Its getting close to that time of year when I have to decide what I’m going to do for vegetable gardens. (Planting for my area is traditionally Memorial weekend) Last summer we had a horrible drought and I spent way too many hot, humid days dragging a heavy garden hose from bed to bed. At some point I found myself swearing through my dripping sweat that I was done with vegetable gardening for good. I reasoned that we have several veggie stands nearby and our town does a nice little farmer’s market every Saturday morning. I even visited the farmer’s market once to see what they might have and I discovered they sell most of what I usually plant. So I know I can get fresh veggies without having to invest in all those hot, buggy hours of toil.
Easier said than done! I love watching things grow. For some reason that whole process from seed to produce never fails to trip my trigger. So I say I might forego the vegetable garden this year, but the truth of that statement remains to be seen. The lure of our local nursery might call to me and I may cave, but I’m seriously kicking some alternative ideas around. I think this might be the summer to shake things up and do the opposite. It just might be a better fit!
When you lose a dog that had an enormous personality you have to expect a change in energy. I always knew Hazer’s persona dominated everything on our farm, but I never put any thought into what it would actually be like when he was gone. Oh sure, I let myself think about it those half gazillion times I was irked with him for one reason or another, but I never seriously considered the changes.
I spent the majority of last week trapped inside because it rained eight days in a row. I got a tad depressed, and several times I had to remind myself that things would get better once I could get outside and start working on projects in the yard and garden. It’s been said that keeping a routine helps ward off the blues, and staying “busy” does too. So when the weather improved and I was finally able to dig into my outside chores I was shocked to find I was more sad than ever.
Again, it’s not like I’m trying to dwell on the fact that Hazer is gone, rather, I’ve actually gotten to the point where I don’t think about him every waking minute of the day. But yesterday as I went about digging and trimming it occurred to me that I’m going to have to go through an entire year of seasonal changes before I can fully wrap my head around this loss. Because every season brought a different role that Hazer played. His personality was so large that he inserted himself into the middle of everything I did. In fact, just last week when I pulled my vacuum cleaner from the closet I hesitated, waiting for the scramble of nails as he dashed to grab the hose and give it a good shake. Every day I go through dozens of little moments like that, moments where I pause to do something with or for for a dog no longer there. Moments that feel empty and profoundly different.
Learning to do things without Hazer beside me is going to take time and a concerted effort to change my focus. I’m sorry to say that the first few weeks Hazer was gone I barely even noticed Gus and Nina. They drifted in and out of my peripheral vision, doing what they always did without any help from me. I’m paying more attention to them now, trying to get a fix on who they are without Hazer here to steal the limelight. Nina seems to be changing the most, which surprises me given how much Gus had to dodge Hazer’s propensity to pick on him. I thought Hazers absence would affect Gus the most, but it’s not.
Nina has always been her own dog; aloof to everyone but me and Velcro without being needy. She’s the perfect blend of “busy,” but with an “off” button, the kind of dog who takes good care of herself, avoids trouble and will do ANYTHING you ask her with no questions asked. Inside, she likes to be near, not on top of you, but I can’t leave with a room without her immediately following. Outside, Nina marches to the beat of her own drum. Sometimes she’ll hang out nearby, but it’s far more likely she’ll be off poking around the property. She’ll pop by every now and then to keep tabs on my whereabouts, but generally she’ll wander off out of sight. (She’ll come lickity-split if called.) And she’s happy to follow me out to the barn, but once there she’ll promptly part company to go off to do her own thing elsewhere. Nina is what I’d call an “independent” thinker: she’ll gladly take advisement from me, but if none is offered then she’ll figure out a way to entertain herself.
Since Hazer died Nina has become more “there” for me, especially outside. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find Nina has been sicking by me in the barn. Prior, she might have made a quick pass through the barn before going off to do something else. “OK, Mom’s here. I’ll just go poke around the stone wall or yard,” and off she’d go only to rejoin me when I was done. But now she’s actually planting herself out behind the barn right where Hazer used to lay to watch me pick the paddock and feed. Sometimes she scoots off for a few minutes, but she always comes right back. Her waiting doesn’t seem to be a fluke because I can tell she’s tuned into me. Every time I glance her way her eyes are on me, following my every move just like Hazer did. At first I thought Nina had an ulterior motive: She’s always been a living Hoover for any of the grain the horses dropped. But she’s not even trying to get to the leftovers. Apparently she’s just there waiting for me. Two months ago that never would have happened because Hazer always had my back.
Yesterday when I was out gardening I noticed that every time I looked up Nina was laying some fifteen or twenty yards away, watching. Granted, she’s not ten feet away like Hazer was, but she’s there instead of going off to do her own thing. That’s VERY unusual behavior for Nina and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Do dogs consciously choose to fill a role when another passes? I don’t know, but I’d like to think so. I could explain this behavior by saying she’s twelve years old and not as active as she used to be, but that’s not true at all. Nina is twelve going on eight and what’s more, this behavior only started after Hazer died.
Don’t get me wrong: Nina is NOT Hazer. Even though she’s doing some of the things Hazer used to routinely do, she does them HER way not his. For example, when gardening with Hazer if I took a little “break” Hazer would move in and flop down beside me looking for some attention. Nina doesn’t do that. Instead, she keeps her distance or uses my breaks as an opportunity to go “off duty” and do her own thing. So the dance is different. It has it’s own rhythm and new steps that are unique to the dancers. And if you’re not careful that’s right where the sadness creeps in: your ear hears an old favorite song, your eyes see your old dance partner. You don’t intend to go there, but you do. Old habits die hard.
It’s a struggle not to see Hazer sitting somewhere nearby, just like he is in the photo above. I thought summer would be easier, but I’ve come to realize it will be rife with memories and habits that are going to be tough to break. Sometimes I’m OK with it, but more often than not this sadness sucks the joy right out of whatever I’m doing. I know this too shall pass, but I don’t know when. Until then I’ll just keep trying to give myself over to the change in our dynamics, knowing that eventually this new will become the norm.
(Hazer, age 10.8 yrs.)
It’s hot here. So hot that my dogs aren’t even thinking about going outside. They lay around all day on the cool tile and hardwood floors and when I open the door to let them out, they just stand there looking at me like I’m nuts. I’m going to take my cue from them and stay inside the next couple of days. Oh, I still have to stagger out to water the gardens and take care of the horses, but there isn’t much I can do for the horses except feed and water them. The horses don’t like the heat any more than the dogs, but I can’t bring them inside to escape this inferno. I would if I could. I wonder if the same animal rights activists who think barns should be heated in the winter think they should be air conditioned in the summer? Don’t get me started ….
I have two wonderful old garden rose bushes that burst into blossom every spring. The interesting thing is that I haven’t done a single thing to deserve such a glorious and fragrant display of beauty. In fact, I often wonder why these bushes have been so dependable and stunning for the last thirty years since I’ve probably done just about everything to kill them? When I’ve pruned them too late in the season they’ve rebounded with even more blossoms than the year before. When I’ve failed to fertilize or water them during the dry summer months they’ve respond with vigorous new growth. When I’ve ignored various pests or unfavorable growing conditions they’ve rallied and pulled through on their own. In short, I’ve been terribly negligent with these rose bushes, yet every year my reward has been an amazing floral display.
Thinking I’ve been blessed with a mysterious talent for growing roses, I planted several more rose bushes. After all, my theory about gardening is do more of whatever works. So over the years I’ve bought more rose bushes and, thinking I needed to be more attentive, I carefully tended them. Some years I even followed a strict protocol for feeding, watering and pruning the newer shrubs. And I’ve been rewarded with less than stellar results. Meanwhile, the old garden roses (that I still completely ignore) continue to blossom profusely every spring.
Obviously, I don’t have half the talent for growing roses that I thought I had. And as I’ve come to suspect all along, the old garden roses are simply so well established that they’re practically impossible to kill. It seems they’re impervious to my negligence and lack of gardening skills … thank goodness!
I’m a big dalylily fan. Daylilies were one of the first flowers I mastered growing when we bought our farm back in the mid ’80s. My veterinarian swapped a dozen or so of his daylily seedlings for some of my Siberian Iris and the rest is history. Daylilies are hardy, prolific perennials that require very little maintenance and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and blooming seasons. They’re so common in this area that in early summer you can find waves of orange daylilies growing wild along country roads and open fields. In fact most homes have at least one or two gardens where the common orange daylily resides.
Eventually, I was so impressed with my daylily success that I decided to explore some new varieties. I went to a local nursery that grows some unusual, native types of flowers and I chose a few pink and plum colored daylilies. I planted these flowers along a fence, and in a year or two I had another lovely garden full of flowers. Inspired by this success, I’ve vowed to add a few new daylilies to my gardens every summer. If I select carefully, the colors and heights should create some interesting contrasts and extend my blooming season well into the fall. Oh, and did I mention that daylilies reproduce? Yeah. Like bunnies! I may have to join a garden club so I can pawn my excess plants off on others!
This summer I added Dragon’s Beard (above) and Ruby Sentinel (below). These are tall, stately daylilies that bloom a little later in the season. I’ve been very happy with this addition and I’m already starting to think about what will go well with them next spring!
Not only are the butterflies visiting in droves, the re-blooming lilac is living up to it’s name! That’s a win-win for them and me!
I wasn’t trying to photograph a hummingbird, but one decided to show up anyway! My shutter speed wasn’t set to catch it very clearly, but it’s better than nothing. This little pollinator was pretty fearless and several times it hovered only a few feet away and stared right at my camera. I think it was trying to figure out if I was a friend or foe! I’m finding the longer I stand in one place at the garden’s edge the more nature just accepts me and carries on.
It’s that time of year again when I drag out the macro lens and try to shoot stuff in and around the property. It’s so humid outdoors now that I have to give the camera and lens about fifteen minutes to de-fog before I can shoot anything. Meanwhile, the bugs attack like I’m fresh meat. It isn’t the best of conditions for taking macro shots today. There’s a pretty good breeze and the light isn’t the best. But I’m getting antsy waiting for the conditions to improve, so I decided to take some photos in spite of it being against my better judgement. The way things are going, the gardens will have gone by before the weather starts to cooperate. It’s been that kind of year so far. It’s been so miserable that I’d like to just up and fly away myself: some place where it’s cooler and a lot less humid. I simply don’t know how people live in the south during the summer. I’m thinking mid-seventies would be just about perfect for me right now.
Frost on sage.
I could use a little sunshine. It’s been an unusually dismal fall with lots of drizzle and cloudy skies. The foliage was a wash. It never got bright or crisp enough on the handful of days that would have been considered “peak.” Now all that’s left on the trees are dingy yellow, muted red and for the most part, dirty brown leaves. I think Mother Nature is disgusted, and I don’t blame her.
I haven’t taken a technically good picture in over a year now and I’m beginning to wonder if this blog is worth the time I spend on it. Please understand this is not my way of trying to attract sympathy or have a pity party, it’s an honest question I feel I must ask myself. Yesterday as I dialed the eye doctor to make an unscheduled appointment for a problem that’s come up, I actually contemplated selling my photography gear. I guess I’ve lost a bit of hope. Lately I’ve been wondering if I’ll know when or if it’s time to throw in the towel? When it comes to waving the white flag I’ve been known to be a little slow on the uptake, but really, how long do I wait while everyone pretends that eventually I’ll have enough vision to get back to where I was two years ago? I dunno. It’s beginning to feel a bit futile and I have a lot of money tied up in equipment .. equipment that requires a good PAIR of eyes to use.