get the day off of me if it’s been busy and harried. I need the light more, though. These long months of Winter make me feel like a cave dweller, and in the Spring when the light comes back it’s the best thing.

Soon it will be time to cleanup  the yard and get it ready for whatever plans I’ve decided on for planting this year. I have a whole bunch, but can’t do them all. I guess I just need to pick a couple and go with it. Oh, the indecision!

Here’s hoping you have all the light you need, and have a way to make do in the moment if it goes out. Blessings all!

Day 30 – Victory gardens in the 21st Century

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought over the years, and have come to the conclusion that the average American has no survival skills.

What would happen if the electricity were to go out? That’s something I have more than a little stress about, living on the High Planes where the temperatures swing from less than -30 to 100+ throughout the year. There’s not much I can do about that at the moment, but I can grow things.

As a culture, we don’t know how to grow, or hunt for, our own food any more. And if we did, may not know how to preserve it.  I saw a meme on-line several times that declares something along the lines of people survived when things got back in the old days, because Grandma knew how to garden and her supply chain was local.

I have worked at both the Big Red and Big Blue box stores here in town, and I can tell you that their freezers and stock shelves in the back only hold so much. If the supply trucks aren’t able to get through, that food will only last about three days. I would imagine it’s the same for the grocery stores too.

When I got divorced, the first thing I did was make a list of all of the necessities, dry goods, etc. I thought the boys and I would use for a year. I filled three pages of college ruled paper, front and back. It was one of the things I did that made me feel like I had hard ground to stand on. Making a plan is a first step to making a person feel like they have some control of their environment a bad situation. Over time, I stocked a pretty good pantry, and it was a good thing.

Fast forward several years later, and my pantry is full of all kinds of crap that I don’t use. As things have gotten better, and Younger Son is gone with the Navy, we don’t have as much need for a well stocked pantry. Or do we?

I have a suspicion that things are going to get really rough coming up. Things in our country aren’t stable. Things where I live aren’t stable, and jobs are an issue. I think mine should be ok, but I have been surprised before.

Anyway, I’ll bet talking some more about my gardening plans, and how I plan on clearing out my pantry and bringing it back to life.

Here’s hoping that all is well and stable where you are, and that you have a plan just in case things go south. Blessings all!



Day 16 – Need to get my hands in the garden dirt

As I sit here wrapped in my shawl, slurping my post-walk coffee, I feel longing for warmer temps and green things.

It’s about this time every year that I begin to wonder if I will have the time to garden this year and, if I think I do, what will I plant?

I always plant tomatoes. I love the little grape tomatoes the most. They are my favorite snack to eat while puttering around my back yard. I don’t often get to putter, but when I do, I have a handful of these lovely little beauties. It’s like sunshine on a vine, the best flavor, and one of my most favorite things about Summer.

This year, I think I am going to try to spruce up my front yard a little bit. It’s been a blank slate for the whole of the almost 17 years I’ve lived in this house, with the exception of one summer when I planted flowers down by the sidewalk. This year, I think it’s going to be fruit bearing shrubs. I might just get wild and plant something different like Lingon berries, and maybe some blueberries. I’m hoping to create a space that is pretty, yet useful.

Some years ago, I planted some trees on my western property line, and they have made a difference in how the snow blows through my yard. I even had quite a few Nanking cherries on my bush last year, but the birds and squirrels got them. This year maybe I will net the tree to  keep the birds out, so I can have enough to make some jelly for my Dad.

My Dad told me a story about eating Nanking cherries off of bushes as a kid, just out playing in the neighborhood. They grow so well here, that they just grow everywhere if left alone. That’s the kind of plant I like.

I have a rule for my property, and any plant that lives here. They must enjoy neglect and abuse. I am not home a lot, and anything I plant here cannot be delicate or needy.

Or, maybe I just need to be home more so I can plant a larger variety of things? That’s certainly a consideration that has bowled across my brain consistently this winter, for a whole host of reasons.

If you enjoy gardening and the itch to dig around the soil and plant things has got you, here’s hoping you have fun planning your garden. These last months running up to Spring seem to last forever! Blessings all!


Gardening grinds down the sharp edges of anger

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about how gardening is good for dealing with depression. Today I found another good use for the act of gardening: grinding down anger.

Today I got some really disturbing news from my lawyer. I won’t go into all the messy little details, but suffice it to say that my ex husband is even more depraved and mean-spirited than I had earlier been given to understand. What I found out was so hurtful and made me so angry I just wanted to scream. But I didn’t…and I didn’t cry either. The man isn’t worth his salt, and he sure isn’t worth the salt in my tears.

In stead, I looked around for something to channel all of my negative feelings into. When I looked out my dining room window, I was reminded that I still had the rest of my garden to dig up, and I’ve got seeds to plant. Given that I was going to be out in my yard, I decided that perhaps a trip to my local garden center wouldn’t be such a bad idea, either. I spent probably more than I should have, but for the most part, I purchased plants that will either come back next year, or reseed themselves easily.

For a long time, I’ve really avoided buying flowers because I wanted to focus my resources towards setting up my little plot of land as a haven of permaculture. I want pretty much everything that grows here to be able to come back every year and provide some kind of fruit or berry that I can feed my family. Something I didn’t take into consideration was that permaculture does require flowering plants to attract bees and other beneficial insects as part of the plan. Well, today, I invested in just that. Flowers. I did buy a couple of herb plants, but the majority were just lovely pretty things that will make my landscape look nicer and make me smile when I come home at the end of the day.

What I brought home were miniature daisies, johnny jump ups, pansies, day lilies, ferns, wooly thyme, oregano, and dill seed. I spent all day finishing up digging up the garden to get the weeds out, and I planted flowers until I was finally tired. The following pictures show the beginnings of what will be a frilly, colorful garden by the time Midsummer hits.

The daisies, pansies and johnny jump ups will make a nice cover for my slow-growing blueberry shrubs, as I planted them in the holes of the cinder blocks lining the blue berry garden.

Just a quick note here about the pink flamingo. It’s one of my favorite things in my whole yard, even though it’s rickety and the paint is peeling. It was made to be plant stand, and I think I’m going to fix it up and find a nice thing to put in it instead of my water bottle!

I have quite a lot of rock bed surrounding my house, and I decided that today was time to liven it up a little bit. I found these fabulous little ferns that should spread out and get little white button flowers on them. I also put in a Stella D’Oro Daylily, which will look fabulous once it gets established. They get really bushy and are prolific bloomers.

The long and the short of this post, is that I finally found something that wears off the jagged edges of my anger. Good hard work out side, where I can build something permanent and worth while, takes that anger and uses it as a generator for the greater good. It morphs from something cutting and destructive into something that paves the way for nicer things. Now my task is to keep the momentum going and get the inside of my house done too!

Spring blessings shine through the bad stuff

Well, life certainly has been eventful and full of blessings here at Sparrow’s Nest…I hardly know where to start. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

My ex husband doesn’t know when to quit, and is hurling careless and ridiculous motions and subpoenas at me, asking for information that isn’t  relevant to the case at hand. Quite frankly, my lawyer is dumfounded at the idiocy he and his lawyer are perpetrating. I’m so grateful that my lawyer is thorough and meticulous. I feel like I’ve really got someone good in my corner where this awful matter is concerned.

Last night I took a harried trip to the ER. I’ve been sick for a while, but thought I was on the mend. About midnight I woke up coughing hard and then had a very hard time getting any air back into my lungs. Poor Younger Son woke up to the sound of his mother making strident noises, fighting for air.  Oddly enough when he came out and found me, I was standing in the kitchen with my head stuck in the freezer. I’d had a friend whose daughter had really bad asthma, and when she would have a bad  breathing episode taking her out into the cold dry winter air helped to unlock her lungs. Doesn’t work so well with a freezer, but you never know until you try.

I tell you what, I will never take breathing for granted again.

Long story short, Older Son drove me to the ER and it turns out that I have the beginnings of pneumonia. So, Older and Younger sat with me all night while the good folks at the ER pumped me full of steroids and antibiotics. I’m feeling much better today, and have another week’s worth of medicine to take and the whole week off of work next week. Not that I didn’t know it already, but it was made even more clear to me how lucky I am to have such good boys. I’d be lost without them.

I’ve been spending some time in my back yard recently and am gratified to see how well the trees and shrubs we put in last year have done. We have had a really unseasonably early Spring here in North Dakota, and everything is blooming early. One of my plum trees has already started to produce fruit and it’s only a year old.

Not only are my trees doing well, but by the time I was able to get into my strawberry bed and weed it, I discovered that I have volunteer chives and onions going to seed, and my strawberries are flowering to beat the band. The thyme came back too. It’s amazing how good it feels to know that the plants I chose to put in my garden like where they live, and appear to be happy and healthy.

My two blueberry shrubs are slower to grow back this year, especially the one. I think the local rabbit chewed it pretty well this winter, but it’s sprouting from the bottom, and looks like it’s making a valiant effort to come back. I’ll get some special blueberry fertilizer and see if we can’t give them a boost this summer. I don’t expect to get any fruit from them within the next few years, but I’ll be working to get some growth on them so they can get well established.

The weather has been phenomenal, and it’s been so lovely to walk in the sunshine. It rained last night and today, and we are expecting more tonight. It’s so very nice to have everything washed off, and to see all the trees leafing out and the yards greening up. Spring is a lovely, lovely time of year.

Older Son will be graduating next weekend, and I find I am all emotional about it. I guess I should expect to be that way…it’s an emotional time. Everything for him is in upheaval as his old life is ending, and he gets to start over and begin to write the chapters of his own new book. Some of this I get to participate in, and some of it I will have to stand back and watch as he makes his own way…and boy is that excruciating. The good news and blessing here is that Older Son is a responsible young man…or as I like to say it, he’s a good kid. He’ll do just fine. I need to keep reminding myself that I survived all the different transitions I’ve made in my life, and he will too.

Right at this very moment, I have a nice pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove. The best part about this soup is that I was able to add in fresh thyme and green onions from my garden. Now that’s good medicine, right there!

Here’s wishing you all many Spring blessings. It’s my fondest hope that you are all as richly blessed as I am.

Flogging depression with gardening

Apparently, I’ve been depressed.

It sounds as though I make it out to be like it sneaked up on me, and caught me unawares. Well, that’s sometimes how it happens…at least for me. I realized recently, that I’d been falling into old patterns and having no feelings other than unhappy. Today I heard stories about two people I work with at The Big Box Store, who have decided to move away because they lost their homes, and most everything in the flood. There’s nothing holding them here, so they are moving to where they have family, and starting over. It really made me think about all the things that I have taken for granted, and how  fortunate I have been.

Do I have more bills than I can keep up with? Oh, yeah. Do I run like a chicken with my head cut off most days? Yep. Do I feel overwhelmed all the time? Most definitely. Has my ex-husband served me with a legal motion because he thinks he’s paying me too much, and wants a refund? Yes he did, that rotten so-and-so.  Has the heart of my city been destroyed, and so many people I know been displaced and won’t be able to get back into their homes before the snow flies? Yes, and it makes my heart ache.  Have I got more things around the house that need doing than I have time and energy for? Oh, man, do I. Did my engine light come on? Unfortunately, it did. Ugh.

I’ve been feeling really down because of all of this stuff on my plate, and didn’t realize how down I was until I realized I have been having a continual internal pity party for quite a while. Hearing about these two families who have had to make such a hard decision really jerked me out of my rut, and I was able to actually get up and do something. Feeling depressed is very much like wearing weights around your neck…it’s just so hard to get up and do anything. I wish I had realized I had sunk down so far before things got so out of whack.

The thing is, I have got so much to be grateful for, and that really should outweigh the bad stuff. Do I have a home to come home to at the end of a long day, that is dry and safe? Are my kids healthy? Am I gainfully employed? Do I have parents that have stuck by me and helped me every step of the way my whole life? Do I have good friends?  Did my garden produce food for me, even though I neglected it all summer? A resounding yes to all of these things and much more. I am so blessed, and it’s a huge bummer that I lost sight of that.

Before - ugh!

So, after I got home from working at The Big Box Store this morning, I took Older Son shopping. We came home, and then Younger Son and I spent three hours outside. He changed light bulbs over both doors and washed the van, and I spent my time cleaning up and organizing the rock beds that surround two sides of our house. The front one was especially bad, but it turns out that it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Since I had extra time, and was on a roll, I weeded out my strawberry/herb garden and found some interesting things.

Rosemary on the right, Thyme on the left

I planted rosemary, thyme and oregano this spring, which grew fabulously. Now I have a nice bunch of fresh herbs to cook with. Actually, I like to just rub them in my hands and sniff them. There’s nothing that drops my blood pressure quick than smelling fresh thyme. Who needs drugs when you have a good kitchen herb garden!

After that was done, I took a look at my VERY over grown vegetable garden. We planted snow peas, corn, carrots and pumpkins. The only thing that did really well was the pumpkins. The vines and flowers are so pretty! Younger Son has been telling me for a couple of weeks about some really strange-looking pumpkins, and he thought the vines might be infected with something and the pumpkins were deformed. I finally made the effort to take a look tonight, and it turns out that not only do we have genuine baby pumpkins, but also spaghetti squash! I had a spaghetti squash that I ended up throwing in the compost heap this Spring, as it went bad before I could eat it. Apparently, they are very easy to grow!

We also have ground cherries and dill that re-seeded themselves from last year. The strawberries looked a little worse for the wear, but were holding their own and had sent out runners. We even had some carrots that survived all the rain we received. Even though Younger isn’t a veggie eater, I talked him into trying a carrot straight out of the garden, since he was the one that planted them. I was surprised that he actually ate it, but he did. I ate some too, and it was a little woody as it should have been picked earlier, but it was good anyway.

So, by 7:30 this evening, the rock beds had been cleared of all weeds, one garden had been weeded and watered, and the van had been scrubbed for the first time all summer (There wasn’t

Whoa! Now you can see the rocks in my rock bed!

much car washing going on with the city requesting water conservation during and after the flood, until just recently),  and I was able to sit down and eat supper with a genuine feeling of having accomplished something for the first time in a long, long time.

Tomorrow, I work on the inside of the house!





A fabulous evening outdoors

It’s been raining a lot in my area lately, but today it quit raining long enough for the sun to come out and dry things up a little bit. As luck would have it, I have a friend who needed to thin out her strawberry patch, and she invited me to come out and take some of her extras. As Older Son had to work today, it was just me and Younger road tripping out to the country to pick up the strawberries. It was a lovely drive in the country and I had a nice visit with my friend. But, the fun didn’t stop there.

After supper, Younger Son and I went to the back yard to work some manure into the garden, plan seeds and put the strawberries in. The place the strawberries went was an over grown bed that we never really do much with, so now it’s been all cleaned out and the strawberries have been planted:

Apparently onions thrive when planted with strawberries, and my friend was kind enough to send along some “volunteers” that came up from last year, so we have onions and strawberries. I can’t wait to be able to go out in the back yard and pick fresh berries!

Another extra that she sent with me was an oregano plant. I’m looking forward to using that, and the basil we’ll be planting in fresh spaghetti sauce!

To the left of my new strawberry patch is the rest of the garden that needs cleaning out. We’ll have basil, dill and other herbs to plant there.

While I was busy cleaning out this bed and planting the strawberries, Younger Son was busy with the vegetable garden. Not only did he spread some manure and work it into the soil, but then he planted the corn, peas, carrots and zucini. Last year we didn’t get the garden put in until June was half gone, but we got a nice start on it this year. I want to pick up some peppers and grape tomatoes to plant too. I also bought some blueberry bushes, but they are waiting by the garden in buckets yet, until I can move the rhubarb.   This is going to be a fabulous garden year!

Even better than getting out and getting my hands in the soil was just spending a lovely evening outside. The bugs were minimal, the air was clean and fresh, and the sun did a fabulous job taking its time setting…it was still light out at 9:30 when we finally went inside. I feel so relaxed and content now, even though I gardened when I should have been cleaning house. My house is a wreck, but I feel fabulous!

I’ll post more as progress is made through the summer. I can hardly wait for harvest!

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