Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No Time for Slugs

Sometimes life goes along so smoothly that you are lulled into thinking it will always be that way. No weeds are threatening to take over your garden. No deadlines loom ahead. Winter's snow and cold keeps you housebound. Cleaning projects are abandoned in favor of afternoon naps and a good book. Soon you find yourself turning into a slug. Then you hit a bump in the road . . .

The big "bump" occurred over two weeks ago when my father suffered a mild stroke. He was rushed to the hospital and after several days of rehab was recovering quite well, fortunately. However, because this was his second stroke in less than a year, the doctor recommended surgery to clean out the blockage causing the stroke. The surgery was not without risk, but Dad resigned himself to it, preferring that to the alternative of living in fear that another stroke might occur, one with much worse effects than the first two. The surgery went well last Friday, but recovery has been very slow, understandable for someone in his 80's, but slower than Dad had anticipated. He is still in the hospital, and I have been going back and forth nearly every day to visit him for awhile. That is not to say I spend all day at the hospital; no, it's my mother who is there in constant attention. She is truly an amazing woman!

While many things have been put on hold here until he is able to return home, I have managed to keep up with a few activities, including a new venture. A month ago I posted my last ABC post and stated that I wouldn't participate in this weekly meme this time around because I would be too busy on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to post. I didn't mean to create an aura of mystery about my plans, but at the time I was afraid I might find an excuse to chicken out of my plans. A new session of Tai Chi started last week, which means Wednesdays are full with Tai Chi class, lunch with my friend and fellow exerciser, and errands. But the real time commitment is on Tuesdays--I am now enrolled in the Master Gardener program sponsored by our local County Extension.

We have had two classes so far, and already I have learned so much! As a teacher, I was used to taking graduate classes frequently during my career, but this is a whole new ballgame. Our first class was a crash course in Botany, and by the end of the day, my head was spinning with all the new terms I had encountered. However, I can now look at my amaryllis blossom pictured above, and instead of referring to the long "thingies" coming out of its center, I can accurately call them the pistil (the longer all-white "thingy") and the anthers (the yellow tip-thingies) on the ends of the filaments.

Now when someone describes a flower as monoecious (having both male and female flowers separately on the same plant) or dioecious (bearing male flowers and female flowers on separate plants), I actually know what they're talking about! Pinnately compound or palmately compound leaves are also no longer a mystery to me. But I am still a little confused about monocots and dicots . . . Last week's class was about annuals, perennials, and bulbs. I definitely felt more intelligent on this day.

I have wanted to take the Master Gardener class for a few years now, but until this year I was hesitant to make such a huge time commitment. The class meets for ten weeks, every Tuesday from 9 till 4 for a total of over 60 hours of instruction. That is more class time than the average 3-hour college course would require. And then there's the financial commitment, but I realized this was quite a bargain. At a cost of $175, which includes a $95 comprehensive manual, this computes to less than $10 a day. You won't find any college horticulture course with tuition that low!

In addition to the time involved in classwork, there is also the time commitment in volunteer work. Master Gardener trainees are required to put in at least 60 hours of volunteer work before qualifying for the title of Master Gardener. All "newbies" are assigned to a section in the Idea Garden where new annuals from Proven Winners are showcased.

In addition to this section, manned by the trainees, we can also choose to help in other areas of the Idea Garden. There are the Children's Garden, the Sensory Garden, and the Vegetable Garden, among others.

The lush plantings around the perimeter of the Idea Garden are also divided into sections--the East Border, the North Border, and so on. Who knew on my many visits over the past two summers to the Idea Garden with Beckie that I might actually be helping to plant and maintain these beautiful gardens? Although it's a little intimidating to me, we will be working with experienced Master Gardeners who have created the planting plan for each area, so it should be a great learning experience.

Besides working in the Idea Garden, pictured in all the photos above, we also have the choice of volunteering at several community gardens in the area, including a local nursing home and the Juvenile Detention Center. This is the part that concerns me--if I'm spending all this time volunteering in other gardens, will I have time to work on my own? In the end, though, I've realized that even if my garden suffers from some temporary neglect, I am going to gain invaluable experience and knowledge from working with other much more knowledgable gardeners that my own garden will be better off in the long run. And that is the whole reason I signed up for the program--to improve my own knowledge of gardening.

This week's session was supposed to be over soils/fertilizer/compost, but had to be re-scheduled due to dangerous road conditions. Like most of the Eastern half of the United States, we've had another snowstorm with blowing and drifting. I am officially tired of winter now, but the past two days of being housebound have given me a chance to get a few things done, including slowly catching up on blog-reading and preparing this post.

I wish I could get the resident digger to help me with that 10-foot long snowdrift behind my car, but she has been pre-occupied with her new favorite winter pastime . . .

. . . bird-watching. With the snowfall, dozens of birds have been at the feeders outside the living room window all day long. Maybe I'll take a break and join her . . .


  1. Best wishes to your father for a full recovery. I know how it is to visit daily when a parent is in the hospital.

    I am very excited that you are taking the Master Gardener classes! You are going to learn so much and it will open up a whole 'nother world of gardening to you!

  2. Rose, I wish your father well.

    I'm glad to see you taking the MG class. I think you all have more class time and volunteer time than what my MG class had. But I think that's a good thing! Your Idea Garden is just delightful looking and I'd love to be able to work on one so beautiful. I hope you enjoy every second of your experience.

    And yes, I've got TONS of cardinals at my feeders right now. I hope you're snow bound enough (not too much!) to spend some time on the GBBC. Get Sophie to help you. :-)

  3. I'm glad you posted on your dad. I'm glad he's doing good. Hopefully he'll get out of the hospital soon.

    Congrats on the Master Gardener classes. That sounds like a fun and education thing to do.

    Hope you are staying warm.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s strokes, but it’s good to hear that the surgery went well and that you are close enough to visit him in hospital. That’s good that you are taking time for yourself too – both Tai Chi and Master Gardening must relieve stress. Well wishes to your father.

  5. So sorry to hear about your father but glad he is recovering and I do hope that he will get stronger and stronger as the time goes by.

    Lovely photos of the flowers but I do love the little bird and the doggie pictures!

    Nuts in May

  6. No time for slugs is right! I do hope your father progresses well in his recovery. It looks like you have a wonderful place to learn and grow your master gardener skills!

  7. First of all I'm very sorry for your father's illness. I do hope his recovery speeds up and he is back up and about as good as new if not better. Hat's off to your mother! You have to be strong in these situations and it's not always easy.

    Second of all congrats on your master gardener and tai chi classes! I think the education you learn but the relationships and gardening contacts you make by being a master gardener are priceless. Sophie looks a bit melancholy and ready for spring.

  8. I am so happy for you for taking the MG classes. It is worth while. You will learn so much. My favorite part was what I dreaded most, Soil. It was so interesting. I did Tai Chi for awhile but the class was at night and stoped and started some. I didn't go back finally. I sure hope your Dad recovers quickly and all is well and good for him. It must be hard on your Mother. So good to hear from you.

  9. My prayers go to your father's recovery and mother's are always amazing creations of god, aren't they!

    You're right about your gardening being neglected at the cause of greater knowledge. You took the right decision! Good luck and best wishes, Rose!

  10. Wonderful news Rose, you are a natural for the MG class. Good well wishes for your father. Happy Valentine's Day <3

  11. We send the best of wishes for your father's recovery, Rose! May he be back home soon, and feeling like himself. I am so proud of you for the Tai Chai and the Master Gardener class. You put me to shame with that botanical knowledge, we are still at the thingey stage. Choosing which community service projects to volunteer for sounds like fun. Spread the wealth! :-)

  12. I may have confused your exercise class with a tea drink. :-)

  13. I am sorry to hear about your father's stroke, but thankful that he is on the road to recovery. I think it is so wonderful you are taking a master gardener class. If I hadn't gotten my degree in horticulture, I would have definitely pursued that option - I am still paying off my student loans from long ago....

  14. Carol, Thank you; yes, those trips to the hospital can be draining. I'm excited, too, about the MG classes. Maybe then I'll take the "novice" out of my profile description:)

    Jean, I know the volunteer work is going to be helpful, plus I've already met so many wonderful people to work with. I can do the GBBC from my living room window; Sophie's only help is to bark every time a bird comes close:)

    Susie, Thanks, and I hope your mother is doing better as well. I've been so lucky thus far that my parents have always been so healthy. I am staying warm--in my house.

    Sarah, Thank you; yes, both classes are a great way of relieving stress and taking my mind off any worries I have.

    Maggie May, You are a dear to visit so faithfully! My dad could use a dose of your positive attitude right now. Sophie and I have had a lot of fun just watching the birds lately. Isn't the female cardinal the cutest thing?

    Cyndy, I am looking forward to really expanding my knowledge of gardening this year. It should be fun.

    Tina, Thank you; my mother has an amazing amount of stamina. I've already met some great people in my class--one is a neighbor who has offered to pass along some plants. You can't beat that!

    Lisa, The hardest part for me is making the commitment to do something. But now that I've started the MG classes, I look forward to them each week. Mom is amazing--she's embroidering a quilt while she sits in Dad's hospital room.

    Chandramouli, So good to hear from you! Glad you're back to blogging. Thanks for the well wishes.

    Joey, I don't know if I'm a "natural" or not, but thanks so much.

    Frances, I didn't realize till I signed up that volunteering is the main purpose of becoming a Master Gardener--it is all about "sharing the wealth", or knowledge in this case. LOL, thanks for the chuckle--I do Tai Chi on Wednesdays, and sometimes I even drink Chai Tea...but not at the same time:)

    Noelle, I know what you mean about student loans. Two of my children are still paying off theirs, and the youngest--just starting grad school--will have a phenomenal amount to pay off by the time she's done.

  15. Oh Rose, how wonderful! Your Master Gardener programme sounds terrific! I would love to take a course like that. And I do understand about making the commitment. Sometimes, it is the hardest, particularly with your Dad in hospital.

    I hope he's home soon and feeling better. Your mom sounds phenomenal. I will take courage from her.

    Thanks for passing some of your newfound knowledge along to us. It will be nice to hear updates from time to time.

    And last, but not least, your pics are beautiful.
    Sending healing thoughts to your Dad.

  16. I hope for a full recovery for your father. I have been going through something similar with my father over the past couple months and it can be difficult. Best wishes!

    It's wonderful that you're taking the MG classes! I hope to do the same one day, and it is the time commitment that is intimidating. There is so much to learn about botany and horticulture, and your garden will definitely benefit from your knowledge! I think volunteering to garden would be an absolutely fantastic way to spend one's time!

  17. Rose, How is your father now? I'm so glad your mom is able to be such a trouper! I'm hoping you're able to relax a bit as well.

    I'm (Not really) jealous about your taking the Master Gardener classes. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago, but the timing was not right. I'm hoping they'll do one locally before too long... next year? If I can do this, you may be on my list of contacts! ;-) Have a great time!!

    In the meantime, if no one else has tried the milk jugs, you can be the "local expert!" lol

  18. Dear Rose, The best of wishes to you father...and hugs to you...This has had to be very stressful. It's good that you are not teaching so you have the freedom to visit him.

    I am so excited for you taking the Master gardening class...I wanted to but they only offer it here at night, starting in Feb. Not attractive to drive late at night to and from the other side of Nashville.

    I tool Tai Chi years ago...I could not get myself to move that slowly;)

    Take care....gail

  19. Rose, I am so sorry to hear of your father's health issues. I hope the surgery is successful and his recovery complete.

    I am so excited for you making the decision to take the Master Gardener course. You will gain so much knowledge and experience that will be invaluable.

  20. I'm sorry to hear about your father. Surgery always takes longer to recover from than a patient anticipates (ime), even if the surgery goes well.

    How exciting about the MG class! I remember your posting pictures of this garden earlier and thinking how beautiful it is.

  21. Best wishes on your father's complete recovery Rose.

    Congrats on making the decision to take the MG class! I'm jealous of the new manual - the ones we had last year were 2 volumes, loose-leaf, and we had to assemble them.

    It's amazing how much information is packed into each class. I went back this year for the botany class, to help reinforce what I learned and refresh my memory. It's a lot of information to absorb, even if some of it is already familiar.

  22. Hi Rose, I missed this posting on the first day as I was at the hospital with my mother in law. Winter is so hard on folks. She is ok as I hope your dad continues to improve as well.
    Congrats on your MG class enrollment! I learned so much from mine and continue to learn lots and lots. I think the first few MG classes showed me how little I knew.....kind of funny now. (some of the newer MG's think of me as a 'go to' person for info---I laugh and think 'who me??')
    When we get to SC I plan on taking the MG class there. Such a great program where ever area you find to put your volunteer hours.

  23. I hope your dad makes a complete recovery. It has to be hard on him and your mom too.

    Those gardens are beautiful. I would love a chance to work in them. Ideas are the one thing I'm a little short on:)

  24. Hi, Rose;
    First of all, here's hoping for a speedy recovery for your father.

    Next up, here's to you for the MG classes! I did that about 5 years ago. I learned tons but the best part was meeting so many great people!

    Last but not least, if I bury a rawhide bone in the snow on my deck, Bad Dog works diligently to find it - typically shoveling the entire deck with his frenzied digging! Your puppy looks lots smarter than Bad Dog. :)) But it's worth a try!

  25. I've been feeling sluggish for weeks now. Kind of adrift in my own head, which is not really the best place to be. I'm very sorry to hear about your dad and hope he's feeling better.

  26. Prayers and Best Wishes to your dad and family coming up from Georgia! I do hope he makes a full recovery and is back to new soon. Bless your mother for being by his side...

    Congrats to you with your new endeavors in life! You will learn so much and make new friends along the way. Okay, no more long white thingy talk from you now :-). I so want to lay by Sophie and bird watch with her. Unlike my kitties, I bet she gives an occasional kiss…

  27. Dear Rose

    I do hope that your father is progressing well and that Mum will not tire herself out. We must always remember the carer.

    Oh my gosh.....well you are way ahead of me now Rose. I read gardening books all the time but can never remember all the facts and latin names that I come across. I have never been one of life's students. Well done, I know you will achieve so much and look forward to learning through your experiences....such fun.

    Love the gardens that you showed....would I just love to get my hands in that soil......

  28. Congratulations on taking the Master classes. I'd love to do that someday, if I could find one that would fit my schedule.
    Sending good thoughts & wishes for a speedy recovery for your dad. That is a scary thing, but hopefully the surgery has had the desired effect.

  29. Oh Rose I do hope that your father makes a good recovery. Sorry that you have had such a big bump ((((()))))

    I do wish that we had something similar to your Master Gardener programme on this side of the pond! Would love to paticipate.

  30. I am so very sorry to hear of your Father's illness Rose and do hope he continues to recover well and that your Mother doesn't tire herself too much.

    Congratulations on taking the course, it sounds like you will really enjoy it and learn a lot too. The volunteer work sounds great fun!

    All the photos are lovely but my favourites have to be the female Northern Cardinal (I really hope my ID is correct) and of course...dear Sophie :)

  31. I would love to do this someday when time allows. It must be wonderful to immerse yourself in all things gardening. It sounds wonderful.
    I think I have that same amaryllis.
    thanks for commenting on my daughter's post. :)


  32. Wendy, Thanks for all your good wishes. My mom is truly amazing; I don't think I appreciated her enough until I got older. When her father was in the nursing home for a year, she was there nearly every day.

    Rose, Best wishes to your father and I hope he is better soon. It can be difficult, but even more so when you also have small children to take care of as you do. The MG class is something I would never have had time for when I was working full-time.

    Shady, Dad is making a little progress each day, but he's still in the hospital for now. Funny you should mention the milk jugs--no one in my MG class, including the instructor, had heard of this. I think they thought I was a little crazy for sowing seeds in the dead of winter:)

    Gail, Thank you; I am thankful that I have the time to visit him regularly. We're lucky to have such a good MG program available here; I don't blame you for not wanting to drive into the city at night for classes. As for Tai Chi, slow movements are something I'm good at:)

    Morning Glories, So good to hear from you! I hope everything is going well with you.

    Sweet Bay, This is my dad's first surgery ever; I think he expected to get back up immediately, which is part of the problem. I'm looking forward to working in the Idea Garden!

    Linda, Thanks for the encouragement. I remember your posting about your program last year and all the activities you did. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy the volunteer work once I get into it.

    Janet, Healing wishes to your mother-in-law; I hope she is doing much better. The title "Master Gardener" sounds a bit intimidating to me;I doubt if I'll think of myself as any kind of expert even after the class. There's always so much more to learn!

  33. Marnie, Mom is a trouper, and my brother and I keep tabs on her to make sure she's doing okay. I'm hoping to get some new ideas this year, too.

    Kate, Meeting other enthusiastic gardeners is a benefit I wasn't expecting from the class, but it's been great. Love your idea about burying the dog bone in the snow--I should have thought of that yesterday as I was trying to dig myself out.

    Monica, There are days when there's more fog inside my head than outside:)

    Skeeter, Sophie would definitely give you kisses:) What I didn't show was that Toby the cat is usually on the other side of Sophie--they're both entranced by the "bird TV."

    Cheryl, I've been concerned about my Mom, but she's a woman of great stamina and seems to be holding up well. Thanks for the good wishes. Experience is a great teacher, too, and you already know so much about gardening. I'm trying to get a jump-start on learning since I started gardening so late in life.

    MMD, I've been surprised that there are not that many MG programs available throughout the state this year. I'm really lucky that we have such an active program here in Champaign County.

    Anna, Thank you for the good wishes. Our local County Extension offers the program, and we're fortunate to have such a valuable resource here.

    ShySongbird, Thank you. I've always loved the bright red male cardinals, but I think the female (yes, it is) is just as beautiful. I was excited to be able to get this photo.

    Rosey, I'm looking forward to a summer of thinking about little other than gardening:) The amaryllis will be featured on my Bloom Day post--it was the victim of an accident:)

  34. I hope your father continues to improve. Congratulations on taking the plunge into the master gardener class. Good luck. Will watch for future posts.

  35. We don't have master gardener classes here - sounds like something really really interesting and well worth the effort never mind getting to volunteer in such beautiful surroundings.

    I hope your father will make a good recovery.

  36. Rose, you know I wish a speedy recovery for your Dad. :) And how great is your Mother! She has not changed in all the years I have known her.

    Your Master Gardener classes are going to benefit not only you and the gardens you volunteer at, but me as well. Just think of all the free advice I can get from you. LOL!

  37. Rose girl ! I'm sorry about your dad's health problems. It is a struggle to recuperate from all of that .. but better days ahead I am sure !
    I am so happy for you with the Master Gardener's curse .. it will be so satisfying and such a wonderful experience. I will be honest and say I am jealous (I can say that because you are a blogger friend ? LOL) .. I so wish I could take the course here but I can not commit physically to it with my conditions (which were reinforced with me (doctors orders eek !)after the hospital episode )... but again .. I am so happy for you and YES you do look at plants a different way after all of that information settles in your brain !
    Good luck and ENJOY this experience.
    Speedy recovery wishes for your day too !
    ... and .. Sophie looks adorable : ) .. don't tell the girls I said THAT ! haha

  38. rose,
    i do hope for your father to be well. having someone in the hospital is very tiring...your mother must be exhausted. hopefully he will be on the mend and home very soon.
    wow tai chi classes and master gardener wonderful.
    my sister meems, just started m/g classes as well. i wish you the best and know you will be gaining invaluable knowledge for your future gardening projects. good for you.
    i am always offically tired of winter by this time.
    happy february.

  39. Rose, I'm glad your dad is recovering well. I feel for your mom as the caregiver, having watched mine take care of my dad for so long. I really believe hospital time is more stressful on the caregiver than the patient. Hugs to all of y'all.

    I found that the biggest lesson I took away from my MG classes was how much I still had to learn. 12 years later I'm still learning!

  40. That's a lot in one post Rose. I am praying for your father's recovery. People are amazing aren't they? My mother has been sick so many times, and she just keeps coming back. I also want to congratulate you on the MG course. I think you will love it, and learn so much. On winter, nuff said. Picture me with my arms crossed.~~Dee

  41. Rose, I hope that by the time you read this, your dear Dad is doing much better. Your Mother sounds amazing. My Dad is 86, Mom 81....still living in their house which is 45 minutes away from me. I worry all the time about the big "bump" and how life can change so quickly.

    Tai Chi and Master Gardener classes, both are on my list of things I'd like to do. Please
    keep us updated on both. I'll be very interested in whatever you're willing to share about them.

    Positive thoughts and prayers for both of your parents and you, too.


  42. Best wishes for your Dad. He will be up & going before you know it.
    Congrats on your jump into a wonderful life. You will meet so many new friends.
    Tai Chi, on my goodness. My son is doing the sword thingy. It has helped him be more flexible in his upper body. He is a double transplant person. He lost weight tho. That he didn't need.

  43. I hope your dad continues to improve, Rose! And congrats to you on taking the Master Gardener classes! I'm also going to be taking them, starting March 4th. I'm so excited! I know it won't be an easy road, but nothing worth pursuing ever is.
    Love the photos of the garden. It looks like a place I could spend some time in.
    Did I read somewhere that you'll be at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show? If so, when? Mom and I will be there on March 6 and 7. I'd love to see you again!


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