Garden Notes – Critter Control!

After five years living here, on the edge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at 7,000 feet, I’m beginning to see that my critter problems will change from year to year. Part of the problem is that I have to continually guess who the culprit is. Then I have to figure out what plants they won’t eat.

In the first year or two the most obvious culprits were the deer. They would amble up here and graze for a while, partially because we had a water source (bird bath) and it is super dry around here. We decided to add a small water source down below the garden, and then this year Mike made a few wind sculptures and placed them in the garden. Presto chango, no more deer!

Then we noticed the portulacas being eaten, but that was easy to fix. Just place them a foot or two off the ground. Bunnies don’t seem to bother plants above ground level. A couple of years later we had two squirrels. I do not like squirrels, so we made them uncomfortable enough to leave.

June 2019 record blooms!

Last summer was great. We had so much rain in the spring that nothing seemed to threaten my plants! This May is a different story. With the dry conditions we have chipmunks for the first time I can remember. They seem to have the most annoying habit. Instead of eating my plants, they just eat the FLOWERS! OK, let me get this straight, I wait for a whole year to see a little bit of color out there and right before I get to see my flowers, THEY EAT THEM! This is all out war! They especially love portulaca flowers, but they aren’t too picky. Anything down at their level they eat. They apparently can even climb up a few feet to access flowers.

Luckily I have an amazingly talented and creative partner to help me. Last evening Mike designed and made a wire cage to protect my flowers in a large wooden planter he also made a few years ago. It is on a hinge and he even plans to make a lock if we need it. Take that you nasty but adorable varmits!

Unfortunately, every morning I must go out to see what’s been eaten lately. For example, I’ve had gaillardia plants out there for a couple years now, but this spring SOMEONE is eating off the flowers right as they start to come out. Mike made a cage for that plant too. I’m hoping we won’t need the covers forever, but that’s what we have to do for now. Does anybody have advice about scaring the chipmunks away? Mike has tried shooting bb’s at them to no avail… Please help. I have never had this problem before!

Garden Notes – Mid-May 2020

My Sky Garden is developing very slowly this spring. We just aren’t receiving the 5+ inches of rain we got last March, April and May. I’m adding new plants everyday, but they develop so slowly!

My garden last May!

I took a trip up to Perennial Favorites on opening day, May 1st, and bought mostly plants that I had previous success with like Catmint, Penstemon Strictus, Yellow Yarrow, Blue Mist Spirea, Turkish Veronica and Gaillardia plus a few alternative Penstemons, Jupiter’s Beard, and Cinquefoil. I’m even taking a chance on a drought tolerant Honeysuckle this year!

This part of my garden has two native volunteers, penstemons & yucca

This spring we have received less than two inches so far, and May is not looking promising, so far just lots of wind. YUCK!

My Portulacas from last summer!

The only annual I buy is Portulacas. When I first moved here the rabbits would eat these if they could reach them. Now I have a new problem, chipmunks who climb up and eat all the flowers off. GRRRRR…. And that’s even when they are three feet off the ground! Mike says he can help me solve that problem.

If only I controlled the weather & the critters, my sky garden would look like this again!

Is America Great Again…Yet?

I have been re-educating myself lately on Black and Native American history. And on one program I saw last week on PBS, a Black man asked us all such an important question:

When in our history was America great for African-Americans? What time period are we trying to go back to exactly?

Let that question soak in for a minute or two? Then ask yourself this:

At what time in our history was America better for women than right now?

I know, these silly catch phrases pass us by without much thought, so think about this one for a minute. Those who support Trump believe things used to be so much better than now. In other words, the “good old days” of lynchings, and shooting a black man for jogging, wife beating, child abuse and wife murder, those were the great times from our past.

How about the millions of Native Americans we killed either with diseases or plain old murder?

Trump says: Let’s get back to those days of American greatness!

I saw a silly meme the other day, but there is also some truth in it:

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

This is why I am re-educating myself on American history. My life has been supremely privileged. Growing up in Kansas as a European-American I never experienced racism, but I did understand sexism from an early age. Both suck. And to any European-American who disagrees I say, how would you like to be black or of Latin American descent in this culture? For most of us it would be quite instructional. We might suddenly get it.

The good old days were only great for those of great privilege….

European-American versus Native American Respect For Our Ancestors

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been watching and absorbing a new appreciation of the Native American peoples who lived in the Americas before the beginning of European conquest. One fact that was never communicated to me when I studied “American History” in high school was that the first Spaniards, who murdered and subjugated the Incas, confronted over 10,000 years of Native American existence, culture, beliefs and traditions. I had no idea how well-educated and well-organized this population of over 100 million souls was when European began destroying them. For example, their expertise in the area of astronomy far exceeded the Europeans until the time of Galileo in the 1600’s.

Did anyone ever teach me these facts when I was studying the history of the world? Did anyone even care?

I have also learned recently that one of the factors that strengthened the bonds of Native Americans through many centuries was their reverence for their ancestors:

Due to the sacrifices of our ancestors, we live.

As a scholar of Chinese history, this reverence reminded me of traditional Chinese society. Those that had the resources often built large shrines to their deceased ancestors and worshiped them. This parallels the Native American honor and respect for their elders.

While I was watching the PBS series “Native America” this week, I kept thinking about how we European Americans feel towards our own elders. I spoke to one friend about this contrast and he said, “It seems like we just want to send them away and lock them up in a nursing home…”

Did your family honor and appreciate your great-grandparents and grandparents while you were growing up? Did you sit with them and ask them to share their stories of sacrifice for their country and their families?

Where would you be without them?

One factor to consider in our own history is that only those Europeans who were willing to leave their ancestors behind emigrated to the Americas. Most of us left centuries of family history behind to move here.

Our recent pandemic is decimating our elderly population as I write this. Covid-19 is hardest on the elderly, with those 65 and older accounting for 80% of U.S. deaths from this disease, according to the CDC. So many lives and stories lost. And yet I feel little sadness nationally. These are the Americans who helped to build our world, and now they die lost and alone.

As I age, I feel our disrespect for the wisdom of our elders. I just turned 65 and I certainly do not feel respect or reverence for my own hard-earned wisdom.

Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it…

What we did not learn from the Native American traditions

“Doctor my eyes, I cannot see the sky. Is this the price for having learned how not to cry?” -Jackson Browne

Losing my father has brought up so many new thoughts about my upbringing. Strange how I feel freer to question all this after his death. Lately I feel like I may have been raised in the wrong family at the wrong time in history. What has stimulated this thought? Watching a new series called “Native America” on PBS. I can highly recommend it!

When I started watching this program I got lost in it immediately. Everything they were saying rang true and captured my imagination. Did I mention the first stories I ever enjoyed reading, writing or drawing were about Native Americans and their ponies?

Native American creation stories are wonderful. So much imagination, something I was not allowed as a child...

Most importantly, the concept our European-American culture has so completely missed is that we should all see ourselves as ‘Caretakers of the Earth.’

How can we honor our true Mother? By taking good care of her.

I also so related to the first episode: “From Caves to Cosmos.” It is about how the ancient Amazon Peoples slowly migrated up through the Americas, always seeking the right place, or what they called “the center place.” This is the place where we feel most centered with the landscape, the weather and the cosmos. I never completely understood this concept until I found my ‘center place’ here in southern Colorado. This is a spiritual concept, not to be understood until you feel it viscerally. I felt I had to write down this phrase immediately:

“When you enter a new landscape, you become a new kind of person.”

This best describes how different I felt after settling into our high desert perch. I felt at home in a way I could not even have fathomed before. The silence, the direct connection with nature, the overwhelming sense of belonging, were instantly clear to me.

The other concept our culture has so woefully forgotten or ignored is a strong and positive sense of community. When we confronted those ‘savage’ Native Americans, we were well into the “ruggedly independent” American phase, especially out West, the Manifest Destiny and all that crap. We saw ourselves as stronger and smarter so we should certainly defeat these weaker Native peoples. Of course we weren’t the only country who massacred or subjugated indigenous tribes. It happened all over the world with colonialism. That does not, however, make it a good thing!

In fact, I see so many of our cultures’ worst problems being caused by no sense of community or belonging. The epidemic of loneliness, drug addiction and now high levels of suicide reflect how alone so many of us feel in a culture that encourages independence instead of interdependence. I was raise to be super independent and it took many decades and a lot of counseling for me to realize that this strong sense of independence and lack of trust was not serving me. I found my life far too lonely so I changed.

We have lost and continue to lose so much wisdom by ignoring the teachings of the Native Americans who are left on this earth. This PBS series is proof of that. See it and expand your mind. While you’re at it, send PBS some money so we can continue to enjoy these alternative viewpoints.

Stop watching the death toll on TV and…

Can we let ourselves ponder the possibility that wonder awaits us in simply opening our senses? That awakening to the magnificence and mystery of life can be brought about with the slightest shift of our attention? That awe is available whenever we open our hearts? That moments of the most abiding belonging are within us always?

In the wilderness is the preservation of the world. – Henry David Thoreau

‘Remarkable’ Solar Lights!

I remember back in 2006, when I was just beginning to learn about social media and blogging, I read a great book about what this kind of publishing freedom could mean for all of us. My favorite quote from back then was:

“Freedom of the press is only available to those who own one!”

The other idea that has stayed with me for the past 15 years is exactly what the word ‘remarkable’ means. Today it means ‘going viral.’ It means so many people told someone else about something they saw on the internet, that it feels like the entire world knows about it now!

How often do you see something that is truly remarkable? Here’s mine:

I was messing around the other day, looking for solar lights that I liked as much as my simple little pink flamingo that switches itself on around 8 pm every evening.

I found these silly looking lilies…

They look like cheap artificial flowers during the day, but at night they light up and and then start changing colors! They are truly REMARKABLE! I love to watch them all evening. I know they seem expensive, but I think they are worth it!

The butterfly solar lights are extremely cool too!

Can antibodies from previous flu viruses improve your chances of fighting off the novel coronavirus?

As someone who has had MANY flu viruses in my life, because I have been unable to get flu vaccines for decades, and also as one who has lived in Southeast Asia and China quite a bit, I cannot help but wonder whether the millions of antibodies I now carry might provide some protection from the novel coronavirus.

“A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.” -CDC Coronavirus

As a medical researcher in my past life as a librarian, I thought I could get some idea of what present research says about this important question. My most memorable experience with flu virus was in 1968 when I caught the Hong Kong flu (H3N2). I was severely ill with this to the point of passing out and delirium. A woman on the next block from us died from it.

In an article in Science Daily from February 4th 2020 I found this:

“A team [of] UCLA and Arizona scientists reported in 2016 that exposure to influenza viruses during childhood gives people partial protection for the rest of their lives against distantly related influenza viruses. Biologists call the idea that past exposure to the flu virus determines a person’s future response to infections “immunological imprinting.”

This research helped overturn a commonly held belief that previous exposure to a flu virus conferred little or no immunological protection against strains that can jump from animals into humans, such as those causing the strains known as swine flu or bird flu. Those strains, which have caused hundreds of spillover cases of severe illness and death in humans, are of global concern because they could gain mutations that allow them to readily jump not only from animal populations to humans, but also to spread rapidly from person to person.

This is not to say you should make any assumptions about your own antibodies and risk exposure to this present pandemic. I just wish new antibody tests were much more dependable and available at this point!

Happy Earth Day! My thoughts on living close to the natural world…

As I think back, my relationship with nature has been mixed over the sum total of my 65 years here on earth. Most of that can be attributed to being raised in towns and cities.

My guess is that the bigger the city you live in, the less time you will spend outside enjoying nature, mostly because there are less natural areas to enjoy…

The early years of my life were spent in small towns in Iowa and Kansas. The fact I was raised by a botanist, a naturalist and budding environmentalist certainly influenced my early education and my tendency to be drawn to nature. My Dad was outside every chance he got, collecting plants, bird watching and teaching us about the wonders of nature constantly, much like being raised by Sir David Attenbourough. But this early training only blossomed inside of me later in life, when I spent enough time to stop and consider what I am naturally drawn to and what I now love to do.

As we all know, when you are younger you need to go where the jobs are and that is often cities. In my case it was universities as I was an academic librarian for 25 years.

But I always found ways to retreat to nature, like the many week-long river trips I took while working at my first job at the University of Utah. On a serious river trip there is no way to go home. You will be on the river until the trip is over! And no, there are no motels along the way. You must wash in the river…

I also developed a budding interest in plants and gardening along the way, as I moved from place to place to change jobs or learn Chinese. The worst year of my life was spent in Taipei, Taiwan where there was no natural beauty, except on our bus trips down to Kenting at the southern tip of the island. I had never lived in such a horribly polluted place in my life! There were days when I couldn’t even see across the street the air pollution was so bad.

After Taipei I ended up in Boulder Colorado, a virtual garden spot compared to Taipei, but I soon realized the air pollution was plenty bad there too! Then I moved to Fort Collins which I thought would be better, as I was suffering from terrible bouts of bronchitis every winter. Fort Collins turned out to be no better.

Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, looking west from Soldier Dam

I know, most of you might think that places like Boulder and Fort Collins are quite clean compared to other cities, but no. The traffic is terrible there and the air there can be just as dirty as Denver. My test is if you can see and taste the air, you are in trouble!

Thank goodness and my husband Mike’s better instincts, we moved to a beautiful natural part of Colorado in the summer of 2014.

Since moving here I have re-gained my LOVE of the natural rhythms of the earth. Living in silence surrounded by nature’s glory is the only way to go for me now. I did not discover until we moved here that I now have difficulty breathing at this elevation but so what!

I choose to live where the natural beauty I am surrounded by everyday far surpasses the ugliness of this great pandemic. I can hardly wait to welcome a new season of beauty into my sky garden! For me, now, living close to nature is the only way!

BEAUTY IS THE GARDEN WHERE HOPE GROWS!

Pandemic leads to increasing interest in rural living… and I know why!

AS soon as this worldwide pandemic hit, I thought to myself, we could not be in a better place to sit this one out. This has turned out to be so true! First of all, we do not normally see other people all that much. We have a few acres around our home and rarely need to go into town, which is only a few thousand people strong (Walsenburg, CO), and as it turns out, we only have one case of Covid-19 so far in our entire county.

We started building a passive solar home in 2014, with a 180 degree view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Officials have severely limited the number of people who can come into our county and if anyone turns up with the virus, they are immediately transferred to a county north of us for treatment. We do not have the proper facilities to treat such a serious illness here. This has all been great considering I am now over 65 and have severe lung disease.

So yesterday I read a real estate article that states:

“Rural demand is much stronger right now than urban demand, and that’s a flip from where it’s been for the longest time, where everybody wanted to live in the city. We’ll see how it comes back, but there seems to be a profound, psychological change among consumers who are looking for houses.” 

My May 2019 garden looking towards the snow-capped Spanish Peaks

We moved down here to southern Colorado for many reasons, and a pandemic was not one of them. We were sick and tired of sitting in traffic up in Fort Collins and hearing traffic noise CONSTANTLY!

I figured I only had so many years to live, and I didn’t want to spend one more minute of that time sitting in TRAFFIC!

We found we loved the clean air, the natural silence, native plants and wildlife here in this pinon juniper woodland area. At first I thought I might find the lack of people here difficult, but that simply was not so. I found a few friends out here and others in town.

I also gravitated to a few new hobbies like landscape photography and native plants gardening. All in all this has been a great choice for our retirement…and to sit out an international pandemic!

We have fallen in love with living in tune with the sun and seasons, waking up each day amazed to find ourselves in such a beautiful, quiet, natural place…

Are you ready to follow your dreams of country living? Go read my memoir to help YOU decide!

Please feel free to contact me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

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