Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Getting Out to Sea

...(W)henever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul...I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. 
-- From Herman Melville's "Moby Dick"

I am no sailor. After nearly drowning several times in my life, I stay away from water be it a placid lake or a raging surf. However, I have great respect for the power of the sea and those who work it for a living. When the wind howls and one wrong step can cost you your life, you are doing a job I know is important and I could not do.

Montauk sunset, Nov. 2017 (Margo D. Beller)
For some reason, despite my antipathy for water, I find myself drawn to it. That may come from my upbringing on the southern coast of Brooklyn, NY, in an area called Sheepshead Bay. Back in my youth the place had the atmosphere of a fishing village, especially along Emmons Ave., which parallels the bay. Farther along the road, there is Plumb Beach, which is now cleaned up quite a bit from the garbage dump it was, when you walked carefully along the sand to avoid used syringes and condoms.

My mother, who grew up on the flat plains of Alberta, liked to come to Plumb Beach to watch the waves. Listening to the water must have been a way to stay calm in an otherwise less-than-contented life. But my old neighborhood has changed and the fishing village has been replaced by high-end real estate, traffic and tall towers.

When MH and I started taking vacations in November around the time of the Veterans Day holiday, we chose shore areas because the tourists would not be there in the same numbers as in the summer. Our first November trip was to Stonington, Conn. We have since stayed along the Delmarva Peninsula; in Cape Cod and Cape Ann, both in Massachusetts; in New Jersey's own Cape May, and down along the North Carolina Outer Banks and on Atlantic Beach.

There are disadvantages to this. When the wind blows in the winter cold it can be numbing. Not as many restaurants are open and some areas of state or federal parks can be closed. If unexpected snow hits, it makes for treacherous travel.

Male (L) and female long-tailed ducks
(Margo D. Beller)
But still we go, because we can enter parks without a fee and, if we are lucky, we find a wealth of birds.

This year we decided to stay closer to home yet not in Cape May, and so ventured to Montauk, on the eastern end of New York's Long Island. We have visited the town on many day trips but wanted to do some exploring of the South Fork, where Montauk is at the very end, and the North Fork, where we had once visited Greenport and Orient, two of the towns where wineries have replaced the old potato farms.

The Long Island scenery is wonderful. We also saw some impressive birds including hundreds of them in the ocean off Camp Hero, an old military base now a state park. Winter is duck time. Among those in the ocean below a sheer drop were black, surf and white-winged scoters and common eiders. Gannets dove from on high for food while cormorants and common loons would pop up from the water before diving back down again. The ubiquitous herring gulls were joined by greater black-backed gulls and even a few ringbills.

In calmer waters we found more common eiders, a scoter or two as well as long-tailed ducks. All of these are usually seen in the ocean but when you are at Land's End and a storm is expected, shelter is a priority.

Double-crested cormorant
(Margo D. Beller)
We had one picture-perfect day, which we spent on the North Fork, an area that shares more with the salt-box, shingled, harbor people of New England than New York. In Orient Beach State Park, dozens of robins plus jays and the occasional house finch and myrtle warbler were hitting the red cedars, which were covered in blue berries. We saw the same feeding frenzy the next day at a county park we found after we left Sag Harbor (like New Bedford, Mass., a whaling center once) but this time it was dozens of cedar waxwings and goldfinches hitting the berries.

If only we could've spent more time with the birds and less time trying to find an affordable place to eat and drive roads where the people who service the rich were in a hurry to either get to their next job or get home and drove one-lane roads at a high rate of speed. Even those who own property and live out there full time drive behemoths that fill your rear-view mirror when they tailgate.

All of this part of Long Island is New York City East. While the North Fork seemed more artsy, I did not like the South Fork much at all. The Hamptons have always been rich but now they are Super-Rich, with obscenely expensive megamansions crowding each other along any available waterway, screened from lesser beings in the road by tall, thick hedges of privet. Privet is everywhere. Once in a while I saw huge hollies placed in front for the same reason, which at least is interesting. Privet is not, and when it flowers it stinks. The mansions were of recent vintage - salt boxes are an endangered species where land is worth more than your life - and likely very empty, their owners back in their city penthouses.

Myrtle warbler
(Margo D. Beller)
A long time ago my family spent our summer vacation not far from the Hamptons, in a little town called Center Moriches. On this trip, MH and I drove through. I expected change and was not disappointed.

When I was a child I remember my family walking along the road from the old hotel - which later was bought by Imelda Marcos, the wife of the Philippine dictator - past a duck farm. Hundreds of white ducks, bred to become part of the famous Long Island duckling dinner. My sister and I weren't told that, of course.

The duck farm was gone, the land cut up into luxury housing. The old hotel I remembered had been fenced in (likely by Marcos) and re-sided (likely by the people who bought it from Marcos) in a thoroughly ugly way. I expected this but it was still sad to see. I doubt we'll be coming back to the South Fork ever again. Aside from the sea, it is not our kind of place.

You've got to walk and don't look back, as Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger once sang.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sweating the Small Stuff

Something wonderful begins to happen with the simple realization that life, like an automobile, is driven from the inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful with where you are, rather than focusing on where you would rather be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present. Then, as you move around, try new things, and meet new people, you carry that sense of inner peace with you. It's absolutely true that, "Wherever you go, there you are.” 
― Richard CarlsonDon't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and it's all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life

My friends know I have a Type A personality. They may not know it was created from a household where my mother couldn't keep house, my father couldn't screw in a light bulb and my sister tried to make herself disappear whenever she could. So, I felt, I had to keep things running. I still do.

Pods on the grass, the type of "small stuff"
that keeps me going. (Margo D. Beller)
I was watching TV the other day and saw one of those commercials for the new Real Estate Trap, aka, an "active adult" community. In that one the single woman, who looks to be in her 70s, says she couldn't believe she could be happy in her new environment. We see her with age-appropriate friends, multi-racial and of both sexes, and she's reading and making cookies and "can't want to see what tomorrow brings!"

The line that really gets my blood boiling is when she says how glad she is she no longer has to "sweat the small stuff."

What would that be, ma'am?

Would that be cleaning up your little room? Would that be cooking a meal for yourself? Would that be walking the dog, raking the leaves, working in the garden, running to the library?

No, of course not. You have everything you need right there and if you do want to go somewhere, the complex will put you in a van and take you there.

For those older, more infirm folks, I can see the appeal of this. My in-laws are in their 80s and very glad to sell their suburban home for a NH condo closer to their grandchildren, where there are lots of activities, a hospital is down the road and they don't have to shovel the snow or work on the greenery outside. I bless my father-in-law every time I use the tools he left behind.

But this morning, as I raked yet more pods to the curb ahead of my town's leaf vac coming by, I wondered what I would do if I no longer had to "sweat the small stuff."

My way of not sweating the small stuff.
(RE Berg-Andersson)
I'd never survive.

I have the type of personality that has to work against something. For many years it was a job away from home, where if I wanted to do anything I wanted to do, I had to either do it before my two-hour commute or once I got home from work 12 hours or so later or wait for the weekend. Even after I started working from home I'd have to work around my various shifts.

At the moment it's getting those damned pods off my lawn.

One of my friends envies me my now semi-retired status, semi-retired because I still do some freelance work, I just don't get as much of it or get paid as well as I was before my biggest client decided to go without my editing services. I have a lot of time to fill. Sure, I can read all day but how will that pay the bills?  I tell her that every day seems the same to me now, weekends and holidays are just another day. Most days I wake up and have to remind myself what day it is.

But at least I still wake up. I still put out the bird feeders in the cold dawn, refill the water dish, watch the Canada geese fly overhead (even if these are local geese flying north instead of south for the winter). I still make supper for MH and myself, and when I don't feel like it we go out. I even clean my own house every so often. I don't feel compelled to mingle with people if I don't feel like it, and I can still afford to pay the taxes on this property. The idea of an "active adult community" fills me with horror, mainly because I know I'd have to be in really bad condition physically, financially or both, to force me from my home.

As a couple without children, whose friends live some distance away and who are aging every day, the small stuff of what happens in future is a problem for another day.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Preparing for Winter, Part 2

If there is one thing I hate doing among all the things I must do before winter hits, raking is the worst. And the worst of the worst is raking black locust pods off my front lawn before they are chewed by deer and squirrels, the seeds scattered and a forest springs up.

Female locust tree, with pods. Oct. 2017 (Margo D. Beller)
I've written about raking before, how it is a way of communing quietly with nature as I listen to the early-morning calls of the birds, and how it is yet another way MH and I can work together as a team toward a common goal.

But every year, and we are talking about decades now, I take my rake to the thick mat of pods shaken down by the wind and curse out the person or persons on the Shade Tree Commission who thought black locusts would be a fine tree at the curb of my street.

They certainly can take the summer heat and car exhausts. But whoever put them in put them in haphazardly. I have learned you need male and female trees in order for pods to be created. On our property we have two males and one female, the female hanging over the driveway, which means if pods are down heavily here too they have to be broomed to the curb. I have done that twice today alone.

Some years, as with the apple tree, something happens with the atmospheric conditions and there are fewer pods to rake up. But this is not that year.

It could be worse. Several of my neighbors down the street have two female trees, with double the mess.

About a decade ago our town realized that when the locust roots spread, they push up streets and sidewalks. There was a move to remove these and replace them with walnuts. My politically connected former neighbor got one of those walnuts before the money ran out for the project. The walnut is the last tree to drop its thin leaves, usually all over my side of our common yard. In a few years, the mature tree will start forming fruits, which look like large green balls filled with the nut that only a squirrel can somehow saw open.

More mess.

Pods at the curb. Since this picture I added more
and the town came through to collect them. More to come.
2017 (Margo D. Beller)
Our town takes the pods along with the fallen leaves. MH did a close mowing, his last for the year, and that took care of the leaves but only temporarily. November is when most of our raking is done because the town will stop coming through in early December.

That is not all I do, of course. When a friend mailed up some bulbs of lilies and daffodils, they had to go into the ground. When the weather forecast showed a trend toward overnight temperatures in the 30s, I had to bring in my peppers, cannas and the tomato I potted after finding it near my compost pile. The dahlia was brought in, too.

And there was last week's chore of completely redoing my Bay Garden. Checking on things today I found a chipmunk did some small bit of digging, either to bury nuts for later or dig up past plantings. I can only do so much. The rabbit fencing is not small enough to deter a chipmunk but they will dig or jump over most barriers anyway. I have found plenty of small trees growing in my netted gardens where a chipmunk has been digging and forgotten what it has planted.

Lawn mowed, pods raked, Bay Garden plot redone, the pots
to the left brought inside. Ready for winter. (Margo D. Beller) 
In the coming weeks I will cut back watering all but two of the peppers and the tomato. These will come inside, to be protected from cold and lit by the bay window. The rest will be cut back and stored in the garage or taken from the pots and put into compost.

I know there are pots and garden plants that will have to be divided, but that will be for the spring. For now, knowing there is more raking to do soon, this labor has been more than enough.

Sometimes I worry what will happen when I am no longer able to do this work. That will be for another day, too.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Searching for Color

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.  
― Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"

I don't know when this ritual of looking for trees filled with dying, colorful leaves began. Doubtless, the good people of Vermont knew a good thing when they saw it, drawing those of us in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere up to New England to drive around, stay at a hotel, help the local economy and watch leaves color, die and fall without our having to sweep them up.

Ashokan Reservoir, Catskills, NY, Oct. 2017
(Margo D. Beller)
Watch a weather forecast and there's someone telling you which areas are "peak" or close to it. Look online and google "fall foliage" and see what you find. Regional websites, weather websites, tourist websites all trying to draw you to their regions to look at the colorful, albeit dying leaves.

This week I've swept dozens of long, hard, black pods from the black locust tree to the curb to allow MH to cut our lawn one last time before the raking begins. Plenty of leaves and pods to come. I can put some leaves into my compost pile but my pile is only so big and there is always too many leaves.

Rondout Reservoir during a brief moment of sunshine.
This and Ashokan are among the reservoirs that supply New
York City with water. (Margo D. Beller)
In my part of NJ this year the color isn't all that good. Yes, the dogwoods, Virginia creeper vine and some maples are showing red, some of the elms are starting to go yellow and some of the white oaks are going brown. But the overall picture is one of rain-starved trees trying to drop dully, tattered leaves as fast as they can to save energy and thus themselves for next year.

Yards with yellow and red maples are already covered with leaves so thick you can't see the grass. The whine of the leaf blower is heard throughout the land.

And yet, here was MH and me on a recent Sunday driving north to the Catskill Mountains, looking for color. Any excuse to get out of the house. Most of the day was cloudy and breezy and far from the expected 80 degrees, thankfully. At Rondout Reservoir in the Catskill Mountains of NY, a source of NYC's water, there suddenly appeared cormorants, common loons and ringbilled gulls in the water, and a shrieking redtailed hawk over my head.

Below, in the still-blooming daisies and goldenrod were Monarch butterflies. These delicate creatures were holding fast to the flowers in the breeze. They are flying south to Mexico for the winter, an amazingly hard journey for these little fliers.
(Margo D. Beller)
Rondout was our birdiest stop. The other reservoir we visited, Ashokan, had a great blue heron but not much else. As MH persisted in telling me, this was a leaf-peeping trip, not a birding trip. I watched the scenery go by and every so often got a surprise, such as the mature Bald Eagle sitting in a tree over the Neversink River or the female Common Mergansers in a pond near where we stopped to stretch our legs.

But color? Not so much.

Meanwhile, back at home, we've had a spate of clear, sunny, warm days and cool nights. More leaves are turning color. But is MH satisfied? Of course not, and when you read this we will be on the road again, this time in another state, looking for that mystical "peak."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Preparing for Winter

The love of gardening is a seed once sewn that never dies.
   -- Gertrude Jekyll

There are skeins of Canada geese flying in large Vs to the south at dawn and at dusk. Local Canada geese know there is something they should be doing but don't know what it is. So they fly up and circle and land on another field or playground or office park lawn, as in my photo below.

Winter is coming. It is inevitable as sunrise. If you have a garden of flowers, vegetables or both, you have to prepare it for those cold nights that will yield a killing frost, whether you like it or not.

Those who have plants they can ignore and pay someone else to take care of do not have this problem. Most of the shrubs and small ornamental trees in this area can withstand cold without being wrapped or otherwise protected. I, however, have always enjoyed growing flowering plants, and many of these have special needs.

So the first thing I had to do was to cut back all the perennials in the front and back yards that had flowered and then gone dormant. Then, after weeks of preparing myself mentally, I finally went down to our NJ county's mulch pile to fill five big buckets of free wood chips for a project in my front yard garden bed in front of the bay window. (Henceforth known as the Bay Garden.) I was forced to act by the weather forecast. After weeks of unusually warm weather in NJ during September and October, we were about to get overnight temperatures in the 30s. Many of the plants I keep outside are annuals that would die in the cold, especially if below the freezing mark, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. I persist in trying to keep these going for as long as I can rather than tossing living plants into compost just because the "experts" tell me to do so.

So I knew I'd have to bring my pots of annuals to the enclosed back porch to get them ready for being brought into my house. Same with my house plants already on this porch. But the Bay Garden was overgrown with ground ivy and Rose of Sharon seedlings and the shrubs needed pruning. This garden plot had, to be frank, gone to hell. It needed new fence posts, deer netting and a trench to keep the lawn grass and weeds from filling the area. I needed to dig this trench, pull out the weeds, cut the shrubs and then put down the mulch. Even with MH's great help the process took over eight hours and I just finished securing the netting before sundown.

The hardest part turned out to be pulling out the rabbit fencing, which was held down by garden staples I could not find and the grass and weeds that had grown through. It took MH and me all our combined strength to pull this out and we have been feeling the effects of our labor on our muscles for days now.

When you dig a trench, as I did in another area back in September, you have to attend to it every few years or the ground will fill and the problem will return. I did not do this on the Bay Garden. It had been at least 10 years, and it showed. As you will see below, the grass grew so high into the rabbit fencing you could not see the plants behind it.

I can tell you now that the job is done and I am happy. Later in the fall I will put a second, temporary layer of netting on to keep the deer thwarted over the winter, when there won't be much growing. I've learned the hard way a hungry deer determined to get to my leafy shrubs will split through one layer of netting quite easily.

My grandfather did not have this problem. I don't know if Pop gardened back in the Old Country but when he came to the U.S. thanks to his older brother he lived on the Lower East Side, which was far from a garden spot. When he and my grandmother moved to Brooklyn, he must've started planting things in the yard. When they moved to the house where I knew them, they had a big corner lot. Besides shrubs Pop grew vegetables and flowers. I do not remember them having house plants. He came to our house and planted roses, snowball bushes and a peach tree. I don't know who inspired him but my having any inclination towards gardening in a family of brown thumbs must've come from him.

This is my garden story. (All pictures are by me and the caption is beneath the picture.)

Above is a "before" picture. You can see that the grass has grown into the low rabbit fencing and the ground ivy is thick. From the street it was very hard to see the plants.

 Another "before" picture, this time from an angle.

The fence posts were removed, the netting taken down and the rabbit fencing removed, with great difficulty, by MH and me. He used the pitchfork to soften things up and I used the spade to start a trench between plants and the rest of the lawn.

A better view. After the trench was dug I had to go into the garden plot to pull out the weeds, hand to hand combat. The ground ivy was everywhere, even in the middle of the liriope, which is the plant in the lower right. Normally it would not have to be cut back until spring but I don't think the early haircut will hurt it.

One of the many ways in which MH helped me was shoveling the mulch I'd brought home (and dumped into a tarp in a corner of the driveway until I needed it) into the wheelbarrow and bringing it over to me. This was harder than you may think. Mulch in bulk is extremely heavy, and I had to bring home enough to cover the Bay Garden. Luckily, I guessed right and didn't need to go back for more. He wound up making three trips to and from the tarp and then we both dragged the tarp over - still heavy - to put the rest down.

Here we are after the mulch has been put down on the weeded garden. It was a shame to have to put the new fence posts in and the netting back up but that very afternoon a doe was grazing in the backyard grass, reminding me why I go through this nonsense.

The nearly finished product, done as the sun was setting. I realized after the fact that I'd have to put the rabbit fence along this netting, if only to keep larger critters such as the squirrels and rabbits out from where the fencing ends, under the bay window overhang you can see behind the shrubs.

This picture was taken the next day. Unlike before, the rabbit fence is not held down by stakes. It just sits next to the tacked down netting. From the street you can't see it. MH mowed recently and, for once, was able to get right up to the edge with out fear of tangling the mower in netting.

Gertrude Jekyll had the advantage of a large staff of men to help her in the massive effort of getting her estate's many garden beds ready for winter. If you read her books, you'll see what kind of effort that was. Makes what MH and I did look like nothing.

Still, we sure could've used that staff for our one problem bed.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Autumn Colors

Goldenrod field 2017 (Margo D. Beller)
When I go hiking at this season, I usually look up, seeking movement in the trees that could be migrating birds. It is up to MH to look at things on the ground including caterpillars, toads and dog poo, and warn me not to step in or on it.

Lately, however, I've been looking at the flowers. What follows are pictures of flowers I've seen in my wandering. (Note: This was intended to be a slideshow but for some reason this template is not letting me put in page breaks.)

I used to confuse goldenrod with ragweed and would pull it out of my yard. I know better now. In fact, I have a small stand or goldenrod from a friend's garden, but you can see goldenrod in fields everywhere at this time of year, making even highways look pretty.

Virginia creeper in red, with blue berries 2017
(Margo D. Beller)
But there are even more flowers around and some weeds, such as Virginia creeper vine, that will turn color ahead of the trees it is climbing. This vine is not poisonous, unlike poison ivy. This one has blue berries for the birds rather than poison ivy's white berries.

Snakeroot (Margo D. Beller)

Speaking of white, one of the autumnal plants I enjoy seeing in my yard is a pretty cluster of flowers with the ugly name of snakeroot. As you can see, it can populate a whole field.

Another common white flower in Autumn, very low to the ground, is the ox-eye daisy.

(Margo D. Beller)

(Margo D. Beller)
The pink flowers of joe-pye weed are always a welcome sight in the woods and fields. This can be bought for home gardens, too. Some types have been bred small while some, such as the ones I bought, can grow over 10 feet. When the flowers bloom they are covered in bees and butterflies.

(Margo D. Beller)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trench Warfare

It is the nature of Nature that when you have a mowed field, you have to keep it mowed or it will become overgrown. Then the trees will start growing and completely change the typography. There are people who want this. Second-growth forests, as this regrowth is called, are good for a variety of birds and animals.

Trench with sensitive ferns (Margo D. Beller)
But on a much smaller scale, in this case my yard, I need to get rid of a different type of forest.

I was out with the hose early one morning this week to water the plants and I could not help but notice that thanks to the September heat that has followed the unusually fall-like weather in August - a reversal of seasons - the weeds and grasses are growing by leaps and bounds, thinking it is spring. It is hard for one woman to keep up and it is times like these I wish I could clone my nieces and nephews.

One area around the side of the house was on the verge of being swallowed up by the ground ivy. Bad enough it is fighting the grass in front of the house for survival. It has also found some comfortable dwelling space under Spruce Bringsgreen, whose prickly foliage keeps me from going under it to yank out the mats of ivy anymore than once or twice a year.

A mat of ground ivy was removed, exposing the
sprinkler head. (Margo D. Beller)
But this side area has a number of sensitive ferns that have done very well this year for the first time in a very long while, and I did not want the ivy in it. So I had to dig a trench.

Specifically, I had to dig a trench border.  I had to go to the edge of the area where the big shrubs, called andromeda, were planted, put in the shovel (after loosening things with the garden fork) and pull up the dirt, angling it in such a way that the grass and ivy in the lawn could not cross. Plants won't grow in air, so the wider the trench, the better the chance of keeping unwanted plants, even lawn grass, out.

It should've been easy enough. I've dug these trenches before. The problem is, I last dug one 10 years or more ago, and unless you fix your handiwork every few years, rain and wind will inevitably fill in the trench and the weeds will cross back to where you don't want them.

My plan was to rise early and try to finish the work before the sun rose high enough to warm that particular area. However, several things went wrong. First, I could not get myself out of bed before dawn. Second, I forgot about the difficulties in putting a shovel into dirt that has rocks and miles of shrub and weed roots under it. Third, I forgot the hand-to-hand combat. It's not enough to dig the trench, you have to pull out the undesirables from the area you have "liberated." It is very much like war without the shooting. 

Good trenches make good neighbors.
(Margo D. Beller)
The finished product makes the garden bed look neat but my back and knees almost finished me off. My compost bucket was filled with huge mats of ground ivy, particularly from in front of the air conditioner platform. There were also crab grass, some wood sorrel and other plants I can't identify. I just hope I got it all and didn't harm the ferns or buried daffodils much from my labor.

My plan was to do another garden bed not complicated by deer netting but my aging body forced me to wait a day. I had to be content putting a month's worth of brush to the curb in several trips using a cart and a wheelbarrow. The next day it took another two hours to do this bed, which has even more roots and rocks to dig through. Somehow I survived.

And I'm still not done. No gardener ever is. There is one super-sized problem area in front of the house, bound by netting, poles and a small fence to keep deer and rabbits out of plants I never would've put in had I known better 20 years ago. It will take an hour just to take out all the netting and then there will be hours of work to dig the trench, pull the weeds and then, as long as I have the poles down, move around pots, cut back shrubs and put down mulch. My back aches at the thought.

The next frontier (Margo D. Beller)
Because this area is in the sun for most of the day I will need a cooler day, preferably cloudy, an October day that actually feels like October. I could do at least some of this with MH's help, even though doing anything in the yard aside from mowing the lawn fills him with apprehension. I don't blame him. Sometimes it is easier to just do things myself rather than bark orders to get things just so. 

I could hire someone but I like working in the garden, despite the pain. I can listen to a distant Carolina wren, one of my favorite birds. I can take care of everything at once and then, I hope, leave this area of the garden alone until spring starts things all over again. 

Mainly, doing this stuff allows me to check that I can still do it. As time has gone by I have been forced to give up many things, including long, rocky hikes up steep inclines. The garden, even digging a trench, is something I can still do. I garden, therefore I am. 

I am battling myself, too.