Unfinished Business

Here I am, working in my picturesque garden-yard. Birds are singing, butterflies flutter by and bees work as if they know they’ll never get ahead of their to-do list. They are at peace with that knowing. Oh, to be a bee.

I am not a bee … nor am I Helen Reddy singing “I am woman, hear me roar”.

I am woman, hear me whine a little. Humor me for a bit. I have a problem: I think I can do a lot more than I actually can. At least, that is what my to-do list is looking like these days. I work on whittling it down and it grows longer. I want to say that I’m a finisher, but I am beginning to wonder. I’ve known for a long time now that in many ways, I am my own worst enemy. That is a truth one needs to own in order to make any real progress in personal growth. It is also a reality you can own and handily ignore. I do it all the time.

When I was younger, my dreams lay ahead of me and I was in no real hurry. With age comes wisdom … and weariness … and an awareness that you really do have less time. I’m accutely aware that daylight is burning. I do less thinking, less frittering and more doing. Or, maybe it is more accurate to say that I’ve learned to think on the fly. I used to have to stop and think.

When I turned 50, I experienced a sense of urgency. I realized how fast 20 years whiz by and that the next 20 are flying by right now. My hearing has gotten better rather than worse … I hear the second hand ticking. My to-do list has also become a ‘bucket list’.

With age comes confidence [for me anyhow]. I now know that I can do just about anything I want to do. But, a seemingly unfair irony followed closely on the heels of my late-bloomer confidence. Now that I know more than ever before, now that I have the experience to do a much wider variety of things, there is less of me to do it. My feet are tired, my bones are weary and my energy level is like my waistline … not what it used to be. It can be downright depressing to feel like you can finally tackle the world … if only I felt like it was worth the effort.

So, my ‘unfinished business’, my to-do list grows longer — not because I’m a more ambitious dreamer [although I am], but because I run out of me before I run out of things to do. Long before. I could pare things off the list. But, I don’t want to do that. All I want is to get – things – done. Is that so much to ask?! :o) Please tell me I am not alone. I could use a farmgirl spirit lift.

All I can think to do is to keep on keeping on. We are making progress, good progress. But, things always take longer than you think they will. Soooo, why not plan for that annoying reality. Oh no, not me. Sooner or later, all of our ‘unfinished business’ will get done … right?? This is the year that we said our house and ‘home in the general sense’ will get some much needed attention. We can’t weaken.

The porch we added is at a stand-still. I’m saying other things elevated themselves on the priority list. And, we started the garden-yard. A friend built panels from barnwood to make a 13′ x 30′ enclosure. He also built a gate, a potting bench and a small ‘outhouse’ that will be my tool shed. All the pieces are waiting on a flatbed trailer. Last evening, my husband dug post holes and we set six of the posts. Then, he embarassed himself when he cut the electrical wire [that he installed when we built this place from the ground up 18 years ago]. He knew precisely where the line lays, but he was so intent on digging holes that he simply forgot. Yes, THE electric wire … and at dusk, no less. No lights, no water, no nothing. And, we live in the middle of Nowhere. But, Lynn remembered an acquaintance who is a card-carrying electrician at one of the coal mines and he lives in town. So, ‘Casper’ came down and patched the lines … by flashlight. Tomorrow, he’ll do a permanent fix. In the meantime, my garden plants wait impatiently. Our growing season is so short, you can just about measure it in hours. But, hopefully by the end of the weekend, the garden-yard will be done and I can be a gardener!

My heaping pile of beautiful(?) garden junk is waiting in the wings also. I have a vision of what it will all look like in the end. But, right now it just looks like junk. Everywhere I look around at home, I see unfinished business – the porch, three pieces of antique furniture waiting for paint, alllll the garden work, the barn that needs paint, the scraped off place by the porch – waiting for concrete – someday in the not distant future, it will become a dreamy screened-in patio. I’m so looking forward to relaxing in it. July maybe.

Below are some photos that will tell some of this story … and a few others that tell of the other goings on … like the first of several brandings that are now in full swing in this region. Our own branding is scheduled for the 26th. So, in addition to everything else, we’re in the middle of calving and I have to get a menu together so that I can feed a crew of about 20 people after the branding. Oh, and I’m supposed to pick up two new horses somewhere along in there. Nooo problem, I got a few things done today which makes room for new entries on that little ole to-do list.

Below: One of my recent rewards … the deep purple Iris that I planted last year is now blooming. I hope for two more colors – ‘root beer’ (two-tone – amber & brown) and ‘butterscotch’ (two-tone – gold and pumpkin). Small thing to some since Iris are so easy to grow in most places, but this is not the Garden of Eden. It can be really cold, really dry, really windy and really severe in every other way that makes it not a user-friendly place for gardening. I EARN every tiny morsel of gardening success. These luxurious blooms welcomed me this morning. My farmgirl pals gave me starts of all three colors. I bought one more that ought to bloom next year – Sky Blue.

Below: Rookie free-rangers – my Buff Orpington pullets are growing and they like hanging out by all of the plants that are waiting for new homes. I’ve spent a lot of time with these three — each one is a lap sitter.

Oh, and while I have your ear … might any of you know what do with Hyacinth bulbs?? I’m letting them die back (in photo). Then what? I’m unclear what to do after that. I looked up info online, but there isn’t much. Am I better off to box them up in shavings or plant them?? Thanks for any advice you might offer.

I’ve been taking plants in and out — inside the porch at night and back out again in the morning. So anxious am I to get all my new plants in. I’ve bought lots potting plants and hardy perennials — plus a Mountain Ash tree, a Lilac, a Honeysuckle and a Potentilla — none of which are exotic. I have to settle for what will survive. My enlarged garden yard holds two more old stock tanks. I saw such good results from the other two that it encouraged me to expand. I’m planting perennial flowers inside the garden yard too – my favorites: black eyed susans, coneflowers, delphiniums, gaillardia, hollyhocks (next to the outhouse), daisies, scarlet bee balm, various ground covers, a few hardy succulents, etc etc. Oh, and 2 kinds of Clematis will hopefully grow up and around the arched gate.

Here is a success story … sort of. Ok, in the end I won! On the west corner of my flower bed, the wind whips around the corner of the house like a tongue of ice or fire … depending on the temperature. Well, even if the temp is nice, high wind can make short work of many plants and trees. I’ve lost a Mugho pine, a juniper and a spruce to wind damage. Then, an Aspen to deer. The Chokecherry survived them both, but not before the deer broke branches off the side that shows. Grrrr ;o[ However, I was able to defeat one of my foes [the wind]. To heck with planting another tree or shrub. I planted a cement bird bath!!! Wish I’d have thought of that in the first place. I could victoriously shake my fist at the wind, but I’m afraid to dare it.

The garden yard yesterday before we began the fencing part of the project.

Digging postholes …

Branding at my BIL’s [Earl] — in blue shirt.

We didn’t take horses for this branding — as he was only doing a small group — his younger cow’s calves. So, while the menfolk were getting the branding gear ready, I looked around and took a few photos. Notice in the photo below, the handle on the gate into his horse barn. Earl, like my husband, can build about anything. They both weld too. This clever gate latch is made of oil field leftovers – rod & pipe. So are the corrals, other odds & ends, the branding irons and Earl’s branding stove.

A double-decker swallows nest in the horse barn. I’m not sure what happened there — two different kinds of swallows?

I paid particular attention to the larger barn door — it is on a slider and I want something similar in the porch. This barn is very old.

Before the calves were branded, the cows were vaccinated in a chute alley.

When the calves are roped, ropers make it look effortless and slick. Great care is taken to do it right and do it quickly so that the calf is stressed for the shortest time possible. Ideally, you want the rope around both feet. This lessens the struggle and chance of injury to calf [and people]. My job was to vaccinate the calves (and take pictures). Later, I make photo CDs for our friends.

On this day, the ropers were husband & wife ‘senior citizens’. Both, Bonnie and Joe are in their seventies! Bonnie is such an inspiration. She had both knees replaced last year and yet she gets on her horse just fine. She said, “It ain’t pretty, but I can do it!” She won the breast collar on her horse. Neat, hu?

Then, it was home again. Home that we love enough to not let it remain ‘as is’. To leave a place better than you found it is the right way to live. But, the doing of the thing is a never ending job because homes are like us … there is always room for improvement. :o) So, we just keep pecking away at the to-do list, don’t we. How dreary life would be without ‘Admiration Day’. You know, the day when you stand back, smile and are pleased with an accomplishment. As overwhelming as obligations in life can be sometimes, who would want to live a life where you have too much time on your hands? Nothing good can come of that. As much as I love my kitties, they don’t have much to show for what little effort they put forth. Lesson being: If you aren’t gonna do much, you aren’t gonna get much. And that is also my message to the growing entitlement culture in this country. Our great nation wasn’t built on that attitude, nor can it be maintained by it. ‘Nuff said.

  1. Kelly says:

    Oh how I know the feeling. A dear, wise friend says it is because it is spring after a long winter of not being able to do outside work, that we end up frustrated with such long to-do lists. And in our world, trying to fit the yard projects in around everything else is challenging to say the least. But when we walk around the yard and say "We built that fence, and that fence, planted those trees, built those retaining walls, made those rock/shrub beds," it does actually feel like we are accomplishing something. And so are you. Enjoy!

    You’re right! It pays to go back and revisit the results of things checked off of the to-do list. That’ll make me feel better :o)  shery

  2. MaryJane says:

    Well my dear, you’ve certainly NAILED "writer." What a fine piece you’ve treated us to this morning. And your photos always make my heart just ACHE they’re so beautiful.


    Our fearless leader!! Thank you kindly Ma’am. I don’t know HOW you manage to do all that you do. I think you’d drag me death!  ;o)    shery

  3. Denise says:

    I make "to do lists" for each weekend so that by the end of the weekend I hopefully have crossed off many if not all items. Then I start another list for the next weekend! It makes me feel better by having one list down and not YET thinking about the next one I need to write out. Loved what you said at the end, SO TRUE! I love reading your blog!

  4. Gwen says:

    Omg’s and here I thought I was the only one with a todo list that never gets finished nor stops growing. So many projects, so little energy, time and me. My guilt at all the false starts is almost as overwhelming as the to do lists. And there is the big issue of where I can create or work on small projects. Started in a closet, untill we needed the storage area back. Then onto a corner of a bedroom, then a adult child came home, bye bye corner. Then I thought I dont like the basement, but as the beggar I’ll not be picky. Now I have some stuff here and some stuff there and little more over there….I dont know where any thing is. And yet the garden is calling as is the never ending household work. Seriously need to go for that walk untill sundown TODAY.
    Thanks so much for sharing with us, you did this heart good and I feel less lonely or guilty.


    Let us take a glass of wine on that walk. Oh, I assumed I could go. S’ok? :o) shery

  5. Roxanne says:

    Yes the to-do lists are a catch-22. The anxiety of getting to each item on the long list BUT also the awh… after it dwindles and has checked off marks.
    Your photos are so beauitful!!

  6. Terces says:

    Hi Shery,

    …and another one of your "wins" is this blog! I wait for it and am always thrilled when I see it arrive. So often you speak for me, as you did once again this month. Your contribution I can only imagine is reaching into some far corners of the earth where other women are also working to make a difference, to live closely to the land and to return to values that matter to them. I thank you.


    Oh Terces, thank you so very much for taking the time to share such kind thoughts. We may never meet in this life, but I felt that hug as if you were right next to me.   shery

  7. Judy says:

    You inspire me to do more . . . although my hubby and I are quite DYI’ers and built our place up from the ground a few years ago . . . it is still in progress (you understand) but we are better gardeners now and work the tractor with more success. When I hit 55 I decided to stop and smell "MY" roses every day, watch the lambs and make planters out of "junk". Although I get weary at times, I love my age and this time in my life. Thanks for your insight into your day and heart.


    Oh Judy, I second your statement about liking the age. the body … welllll, not so much, but the state of mind at this age is the best. My father said he liked his 50s the best too. I get it now. :o)   shery

  8. Diann says:

    Oh gosh, how I empathize. We have a working ranch and a house that is 113 years old. It was uninhabitable when we moved in 10 years ago and I promise it is habitable now but geez oh peez, it is always needin’ something done. We had to rehabilitate everything, trees, gardens, barns, pens…EVERYTHING. And what a joy it has been. You bet my list is gargantuan (spelling may be wrong, but you get the idea!) and for sure never ending. But still…..this ole dame is enjoying the accomplishments and lookin’ forward to more….besides! I’ve got girls to carry on the work! lololololol Glorious summer days to all!

  9. bonnie ellis says:

    Shery: What a blessing to HAVE a to-do list! So many people have no interests and nothing to do or physically can’t do anything. I’ve got a great suggestion for all of us: Make the to do list and then add at the top the thing that bugs you the most. It may not be on your list but I could almost guarantee that if you did that the rest will fall into place. Also, put a time and date on when you are going to do each thing. It gives you a mini deadline and you are more apt to do it. We’re all in the same boat girl, I just prefer to take a rest once and awhile. Good luck and never stop dreamin’

  10. rachel says:

    Hi Shery-
    Great post. My to do lists continue to get bigger and my pace more frantic. I think im going to take your advise and worry over them less and just get to it more. i am a gardening gal and I was going to mention to you that I usually put the spent hyacinth bulbs in the ground. They like a well drained soil and not too much moisture. They’ll come up next spring and be beautiful. i plant them around daylilies. When they finish blooming the daylily foliage hide the yellowing hyacinth leaves. They make nice partners.
    Thanks for the beautiful post. I enjoy hearing about your life on the high plains

  11. Grace~katmom says:

    OMG! If I ever see another ‘post’ or mix another batch of concrete… it will be way to soon! We just dug/poured & set 81 4×6 posts for the new corral and Thank goodness for Augurs & pnuematic nail guns,,,for setting the rails!
    But on the plus side, what glorious weather for playing in our Garden of weedin’ not to mention perfect days for Glamping in our wee trailers & sitting around the ‘glampfire’ with great gal~pals.
    hugz & Happy trails.


    81 posts…in concrete???? YIKES!!!   Oh! I have a new campy term to use…’glampfire’…I’m so stealing it. :o)  MY wee trailer is slated to go on her first glamping trip sometime in June …our maiden journey together. There ought to be at least 2 other farmgirls to hang with and our HORSES. Thanks for stopping in Grace!   shery

  12. Debbie says:

    My dear friend Shery, You’ve done it again. As I read each word I could see myself so vividly… starting right at the top with turning 50 and feeling that sense of urgency to start, finish and ENJOY! And, just like you I’ve stopped spending so much time thinking and dreaming up things to do and just doing them ( as I can afford and time allows ). My back, legs and arms sure do have my attention as I work to get my latest farmgirl dream off the ground and running… That’s ME in your top photo right now!!! This flower farmgirl is running herself ragged at the moment. I came in for a break and a cool drink to find your beautiful blog this morning! Once again, I loved every darned word of it…I think you need a change of scenery!!! Why don’t you hop a plane and come see all of my unfinished business here at home and at the cottage! We’d have loads of fun and it would make you feel better too! big farmgirl hugs!!!
    Keep at it, but enjoy the ride… we only have today…:)
    Much love your farmgirl sis from the east! Deb


    DEARest D-BOZ, I would lovelovelove to come visit, BUT, I have tooooo many darn things to do!! Thats my problem — a pleasant variety of misery. But, one of these days … ONE of these days!!! Trust me, that is not an empty threat. ;o) Looking forward to seeing your flower market. Yes, I know you’ve been working your buns off.  Ya, know that has never worked for me though. Does ANYone really know ANYbody who has lost their buns via work?   shery

  13. Debbie says:

    PS. I share that same pleasant variety of misery with you! For the record, I still have every bit of my buns attached to a very tight, stiff lower backside! I also wanted to tell you how much I LOVED your Painting the West article! Great job!!!

  14. Janice says:

    You are not alone…and I am glad to know that I am not alone!

  15. Ann says:

    I just got back from Oklahoma so a I know a little about the wind. But, my, how I covet your junque! Wish I could find some down here in the piney woods of east Texas. I feel for you with your short growing season. I have already harvested asparagus, onions, potatoes and the tomatoes are about ready. My growing season is too long!! I love reading your blog because I am a farm girl at heart too.

  16. Ann says:

    Dear Sheri – truer words were never spoken about to do lists and ambitions for women of a certain age. I always have to remind myself of my age as my projects and plans always get ahead of my physical, not mental energy. Love your words of wisdom and gorgeous photos. Good luck with your gardening plans. Ann

  17. Betty Benesi says:

    Shery: I am working on this, but realized it a few years ago. I was getting ready for Christmas which many times is centered at our home. It is the most convenient for all family members. I work full time as well as take care of the financial aspects for a company my husband and I both own. I was getting very frustrated that things wouldn’t be ready in time. One evening while I was ranting and getting more upset about getting ready for Christmas, my husband looked at me and said " You know Christmas is gonna come anyway." As sour as I was at the time, I realized that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if I was cranky. I loosened my hold and things went much better. You know this from riding. I am the queen of to do lists, but I just turned 60 this year and I am learning that maybe, just maybe our job is to learn when to be satisfied. For just a moment, be still and grateful!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *