Why the Dog Can’t Sleep (Deranged Gardener Alert)

As the trite old saying goes, “You want the good news or the bad news?”

Let’s start with the good stuff…

The garden catalogues are arriving…Breck’s, Wayside Gardens, and Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Special Edition.  I’m drooling.  Wouldn’t you?  Look at these photos?



What could stop me, right?  I’m physically ready to garden-hardy (Used to be party-hardy, but I’ve grown up. How did that happen?)  It’s time to clean up the backyard and order plants! The credit card is raring to go.  It’s paid off.

I’ve already started planting a few verbena and salvia seeds (winter sowing) which, when ready, will get transplanted once the chance of frost is past.


The remodeling contractor is coming through (thank goodness) to finish the bathroom.  It’s only been since November 17th that I’ve been without a working bathtub or shower.  However, rather than dwell on the negative, I will dwell on the fact that he’s finishing it. Ya!!!!

Let me know what you think. (Not done yet but getting closer.)



And then there’s the very bad news…

Thunder and lightning!….Very, very frightening!  ZAP!!  I was struck by lightning.

Remember that little bitty hip replacement I had 7 weeks ago?

Prior to that surgery, I did my homework.  I investigated two doctors and three hospitals.

1. The orthopedist I decided not to use didn’t discuss the x-rays he took nor did he offer a diagnosis for what my problem was. Believe it or not, we discussed growing squash, summer versus winter varieties. (Nice guy, but he needed to talk about my hip.)  He also told me he performed 250 hip replacements a year. I learned this wasn’t exactly true.  My insurance, however, loved the hospital where this orthopedist practiced.

2. Another hospital I checked into told me I’d have to file my own insurance.  Nope.

3. I decided to use the orthopedist (with a great reputation) who did 400-600 hip surgeries a year and who graduated from an orthopedic residency at the Mayo Clinic.  He did discuss my x-ray and showed me what was wrong.

I asked for and received an estimate of cost from the hospital I finally selected where the great orthopedist practiced: $1,000 for my out-of-pocket hospital cost.  This was doable. The hospital said they negotiated with my insurance.  (I have this estimate on record.)

The great orthopedist’s staff called me and said my out-of-pocket hospital cost might even be reduced to $200.  Even better.

I’ve received tons of bills, and I’ve paid most of these.

I’d not, however, receive the hospital’s bill so I called my insurance and was assured, not once but twice, that my cost would be only $200.00.  Great.  And when I didn’t get that bill for 2 more weeks, I called again.

This time I was told the bill was —— wait for it——–

$107,359.25         GULP!          BONK!

I just fell on my head. That’s as much as I paid for the house I live in.

Next, I was told I would probably owe $30,000.  WHAT?!

When I called the hospital, they conveniently couldn’t remember the out-of-pocket estimate they’d provided.  “We don’t show that,” they said. As mentioned, I have it on record.

So I must wait and wait and wait, (have listened to this song repeatedly) until I get the final adjusted bill. I check for the mail six times a day. Will it be $200 or $1,000 or $30,000?  Can I go back to “These are the good ‘ol days”?

Believe me, if it’s 30K, I will make a big stink.  (I’ll see if I can get them to lower the bill, and if not, they’re in for a smelly situation.)

Music above is how I’m feeling.  There’s gonna’ be a fight!!!!

You probably think this is NOT garden-related, but it is.

Aside from the BIG STINK I’ll make, I thought of sending the hospital’s billing office one of these as a gift for all of their help.

Problem is Corpse Flowers aren’t easy to grow and don’t bloom often.  Darned.

Then I looked at this site.  One of these?  #8  or #10?

Oh wait, maybe I could send them a potted poison ivy?  Cheap, effective, and actually a very pretty plant, and I’m good at growing plants from seed.

I envision this scenario in my mind’s eye:

Hi!  Is this the Business Office?  Oh, good.  I’m delivering from Gail’s Flower Shoppe. One of your patients wanted to thank you for your help with her bill by sending you a potted plant.  Gotta’ go!  (Place it on the counter wearing gloves)  Bye!

Okay, I’m not that evil, but YES, I’m pissed, and a pissed gardener can think up evil things.

So, NO, I won’t be ordering plants from the catalogues above.  Whine.  I planned (past tense) to go to the annual sale at Pandora’s Box, but that’s out too.—I wanted a second arbor. I need to keep my eyes away from the local auction this Saturday.

I didn’t get to sleep until 4 am this morning because of worry and the poor dog, Elly, decided she couldn’t sleep with me tossing and turning.–She jumped off the bed and onto a chair.  See the look on her face?



Time to Plant the Onions


When I came up with the title of this post, I kept thinking of the Dunkin’ Donuts commercial with the guy who mutters, “Time to make the donuts.”

I didn’t think I’d be planting onions this year.  (I almost typed “planting donuts” in place of “planting onions.”  Okay, yeah, I wish I COULD plant donuts to grow them.  Yum!)

Back to onions….

To plant onions, you have to bend over or sit on the ground, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do that before onion-planting season ended, but I was wrong.

Saw my orthopedist last Friday, and was told, “Yes, you can pick things up from the floor now that you’re 6-weeks post-op.”  Those words were so freeing!  (Oh, yes, he also told me I’m allowed to dance the Can-Can, but warned I might be sore afterward.)

I honestly will get back to talking about onions, but have to say, I never imagined how frustrated I’d be not being able to pick up anything from the floor/ground.  It was as if any ground-bound object was 120 feet away from my hand.  I have one of those claw-like grabbers, but I didn’t always have it in the room where I needed it.

Again, back to the onions…Yesterday, I dropped by one of the local feed stores to purchase red onions, my favorite.  The baby onions come in bunches of 200. That’s A LOT of onions for one person, both to plant and to eat.  Today, I planted all 200.  Took two hours. Woo-hoo!

I also planted red onions last year, and was successful considering I didn’t baby them.  If I felt like watering them, I did, but mostly I didn’t, and I still came out with far more onions than what I could eat by myself.  Furthermore, most of the onions were large ones.

FYI – Giving your friends onions makes you instantly popular, and I plan to share my onions again this year.

Because I can’t plant in a straight line to save my life, I grabbed a surplus metal pole that


was propped against the fence and laid it on the ground as a row guide.  I also used ~grin~ old toothbrushes and some of my orange survey flags to mark the beginning and end of


each onion row.  I’ll pull these row markers up as soon as the onions are big enough to see easily.  Onions were planted about six inches apart with ample room to walk between the rows.

I am spreading the onion-joy.  My friend, Nicola’s birthday, was February 1st.  Aside from buying her a large chicken statue, which she placed outdoors by her tea house, I gave her two bunches of onions and some Yukon Gold seed potatoes.–This equates to 400 onions and a large sack full of potatoes.  She was pleased.   Like me, I know she will share with her friends. After all, it would be pretty hard for one person to eat 400 onions in a season.

Totally unrelated to onions, for the heck of it, I Googled “donut tree,” and learned they exist.

Also, there’s a book about doughnut trees.  Who knew?

Since I can’t personally give you any doughnuts, here’s the next best thing, and here’s a locator.

In regard to my hip replacement and the upcoming spring season, this is how I’m feeling.  (Great video right up to the end.)


Looking Beyond the Surface


A random photo of the backyard.  More pecan limbs have been added to the Hugelkultur berm.

Yesterday, I was finally able to walk down my deck stairs for the first time since having a hip replacement three weeks ago.  I’d been looking longingly from my backdoor and windows into the backyard, but I wasn’t able to go down stairs because I had to be re-taught and practice how to walk up and down stairs.  Incidentally, I have 8 stairs plus a landing to navigate from the deck to access the yard.

Being house-bound has been a struggle.  If I could, I’d spend 12 hours of every day outdoors. ~ Grin. ~

So yesterday, I was able to investigate the “state of the backyard” where my garden lives.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.  The weather has not been kind.


Another random photo of the backyard taken today from the deck.

I found large and small pecan tree branches everywhere.  The wind blew off my potted plant coverings leaving them exposed to 15 degree temps, and the dogs moved some of my brick and rock edging out of place, plus there were leaves lying on every surface imaginable such that there are places you wouldn’t even recognize as bordered garden beds.  Oh, and the Parsley Hawthorn tree I’d planted was broken in two.  It will survive. It just needs time to mend.  It reminded me of me.

On the surface, my garden is in a current state of chaos and at this time, there’s not much I can do until I’m allowed to bend over.  (I’m not allowed to bend at the waist more than 90 degrees.)

Still, I’m optimistic.  All of those tree leaves hide the bulbs and seeds I’ve planted.  All of those leaves act as insulation for both my potted plants and the plants in the ground who also have leaves that are brown but whose roots are very much alive.

At some point, the dead leaves can be raked or swept off of the surfaces where I don’t want them, and they will eventually decompose into rich compost.  I’d hazard to say that by mid-summer, one would never know the leaves were even there.  Nature provides its own winter blanket if we, humans, don’t pull it off.


More leaves above.

And here is where I’d like to veer off the garden path to encourage everyone to look beyond things that are of a surface nature.

I am selective about what I read and listen to. I’m selective about what I believe and don’t believe.  I try to look beneath the surface of most things—advertisements, local and national news, corporations with agendas, gossip, etc.  I no longer watch television. I want to live my own life, not watch someone else living theirs (real or fictitious).    I encourage you to look beyond the surface of what you are told and what you see as well.

If I read a news story on the Internet, it’s because I think it’s worth my time. If 25 noisy ads pop up (surface leaf clutter) as I’m waiting to read or hear a story, I either turn off the sound or leave the page.  (These ads eventually turn into compost and go away.)  If I want to buy something, it’s not because some advertisement tells me I need a product.

I listen to NPR (National Public Radio) to get much of my news, which works for me, but may not work for you.

Most importantly, I don’t subscribe to the stuff that I believe litters the surface of so many lives.  I’m not a Facebook fan.  I don’t need Facebook as an interface to friends and family. And if I call someone who never wants to talk, and who will communicate ONLY through a text (surface communication), then I won’t pursue them.  Here’s a link and short video regarding text addiction.  If I’m going to be addicted, I want to be addicted to real life stuff—gardening, creative endeavors, lunch with friends, volunteering, and most of all, interacting with people in person, which seems to have become unpopular. Do I care if I’m unpopular?  No.

Finally, if I subscribe to a blog, it’s because I think the blog offers substance below life’s leaf-littered surface.  For me, reading blog posts I enjoy is like reading nonfiction short stories.  I often learn something valuable in the process or feel a connection to the writer and that’s never a waste of my time.

As you go into 2017, I encourage you to examine what’s below the leaf-littered surface to find the good stuff.

Being Truly “Hip”


Above: Christmas cactus gift from friend.

I wish everyone who reads this post the very best!!!  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (Chanukah), Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holy Days, and blessings for all on this day regardless of religion!

As I type, I have my backdoor open and can hear the melodic warble of a bird (not sure what kind).  It’s lovely.

I am now 10 days post-op from my hip replacement.  If I am able, I’ll try to take some photos of what Christmas Day looks like outside.  That’s probably as much as I can offer garden-wise.


Above:  Current view from my back door into the backyard. More about the orange house in another post.

I have been blessed by the love of many friends and neighbors in my journey to regain my ability to walk.  These folks have been my legs and hands when mine were worthless.

While not garden-focused, I invite you to hobble around with me a bit (you don’t have to use a walker or a cane) while I tell you what this hip replacement has been like SO FAR.

First, I can honestly say I was scared to death about this surgery, and this comes from a former nurse who has experience with previous surgeries.  To allow someone to saw off the upper portion of an essential bone (akin to the drum stick of a turkey) that I’ve lived with for over 50 years and throw it away bothered me. A LOT.

My raw feelings were that my chosen hospital, East Texas Medical Center (Tyler, TX), was like a giant anonymous chewing machine.  You, the patient, go in for your pre-op assessment and are unemotionally prodded, pried, and poked.  The “human-ness” in my opinion had pretty much been taken out of the process:  When I cracked jokes, for the most part, no one laughed.  When I made a mistake, it was instantly pointed out.  And of course, I was made to wait for over THREE hours (10 am to 1:35 pm) to see the hospitalist who assisted me in cultivating a “piffed” (pissed and miffed in one) attitude.  Note:  If you’ve not been in the hospital for a few years (and I hadn’t), hospitalists are the newest thing since latex gloves.

Surgery day was fairly routine.  A friend dropped me off, paperwork got processed, and the hospital staff walked me up to the surgery suite to hook me up to my surgery bed.

I became a bit emotional when I witnessed another family praying for their family member prior to surgery.  My family was absent. However, a good friend surprised me by showing up at my bedside.  She and her friend prayed for me, and I felt a lot of love. This was important.


Another view from the back deck.  Note the position of my Garden Lady’s head (middle of photo).

With both general and regional anesthesia, the first 24-hours were a breeze.  I was also relieved to know no one on the surgical team passed out when they viewed me in my natural state.  (That view’s a shock even for me.–I try to avoid looking whenever possible.)

Post-op my feet didn’t realize they belonged to me and steadfastly refused to work.  It felt strange to stare at them asking them to move and finding that they had taken the day off.

I’m not a TV watcher at all, but ended up watching endless reruns of The Property Brothers and Flip it or Flop It (Yes, I know that’s not the real name of the show).  I think I can now live another 20 years without seeing these shows again, but I have to admit I learned something:  For the Flip It or Flop It gang, it’s all about tearing out at least one wall in every house to open it up and going with light and bright surfaces in the kitchen.

I spent an extra day in the hospital because of those non-operational feet mentioned above. On the 3rd day, I was more than ready to go home.  Another close friend, dressed as an elf, picked me up and we were on our way.

Having to depend completely on someone else for almost everything was humbling.  Do our plants and animals feel this way?  I realize they don’t have our brain, but still…


Above: Messy view from just outside the back door.

So now I’m home, and my wild lab puppy is being good by not jumping on me or on the bed although I realize this is because she’s got aspirations to be a garden designer as she’s rearranged a few things in the back yard.  Oh, and did I mention, my “Lady of the Garden” has become Linda Blair of the Exorcist?  Her head is currently facing the wrong direction.

The minor back yard fixes (fallen over pots, fallen tree limbs, the Garden Lady) can wait until I learn how to walk down the deck stairs again.  No one’s looking anyway, so who cares?

Adventures in Hip Replacements (the uncut version)


Image above from Creative Commons (open source).

Just when the blog momentum gets going, I have to stop.  Temporarily.

I will soon be getting my hip “fixed.”  Right now, it interferes with almost all activities (sleeping, walking, playing with the dogs, moving stuff, bending over, sitting down, watering plants, picking stuff up from the ground, getting out of bed, re-potting plants, and so forth).  Grrr!!!!

Unfortunately, “the fix” will limit my blogging ability.  I doubt I’ll be able to go outside to take photos for a while.  Not sure how able I’ll be to sit on a low-to-the-ground desk chair and blog.  And of course, this blog is NOT about how to recover from a hip replacement so gardening material will be scarce to none if I can’t garden or putter around outside for a while.

My request to you as I go “off-blog” is: please don’t abandon me as a reader because I fully intend to be back as soon as I’m able.  I love to write.  I love to garden.  I have a camera (even though admittedly I’m not a great photographer).  What better combo. is there for blog-fodder?  Plus, I’m having fun doing it.

I intentionally picked this time of year for hip surgery because it interferes least with my gardening activities.  In winter, I water and plant far less than any other time of the year.  I also don’t need to mow or weed.  Plus, I was told if I wait much longer for the “hip fix,” I won’t be able to walk.  No choice!

I’ve known about this issue for awhile, but the VERY sudden physical decline and necessity of fixing it NOW caught me off guard.  One day, I’m limping a bit and the next, I’m literally crawling up the deck stairs because of the pain.

The fact that I must rely on others to help me after this surgery isn’t easy to accept either.  I’m pretty independent.  For example, two years ago I had knee surgery for a torn ligament and cartilage, and it never slowed me down.  This is different.

Probably Too Much Information BUT:  I feel pissed.  I don’t want to stop my life for this.

Feedback from other hip replacement folks is mixed:  Some hip replacements were a breeze and others had implants that were defective and/or were recalled.

If you’re interested in a little more personal info. about hip replacements, read on.

The plumbing receptionist I spoke with only yesterday said her mother’s hip replacement didn’t work out. It had to be replaced because it was defective.  That scares me.  In contrast, one of my former bosses had both hips replaced, and it was no big deal.

Interestingly, last year I read a library book (title I can’t remember) about being your own advocate in today’s medical care industry.

This book recounted a story of an orthopedist who needed a hip replacement.  He opted for what he thought was the best implant on the market at the time—one that was made entirely of metal.  Soon after the replacement, this orthopedist began to experience problems.  Overall, he felt terrible, had low energy, became deeply depressed and experienced memory loss.  His orthopedic colleagues poo-pooed his symptoms implying it was all in his head.

However, because he was an orthopedist he could order his own blood-work and did so.   Turns out his blood was filled with cobalt ions that came off the implant.

Now, if physicians won’t believe each other, how likely is it they will take an everyday individual’s complaint seriously?  (I’m doing my worrying in advance and publicly.)

And just on a side note, using Cigna PPO insurance to rent a hospital bed will cost $140.00.  However, if I rent a bed and pay for it OUT OF POCKET, the cost is only $98.00.  Cigna also told me they won’t pay for rehab.  Huh?  No rehab., Cigna?  Really?  (Doctor’s office is working on this.)

BUT on the positive side, my implant will be made of ceramic or plastic and (I think) titanium.  My orthopedist performs between 400 and 600 hip replacements per year, and he did his orthopedic training at the Mayo Clinic.  In addition, I know a surgical technician and a parking valet who work with him periodically, and they both give him a “thumbs up”.  The technician’s off the cuff report was, “He’s extremely efficient and good.”  This is an instance where I’ll have to rely on faith and cool my heels (figuratively & literally) to eventually WALK to the end of this adventure.

So adios for what I hope will be only a few weeks to a month.  Thanks for reading!

Putting Plants to Bed (Yawn) for the Winter

Thanks to all of you who “Liked” my previous posts.  Please be patient with me because I’ve not figured out yet how to thank you through the comment section.  I’m still in a learning curve when it comes to blogging on WordPress.

The title of this post is anything but exciting, right?  Yawn!  To bed?  Yawn! I agree.

But this post isn’t just about techniques to winterize plants until the first bulb emerges in the spring because this year, for me, a lot of other STUFF is involved.

Normally, I’m like everyone else. I wait until almost the last minute to get everything in order for the winter…Where I live, the faucets need to be wrapped to prevent broken pipes.  Leaves need to be raked off hard surfaces to prevent a fall from slipping on wet leaves. And finally, most of my potted plants are usually gathered into one spot so they can easily be covered with plant blankets to prevent them from freezing.  I keep my plant “blankets” (old comforters, blankets, quilts, and real frost cloth) stashed in big garbage cans at the side of the yard.  My plant blankets aren’t pretty, but they work.

This year, however, I can’t wait till the last minute.

This year, I unexpectedly must have a hip replaced, and I’m relatively young for that sort of thing.

Frankly, I’d LOVE to put this surgery off, but the pain I have doesn’t give me that option.  I could also whine and moan, but it won’t help so I’ll spare you and me.

The surgery will take place sometime in December, and I have a house sitter lined up already.  My surgeon assures me I’ll be able to return to gardening and cleaning cat cages (Oh joy!) at the humane society once I’ve recuperate.

There is much preparation to do, both inside and outside the house, before I go off on this orthopedic holiday of sorts.  I am doing my best to stay positive:

I have an excellent surgeon for the job.I also have very good friends to help me. (Children live too far away and can’t take off work.) I believe I CAN pull this off and end up with a good result.  No, I can’t control everything, so I will try to let go of that.

Today, I purchased 50 survey flags at the local Big Box store–You know, the ones that are garishly conspicuous on a wire.  Fortunately, plants don’t need watering as often in cold weather, but they do need watering if it doesn’t rain. I read the winter weather prediction for east Texas a few days ago, and the forecast is for warm/dry weather.

Since I have so many new plants, I can’t just stop watering them.  My plan?  I will place a bright orange survey flag beside every plant that needs to be watered and then, before my surgery, I will ask my neighbor’s teenage daughter (a responsible young woman who was the lead this year in her high school’s play) to come over so I can show her how I water.  If we don’t get rain for a week or two, I’ll have her water.  If a freeze is predicted, I’ll have her cover my plants.  At $10 per event (watering or covering or both), she should be happy.

I will start moving my light pots to one spot and also remove small breakable decorative garden items (in case of winter hail) using my little trusty rusty red wagon.  I use it for everything.


I will also hire another young man to move the heavier pots so again they can be watered and covered easily.

Finally, it’s a mast year for the pecan trees in this area, and the nuts are everywhere.  Picking them up, however, isn’t what it used to be.  To do this, I must extend one leg far away from my body to bend over, otherwise, I experience a sharp pain in my hip. (It’s bone on bone.)  This hasn’t kept me from picking up those yummy pecans though, and as you see, I have half a bucket full.  (Maybe I can shell pecans while I’m lying in bed?) There are still lots more out there.  I have three pecan trees.


Mz. Elly-Belly-Munchy-Mouth (dog), it turns out, likes pecans too. She’s been helping herself to my stash, cracking them with her teeth, and leaving their shells on the deck and in the bedroom. Bad dog!  I need to move that bucket out of mouth’s reach.  (And I thought I only had squirrels to contend with.)

Mz. Elly-BMM will stay with a friend while I recuperate so I don’t have the worry that she might jump on me.  My other two dogs have better manners.

I think I’ll use my recuperation time to read all of the gardening books plus exciting novels that I’ve always wanting to buy on Amazon.  What do you think?

I’ll leave you with a photo of my wild blooming asters.  The bees and my grape vine love them.