A Brief Lesson in Garden Love & Plant Diversity

I was raised by Dr. Jack L. Carter, a well-known botanist in this area, best know for his books “Trees and Shrubs of Colorado” and “Trees and Shrubs of New Mexico.” I never wanted to be a botanist. My interests ran more towards Asian history in college, after a few months living in Thailand at age 19. But as it turns out, my new garden at 7,000 feet, is where I now go to find meaning, happiness, comfort and solace.

This catmint took two years to start looking this big and happy!

I love everything about going out to visit my plants each morning. I want to see what’s blooming, what’s thinking about it, and which plant needs some help from me to be happier with their placement in the garden.

I have had gardens all over Boulder, Fort Collins and Loveland Colorado. From this I have learned that all gardens take time to develop and grow in their own way. Only start a garden if you have a few years to watch it develop of its own accord. You need to learn the native plants in your area and gain the awareness of which critters eat what. I spent a couple years walking around La Veta before I started my own garden. There you can quickly see what may survive constant deer nibbling, plus rabbits, etc. I have also incorporated a number of native plants from our surrounding acreage. Some just turn up in the garden and I let them stay. Others I have transplanted.

This spring we have a abundance of this plant along the county roads and just about everywhere, which is curious because I don’t remember seeing a lot of it before this year. After consultation with my favorite botanist friend Jan, we decided it is called Penstemon augustifolius.

From the very beginning I knew I wanted to bring some Penstemon strictus into my new garden, common name Rocky Mountain Penstemon. I had great experiences growing ihem in my Loveland garden a number of years ago.

My garden in Loveland was my primary solace in the spring of 2001 when my marriage fell apart. I started a garden because I love growing things around me and I knew even then that:

Action is the greatest antidote to despair.

Eighteen years later I will share with you an essential insight into how life works. When life seems meaningless, find some part of your life that you can transform. I have transformed ugly screened-in porches into beautiful sun rooms and empty lots into native plant gardens. Find a way to make something beautiful around you. Do it today!

Beauty is the garden where hope grows!

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Sky Garden Thoughts

The past few weeks since my brother John left, have been quite trying. First I got bronchitis, then our kitty Charlie died, and now Mike has bronchitis. When it rains, it pours! Then yesterday I took a bad fall onto concrete directly on my knee. These kinds of experiences leave me wondering “What’s next?” but in a bad way…

Neither Mike nor I had ever had to euthanize a pet before. We couldn’t believe what was happening at the time, but Charlie was suffering so much with no solution but death. And yes, Mike had to bury Charlie himself down below our home. It seems we have started our own pet graveyard.

The thought that stuck with me after watching our cat first get a shot to help him relax, and then one to help him let go of life, was exactly how close we all are to death at any moment of our life. It hit me with radical clarity how we spend our whole life misunderstanding and fearing that moment of death, and then it is over so quickly. The line is truly fine and gloriously final.

Then my mind continued to the thought: Most of our conceptions at the beginning of life were quite haphazard. How many of our deaths will be the same?

That is why I love spending time in my garden right now. The silence except for the bird calls, the morning chill, the bright flowers that pop up one morning and leave just as suddenly. This is the natural cycle of life and death on planet earth. This is what we signed up for when we were conceived. We come, we experience and we go.

“We’re all just walking each other home…” – Ram Das

Sky Gardening – June 2019!

We all need distractions from the news and our lives in general, so how about some photos of my favorite plants? I know gardening is my favorite form of distraction, how about you? Since I wrote to you about gardening here at the beginning of May, we have received over two inches of moisture, some of it unfortunately as SNOW, but most of my new plants just said, “What, me worry?” and continued on because they are so sturdy and well-matched to this 7,000′ foothills environment.

One plant that is totally thriving is my catmint! Instead of delaying it’s bloom time, it’s saying, “Hey, look how tough I am!”

I see the Cholla cactus I started from a baby a few years ago is also looking happy. Some ask me why I would plant a cacti in or near my garden.

The answer is that when this starts blooming in a few years it could look like this! They are everywhere along I-25 between the New Mexico border and Colorado Springs. Watch them bloom in July!

I go out every morning to see how my garden grows, if the weather is sunny and it’s not blowing like hell out there. Rasta always accompanies me. His job is peeing on the plants or lying in the sun.

I still need to find a place for this BEAUTIFUL Columbine, our magnificent state flower!

Until then I’ll just keep dabbling in my sky garden. This place gives me so much JOY!

The BIG Decision: Retirement Options

Should I stay or I should I go? — The Clash

For many, the decision of how to handle the freedom from having a specific job in a specific place can be daunting. For one thing, most of us have never faced such freedom. Most of us have lived where our job was for decades and made do. Perhaps we came to love our home, our neighbors or our general situation. Perhaps we dislike major life changes. That wasn’t us. Mike and I had been thinking about getting out of the city for decades when the opportunity arose to do just that.

Home Sweet Home before the move

That is not to say the choice was simple. There are so many factors to consider. Closeness to family and friends, expenses, how much we like or dislike the unhealthy aspects of city life. Besides the unhealthy air for someone with COPD, I discovered as we thought about it, that I did not want to spend another minute sitting at stoplights when I had so little life left. I hate wasting time! Yes, the decision probably won’t be easy, but it must be made either way.

My own uncertainty five years ago at this time, as we prepared our lovely suburban home for sale, did create great stress in my life. About this time the end of May 2014 we had a buyer set up for mid-June, but no place to move to in Walsenburg! Yikes! Remember, once you make that tough decision, you need to accept all the major stressors that come your way after that. And we were also preparing to build a new home in a rural area where good workers are hard to find.

Our view today!

Yes, I remember it all just like it was yesterday. At the time it often felt like too much to bear. And yet, the rewards have been so worth it. Now I’m certain we made the right choice for us, but there were many times I doubted every decision we made. So much easier to stay in the same home and hope for the best, but then you will never know the rewards of moving on and choosing something completely different!

In the summer of 2014, Mike and I sold our nice house in Fort Collins to move temporarily into an old miner’s home in Walsenburg, while constructing a passive solar home near the top of Navajo Ranch Estates west of Walsenburg Colorado. To learn more about downsizing to a tiny town and then living in the Colorado countryside, consider reading my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado available from Amazon or directly from me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Dirt Work and Family

Early morning pastel in Spanish Peaks County…

It’s been all dirt work around our home lately! My brother John, a self-described ‘dirt guy,’ came in Sunday and he has truly spruced up our sky garden area.

After proper leveling, provided by John, we added pavers and gravel to the lower-level of the garden to give it an even finished look. More plants to come in soon around the bird bath…And so many native plants are just starting to bloom after that big snow last week! We also put in a few new trees. Perfect time for my parents to visit today.

John is a man of very few words. He always has been, but even more so since he lives alone along Oak Creek near Sedona. When I asked him this morning why he likes to work in the dirt, he answered: “It’s organic.”

Photography by Laura Lee!

Let me begin by saying, I never thought of myself as a “photographer.” What does that even mean? We all write but few of us are “writers.” When I began writing professionally I had no definition of “writer.” Then I read an article in a writing magazine that said, a writer is someone who sits down everyday and writes. That was me.

Now I find I am constantly taking photos from our foothills ridge simply because they need to be taken.


I mean how can you watch scenes like these everyday and not want to preserve them for others to see?

Since I started taking photos like this, I have posted quite a few on my Facebook page. Yes, everyone seems to love them, and a few have encouraged me to begin selling them so others can enjoy…


the views we enjoy everyday.

So here I am, launching myself into a whole new area of endeavor. I have so much to learn about lens and filters and everything else, I’ll admit that.

The East Peak through the lilac trees!

But life is for learning, right?

Is early retirement on your to do list?

They had a thought-provoking lead story on CBS Sunday Morning this week: “I quit! The joys of leaving your job for good” There they said more than half of Americans dream of saying, “Take this job and shove it!” One statement that was made was the realization by so many workers that we are all expendable, so why offer up our loyalty to the place where we work? I learned the hard way how that works in my last position as an academic librarian! But before you quit your job, here are some things to think about. The fantasy of quitting before normal retirement age should include:

  • Don’t have kids
  • Buy a small house or condo
  • No big, expensive vacations or fancy lifestyles
  • The ability to ignore all commercials!

I especially enjoyed a statement by a surgeon who quit her job in her 50s to pursue her love of art. I related to her best. The interviewer ask her how she felt when she left her job for the last time. She said, “They don’t control me anymore!” She had been saving half of her income for years to accomplish her goals. Her mother’s response was even more interesting, reflecting major generational differences. Instead of congratulating her, her mother was embarrassed and told her friends she had to quit because she was sick. The previous generation generally believes that winners don’t quit. I found this true of my parents too. They couldn’t believe we would be able to pull this off.

Mike and I were relieved of the tough decision to quit our last jobs in our 50s. Mike’s job in solar engineering got sent to China and I was fired by Regis University in Denver. I was devastated for less than a year, until I met Mike through my own dating service. We joined forced, determined to prove that those assholes weren’t going to get the best of us! Luckily we had checked all of the boxes above and saved like crazy starting in our early 20s, so we have been able to convert the lack of jobs into our own version of success. Moving to a beautiful, but less expensive area and building a direct gain solar home also helped a lot!

Our view in retirement

We completely agree with the guy in the CBS story who followed his gut and his dreams and said, “I would never go back.” In retrospect, we wouldn’t change a thing either…