Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pruning - Part I

When hubby and I first began our house hunt 5 years ago, we knew the house itself would need to be modest due to our budget. A couple of bedrooms, a garage and a nice neighborhood, were our main goals. I myself had only one concern. I wanted flowers in my yard. All the years leading up to this moment, first in my own apartment and then in our condo, were filled with a simple desire to plant something.....anything.So when we came upon our house it was pretty much what we were looking for. Three bedrooms, a garage (2 car!), and it was in a cozy neighborhood. In addition the house came with......some...ummm.... lovely.....bushes. As you can see from the picture above, these were no small bushes. No sirree. These bushes were apparently planted shortly after the house was built and they were, (according to legend) only trimmed once during that time. What you are looking at folks is actually the top of the bushes. They had grown so much over the years that they essentially tipped over, hence the top became the front of the bushes. What you can't see from the picture is the space behind them, which was large enough to house a small village. Not being fond of the idea of someone or something hiding out in them, we made pulling them out our first priority. Neighbors told us later that they had no idea there was an additional bedroom window on the front of the house until then! In fairness to the previous owners, the woman was elderly and too proud to ask for assistance, so she had done what she could. 

Now what the front of the house lacked in color and aesthetics, the back of the house made up for. Primroses, cone flowers, rosebushes, evergreens and a number of other bushes and shrubs. It was obvious the woman loved to garden and this was her pride and joy. I was thrilled. I could see that some work would need to be done to bring things under control, but it was what I had wanted right? Fast forward a couple more months to the actual closing/moving process and reality sunk in. Knowing the home owner had been ill, it made sense that things would be a little neglected. What we had failed to realize was that the neglect had actually gone on for a couple of years and things were in serious decline. Flower beds were overflowing with flowers that were planned and those that had simply moved in on their own. Not to mention the weeds that had infiltrated, each and every one of the beds. Shrubs were overgrown or half dead, and the others grew at odd angles, competing for sun with a large neighboring tree. The main eyesore ran along the entire length of the back of the house. The area (again due to the large tree), didn't get sun but for about 2 hours a day. Therefore the ground never dried completely, resulting in a soggy, mossy mess. The bushes and plants that attempted to grow there had about an inch of foliage at the top and about 2 feet of dead branches underneath. What did flourish in this area was pachysandra, an insanely fast spreading ground cover. It had spilled itself right over the borders of the flower bed and was threatening to take over the entire yard.

But, again this was what I had wanted right? So I dug in (literally). We dug out the front bushes and replaced them with small (manageable) box woods and rose of Sharon. We removed dead evergreens and cut back anything that stood still. We then took a wait and see approach with everything else. With some pruning and patience we hoped that most of the yard would regenerate itself in a healthy fashion. But the following year brought much of the same. No matter how much had been cut back, some things were just too old and had gone too long with out care to revive themselves. So we removed the shrub that couldn't grow straight and dug out the rampant pachysandra. I was stubborn about a lot of things though. Hubby and I fought discussed saving some things.Trust me, I held onto things that were well past their prime, including a miniature rose bush that had been choked for years by a pair of evergreens. The bush literally produced about 5 flowers in its last year of life, being more of a stump than anything else, but I felt the need to continue trying to save it. He wanted to clean things up and make the yard neater, while I felt an odd sense of loyalty to the previous owner, a gardening kinship if you will. I felt extreme guilt at removing anything she had planted and obviously cared for. I also felt like a failure for not being able to keep up with it and make it look better. 

After a couple of years of the ongoing struggle with things, I agreed to some small changes. We began with the swamp behind the house. Knowing nothing would grow there we decided to turn the space into a patio. That went extremely well, but even seeing those improvements, I was still reluctant to give up - give up my guilt over not being much of a "natural" gardener and my belief that I could do it all. So it took until this year for me to finally say enough is enough. We needed to make some real changes. As much as I loved the idea of gardening, I was not retired nor a trained horticulturist. There were not enough hours in the day that were required to keep everything maintained. I loved summer, but I wasn't being allowed to enjoy it because I was always trying to fix something in the yard. 

I realized that gardening is a lot like life. We hold onto things that aren't working far past their time. Relationships, jobs, addictions, and most of all guilt. Guilt that we aren't doing everything right, that we're not getting everything done, or worse, that we aren't living our life as someone else is expecting us to. Sometimes we need to say enough is enough and start cutting back. Look at things in a different light (especially those areas that don't get sun), rethink the layout of your life.....and most importantly, get a pair of good pruning shears.

~ Adrienne

Next up.......Time for change........

Saturday, June 2, 2012

House calls.......

Happy Saturday! How are you spending yours? The weather here is cool and damp which is my only consolation as I sit waiting. What am I waiting for you ask? A house call......from a vet. Don't laugh....extreme circumstances call for extreme measures.

Meet Mr. Extreme (AKA Kim the cat).....he looks harmless right? Don't kid yourself folks. He's 20 pounds of meek and mild mannered at home (afraid of his shadow, the vacuum and his 10 pound sister.) He runs in terror at most things and a couple of times has gone head first into a wall to avoid whatever danger he's confronted with. Except of course when we go to the vet. The trouble begins in just getting him to the vet. When he outgrew his regular cat carrier, we purchased one of the luggage style ones that you can unzip from the top. Much easier to lift him into right? Wrong. Lifting him in is no issue. Getting him to lay down? BIG issue. He squares his shoulders and holds his ground. So after wrestling, cajoling, and tempting with treats, he is somehow in.....and you need a shower. The entire car ride there he presses his nose against the mesh siding and hyperventilates (in between the yowling at the top of his lungs.) Got forbid we ever have to drive anywhere with him farther than across town. I now understand why the guys on The A-team were always drugging BA.

Okay, so now we're at the vet - good right? Sure......once in the waiting room he goes eerily silent and unmoving, except for his eyes which are darting everywhere. The last few times they took pity on us, allowing us to wait in the car with him until they were ready for him, but there is no fooling that boy. Once in the room and out of his carrier he's "gently" placed on the scale, which he lowers himself into attempting to make himself dissapear. If I can't see you, you can't see me. Then the real fun begins. They attempt to take his temperature. For those of you not familiar with how a cat's temp is taken.....ask someone with a cat. In the 7 years that we've had him he's only had his temp taken once.....They tell me that vet tech was looking for a different career anyway, but I don't believe them. 

They attempt to listen to his heartbeat, but it's pretty difficult to hear over all that screeching. His teeth get examined when he hisses at them. The vaccine shots involve a towel, vet, a tech and some hapless helper who has no idea what they are in for. Let me just say, whoever invented those pretty, shiny smooth exam tables is an idiot. Trying to contain a 20lb fur ball (and I do mean fur) on top of that table is like trying to control a mountain lion on a skating rink. It's not long before he is on the floor, under the table, ready to kill. The first time this occurred, the vet sent for a backup. Enter hapless kid wearing giant bird gloves (you know the kind they use with bald eagles?) He looks down at my sweet, gentle baby (ears back as far as they will go, eyes dilated as big as they will go and oh my Grandma, what big teeth you have), looks at me and asks "Uhhhh does he bite?" 

The last time we took him there they highly suggested we look into giving him a tranquilizer before bringing him in again. So needless to say he hasn't been in awhile. I feel very bad about that, but the stress level brought on by such visits is horrible. He usually ends up sick for the next day and is even more skittish than normal. But my fear is that should something happen where he requires medical attention, they won't see him if he hasn't had a rabies vaccine. So that's where the house call comes in. I found a local vet who offers home visits on Saturdays. They have the belief that the animal will behave better in their own environment. There isn't the added stress of getting him out of the house, the car ride, etc. They even assured me they don't mind if the animal tries to bite them (we'll see).

So, again here I wait. I have catnip and bird gloves ready. I also have gauze, peroxide and some surgical tape as well as 911 on speed dial......Wish me luck.


PS - I know you're wondering about "does he bite?" The last time he was there for a regular checkup the new tech (I can't understand why they have so many new techs) looked at his chart and said "Oh, apparently you don't like coming to the vet Kim. It says here that you're a possible biter.....oh my....possible is crossed out."