So Long, 2017: An Opinion Piece


This is one year I am not going to miss.
My laptop opens to the front page of the New York Times, and every morning I greet the news out of Washington DC with utter dread. It’s hard to find comfort, some days.

Butterflies were a comfort while they were here, despite my worry about the cats being outside.


Marco and Lucy have to be pretty closely supervised when they play outdoors, and they are only out during the day when we are at home. I do my best, but it’s inevitable that some wild animals will fall prey. As I’ve said before, Lucy has always perceived doors as portals she must fly through at 100 miles per hour and there are just some days I use a door that opens directly to the outside, rather than employing the garage as a containment chamber.

On long workdays when the kitties have to spend the whole day indoors, Lucy lets me know at great length and in no uncertain terms that she has been bored sad mad disappointed and deprived the entire time I was gone. She is quite the talker.

Lucy does not do boredom any better than Floyd or I do. On one recent rainy day she chewed a cord off a window blind for no reason whatsoever. And despite the fact that I placed my Christmas cactus on the top shelf in the kitchen, it wasn’t unusual to find a blossom or two that had been leapt at and snatched while I was out trying to earn cat food money. Lucy is a gifted jumper.


Kitties: why we can’t have nice things. They don’t even care, to be honest. Like all kitties, they simply nap a lot and devise plans for making trouble in the future.


Painting garden posts proceeds apace, the one activity that seems like pure pleasure. I was hoping to make one for my daughter, and I thought that a four seasons mandala theme would be right up her alley. It gave me some trouble, though, so I was glad I did a small trial run before tackling one of the large pieces of steel waiting for me in the garage.


The winter tree, upside down, caused me to lose some sleep. Not enough to paint the whole thing over, true; but the snow-coated tree being upside-down clearly will not work.

My solution will be to paint the four seasons theme on a length of 8″ pipe that currently has just its first coat of metallic paint. That way I can place all the trees right-side up. It won’t be a classic mandala, but I think it will work. I like the silvery background for this theme, though.

I’ve also been working on a long piece of 4″ square tubing which at present is taking up the entirety of my desk. Last week we had a bit of cold weather, therefore a cold garage therefore cold paint that won’t work on cold steel. It’s nice to work in the living room, with the fire flickering away; but it’s not completely practical. Since I can’t really afford space heaters in both the greenhouse and the garage, the greenhouse has been chosen for multitasking.

IMG_6357Fortunately this bored border collie doesn’t become destructive on rainy days, just outstandingly mopey. He has never had any fun of any kind ever or even a nice long walk or anything and all his toys are boring boring boring and there is nothing ever to do ever. If border collies are so smart, how come they don’t do more household chores? I mean, Travis can put his toys in his toy box, but at almost nine years of age I would expect him to run the vacuum around now and then, or at least do his own laundry.

I think 4″ square lengths of fir will be much easier to work with than steel. I can actually move it around on my own. One of the pieces above is now bright yellow and the other on its way to being bright red. Lacking the disposition to festoon them with aphorisms like A Garden Is A Joy Forever or aspirational words like Love, Beauty, Kindness, etc., I want to put poetry on them.

Nature in its beneficence is putting forth some excellent poetry despite humans. This year the trees are turning one by one, which is nice because it extends the color season. One morning our huge live oak was lit up by a tree across the street.


I’ve mentioned that I’ve hung pansies from my steel plant tree outside the kitchen. I keep harvesting the blossoms to press them, which isn’t very nice of me. Not very smart, either, since flowers encased in parchment paper and file folders placed under 100 pounds of coffee table books leave me nothing to look at for months.

Better I should just paint and leave some of the pansies where they are. I need the color.

Aside from paint projects, the little greenhouse has been a wonderful, oxygen-dense space. A big pot of lavender throws off the loveliest scent even with no flowers; and it has held a sunflower volunteer that would cheer even the grumpiest unruly gardener.

IMG_6156Plus, we have plenty of basil to get us through the whole winter. A number of our herbs will do just fine outside, but once we hit 40 degrees, all the basil plants quit. So off to the greenhouse with them!

IMG_6347This little handful was destined for the curry bubbling away in the Instant Pot (note red lights).

The succulents in the greenhouse are starting to put out buds, all of which take their sweet time about opening. As usual, reminders to slow down are always needed and occasionally welcomed by yours truly.


There are a few “mothers of thousands” out there who’ve sprung up between the bricks in an impressive show of succulent resourcefulness. (You can see one in the photo of the bored border collie, coming up through the plastic grate and reaching up alongside the metal shelving.)

In short, the greenhouse makes a charming if cramped studio. Fortunately I like working in small spaces. When the great big world is so full of awful news I become afraid of my own laptop, it’s nice to have a little nook where escape is complete and smaller worlds offer consolation.

I feel sure most gardeners would know what I mean.

Good-bye, 2017. Don’t let the door hit you too hard on your way out.



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