What’s Growing On: Week 15 Pandemic Edition

We’ve been in lockdown for a month now which means I’ve been working from home for a month now too. The nice thing about being from home most of the time is I have the time to be able to devote time to all of my projects around the house, including the garden.

Let’s begin with some of the flora.

First of all, the rose that started it all, Peace, did not survive the winter. Last year, it was already showing signs of being taken over by its root stock, but I was able to fend it off for a while. Not this year. Peace passed away quietly and finally allowed its root stock to completely take over. At some point before the weather gets too hot, I’ll have to remove the remains and fill the spot with something else.

The only new growth you see here is from the root stock. The host growth is completely gone.

My second rose, Portlandia, gave me a scare early in the season. Initially I was concerned it was infected with the deadly RRD (Rose Rosette Disease). It was showing most of the tell-tale signs: bright red or burgundy foliage, weak stems, unusual growth. The only thing it didn’t show was the excessive thorns which is a common characteristic of infected rose bushes.

Most rosarians recommend to observe the rose over a couple weeks because sometimes the burgundy foliage can be mistaken for new, healthy growth. So I did, and over time, the red foliage turned green and at least one of the buds opened to a healthy, signature Portlandia bloom. What a relief because it would’ve broken my heart to have to dig up and toss out this rose. This was the rose I purchased to signify our wedding event.

I’ve added some annuals to areas around the vegetable garden because it helps with the pollination. Flowers such as violets have been providing a continuous cycle of blooms for 4 weeks already. The set of Fireball marigolds I started several weeks ago have already provided their first set of long-lasting blooms and are now working on their second. The zinnias have just started forming their first buds.

This morning, I was doing some upkeep around some of the tomatoes when a little bee came buzzing out of the squash plants right next to me. I stepped back, startled, and gave him his space. He buzzed around a bit before landing on some of the tomato blossoms and then moved over to the marigolds and then back over to the squash. Witnessing this brought me a lot of pleasure because I was wondering whether or not it would be worth planting any pollinator flowers the first year. As if my garden needed more time to gain traction on the Pollinator’s Yelp website before any of them would start visiting.

But no, mother nature didn’t need a social network to ensure the cycle of life continued. Somehow everyone just knows what to do, when to do it, and where without any interference whatsoever. It just shows how much smarter nature is than we think.

The vegetable garden is doing great as well. If north Texas would at least stick to having consistently cool, spring weather rather than these random cold snaps, I think the garden could be more productive. It hasn’t really stopped us from being able to enjoy a constant supply of lettuce, kale, and more recently sugar snap peas.

Peppery French Breakfast radishes and some Sugar Snap Peas

I am eager to get to try some of those tomatoes and peppers, but I know those are weeks away from being ready. In the meantime, you can just admire the photos of these little bursts of green that are forming.

Garden Pests and Failures

There are a few things that I’ve had issues with though. We have an uninvited guest consuming some of our kale and although it hasn’t stopped us from harvesting the untouched kale, it does reduce our available harvest. After researching, I found that there are some natural repellants that I could’ve used in the beginning, such as rosemary oil or peppermint oil diluted in water. Those mask the scent of the greens that attract the pests. However, I don’t know if that will ward off an infestation that’s already underway. I can probably try and see what happens. Maybe it’ll at least slow it down.

Some of the damaged kale.

The other problem I’ve encountered is with spinach and green onion. I just haven’t seen any growth from the two at all. out in the garden. I direct-seeded the two back in early spring and only plug of spinach showed successful growth. The green onions never even left the seedling stage. Again you’ll see the spinach is being eaten by something, but only because I just kinda neglected it after awhile. The other seedlings never even got much bigger than what you see pictured.

The sad little spinach plants that we never really harvested.

I’m debating whether or not I want to start some spinach indoors and transplant them, although I’ve read they don’t transplant well, take 7 weeks to mature and don’t grow well in hot weather. Perhaps it’s too late? Maybe I’ll just replace it with another plot of sugar snap peas instead. Those have been successful and we know we like those a lot.

Still, having this garden is a sanity saver during this unusual time in our history. By sheer luck we started this project last December, but it’s become the most important thing in our daily lives–in my daily life mostly. Not only do we receive a meager nutritional return, but it does provide a sense of pride and accomplishment as well as some distraction when there are limited distractions available right now.

It’s also created a deeper connection between me and my mom, who, on every phone call, always asks how my garden is doing. Not only that, it’s awakened stories of her past about her parents, my dad, his parents and how they all were avid gardeners at some point in their lives. I find myself learning something new each time I talk to her.

I wonder if this pandemic never happened, and if I had still spent 50 hours a week away from the house, would I still have had the time and energy to dedicate to the garden’s success? Or would my enthusiasm for the project have faded off halfway through and shelved before anything came to fruition, much like other projects in the past? I don’t know. I would hope not.

Izzie Sits on the Porch in 2016

She Knows Where Her Heart Is

This photo popped up in my Facebook memories and made it a perfect segue into what happened yesterday afternoon.

I had just finished work for the day and decided to begin my afternoon ritual of unwinding. I switched out my computers and let Izzie out into the backyard. I put my yard shoes on and gathered some pruning shears and joined Izzie outside.

The weather was lovely and brisk, not nearly as hot as it was earlier in the week. In fact it was quite chilly. I picked up the garden hose and started watering some of the plants and as I did I started looking around for Izzie. Our yard is pretty large, flat, and pretty wide open except for a fenced off corner that we refer to as the “pig pen” even though we don’t really know if that’s what it was used for. Usually she’s not hard to spot, but this time I didn’t see her immediately. I didn’t think anything of it because this wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve lost sight of her in an overgrown hedge.

But as I’m standing there, watering hose in hand, I hear, “Hello, hellooooo!” from behind me. I turn around and there’s one of our neighbors, a tall guy about my age or older, standing at our side gate with Izzie in his arms.

“Oh my goodness, Izzie!” I said, dropping the garden hose and rushing over. Then I realized what happened. “Ugh,” I said. “Craig must’ve forgotten to close the gate when he was working out here.” I was relieved but also amused because she seemed pretty proud that she brought a friend home. “I’m so sorry, I hope she didn’t bother you.”

He laughed. “Oh no, well the funny thing is, when she’s in this yard, she acts like a tough little badass barking at everyone from behind the fence, but when she was out there, she ran up to me just as sweet and friendly as she can be!” And then he said to Izzie, “We know what you’re really like, don’t we?”

“Oh goodness, what a silly girl,” I said. “Thank you so much!”

“No problem!” he said, and closed the gate behind him. I laughed again and scolded her playfully.

This is not the first time that Izzie has left the yard. Unlike other dogs who would probably take off wandering for miles, Izzie never really goes far. She will often just wander over to the neighbor’s house, or even just walk around to the front door and bark to be let inside from there. I’ve always been very relieved that she does this. I like to think it’s because she knows her heart is here with us, but let’s face it. This is Izzie. Her heart is wherever her treats are.

Not Quite the Celebration We Planned

It was way too early in the morning. The bedroom was still cloaked in darkness, but Craig was already dressed for work and preparing to leave the house. “Ok, honey, I’ll see you later,” he said from the hallway. “Have a good day today.”

I was still in bed, eyes barely open. “You too, “ I said. He disappeared down the hall. 

Then I remembered. “Honey?!” I called after him.


“Happy Anniversary,” I said.

He paused probably because, just like me, he had almost forgotten as well, “Happy Anniversary, my love.” With everything that’s been going on these last couple weeks, it’s no surprise we had lost track of the days.

We would’ve been preparing for a trip to Hot Springs, AR. this weekend to celebrate our third wedding anniversary and to visit his sister and brother-in-law. But due to the shelter-in-place order for Dallas county, we’ve cancelled our plans and stayed home. 

Instead, we both spent the day working, him out in what we refer to as “the danger zone,” and me at home, in front of a computer screen. Thinking about how we are celebrating this year makes my heart hurt and my chest ache. 

This will be my third week in isolation and I guess you can say the effects of it are wearing on me. I cry a little sometimes. I cry from the fear and the uncertainty. I cry because our lives have been completely turned inside out and I worry things will never be the same.

I can’t seek comfort in my husband’s arms because we’re both afraid of what might be transmitted between us. Maybe that’s the part that makes me angry. All the things that I love are slowly being taken away from me by something I can’t see. Because lord knows I will not let anyone or anything take this life I love without a fight, even if that means to the death.

How to Keep it Together While Working From Home (Indefinitely)

Last Thursday, we received a memo at work that all employees needed to begin working from home if able. With COVID-19 now in the news on a daily basis, we couldn’t deny the drastic shift that was upon us.

I’ve been home for 6 days, 4 of those have been actual work days. I have to say though it’s really… strange. In some ways, I feel like it’s a positive change for me because now I have to be more self-disciplined and regimented about my morning routine.

Start Promptly and Get a Morning Routine Down

Work starts for me at 7:30 a.m. Because I no longer have a commute, I start getting ready for work at 6:50. I shower and I eat a quick breakfast. Then I dress to shoes; I even do my hair and my makeup. I don’t do a full face, just simple, every-day makeup and straightened hair. Some days I wear my glasses, some days I don’t.

By 7:25, I’m usually at my desk in my home office. This means I have to disconnect my personal laptop and connect my work laptop. I’m also fortunate that I have a proper office setup so that I can close the door if needed.

Starting at about the same time every day encourages self discipline, which builds character and self worth.

Be Regimented About Taking Breaks

My company requires that all employees take a lunch break during the day, up to an hour. We also are allowed two 15 minute breaks during the day for getting up and walking around, bathroom visits, or, for some people, smoke breaks.

It’s important to not forget those extra breaks during the day. I will usually get up and do something else around the house like start a load of laundry or take the clean dishes out of the dishwasher. If it’s not raining like it has been all week, I’ll walk out into the garden to see how things are doing out there. Not only do I get some fresh air and sun, but I also get to check on some of the growth, or maybe even plant something.

Breaks allow your brain to rest from grueling and otherwise repetitive tasks. Don’t deprive yourself of them. They’r essential!

(Try To) Keep a Tidy Workspace

I almost feel a pang of guilt writing out that sentence. Considering that, as I sit here, I’m staring at an endless pile random shit that really doesn’t belong on my office desk, this is something I should practice, not just preach.

However if you had told me weeks ago that there would be a global pandemic in my community that would lock me up in my home, I would’ve laughed and said, “What movie is that from?” That’s how I find myself trying to make do with what I have, which in this case is a really cluttered home office.

I know that my office has potential. So during some of those breaks, I spend 10 to 15 minutes tidying up. I focus on one particular area and one by one, I just start putting things away. Pretty soon I’ll have a home office that I will be worth the 5 second commute.

I believe that having a reasonably tidy desk does help with productivity because it removes all distractions and gives you a blank canvas to work with.

Model Your Home Desk After Your Actual Work Desk

Friday friend told me over chat that she was just as productive working from home now (if not more so), once she modeled her home work space after her real work space. She even went as far as buying the same keyboard and mouse.

My coworker took all her desk plants home as well as a monitor. I’m sure though that taking home the plants was more out of their own survival than to maintain a zen workspace.

Since she and I were planning to meet up, she disconnected my headset from my docking station and brought it to me. I’m often in meetings or doing training sessions enough to warrant having a really good headset. Thankfully our company permitted us to take home whatever equipment we needed so I chose my headset. Sometimes having familiar items around just helps us get into the proper mindset. It doesn’t have to be specific work equipment. It can even just be as minuscule as a picture frame of you and your spouse on your wedding day. Whatever it is, don’t downplay its importance if you know it helps you keep your morale up.

If You Started Your Day Promptly, End Your Day Promptly

This is one of the first lessons I learned. Not only do I start my day on time, I end my day on time no matter what. In fact, I’ve started winding down my day about 20-30 minutes before my actual end time.

I review everything that I’ve done that day and document meetings and important reminders. Next I make note of any outstanding items that need to be addressed for the next day. Then I update my project hub in Microsoft Planner.

Once I’ve done all of that and it’s time to end the day, I put my laptop to sleep and physically disconnect it from my monitor so I can connect my personal laptop. However, I don’t dive right back into another screen. Instead I get up and I walk to another room and do something else for a while. Sometimes I watch TV in the bedroom, sometimes I go out into the garden. But either way, I make sure to mentally switch gears out of work mode by doing some other mindless task for a while.

Ultimately: Do What Makes Life Easy For You

There’s no right or wrong way to survive this whole work-from-home thing. Some people can do it, while for others it’s a challenge. Whatever you do though, remember that supporting your mental health is key here. Do what makes you happy.

English Lavender Seedlings

Where the Hell Have You Been, You Son of a Bitch?

This whole week has been a blur. A really strange, confusing blur. And now as this global pandemic reaches national disaster level, it looks like my working situation will be drastically altered for the time being.

For the last 48 hours, I’ve spent my time at home working, cleaning, decluttering, and preparing my home office for what seems to be an undetermined time there. It’s one thing to be at the office dealing with all the stress and stupidity, but then to have it invade my home, my sanctuary is wholly something else. So I’m trying to think of ways to separate the two while they reside under the same roof.

While I’ve been cleaning my office though, I’ve been evaluating the seedlings that have made the top shelf in my office their home. That’s when I found two tiny seedlings, one not much bigger than a pinhead.

For anyone who has attempted to grow lavender from seed, you probably know how extremely difficult these are. Not only do they have a long stratification period, but they have a long germination period, putting growth time from seed to seedling at around 60 days at minimum.

But just as I was about to give up on these guys, I opened up the plastic produce bag they were stored in (to keep the growing conditions warm and humid) and discovered two tiny specks of green.

I felt… relief. And surprise. Because considering the seed company was clear about the 30% germination rate, I was still determined to try. And even though I was about to give up, Mother Nature rewarded me at the last minute.

Let’s just hope I can keep them alive from now on.