Rambling About the Garden

Do you every have ambitious plans that don’t quite work out?  I had every intention of building potato towers and designing a new trellis system for my peas, but gardening season rolled around this year without those things ever taking place.  I’m having fun with plants, though.

PlanterInstead of hauling an old barbecue to the dump, I turned it into a planter.  There are flowers in the main section of the barbecue, as well as chamomile in the little basket in front.  The hanging baskets hold peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, and variegated lemon balm.  Those plants all tend to be invasive, and I’d hoped that containing them would let me enjoy those herbs without them trying to take over.  I like the look, but have decided that hanging baskets are too labor-intensive because I don’t like having to water them every day.  I also like the look of thyme & oregano in pots on the side-shelves, but the pot on the left has a tendency to fall whenever horses reach over the fence and try to eat the plant.  Once I even found the pot on the ground on one side of the fence, and the thyme plant in a big, unpotted, half-chomped clump on the other side of the fence.  Instead of killing the horse, I moved the flowerpot.

I’ve also been working on some landscaping and more veggies.  In February, I started artichoke and lettuce (romaine & red romaine) seeds in my greenhouse.  Once weather started warming up in March, I moved the lettuce to the center of a raised bed.  Note: nobody needs two 8′ rows of lettuce.

Planting peas on both sides of the lettuce provides shade, which in the past has always kept my lettuce from bolting.  This is the first year that hasn’t worked.


I should know better than to plant peas without having trellis supports already in place, but planted my second bed with supports only down both edges, not in the center.  Oops.  It gives new meaning to the phrase, “a mess of peas.”


Brussels sprouts went in mid-March, too.  They’re near the sage & rosemary, toward the right of this photo:

Herb Bed

GreenhouseIn April I started corn, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, and acorn squash in my greenhouse.  I even tried staggering the corn, planting one package of seeds per week for a month, thinking that staggering the planting would stagger our harvest this fall.  That might work if you’re direct-sowing, but starting indoors then transplanting out doesn’t appear to work that way.  When I set them out in May, there was an obvious difference in their sizes/ages; now that they’ve been in the ground for six weeks, they’re all about the same size.  Even though I won’t get a staggered harvest, it was much easier planting a little bit every week instead of a ton all at once.

Corn-set outI have three vegetable plots.  The one about a quarter-mile from the house is where I put this year’s corn.  Taking tips from square-foot gardening and companion planting, I made loose-form beds just less than four feet wide, and in every bed planted five rows eight inches apart:  two rows of corn, one row of sunflowers, and two more rows of corn.  The corn is now three feet high and doing well.  Pumpkins and acorn squash are also in this garden plot.

Potatoes, celery, carrots, tomatoes, basil, and zucchini are in the plot behind my house.   This afternoon I stuck my hand under some of the potato plants and pulled out tiny blue potatoes — no need to wait until the plants die to begin harvesting.

Garden by house

The photo on the right show tall potatoes in the back, and very short ones in front.  I hadn’t planned to experiment, but in mid-May, shortly after I moved all my warm-weather starts outside, a local nursery advertised their remaining seed potatoes at 50% off.  I bought a bunch.  If they produce as well as the potatoes started in April, next year I plan to wait until they’re half-price before making my purchase.

A few times I’ve mentioned mulching.  When I set out the squash & celery, I mulched that entire section of the garden quite heavily with grass clippings (about 8-12 inches).  It’s been six weeks now. I have not needed to pull any weeds from the mulched section of garden:


TomatoBasilAnother idea I took from companion planting:  tomatoes do well with carrots, and also with basil.  The tomato rows are about one foot wide.  In one, I planted basil between the tomato plants.  In another horizontal row of tomatoes, I made short vertical rows of carrots between the tomato plants.  This conserves space and makes all the plants healthier.


Out in the front yard, I put in some evergreen huckleberry plants.  Once they’re full-sized I should have a nice 4′ hedge.  I’m under-planting the huckleberries with lingonberries.

Future Evergreen Huckleberry HedgeHuckleberries are related to another berry that is supposed to be helpful for RA, so that’s just one more reason to enjoy them!  I also put in five blueberry bushes, and a white currant.

Along the driveway, just beside the currant bush, is a huge row of artichokes.  They should produce for four or five years before needing to be replaced.  I intend to add a few taller bushes to break the monotony, but probably not until next year.


And, if you just scrolled because this post got waaaaaaayyyy too long, it boils down to:  the garden is growing.  I keep playing in the dirt so that I know there aren’t strange pesticides in my family’s food.

Hope life is treating you well.

What do you do when the doctor is wrong?

I hadn’t used an urgent care clinic in fifteen years, but Friday evening I encountered what I determined to be a non-emergency situation that maybe shouldn’t wait until Monday for treatment.

As the night wore on, I was using the bathroom more and more frequently.  It got to the point that there would only be a few drops, yet before I could get back in bed I felt the need to go again.  It was annoying, but not an emergency.  After a few hours, my lower back started to hurt.  Also annoying, but still not an emergency.  Deciding that I must need more fluids, I drank a glass of water.  After that, every time I used the bathroom, I would also vomit.  Ewww.  I drank more water because I didn’t want to get dehydrated and (not to be overly graphic), upchucking water was preferrable to dry heaves.

Three hours later, I typed “low urine output and back pain” into a search engine and learned that possible causes included cystitis, sepsis, prostate cancer, end-stage kidney disease, and kidney stones.  My symptoms didn’t match cystitis or sepsis, prostate cancer was easily ruled out, and given my recent lab results, so was end-stage kidney disease.  That left kidney stones or something Dr. Google didn’t reveal.  Since kidney stones are a possible side effect of one of my meds, I figured that was most likely what was going on.  Reassured that it wasn’t an emergency, I let my husband continue sleeping.

And, although it wasn’t an emergency, I knew I’d be significantly dehydrated if I spent the next thirty hours vomiting.  Googling “urgent care clinics,” I learned that the nearest one was quite a distance away (and in the opposite direction as my family doctor).  I love living out in the country, but sometimes there are disadvantages – like taking an hour to get medical help.

Once morning arrived, my dear husband drove me and my bucket (so I didn’t make a mess of his car) into the city.  The PA asked questions, did an exam, and told me that I needed to go to the ER.  It sounded to her like kidney stones, so the hospital would need to do some imaging and lab work.  She was also concerned that I was getting dehydrated.  How ironic that the PA had the exact same thoughts I’d had, but I’d chosen the wrong place to get help.

At the hospital, things got weird.  The doctor focussed on my vomiting, which I had been convinced was only a reaction to the pain in my back.  He ordered x-rays, not a CT, and also blood work and another urine dip.  The nurse went to bat for me and called the urgent care clinic for results instead of repeating the dip, however the doctor later insisted on repeating that test.  Eventually he decided that mtx made me more susceptible to infection, so told me I had “stomach flu” and sent me home with a prescription for an anti-nausea medicine.

Saturday afternoon I wore a path between the bathroom and the sofa.  No matter what the ER doc said, feeling the need to urinate three times every five minutes is not the stomach flu. When bedtime arrived, I took feldene, acetaminophen, and more zofran, and slept like a log for three hours.  At 2 a.m. I awoke in agony.  The back pain had moved to my side, and it felt like someone was stabbing me.

Eventually I was able to crawl to the bathroom where I huddled, moaning.  There was no way I could wait until Monday to see my family physician.  The pain was excruciating.  My husband got me another zofran tablet, and also dug through the medicine cabinet to find morphine left from my surgery two years ago.  The zofran didn’t work, but the morphine lowered the pain from a 9 to an 8, and we headed back to the ER.

This time there was a different doctor who explained that although people with kidney stones are usually agitated and move around a lot (I just wanted to curl up in a ball and die), he thought that’s what I had.  He waited patiently while I puked my guts out, then did an exam and sent me for a CT scan. Testing proved he was right.  The PA was right.  I was right.  What on earth was that first ER doc thinking?  I have a kidney stone, not the stomach flu.

Now I have different prescriptions and am waiting for this stone to pass.  And I’m wondering:  What could I have done differently?  What should I have said when doc #1 patronizingly tried to convince me that I had a simple case of gastroenteritis?  That wrong diagnosis cost me unneeded x-rays, a second trip to the ER, lost sleep, worry for my family, and a ton of extra time.  I suspect that in the future I’ll be asking doctors lots more questions.  Even though I haven’t been to medical school, I won’t be as accepting of a diagnosis that doesn’t sound quite right.  What’s the solution?  How can a person get good care without seeming obnoxious?

Life-threatening situations are what I consider emergencies:  heart attack, stroke, blow to the head followed by loss of consciousness, etc.  There are other instances in which medical care is needed, but nobody’s going to die if it takes a few hours instead of a few minutes to obtain help.  Hospital emergency departments are for emergencies.  Doctor’s offices are for other situations.  In my opinion, urgent care centers are for times that the doctor’s office is closed and the non-emergency situation can’t wait until the doctor’s office will be open.


CPR flash mob – how cool is that!

This is not a tutorial, but the general idea is fast & hard.  IMO, everyone should take a CPR certification class.