Fake It Till You Make It

Someone said that to me years ago and it just stuck.  Today I will fake that I really don’t have a nagging sore throat; that the projects I always have on my list each night will really get done; that I really am not worried how my son will make it in this life and that his son and daughter will grow up to be perfect and well adjusted; and that I really don’t want to just be out in my garden up to my elbows in dirt instead of where I really am.  There – just writing all that down seemed to unload it all just a bit.  There isn’t much there that I have control over, so why let it continue to stew?

Over this past weekend, when my sweet little Kloe fell asleep in her swing, I ran out into the backyard in the hopes of planting a few new plants:  Russian sage Pevovskia and Powderpuff Mimosa strigillosa. 

To me the sage almost looks like lavender with stalks of lavender blooms.  I think two more will create the drift I am hoping for.  They only go to Zone 9, but I often have good luck with that still.  It is planted in a semi-shaded area under a tree that I wish I knew the name of.  It is a tropical tree native to South America (I think), with beautiful yellow blooms in the winter (which was why I wanted it) and BIG thorns (which is why I was asked to please not plant it a couple of years ago).  I planted it anyway.  I cannot fully stand under it yet so I am on my hands and knees digging a hole with my small hand trowel while trying not to get thorns in my back. 

The pink powderpuff mimosas are native to Florida.  I planted them in and amongst some other groundcovers…a creeping jasmine and dune daisies.  I like the idea of the pink powderpuffs popping up their little bushy heads there.  All in keeping with the backyard color scheme of purples, whites, pinks, and yellows (and shades thereof).

 Any gardener knows that when you are out there on your hands and knees (or finally just sitting there in the middle of the bed), weeds seen have to be removed.  I have a pesky weed that likes to invade everything in the yard….grass included.  As I was pulling it up and flinging it into a pile, I turned to look over my shoulder and saw our chickens feasting on them.  First of all, I didn’t even realize they were out.  It is a different view to be sitting on the ground when they are having their walk-about.  They look so much bigger.  Secondly, it was pretty cool to just watch them pecking all the leaves off the weeds I had discarded.  My pest was their feast. 

Out of nowhere, these lyrics popped into my head:

To everything: turn, turn, turn;
There is a season: turn, turn, turn;
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven.

I guess seeing the chickens eat what I had considered to be trash reminded me that everything has a purpose and place in this world.  And since I basically think life is one big musical anyway and that in certain situations one should just break out in song, I was not surprised that a song came to mind.  However, that particular Byrds song had not entered my mind in forever.  And right then and there, I felt peace.  I enjoyed just sitting in the middle of a flower bed, under a thorny tree, watching a chicken dance, and humming a song in my head.

Next scene, my husband is walking out of the house with our granddaughter, who is now awake.  He sits down in the grass so she can see the chickens up close and I can finish getting my few plants in the ground.  Here Comes the Sun, the James Taylor/Yo Yo Ma version, is next on the In Carol’s Head jukebox.  Truth be said, there is almost always a song going on in there.  Kloe mostly bears the brunt of my constant singing and often looks at me quizzically.  The other day I made up a little ditty that almost made her laugh.  She goes to sleep every night listening to Jewel sing lullabies.  I have no idea if it helps or if she likes it.  She seems to.  It makes me feel better anyway.

In my Fake It Till You Make It world, I often don’t have to fake it for long.  I just break out in song and everything seems better!

“I miss my singing career very much.”  Elvis Presley

“The only thing better than singing is more singing.”  Ella Fitzgerald

And finally….

“If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning.”  Simon Cowell


Where my heart is today…

The only David Austen rose that ever grew for me. 

A little water, a little sunshine, and I’m good!

Sweet lavender.

Crazy climber…

My prettiest dill ever.  I think I’ll plant some more.

Happy endings.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.  Chinese Proverb

Who Knew? Cinco de Mayo

I have to confess that once I actually said that I did not speak Spanish so I did not know what Cinco de Mayo meant.  As I was stared back at dumbfoundedly, he said, “Uh, cinco, as in the number five…”  The light went on.  Sheepishly, I said, Oh, yeah.  Cinco – five; Mayo – May…the fifth of May.  Admittedly, I catch myself saying “blondish” comments like that every once in awhile; thankfully, though, less and less as I age.

I also have to admit that I had no idea what was significant about the fifth of May to Mexico.  After a bit of research, I learned that Mexico defeated the French unexpectedly at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. 

Here is something else I learned in that research.  There are basically only two entities, worldwide, that celebrate Cinco de Mayo:  the State of Puebla (naturally) and……wait for it…..the good ole USA.  We just love a party, don’t we?!  Not even elsewhere in Mexico is this day celebrated, interestingly enough.  Perhaps it is that this country began as the melting pot of people from the world over.  We love playing host still and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so let’s be sure to celebrate every countries’ holiday (there is probably more truth to that than we know). 

Or another school of thought.  It’s all a marketing ploy.  Let’s find the common denominator, shall we?  St. Patrick’s Day….Irish beer (think Guinness); Oktoberfest….German beer (think Beck’s); Cinco de Mayo….Mexican beer (think Corona).   Yes….it is beer.  Not being a big beer connoisseur, it never really hit me before, but yes, I believe the beer industry is behind it all! 

I’m not complaining, mind you.  I’m thankful for the help with tonight’s dinner menu:  tacos, refried beans, chips/salsa, and an ice cold Corona Lite (with a twist of lime).  I am a marketers dream afterall.  To Mexico!  To Puebla!  Salut!

The Glenda Project

When I was in first grade, living in Niagara Falls, I was a Brownie.   We did the typical Brownie things.  We made a “sit upon” which basically was a recycled shower curtain folded over newspaper that we loop stitched around the edges to hold it in place.  It was used to literally sit upon rather than sit on the floor, or grass, or whatever.  I had that thing for years it seems.

One of the more interesting activities was being told we would be participating with a troop in Australia and become pen pals with a Brownie there.  Australia sounded very exotic to my six-year-old imagination and I thought the girl’s name I would get would be equally exotic.  I was handed a slip of paper about the size of a fortune from a cookie that read, “Glenda Dunstan.”  That did not sound very exotic to me and I remember asking if I could try again.  I was told no.  I guess she already had my name too.  Okay….Glenda it is.  Our assignment was to write an introductory letter to this person and let chance take it from there.  This all occurred somewhere around 1969.  Mail to and from Australia took about two weeks, each way.  My mom proofread my letter making sure it was in my best handwriting and there were no errors.  I do remember having to redo it a time or two.  It was quite exciting to receive that first letter.  Everyone in the family had to read it, look at the stamps, note Glenda’s interesting handwriting and way of speaking (“Mum” for Mom, “holiday” for vacation, etc.).

And a friendship was formed….

Fast forward 41 years (OMG!) and we are STILL friends!  There have been segments of years where our writing waxed and waned.  We have spoken on the telephone three times during the years.  Yes, she has an adorable accent.  Interestingly enough, she thinks I have an accent.  When the brush fires were ravaging Southern Australia last year, I had to call to make sure she and her family were okay.  She lives in Melbourne and luckily were still south of where most of the fires were.  She was very touched to know I was worried for her and even more surprised that America was following along with what was going on Down Under

During the years we each married (she is now Glenda Morris), had children, lost loved ones, survived illnesses (Glenda is a ten-plus-year breast cancer survivor).  We now take advantage of the internet and read each other’s responses within hours of writing.  Australia is nine hours ahead of us, so if she is up late and I am up early, we can almost “instant message.”  

In less than one month, I will meet my Australian Brownie pen pal for the very first time.  She is traveling to North America (Canada and the US) and will stay with me and my family for seven days!!!  This is a miracle to me.  It seems almost surreal….that on one hand, I feel I have known her since childhood, but on the other hand, have never really met her at all.  What will she think of our American ways?  What are American ways, anyways?  And how do they differ from Australian ways?

This has spurred a flurry of activity at the Bass household.  I live in a modest 50’s style cottage.  It is tiny and adorable.  There has always been a list of “wouldn’t it be nice to do this to that area” that has, up to about three months ago remained an item on the list.  The list now has a name:  The Glenda Project.   The back porch is now an almost completely enclosed sunroom.  The laundry room has been rearranged with a new hot water heater added.  A new 12 x 12 shed has been added to the backyard across from the chicken coop.  The kitchen pantry has been removed and a very cool antique armoire stands in its place.  (Only some…okay one… of the home’s occupants thinks it is very cool.)  It is not perfect, but that is part of its charm.  If I wanted perfect, I would have bought a new piece.  (The French door to the right is now gone as that is where the sunroom is.)

(I forgot to mention that I was told this HAS to be the LAST old piece of furniture I EVER bring into our house.  Now how am I supposed to accomplish that?  Maybe he was kidding….)

My brief mention of the projects above do nothing to describe the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that have accompanied them.  The sunroom was half engulfed in old termite eaten boards and had to be completely removed and replaced before the back half of the house fell off.  Why that actually never happened is beyond me.  My husband tried very hard to cut his thumb off with the table saw.  An ER visit and seven stitches later, he was back at it.  Exterior CBS walls had to be drilled and chipped to accommodate the new placement of the dryer vent.  And still the work continues….

Maybe one of the Australian ways is not to worry so much over what kind of panty food is kept in or if all the walls are freshly painted or if the almost 50-year- old wood floor has just the right sheen to it.  It certainly seems to be an American way, though–or at least this American’s way.  As the time of Glenda’s arrival quickly approaches, the list still seems insurmountable.  My attitude toward that list has relaxed somewhat.  At some point, the focus will shift to what we will do to make my exotic Aussie pal feel welcomed.  In the meantime, I still have some painting to do!

Lilac Memories

I was born in Niagara Falls, New York.  We moved to Florida when I was 8.  When I used to tell kids at my new school where I was born, they would always ask if my mom was going over the falls when I was born.  Stubbornly, I would say, “Yes.”  It’s funny that even now when I tell people where I was born, that next sentence still comes instantly to mind and I think to myself, No I was not going over the falls.

As my mother would attest, I sort of lived in my own little dream world growing up (some would say this is still the case).  I used to flit around singing and dancing and such.  We lived in the sort of little neighborhood where it was safe to wander a few blocks here and there, and do our own little bit of exploring.  I believe two blocks behind us is where I found “The Flower Lady.”  It was the first time I had ever seen someone plant flowers in their entire front yard.  There was a little white picket fence surrounding it all and no grass to be seen.  I really wanted some of those flowers.  My exact memory of how I got the first bouquet is a little fuzzy.  I know the lady of the house did come out to talk to me.  Whether she found me standing and staring from outside the fence (which would have been the appropriate thing to do) or whether she found me strolling amongst her flowers (the more likely scenario) is not clear.  She did get to me before I picked the first flower, I do remember that.  I told her I wanted to bring some flowers home to my mother.  She made me a beautiful bouquet and I went dancing home, so proud to present them.  My mother was not so happy to see my offering though.  Mortified that I had picked all the flowers from someone’s yard, she made me take my father back to the house where I had gotten them.  They did not believe my little story that someone had just given them to me.  So back to The Flower Lady’s home we went.  She announced to my father that I had indeed asked for the flowers and did not take them on my own.  Whew!  Saved….that time.  From then on, I visited The Flower Lady (as I had dubbed her) quite often. 

At the end of our street, lived an elderly couple:  Mr. and Mrs. Buttons.  They had several lilac trees in their yard that were too beautiful for me to resist.  Knowing I could not get in trouble if I asked first, I boldly knocked on their front door and asked if I could have some blooms please.  Who could resist a little five-year-old with white hair bouncing about who thinks nothing of introducing herself and telling her entire life story (to my mother’s continued mortification)?  From then on, The Buttons’ yard became a new play place.  My pals and I would hang out underneath the trees, orchestrating our little plays and singing songs at the tops of our lungs.  Many times, I would have them walk all the way down to our front yard to watch one of our productions (that I was, of course, the director of).  I would put chairs out for my parents, The Buttons’, and my best friend, Judy Zimmerman’s Nanna and Bumpa (I believe they were Hungarian) to come watch us perform.  Wearing my mom’s old crinolines, I’m sure we were a sight.

Every spring, when pictures of lilacs abound, my mind floats back to Duluth Street, Niagara Falls, New York….to The Flower Lady…..to Mr. and Mrs. Buttons…..to the 12 noon fire hall bell call…..to the biggest wild roses that grew outside the little neighborhood store (I did help myself to those many times).  I guess it is good that I cannot actually grow lilacs here.  Maybe they would lose their special place in my memory if I saw them so often that I took them for granted.  So I will happily gaze upon their pictures instead and let my mind wander back to my own little dream world.

In childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking out.  In memories of childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking in.  ~Robert Brault


Show and Tell Day

It’s picture day! 


These are the two plants I got at Giverny for the soon-to-be finished sunroom: a moss and a maidenhair fern.  I wished I had saved the actual name of the moss, which I have never grown before.  I have to get better about that.  And yes, that is dust on that shelf.  With construction still in progress, I can’t seem to stay ahead of it.


This is the top of our 6 foot high fence in the background of the picture below.  I have never had a rose thrive as much as this one has.  That is the plus of investing in Fortuniana rootstock.  It is adapted for our tropical climate.  It is worth the extra $5 or so.

“The Fortuniana Rose is a natural hybrid apparently developed from the two species roses, Rosa Laevigata ,”The Cherokee Rose” and Rosa Banksia, “Lady Bank’s Rose.” Both of these varieties, as well as Fortuniana, thrive in the southern climate and sandy soils. Fortuniana rootstock not only allows the rose to grow faster, it will also greatly increases the plant’s vigor and the size of its blooms.” from CoolRoses.com (a local rose nursery).

Confederate jasmine…..busting out and smelling pretty!  It is growing amongst honeysuckle also.

This beauty, oddly enough,  is called Golden Dew Drop….not for the showy purple blooms, but because of the seeds.  If you wait to deadhead these, and let them go to seed, you will be rewarded with a string of golden berries….golden dew drops.  If it gets unruly, you can prune it down to about a foot and it will start again.  It is very hardy here.  I LOVE purple flowers in the garden which is what attracted me to this in the first place.  I believe there is a white flowering version of it as well.  It can be trained to grow as a shrub or a single tree. 

This is my “cracker” rose purchased from Giverny last spring.  I had two.  They were not thriving in their first location, so I pulled them up and pruned them way back in the hopes of giving them a new life.  This one made and is covered with blooms and buds.  I have to think the manure compost has something to do with it.

 This is all that is left of my morning glories.  They have gone to seed.  I have just started actually gathering seeds from plants such as this.  I emptied the little pods into a jar and will keep them until next season.  Each pod had four seeds, so next winter I’ll have them in abundance!

A passion vine growing on top of the chicken coop and intermingling with the cedar tree.  I’ll have to trim it back before it chokes the tree.  It was once a little cedar sapling that my grandmother hid in her purse and brought back from Alabama on a plane.  It made her feel like a renegade!  The tree is now over ten feet tall and still growing.  If I ever move, the tree will have to come with me….no matter how big.









 “Hey, Mom….you didn’t really want this rosemary branch, right?” asks Levi (the almost two year old Beagle).

Dog day afternoon…Jasper takes a nap wherever he can find a cool spot, even if it is in the dirt.  Great…

Three of seven chickens asking if I have brought them a treat.  They are a little spoiled.

Five of the Dixie Chicks partake of a scratch grain treat from Dad.  In this picture….two Ameraucanas, two Barred Rocks, and Lucy…the Rhode Island Red.


Rainy Days and Mondays

A bit of melancholy settled in yesterday morning when my 4-month-old granddaughter, Kloe, left with her mother.  For reasons inappropriate to divulge, she and her daddy–my son– have been living at my home for the past two months.  In that two month period, I have run the gamut of nerves, anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, helplessness, and hopelessness.  Not one bit of that matters when I walk into their room each morning to see her face smiling up at me, legs and arms flailing in excitement to see me.  I believe yesterday I even heard her first giggle.  It’s not really as bad as I make it sound here.  It is very good that she spend time with her mother and maternal family.  If all goes well, she’ll be back in two weeks for another stay.  For all of the turmoil, it seems a modicum of peace and civility has risen to the surface.  I will survive.  This is just me feeling sorry for myself.  I’m allowed to wallow for a few minutes. 

After a trip to the feed store for chicken feed, my husband surprised me with a trip to my favorite nursery, Giverny Gardens.  I had been saying how much I wanted and needed to get out in my own garden.  With a baby in the house, moments were not always my own.  So for something positive to do and think about, plants and flowers always do the trick.  While this is a beautiful picture below (from their website) it really does not do justice to their nursery.  They were chock full of spring flowers.  I could have easily spent hundreds of dollars (or more) and still wanted more.  They even had foxgloves and delphiniums….just gorgeous.  Even though tempted, I did not get either as their lifespan is so short here.  I did enjoy seeing them in person though.  It may have been the first time I have ever seen a real foxglove.  It was beautiful.  I do have my eye on a few rambling roses though.  I am not sure they are on Fortuniana rootstock though.  They probably are not, but I will have to give them a try anyway.  It says to prune them every 3 to 4 weeks.  They must really take off.  At 20 bucks a pop, I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks and hope they are still there.  Is five of them too many?  I think not.



I did get a few things though and happily went home and puttered.  The trip there was absolutely worth it.

My mom used to have several orchids growing in a mahogany tree in our backyard.  She said God took care of them because she would just put them in the lower branches of the tree and they were on their own from there.  They thrived in the dappled shade, slightly moving air, and humidity.  I feel the same way about how my garden looks right now.  Flowers are busting out all over.  The Confederate jasmine is covered.  Roses are in bud.  I cannot take credit for it as it has been months since I’ve been out there.  However, yesterday, it felt wonderful to do even just a few things.  The compost tumbler was emptied and its contents spread about.   The plants reap the benefit from the kitchen scraps plus “leftovers” from the rabbits and chickens.  I took out my past-its-prime ornamental kale, planted my new plants, and even some seeds.  It might be a bit late in the season for that, but I have this mentality that in Florida we have a year-round gardening season and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.  I may get a surprise or two when those seedlings don’t thrive in our already warm spring.  Still, it felt good to do it.

I don’t get to do whatever I want, whenever I want.  None of us do.  No matter our age, we still keep trying though.  I was reminded of that when I gave Kloe her millionth kiss goodbye yesterday morning.   The young have the luxury of having a tantrum.  My tantrum will be in the energy I put into my projects for the next few weeks.  Still, there is a peacefulness to knowing I don’t always get to have my way, that I don’t have control over everything, that I need to let it go.  I will change that to let it grow instead and see what happens.

~ ~

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.  ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com