Summer Lazy

You may have noticed my absence. Or not. 😉 But once I finally had to admit summer was really here, even in the Pacific Northwest, life changed. You see, unlike where I grew up, here one must grab summer and run with it. It’s short, sweet, and doesn’t come back for a re-visit very often. And so I’ve been spending time out in it, and less in front of a computer screen except when actually working. (more on that next post) My eyes approve. And to keep them happy, this will be short.

But summer has been a beaut so far, long, warm (actually hot, but with parts of the world enduring three digit temperatures, I don’t feel I have the right to whine. At least, not in public!) and dry, So warm I was actually harvesting tomatoes in July, which is almost unheard of in my little corner. Which brings me to the subject of today’s brief post. You may recall my last post, a picture I titled “The mother of all strawberries.” That would be this one:

momma strawberry

Mom!!

And I mentioned how all of the little strawberries in my planter had come from this one, inexpensive plant purchased ten years ago. Strawberries, which like heat, and summer. At least these do. Because since my post at the end of June, we’ve gone from this:

 

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Nice, well behaved children.

To this:

Invasion

It’s an invasion, run for your life!

We have another month of sunny, dry weather predicted. I think I should be afraid.

Happy rest of summer to all!

Summer?? How’d THAT happen?

Sun halo

What is that glowing orb up there???

Well, it’s official. Summer has arrived. For most, anyway. Summer doesn’t really arrive in the Pacific Northwest until July 5th, but that’s another story. But since the sun arrived the other day, complete with rainbow necklace, I guess I have to admit it.

Problem is, I’m not ready!! Our spring here is so darned non-committal that just about the time I think it might really be here, it’s summer, and I’m blinking, thinking, Wait, what? So here I am, having to say goodbye to spring when I barely had time to enjoy it. It’s a good thing I took pictures, so I can prove at least the plant life thought it was spring. So let me introduce you to some of my friends and family:

Callas

The Carnivorous Calla Lilies

These suckers are so big that after a rain bugs drown in them. If it’s a good bug, I’ve been known to try to rescue them. If it’s an earwig, it’s on its own. Ugh.

momma strawberry

The mother of all strawberries

This, my friends, is a plant to be revered. She is indeed, the mother of all strawberries. Purchased on a whim nearly ten years ago, this little plant has provided children that have filled every planter I have. So for $7.99 I got eleventy-two hundred plants. Think I’m kidding? Here:

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All in the family….

Every bit of green you see in this planter here, and the little pink flowers, are all kids from that momma strawberry. I could fill every square inch of my yard with this within a year. And yes, they really bear tiny strawberries. I have it on good authority, meaning the birds that always get to them before I do, that they’re very tasty.

Now this little oddity looks like it would be happier out in the Mojave Desert somewhere, yet it seems surprisingly happy here. I bought it simply for the anachronistic look of it. Because that’s the way I am.

poker plant

Took a wrong turn at Vegas…

And now we come to one of my favorites, the creature I fondly call “Cousin Itt.” (if you’re too young to remember the Addams Family, look him up) As usual, he needs a haircut, but for now he’s so…fluffy I’m happy to just walk around him.

cousin itt

Get away from me with those clippers!!

And finally, the most productive members of the family, or at least so I hope. There is only one place I can grow tomatoes well here, and that’s my front porch. It’s sheltered from the wind, and a good 5-10 degrees warmer than anyplace else around the house. So here they are, and here they shall stay, and if anyone is bothered by produce growing in their path to the front door, then they probably aren’t people I’d want to open the door to anyway.

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Whaddayoulookinat??

So there you have it, my sad tribute to a spring we barely experienced. You’ll noticed I ignored the grass. That’s because I’m the one who has to mow it, and I feel little affection for it at the moment. I’m probably the only person around anxiously awaiting its death by summer heat. (no, not DEAD dead, just done for the year.) Parking that lawnmower for a few months is one of the happiest moments of my year. But alas, not yet.

So how about you? Gardener, or brown thumb? Ornamentals or edibles? Try new things every year, or stick with the old reliables? Experiment to see what you can possibly grow in a container?

There Will Be Tomatoes

Why is my deck wet and what is that stuff falling from the sky?

It’s raining. In Seattle. Perhaps the very definition of “That’s hardly news!” But this year, it is. You see, up until it started late yesterday, it had been 82 days since we last had more than the barest measurable rain. And I love the rain. I missed it. Then, in the space of a few days we went from 70-80 degree days to 50s or 60s, and dropping low into the 40s at night. And my green, green view from my porch is now looking like this:

Weren’t they all green just yesterday??

If you just arrived here today, when it’s cold, wet, and windy, you’d swear it could be a winter day. It wouldn’t be the first time we skipped an entire season;  a couple of years ago winter lasted until June and we jumped straight into summer, skipping spring altogether. It can be…disconcerting. At least, it is for me. The wind is howling, rain hitting the windows, there’s a chill in the air and I’m thinking of building a fire, and yet….

And yet this morning I picked these:

Hard to believe these were once considered unfit to eat or poisonous–and tell me all you want it’s a fruit, to me it’s a veggie and one of the few I love. Don’t pop my bubble!

And then, so inspired, I trekked up to my apple tree and cleared one branch of apples.

Yes, I said ONE branch!

So you can see why I’m having trouble with the idea of winter suddenly being here. (then again, some sunny days in October aren’t that unusual, so who knows?) I fully realize that the reason I’m drowning in tomatoes and apples likely is that lovely 82 day dry, warm, and sunny streak. It certainly isn’t because of me; the tomato plants are lucky if I remember to water them, and I feed them once, after planting. The apple tree I ignore altogether, except to prune away crossed branches sometime in January. And then, only the ones I can reach. Still, every third or fourth year, it goes insane and every branch ends up like this:

At least the deer won’t have far to reach

So, what does this have to do with anything? It struck me that this sort of confused, sudden transition instead of the usual gradual one is somewhat like finishing a book. My writing routine is so ingrained, half the time I’m up and at the computer before I remember I’m not in the middle of a story at the moment. Like the plants that got used to the sun and now are suddenly looking at rain and cold, I’m in a startled kind of in between. Yes, there’s another story on the way, the synopsis already on the way to my editor. But in between now and starting that book, there’s that unsettled period. I’ll knit, of course, that’s a given. The rest of the time I could fritter away playing computer games or catching up on movies I’ve recorded. I should use it to finish cleaning out my garage before new doors finally come (a sad story I won’t go into here). But somehow I think I’ll be taking out some of those odd little bits and pieces of stories I accumulate when I’m in the middle of a contracted book. Things that call to me enough that I know I have to write the bits down or they won’t leave me alone. Things that may become books of their own, be woven into books already planned, or become a part of a story as yet unformed.

The only thing I can be sure of is, as long as the seasons keep coming, there will be tomatoes. And apples.

And stories. Thankfully for me, that’s not news. That’s life, for a storyteller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Things I Learned About Writing From Gardening

But I don’t know anything about roses…

As we head into fall here in the northwest, it’s perhaps an odd time for a post about gardening. But I made a fascinating discovery recently. About a rose bush. I was never a big rose fan because, well, thorns. (and lets not get into the thorns on the blackberries that run rampant here and threaten to take over everything–I have scars from fighting them back) I also had always thought they were finicky. There was one rose bush at my house, and it was there when we bought it, a light yellow rose with a lovely fragrance. I appreciated it, took them inside to perfume the air, and our relationship pretty much ended there. Since I obviously knew nothing about roses, I otherwise pretty much ignored it. It flourished. On the perpetually windy, salt-air laden side of my house, it flourished. A light went on in my head. This brings me to…

Lesson 1Never assume you know what you don’t know. Do your homework.

Then one day I bought this tiny rose bush in a 6″ pot simply because I liked the color of the flower in the picture on the tag. There were no flowers on the plant itself, and I had no way of knowing if A)it would actually bloom and B)if the flower would look anything like the picture–it could have been tagged wrong, after all. It sat in that little pot for quite some time out on my front porch. I would walk by it and wonder “Why did you buy a rose bush?” Finally out of guilt–not, I confess, over the plight of the neglected plant, but over the money I’d spent on it–I replanted it in the biggest pot I had handy. That was two years ago. Today,it’s grown into what you see in the first picture here.

Lesson 2:  Sometimes you just have to have faith that things will turn out and plunge ahead.

The first year, this rose got so huge it started taking over the sidewalk it was next to. I had to prune it way back. Wrestled with the thorns, wishing I had a pair of gloves that could stand up to rose thorns and at least take a swipe at blackberry thorns. Bloody but unbowed, I finally got it done. And the next spring it exploded into what you see here.

Lesson 3: Edits and revisions can be bloody hell, but in the end, they’re usually worth it.

This year, while duplicating the pruning of the year before, I inadvertently cut a stem with a lovely little bud on the end, looking just about to open. On impulse, I stripped the lower leaves off and stuck it in ground in the planter, thinking it might at least last long enough for the bud to open. It looked something like this.

What can it hurt to try?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, it looks like this:

How did THAT happen??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 4: Never throw away those little buds of ideas, because they might grow into something beautiful.

Early this spring, I bought an artichoke plant. With about as much knowledge about it as the rose. (Are you noticing a pattern here?) Except this time I did know my neighbor had two that actually produced many luscious ‘chokes. Again the little pot sat neglected for a while, because I didn’t know quite where to put it to replicate my neighbors successful location. Since it was in even a tinier
pot, I knew I had to do something, even temporarily, so again I grabbed the biggest planter I had handy and plopped it in. And as is frequent with impulse buys, I then belatedly talked to my neighbor and was told artichokes don’t generally produce the first year. I was fine with that; it’s a not-unattractive plant anyway. And yet….

So much for “You can’t do that!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 5: Just because they say you can’t doesn’t mean you have to listen.

You might notice in that picture that there is a second, tiny artichoke just adjacent to the big one. The first got big enough to be harvested and actually eaten. And behind it, the second one began to grow even faster.

All I needed was some room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 6: Never hesitate to use it all up on the story you’re working on now. There will be more behind it, ready to grow and harvest.

These obviously aren’t all the things I needed to know. That never ends. The learning never stops, or shouldn’t. And on some level, I already knew these six, but I’ve been at this a long time, and sometimes it’s good to go back and visit the basics, lest I forget.

So now, in these last days of sunshine and growing, I’m going to go outside and dig in the dirt.