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. I plan to incorporate her entries into my 2016 journal, as her days from 20 years ago correspond with mine, and then to gather all the entries together in some way. I’m catching up on all of January since the idea became possible when the diaries were found in mid February 2016.
My mother and grandmother impressed me with how hard they worked on their gardens as they got older, and as I approach that age with startling rapidity (and with the hope of getting there), I’m even more impressed. My mother’s main focus was her vegetable garden, although she did grow flowers. My grandmother’s was mostly ornamental with a few tomatoes and green onions thrown into the mix.
My mother and father had retired in 1977 to a large lot near Yelm, Washington. They had been weekend gardening there since about 1970, living in a small trailer. After moving, they had a two bedroom manufactured home installed.
Bruce died in 1995; Mom moved to the beach to be near us in 1999 and stopped keeping a journal. I find it touching to read her diaries of the years after he died. (I wish I had the 1996 one.) She was isolated, without friends except for one neighbour across the street, and had only lived alone for a couple of weeks in her entire life before he died.
Ginger’s Garden Diary, January
illustrations by Carol Inouye
1995, age 70
Jan 3 : Brought wood in. We’ve used all of the 2nd delivery of firewood.
Jan 5: Immersed myself in seed catalogs to order seeds—veggies and flowers.
Jan 6-7 DITTO
Jan 9: Seed catalogs again
Jan 10: Finally chipped all stuff that’s been in the truck for at least two months. (Bruce is taking truck to have new gas tank sensor installed—then we’ll sell truck.) We put the chipped stuff in old compost box. We didn’t use screen in chipper so it’s pretty coarse. I’ll put mushroom compost over it so it will rot by fall.
Jan 12: More of same. Spent a fairly nice day inside adding up Parks order.
Jan 13: DITTO Mailed Parks and Territorial and Burpees orders.
Jan 14: Finished Dutch Gardens order.
Jan 23: I didn’t feel like doing it but went out anyway. Finished planting tulips. This leaves many many alliums and a few odds and ends of small bulbs.
Jan 24: Planted bulbs mostly alliums. I think I can see the end of them—probably one more day of planting. Then I will start cleaning up flower beds and yard which is a mess of leaves, cones, branches, etc. etc.
Jan 27: Beautiful sunny day. 50+. Finished planting fall bulbs. The anemones, ranunculus, and ixiolirion will be planted in spring. Tied up roses, morning glories, and spirea along back porch. Started cleaning up juniper tam area, scratching up soil where I’ve been walking over past few weeks. I left maple leaves as mulch for now. [Note: a couple of years later she turned the “juniper tam” bed into a flower bed. I seem to recall that Robert and I helped pull out the shrubs on a trip to visit there.]
Jan 28: rain
Jan 30: Sun/Showers Only worked outside about an hour. Raked upper driveway. Dumped the leaves etc in garden until all leaves are picked up. Then I (we)’ll shred them.
1997 (age 72)
Jan 12: Don Rolstad has been coming out to work on Bruce’s train collection 4, 5, or 6 days a week. [Both my dad and my mom’s brother collected valuable toy trains; a year after my dad died, my mother decided to sell his collection, in preparation for looking for a new home in Long Beach.] Several times he has brought along a friend to help him. He has also kept my firewood rack full.
Jan 18: I brought up enough wood to fill the rack on the porch. [It was a LARGE rack, as I remember filling it after mom moved to Long Beach.] It took seven wheelbarrow loads. I mail ordered for veggie seeds to Pinetree, prepared from their 1996-97 catalog. At the same time as the order was picked up by the mailman, the 1997-98 catalog was delivered. There are a lot of changes in price, etc, and some of the items are not even in the new catalog.
Jan 19: Don and his son-in-law took all the remaining train stuff. He said he hopes to get $12,000 for me. That’s more than I thought the whole collection was worth. He’ll take a lot of Bruce’s trains to the train meet in Seattle next Sunday.
Jan 20: I finished the flower seed inventory—21 pages. Then I went through the Pinetree new catalog and prepared that order. I suggested to Pinetree that they return veggie seed order so I can rewrite it from their new catalog.
Jan 21: Prepared a “Simply Tomatoes” order. Their prices are 50% higher than Pinetree but I ordered some varieties that PT didn’t list. I also prepared order from Raintree Nursery.
Jan 22: Spent most of the day preparing Park Seed order.
Jan 23: Most of day on paper work. A revolting development—I figured I’ll owe $542 in income tax because I lose over $4200 of exemptions and deductions that we got when Bruce was alive.
Jan 24: The pipe under shop [large outbuilding] sink is leaking badly. I called Bill—he’ll come tomorrow to check.
Jan 25: Bill turned off shop water and hot water tank. He’ll come next Sat to fix it and do other jobs.
Jan 27: Watered house plants.
Jan 28: Don brought more than $3000 in cash and many checks for trains. Now the telephone isn’t working—it has a broken wire. I brought the shop phone into the house. Bought two new cords for the house phone so it will reach my bed.
Jan 29: Worked about two hours cleaning up the wood and branches in front and was completely exhausted. There is now a huge pile to be shredded plus more on patio. Maybe Bill will start the chipper for me on Saturday so I can do it while he does other jobs.
Jan 30: Doctor appointment re arm. He discharged me as his patient. [She had fallen while pulling out old tomato plants in the previous autumn. Robert was in the middle of putting a roof on a client’s house at the time so we were unable to go help her for two weeks. I think this is one of the main incidents that had inspired her to begin to prepare to move to the beach, near us.]
January 31: Mac’s Tree Service shortened a lot of branches in both fir trees and removed some big broken branches. He had to climb the patio tree to reach them ($30 extra). Also cut down the mountain ash tree. He cut big chunks of wood in half for me. I sure have a lot of branches etc to be chipped.
1998 (age 73)
Jan 1: I spent most of the day watching football. Washington State lost to Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Jan 2: I finished listing my flower seeds so I will know what not to order when I get the Pinetree catalog. I wait for it to order from first because the prices are the best, then I check through the Park Seed catalog. However, I won’t need to order many. I want to plant a lot of annuals in the plastic terra cotta bowls to have “color spots”.
Jan 5: JC Penny Custom Decorating catalog came out. I ordered $1800 worth of drapes for bedroom, drapes for Bruce’s room, and new sheers for the four front room windows. I had to move all plants out of SE corner.
Jan 6: Worked on moving plants back. While I could get closer to the Floralight, I moved most of the small violets to the back end of the shelves. [The three tiered Floralight plant stand now resides in a hallway at Golden Sands Assisted Living; the staff let my mom bring it with her when she moved in there in 2009.]
Jan 8: Store day [in Yelm, two miles away]: dentist, phone company, bank, Payless, QFC and NPCC.
Jan 11: First snow of the season.
Jan 12: There is 7 inches of snow between front porch and shop. It started snowing again at noon. Worked on Dutch Gardens spring order.
Jan 13: Still cold. Lots of snow on the ground. Rec’d Pinetree seed catalog.
Jan 14: Rained most of day. Mailed Dutch Gardens order. Worked on Pinetree seed order.
Jan 25: Mailed Pinetree seed order.
Jan 16: I started going through the Thompson and Morgan seed catalog marking some that I’d like, but I probably won’t order seeds from them. I sure don’t need them! And they are expensive!
Jan 19: Today I actually accomplished something. After I got the recyclables ready, I took the stuff to be burned to the burn barrel. I also took the big box of juniper tam branches to the barrel and burned them. I figured they were so “scratchy” it would hurt to use them in the wood stove. While the stuff was burning I brought wood up to the porch. Quite a few pieces were wet from rain even though the pile was covered by two tarps.
Jan 20: Store day. Did some paperwork—paying bills, etc. Rec’d the New York Times Crossword Puzzle Dictionary. It’s really good—has huge listings, by country, of authors, painters, etc.
Jan 21: I went to bed at 12:15 and woke up at 11:15. I puttered around in the house—didn’t accomplish much.
Jan 23: I removed from the box of flower seeds those that need to be refrigerated after planting and also picked out the seeds that can be planted anytime. Hopefully I can start planting these seeds next week.
Jan 24: After the Sonics beat the Lakers I celebrated by cleaning the refrigerator in the shop (where the soda cans exploded0. It was a mess. I got the veggie tray and two shelves out. I had to sit in it to reach the back. It started ok. Now I have to plant these seeds that must be refrigerated for 6-8 weeks. I must soon get the begonia bulbs in moist peat moss.
Jan 26: Sunny and fairly warm. I had lots of things I should be doing. Instead I puttered around inside until it was too late to go out. [I am so like my mother in this way!] I got part of the Park Seed order. The packets of seeds should come soon. The order was over $500.
Jan 27: I spent the afternoon watering houseplants. [She had many.] Also I potted up the rooted stems of plants that have been in water in the bathroom. Also repotted the Aloe Vera into four pots. It has more than doubled in size.
Jan 28: I actually accomplished some work today which amazed me considering I went to bed at 3:00 AM and slept until 1:00 PM! At about 3:00 I went out to see what I could do, thinking I’d saw some of the tree branches. [Most of my staycation days end up with the same time pattern.] I ended up trimming the many hosta plants but then it was too late to replant them so I did some weeding on the strawberries, then brought wood into the house from the porch.
Jan 29: I worked one hour spreading the pile of stuff that we couldn’t shred because it was too wet. I picked out the big stuff and ivy from the pile and spread the rest over the veggie area. I don’t know if it will decompose enough to be tilled in March or April, otherwise I’ll have to move it again!
Jan 30: I worked two hours on the pile today and then came in and laid down two hours. That’s hard work spreading that stuff. Never again will I let stuff pile up like that. If I can’t put stuff in compost box, I’ll burn it.
Jan 31: It was over 50 degrees today. Today was a beautiful day but I didn’t do anything! [By “didn’t do anything’, she probably meant that she read and did crossword puzzles during the day.]