We have begun phase one of a beautification project in our backyard since the city’s crews have finished digging and have removed their dirt moving equipment. They pushed and moved dirt around for about two weeks beginning by 8 each morning and quitting by 4 each afternoon. Fortunately, the weather cooperated during that time and even the threat of hurricane winds and rain did not blow or wash their work away.
First they dug and removed cracked concrete drain pipes. Next they dug out a deeper trench. They left a four-foot deep ravine along the back of our property which leads to a creek on our neighbor’s adjoining property. They smoothed out the dirt piles then laid out bundles of straw and burlap mesh which then was covered with grass seed.
The landscape area looked bare when they finished. We decided to plant a row of fast-growing shrubs that would eventually hide the ditch and landscaping fabric along the slope facing our property. The problem was that the ground back there stays fairly wet during rainy seasons. We had to decide what could tolerate damp ground conditions. We decided on tea olive shrubs known as Osmanthus. They are evergreen, have a holly type leaf and have sweet-smelling white flowers that bloom both in the spring and the fall.
I shopped around until I found a reasonable price since we had to cover a 140 foot expanse. We got 25 shrubs to be spaced out 6 feet apart. The nursery delivered them. We had our yard guys dig the holes while my husband planted the shrubs. Four hours later, I had three tired, sweaty fellows but a beautiful hedge of shrubs. They planted them in a curved rather than straight line for better aesthetic appeal. The plan is to later fill in with some camellias and Little Gem Magnolia trees in front of the hedge.
About twelve years ago, our beautiful white persian cat came to live with us in a very extraordinary way. A pack of stray cats hung out in our backyard then. At the time,we had some cat food in a bowl near our back door for our tuxedo cat that occasionally went outside. The food attracted a few interesting critters including an occasional opossum or racoon. It became a problem, however, when stray cats hung around because they wanted to stay permanently. During this feline visitation, a particularly scraggly and motley crew showed up. We tried our best to discourage them, inquiring of ownership among the neighbors to avoid calling the pound. With their usual overload of cats, sadly many are euthanized.
Two of the cats in this pack looked like they had been in a cat fight. One had a partial ear that apparently was injured during a brawl. We heard them outside our window at night hissing and howling at each other. One night we noticed an interesting white addition to the pack. We began to see him show up with regularity. We noticed that he was a persian although his coat was quite matted. We tried to get near him but each time we came close, he would run away. He was very skittish around us. We referred to him as the “ghost kitty” as he would appear and disappear quickly around the house when we suddenly came upon him. He looked like a ghost as he whizzed by us like a white streak in the dark.
My son began to befriend the little cat that was so shy and scared. He gradually got closer to him until one day he was able to pet him. Of course he wanted to keep him and because no one claimed him, he soon was ours. We had to have him completely shaved down to regrow his now beautiful white fur. We had him neutered as he was spraying outside and we wanted to make him into a house pet. The vet made an astonishing discovery. This poor kitty had no front claws and had been fairly defenseless outside. No wonder he was so scared! His skin was full of scratches under all the matted fur. There was a total transformation between the shy, matted creature before and the gentle, loving beauty that he has become. My daughter suggested the name Pushkin because of his pushed nose and rather grumpy face.
Sometimes we are visited by the neighbor’s cats. We have found the yellow tabby curled up on a sunny spring day taking a “cat nap” in a flower-pot beneath our deck. There is a black, brown and white calico that wanders through the yard occasionally and teases our Cavalier while she sits at the picture window in our kitchen longing to tear after him. Our Cav loves to go out on our deck where she can get the best vantage point to scan our property and a corner of our neighbor’s yard. Their yard is heavily covered with foliage from which the cats can peer out and easily find a camouflaged spot to hide from our furocious sounding dog. Our Delilah has caught these intruders by surprise when we have taken her on walks. She has gotten close to them but never quite close enough for her liking. She lives frustrated because she can do no more than bark at them to temporarily frighten them away.
This week we have had a different type of “cat” in our backyard. I am talking about a power-operated form of equipment that is used to move dirt around.
We have lived with a ditch in our backyard where water drains from surrounding properties into a drain field and eventually into a creek beside us. The drainage ditch has gotten bigger through the years and the water run-off has begun to create some gulleys on our property. A complaint was filed before we bought our property five years ago and we hoped one day the problem would be addressed but had almost given up thinking they would come to fix the problem. We tried to work around the problem and made a garden plot beside it in the spring. A team of workers from the city came to inspect our property about a week ago. They have to excavate through our garden to work on the project. I am really not upset. I believe it will be worth it in the long run. In the mean time, I am having to look out in my yard at some monster “cats.”
I once loved to sing. I sang in school choirs as I was growing up. I credit my high school chorus teacher for instilling a passion in me for singing. He made choir performances fun and very entertaining. He selected songs for us to sing from various show tunes such as Oliver, My Fair Lady and South Pacific. He stretched our voices and tested our ranges. He encouraged me to audition for a soprano part in a small ensemble. My audition music was O What A Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma. I was pleased to learn that I had been selected to be a part of the group and we went on to perform in musical programs for the school and at various community events.
Through the years, I became a part of music groups in churches. I helped lead worship on some praise teams, sang in church choirs and even did some solo performances. Then there was a long time when I pulled back. Either I felt like I was getting older and did not want to be on stage anymore, the music had become too contemporary and unfamiliar to me or I became involved in other areas of service. I still enjoyed accompanying my daughter when she played the guitar for family get-togethers or in more private settings when we worshipped together at our home.
Since my daddy was a classical cellist, music has always been a big part of my life and stirs my soul. It has never left me, it just has become more subdued and pushed deeper inside of me.
Recently, in church I was asked if I would like to join the praise team again. At first I was hesitant. The members of the group are talented musicians. At first, I felt inadequate since I had not been involved musically in a while. I decided to step out in faith to offer up my voice once again in worship.
It has been a season of growth for me. I am learning new songs and harmonies. The experience has been very rewarding. I have learned that one is never too old to learn something new if we will just be humble, make ourselves available and have a teachable spirit.
My first attempt at growing sunflowers from seed proved to be quite successful this summer.
The Knock Out Roses are not affected by the heat and drought.
The crape myrtles are in their glory now. This is a stunning miniature variety called Cherry Dazzle.
Since my last post, we have had a long drought in South Carolina. If there is rain in the area, it seems to skirt us and we miss it. I have been watering my plants diligently but am now beginning to lose some. I have focused on my newest plantings but older ones have started to get neglected. My once beautiful petunias on the back porch dried up weeks ago. My planters on the front porch have only survived since it is a shady spot most of the day. A rosemary plant that is generally pretty hardy near my back patio has bit the dust. My new camellia has been struggling as it is just beyond reach from my garden hose and the water it gets comes only when I concentrate on it with the fullest power of the spray head attachment. My new purple-leafed crape myrtles are also beyond reach of the hose so I have had to resort to carrying buckets to water them.
I had great plans for my vegetable garden. It started out beautifully. The tomato and cucumber plants took off due to the early rains of summer. Then the weeds started to grow. I tried putting loads of mulch around to try to keep the weeds down. The hotter it got, the more they grew and the less I wanted to go out in the heat to battle with them. Before long I gave out and the weeds took over. I have decided that next year I will put black weed block in the garden as mulching alone isn’t enough. On the plus side, my sunflowers look great if you can overlook the weeds.
I am glad I decided to go with the hardiest plants in my ornamental garden as weather conditions can be pretty severe here in the heart of the summer. We have had several weeks now when the temperatures have risen to the upper 90’s or near the 100 degree mark on the thermometer.
As I am writing this, I hear thunder. If we get rain, I am tempted to go outside and dance in it as it has been such a long period of sweltering heat. It is amazing how long periods of severe weather zap energy and lead to an overall depression of mood. The thought of rain suddenly revives me and lifts my spirit.
This is also true spiritually. We need times of refreshing and renewal in the long haul on our spiritual journey if we are to stay strong and endure the fight or race we call life. We also need to stay on top of keeping bad things out of the garden of our mind and heart if we want to produce abundant and healthy fruit.
I was returning a plant to a local Home Depot store today. It was a crape myrtle with purple leaves. I thought there was only one variety but apparently there are several. I had already planted one in my yard . It was supposed to have pink flowers. I missed reading the label that said this crape had red flowers. Being the OCD gardener that I am, I had to return it to get another one to match the one already planted.
I ran to get a buggy to haul the crape to the return aisle at the store. I parked it near my car and went around the back to unlock the back door. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the buggy beginning to roll down a slight incline. It was headed straight for a blue SUV in a space parallel to mine. I watched as it banged the front left fender of the other car. Upon closer inspection, I found an orange mark on the other car from paint off of the buggy. I felt horrible! I decided to go into the store to report what had happened. I spoke to the man at the checkout counter. I explained what happened and was prepared to leave my name on a piece of paper should someone file a complaint. The man stood with his mouth open in amazement. He said that it is very rare for anyone to report an incident like that anymore. He said most people wouldn’t think twice about walking away from damaging another vehicle these days.
How sad it seems to realize that the days of doing the right thing out of “common” courtesy for our fellow man are becoming quite uncommon.
I still believe in complimenting others for jobs well done. I believe in paying forward acts of kindness, looking for ways to make people feel appreciated. I believe in helping older people, those less fortunate or children. I believe in giving away without expecting anything in return. I believe in saying “please” and “thank you.” I believe in writing thank you notes, sending get well cards or notes of encouragement and remembrance. I believe in responding to invitation RSVPs, returning phone calls or emails. I believe in doing hard work and not looking for shortcuts when I am being paid for a job. I believe in giving others good tips for serving me. I believe in paying and not cheating on my income taxes as well as paying the bills I owe. I believe that I should return money that is not owed to me or does not belong to me. I often pick up trash that is strewn along the street in my neighborhood. I donate clothing to Goodwill and small items to the AmVets. I give to my church. I take welcome treats to new neighbors.
These are just a few of the common courtesies that I have been taught. We should serve others as in the golden rule, not expecting things back from others but treating others as we would like to be treated. By definition courtesy is displaying excellence in social conduct. It is polite, respectful or considerate behavior and acts of expression. It is living life unselfishly and looking for ways to be a blessing to others. It is not looking for ways to take advantage of others.