PERFECTION

What is really hard, and really amazing,
is giving up on being perfect
and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

~ Anna Quindlen 

We live in an imperfect world.

That is a universal truth, but I have to say my single green Lettuce Multileaf (Lactic sativa) is the closest thing to perfection I have ever seen.

It feels like fine velvet as I let its leaves slide through my fingers.  I keep checking all its leaves – there has to be about 30 – expecting the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars or the Harlequin Bugs to appear, but my little blue plastic butterfly ‘scarecrow’ is working its magic once again (up the end near the purple lettuce). I’ve seen 2-3 white-winged butterflies across the road, but none near my garden……so far.

I don’t think I’ve grown this particular lettuce before, preferring the continual cropping of other varieties which I can cut off the outer leaves as I need them.

There is not one single flaw in this perfect green gem and I can’t bear to harvest it.

I just want to look at it every morning. (alright, I am going ‘crackers’ in old age).  For those of you with large vegetable gardens and multiple crops, this might well be your morning and evening practice anyway – walking around, watching and waiting, inspecting and expecting!

It’s purple cousin on the other side of my Perennial Basil Mint (mentha x roundifolia) is a very close second in perfection, although it does not have as many leaves.

I’ve been snipping off the tips of my Perennial Basil to use in cooking so the poor wee plant doesn’t have much chance to grow very high, but certainly replaces my cuttings with 3-4 leaves if I leave it for a few days.

I’ll have to buy another Perennial Basil that’s for sure.

Even the Mizuma ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipponsinica) – bottom right in image above – is finally starting to take off despite the Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows nibbling its tiny shoots.

I’ve never grown this spicy little plant before either.

The Birds are taking it in turns to feast on the 2 Parsley plants in the trough hanging from my balcony fence and the plants are starting to go to seed, so some new Parsley plants are on the Shopping List.

Actually, I need quite a few more seedlings if I’m going to grow enough for a whole bowl of salad every evening this coming Summer, (as I did in the image below made from my previous apartment’s balcony garden).  That garden was facing south and got no direct sun, but a massive about of light.

MY WEST-FACING BALCONY IS TOO HOT TO SUPPLY MANY OF THESE HERBS AND LEAVES, BUT AS LONG AS I HAVE PARSLEY, MINT, SORREL, KALE AND A FEW LETTUCE LEAVES I’M USUALLY HAPPY.

My current balcony is west-facing and extremely hot in summer.

I use so much Parsley throughout the year, that I need a plentiful supply for my dinner plate (let alone my summer salads), but I’ll leave the dwindling Parsley leaves for the Birds to enjoy.  The image above shows the English Curley Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) half of the trough, next to a new Superb Fairy-wren visitor.

Looks pretty good from this angle last week, but I can assure you, it’s really going to seed in recent days.

The Italian Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum)in the left half of the trough (not in image) is also going to seed.

The Oregano Hot & Spicey (Origanum sp.) seems to have larger leaves than ordinary Oregano, but that might just be a Spring surprise as I’ve never grown that variety of Oregano before either.

The Japanese Maple in front of my apartment balcony is now fully clothed in Spring foliage and the birds are starting to snack on the tiny shoots at the end of each branch, but with my garden supplying much of their needs, the Maple has been keeping a lot more young foliage this year.

SORRY ITS SUCH A LOUSY SHOT, BUT WHAT CAN ONE DO THROUGH TWO THICK PANES OF DIRTY GLASS

I’d share more of the birds on the tree except that shooting through 2 thick panes of dirty glass does ‘not a photograph make.’

I have washed the windows twice recently, but I notice overnight rain last night has returned my lounge windows to their usual smeary self and it’s too cold this morning to open the sliding door its full width.

I’m now starting to recognise the individual wrens – half are the adult males in full blue breeding plumage, then there’s the occasional adult female, as well as various juveniles with varying pale blue patches, or spots, on their backs.

I’ve never been able to recognise any House Sparrows (apart from male and female of course).

Being off the computer and not at my desk through most of the last week or so, means I have got more done of my ‘to do’ list in one week, (than in the last year)!

Seriously.

My headaches have improved a bit too.  When I say off the computer, I am still turning on the computer to check emails etc each morning, but then turn it off soon after and self-discipline is growing in leaps and bounds.

I never realised how much time I wasted sitting at my desk watching the birds – well, I did, but the last week has proven exactly how much LOL 😀

You’re probably getting a bit sick of the same bird photos but when you have 6-7 Fairy-wrens visiting at the one time –  morning (9.30am and roughly 10.30am) and afternoon (about 3.30-4.30pm or a bit later), I’m sure you’ll agree they are worth the time.  What I find interesting is how they visit in groups and then, the House Sparrows join the party.

It’s extraordinary how one minute the balcony garden is devoid of avian life and next minute I can have as many as 10 birds dropping by now that Spring is here.  Some of my images are terrible and completely blurred.   Others which are pretty good and I have shared.

This mosaic below gives you an inkling of how much fun it is to follow the wrens as they visit each and every plant on my balcony – half the time, I have not the slightest idea what they’re eating, but presume it is the youngest shoots.  Even the multi-coloured flowering Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) gets a visit.  The birds seem to remember all the pots I put seed in a couple of weeks ago and still visit in hope of a second feed (?), but they also walk around the balcony tiles and the back of the potted plants hoping for some spilt seed.

The images below were made in about 15-20 minutes.   The one on the bird bath is obviously a juvenile.

When I’ve finished today’s paperwork and filing, I will finally be caught up with the ‘to do’ list.  Not that I’m a procrastinator per se, merely that I take my life in enforced retirement one day at a time.  Living Mindfully amidst a bountiful tiny garden in a Room With a View has to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable pastimes if you have Chronic Illness and Pain.

Being housebound more and more as the months go by is not to say I don’t get frustrated and feeling a little down or depressed at times (when I’d rather be out on a nature walk taking photos), but all in all, being able to appreciate the small things in life is a blessing that I’ve gradually acquired.

I will eventually get back to sharing more images from my archives, but in the meantime, time to turn off the computer 😀

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” 

Lao Tzu 

31 thoughts on “PERFECTION

  1. I admire your garden. Everything looks so good! Reading your blog has made me eat more salads.
    Those little wrens are so cute and pleasant I know I would spend a lot of time devising sneaky ways to get pictures of them.

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    1. Thank you, Terry. Good to hear you are eating more salads – leafy greens are so good for you, especially, parsley, mint and kale (let alone the mixed lettuce, especially the purple-leafed variety). As I don’t like mayonnaise (unless it’s a bit of the German Thomy dairy free variety), I make my own olive oil, cider vinegar and lemon juice (french style) dressing. As I love lemons so much, it’s the tang of the lemons that makes me eat salads regularly (to be honest), not the taste of the leaves.

      If my steamed veggies taste a bit bland, I used lemon juice and finely chopped parsley over them too.

      I notice there’s one part of the lounge window that seems to be wavy lines in my bird photos – interesting. I keep re-arranging the pots so I can get easier photos of the birds, but I do have to try not to move indoors as they are so skittish (if you can use the word skittish for a bird) and fly away at the slightest movement. I went across the road trying to catch the wrens in the hedges but no luck.

      If one ever wanted to practice bird photography, then these tiny wrens are perfect practice. I miss so many shots. And, I haven’t time to swap from the long lens and DSLR, to the shorter Sony ‘mirrorless’ either, so I have to make a decision when the birds visit to use one camera or the other. Since I moved the lettuces closer, I’m usually only catching the House Sparrows in focus.

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  2. Dear Vicki,
    Not only did I learn that there IS perfection in this imperfect world, I learned it from the future (it is still September 22 here in Colorado!).
    While we might all waste too much time in front of the computer, I think that time spent watching birds is NEVER wasted! Please keep showing photos of your verdant garden, and your avian visitors. 😊
    Happy first day of autumn, nay spring!
    Best,
    Tanja

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    1. Thanks Tanja. I just can’t believe how perfect that green lettuce is. I should try and fan the leaves out with one hand and take a photo with the other. If I don’t harvest it soon, I suppose the pests will get it LOL. I’ve got quite a few empty pots at the moment – I want to try some new herbs or veggie varieties, but the shallow depth means I can’t experiment with deep-rooted varieties.
      Happy Autumn to you, Tanja. Hope you all get plenty of rain. Many nature and gardening blogs I follow are complaining about the extra dry conditions.

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    1. It’ll be interesting to see what that lettuce taste like, Peggy.

      (I had a real failure with my baby Bok Choy – it tasted so bitter, it was inedible and I had to pull it all out).

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    1. I do 🙂
      I have only watched them for a very short while this last week though. They should be back in about an hour I think, going by the usual visiting regime, so I’ll leave the computer switched on and camera on the desk – just in case.

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  3. It all looks wonderful. I think cabbage roses should be renamed lettuce roses in honour of your perfect one. I can’t imagine anyone photographs birds without getting a good percentage of blurry shots. I admire your discipline and hope your health reaps the rewards.

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    1. Thanks Susan. I don’t know which is harder…..flower or bird photography. Flowers blow in our windy conditions in Melbourne and the tiny birds move so quickly, they’re hard to catch in a photo too 🙂

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    1. When I cut it, I’ll re-photograph it perhaps, RR. Maybe it’s just that variety of lettuce which looks so good in an image. On the other hand, maybe it’s only the second time I’ve had a leafy green that hasn’t got a caterpillar hole in it 🙂

      Yes, it’s really hard work staying off the computer, away from my desk chair and stop watching for the appearance of the wrens each day now. Must be Spring as they’re everywhere on my balcony.

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  4. I know this is going to sound a bit ridiculous, Vicki, but your perfect lettuce got me a bit teary and I had a bit of a happy cry if that makes sense. You are an amazing person and I am grateful for your friendship x

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    1. …..and in turn, now that you make this comment, whatever happened to your vegetable garden and gardening club, Julie 🙂 Has it fallen by the wayside in the events of the last year?

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    2. Keep it up and if you need any tips, drop me an email, Julie. But first, perhaps you should get M. to make you a rabbit-proof fence 🙂
      Getting your hands dirty (with all those good microbes) and watching your plants grow has to be one of the most healing activities I know of. We all need a little ‘plant’ to nurture in our lives.

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    1. My balcony garden (and the green space across the road) truly is amazing, Eliza. So unusual to have such plant growth from a multi-storey apartment building balcony too.

      I’m amazed how much better I feel off the computer, Eliza, (outside or on the other side of the room). I remember back in 2009 when I bought my first computer printer and had horrific headaches for about 5 weeks, my American friend (with severe MCS) told me about EMFs and putting it next to an open window to ‘off-gas’ (or whatever the word was she used). My MCS is getting really bad at the moment and I’ve notice an instant increase in my 24/7 headaches when I put in a new printer cartridge, so looks like I’m back to my health state of 2009, just before I had to quit work. I remember having a terrible time when we moved offices and the new carpet made my health worse. My only consolation was that 2 other work colleagues had perfume and some chemical allergies too, so we were pretty much a perfume free office (until someone else visited that is).

      I’ve said it before, but walking outdoors in the fresh air (and photography) are one of the best treatments for some of my health conditions – shame my spine and hip pain has got worse. Anyway, today is another perfect Spring day, so once I’ve answered my emails, I’ll make the effort to step away from my desk again. I do so much on the computer, not because I like it, but merely because the internet is a source of entertainment or communication for me. I’m not a people person and dislike crowds, chemical or perfumes, bright lights etc. I’m sure you understand the intolerances.

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      1. I do understand. I know of a couple people with chemical sensitivity. I wonder if it occurs when a threshold is reached and the body then can’t process anymore. Our environment is so toxic these days with over 85,000 chemicals in use, most of which haven’t been adequately tested, and certainly not in combinations.
        Are you on a detox regimen by any chance? I’ve heard positive things about spirilina. Cleansing the body can help raise the threshold.
        Even just being outside, sitting in the shade of a lovely, oxygen-exuding tree would be a boon. No wonder you love your plant-filled balcony. 🙂 It’s healing you!

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    2. I have actually been eating a very restricted fresh food diet (due to worsening food reactions including close to anaphylaxis about 4 weeks ago which the emergency dept and cardiology ward put down to a mini heart attack, but they wouldn’t accept when I said I’d overdosed on gluten that night). I’m now almost too scared to eat gluten-free products due to a (new) intolerance to maize and potato starch, which is in many gluten-free foodstuffs. I do know when my other ‘symptoms’ are bad, my MCS worsens too. One of my episodes in the emergency dept some years ago, they put me in a cubicle that had just been cleaned with hospital grade bleach and I nearly passed out – both BP and heartbeat went haywire. I’m now sensitive to some forms of seaweed and algae – not sure about Spirulina (which I tried many years ago). I just eat fresh foods and herbs mainly. I might suggest living next to the nature reserve and in a ‘green’ space is sheer good luck as I’m sure they filter out some of the urban pollution.

      I used to be able to tolerate a tiny bit of some foods, but the more I restrict my diet, of course, the worse the reaction when I do eat the ‘bad’ foods. I’m exploring MCAS at the moment, but need some more testing or biopsy – 3 weeks away. In the meantime, I’m hoping its just a bad phase (that’s lasted nearly 18 months 😀 ).

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  5. I’ve never been a fan of salads. Many kids aren’t, I suppose, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t develop the taste. Now, I do better, and I do eat them, but my goodness — if I had greens like that, I might never stop. They look wonderful, and I’ll bet they taste good, too. I still can’t quite get with kale, but I have expanded my repertoire. Like you, I enjoy lemon tremendously, and lemon and garlic have helped me with veggies like green beans. I’ve always liked broccoli and cauliflower — carrots, too. But this post has made me determined to eat more combination greens in my salads. Maybe I’ll print that photo of the lettuce to post on my fridge and encourage me.

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    1. I think I only started liking green leafy salads when I faced the dairy intolerance about 35 years ago and was trying to resolve my (already) niggly digestive issues. I ate kale for a while in more recent years, but then started finding it a bit too ‘strong’ in taste, so starting growing and harvesting the younger leaves to ‘hide’ in omelettes for the nutrition.

      Thick tough Kale or Spinach doesn’t do much for my taste buds.

      But, like I replied to Terry (Montucky), the secret is the home-made French dressing with the strong lemon juice tang. I doubt I would be as enthusiastic about green salads without it. I have studied Food as Medicine for some 30+ years, so with my current food restrictions I DO try to eat as much healthy fresh food as I can. Even so, I have to take an all-round Calcium supplement and vitamins. I have a malabsorption problem and metabolic syndrome, so it’s hard for me to stay healthy as it is. Then there is the frugal food budget living on a Disability Pension, so bright, colourful food, high in anti-oxidants has to be top of my shopping/growing list. I don’t particularly like cakes or most biscuits anyway, but can be tempted with ‘tart tangy’ lemon tart or salt/vinegar. Gluten and sugar is a big problem for me, so that helps me stay away from processed food. LOVE berries in any shape or form.

      I make my meals as cheerful and colourful as possible. I’ve notice many Americans seem to have a lot of fried brown and/or bland colours in their meals on the food blogs I’ve visited. I try to have the opposite. Colour. Maybe I should revive my Food Photography once a month on this blog to tantalise your taste buds. Even a nice plate to serve food on helps. I’m a great Foodie, but not necessarily a great cook these days. I’m definitely not a baker (like my Mother was). I used to make superb Indian curries and vegetarian food though……….not now. Depends how much time you want to spend on which aspect of your life. Working, cooking, walking, sport, travel & so on 🙂

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      1. Lots to agree with here. When I was working in hospitals for a time, the great joke was that the prototypical hospital food was a cracker sandwich: saltines between two slices of white bread, spread with mayonnaise. That was about right, too. For people who hate guidelines, color really works.

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    2. I had a terrible time with the 3 days in a public hospital a few weeks ago. Nothing to eat (for me). I did better in the private hospital where I had my 2 back surgeries. Real food, Italian salads, salmon and so on. Breakfast was a bit hard for me though. Even in the overnight short-stay unit of the local hospital, I begged for some food and ended up with sandwiches in which I picked out the centres and left the bread and margarine. Someone found me 2 serves of sandwiches which gave me enough ‘centres’ to eat 😀

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