Category Archives: Yard

spring break part 1

It rained all week. On Thursday, I went through the drive-thru of one of my fave local coffee shops for a dozen donuts for a colleague’s birthday, and I watched the “regulars” through the rain-splattered glass and felt that it must be a nice way to start the morning. It’s one of those places where you walk out smelling of coffee and baking.  Alas, there was no time for me to linger, the rain-soggy box was thrown into the passenger seat and I was off, although I did extricate the blueberry cake donut at a stoplight as a consolation (blueberry cake donuts 4-ever).
03.2017_looney

We have no spring trips planned. This coming week’s Spring Break for Miss L will be an exercise in “staycation”. She won’t be thrilled about this, but we’ve done fun vacations for the past few years (Chicago, Disney, and North Carolina beach trip) so it’s time for mama’s bank account to recover a bit.

Yesterday the sun came out long enough for me to start raking and begin some basic yard cleanup, but after filling five lawn and leaf bags I feel as though I am making the situation worse. There appears to be no grass whatsoever in my backyard.
03.2017_backyard

Note the clear and humiliating line of demarcation between my yard and the dentist’s. His is sod!!! It’s not fair.

Today I will spread some grass seed and attend to a couple of other tasks, including the somewhat nasty one of trying to figure out what to do about my infestation of horrible house sparrows in all my nesting boxes. I don’t want to stoop to killing them but I think I need to block the entrance holes with something.
It was a big week at Miss L’s elementary school, with Book Fair and conferences. Miss L had a great conference and one of the funnier moments was finding out from her third grade teacher that one of Miss L’s self-stated goals is “to get into a good college”. I think we actually LOL’ed at this.
I volunteered for two nights at the Book Fair and realized that I probably should have been a cashier in real life. It’s incredibly satisfying for me to have short, well-defined tasks with a beginning, middle, and end. Greet the customer. Scan the books. Take their money. Give them change. Hand them their books and receipt with a huge smile because that task is over, they will walk away, and everyone will be happy. I ended up working way past my shift end on both nights because they weren’t fully stocked with volunteers. The first night was fine, but the second night I was actually bleary-eyed by the time we started closing the registers and counting money. Still, I really love being at the school and I always wish I had more free time during the day to do more things there. However, Widget Central (and my mortgage, car payment, our health insurance, and bills) has me inexorably in a firm grasp.
Still, it’s now the weekend, with a couple of days off next week with Miss L, and I plan on baking, sleeping, and watching another 30 episodes of Forensic Files. I leave you with a screenshot of the My Favorite Murder podcast’s Instagram account, which after their recent live show in Portland managed to combine three highly topical themes – donuts, cats, and murder, with their personalized Elvis the Siamese donut (fellow listeners will recognize Elvis as the show’s mascot). I wish someone would make me an Emmett donut.
Happy Spring Break for those of you celebrating! xo
03.2017_elvis
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the simple, the plain, the ordinary life

So I was one of the 800,000+ people who lost power in Southeast Michigan’s windstorms last week. I was, however, lucky from the word ‘go’ that despite the gale force winds, ALL of my old trees stayed firmly planted, as did my roof and siding, as many of my friends and neighbors were not so lucky.

03.2017_lights out_tree

My neighbor, who has frequently throughout my tenure living in this house, berated me for the tall pine trees that border my property (because they “make her yard too shady” – never mind that they are thirty years old if they are a day, and have been here long before either of us bought our houses, and which I shall NEVER EVER CUT DOWN) was unfortunately the recipient of a downed pine tree. Not one of mine. No damage to her house or any of her property, but dare I say, karma?

I was out for just about 72 hours. The timing on Mother Nature’s side couldn’t have been worse, because despite the unnaturally warm winter we’ve mostly experienced, the power outage was concurrent with an extreme drop in temperature, into the teens F. for 2 of the 3 nights I was out. Fortunately, Miss L’s dad and stepmom had power, and immediately took her, so I didn’t have to worry about her safety and comfort (can I say again how lucky I am?)  I had many offers of shelter, showers, charging places, wood, etc. but I had nowhere to take the cats. Plus, I stubbornly wanted to be in my house to make sure the pipes weren’t freezing and bursting. I was ready to go down with the ship, like Royal Tenenbaum’s ideal epitaph.

03.2017_royal epitaph

I have a woodstove that kept the house in the ’40’s during the outage, which was sufficient to sustain life and keep the pipes from freezing. I also have a gas range so I could boil water, and do a little cooking. But all in all it was a miserable and dehumanizing experience. The cats crouched and stared at me accusingly, and the three of us burrowed into sleeping bags and fleece blankets on a pad in front of the fire at night. Dirty, stressed, sleep deprived from feeding the glowing-sided baby chunks of wood throughout the night, refrigerator full of rotting food with no way to effectively clean it. Where I once loved the smell of woodsmoke, I began to thoroughly detest it on my clothes and greasy hair.

03.2017_lights out_night 3

I read at night by flashlight, made coffee in the mornings in the French press, and rigged the garage door so I could manually open and close it. At night, I pulled Finn in; in the mornings, I pulled him out so I could sit in the driveway with the engine running to charge my phone and check the DTE outage map. It never seemed to change. I didn’t receive any estimate on when my power would go back on, no responses to my emails. When I called to check my status, I was informed by a robotic voice that they could not match my phone number with my account even though I was looking right at my account with that phone number on my mobile app. I know that they had linemen working around the clock to bring people back up, and they brought in many crews from other states to assist – I don’t blame them for the outage. But it would have been nice to have a bit of an idea as to when I could expect power back. For a few bad moments, I was pretty sure I was going to run out of wood.

I did pretty well for the first 48 hours or so but the last night & day, it really took its toll on me. I realized how quickly the situation brought me down. I imagined I was living in “Dr. Zhivago”. I’d wake at night and see the moon hanging in the branches of the willow tree and feel entirely alone, with no connection to the outside world (except for regular messages from my brother, who has bottomless loyalty and empathy, and never failed to make me laugh). It made me think of the poem “The Moon and the Yew Tree”:

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.

I probably could have made it another 24 hours, getting down to the last of my woodpile; I was at Home Depot buying batteries and Envirocare logs, which my brother had suggested, when I got the notification that my power was back on. I didn’t believe it; the app had told me the same thing several times while I was actually sitting in the freezing house, staring at it as it cycled back towards “OOOOPS OUR BAD, YOUR POWER IS NOT ACTUALLY RESTORED!! LOL”. I drove home quickly; the dentist next door was still running his generator. I ran up the steps, greeted Emmett in the foyer with a head scratch, and flicked the light switch. Nothing. I sagged with disappointment and then girded myself for another dark, cold night. Then I heard a beep from the kitchen and the grinding noise of the furnace waking up in the depths of the basement. I flicked the switch again and stared at the miracle of modern electricity.

03.2017_lights on

I guess the upside to a few days of inconvenience is the realization of how blessed I am to live the life I do. It humbled me and made me ashamed at how many people live without the daily blessings that I take for granted; power. Heat. Water. The knowledge that I have safety and a roof and the ability to take care of myself, my child, my pets.

I cleaned the house, vacuumed, ran the washer and dryer, took a blistering hot bath perfumed with lots of scented bubbles; slept ten hours in my own bed, with the humidifier and the heated mattress pad cranked up to the max, and woke in the morning stretching and sighing in utter bliss. I had coffee while catching up on my Internet tasks. I picked a Sarah Blondin meditation before going to fetch Miss L (and take her dad and stepmom a dozen donuts to say thank you) – and the meditation was perfect:

“to the wealth that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it; to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live, I would like to say thank you; I would like to share my most sincere gratitude and love and appreciation to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live. I would like to say a most sincere thank you for all of the glory that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it. I thank you. I love you. I thank you.”

in which nature encroaches


Sometimes I have to remind myself that I live in the city. Metro Detroit is stuffed full of people and  cars and noise and even though I have a green yard and big pine trees and a nice view of an imposing verdant hedgerow across the street, sometimes I just have to remind myself.

Particularly when I lovingly nurture sunflower seeds into little baby plants, protecting them from the changing weather conditions of winter into spring, guarding them with mesh wire until they have grown into mature plants, and then, when I am finally expecting large sunshiny heads, the damn deer eat the tops off. ALL THE TOPS. I live in a TOWN. Where do the deer SLEEP in town?? Or do they bus in from neighboring country sides?

Particularly when I am standing at my kitchen sink in the evening, doing dishes and watching my birdbath garden (now mostly weed-choked) and I see a rustling in the bushes and a bit of white tail. I peer closer, thinking it is a neighborhood cat come to press its butt against my den window and wreak havoc with my two overly sensitive, Prozacked cats. And then out walks a GINORMOUS SKUNK.

Particularly when I notice a terrible stink in the garage, and attribute it to the trash. I was at Jax’s house on trash day last week, so it didn’t get taken out. And I get up on trash day this week and put on my jammies and my pink slippers, and stagger downstairs to pull the trash out to the curb. And when I yank on the overflowing can and see behind it A DEAD CHIPMUNK. The same chipmunk, perhaps, that in less-dead days would hide in my garage and sit on the edge of my recycling bin and mock me. I don’t know how he met his demise but he’d been dead for awhile and was hosting a variety of Hakuna Matata. I stood there in my jammies with my hair corkscrewed from sleep and wondered if I could leave him there til he was just a little flatter. Of course you can’t, I reasoned, you and your CHILD use this garage, this DEAD CHIPMUNK is mere feet away from her little pink bicycle. So I picked up a shovel and gritted my teeth and scraped it off the floor, displacing all aforementioned Hakuna Matata, and carried his dangling sad corpse down to the bin at the curb. Then I felt embarrassed that the trash man would see a dead thing in my bin (which led me to wonder, in my sleep-fuzzed state, what is the worst thing the trash man has seen in a bin?) and went back to rearrange a bag of kitty litter over the top to make it less obvious.

We named the skunk Roscoe. 

i know, i know.

I know, I know. This is why I will never have a famously well-read blog that I can actually make money from and then melodramatically complain about the stress of writing sponsored posts for a living. I am lucky if I post once a quarter and look, not even a big splashy photograph to set the theme.

It’s autumn here in southeastern Michigan but still feels like summer. I am still stubbornly single and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for awhile if not longer, since the only male that I can remotely see myself marrying is Jim Harbaugh and he is taken. And would likely be no better equipped to put up with me than any of the other hapless, deer in headlights men that have blithely attempted to date me and quickly realized that for one reason or another they were utterly and completely in over their heads. (I always thought I was a pretty normal person, but based on the state of my interpersonal relations with the opposite sex, I am now willing to concede MAYBE NO). Mercury Retrograde has once again wreaked havoc personally and professionally with an influx of busyness, tasks, stress, and annoyances but I am largely unconcerned with all of them. Morning meditations and evening tea.

Miss L is joyfully back to school and already has math homework that I can’t figure out. (Common core…!#$%) I haven’t vacuumed in a couple of weeks and there is a spider living in the mailbox that is SO BIG that I can hear its legs tinking against the metal when the lid is closed. I am astonished that the mailman is still brave enough to put his hand in the box to put mail in there since I can barely bring myself to pull the mail OUT and have to shake every piece vigorously to ensure that the goliath isn’t clinging to it.

I haven’t vacuumed in a couple of weeks but am keeping well up with laundry. You’d think that this lack of household cleaning would mean that my attention has been focused on the yard, but no. It is mostly dead or dying. The chipmunks have decimated what’s left of the heirlooms, my house was stalked by a raccoon, and the leaves are starting to fall. This will continue until it snows. The maples lose their leaves first, before anyone is remotely ready to rake. My house looks like a Peanuts cartoon – all green lawns up and down the block and then MINE, hidden under a red and gold mound. I will curse bitterly and get these raked up and then the tulip tree will wait until the very end and drop all of its leaves, so I will be raking in the sun and heat and raking in the cold and sleet. Or not raking at all, which will make the neighbors grit their teeth. I don’t mind so much about Snow Hag on the one side, but I do feel sorry for the dentist on the other. He has a really beautiful lawn and gardens and I am quite sure that when GB moved out, the dentist wept, realizing that a divorcee would never be able to keep pace with yardwork. I try, but have become reduced to just mowing the one strip of grass on his side of my driveway so that in comparison, things don’t look so bad.

Rather than doing chores, I am taking naps and reading ‘1Q84’ by Haruki Murakami. I’ve read some really good books this summer / fall but will save that for another post, as well as my running update. I have a goal of publishing once a week (hahahaha…WHEW) I’ve also been helping Miss L’s Daisy troop – we did a great trip to Gleaner’s in Detroit, and I was a parent helper at their last troop meeting. I thought this would be the equivalent of a child’s birthday party (read: painful) but it was actually pretty fun and I made myself proud by getting all of her badges affixed to her vest (finally). I’m scheduling work trips and getting my passport renewed and watching the Weather Channel and ‘Orphan Black’ and wondering why my DVR won’t record the new ‘Muppets’. (Is that a sign from the universe?)

So, the world proceeds apace. See you next week (hahahaha….WHEW) for my next post.

PS – What does it mean when one has dreams over two nights about someone who they haven’t thought about in years? I haven’t thought about my friend from high school in a long time, but the past two nights I’ve dreamt of her and this concerns me vaguely. I’m also dreaming about packing, which is easier to symbolically deconstruct.

sentence per picture, memorial day edition, with a 1-sentence ‘*bleep* my brother says’ bonus.

I've been so sick for the past two weeks with bronchitis and sinus infection, swallowing fistfuls of antibiotics and steroids every day; yet I finally felt better and continued my running rehab program - with a post-run wallow on the sunny riverbank.

I’ve been so sick for the past two weeks with bronchitis and sinus infection, swallowing fistfuls of antibiotics and steroids every day; yet I finally felt better and continued my running rehab program – with a post-run wallow on the sunny riverbank.

I was super thrilled to find a morel growing in my own garden; then everyone warned me that it might not be real so, afraid of dying ignominiously from mushroom poisoning, I didn't eat it.

I was super thrilled to find a morel growing in my own garden; then everyone warned me that it might not be real so, afraid of dying ignominiously from mushroom poisoning, I didn’t eat it.

Although I think the cardinals moved their nest to a quieter locale, there are still nests and babies in my yard.

Although I think the cardinals moved their nest to a quieter locale, there are still nests and babies in my yard.

The stained glass window behind Sarge made me sing "Take Me to Church" to him, which 1) he didn't get, and 2) made me think I've been spending too much time alone with my cats, based on the amount of hilarity I received from this.

The stained glass window behind Sarge made me sing “Take Me to Church” to him, which 1) he didn’t get, and 2) made me think I’ve been spending too much time alone with my cats, based on the amount of hilarity I received from this.

Friday night I was standing at my kitchen sink, listening to WRCJ's evening jazz, when I happened to look up and see this standing under my birdfeeder staring at me.

Friday night I was standing at my kitchen sink, listening to WRCJ’s evening jazz, when I happened to look up and see this standing under my birdfeeder staring at me.

On Saturday night, Sarge climbed the back screen door, scolding, and when I investigated, our visitor had returned and was placidly consuming the neighbor's flowers. In response to my posting of this photo on FB, my brother wrote severely, "You should tell them they need to leash their ungulates..."

On Saturday night, Sarge climbed the back screen door, scolding, and when I investigated, our visitor had returned and was placidly consuming the neighbor’s flowers. In response to my posting of this photo on FB, my brother wrote severely, “You should tell them they need to leash their ungulates…”

if you’d like to reach me, leave me alone. – sheryl crow

10.2014 pumpkin

Faithful readers of my blog (hi mom) will know that I like to pretend I am a homesteader even though I live in the suburbs. It makes my yardwork seem more interesting.

This morning Miss L & I woke up and I made her some pancakes. I got all crafty and added a dash of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and she thought they were fine until I TOLD her I had added these things, and then her enthusiasm markedly decreased. (You should have seen her reaction to the green tomato sauce the other night…”WHAT’S THAT?!”)

The weather here in Michigan is blustery and autumnal and we spent the morning homesteading.

We cut back the rest of the tomatoes and the peony bushes, and the front yard hostas which had gone yellow and wet-papery. I took cuttings of my coleus (yes I know how that sounds) and decided to try overwintering my Boston ferns, which are now trimmed back and living in the garage until spring. We drained the hose and hung it up in the garage; I trimmed bushes and we filled birdfeeders and stacked some firewood and I pondered what to do with the compost bin and the woodpile. The woodpile needs to be relocated closer to the back door, but I was having a crisis of confidence. Last night, whilst Miss L and I ate Oreos and watched a Harry Potter marathon, I tried to build a fire and failed. I thought, what’s the point of bringing the woodpile closer to the house if I can’t build a fire? Then Miss L went happily off to her dad’s house and I had tea and toast with honey creme and I tried again with the fire. This time, it worked splendidly and I’m pleased to say that it is still going in the woodstove. Emmett is crashed out in front of it looking blissful and I am proud.

I still think about packing it in – telling the Legal Dept that I am leaving to be a homesteader, selling my house in the ‘burbs, taking whatever equity i have plus my small savings, and buying a tiny fixer-upper on a lot of land up north near my folks. I would learn how to keep bees and have a half-acre garden and maybe some chickens…it’s a nice little dream. I have always had reclusive tendencies and I think now that I am divorced, I’m just ready to be out in the open with the fact that I like being alone better than I like being with most other people, and if left to my own devices, I could seriously disconnect from society in a way that I would probably regret later. Part of me feels anxious about this, and I have moments of, ‘I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life! I’d better start Internet dating! I can feel my skin losing elasticity with every passing moment!!’ I’m in that murky grey area where the thought of being a single old lady whose shopping cart is full of wine and cat food is terrifying, yet the prospect of dating anyone – going out on dates – is completely unappealing.

So, Miss L needs her great school and I need my job and friends, and I need to be forced outside of myself on a regular basis, and I just need to keep reminding myself that everything happens for a reason. I don’t have to figure it all out now and anyway, hey, I can build a fire while I’m waiting

don’t forget to breathe

09.2014 leaf1

I love trees, and bought the property in no small part because of the maples, pines and a tulip tree. I don’t love the willow tree, or the fact that the two pretty maples in our front yard succumbed to the autumnal pressure to turn color early, and that a driving rain last night subsequently stripped them bare.

I actually laughed as I pulled into the driveway after work tonight. My house is the lone house on the block that is literally covered in red and orange leaves. Every other property has immaculate green lawns, and my house looks like those cartoons with one thundercloud hovering over a single person while everyone around them is in bright sunshine. With leaves instead of rain. You know.

Miss L was a ferocious raker this weekend, and I was really impressed by her work ethic, but her primary goal was to get a big enough pile to jump into, and then joyfully throw armfuls of the leaves around, thus undoing all the work she had done. It was sort of an infectious glee, though, and she looked like Linus in that Snoopy cartoon, jumping into a pile of leaves.

So, as well as feeling a little guilty that my yard looks so disheveled compared to everyone else’s, I remembered that soon the Snow Hag next door will return from her summer travels and start flinging things over the lot line – handfuls of leaves she claims are from my trees, branches, general yard waste – I might as well get a head start on her. So tonight I put on headphones and Alexi Murdoch sang ‘don’t forget to breathe’, his glum voice underscoring the comforting, repetitive action of the rake moving across the grass and the changed quality of light now that the trees are bare – the thin, watery evening fading, the dark clouds piling up overhead.  I haven’t raked in a long time, noticing the colors – the dark reds and veined yellow and oranges and the occasional lime green streak – smelling that damp, dark odor of earth. When I was done my brain felt clean and empty and I wandered through the back, gathering up the last few decent Paul Robeson tomatoes and stowing them in my pockets, idly making note of how productive they’d been this year.

09.2014 leaf2

 

Emmett and Sarge pressed their faces up against the window and meowed against the glass, wondering when I’d be in for dinner. Then I stood around like a dork in the pretty evening, and took pictures, and I’m sure the neighbors more than ever wonder what the hell is going on over here, and I couldn’t care less.