Three of five of my mother’s garden diaries from the 90s appeared in among some papers of Allan’s in mid February, 2016. I am so deeply thrilled to have them. The others got somehow lost when she moved from her home to Golden Sands Assisted Living in 2009. She possibly did not think them worth saving. I can guarantee she would like that they are being shared here. When these diaries began, she and my dad, Bruce, lived in their retirement home, a manufactured double wide on a 10,500 lot in Nisqually Pines near Yelm, Washington. Because he was 8 years older, she was able to retire at age 55 in 1979. (Bruce died in June, 1995.) A large clearing in the back of the lot held her vegetable garden, strawberry rows, and apple trees. My comments are in brackets.
1995 (age 71):
Nov 1: Probate [from Dad’s death in June] completed per attorney. Spent this afternoon digging dahlias tubers from Tam area [former juniper tam bed, now flowers, by the roadside]. Received Wayside and Spring Hill orders mostly perennials and some bulbs on Wayside order. The shop [large two room outbuilding] was plenty warm this AM so I turned the heat off for the day.
Nov 2: 12:30-5:00 40 degrees All afternoon planting new Wayside perennial plants in corn patch and mulched whole area with straw. Emptied boiler for firewood [a big copper boiler next to the woodstove that she used as a planter outside in summer]. Planted pansy plants in 3 “window boxes” [window boxes not attached to the window as that is hard to do on an old double wide manufactured home]. I didn’t get back to the job of digging dahlias. I may need to buy more straw to mulch in front.
Nov 3: Finished digging dahlias. Cut down lily stalks in UDFB [Upper Driveway Flower Bed] and PBB [Patio Back Bed??] Drove around Yelm paying bills, bank, Payless, Stock Market, and Gordon’s. Bought 16 more pansies and more perennials.
Nov 4: Planted Gordon’s perennials in garden. Cut back lots of plants in WPFB [West Patio Flower Bed?] leaving a big pile to pick up for shredding if Robert can turn the machine on. Planted more pansies in my boxes.
Nov 5 (Sunday): Day off
Nov 6: 10:30 AM-3:00 Finished planting pansies—the last 8 in the rockery in front. Cleaned up PRFB-So. Started raking leaves in lower driveway but the last 1/2 it was raining. The wood is coming tomorrow so then I’ll be busy.
Nov 7: Received firewood in pouring rain ($75.00). They insisted it was dry. Del Lord offered a tarp—much appreciated as the tarp I planned to use was very wet.
Nov 8: I started piling new wood. Some pieces big enough for chopping blocks. I guess I’ll have to order split wood in future. If Robert doesn’t have time I’ll have to hire someone to split it although Del offered to help me. NICE MAN. [Robert and I visited mom for 3 or 4 days each fall to do chores for her.]
Started hemming the new slacks I have had for months. Then the shopper came [newspaper circular with ads]. Pansies and mums for 39 cents! I dashed in and bought 4 full trays (64 plants). I may go back for more plus some mums.
Nov 9: 1:00-4:00 I lit off the burning barrel and the guy next door parked his truck about a foot away. Del Lord suggested he move it. I found huge pieces of wood in my new wood. Del said he was curious so he brought over his wedge and proceeded to chop the big pieces for about an hour. Mary came over and helped pick up. It’s nice to have neighbors like that.
Nov 10: I bought “berry” wire at Yelm Hardware and 3 more metal posts for the new raspberry row. I hope Robert’s back gets better—they won’t be up there till the day before Thanksgiving. [That must be the autumn when Robert threw his back out planting bulbs and was down for several days.] I stopped at Gordon’s=32 pansies and 18 mums.
Nov 11: I emptied the 6 wooden pots and planted bulbs and pansies on top. At 4:30 I went into shop and tried pairing off bulbs to plant together but it was too complicated to match up colors, depth of planting and when bloom. I cleaned the dahlias so they are ready for peat moss and then to bed for the winter. I washed several of the terracotta pots. I’ll put pansies in them.
Someday I should count how many pansies I bought. I planted the 4 Philodendrons in the 2 tall pots.
Nov 13: 1:00-5:15 Finally started planting bulbs. I filled all the remaining terracotta pots with various bulbs in layers with pansies on top. Received Van Dyck order. [This was a bulb company that may no longer be around.] Spent several hours checking order in.
Nov 14: Store
Nov 15: Got a perm today at 3:30 so it was dark and rainy. I made it home ok but don’t like driving at night on these dark dark roads. [She had only begun to drive after my dad died in June of this year. She had gotten her license at about age 62 but had never practiced and joked that she only got the license because the instructor took pity on her after she flunked the driving test three times.]
Nov 16: Planted tulips in patio bulb bed. [At last! The mystery of what is “PBB” is solved!] That job took me all afternoon. Mary Lord sent Del over to check on me because “she didn’t see any smoke from my chimney for 2 days.“
Nov 17: 1:30-6:00 Planted more tulips in PRFB. [Patio Right Flower Bed?] There were 25 and 50 per bag. Planted pansies along bulkhead. Then spent 4:30-6:00 in shop rearranging bags and bags of bulbs.
Nov 18: 1:30-3:30 Raked leaves from ditch in front including leaves on the road 1/2 way over. Filled 3 Steel Sacks [39 gallon trash bags]. The bags are too heavy to lift into wheelbarrow so I’ll have to drag them by the “handles”. I hope they don’t break.
Mrs. Wilson came over and chatted. She invited me for Tday dinner but I declined.
Nov 19: I called Skyler to find out the reason for their trip. I thought they were coming for the chain saw and string trimmer and I suggested they wait until January. Robert and S said they are coming to help me plant my bulbs. I hate to have them make the trip just for bulbs.
Nov 20: 1:30-4:30 Spent some time trying to organize my garden books. Then went outside and cut back plants in Tam and CTFB and picked up leaves and still have more in that area to pick plus all other areas. So far I’ve got about 10 bags to shred.
Nov 21: Raked leaves from Tam area, east ditch, and upper driveway.
Nov 22: Raked leaves. If I had the nerve and the energy, I would ask Wilsons for the leaves in front of their lot.
Nov 23: Raked leaves. I got some of the lower driveway raked.
Nov 24: 11:00 to 2:30 GOT RAINED IN Finished raking leaves except upper driveway and I’ll get them when I plant bulbs there. I have at least 18 bags to shred plus the straw all to be used as mulch.
R&S arrived about 5 PM.
Nov 25: Robert and I shredded all the bags of leaves etc. Skyler planted bulbs all over the tam area—about 6 hours. There were several hard rains but she didn’t stop. Robert cut down the brown stool and repaired the old one. She made a rock pathway in tam area. It looks kind of nice.
Nov 26: Skyler planted more bulbs until they were all planted except for the amaryllis and dwarf lilies. She told me I should plant some bulbs I thought had to be planted in spring. Robert repaired the mailbox, cleaned gutters, and swept the roof.
Nov 27: NOW the garage door opener won’t work with the remote. Also the dryer won’t start. Oh me it’s always something! GE service will come Wed.
Nov 29: GE repairman worked on dryer and cleaned out washer filter (Yes, Robert, there is a filter). Now there is a roof leak at back door (old) and front door (new), Also the GE man said I should put something on the deck outside as he said he almost fell through. So I put the board that I use then I do potting in the utility room. So far in the past week the garage remote won’t open the door, the dryer quit, the washer is plugged, the porch cover leaks, the deck is rotting, what’s next?
Nov 30: 12:00-5:00 RAIN Spent afternoon inside on houseplants. Watering, snipping, potting, etc. I kept wanting to go out to snip the Rhody that we cut out but each time I looked it was pouring again.
1997 (age 73):
Nov 2: I switched phones from shop. Skyler called Security Sat night because I didn’t answer several times she called. It turned out to be that I couldn’t get incoming calls, although I could call out. Evidently when I used the two 25′ lengths with the connector gizmo from Jayhawks it did something that prevented incoming calls.
Nov 3: Sent $5000 to Skyler to buy another truck [Thanks, mom! Robert and I were badly struggling financially in our seasonal gardening business and had had to buy a vehicle on payments. She said this was my inheritance from my dad’s estate.] I called the telephone co. She agreed that connecting the two 25′ cords did something to incoming calls but the shop phone (now in house) works ok. I went to dr—weigh 134#—last glucose test ok—got another today. I got my new glasses (plastic lenses). They are so lightweight. I must remember to use cloth to dry them NOT kleenex.
Nov 4: Dr E said yesterday’s test ok. Don’t take Tolazimide and see him in three months. I worked about 3 hours planting my seedlings. I can see the end. The Park Seed order arrived so I checked it in. Most of them will go in the patio bed because that’s the area I want in bloom all spring through fall.
Nov 5: 11:00-5:00 I finished planting all of my seedlings. Tomorrow I probably can get the Park order planted. Then there are a lot of bulbs to be planted into pots and containers. Also a lot of pruning and cleaning of the yard and garden. And wood to be cut etc etc. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy all winter. Skyler got my check and will pay off the car tomorrow. Nov 6: 11:30-4:00 Another good work day. I planted the Park Seed plants today! Then I transplanted my snapdragon plants and the dianthus plants that were in various containers. I raked up the driveway. My next job will be to go through the flower beds and prune the plants and weed and leave the beds in good shape for the winter. That will be a one or two day job.
Nov 7: I did paperwork so got a late start outside. So I only worked a couple of hours. I planted a few tulips in the patio and UDFB [Upper Driveway Flower Bed]. I pulled scads of sweet woodruff and cut back several perennials and weeded so at least the UDFB is put to bed for the winter. Later I’ll add some mulch. Also stepped on Hardy Fuchsia shrub. Damn.
Nov 8: It was such a beautiful warm sunny day so I went out and worked in the upper part of the Tam area, cutting back, weeding etc. I got about a third of the Tam flower bed done.
Nov 10: Happy Birthday Marine Corps. I worked again in the Tam area, the same work I’ve done the last two days. On the evening news they said it will be below freezing tonight.
Nov 11: Store day—just Payless and QFC. Then I went out to close the water faucets. First I had to wash scads of pots and trays piled up in sink. By then the ground around the sink was very wet and mucky. I got wet and dirty closing the faucet by the greenhouse. But I took a hot shower and was ok. There didn’t seem to be any damage from the frost that I could see.
Nov 12: 12:30-4:00 It seemed like 8 hours. I spent all that time in the Tam area weeding, pruning, and digging up all the rocks Skyler made a path with. I also found several more dahlia bulbs. Some of the mums and asters are still blooming so I let them alone. Tomorrow I want to rake up the leaves in front of Wilson’s while they are still dry. The pile to be shredded is huge.
Nov 13: 12:00-3:00 Today I used the thing I bought some time ago that allows me to rake leaves directly into a bag. It worked good. I filled 10 bags full of leaves from in front of Wilsons. It seemed like 6 or 8 hours. I quit when I was too tired to finish. However there will be more leaves to fall so I can finish another day. I even wore a blister on my hand!
Nov 14: 11:00-1:00 2 hours at the dentist for crown. I have to go back in 2 weeks.
I spent the afternoon puttering with plants in the Floralight. I repotted some violets. and cut off bad leaves, added systemic insecticide to soil etc. I tossed a few dead plants. I ran out of potting soil and was too lazy to go get more from garage.
Nov 17: I spent this afternoon in the bedroom filing!—for the first time in 3 months or so. I threw out outdated records from the files. As usual, I didn’t finish so I piled everything in a box to finish later. [Mom cut out a lot of gardening articles to save.]
Nov 18: I only worked about an hour today. I brought up a lot of firewood from the shed to the porch. It’s hard to pile the old sizes from the trees across the street as its a jumble of odd pieces—not the nice pile most people have but it will do.
Nov 21: Either I didn’t do anything these past 3 days or I just didn’t write it down. ?
Nov 24: Watered some houseplants and puttered around the house and got recyclables ready for pick up.
Nov 25: Store day. I called the power company about the huge increase in Aug and Sept power consumption. They figured use of 10 shoplights (which I had on at the time) costs about $1.17 per day for all 10 lights which adds up to about $70.00 for the 2 month billing period.
Nov 28: P.O., Tim’s, Payless, and Jayhawks. Today (Friday) seemed like Monday all day. Don called and came out to bring me about 8 Grolights and a plant heating pad and all sorts of garden equipment. He said he’s not going to plant seeds, so he gave me a whole lot of good stuff. I bought a vest at Jayhawks and more of those small good gloves.
Nov 29: I went out when sun was out to bring wood in. I managed to get a lot in but it started to rain. I was reading the Ilwaco newspaper last night and there was an article about Skyler and a picture of her. The story about her was about her putting in a garden at the boat house. [I had gotten mom a subscription to our local paper, the Chinook Observer, in an attempt to lure to to move down her so we could help her out more. The garden in the article was the Ilwaco boatyard garden.]
1998 (age 74):
Nov 2: 11:00-3:00 WARM IN SUN, COOL IN SHADE I was in my “go to the store” clothes when the sun came out so I quickly changed and went out. I finished planted 703 bulbs in the various flower beds. I keep finding dahlia bulbs in all areas. Then I started replanting the plants that were in various containers. I should have 925 bulbs set aside to be planted in containers but I have to get them emptied first. Del Lord had several trees limbed. It sure opened up his back yard.
Nov 3: Well, today was store day. Pd telephone bill, Times, EC Bank and QFC. I bought 6 bottles of Sprite and had 6 25c Sprite coupons. When “James” started deducting various coupons he charged me 99 cents each for the Sprite instead of crediting 25c each. Too late to go back today.
Nov 4: 10:30-5:30 I picked up 2 more pails of apples and peeled and sliced them until 4:30 for only 10 pints. I hope they seal OK. (They all sealed). Del Lord seems to be cutting more trees down. Mac’s Tree Service was there today.
Nov 5: 12:00-3:00 More apples. It was sunny so I planted more plants from the various containers. I got rained in once so I worked in the shop cutting back the dahlias. Then I went out and planted more until it really got rained in so I quit for the day.
Nov 6: 1:30-4:30 I didn’t get up till 10:00. Then I had to go to QFC to get a refund on error made last Tuesday. When I got home I decided to go out to work. I finished planting various plants that had been in containers. I finished all but the dianthus in large pot (I don’t know where to put them). Some of the plants I replanted may be annuals but unsure so I planted them all. I still have the Park Seeds plants to set out.
Nov 7: Noon-6:00 Peeled apples all afternoon, and got 10 more pints canned slices.
- Clean the rest of the pots and containers
- Plant Park Seed perennials
- Start planting container bulbs
- Cut back all plants that have frozen
Nov 9: 10:30-4:00 Cool-no rain (2 more pails of apples)
I worked planting the Park Seed perennials. A crew was digging ditch across the road and I thought they might do it on my side. (I thought they were working on water lines.) So I dug up some asters to reveal the pipe. Then I asked and found out they were working on the tv cable. (They cut it again.) I used my rock rake in front of Tam area. Then at 4:00 I got the recycle stuff together. Then I peeled apples until 8:30 for apple sauce. Then I had dinner and quit for the day.
Nov 10: Beautiful warm day and I spent the entire day in the kitchen canning the applesauce I cooked last night, and peeling and cooking more which I’ll can tomorrow after I buy some more lids. I also dried 5 large onions, potatoes, and 2 cabbages. Cabbage doesn’t dry well. It ends up little tiny shreds. Too much waste. HAPPY MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY.
Nov 11: In all day again doing apples after going to the store for more lids. I canned the sauce I cooked yesterday. Picked 2 buckets of apples. I peeled some more to be dehydrated. Picked up more apples—there seems to be no end to them.
Nov 12: 3 pails of apples today. Two more trays of slices. Then I put 7 quart jars in kettle to sterilize them. I thought I had peeled enough by 6:00 but only filled 5 jars, wasting 2 lids. A storm is brewing so I hope the rest of the apples fall tonight. Tomorrow I hope to start washing the dozens of baskets and containers in the shop.
Nov 13: Noon-6:30 All that time spent peeling enough apples to fill 6 trays and an apple crisp. It was raining most of the day so I didn’t pick up the apples under the tree. Overnight the wind must have caused scads of apples to fall because the ground is covered. I think most of the good apples have fallen.
Nov 14: 7 pails of apples today! I picked up all those before it started raining. I got the houseplants watered. The apples in the 6 trays were almost dry. I pared more and was then able to empty the trays and fill them up again.
Nov 15: At about 4 o’clock when I brought in some wood I was stung by a bee. It hurt as bad as any migraine I’ve ever had. It continued hurting terribly. I considered calling 911 or St Peters but felt silly calling about a bee sting. I used a package of frozen veggies as an ice pack. Then when I was going to have some toast at about 11 there was a bee on the side of the table!
- clean out the containers
- turn on shop hot water tank
- while water in on clean out the BBQ
- start planting container bulbs
- rake and bag the fallen leaves
- set strawberry flats in garden and cover with leaves and Reemay
Nov 16: 12:00-4:45 I got up at 8 AM! I turned on the shop hot water heater when I went out to get the newspaper. At noon when I went out to work I worked in Tam area [formerly Juniper tams, now flower bed, by the road] while waiting for the mail because I didn’t want to leave the Amex check in the mailbox. Then I started washing the various containers and baskets. I was glad to have the warm water because the cold water made my bee stung hand hurt as bad as yesterday. More pots and BBQ to wash tomorrow.
Nov 17: (Slept till 11:00.) I cleaned the BBQ grates as best I could. The top two weren’t bad but the bottom one is very rusted. Then I finished washing all the pots and containers. Then I turned off the hot water heater. Using the stepladder I was able to get all the quart jars down. Later I ran the dishwasher to wash them all. I picked another 4+ pails apples again. In the evening after JAG, I started trying to organize the bulbs to be planted in containers. a Busy Day !
[This entry contains the first hint that in the evening, she had various television shows she liked to watch, usually police or law stories. She also enjoyed reading novels; her favourites were Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, Clive Cussler, John Grisham, Danielle Steele sorts of books.]
Nov 18: I went out intending to start planting bulbs into the various containers but ended up raking the leaves from behind the house on top of the compost pile about at least a foot of leaves deep. There will still be pails and pails of apple peels to pile on when all the apples are gone. I will toss soil on top and let the pile alone for the winter. 2 PAILS APPLES
Nov 19: 11:15-4:30 RAINY I peeled apples until 3:30 and canned 7 quarts. Then I peeled more to make 4 trays to dry today.
Nov 20: Again peeled apples but I miscalculated and only had enough to fill 6 quarts. Also peeled enough for 6 more trays to dry.
Nov 21: I had enough tomatoes ripe but as undecided how to fix them (no space in freezer) so I canned them (in mayo jars) 5 pints. I took all the canned apples to the shop. I brought pint jars from the garage. I brought enough wood in for tomorrow and picked up another two pails of apples. Luckily the rain stopped long enough to do these chores.
Nov 23: Busy day. I was going to bring wood from behind the shop but wanted to burn the branches and stuff in the wheelbarrow so I could use the barrow for wood. I had a heck of a time burning it because stuff in the barrow wasn’t dry. By then it was raining hard while I kept stirring up the fire. I brought some wood in from shed. By then I was drenched. I also brought in the wide mouth pints. Recycle day. Also washed clothes.
Nov 24: Windy. Errand day. Cashed CD in at FCB which should give me enough ready cash for down payment on whatever place we see for me to live in. [She moved to Long Beach the following June to a double wide manufactured similar in age and style to the one she lived in at Nisqually Pines. “Oh, this is NICE”, she said when the realtor showed it to her after she had rejected several cute vintage cottages. At the time, since she had said we should pick out something that I liked and would enjoy inheriting someday, I was sorely disappointed, so it is ironic that in 2010, the year she died, after a lifetime of living in cute vintage houses, I ended up moving into a double wide of similar age in Ilwaco.]
Watered plants with indoor hose. The wand popped off once and sprayed water all over my lazyboy but no harm done. Spent $96.00 at QFC.
Nov 25: Rain all day. After breakfast I started to arrange bulbs for containers. Then at 2:00 I started peeling apples. At 8:30 I took the 7 quarts out of the canner. That’s almost an hour per qt. I’ve still got 4 pails of apples on the back porch and many more on the ground. Tomorrow I must take care of tomatoes.
Nov 26: I canned 4 pts of tomatoes and peeled 6 trays of potatoes to dehydrate. I picked 2 more pails of apples. Then I brought all the pails in, dumped them in the sink, and sorted them. I have 4 pails and a 5 gallon pail of little scabby ones which will be used last if at all.
Nov 27: Well I intended to start planting my container bulbs but I decided to peel enough spuds for 6 trays. By then it was raining. So I started peeling apples—then the sun came out but by then I had made the syrup etc. So from noon to 7:00 PM I canned another 7 qts. I used 2 pails of apples so maybe I can see the end of the apples. I’ve been working on apples since Sept 14th.
Nov 30: This wasn’t my usual productive Monday. I accomplished some things. I peeled enough spuds for 5 trays. That almost finished the 20# I bought last week. Then I sliced 5 large onions to make the last tray. I had to bring in wood. Since I’ve seen 5 or 6 bees in the wood, I’m not bringing as much into the house. I fill the cart and bring in what I need at a time.