There is no other feeling quite like that feeling we get when we exhale our last big sigh of relief, when we know that Spring is finally here to stay! For us Albertans, that is usually in June. We get teased throughout May, with hints of warmth, and even heat, as we did this May. Though Spring doesn’t really settle in until June. I have learned over the years not to get overly excited too soon. Previous years I would start spring cleaning in March; everything from washing windows to washing the interior of my van (all of that salt and gravel buildup from months of winter driving drives me bonkers, but what drives me more bonkers is having to deal with it all over again because of a somewhat freak April snowfall). Now, after many years of disappointment (for example, snow in not only April, but May too) the spring cleaning starts much later, and I don’t put the winter clothes away at all – I just move them to a nearby easily accessible closet, because you just never know, when it comes to Alberta weather. For the last three years there has been little Springtime disappointment; hopes are not crushed, as hope is no longer a feeling I implement regarding the oncoming of Spring. I invoke patience instead, and then anticipation as we all get ready to let go with that last big sigh!
Indeed Spring has Sprung! What a great feeling! Breathing in warmth! Waking up to birds! Waking up with the sun! (Actually, this last part is hard to love at first, but you get used to it!) This time of year I always have these grandiose visions of how my vegetable garden and flower pots will look, which new trees will be purchased and planted, and what area of my backyard I will focus my landscaping love on. This time of year, my imagination teams up with my still-learning green thumb, and have a heck of a great time together! I go to my favourite seed and flower stores, I research plants and gardening, I visit landscaping centres! I find these places invigorating as do all lovers of Spring!. One day while perusing the perennials at Apache Seeds, a man around my age, in an old ball cap and track pants (he didn’t look like the gardening type at all! No offense to him, but he kind of looked like a tough guy) came over to tell me about Gazanias. “They are great fillers if you have space to fill in your beds or pots, and they are the cutest things! They have these pointy buds that open up when the sun comes out and close up again when the sun goes down! They’re just the sweetest little flower with a big wide circular bloom that NEVER fades. I’ve been all over the city looking for them and this is the first place I’ve found them at. You’ll have to get some – you won’t be disappointed!” He was not at all a tough guy, nor was he an employee acting as a customer to encourage other customers to buy plants, he was just a true Spring enthusiast, with a deep love for Gazanias! And so, upon his recommendation, I purchased some Gazanias for the first time, and they are everything I was told they would be! With my first project of planting the flower pots completed — and looking lovely — I decided to tackle Project Two: Raised Garden Boxes.
There is a very slim time frame in which we can plant in Alberta if we want to have something to harvest before the first frost. In getting started on the raised garden boxes, I burned the midnight oil to research what materials are best for building garden boxes, and where to purchase and haul enough soil for them, as well as what grows well in them, if landscaping fabric should be used in the bottoms, etc, etc. I don’t know if I learned anything, though I was reminded of this: there are oodles of conflicting views on everything under the sun, on the Internet. I made some drawings and showed them to my dad the next morning, and he did the building (bless his grumpy self), my partner in crime did the hauling (bless his willingness and his truck), and we both did the filling (thanks to the storm blowing in, we got done fast!). Because of the storm and potential rain, I decided to put tarps over both of the garden boxes to keep the soil dry and ready to plant the next evening, except that I didn’t have any tarps. And so my racing brain decided to use blue recycle bags. I cut down two of the seams so I would be able to open them up and cover more surface and use fewer bags. (It’s such a habit to always think about the environment, and this was good thinking until I realized that the bags would then be useless later in their old bag form … They ended up in a recycling bag once they were done being tarps…). Oh well… I got the garden boxes covered just before the storm hit, and retired that evening drenched in both sweat and rain, yet feeling good about the work that was done. We had to race against the rain again the following evening. Along with the help of my daughter, both boxes were planted just in time! The boxes with their neat little rows of planted, lightly covered and tapped down seeds were picturesque, and a fell into one of the best sleeps I’ve had in weeks, dreaming of all of the delicious veggies we would soon be eating.
In the morning, I looked out and smiled at the sun, greeted the birds, beamed down at my flower pots of cute little Gazanias, stepped out onto the rain-sparkled grass, and just as I was breathing in the fresh spring air, right then and there, I spotted a cat, and I just knew. I JUST KNEW. My dash to the backyard was Olympic-like, and my love for animals was almost totally quelled upon arrival to the garden boxes. Our neighbourhood cat found not just one, but TWO of the greatest, biggest, cleanest, sent-from-heaven-litter boxes, a mere hop-skip-and-jump from home. And unbeknownst, this little cat stirred up all of the neat little rows of seeds, just like that, just because it could. With a mixture of deflation and rage, off I ran to my computer where I learned from David Suzuki how to make a spray out of lemon oil and cinnamon and other things I can’t remember because I was not in a state to remember anything! Once the entire backyard was sprayed with this delicious smelling cat-repelling spray, I headed back to Apache Seeds to purchase chicken wire. Let me tell you, chicken wire is no easy thing to wrestle with, snip, bend and place on top of garden boxes. I looked like I wrestled with the cat itself by the time I was done. Rather than let my feelings of deflation take over, I talked myself into looking on the bright side, and with forced optimism, convinced myself that the cat is a small cat, a living thing with feelings, that didn’t mean to do harm, and perhaps didn’t do much harm. For instance, I didn’t find any cat droppings, nor sign of spray, just lots of cute little innocent paw prints, and some swirled around rows of seeds. No biggie! Not only that, I was able to replant the beans and peas that the cat innocently un-planted, and what did it matter if my rows of spinach and lettuce and chard and turnip and all the other things I planted didn’t grow in rows? So, I called it a day and let things be, and focused my green thumb/imagination duo on other areas of the yard.
The third project I decided to start was to fill all of the settled areas in the rock pathway I made in 2008. Six years of settling means many areas that need filling. This is no easy task since it requires removing the stones, rolling back the landscaping fabric, hauling dirt (from the leftover pile from 2008, which means it is no longer a dirt pile — it is also a weed pile. An additional step of pulling out the weeds and roots from the dirt pile is required), dumping the dirt, leveling the dirt, grading the dirt, replacing the landscaping fabric, and putting the rocks back, only after the rocks are washed. (The last step of washing the rocks seems ridiculous maybe. But it is necessary and kind of hard to explain…) This third project is a somewhat sad and unrewarding one, though since the garden box experience, I’ve become pretty good at forcing optimism, and I feel lots of excitement for next Spring, when the rock pathway is not only finished, but also speckled with shrubs and hostas and ferns that will look as beautifully placed and cultivated as the photos I see all over the web, such as this one:
Now the fourth project is also somewhat sad and unrewarding. It is titled, “Removing Unwanted Things — Namely Dandelions — from the Lawn.” This means cutting out mushrooms and dandelions, one by one, with various tools and lots of patience. A couple of times in previous years I’ve had the lawn treated with dandelion killer, but each time I’ve had it done, I feel incredibly guilty that I had spent money endorsing a company that causes harm to the earth because people like me that want weed free lawns. Not only that, the mushrooms seemed to thrive on the dandelion killer. I’ve been working on cultivating a “oneness” attitude towards both dandelions and mushrooms, which is somewhat similar to “forced optimism”. And one dandelion/mushroom at a time, I work towards a green lawn (which is almost futile because I think both species grow at a speed that just about beats my most frantic work mode), all the while designing in my mind a future Zen-like yard, like this one (well, maybe not quite): Sigh… One day… Or rather, one Spring…
It has been a few weeks since the garden boxes were planted, and yesterday was the first weeding session. I had to wrestle with the chicken wire once again. After a large amount of humongous broad leaf weeds were removed, tiny, random, and mostly unidentifiable vegetable plants were left. Yet I remain optimistic! There is a lot of growing season left, and not only that, I accidentally pulled out a radish that despite being small, was tasty!
When reading this, one may think that gardening and yard work is all I do. It isn’t. If it was, I’d post photos that I took rather than photos I found on the Internet! 🙂 I’ve been busy wrapping up the teaching year; prepping students for exams and performances, which requires extra lessons and more admin work than other parts of the year. It has also been a busy time for me musically. I’ve been busking for the first time at the Downtown Farmer’s Market — it’s so much fun! — and I recently played a House Concert in Calgary. Prior to that, I performed at a New Thought Conference, which was a whole other blog post of experiences that I may one day get to. There are a few small festival performances coming up! (I’ll update the shows soon, and in the meantime, please check out my Facebook Page since I’m pretty good about giving a heads-up there.
I feel that some quiet time is needed, as some sort of shift is happening for me artistically/musically. I’m going to be doing a major update of my website as things shift into place. Patience and optimism (not always forced!) are the traits I will rely on as I let projects unfold, which will allow new goals to be set and hard work to be done. Life is good, even with a yard and garden that look nothing like my imagination projected! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by! Happy Spring!