Friday, February 20, 2009

Landscaping Dreams

On the Coast, February had touches...days where Spring did not seem far off.  Depending on microclimates in my garden, there would be Shrubs growing fat buds, bulbs of all kinds would have their strap-like Leaves reaching for the Sun, and  Moss in my lawn would have become thick, showing his unearthly, glowing green face. 

When I moved here to the Central Northern Interior, it was at the end of February.  Having come from the Coast, in my ignorance I assumed Spring could not be far off here, as well.

But when we moved into our home at the end of March, Snow was still very prevalent here. Okay, I thought, maybe a month longer, and I would be able to plant.

Snow melt did not occur until the middle of May.

With this in mind, I have decided to prepare for my landscaping project, which last year had me completely overwhelmed, long before the time comes to plant. On paper...and in dream time.

And this is because, last year when Spring finally arrived in the Cariboo, she really arrived. With huge fanfare, Shrubs and Trees and small perennial Flowers burst into leaf and bloom, within days of each other. Suddenly, the places where I had planned garden beds were covered in Flora, no longer visible.

I have learned.  I know, now, to plant bulbs ( I have yet to find any which Squirrels will not...pardon me...squirrel away) under coniferous Trees. Snow does not build up there, and already brown, naked Soil is showing up under various areas.

This Winter has also taught me how important places where Snow can be built up, after ploughing, are...without worrying about any plants that may lie there.

Suddenly, I imagine how, as a child, I would have built enormous Snow caves in those mounds. I imagine how I would have travelled to different spaces and Worlds, had I tunnelled a huge crater in the icy Snow...

But I digress. Following my imagination is to travel to distant lands and different is very easy to get lost.

Back to my landscape plans.

Since our home is situated somewhat oddly, on this hilly, rocky land, with a Gravel driveway just a few feet from the front entrance, I have decided to use decorative Gravel to delineate the front garden areas.  Instead of my usual jumble of perennial plants, I will plant carefully chosen Trees and Shrubs which will yet stand tall above three feet of Snow.

I am aiming for a still, Zen like quality...a garden which will showcase, here and there, the singular beauty of a Tree or Bush, its Bark, Leaves and Flowers.

It is the Gravel which decided me to take this hugely unusual approach (for me) to gardening.  Before the Snow bed is built up on the driveway, much gravel will be moved under the Snow plough, to places in which it shouldn't be. 

If I can't beat it, I have decided I may as well join with the Gravel already here.

Logs which were cut last year will be used around each well-chosen specimen, with perhaps a chair or bench placed here and there.

And this year, as well, I want to build steps into the Draw off the side of the driveway, which will extend our front garden considerably. Down in the deep Draw is where the best soil lies...and there is where I will go wild with shade-loving, leafy perennials...perhaps even my first love, the Fern.

It seems to me much of my time in the garden this year will be spent building...I hope to have time to tend new plantings as well.

As there is no sited vegetable bed, I intend to build some raised beds below where the greenhouse is slated to be. Building the woodworking shop and the greenhouse will once again change the landscape, with many further gardening options which will appear.

To satisfy my yearning for the feel of soil in my hands, I  bought Seeds. Many, many Seeds...Poppies, Sweet Peas and Sunflowers, along with Herbs...Dill, Parsley, Thyme, Borage and Chamomile...all, and more, are on the agenda for seeding.

Graham has rigged a contraption which holds a grow light...and one of the guest bedrooms will be turned into an indoor greenhouse.

This year, I plan to be prepared for Spring's sudden and so very welcome arrival.  There are many Windows along the back of our home, bringing light and Sunshine for the baby plants, along with the greening bedroom.  I am lucky in that the deck faces South and runs along the entire length of the back. If I am vigilant, when temperatures are suitable, I can place each flat of seeds on the deck during the daytime.

It is the night temperatures which will harm them. I must remember to bring the small, tender seedlings into the warmth of the house...something so important, yet there have been times when I have forgotten.

Further along in this landscaping dream, I want to build a set of stairs from the back deck to the flatter land below and beyond. I want to plant Arabis, Thrift, Achillea and Sunflowers on the bank, with small Fruit-bearing Trees and Shrubs and weepy Trees who will draw their Leaves gently amongst the Boulders already there.

And why stop here? I want to extend the fence to take in an area where Birch is Queen. This is a magical place! It is a riot of Wildflowers...Columbine, Lilies, Daisys and more dot the very fertile Soil here. In high Summer, I imagine the whisper of the Aspen and Birch Leaves high above as Wind stirs their senses, when I wander the paths I've made beneath them.

Paths which will lead to secret, unknown places...a resting spot becoming apparent around a turn or detour here and there.

In my dream, I turn the rather utilitarian steel gate at the far end of the fence into a charming trellised affair, with Rose and Clematis clambering about willy-nilly, gleefully and easily escaping the browsing jaws of Deer...

I am eager to prune the wild Roses, Saskatoon bushes, and Willows who live everywhere along the fence lines. In order to save a fairly large Willow from browsers , we have fenced her in. And although there have been plenty of tracks, Moose has decided it is too much trouble to jump the fence for this one meal.

In my landscaping dream, I have no pain.  In the dream, I have only eagerness to begin to garden, only enthusiasm and ardour to work hard, in the imagined Sun and sultry Spring breezes which tug at my hair.

It is a brilliant way in which to spend a Winter's afternoon! 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going Bushy

At this point in the Winter season, I prefer to think we are over the worst of it. Certainly, there will be more Storms; yet, I can feel Spring's soft breath just behind each angry late blast of Winter.

It is the time of year when, I've heard, people go 'bushy', meaning, I believe, cabin fever. It has been a long Winter; there has been much Snow. But I believe my dose of bushiness, if there is such a term, will come when Air is soft...and the ground will yet be covered by feet of Snow.

I still won't be able to feel and smell the musky,  fecund and moist Earth. There might be some bushy behaviour going on then.

On the other hand, I must remember I have not seen Snow melt as quickly as it does here, when a fresh South West Wind blows its secrets from Ocean...

This being my first dose of a Cariboo Winter, I wondered at the outset how I would do, not without a little apprehension.  I find I have days where the need to go for a long walk overtakes me, where the requirement to stretch my legs in the clear Wintery Sunshine makes me attempt it...

In the awesome cold, I find a short walk will do.

Our dogs, however, are not so sanguine. They have developed some strange behaviours which defy explanation.

Our Natey, a black lab/terrier cross, has been the owner of a red Kong which he can't or won't destroy...since we moved here.  A year ago or so, for Nate.

He loves his Ball; he will chase it for hours, as Labs will do. When Snow arrived, a chase after his Ball also involved some vigorous digging. He learned to repeatedly throw it into Snowbanks, thereby increasing his delight in the game.

Imagine our surprise, when, as the Season of Winter moved on, our Natey could not seem to urinate unless he had his Ball in his mouth. And imagine our horror when, after he threw his Ball into a Snowbank...he couldn't find it!

It was a Thursday; I underestimated this dog's perseverance and attachment to his Ball. I dug; he dug...and Lucky, our Retriever/Airedale cross, became more and more anxious, as no Ball turned up in the all-encompassing field of Snow.

But I believed, erroneously as it turned out, Nature would take its course and he would urinate without it.

Uh, uh. No. Dribs and drabbles is what appeared, when he attempted it. There was much whining and sorrow along with the whole thing. Perhaps some pain, as well, since Nate is well-known for his everlasting urinations.

By now, stores were closed for the weekend. I could only hope I would be able to replace the red Kong ball on Monday. All other balls had been lost during the first Snow storm, and are now under many feet of Snow. 

And while we waited, we threw Nate pop bottles, old oranges...even Snowballs (which really confused him, as he couldn't begin to find it, in the deep Snow) all to help him heed Nature's call.

After searching through three stores, I found only one Kong ball like his.  I was filled with gratitude at seeing it; in the meantime, I had already bought other kinds of balls in case they were required.

My eyes filled with tears at Nate's reaction to seeing the red Kong ball. He had been consistently digging after his old one; he had never stopped his search. This alone was heart-rending.

He seemed confused at first, anxiously whining as I unwrapped the Ball. And then, when I gave it to him, when he had it in his mouth, he almost overturned himself with joy. I could feel his tense energy disappearing, as he raced around, shaking his head, and wiggling his rear end with delight.

He's a big, black, mostly Labrador-appearing dog; but the terrier's dance will out...

You can imagine the relief he felt when I threw it for him.  He found it quickly...and then, there was enormous pleasure as he urinated...and urinated...and urinated...

Ah, well...we all have our peccadilloes.

Lucky, on the other hand, has been highly-strung and a little neurotic since the day he came into my life. This behaviour has accelerated, during this long Winter. A lack of exercise has built up energy which rarely gets released, as much as he requires.  He is a is a pleasure to watch him gracefully go full out around the yard, in more clement months.

He's hated the sight and smell and sound of cans of furniture polish, since he was a pup.  But the other day (after much commotion and confusion which occurred during the days we repainted and refloored the office), I wanted to clean and polish the office furniture.

I took the can out of the cupboard.

Lucky, already very anxious from the sounds of construction, went into a full-blown panic attack. Tail tucked, ears down...his whole body showed his misery.

I put the can away, I threw the dustcloth into the laundry basket...but Lucky could not be consoled.

There was a Snow storm that day.  Flakes fell quickly, forming waving, twirling figures with the help of a strong Northwesterly Wind.

Lucky wanted out of this house, where the evil can of Pledge lurked in dark cupboards.  He literally threw himself against the closed door; the very picture of anxious misery.

I let him outside and he ran from the door.  I watched as he dug himself a huge hole in a bank of Snow against the fence, and huddled there, with flakes of Snow quickly covering him...

It's rare for me to be at a loss regarding helping my animals in distress, but I certainly was this day.

I could have dragged him in, since he would not come when called. But in the house is where his fear lay and he was not able to overcome or face it with its smells all around him, ever fuelling...

It was -7C...not as cold as it has been. I decided to leave him be, denned up in his Snow cave for awhile. Lucky has an unerring sense of what is needed to help and aid others...was he perhaps healing himself, as the gentle flakes of Snow completely covered his red-haired, wiry coat?

He emerged, on his own, finally...just as I had decided enough was enough.  I was worried over the cold. 

He looked like a small Snow bear as he trundled along the fence line.  The over-anxious energy that had defined him for the last couple of days was gone. He still did not look like the happy eager dog he usually is; he still carried a bit of the World on his shoulders, shown by his demeanour. 

And yet, as I left him, watching his progress back to a balanced state, I could feel the worst of his panic attack was over. 

He returned to the door, completely spent but far more relaxed...and very, very cold.  I rubbed him dry, and let him sleep in front of the fire for the rest of the day.

I believe our Lucky went bushy for a few hours.

And the human equivalent to going bushy? 

Staying in bed with the covers pulled over one's head, I suppose, might be one way. 

But just maybe, revisiting with my old friends Patience and Acceptance might be a better way...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wait 'Till Payday

I awoke this morning hearing, on the Radio, that the lumber mills in the City of Williams Lake had shut down, due to the economic downturn.

A rush of old Fear enveloped old Fear which had attached itself to me at a time in my life when my livelihood depended on the Forestry Industry.

In my twenties, during strike years or simply during the periodic shutdowns of the mills and logging divisions in my town, I had only my background to draw upon. I had grown up with strikes, layoffs and shutdowns.

It was a way of life, back then...but along with the reality of this life I was living came Fear. Was the next pay cheque going to be large enough...was there going to be a next pay cheque at all?

I learned self-sufficiency, as we all do, in really tough times. My children grew up on homemade porridge...served with mixed powdered milk and fresh. Often, there were pancakes for dinner. I canned all the fruits and vegetables I could, being lucky enough to have friends with excess produce...and determined enough that my family have proper nutrients, even in the worst of times.

My first ex-husband hunted game and fished; I learned to use bones and such to make broths and soups and stews.  I learned to use rice and potatoes and pasta in many, many different ways...knowledge I still use to this day.

It was the only way I could live,at a young age with Fear attached to me, like an Octopus with its prey. I had to fight back. I had to learn to live up to the circumstances which the Universe had presented to me.

I managed; but Fear, with its insidious Fingers, fastened itself deeply, hiding from view...until this morning.

Cycles continued, during my life...bad times and good. Fear, for all the harm it does, propelled me ever onwards on my quest to find an economic balance in my life. Finally, I faced him down, pushing him as far away from consciousness as I could.

I thought I had relaxed; I thought it was now time to enjoy the ride...

But along the way, there were a few things I had to work on before I found that balance. It took many years, but I was finally able to separate the wants from the needs. I discovered the wisdom and knowledge to do so had been there all along, in a very convoluted way.

As a child, living more by my wants than my needs, I would request a toy or a piece of candy or an ice-cream cone.  I would be told...Wait until payday.

Well. More often than not, I would forget all about the object of my desire by the time payday rolled around.It was obviously not required for the wellness of my Being. But it gave my childish mind some point, I would receive this thing I had my heart set upon.

Sometimes, as well, it seemed like a long time between paydays. Desire fades, if its not fed.

My mother and I spoke about the 'wait 'till payday' response, not long before she died.  She said...I would always remember what you had asked for, but you didn't.  And the money was never really there for me to remind you...

I said...You didn't say gave me Hope instead. And perhaps, that was all I really wanted.

And now, in uncertain times when only my faith in Creator is for sure, that Old Man Fear rears his ugly face, spitting and snarling gleefully at me.

Well, once again, I intend to face him down, close the door on his gruesome Mug.

Once again, with economic hardships facing us all, I will stand and face the future using my own resources and Hope, intuitively knowing all my needs will be met.

I'm not so sure about my wants.

I guess I'll just have to wait until payday.