Blown In From Somewhere: Spring Clean-up

May 21, 2023

My goal is to finish spring yard clean-up before the summer solstice. What’s not done by then, won’t be done. Maybe what’s not done long before then, won’t be done. I’ve lost track of the task enumeration I started here, but the tasks haven’t stopped.

To commemorate a big award this week for Mother Lode, I tackled my mother’s garden—the steep slope in the yard that used to be grass that I mowed with the flat mower as a teenager. (Now I’ve gone down a nostalgia rabbit hole, looking for an image of that mower that looked like a flying saucer and could be swung side-to-side. Found it! Toro Flymo, a hover mower. Ours looked just like this one.)

I waited too long to hoe out the patch of invading grass, both because the ground is getting hard (thanks to the unseasonal heatwave in the Pacific NW) and because my left wrist has developed tendonitis and hoeing is clearly a bad idea. (Probably things I did do were also not a great idea.) I shortened the grass with the weedeater (maybe it just wants to stay grass) and pulled or dug several 5-gallon buckets of weeds and blackberry vines, including a fantastic crop of vetch this year—April showers and all that. I cut down (broke out) a row of long dead azaleas, which will give the buttercup more room to grow, and finally planted two lupine plants Rebecca shared from a friend’s gift to her a year ago that have been patiently waiting on my deck. I hope it goes crazy, contributing to a riot of wildflower color I have “planned” for the next evolution of this garden. Soon the fattening buds of blown-in field daisies will burst open, followed by the hardier Shasta daisies that were actually planted. There might be one of my mother’s Canterbury bells left. Next up: mulch. Maybe.

I cleared the gravel paths in the upper garden that were invisible under ground-covering weeds along with acceptable ground cover that had escaped its bounds, including prunella vulgaris (how’s that for a name?), aka heal-all or—my favorite—heart-of-the-earth. What with heal-all, buttercup, forget-me-not, euphorbia gone crazy, sweet woodruff, and periwinkle, along with the miniature flowers in the lawn and the rhododendrons and azaleas, the place doesn’t look half bad, in spite of the demise of my mother’s care! Well, except for . . . never mind, not going to think about it today.

The cracks in the deck got denuded of fir needles, etc. I really should clean off the bird poo. My mother wouldn’t put up bird feeders because the birds made a mess. When she was gone I put up three. I figure the trade off between having birds and cleaning poo is a good one. Except I haven’t cleaned up after them. I got the deck mat and umbrella out, and the umbrella—apparently not tightened in well enough—has already air-lifted to the roof in a brief gale. And this is crazy: I think we escaped maple pollen this year. Well-timed rain?

I made the last (for this year) box for my garden just in time to plant tomatoes from the Master Gardeners’ sale last weekend. And moved the strawberries I got there last year that were buried under the ever-expanding volunteer hollyhock crop. (I moved them to the root vegetable bed, which I’ve given up on.) Mostly the flower spots in the meadow garden are full of weeds: acceptable forget-me-nots, wild geranium, and violets, along with the not-acceptable buttercups. But even they are pretty right now, I will say, in lieu of anything else blooming. I hoed a third of them out of my wildflower patch, where nothing will come up and nothing new can be planted because of them. Maybe that’s how I torched my wrist, now that I think about it. There are more volunteer foxglove this year (they didn’t come up last year). I finally replaced the rotted pieces of my gate. Good enough for this year. Someday I will repaint/replace my sign. Or not.

I scraped the foot-wide swath of moss and fir needle loam from each edge of the driveway and, when it stopped raining long enough, sprinkled moss killer on it and the front walk. I went crazy and jet-hosed the moss off the steps and sidewalk. If I ever knew the edges of the steps were pebbled, I’d forgotten! It would be lots faster with a power washer, but even the hose knocks pebbles out of the sidewalk. (I would like to power wash the unpebbled front porch though. And repaint the door and window frame.)

I got plants for walkway pots, and slugs (or something) snipped down one of the coleuses within days. My favorite scented flower, heliotrope, is in a deck pot and already smells divine. Something PlantSnap can’t identify has budded in another pot, blown in from somewhere. I’m eager for it to open. I could have named this homestead “Blown In From Somewhere,” kind of like I did.

My long-time mowing guy—my mother’s mowing guy—finally made good on his years-long talk to turn the job over to his sons. The older one helped Chris until he graduated from high school, then the younger one helped. The younger one graduated too, and now they are doing it without Dad. I think Chris was waiting for them to be old enough, he kept saying he wouldn’t leave me in the lurch. I like it. They are young and strong and don’t complain of body aches. But the cost went up and good golly, weekly mowing gets pricey.

Next up, the garden my sister created when she lived here. Maybe.

All of this (and the doubled property taxes since my mother died) makes me contemplate how and when and to where I will leave this garden of a place. It may not be paradise, but it sure holds my heart. Then I walk into my father’s workshop over the carport to look for a tool and the scent fills me with longing for him. And I can’t take a photo to carry with me, or do an audio recording, or bottle it, or replicate it somewhere else. It will be gone forever. And I’m a puddle of longing for the past, love of the present, and heartache for the future.

For all my kvetching in anticipation of this season of the year, when I actually get out there to do it, it’s pretty satisfying. I probably should remember that from year to year. I won’t. Transitions are hard.

Happy gardening!

The big Mother Lode news: it won a gold IPPY medal! The Independent Press Book Awards honors the year’s best independently published titles from around the world. It is one of the most prestigious and competitive of the book awards. I am ecstatic—and stunned—to have received this tremendous honor.

Available wherever books are sold. Order from your favorite Indie bookshop, or from the big bookstore in the sky here. If you have already read it, leaving a review on Amazon will help others find it (just thirteen more for 100, a maybe magic number).

12 thoughts on “Blown In From Somewhere: Spring Clean-up

  1. I so identified with your constant calling to tend the garden and yard. I’ve been working non-stop at taming ours for months now, and can finally (almost) rest and enjoy it – until it needs attention again. It is balm for my soul to do the work, to feast on the kaleidoscope of colors and shapes, and marvel at all that nature has to show us and teach us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m impressed that you started months ago! I wait, in denial, then drag myself out. It’s much easier to get out and do it when the color starts popping! Especially in the PNW where morning air is fresh and cool. I need to come and see you again.


  2. Doing a smaller version of this in our yard… weed whacking my specialty, minding sore thumbs, because I need them for weeding the little things that pop up soon as I turn around. We have a lot of tiny invasions–lambs mettle, shot weed, but are mostly spared the buttercup wars. Carry on and move at the pace of your 70’s my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This post is so reminiscent of the old garden blog that it made me realize how much I miss that one. You vs nature. You vs your own human nature. You are such a good example of what I think it is to be a good gardener. You dispose of tangled things that choke the ones trying to grow and you give the rest some love and attention and then let it all be what it will. It’s almost zen: do what’s in front of you, don’t overthink it and let all things be as they are. Thanks for this one. And brava for more good book news! A third printing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is so sweet. I miss that blog too, and that garden, and much of my life there. Fortunately, I love my life here too. There are so many more gardens here! So much more to write about. So much more calling my name. It’s a lucky thing to have both a past and a present one loves, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that sometimes it takes awhile to really sink comfortably into the idea that we have just this one life. And that ‘one life’ is woven of so many different people, places and experiences that removing even one from our memory unravels the whole thing. Yes, it’s so good to weave it all together and love with our whole heart the thing that we made ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, there are advantages to a lawn of clover and buttercup, namely that it feeds pollinators! I’m happy to adopt that as an excuse for benign neglect.


    1. Yes, well . . . except for this: literally no other pollinators can grow where the yard-pest-variety buttercup is given its way. And while other pollinators that would otherwise be there have long bloom times, the buttercup blossom is short-lived. But the year-round spreading blanket it forms cannot be pulled out or mowed down; it might as well be cement. Except cement stays where you put it. Think of it as Donald Trump.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m exhausted from all that!!! I laughed about the buttercup. I was just thinking – as I watch it take over my yard- that it’s so pretty! I guess the price of so much beauty is so much work. But I’m happier surrounded by growing things. It will interesting to see what calls you next.

    Liked by 1 person

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