What Careful Soil Testing Revealed About My Level of Patience

Soil testing in my garden accurately measured the level of my patience.

Listen to me read this post:

Dave tested his soil and found out that it was very low in phosphorous. He went to a seed plant, bought some, and added phosphorous to his garden. Now his potato plants are three feet tall.

“Do you want to borrow my kit?” he asked and so I did. I went out to the garden and dug down about four inches into what I considered to be the most depleted soil in the garden plot. I brought a trowel full of soil into the house to dry overnight.

The next morning and according to instructions, I mixed one part of the soil with five parts of water, swirled the mixture gently in a jar, and waited for the dirt and water to separate out a bit so that I could retrieve a small, fairly clear sample.

Dave’s phosphorous-filled garden soil produced beautiful vegetables.

The instructions included with the kit said that this separation could take as little as half-an-hour (Perfect!) or as long twenty four hours. “Twenty four hours!” I cried out in disbelief and felt the impatience start to gnaw. The next morning the soil still hadn’t settled to the bottom of the jar and the water was murky as heck. Still, I took a sample using the eyedropper provided and filled the plastic tube to the fourth line with the muddy water.

I was testing for phosphorous first hoping this might get me three feet tall potato plants like Dave’s.

Carefully separate the two halves of one of the capsules. Pour the powder into the tube.

Step 2 of the phosphorous test sounded pretty easy. I retrieved a conveniently coloured-coded blue capsule, grabbed each end and gave it a gentle twist. This caused a bend in the plastic, but the capsule didn’t open. Next I tried to snap the capsule in half at the spot where the two halves had been originally joined. Again, the capsule bent but didn’t open.

Finally, I took out a cutting board, placed the mangled blue capsule on it, and started stabbing at it with the pointy end of a sharp kitchen knife. This made a hole large enough for me to expand the opening by twisting the knife blade farther into it. By now, the only thing about the misshapen capsule that resembled its former self was its colour.

I held the capsule over the tube which held the water sample, turned it over, and spilled most of the powder on the kitchen counter. I muttered a phrase of which my mother would not have approved and spooned as much of the powder as I could off the counter and, bit by bit, into the tube.

After placing the colour-coded cap on the tube, I gave it a gentle shake, and placed the tube in its holder. Almost immediately this experiment determined two things:

  1. Our garden soil contains almost no phosphorus.
  2. My husband is in charge of opening any remaining capsules needed for testing.

Following this single test, we went away for a week. I put the jar containing the dirt and water mixture in the fridge hoping that the soil would settle and the water would rise while we were gone. When we returned home I flung open the fridge door to see my jar of test water as muddy as before. Impatience visited again. “It’s been a week!”

Still, I thought I might as well use the sample to try another test. I filled one more tube with murky water and asked my husband kindly to open an appropriately colour-coded capsule.

Cap the tube and shake thoroughly.

I got a bit dizzy but the motion really relaxed my muscles. Then I realized that the instruction’s author was referring to the tube. Shake the tube thoroughly. After I regained my balance, I did.

Allow colour to develop for 10 minutes.

Ten minutes. That sounds about right. I set the timer on the stove and counted down. When the timer went off, the water had not changed colour.

“I bet the cold fridge killed whatever was supposed to show up in this test!” I proclaimed with no science to back my theory. Science doesn’t matter these days. No one with a different education knows more than me. What matters is what I believe in my gut and I believed that the soil sample was ruined. I’d have to gather a new sample and wait twenty four hours before doing anymore testing.

And so I tossed the soil and water mixture into the garden with disgust and rinsed out the jar. Then I saw that the liquid in the tube had turned green. Soil testing proved that our soil is full of alkali and I am full of, among other things, impatience.

Speaking of patience…

I received a note in my mailbox recently to inform me of an upcoming inconvenience. The brief notice closed with this:

Thank you for your patients!

Editors always notice things like this. Mostly I think it’s funny but I don’t laugh too long because it’s also humbling. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes when writing and I plan to continue.

This topic reminds me of my second year of university during which I did not give a hoot about academics. Obviously. One morning, I wandered into my English class to see that the professor had scrawled across the whiteboard a very embarrassing phrase I’d misused in my most recent essay. Mercifully, she didn’t reveal the identity of the student who produced that phrase which, in turn, produced a lot of laughter.

Partly because of this experience, I laugh shortly and correct gently.

If you’re writing something, a piece as short as a newsletter or a project as long as a memoir, I can help. I work as both a content writer and as an editor.

Thanks for reading. Take care and keep safe. ~ Lori

Flowers in the Ditch, Clouds in the Sky

This summer I’m relaxed and happy, and there’s beauty all around. Sure, there’s some clutter in my mind and a few things weighing me down, but all in all, I’m lighter and freer than I’ve been for years. I’ll take it!

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Sweet Peas and Optimism

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Last year’s vibrant sweet peas.

Hello! Yesterday was our first really warm day with the temperature sneaking up close to 20° Celsius. That’s all the encouragement the leaves on the trees needed. They were reluctant in the howling wind and 4° temperatures to pop out, but today in the warm wind, they all decided to take a chance and come on out. When I walked today, the first thing I noticed were those light green leaves, the colour of optimism.

If hope has a feel to it, that feeling was definitely in the air this morning. Last night, I soaked two kinds of sweet pea seeds. One type was what I planted last year and whose seeds I harvested last fall. These will produce very brightly-coloured smaller flowers. The other variety will produce large lightly-coloured blooms in softer pastel shades. These seeds I purchased late in the winter from T&T Seeds. If you’re a gardener and haven’t yet seen their catalogue, it’s fun to explore!

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A sweet pea bloom after the rain.

This afternoon, I’ll work up the soil one more time and plant those sweet peas now that the earth is warm. I’m very fortunate to have a gardening companion these days. He was with me last gardening season, too. Dear readers, I’m pleased to introduce George. No, he’s not my cat, but he would happily call our house home. He has nothing against his current owners. Having two homes would mean twice as much attention and twice as much food. George knows this and I can tell this is his plan. It’s not going to happen, George.

 

I wish you a very happy spring day and some of the optimism that goes along with it. Have a great weekend and a happy Mother’s Day!

~ Lori

 

Summer Mourning

Harvest Time
Grain ready to be harvested.

Today I’m in mourning. I’m mourning the fresh fruit and vegetables, the dewy morning grass, the towering sunflowers. I’m mourning time alone and time spent with friends. I’m mourning sweet, summer wine and long, golden-lit evenings. I’m mourning summer’s loss.

Maybe it’s the weather…

Perhaps it’s the cool, dull weather making my heart ache – nine degrees Celsius and rainy. I’m neither productive nor focused. I’m all over the place, doing a little of this, a little of that, and nothing much of anything. I’ve left and returned to this piece of writing five times now, and writing this still feels like walking through deep mud.

Listen to me read this post:

Every year summer leaves.

What’s going on with me? Every year summer leaves. That’s just how it goes. It’s a short season in this part of the world. I should know that. I do know that, but today this knowledge isn’t helping me any.

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Once-green leaves, now turned red.

I had a great summer. I suppose if it had been a miserable summer I might not be experiencing this mild agony now, this longing for something not yet departed but on the verge of leaving.

For almost half of this summer I traveled and during those travels I visited in the most satisfying way with friends and family. I saw some old friends and through those experiences, felt like I’d made some new ones. When I wasn’t traveling, I was at home nurturing my garden, nurturing my writing, and nurturing myself.

Sweet summer, bitter fall.

This summer, I think I may’ve become too attached to the season itself, and allowed myself to get too used to the colour green spread out beneath cobalt blue. I forgot to build my immunity to falling leaves and falling temperatures. I forgot about the deep, white world that will cover the very spot where the sweet peas are blooming now and where the raspberries already have had the good sense to start dying. Today, I am remembering all these eventualities for which I am sadly ill prepared.

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Orange sunflowers in autumn.

If I can let go, though, and wave a fond farewell to summer, maybe then I’ll remember the sweetness of autumn: the comfort of routine, the orange of pumpkins and of mountain ash leaves, the soft yellow of harvested fields. I may even consider the white wrap of winter surrounding my cozy house, giving me permission to hibernate on a Saturday morning. Slowly, slowly spring will come again and thaw the frozen earth, the same earth into which I’ll drop the sweet pea seeds that soaked overnight in a bowl on the kitchen counter.

But today, in the rain and alone with my thoughts, I don’t want to let go.

 

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Why Thinking About Death is Worthwhile

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Potted petunias in my backyard.

Whenever I see a dead bird in my backyard, I feel sad. I consider this backyard with its flowers and shrubs and birdfeeder and birdbath to be a sanctuary for birds, bees, and butterflies. Those little creatures are welcome here.

This morning I was out mowing the lawn in the already oppressive heat. As I pushed the manual reel mower up alongside the house, I spotted a still, headless blue jay.

For the last week or so, there had been a young blue jay spending a lot of time at the feeder. I liked this bird because he didn’t yet know enough to fly away when I stood close by to watch him eat. This lack of fear probably contributed to his lack of life.

Listen to me read this post:

The dead blue jay made me think, “I’ve been walking the earth for fifty-one years. This little guy only lived for maybe fifty-one days.”

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A very-much-alive blue jay in my backyard a couple winters ago.

Life is Short and Death is Long

Our time is limited and mostly we don’t control how long we get to live. Death always makes me think of life. I feel sad and, at the same time, I feel profoundly grateful. The reality of inevitable death makes me cherish life and makes my own days that much sweeter.

It’s not that death is pleasant to think about or that I savour finding a young blue jay with its head torn off. It’s that death is the most effective, most present reminder of life. It’s more difficult to deeply appreciate life without seriously acknowledging death.

A Lucrative Industry

Our western culture is not big on death, and there’s a number of thriving industries that sell ways to prolong life and ways to avoid death. What a lucrative business and what a futile pursuit.

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I planted wildflowers this season to attract bees, birds, and butterflies.

I Keep Death Close

Death is a companion that I keep close. Some have said, “Don’t dwell on death! It’s so depressing.” What’s depressing to me is that by ignoring death I might take life for granted and thereby squander my time here on earth. Now that would be really sad.

I’m not gothic character. I don’t dress in black, I don’t wear heavy dark makeup around my eyes, and I don’t drink whisky from the bottle in late-at-night cemeteries. I don’t really dwell on death either; I just don’t let it far out of my sight.

Somehow, Sometime

Death reminds me that my fate is the same as the young blue jay’s. Well, maybe not the getting my head ripped off by a bird of prey part, but you never know. Like the blue jay, I will die somehow and sometime, and looking this fact straight in the eye helps me live more fully. Realizing my own death makes me realize my own aliveness. And to me, that makes thinking about death worth it.

Wildflowers
A variety of wildflowers in my backyard. (You’ll notice I didn’t post a photo of the headless blue jay. You’re welcome.)

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Summer Gardens – A Photo Blogpost

What a glorious time of year! Over time I’ve gathered some flower and garden pictures from my travels and from right here at home. Even the simplest prairie gardens are enchanted plots teeming with life in this northern place where the growing season is so short.

These first three photos were taken in northern Alberta near where I grew up and during a sunny July day. My friend is a fabulous gardener, and her farm is an excellent place to take photos.

My auntie is also a fantastic gardener, and I often bring my camera out to her place in the summertime.

Some gardens attract my attention when I’m traveling.

Lots of times and if I have my camera with me, I’ll take photos of local flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.

But mostly my photo inspiration comes from my own backyard. There are still lots of memories of Grandma here in her garden, and I hope she’d like what I’ve done with the place.

 

Growing Resentment

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Yellow sunflower.

This is a piece I wrote while I was still teaching full time. It feels familiar today because I’m back teaching from now until the end of June. It’s nice to be back in the classroom, but I’m really glad I didn’t put in a big garden.

I just put in four shorts rows of vegetables – some carrots, beets, Swiss chard, and beans. Other than that the garden will pretty much be full of wild flowers.

Listen to me read this post:

This blog is called Growing Resentment and it’s for all of us who have ever resented yardwork and gardening on sweet summer days that are far too full.

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Pink cosmos.

For two months I’ve been saying it. “I’m not going to grow a garden this year. I’m too busy.”

Probably this is true. The garden needs to be planted and tended just when I’m preparing report cards and going on field trips. It needs to be harvested when I’m planning for the upcoming school year and getting to know my new students. Late spring and early fall are busy in classrooms and busy in gardens.

 

But then, yesterday, I went shopping and ended up at a greenhouse. It was then, with the temptation to plant so close and with the plants so plentiful, that I struck a compromise with myself.

“Self,” I said. “Instead of planting seeds this year, why don’t you purchase bedding plants? Vegetables and flowers that have been started will be easier. Put those into the warm earth, water, and fertilize them and – poof! – you’ll have an instant garden.”

I bought this argument and bought a wide variety of flowers and vegetables, and planned to fill my garden plot today, Sunday. Today, the weather was sunny and warm, perfect for planting. So I put on my gardening clothes, including hat and insect repellant, and out I went armed with a hoe, a tiny bottle of potent fertilizer, and a metal watering can.

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Orange sunflowers in my metal watering can.

The first half-an-hour was just fine. Then, slowly, a bad, bitter taste began to fill my mouth. I recognized it immediately as sour resentment. The sun was too hot even in the mid-morning and, having not bothered to eat breakfast, I was hungry and thirsty.

I resented the wilting plants who were appreciating the sun’s intensity as much as I was. I resented the little weeds that were popping up here and there in the recently-tilled soil. I resented even the dirt itself and the buzzing bees as they dutifully pollinated the raspberries. I resented the laughter of neighbours and the singing of the birds. In short, I resented putting in a garden when I had told myself that I wouldn’t this year.

I relearned a valuable lesson today: Don’t do anything you know you don’t want to do. I suppose that I’m satisfied now that the garden is in, but it took 4 hours to do the work, the same as it does when I plant my garden from seed. Do I resent this time spent? You bet I do! So very much.

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Flowering shrub in my backyard.

As life speeds up and demands compete with one another for my limited time and energy resources, some things need to fall away. Not forever, in a lot of cases, but for now. I’m pretty good at discerning which things can be set aside and which require my focus. I’m pretty adept at prioritizing.

That’s why, when I knew that I didn’t want to plant a garden, I’m surprised that I did it anyway, only to swallow mouthfuls of resentment along with the dust from the dirt I hoed. Today’s gardening experience served as a reminder that the heart knows what it wants and that my heart wasn’t wanting to plant a garden. Next late spring I vow to listen to my heart and steer clear of greenhouses.

Charming Gardeners