This is the last of the monthly publications of my mother’s diaries. I feel sad to come to the end of them.
I make a big deal about her age, even though it is only ten years older than I am now. My younger friends seem impressed at how much an old woman can accomplish!
I have revised my thinking; I believe only one of four journals in missing.
Three of four 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):
Dec 1: I planned on cutting Rhody branches but it was cold. Got rained in to porch where I divided the wild ?? I planted one large clump in PBB [Patio Bulb Bed] and then later (in house) I potted these plants and put a lot of stems in water to root. Planted the 5 amaryllis in pots for house plants.
Dec 4: 11:45-4:45 I really got some work done today. I brought 2 loads of wood up to porch, cut some kindling, planted the 4 Strawberry Shortcake in one of the tall terracotta pots, spread straw over most of the flower beds, especially the Tam area [formerly a bed of juniper tams, now a flower bed by the roadside], also tossed a lot of shredded leaves etc on top of the straw, cut more of Rhody leaves off the branches.
Dec 5: Hard freeze overnight—too cold to work outside. I spent money by ordering from 3 catalogs.
Dec 6: Another cold night and day but I need some firewood. I used the electric chain saw on a few pieces. It worked fairly easy except the pieces would bounce around on the chopping block.
Dec 7: I finished trimming the leaves off the Rhody that we cut down [when we visited her in late November. It had been badly pruned and was all distorted so we took it down low so it would resprout in a better shape]. I piled them up in the old compost heap. I could have added the branches as extra mulch but it was too cold to stay out long enough to do it.
Dec 12: Windstorm 95 Lots of branches flung around. Large tree fell across the road just grazing the window of the cabin. [Peak gust in nearby Olympia of 57 mph]
Dec 13: Lots and lots of branches all over. It was too rainy to do anything outside.
Dec 14: I started to straighten out the mess on the desk when the sun came out so I went out and raked branches from all over, even out on the road. I piled them along the garage to wait until someone comes to help me. Oh Robert, are you listening. [Robert was my spouse at the time. We lived three hours away. After she moved here, we did lots of firewood piling for her.]
Dec 15: 11:00-4:00 I dug all the wood out of the wood box and got it all chopped or sawed into sizes for stove. Much of it was pretty wet. My next job will be to take the rest of the wood from the pile and put it into the box. Then order more wood from some other place.
The power went out just when I was ready to use the chain saw so while I waited, I planted all the rest of the mums into the garden. Also I took the leaves and needles that Robert cleaned off the roof and I had him dump in raspberry row. I moved it to the old compost box on top of the Rhody branches. I hope it will help decompose those branches and leaves. I have to find out what kind of oil the electric chainsaw needs before I burn it up.
Dec 18: I checked the begonias and dahlias in shop—cleaned soil off them etc. Now I’ll have to find out how to store them for the winter.
Dec 20: 12:00-4:00 I got most of wood out of pile and using electric chainsaw to cut them in half. Then the big axe to cut into pieces (the ones I couldn’t cut I left to burn as one piece). Then small axe to cut what I could into kindling. Then I threw the pieces into the wood box.
Dec 21: The wood I got is too wet to keep a decent fire going. I think I may order the McKenna wood—4 cords for $400! On their answering machine they say their wood is two years dry and clean, ready to burn.
Rec’d a package from Skyler and Robert—a nice book, “Gardening from the Heart.”Dec 23: Spent most of the day looking through my stuff in various boxes looking for the order form for the Potters Barn. Of course, I had to stop and read everything.
Dec 25: Spent several hours packing Bruce’s clothes into boxes—approx 75 shirts and 30+ slacks, suits, jackets, PJs, shoes. I’ll call Senior Center to see if they will accept these clothes for the thrift shop. This will be another step towards accepting my life without Bruce as hard as that is. [Her husband had died in June of 1995.]
Dec 27: The power was out all day till about 6:00 PM. It got cold in here. It would help if my firewood was dry! I had to disconnect alarm system as it was growling.
Dec 28: Called Senior Center re someone to come after clothes for their thrift shop. The boxes (2) are too heavy for me to get them into car. 15 boxes altogether. They will call back. (He never did.)
Dec 29: Potelco came by to run a new telephone wire—but decided to wait till Tuesday. I called Sears re the garage door opener. Repairman will come next Tuesday.
Dec 30: Today I ordered from McKenna Wood Yard 4 cords of (supposed to be) dry wood. I’ll have a job stacking it but it should last maybe for a year. That will be good.
I’m still working on my inventory of flower seeds. I don’t think I’ll need to order many.
Dec 31: I managed to get all 15 boxes of Bruce’s clothes into the car. On Tuesday, I’ll call the Senior Center to see if there is someone who can take them for their thrift store.
This is the end of a terrible year. I still miss him so much. Maybe when winter is over it will be better. I am getting along better than I ever thought I would. Being able to drive has helped a lot. Now I need a cat for companionship.
[She did get an adult cat named Tabby and had her till Tabby passed away from old age in about 2008. I am proud of mom for how well she managed after dad died. She told me that she had only lived alone for one two week period of her whole life before then.]
1997 (age 73):
Dec 1: 12:30-4:00 The sun was out but by the time I went out it was dry but gray. I emptied all the tubs, containers, etc. I emptied each one in the wheelbarrow so I was able to check for lost spring bulbs, containers, etc. I was really surprised at the number of good bulbs, Now I have to plant them somewhere in front; they are all low plants. I’ll plant new ones in the containers ASAP. I washed all the pots w/hose and got really wet. I rewrapped pipe with insulated foil covered by plastic.
Dec 2 (Tuesday): 2:30-4:00 On Monday, I went to bed at 12:00. Got up at 1:30 and read til 3:00. At 6 AM I figured out I had forgotten to take my Amitriptyline and Excedrin PM so I took them and went to sleep after daylight and slept soundly until 12:30 so I guess the pills do help. I’ll have to started taking them at 10:00 PM.
Worked in Tam area pruning and raking leaves. [Tam area was former big entry bed of Juniper tams, dug up and replaced with perennials.]
Dec 3: Dental appt—got the $750 crown glued in.
Dec 4: Hard freeze. Started planting bulbs in various containers. I used the soil from last year’s containers plus mushroom compost. I have only about a dozen left to plant.
Dec 5: Too cold to work outside. Hard freeze again so I left the water dripping in the shop, the lamp lit by the water pipe and turned the heater on in the shop [large two room outbuilding where my dad had had his tools and toy trains] although I am afraid of it. The soil in all the containers is frozen hard. I hope my bulbs aren’t frozen but all the containers came through last winter’s cold.
Dec 6: What a mess! I went out to get a can of cranberry sauce and found that a dozen or so cans of pop had frozen in the shop refrigerator and the cans had exploded and sprayed coke etc all over the inside of the refrigerator! I removed all cans from fridge—many frozen so I put them in sunk.
Dec 7: I took everything out of refrig freezer, threw some stuff away and managed to put it all in the chest freezer and house freezer. Moved all cans of pop into big shop room behind door so they’re not next to outer wall. The refrig control is stuck and I don’t know where it’s plugged in so I can’t turn it off.
Dec 8: Sunny and cool I only worked about 1 1/2 hours raking leaves in my lower driveway until I got rained in. The dry leaves from Wilsons [neighbors across the road] sure were a lot easier to rake than my wet ones were today. I emptied all the cans that sprayed all over the shop refrigerator and put them out to recycle. I tried that blower thing to blow leaves but it wouldn’t work.
Dec 9: Read Readers Digest—nuff said.
Dec 10: Letter from Skyler—they plan on coming on the 18th. So I better get some work done outside. I raked the path in front of the house and finished the lower driveway. I moved “Robert’s” boxes to the NW corner of the garage and moved my garden stuff boxes along front half east side—to be sorted “sometime”. All bags of leaves are now by garage back door. There must be at least 25!
Dec 11: Stayed in today to remove all the stuff out of “guest” bedroom. Also removed stuff from my room that belongs in shop or greenhouse. I ended up with boxes and boxes by the front door which I’ll do tomorrow.
Dec 12: Cool—dry Took all those boxes to shop. I took all the begonia bulbs from baskets. Also cleaned up the upright bulbs. I took the trunks and boxes off the table and now have a dozen or so trays of bulbs—I covered them so they won’t freeze. It’s been so cold at night I’ve turned wall heater on although I am afraid of it. I dumped soil from baskets on the compost box.
Dec 13: 12:00-3:00 I had several jobs scheduled for today but I brought up a huge amount of wood to the porch filling all wood boxes and the rack. I’m going to have to start using the wood behind the shop to allow the small pieces (from the branches) to last longer. I’m sure I’ll have to order more wood. I picked up the big rocks out of Tam area and ditch. Then I quit and went inside exhausted. But I made up a grocery list and went to the store to get things for good meals with S&R are here. It was dark when I got home. I don’t like driving in the dark!
Dec 15: Skyler and Robert arrived around 5:00—she to do “spring” housecleaning and he to do all sorts of things. Tabby is staying in the bedroom. We put the upright vacuum in doorway to keep Bertie out. [That would be Bertie Woofter, our black labrador, who would not hurt a cat, as we had cats, but Tabby was scared. Robert used to say later of visiting my mom’s double wide with its dark walls, dark vinyl floors and dark gold carpet, “It’s like living in a big hush puppy shoe.”]
Dec 17: We started shredding the dry leaves and there wasn’t much difference when they came out. However, the huge pile of stuff was just too wet to shred. We picked out branches etc but the leaves, weeds, etc just jammed the machine. I bagged some and I think I’ll toss the rest over the garden to be tilled in next spring.
Dec 18: S&R took me to the new Chinese Wok for dinner. Delicious sweet and sour pork and prawns.
More cleaning and jobs done.
Dec 19: S&R packed up the chipper/shredder, Mantis Tiller, and lots of other stuff in their 2 wheel trailer and left about 11:00. I finally got them on phone at about 8:00 AM. They had broken down between Tenino and Bucoda and ended up having to be towed to Ilwaco. For $450.00! [When our lemon of a used van died on the way home, we found that the Bucoda auto repair place was closing for Christmas and couldn’t help for a week.] I’m glad I gave them an extra $1000 plus Xmas check. So far their 10 year old Plymouth Voyager has cost them about $5000.
I found out there is an on-off switch on the phone which is why I’m not getting any incoming calls. The switch was in the off position.
Dec 22: New dishwasher installed—over $500. I wouldn’t have bothered with it except if sell the house it should have one. The man said I should use the powdered D/W soap, at least in the compartment for the second wash. That is very surprising.
I brought a lot of larger pieces of wood from behind the shop so I wouldn’t be using the smaller pieces up.
Dec 23: Spent afternoon working on houseplants. I even threw out a few violets. I put hanging baskets back up. Moved 7 shelf thing over by drop leaf table so I could move new white plant tower back near Norfolk Pine so it wouldn’t be apt to tip over when I turn lights on in the Floralight.
Dec 24: I trimmed back two large Wandering Jews (I think) so now I have 8 or 10 glasses of stems in water to root and make more plants. The woman and daughter Lisa and Tunisa who are renting the shack across the street brought me a tin of cookies. Lisa and Tunisa and Black and very nice. MaryAnne and Walt brought me some candy, cookies, etc.
Dec 25: The Huskies won the Aloha Bowl. Skyler called. She is frustrated because Robert has spent three days trying to fix their van and bought a carburetor which turned out not to be the problem. She wants him to do to work on jobs he has to do and have a mechanic do the work on the car. I feel for her because I can remember many times we had car trouble. I’m tempted to give them more money to get a good truck but I’d better not—I need to save some for future health care. [Finally Robert agreed to take the van to an auto shop; two shops failed to fix it. At last the Christmas holidays were over and Box K Auto Repair re-opened and had it fixed perfectly in one day; the problem has been a “pinhole in the distributor cap’ causing an electrical spark that was shorting things out (something like that). I hope that we made it all up to mom with ten years of helping her out after she moved here.]
Dec 27: The guy down the street had wood from a tree they cut down and he offered me half of it for $40. They (including Bob and Allen Wilson) brought it over and filled wood box and piled some behind the house. I paid him $20 cash and $20 check (I kept $10 cash). Later at 9:30 he called to say he couldn’t get to a bank so I told him to come over and I gave him $10.00 bill and $10 in quarters so he can go buy some food. He is nice but sort of ratty looking. I didn’t have any way of judging the amount of wood so I don’t know if I got a good deal or not, but I guess I helped them out some.
Dec 29: Made dental appt for next week—the “patches” came off my two front teeth. Went to QFC to get copy of one order so I can return it. Pd electric bill. Went to bank. I called Penney’s Custom Decorating—things made to order. I’m sure I don’t want to spend what they will be but made an appt for the woman to come on Monday. At least I can get some ideas (and measurements) from her.
Dec 30: Went to post office to mail package to Skyler plus two returns. Did paperwork, some filing. Ordered more crossword puzzles. I need to sort some of the “stuff” sitting ar0und (or hide some of it) so the place won’t look so “junky” when the Penneys woman comes next Monday. It was a beautiful day and I wish I had done out to do some yard work.
1998 (age 74):
Dec 1: Store and errand day. Telephone co, Tim’s, Rite Aid and QFC
Dec 2: Slept till 11:00. The sun was out when I got up but it started raining so I stayed in. I took care of the ripe tomatoes (froze 2 pkgs). There is only one tray of tomatoes left.
Dec 3: The sun was out so out I went. I cut back a lot of stuff in the flower beds. Then I carried all the rest of the old wood from behind the shop. It was hard to pile the wood as it’s in such odd pieces. A lot of it is wet so I’ll bring it in 2 or 3 pieces to dry while I continue to burn the wood from the shed.
Dec 4: 11:30-7:00 6 qts of apple slices. That takes care of the last two pails of apples. Tomorrow I’ll sort through the tall bucket of scabby apples. I’m sure some of them have spoiled. I will use them as my “oatmeal apples w/raisins”. I may make an apple cobbler with some. But no more canning.
Dec 5: Another busy day inside although the sun was shining part of the time. I hung the Johnston plaque [reproduction of her surname coat of arms] left of the stove and moved the copper horse head picture in the dining room. I cleaned up the utility sink area and finally got the begonias into individual pots—under the lights in the bathroom. Washed about 30 pairs of gloves, washed my sheets.
- Finish planting container bulbs
- Cut back stuff in UBW [Upper Bed West]
- Move goat’s beard
- Rake up fallen branches
Dec 7: RAINY DAY I puttered in the house—not my usual busy Monday. I actually folded the clothes from three washings. Did some paper work. Wrote a long letter to Skyler. I even straightened out the kitchen junk drawer.
Dec 8: I finally finished planting the Dutch Gardens bulbs. I ran out of containers so I planted some in various flower beds. I shoveled a lot of compost soil onto the “new” box covering the huge pile of apple peelings etc then covered it with a tarp and put boards on the tarp. I ran out of very early spring bulbs for the top layer in some of the containers. I’ll try Gordon’s.
Dec 9: I brought wood in from shed and the vinyl in from the garage so it won’t mildew. I noticed some rotten apples in the basket. I poured them out so I can see how they are. I threw out about 15 or 20 rotten ones and peeled some half bad ones. I also noticed the last 6 or 8 of the 20# of potatoes were beginning to sprout so I ended up with 2 trays of potatoes and 4 trays of apples to dry. The rest of the apples will be for my oatmeal.
- Start seed inventory
- Rake upper driveway and patio area
- Clean up shop and put bulbs in peat moss
Dec 10: Today marks the end of my food preparation—the last 2 trays of apples are almost dry. I took my filled jars of apples and tomatoes out to the shop and also took out the clean jars. I’ll keep them in the shop not the garage. I put all the canning equipment away. Then I got the Pinetree catalog and the Reader’s Digest and Organic Gardening. Nuff said.
Dec 11: Last evening I organized all my seeds—next will be to inventory them before going through the new catalogs.
Dec 12: I started my inventory of veggie seeds and got about half of the flower seeds listed.
Dec 13: For the first time ever I finished the Sunday crossword puzzle, all correct, too.
Dec 14: Not my usual busy Monday but I did finish the listing of flower seeds (10 pages). Now I can go thr0ugh the Pinetree catalog to mark seeds I want but I’ll wait for the new Park Seed catalog before ordering any. Also I picked up about 1/3 of a pail of pretty good apples. Surprised.
Dec 15: Noon-5:00 I had a list of things to do in the house but it was a beautiful sunny day so I went outside and finished cutting back plants in front. I moved the Goat’s Beard plant from UBW [Upper Bed West] to the UDFB [Upper Driveway Flower Bed]. I used the chain saw to cut down the Lavatera and was able to dig out most of the roots. I cleaned up the patio and used the leaves to mulch the various pots. Then I brought in some wood.
Dec 16: I got the Park Seed catalog so I started marking the catalog to show which ones are on my inventory list. I’ll make up the Pinetree order first because they are the cheapest.
Dec 17: I had to go to Tim’s for my other prescriptions. Gordon’s had one ad for crocus so I went to get some for the top layer of several tubs but they had no crocus left so I guess I’ll plant seeds as the top layer. I peeled the last of my tomatoes and took care of the squash I got at QFC.
Dec 18: COLD I started going through my violets, removing dead leaves and some to put in water to root. I repotted several. I separated the strawberry begona and ended up with 8 plants. I turned on the light shining on the water pipes in the shop and left the water dripping.
Dec 19: COLDER More of the same. I got through all of the violets but didn’t put all the potted plants back because I need to vacuum up the leaves etc on the rug in that corner.
Dec 21: MUCH COLDER When I checked the shop I saw the water pipe and drain were frozen (again). I got ahold of Mt Rainier Plumbing and their man (Ed) came over. He thawed the pipes and I told him I don’t really need the water in the shop so he shut it off and opened the faucet. I brought in all my canned food and 2 liter pop (some of the beans had ice crystals). I tossed a lot more old beans and beets out. [She canned like mad but could not keep up on eating the results. Her canned beans were delicious and I ate many jars full over the years.] I worked until 9:30 finding places to put the jars.
Dec 22: It was cold today. I had a mess of stuff to clean up in the kitchen. I tossed more jars of beets and 2 tomatoes that had spoiled (pint jars). I emptied 2 pails into the compost. The hot and cold handles in the shop were stuck again but since the water is shut off I didn’t do anything. Maybe tomorrow I’ll pour some boiling water over them. I’ll soon have to bring more wood in.
Dec 23: BRRRRRR 24 degrees high, 3 degrees low. I spent all day preparing my seed orders to Park Seed and Pinetree Seeds, total of $395.28. This year I concentrated on low annuals to plant in containers. I didn’t order many perennials as this may be my last spring and summer here. [Indeed, by June 1999 she had moved to Long Beach.]
Dec 28: Again I didn’t do my usual busy Monday chores. I just puttered inside, paid some bills and ordered stuff from 2 or 3 catalogs.
Dec 29: Ditto I still haven’t finished going through my houseplants—maybe tomorrow.
Dec 30: Finally did some work. I brought wood into house. Also started cleaning the area around the wood rack. Allen came over and helped for awhile. I brought some more wood to the porch. Then I started on the houseplants—threw a couple away, repotted some and rearranged the plants. Tried vacuuming until the vac conked out. I ran out of space before I ran out of plants.
Coming to the end of these diaries is like saying goodbye to my mom (something I did not actually do because her death, in 2010, was sudden). I hope you have enjoyed them.