Thursday, February 24, 2022

Turning off the news

 It's another beautiful and mild day here in my part of the world. This week has been warm and springlike, so much so that I wore shorts yesterday as I puttered around the house and the outdoors. The very earliest trees and bulbs are blooming already, my favorite being this grand old magnolia that belongs to my next-door neighbor. 

Although I've had the week off work, I've been busy. On Sunday, we planted the crabapple stick tree in our front yard. If it lives, I fully expect it to take several years before it's much to look at. 

The next day, Monday, Gregg helped me put up a bluebird nesting box in the back yard. The box was a Christmas gift many years ago from my late mother-in-law, Edythe. She shared my love of feeding wild birds and had a bluebird box in her back yard in addition to several feeders. Since we were renting at the time, I decided to put it away and save it until we were able to buy a home of our own. We've seen lots of Eastern bluebirds in this neighborhood, so our chances of attracting a pair to nest are pretty good. In fact, the morning after we put it up, I saw a pair of them checking it out! I was pretty excited, but they flew away after a few minutes. I haven't seen them again, at least not yet. Fingers crossed.

Speaking of fingers crossed, today I sowed seed for early spring vegetables in part of my raised bed. Carrots, lettuce, and radishes...

Just for fun, I also planted some potato seedlings in a large plastic container. I don't have much expectation of actually getting potatoes, but it will be a fun experiment. Over the weekend I'll be starting tomatoes and peppers indoors in peat pellets. We have about 6 weeks until our last frost date, which is just about right for having seedlings of a good planting-out size. 

With all these gardening projects and other things going on, I've been mostly avoiding the news these days. The last few years have just been exhausting. I've found it's better for my mental health to not follow national and world events quite so closely as I used to. I'm aware of the Ukraine situation, but I feel helpless to do anything except feel terrible about it. I realize it's the height of privilege to be able to tune out such events and concentrate on my own small life, but I don't know of any alternative that would actually accomplish anything. I don't take for granted how fortunate I am, at least.

We Lived Happily During the War by Ilya Kaminsky //
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.

Saturday, February 19, 2022


Going back to work a couple of weeks early last summer is paying off again. We're on "winter intercession" which means that we have next week off! Yesterday was a half day for staff (students had the day off completely) and the joy as we all walked out to the parking lot at noon was palpable. It was a warm, springlike day with bright sunshine and blue skies, and the teachers were practically skipping to their cars! The break is very much needed, I think. 

I'm looking forward to working on several garden projects next week. My crabapple tree has arrived! I snapped a photo of it the other day and texted it to Gregg. His response? "That's a stick! Is it dead?!" I explained to him that it's just dormant and that a "stick" was all I expected. He did make me laugh, though.

I'm thinking about planting it this week since we're in for mild weather. Does anyone out there know if that's okay, given that we're sure to have some cold nights between now and early April? How early is too early for a dormant tree? If we got a hard freeze I could always devise something to cover it, and I plan to mulch it really well. Answers on a postcard, as John would say.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Sweet, sweet karma

 Today was such a good day! I enjoyed myself thoroughly at work first thing this morning.

 It's petty and small of me, but I can't help myself: the hateful, gossipy, backstabbing coworkers at my job (along with a couple of other people who've been nice to me personally, but who are lazy and forever slacking on their duties) got busted by the district superintendent this morning, goofing off and not attending to their jobs. The principal was away on business and the superintendent "popped in" to see what was going on in our school while our boss was away. I was at my desk, cheerful and working, so it didn't bother me a bit when he walked in the front door. The other office people are a different story, though!   They were nowhere to be found hanging out in each other's offices and gossiping (like they do all day every day) and no one besides me was answering phones, greeting visitors, attending to parents, etc etc etc. It was obvious that the superintendent was PISSED OFF. I'm certain those two women along with a couple of others will have to answer for their behavior...finally. Karma's biting them in the ass and I love it! And for once, being responsible and always trying hard to do a good job (even when my boss isn't around to see it) has paid off a little. I was the only staff member that Dr. O'Malley spoke pleasantly to this morning. The rest got a tongue lashing and taken down a notch. Not to mention a black mark in Dr. O's estimation.

What a sweet way to start my day!

Monday, February 14, 2022

"Playing" was the wrong word!

Whew! A whole lot of work got done at Casa de Sparrow yesterday. We started at 9am and hauled six small truckloads of soil to our house. Each load meant driving to the school, shoveling dirt into the bed of the truck, driving home, and shoveling the dirt out of the bed onto a large tarp. Wash, rinse, repeat 6 times. Then we shoveled it all into wheelbarrow loads and carted it over to the raised bed. I can't believe how much dirt it took to fill it.

But now it's done! And it all cost me exactly $0.00! 

We had more than enough dirt left over to pot up the camellia plants Carol gave me. I'll let them grow some and develop good roots while I decide where they'll go in the yard.

I ended up with eight pots of camellia starts. Since I used free dirt and old saved planter pots, again, this didn't cost me a dime. 

It was a long, tiring day, but I'm so pleased with everything we got done! Now that most of the heavy work is done, I can get back to "playing" in the dirt. What we did yesterday definitely wasn't play. 

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Playing in the dirt

It's a little warmer here this weekend than it's been in a while. Spring is right around the corner no matter what the calendar says, and by the first of March it will be time to start seeds indoors for planting out six weeks or so later. Early tomorrow morning Gregg and I will be picking up three or four truckloads of dirt to finish filling the raised garden bed. It's almost halfway full from the first two loads, and I'm eager to have it done. Next week I'll place my seed order for the tomatoes, peppers, herbs and flowers I'm planning to grow this year.

Speaking of placing orders, today I placed an order for my Valentine's Day gift from Gregg: a crabapple tree! I ended up choosing a variety called Centurion. I told him last week that while I love cut flowers, this year I'd rather we spent that money on things I could plant in my yard and garden!

Once it arrives (supposedly by February 21...I ordered from Home Depot) and is in the ground, we'll chop down the dying dogwood tree that's currently in our front yard. 

I got a text last week from our friend Carol (the retired artist and avid gardener who gave me the start of my fig tree) asking if I might be interested in some camellias. Of course I said YES! She has them growing in huge wild tangles along one side of her property and she was digging up some to share with friends. I went over there today and picked up a big bundle of them. The area where she dug them up has several colors, so I'm not sure what we'll end up with. My favorites have white flowers with pale pink stripes in them, but they're all nice. The seedlings she gave me are three or four feet high and have green flower buds on them, so we should soon know! I hope they'll grow and thrive. Before I left Carol said, "My mother always said that flowers shared with friendship and good wishes will always bloom!" 

Here's one more small bit of gardening news. I bought a big bag of deeply discounted daffodil bulbs over Christmas and planted them on New Year's Day. I've been hoping they didn't get planted too late to bloom this year. Well, earlier today I went out to check, and the first quarter inch of green spears are starting to poke up from the ground! Looks like we'll have daffodils next month, after all! 

I'm so glad my favorite season is almost here. 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Things that thrill my middle-aged heart

 A few weeks ago, I was bemoaning the fact that it was going to be too expensive to fill the raised garden beds I'd built in the backyard last fall. After days of googling local landscaping supply businesses and their prices for compost and topsoil, I came to the sad conclusion that I was going to have to be content with dismantling the beds and planting my garden in the ground, instead. And since we built the beds out of heavy sections of border stones, moving them was going to be hard work, to boot.  I was so disappointed! 

I mentioned all this to a science teacher friend at work last week. Longtime readers may recall me mentioning her here in the past: she's a certified beekeeper who wrote a grant that got our school a working apiary as well as the head of our 4-H club. At home, she's a keen gardener and chicken keeper who's sold me lots of good eggs over the years. When I told her of my disappointment that I couldn't afford to fill my raised beds, she looked at me incredulously.

"Haven't I told you about the big pile of compost and topsoil they want me and my 4-H students to get rid of? They think it's an eyesore on the side of the campus."

Well, I had heard her mention it, but never considered it had anything to do with me. She teaches two Intro to Agriculture classes as well as running the 4-H club, and last year she had picked up several truckloads of good soil for student projects. It's a big mound. They've filled raised beds, boxes, and planters from it, and there's still a lot left. The district head of maintenance (he's kind of a jerk) told her flat out, "Get rid of that dirt pile or the landscapers will come do it for you!" and so she's been scrambling to find ways to use it up. You see where I'm going with this......

FREE DIRT FOR ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As if that wasn't enough good fortune, the day after we had the conversation, she took one of her Ag classes outside, armed with shovels. Her eyes twinkled when they walked past my desk. "My class is going outside for the rest of this period. Call my cell if you need one of the students." "Okay" I replied. They go outside pretty regularly so I thought nothing of it.

Thirty minutes later the students came tramping back in, and Ms. Howard was grinning. "We just filled the back of my truck with a load of dirt. Text me your address, and I'll swing by this afternoon and deliver it!" I was so surprised! Then when she delivered it, she had her husband and teenage son follow her over, and they quickly shoveled it all onto a tarp I laid down beside the fence. 

This was just the first load. Yesterday she had me drive our truck to work and park by the pile, and once again she took a class of students outside to fill it. Since Gregg had the day off, he came and switched vehicles with me and took the second load home, so the pile is bigger now. Two or three more loads next week should fill my beds nicely.

And it isn't costing me a dime!!! I'm beyond thrilled....about dirt. Hahaha! 

I'm planning to do something for Ms. Howard to show her appreciation for her kindness and generosity. And I may have to make cupcakes for her 1st period Agriculture class, who have done so much work to help out. So far I haven't lifted a shovel even once!