Don't call me between 6 and 8 a.m. That's when I am playing outdoors, getting wet with the hose like the children do, and occasionally even taking a drink from it.
Ah, yes, the care of flowers is always tedious, but this summer has been a real challenge.
The sound of thunder, which we rarely hear this summer, is as beautiful as a symphony during the drought, but it is usually only wishful thinking and the dreaded chore of watering is repeated.
I don't have to set the alarm to be sure of the early morning date with the geraniums and numerous other plants. Somehow, I hear the wilting blossoms whispering as I turn over for that last hour of sleep.
Then I jump out of bed, put on slacks that dry quickly because they will get wet, and slide into the tattered canvas shoes that are parked near the door.
I have kidded myself into thinking I have a watering plan that requires two hours until everything has had a sufficient drink.
That includes five new trees: two sugar green maples, one red maple, a locust, and a weeping cherry. In the world of trees they are all infants that I know I will never see mature into large adults, but it is a good feeling to have replaced the trees lost from the ash borer disease.
Each new tree gets 20 minutes of water. I point the end of the hose into the base of the trunk, hoping the water will seep down into the roots. So far they are holding their own.
The two mini blue spruce that are planted on Digby's grave each receive a pail of water that I haul in the car instead of carrying.
There are five more dead trees to be felled that stand out like sore thumbs in the huge yard. I dread the mess of having them cut down as well as the cost, but I will replace them. Tree cutters seem to enjoy the thrill of the chainsaw more than they do the clean-up process. Come winter, there should be a need for free firewood.
When I made the decision to save the large pieces of hollow tree trunks, I heard a workman say, "She can't throw anything away, not even dead wood."
He was right. When I bought this place 25 years ago the trees that have been slaughtered were massive sentinels of summer shade and autumnal beauty. Saving parts of them makes sense to me.
During this summer's planting mania the hollow tree trunk pieces that vary in circumference and height have made unique additions to the gardens. The holes in the trunks from rotting are perfect containers for wave petunias and coleus, and I am going to try hardy perennials and small trees in the larger cavities.
If I had my life to live over again on these two acres there are two things I would do. First, I would not have nine gardens to take care of.
Second, I would invest in a sprinkler system and utilize water from the lake. Is that legal?
Almost daily I have a confrontation with the sprinklers. Not one of the five works correctly. They are the kind that screw onto the hose. I never seem to get the connection tight enough, so water shoots in my face. My handyman skills also result in a cold shower when I try to repair the sprinkler so that water ejects from all of the holes, not just a few. No, I don't turn the water off. Because how would I know if the water was coming out?
My gardening skills are limited. I am very good at patronizing greenhouses to select annuals that fill the trunk and back seat of the car.
Isn't it fascinating how fresh and beautiful they are in the greenhouse, compared to what they look like a week after they are out of the ideal environment?
I also do quite well planting, especially in containers.
I am smart enough to use fertilizer every two weeks and am delighted with the individual pre-measured packets on the market.
But, my specialty is definitely watering. After the two-hour early morning mission it's breakfast by the kitchen window with a view of the largest and most colorful garden.
It's a feeling of a job well done, but rain, sweet rain, can take my place any day.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.