Branching Out

I bought a plum tree today. This is a rather big thing for me because I’ve never bought any kind of tree before, let alone a fruit tree. I probably should have started with something easier like a hardy pine tree but as my yard is already full of pine trees, that seemed silly. I wanted a pear tree but the store didn’t have any. I could have bought an apple or cherry tree but those seemed too ordinary to me. Then I saw the plum trees and they looked so sturdy and friendly that I just had to have one.

The plum tree I chose was about a foot taller than me and I wasn’t sure it would fit in my car but I figured I’d make it work somehow. So I folded down all the seats on the passenger side, laid down a blanket and carefully angled the tree down and into my Toyota Matrix. To my delight, the tree just fit! On the drive home my tree and I became a bit snuggly a couple times around curves but otherwise it stayed put and behaved.

The plum tree just fit!

The plum tree just fit!

Sitting in the front seat looking back

Sitting in the front seat looking back

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

I haven’t decided where I’m going to plant my plum tree yet. I thought about putting it in the front yard but then everyone and their brother driving by would have the pleasure of watching me struggle to dig a hole deep enough for it. I think the back yard is a better choice where only my neighbors can look out their windows and point and laugh. Digging the hole is going to be an interesting challenge since my ground can be rather hard. I’ve tried standing on the shovel before to make it go in further and it barely sinks an inch. I might be a little thing but my stubborn determination is gigantic so I’ll get that puppy planted one way or another!

When I got home I placed the plum tree in the back yard just to see how it would look and I rather like it back there. It’s final place hasn’t been decided yet because I’m going to do an experiment with my new bluebird feeder, but that’s a story for another day…

The plum tree in my back yard

The plum tree in my back yard

After dinner I decided to take Jazzmin on another walk to test the Dr. Scholl’s Active Series insoles I bought to put in my new Asics GEL-Kayano sneakers. I’ve been wearing Skechers Shapeups for the past three years and I’m so used to their rounded bottoms that flat bottom sneakers feel awkward to me. To test the insoles, I thought Jazz and I would take the short, hilly walk but as we came to the first sharp curve, my eyes were drawn to the path the local farmer uses to access the fields behind my house. There’s a gate up but no posted sign. I’ve been wanting to take Jazz hiking somewhere and this seemed like a perfect place to start! I steered Jazz off the road and onto the path that’s been well-traveled by trucks and tractors.

Looking up the access road

Looking up the access road

Jazzmin was quite excited by this change of course and had to work a bit harder to walk over the rockier terrain of the access road. My sneakers were not the proper footwear for this venture but having my hiking boots on would have meant I’d planned ahead. I rarely plan ahead, too many things fall apart when I do that. The view up the path was a beautiful canopy of green trees and underbrush and the only sounds to be heard were the songs of birds. We walked to the top of the hill and down the other side where the road opened up to so much open space and woods that I felt miniscule. Gazing out across the endless rolling green and expansive blue sky reminded me how small I really am on this big world.

The view where the road turned

The view where the road turned

Looking toward the continuing road

Looking toward the continuing road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

We started to walk back and I realized we were being serenaded by a rather familiar bird song. I stopped and peered into the tree above us and saw the bright yellow plumage of a male goldfinch. He was perched there all by himself, no sign of a mate but he was happily singing away. I’d been smart enough to bring my camera in Jazzmin’s backpack this time (a smidge of planning ahead there) so I quickly got it out and zoomed in on the branches as much as I could. I snapped a couple photos as the goldfinch sang and then he promptly flew away.

The goldfinch way up in the tree

The goldfinch way up in the tree

A moment before he flew away.

A moment before he flew away.

I took the time to look around me more on the walk back and I discovered I’d overlooked a lot of interesting and beautiful things. I’ll speak more of that journey tomorrow. For today I am content that I branched out by buying a tree and exploring a new path. Every day really is an adventure, you just have to see its potential!

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Strength, rocks and cinder blocks

bonfire flames

The flames of my first bonfire, summer 2012

hedgerow cinderblocks

The cinder blocks were stacked behind an old burn barrel

cinderblock toss

Cinder block toss: a new Olympic sport!

cinder block firepit

Cinder block bonfire surround

I’m not afraid of hard work and I don’t mean just hard mental work, I mean hard physical work. I am the sole owner of 1.4 acres of land in Upstate NY and it falls squarely upon my shoulders to improve and maintain my property. I do what needs to be done when it needs to be done and I never back down from a new landscaping challenge.

As stated in my “Not Profound” post every single tree I own is messy and drops branches, pine cones or leaf sticks. The spring cleanup of my yard is an ongoing process as with every strong wind more mess falls from the trees. My first spring in my home was last year and I gathered a decent pile of branches and pine cones. There was no designated bonfire pit in the yard because the previous owners apparently burned everything but the kitchen sink in barrels. So I picked a spot toward the back of my property, dumped the branches there and proclaimed it my bonfire pit. A proper bonfire pit is surrounded with rocks to define it but surprisingly enough, I’ve yet to find any big rocks on my property.

Last year was my first bonfire and it went off quite well with my girls, two close friends, ample s’mores and a couple of Samuel Adams Summer Ales. I’ve already started this year’s pile and while it isn’t as large as last year, judging by the wind again today, it will be soon. I still really wanted a true border around it so I began investigating the hedgerow between my property and the neighbors. Monday morning I discovered that behind one of the old burn barrels was a decent sized stack of cinder blocks. I fought through the vines and prickers for a closer look and concluded that the blocks had never been used for anything. I’d found my bonfire border! I resolved to get the blocks out of there that afternoon following work and went about my day.

Monday afternoon arrived and it was a beautiful, relatively warm day. My daughters were more than happy to play outside on the swing set and in the yard so I went out in work clothes determined to get the job done. I knew I wouldn’t want to carry every single block across the yard one at a time so I moved my wheelbarrow over near them for transport. In order to reach the pile I had to walk over a rather large mound of old ashes and burnt whatever and it was somewhat squishy and less than stable.

Wearing my leather work gloves, I yanked and pulled at the nest of vines until I could get at the pile and then picked up my first cinder block. That was literally the first time I’ve ever moved a cinder block and they were lighter than I expected but still a substantial workout for my arms. I carried that block over the squishy mound and into the wheelbarrow and repeated the process twice more before becoming fed up with that idea. I then began throwing the blocks out toward the wheelbarrow in a sort of backyard Olympics sport and I was impressed with my own strength.

I could put four cinder blocks in the wheelbarrow and still be able to move it so I made as many trips as it took to get the blocks over to the fire pit where I began placing them around in a circle. By the time I finished that job I was pretty beat. I’d pinched my hands between two blocks more than once, banged them into my hips and legs and scraped up my forearms because I’d become too hot in my sweatshirt to keep it on. Even so, I was ridiculously proud of myself and would do it all over again if need be. I’d accomplished what I wanted to and my bonfire pit finally looked substantial and permanent.

Everything I do on my property and in my house fills me with a deep sense of pride and increases my belief in my own abilities. I’m gaining tons of experience and discovering that yes, I can do whatever I put my mind to because I’ve successfully done so numerous times in the past. My long distance friend, who knows a lot about hard work himself, gave me a virtual pat on the back and while I don’t do any of this for acknowledgement or praise, it felt really good! A little “good job, Julie!” sticks with me as I tackle my next challenge and every other challenge along the way.