More of the Garden Makeover and, well, Reduction Mammaplasty

Standard
IMG_2628

Damask Rose aka Rosa x damascena.

Last time I didn’t mention why I was rushing. I’m not even sure that I said I was trying to hurry through a pile of mulch, but I was and I’ll get to that in a bit. I can’t believe I chose to have another surgery at this time of the year, but I did, and I’m glad that’s over now.

Next year I’ll be able to harvest the Damask roses for edible purposes. This year, they had to fade and their petals were sadly trampled by rain but at least I smelled them frequently as the clock ticked on my impending procedure last week.

IMG_2630 IMG_2635Just in time we cleaned up the front area but there is much left to do. I finally was able to move the Aucuba ‘Gold Dust’ and I hope that it’s happier beside its companion next to the fence.

IMG_2648

IMG_2671

Lord Quincy between scenes of the Bug Ballet. He’s quite a dancer.

The day after my surgery was glorious. After resting and before returning to the surgeon to be checked out I wandered around the garden high on pain pills and the miracle of sudden weightlessness from my chest. (Don’t fret. Mom was driving me  back downtown.)

IMG_2680

I walked around the garden rejoicing too that this recovering would not be nearly as bad as back surgery. I was already up and walking and was even able to pull out a few weeds here and there.

IMG_2688

Yes, there was still a lot to do, but I thought about the victories we’d achieved before the surgery.

IMG_2689

I had just moved this Aucuba on the right.

IMG_2691

Rosa ‘Julia Childs’.

Last week I spent wandering outside for a bit each morning with my coffee before I returned to bed for a long nap. IMG_2706

Each day was full of surprises like discovering vine weevils in my  Dranunculus vulgaris.

IMG_2730

Although they might look a bit crooked in this photo I can assure you they’re not. It has something to do with how I was holding the iPhone.

Then there’s the whole getting to know my body in a new light kind of thing. Since this is a gardening blog I won’t go into my reasons for wanting this done, but I can assure you that they were medical, physical, as well as emotional. I wish I’d done this sooner, and if you’ve thought about doing it, do it. It really is life changing.

IMG_2732 IMG_2733 IMG_2736 IMG_2738 IMG_2745

After a few days of rest I ventured over to an elderly neighbor friend’s house last weekend. (Yes, it’s ok I did this. Walking is encouraged after this kind of surgery.) We talked, I admired plants along the way, took note of an arrangement she’d made in the house, and we both noted that this tiny broom she’d had for ages had finally bloomed. Of course neither one of us remembers where it came from but she bought it years ago with me.

IMG_2753 IMG_2755

I also ventured out that night to attend a talk and potluck with some other hort-heads at Sean Hogan’s house. There is plenty more to tell you about that fun evening but I really wanted to show these photos of the Abutilon megapotamican. With some protection it’s hardy and I think it’s just lovely.

IMG_2784 IMG_2807

With some improved weather the cats and I have been regularly going outside. Maurice only goes if it’s really warm, and well Quincy, he goes no matter what and we find him passed out in Maine coon mode in the hall on a daily basis now.

IMG_2809Just today I went out for an hour, and I saw that my Chilean guava (Ugni molinae) was blooming.

IMG_2812Before I came in to cook dinner I admired my Fuchsia splendens too.

There have been a lot of changes around here during the last few weeks and I’ve been feeling so much better. I still need time to rest though and to clear the pain. Tomorrow I leave for a weekend in the coastal woods and I’ll return to share some moments from that trip too. I’m really excited to get back to the Estancia.

(Next time I’ll also tell you a bit about having a garden acquaintance come over to help me in the garden. Oh, what a boost that gave me!)

The Fragile Spine: The Gardener’s Nemesis

Standard

I’m baaaaack and feeling better than the last time I was here. Who knew that what this girl needed was a quick back surgery?

I certainly didn’t see that one coming!

It all started just after I walked to see my ill friend in my last post. I’d seen my doctor the day before and she’d scheduled an MRI for me. That Friday I went in, had the scan done, and then we waited until Monday. At the worst, I was expecting a cortisone shot or some pain medications and rest. But then she called and told me I needed to see a neurosurgeon. Wha!?! She explained that the scan showed some bulging and other irregularities and she hoped I could get in to see the specialist soon.

I waited through another long weekend. I’d made an appointment for early Monday morning and honestly I was curious about what was going on. By then I was experiencing constant pain, numbness and a pins and needles sensation in my left arm. The pain was making me miserable so I stayed away from blogging. Instead, I worked on the garden even though I was hurting so badly. It kept me busy and I did see some great results. (More on that in another post.) Maybe it wasn’t the wisest decision, but it helped with my worry too.

Dranunculus vulgaris looking lovely this year.

Now, all gardeners know back pain, am I right? It’s just what happens to us after hauling, digging, and sifting through the dirt. The pain is our Badge of Courage. We’re proud of our backs.

My back has been a wreck for a long time and I honestly cannot recall when it all began. What I can say is that it’s been getting worse and worse for the past few years and working outside has been exhausting for me.

The pain begins and I’m simply spent. I retreat indoors in defeat.

The front garden is partially a riot of color right now and I’m sort of in love with it.

Since my relationship with pain is rather complicated I didn’t really know if what I was going through was a problem or not. I blamed my swelling disease. I blamed falling down the stairs. I nursed it as best as I could but I just decided at some point that sometimes my back hurt—a lot.

I found this Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ bloom in my garden the day of my surgery. It’s my first and I’m a proud Mama.
I also have high pain tolerance and that’s become detrimental, hence, back surgery. This past year I’ve been more regularly declaring my back issues to my doctor and she seemed to agree that as long as I walked and stayed active it would cause less pain. I thought I’d been keeping it honest so-to-speak but I guess I still didn’t describe my experience as accurately as I could have but I didn’t stay silent either. I tried. I honestly tried.
Even when I did these preventative measure though, they didn’t work. Or, I should say, over time they stopped working for me altogether. Things just kept feeling worse.
Lovely Begonia leaf.

Pain is already part of my chronic illness condition. Swelling causes pain. I know that type of pain though and it’s lessened a lot since I was prescribed my new medication several years ago.

The back pain I felt—especially after returning from Italy—was different. I could barely stand up and I just wanted to cry. It was excruciating. Thinking things through, this sort of explained the urgency, but I still didn’t really understand what was wrong with me and how it had happened.

Lovely Bletilla striata about to open.

On Monday the neurosurgeon examined me, then we looked at my scans together. When I saw my spinal cord being pinched by a collapsed spinal canal, I nearly jumped out of my seat. It was clear that my spinal cord wasn’t happy and the herniation caused by the narrowing in the spinal column explained the pinching pain when I moved my head. And of course, the pressure from this was pinching my nerve.

Ok, I got it. So I looked at him and said, “What do we do about it?

Lathyrus sativus azureus. 
Well, I recommend surgery,” he said.
I’d expected a cortisone shot and this far exceeded my expectations. I was surprisingly both shocked and thrilled. Then I wondered how much longer I’d have to wait. I’ve never heard of anyone getting back surgery quickly. I just did not think it was possible.
How soon will this happen?” I asked.
Right away,” he said and we walked down the hall to make the appointment at the front desk.
I was ecstatic when I found out I’d only have to wait 7 more days.
The front garden on the day of surgery. John and I both laughed at the lone orange lily in the boxwood hedge.

Well it’s true, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

I had one week to prepare for 1 month of little to no upper body physical activity. For a gardener in the month of June this isn’t exactly easy when you’re the primary gardener in the household. I’m working hard to recover quickly though. I can begin going on nice walks again soon and I’ll focus on that first.

Many of my garden plans for this summer had to be folded up and put away but I didn’t mind. I’ve never been so desperate to feel better and I was truly at the end of my rope.

Flowers John bought from Quinn in the City Flowers. These were just what I needed during my overnight stay in the hospital.

It’s not completely clear to me when the debilitating pain began, but I suspect that when I fell down the stairs in the front of my house nearly 3 years ago I seriously hurt my back. At the time I was more concerned about my swollen ankle. Weeks later I discovered after the Fling in Seattle I’d broken two fingers too but I continued to believe that my back pain was only temporary and I chose not to have it examined.

The injury lingered and remained consistent throughout the divorce and remarriage. While working as a caregiver, it made my job impossible at times. I ended up quitting because of it.

 A box of trial plants from Terra Nova Nurseries arrived the day I came home from the hospital. It felt a bit like Christmas.
Ok, so what’s the takeaway?
Honestly, I just want everyone to take care of themselves and to use caution when they’re walking. I might be a klutz, but all it takes is some uneven ground and an unsteady gait. What I’ve also learned from this is that when I fell and broke my tailbone and two vertebrae many years ago, it’s likely I caused light nerve damage in my legs and feet. This is likely how my balance has worsened along with my gait.
This is what a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy looks like a week after surgery.
I’m fully committed now to returning to the gym to improve my life. I can’t keep this up. I don’t want to live like this anymore.
My nurse often sleeps on the job but he’s been with me 24/7 this past week.
There is no nerve pain currently in my left arm and my fingers are no longer numb. I can tip my head back to look at the ceiling and there’s no stabbing pain from the pinched herniation. I’ve been dealing with that sensation for years and I won’t miss it at all.
My view from bed could be worse.

These things take time to heal, and seeds of change must be planted, so as I lie here in bed, I’m just reading gardening and plant books. This is a nice time to reflect on the past and while moving forward to a healthier and brighter future.

I’m so excited.

My life just keeps getting better and better. I’m so thankful. I just cannot say that enough.

St. Expeditus.

A friend of mine returned home for a visit to New Orleans before we knew about the surgery and she didn’t return to Portland until after it had happened. So, she bought me this statue of St. Expeditus while she was there as a souvenir. Seeing as he’s the patron saint of emergencies and expeditious solutions he’s more than welcome to look over my garden and I until I’m well again.

So far, I think he’s doing a great job, don’t you?

The Quince, Sea Beans, and a Black Oregon Truffle

Standard
Since it’s almost Christmas, it’s time for me to post what’s been waiting in my hopper. (These past few weeks have been a blur.)

Between cooking for folks here at home, ghostblogging about food for someone else, and cooking food for clients I’ve been working for as a caregiver, I’m feeling fairly proficient in the kitchen nowadays.

Our Thanksgiving Quinces as Still-life.

Last month we purchased some quince from a local co-op. We’d gone there to look for raw goat milk for making cheese and whey. When we got home, John set about making quince paste. It was a fun process and quite different than I’d imagined. Both culinary projects went well and they tasted so good. The quince paste was served with some wild boar charcuterie at Thanksgiving alongside some Spanish cheeses.

Oh! That seems like ages ago to me right now.

There are so many vegetables to give thanks for this time of year.
Sausage, Potato and Savoy Cabbage Soup is a comfort food of mine.

We’ve pickled a few beets during the last few weeks and just last week I prepared my favorite cabbage soup when we had a large family of friends over for dinner. My best friend from college and his wife have adopted a baby and I get to be an auntie again. With his whole family in town, of course I had to invite them all over for dinner too.

Know your Italian chicories: Radicchio and Treviso.

Last month there was a tasty salad I made with some radicchio too. It was raw radicchio—not grilled—so I was weary at first. Somehow serving it with crispy red onions and a citrus vinaigrette did something magical to its bitterness. It was another great success I hope to serve again soon.

Wild foraged Sea Beans.

I’d always wanted to try these so last month I purchased some samphire at the Portland Farmers Market. I was pleasantly surprised by how salty they were when I popped one into my mouth.

Sea Beans with Rice Vinegar and Furikake.

Days later I put this little salad together at home. I recommend sea beans highly if you’re into salt. They are very crunchy too. Somewhere in my office I have seeds for them. I am really curious now to see how they’ll taste when grown in my home garden.

Copper Beech in front of the Millar Library at PSU.

While at PSU attending the Portland Farmer’s Market, I enjoyed looking around. The market takes place in the park blocks and there are so many beautiful trees to look at while people watching and shopping.

For many years it was a painful place for me to visit because my health had been very poor while I was a student there. Now that I’m much better, I can reflect on those years. We all need to process our past and move forward stronger and more aware. Being surrounded by the market makes that process kind of fun for me now. My love of food and my knowledge of plants has given me some much needed strength over the past few years.

After one of the trips to the market I went thrift store shopping. I was looking for a new ikebana vase when I found this old 1980s mauve piece. When I saw the sticker it made me smile. This shop is no longer in business and had belonged to my niece’s grandmother on her mother’s side of the family. While driving home, the poor thing broke, but my niece was happy I’d at least thought to pick it up for her.
Wild Foraged Chanterelles.

I made these into an omelette. What do you like to make with yours? Just curious.

Oregon Black Truffle.

We bought truffles too and John made a delicious risotto for us. (Risotto is common in the region of Italy he hails from and he was raised eating it.) The Oregon truffle was a fun twist on our usual recipe for both of us. Yes, the domestic truffle is not as tasty as European truffles, but they are more affordable. I’ll take that tradeoff. Truffles just make me happy too. I smell them and they make me smile. When they are near me, I am content.

Seriously. I love truffles.

Lastly, for Thanksgiving we also had some flowers. It began with this simple arrangement but then I expanded from there. This year I also made sure to buy American-grown flowers. I’m dedicated to buying them more often now and I can assure you that you’ll be hearing more and more about this topic during the coming months.

Goodbye for now.
PS: Hope your holidays are going well!

The Amateur Bot-ann-ist Marries John in Her Garden

Standard
My wedding bouquet made for great photo opportunities.
Four weeks ago today I married an amazing man in the back garden. And now—as I sit here writing this—it’s great to publicly admit that we met online and immediately knew we would marry.
Just 6 months after we met, we were married. There, I said it.
This happened because maturity and experience are great things. Middle-aged love is nothing to scoff at either—especially when it brings such joy and happiness.
And in my case, I can’t say enough about the lessons learned from my divorce. I know now that it took a divorce in order for me to truly understand how much marriage and commitment mean to me. Marriage means working together and being a team and I have that now for the first time. It’s what I’ve always wanted and hoped for and it’s such a great feeling knowing now that someone truly has my back and I can count on him to be there. I’m pretty sure he feels the same way too.
Maurice helping to roll out the garden carpet.

Getting ready for our noontime wedding was a lot of fun. Up until the last minute we’d planned to get married that day in a government office but then I realized we could just do it at home. Why not?

Planted topiary ball with Bromeliad and Ficus. Made to come indoors over the winter. Will keep you updated on how it holds up indoors as a houseplant planting.

Of course I tried to clean up the back garden as much as possible. I added a few pretty things to make it look better too, but overall, we didn’t really intend for it to be a big affair so not much was added. I did make this topiary though.

Two of the fur balls thinking all of the hub-bub was about them—since it usually is all about them.

The night before the ceremony I packed for Alaska and straightened the house.

Since John didn’t move in with me until after our honeymoon, that night, we both had a lot of time to think about our new life together and what it would be like in the future.

My mind was so busy thinking about packing I knew I just had to be me no matter what.

Oh why did I wait until the last minute?

That’s when I rushed out and bought some flowers to arrange at 9pm. That’s just the kind of thing that I do.

Having fun with my own selfie.

The morning of the wedding I had my hair and makeup done. It felt amazing and I’m so happy I did so.

When you plan a noontime wedding, that doesn’t mean you have a ton of time to get ready. I know that now. But of course, I pulled it all together.

John and I are oddballs. If you don’t know that about me yet, then you must be new to my blog or else you haven’t been paying attention.

John and I only invited a handful of important people. We hadn’t really thought a lot about wedding photography so many of these pictures were just shot by iPhone by my nieces.

Look! My head is exploding with flowers!

My flowers were designed by a dear friend who has an amazing touch. (Quinn in the City Flowers).

I had asked Quinn to go “over the top” and I’m pretty sure she nailed it.

Yes, I really do laugh loudly. Am I channeling Phyllis Diller? Maybe…
On my wedding day, I was very happy and we had a little secret too.
The look on my face terrifies me. I look a lot like my paternal great-grandmother who I take after in so many ways. I guess it makes sense.
My eldest niece, seen here on the left, was the minister of our ceremony. We kept that a secret from my family until after the ceremony. It was such a great idea and it made the event so much more meaningful.
That’s not to say that her younger sister (on the right) wasn’t involved too. She made sure we had lots of photos and provided plenty of laughs.
I love my girls.
Probably one of my favorite pictures from our special day. I know. I’m weird. I already told you I was though…

Afterwards, our little group met both of our mothers for a special dessert at one of my favorite restaurants in Portland.

Yes, we didn’t invite our moms to our wedding. They’ve been through it all before so we did things differently and they didn’t mind at all.

Trust me, it worked very well and they both loved seeing us all dressed up while we ate Boccone Dolce.

John looking at me thinking, “We pulled it off, our moms are both stuffed, now let’s get the heck out of here and head to Alaska!!”

And with that, we were off to Alaska!

Getting Married in My Garden on a Friday

Standard
Yesterday we held a private wedding ceremony at home. We invited a few family members and friends but more to come on that later. For now, I just wanted to share some of my wedding flowers with you.
Currently I’m in Alaska on our honeymoon. Blogging from my iPhone sure is awkward. Will fire up the laptop for a longer post soon.

Wordless Wednesday: Self-Portrait of a Gardener in Winter

Standard
Rearranging houseplants.
Playing with nature.
Ripping out the carpet in the office. Making houseplants happy.
Making more ikebana for my other blog: A Year of Ikebana.
Eldest cat Macavity as she surveys the rearranging.
Our largest cat (about 20lbs.) Maurice sleeping with the glow of the LED lit tree—probably dreaming of summer.