Rain, I don’t mind.

(The title is a lyric from ‘Rain’ by The Beatles)

Ruts on wet lawn

Here we are in the second week of non-stop rains, snow flurries and hail. Forgotten tools are rusting, puddles are appearing all through the garden, so are ruts from wheelbarrows, and bicycles.

I have seen imprints from three coyotes on the move in Oaks Wildlife Refuge, ant colonies taking residence in our domiciles, cats on porches hunkering down, waiting for better days. I do not have that choice.

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Bon Voyage

This month I have cat clients galore. Scat Cat and Misty, Pushkin, Bee, Diablo, Prado, Kazi, Snow Pea, Lily and Omar.

Snow Pea

I have a picture of my beloved cat ‘Breakfast’ on the fridge. It has been ten years since I buried her at the very back of my garden, where she liked to take naps. I could see the place from my bedroom window. I even tied a little japanese bell to the maple branch above her resting place, wanting to make sure the wind would not let me forget. There was no need.                    She still has my heart.

The people who call me to care for their felines are not the kind of people who ask me to ‘check in every once in a while’. They want me to have a relationship with the being who has their heart.

They leave me detailed lists of what’s to be done. The quirks/desires/dislikes, who should get what, when; the meds and how to administer them with utmost care. They describe the games, the naps, the neck scratches, which brush, which treat, which bowl and how full or empty it should be. 

And that is indeed what I give. I read short stories of their lives together. I tell Misty to please eat her treats with the pills hidden inside. I tell Omar that he will be strong as an ox, while injecting his heart medication. I whisper to Kazi about his person, swimming in warm oceans and walking in sands soft as silk.

Almost every day I send them a picture a text, an email, a little movie. This is my life, I say, with the one who accompanies you through yours. All is well here.

And when it is time to leave, I write the shortest of notes; my presence no longer needed. They have stories to tell.


See you out back…

Tip of the day: don’t hesitate to write every word, every detail, and use as many pages as you need to feel comfortable that your sitter has all the information needed. Ask for texts and emails. I would!



The sun is hotter, the day longer, squirrels and birds are gathering nesting materials, daffodils are flowering.

What should we do in the garden this month? A LOT! I don’t want to overwhelm you, and besides, we have two months to really set up our gardens. Cleaning up, helping new growth on established plants and planting are the priorities this month. Let me explain those tasks:

  • Cleaning up                                                                                                                    - Go bed by bed with a five gallon bucket, a hand rake, your favorite hand-weeder, hand clippers, and a kneeling pad. Attend to every square inch. Weed, cut down the dead stems of last year’s perennials, rake dead leaves and other debris into your bucket; march-on.                                                                                                           - Prune your trees, shrubs and berries. All the information you need can be found on-line, in books, or, even better, check out the free classes given by nurseries. My favorite fruit tree pruning classes are with The Home Orchard Society. Fantastic people. Dress warm for their workshop and bring a thermos of something hot!
  • Helping new growth                                                                                                         - Prune your small and large shrubs to new growth. Understandably, you will not know how to manage all of them. If you know the name, google and read (do not read forums; concentrate on advice given by University Extensions or nurseries). Unsure of what you have? Take a picture or cut a small branch and bring it to the info desk at Portland Nursery. If you find Mike Wallace there, say hello for me -he’s a good friend. Rose bushes are often pruned this month but I wait because they easily start their growth without my help and there is so much else to do. I do attend to the climbing roses. Portland Rose Society is an excellent resource!                                                                                     – Once your beds are clean, spread a dusting of steer manure. Mulch/fertilizer will be added after the days are less wet and warmer.
  • Plant bare-root or potted trees, shrubs, roses, vines and fruit trees. When the rains have let up, hopefully by end of month, plant dahlias, asparagus, and all berries. Here’s a little help to show you how to plant a bare-root tree, or a potted tree (thanks to OneGreenWorld). I highly recommend planting figs, asian pears, kiwis, persimmons. Those fruit trees and vines are hardy, and have almost no diseases or bugs. But if you attend a few of the Home Orchard Society workshops you will quickly feel brave enough to grow any tree, and even graft your own.
    - Veggie seeds can be planted indoors. I have already planted a few six packs of chard, kale, spinach, mix lettuce directly in garden beds. I use the bed reserved for tomatoes, because by the time the tomatoes go in, my greens will be done.

    Fig tree and persimmon are pruned, herb bed is cleaned and manured, tomato bed is planted with greens.

Lawns need attention now. Start mowing regularly, use Moss Out (with no added fertilizer) to kill the moss, a week later spread garden lime. By the end of the month spread an organic lawn fertilizer. In April I will show you how to repair bare spots.

See you out back…

Tips of the day: if the ground is too wet to plant, or work on a bed, spread a tarp overlapping the area for a week or two.