In Progress: the lazy gardener’s guide

I believe that in about 10 years’ time I may have built up enough experience to write the definitive guide for lazy gardeners. Though the word “lazy” gets a bad rap, in my humble opinion. There are a few synonyms for lazy that I feel describe my approach to gardening pretty well. Inattentive, dallying, neglectful and lackadaisical are a few of them. None of those are particularly flattering words either… though “dallying” and “lackadaisical” sound kinda fun! 🙂

I have nothing against tidy yards and gardens. I love to look at them and fully appreciate their symmetrical, well designed and pristine aesthetic. It’s sort of like looking at magazine photos of immaculate houses… they’re gorgeous… but I wouldn’t want to live there!

The green spaces that really draw me in are those that are more in line with nature. And

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My backyard garden in all its unruliness!

tidy, nature is not! And when you quit trying to fight with nature and just sort of decide to go along with it, things naturally simplify themselves.

Let me throw in an analogy here. I don’t have curly hair. I don’t really have straight hair either. For years, well decades really, I fought the nature of my hair. I permed it. More times than I can count. I used curling irons. Diffusers. Hair product galore. Time, money – resources – were spent forcing my hair to be something it wasn’t. I won’t even go into the straight hair phase!

One day, as if awaking from some sort of trance, I decided not to have curly hair or straight hair. Instead, I would find a style that worked with my not curly, not straight hair. What an amazing idea! Now, I’m not going to say that I have had great looking hair ever since that remarkable breakthrough, but I will say that it has been an improvement  – and it’s WAY less expensive to maintain, it’s MUCH healthier, and I rarely spend more than a few minutes in a day fixing it.

So, am I lazy for choosing a low-maintenance hairstyle that requires little effort on my part? I don’t know. Maybe a little lackadaisical (defined as lacking enthusiasm and determination) – I think I could get on board with that.

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My beautiful Zinnias come back year after without me having to plant them, they kindly re-seed themselves because I allow them to go to seed and don’t til the soil the following spring.

So, how does that apply to gardening? I don’t know! I’m still trying to figure this crap out, ok? But I do have a few working theories that experience will flesh out and time will tell.

Here are a few of my theories (most of which are actually someone else’s theory first and most of these theories can be read about if you research organic or permaculture gardening – though they probably don’t have the same names!).

Garden Ecology Requires Balance: This theory is pretty simple. If I use pesticides on my garden, I not only kill the pests, but I kill the beneficial insects too! My plants need pollinators, I don’t want to kill those. And lady bugs. Which are not pollinators, but they are adorable! And more importantly, they are ferocious and voracious. And what do they eat? Why aphids, of course.

And what about my dragonflies and damselflies… they do no harm to me. In fact, they bring me great pleasure as I watch them dart about in all their beautiful array of flashy colors. And they too are voracious… eating up mosquitoes and gnats and all kinds of pesky flyers.

The Circle of Life: This one is very similar to the first in that what you do to one species will always effect another. If you kill off (even using safe organic products) the insects in the garden, you will remove the food source for and therefor drive off all their natural predators.

This means that when the insects make their comeback (which they will do!), they will have fewer natural predators to contend with. Which in turn, creates more work for me (the gardener) to have to deal with these pests AGAIN.

But what if the pests are not removed, but allowed to hang around. They become a sort of living, breathing, breeding food buffet for their natural predators. This in turn draws in the predators, they are of course attracted to this handy and ready-made feast awaiting them. And as the cycle continues and the pests keep coming back, they keep being met by their natural predators which keep them in check.

It may be lazy of me, but if nature wants to do my work for me, who am I to argue?

Tidiness Equals Death!!!!  Ok, this one may be a slight exaggeration but I think it makes my point nicely. Like I mentioned above, nature is not tidy! Perhaps you noticed this the last time you took a walk in the woods.

Last fall’s debris still lying about all over the place, fallen limbs decaying in place and mercy-me-there-are-weeds-everywhere! What else do you see when you pause for a moment to be still and listen and watch? LIFE! It is all around in great abundance and thriving in all that mess!

No one waters the forest or pulls weeds or kills pests or fertilizes  or plants seeds or fusses. Yet plants flourish and life abounds.

Part of what allows a forest to be self-sustaining is the mess! All that decaying debris nourishes the soil, holds in moisture, protects against soil erosion and provides habitat for countless critters. Seeds fall and work their way into the ground and even plants that have an annual life cycle will reseed themselves and come back year after year.

Removing weeds and debris and keeping very tidy yards and gardens removes vast areas of

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The unkempt area to the right is where the bees have decided to nest. And though it looks untidy, the greenery in the forefront is actually some very healthy blackberry vines, oregano, zinnias, mint, thyme, Mexican heather and citronella. This bed is my foray into Permaculture gardening.

habitat for our powerful little insect allies! I am so committed to this theory that I have even learned to not begrudge this good habitat for the spiders that live in my garden (and run across my bare toes or God help me, run up my arm when I’m digging around without gloves). Now, that’s commitment!

Sometimes, however, my commitment to my theories gets tested in dramatic fashion. I am currently experiencing one of those situations! My untidy garden is the perfect habitat, it would seem, for nesting bumblebees.

Bumblebees are harmless, they say! Don’t disturb them and they won’t disturb you, they say! They’re completely docile, they say! One of the most loved insects on the planet, they say!

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The humble Bumble Bee!

Well, let’s just say I may soon be starring in my very own episode of “When good bees go bad!” and I find myself facing somewhat of a moral dilemma. Do I exterminate them and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences? Or do I stick to my theoretical guns and figure out a way to peacefully coexist with one of God’s smallest creatures?

The jury is still out on this one, but I’m hoping to find a peaceful resolution.

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Not my usual post…

I recently signed up to do a 31 day writing challenge… the challenge is to write 500 words every day. I sat down tonight to write my 500 words and before I could get started, I read about the latest shooting of law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge.

It breaks my heart. All this fear and pain and hate. Where will it end?

Here are the 454 words that came out…

So much pain, so much hurt and frustration. So many people shouting, screaming to be heard. March against this. Protest that. Hear me! Listen to me! Feel my pain!

Hate breeds hate and multiplies into violence. Violence breeds more hate and spawns fear which feeds intolerance which matures into hate.

More yelling. More opinions. More marches. More speeches. More protests and counter-protests. Picketers to picket the picketers. More words leading to more distrust and more hate and more fear. Violence increases. And the vicious, hateful downward spiral continues.

Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be understood. Everyone wants to be respected. Everyone wants to be trusted. Everyone wants.

But when words are only spoken and never heard, there can be no understanding. When respect is only demanded and never given, it can never be mutual. Trust can’t be owed, it can only be earned.

When exactly did Hate take over the neighborhood? When did we let him move in and get comfortable enough to dictate what we should do?

Civility has taken a leave of absence, and it took Common Sense and Decency with it. They have left their enemies behind to run amuck while they are away. Ignorance has taken up residence right alongside Rudeness and Anger. Intolerance and Cynicism spread their wings and took flight scattering Violence in their wake.

Where did Love go? Where is Empathy and its roommate Compassion? When exactly did they get evicted by Fear? How did Darkness overwhelm Light?

The downward spiral must end. It cannot end with the manner in which it began.

Something has to change. A shift must occur.

It begins with me. I choose who I allow to occupy my life.

I have to evict Hate by inviting back Love. I must empower Empathy and Compassion and Understanding to chase away Fear and Intolerance. I must choose to nourish Kindness and quit feeding Rudeness and Anger. I must focus on Faith and tell Cynicism to move on.

I must allow Light a place of prominence and give it all the energy it needs in order to drive out Darkness.

If I want to be heard, I must also learn to listen. If I want to be understood, I must also aspire to understand others. If I want to be respected, I must strive to be admirable. If I want to be trusted, I must act with integrity.

We must each choose to be the best versions of ourselves. We must each take responsibility for what we allow to take up residence in our hearts and minds. There is no leader who can save us, no policy that will fix us, no law that will make us safe.

No one can do it for us. We are each responsible.

It’s THAT time of year again

I hate hot weather. I’m not even sure that hate is an adequate descriptor… abhor maybe? Loathe? Detest?  Well, I think you get the idea.

Here in South Georgia it gets HOT this time of year. Not warm, not uncomfortable – OPPRESSIVE! If you’ve never experienced a summer in the South, just try to imagine stepping inside one of those big commercial dryers (you know, the ones that get so hot that when you take your jeans out of them, you better not let the metal button touch your skin or you’ll be branded for life?) – now imagine that it would feel like stepping inside that dryer every time you take a step outside and you’ll get the idea.

Every summer, I wonder what. in. THE. hell. (because that is how hot it is!) was I thinking when I left the nice, cool Pacific Northwest for this!

So, it seems to me that this is a really good time to remind myself of why I moved here and why I stay here… despite the sweltering heat that seems to intensify year after year.

My family is here. Friends are wonderful and I have some super amazing ones. But family is family and if you have family that you are close to (relationship-wise), there is just no substitute for having them around. I lived for a number of years isolated (due to physical distance) from my family and I really missed that camaraderie that only your kinfolk can provide.

As this blog might suggest, putting down roots is important to me. So, it makes sense that my new roots here are a big part of why I stay. I like this feeling of belonging. I like that I’m becoming a part of a community. I like that I’m beginning to know where “home” is. I like making long-term plans regarding my house and yard and garden. I like imagining how big my blueberry bush will be in another five years, or planning my new deck and water feature in the backyard (several years down the road).

I really like not having to think about saying, “goodbye”.

When you move as often as I have, the goodbyes become a part of life. A difficult part of life. Even though it is easier to stay in touch these days with unlimited calling and texting and Facebook and Skype… those things can’t compare with hangin’ out in person.

Almost as difficult as the goodbyes, for an introvert like me, are all the new hellos that follow. I don’t like to meet new people. Don’t get me wrong, after I get to know new people, I’m glad that I met them (most of the time)! But I hate the process of the initial meeting. So, I really like that I don’t have to dread a whole slew of new hellos!

So, I guess when it’s all said and done, I’ll suck it up and deal with the heat for one more summer and then another and then, yes, another one after that. Who knows… I may even acclimate to it one of these days, but that might require that I leave my summer hibernation in my nicely cooled home. In the mean time, thank goodness for air-conditioning, direct deposit, online bill pay, working from home, and Amazon.com!

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This is how I feel when I walk outside: wilted and faded and sad. Even the flora hates this heat!