Archive for the 'Steve' Category

More mowing, more mowing

Bare bedThe landlord’s been at it again with the mower. This time, he took out the crazy bed that housed the bulbs Steve and I planted back in the spring.

I remember, when Steve planted them, wondering if he’d be around to see them bloom. Then he left, and I wondered if any of the bulbs would grow at all, because they weren’t very productive. Then some of the most gorgeous, creamy gladiolas ever popped up and bloomed.

A few days ago, I came home to find the whole bed sheared down to dirt. I had a moment of silence for it all, then decided I’d give up the fight on that particular area of the yard. It’s directly under the black walnut tree, gets very little sunlight for that reason, and honestly, I’m just a single gardener trying to get all this stuff done in a house that I rent. I think I can let it go.

Besides, it gets back to this: the landlord mows. Which means I don’t have to.

The letting go

Iowa suffered a strange and difficult transition from winter to spring this year. The weather stayed topsy and turvy, warm one day, then cold and wet another. Ice coated the roads so many times my coworkers quit paying attention when I whined.

Magnolia, frozenI took this picture of the budding magnolia in our front yard after an ice storm. I am an optimist, and even though the newspaper and everyone in the local foods community buzzed about the ice and its effect on the blossoms of local fruit trees, I believed it was just a matter of time before the magnolia would flower, its pinkish-white blooms bursting forth the way they had the year before.

There was a day when I arrived home from work and noticed small, grey capsules littering the walkway leading to the front porch. Clearly they had fallen from the tree, and I will admit to a passing thought that, perhaps, these were the buds, and that they had been frozen so hard they had withered, and dropped away. But I shook off that thought and proceeded inside, tumbling forward with my life, still certain I’d see blossoms sooner rather than later.

I know the tree blossomed the week before Easter in 2006. My mother, my godmother and another of their friends from college came to visit us for Palm Sunday weekend, and I remember the tree exploding into color just after my mother got back on the plane the following Wednesday. As Easter approached this year, I kept waiting for the flowers, the scent, the bruised petals that littered the sidewalk.

But Easter came and went, and April tumbled on, and there was no sign of bloom. I kept mentioning it as Steve and I came and went from the house, sometimes together, sometimes apart. “I don’t think it’s going to flower this year,” I said again and again.

Then, one day toward the end of April, I noticed the tree had sprouted tender, green leaves. They looked familiar. They looked like the leaves that come after the blossoms have dropped to the ground.

“It’s definitely not blooming,” I told Steve.

Magnolia, snowed on“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Definitely not,” I said.

The magnolia tree broke my heart this year. All winter, I’d taken pictures of it — outside in the falling snow, through the blinds on a grey and heavy Sunday afternoon, when the ice sealed it to itself — with the certain knowledge that in a matter of months, the cycle would end, rewarding me with the beautiful blossoms I knew the tree was capable of producing.

I don’t remember making a decision to let go of the hope of flowers this year, but I know one day in May, I stopped wondering when the tree would bloom and embraced the understanding. The time for flowers had passed. It was time to move on, to let the tree be as it was, rather than what I hoped it would be.

Squirrel mafia

I left town early Thursday morning, bound for the Bay Area to visit one of my very best friends. I watered the garden in the near-dark before getting in the car to drive to the airport, and noticed that a flower I planted recently next to the peas had taken a hit. The whole thing had been displaced, and it was lying there, roots sticking out of the dirt still attached to them, dying rapidly.

I thought about trying to replace it, but I was already in danger of being late for my flight, so I just ignored it, figured I’d deal with it when I got home, and finished my watering.

Back in Iowa City, Steve is on watering duty, and he reported in via instant messenger that he, too, had seen the fallen flower, which was probably torn up by whatever dug around in my herb pots.

steve: something yanked up one of the four blue/purple flowers in the garden
steve: was on its side, clump o dirt attached
genie: I think I saw that yesterday morning and ignored it.
genie: Did you throw it in the compost bin?
steve: yes
steve: there was a note
genie: A note?
steve: it said “for every day a pound of arugula is not placed upon the stoop, a flower gets it.”

One year later, the garden accidents continue

In the world of The Inadvertent Gardener, one thing holds true: Not even the easy stuff seems to go as planned.

Take today’s celebration, for example. One year ago today, I posted my first entry. (Actually, truth be told, I wrote three posts and then back-posted by two days so I could send the link to a few friends and make the blog look like it had more than one entry. But the first post is dated May 6, 2006, so I’m going with that.)

That being said, I somehow got it in my head that the first post was on May 5, not May 6. This is why, after brunch yesterday, Steve and I set off for Hy-Vee in search of a new shower curtain liner, some Dran-o (I know it’s bad for the environment, but the tub must drain, people. It must drain.), and cupcakes with which to celebrate. It was, without question, an odd combination for the store clerk to ring up.

“You should take the cupcake out to the garden,” said Steve, and it was a great idea, but for the fact that yesterday was awfully breezy.

As it turns out? Matches and breeziness? Not good friends. “Why don’t you go and get the lighter?” Steve asked after I lit my third match to no avail.

The lighter didn’t work much better, but we did manage to get the candle lit and the appropriate photo shot. Steve headed for the house with the cupcake, and I turned back around to see if I could get a shot of an emerging pea shoot or something.

Meanwhile, behind me, Steve let out an unprintable word. The cupcake had somehow flipped off the plate and landed icing-first in the grass.

“Good thing we bought extras,” I said, shooting a picture of him holding the empty plate, the cupcake at his feet in the grass.

I finished shooting photos of seedlings and came inside to write my blog entry and download my pictures.

What pictures? said my computer. We don’t see no stinkin’ pictures on that memory card.

Somehow, without any sign of corruption or weirdness, my iPhoto import turned disastrous. Photos of a dinner earlier in the week? Gone. All my birthday cupcake photos? Gone.

“Did you throw away the candle?” I asked Steve.

He had not, and we paraded back out to the garden for another photography session. I tried to imagine what my neighbors must think of me, then stopped when I got to the part where they shake their heads sadly and say, “Is she really having a birthday party for her garden?”

We nestled the cupcake plate back amidst the garlic, and Steve started trying to light the candle again. I shot furiously, taking picture after picture before the wind blew out the candle again.

I slid my camera in my jeans pocket and picked up the cupcake plate just as Steve said, “Did you take all those pictures with the candle backward?”

I squinted at the cupcake. “No, I did not.”

“I think you did.”

I refused to present the camera as evidence, because it occurred to me that, in fact, Steve was right. The candle had been backward, presenting itself more like a mutant seven than a one.

And then? At that moment? The weight of the candle began to topple the cupcake, which very nearly fell off the plate and on the ground. Steve was beside himself.

This time, however, the photos did appear when I tried to import them into iPhoto. And I figured out, in time, that I had celebrated a day early, which might be why there were so many glitches in the situation.

But, at least, thanks to Photoshop and its handy-dandy photo flipping option, I present to you the cupcake, topped with a one. Happy birthday, li’l blog.

Birthday cupcake

Compost on the cheap

There are a few ways to acquire compost. You can buy it, you can borrow it (it’s the giving it back that’s hard) or you can make it.

Although Steve and I finally decided it was time to make the leap to making it via a compost pile, that wasn’t going to do us any good as the planting season got underway. We had to come up with an interim solution.

Thanks to a comment from Don and some helpful suggestions from members of the Iowa City Freecycle listserv, I learned the Johnson County Landfill offers compost for next to free. All you need is a truck.

Unfortunately, trucks aren’t free. Nor do we own one.

“Maybe I could line some of our big pots with plastic garbage bags and go get some,” Steve offered. “After all, you said I have the Dirt Car.”

I looked up the information online and learned that, in fact, you can get up to 200 pounds of compost from the landfill for $1.

Yes, I said $1. Now I understand why Don said it’s cheaper to just go get a truckload there than to mess with making it on one’s own.

Compost potsSo, yesterday, Steve took a trip out to the landfill and picked up three pots of compost for our spring planting needs.

“Did you have any problems?” I asked when I got home.

“Not at all,” Steve said.

“How much did it cost you?”

“Nothing,” he said. “No one stopped me when I drove in, I followed the signs to the compost pile, I took some out of the pile marked ‘Finished Compost’ and I left.”

This afternoon, as I stood in line at the nearby Earl May Garden Center with a couple of bags of potting soil in my arms, I overheard a customer ask where the compost was.

“Over there by the lightpost in the green bags,” said the store manager, pointing outside. “You pay here, and then just go pick it up and load it in your car.”

I chuckled to myself. If that person only knew what kind of bargain was available across town…but she was already whipping out her credit card, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her.


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All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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