Panic Stations!

This is the view from my new kitchen window. A lovely apricot tree is the centrepiece of the new garden:)

I am emerging from two weeks of post-moving blues. If there is a way to panic and worry about any situation, I will find it, and moving house is ripe with potential for panic. So far I have panicked about being unable to light a fire and having us all die of hypothermia, panicked about the cat refusing to accept that this is his new home (I have had to retrieve him three times so far from the old house), driven myself to distraction trying to keep the dog and the cats apart (they still want to tear each other limb from limb whenever they see each other), panicked that I have moved to a house with not enough sunshine for growing vegies, worried that the children will regret leaving their old house, worried about the plumbing, about curtains (or lack thereof), about dry wood, about getting a new fence built, changing addresses, building more cupboards, getting some trees cut down to let more sunshine in, and getting all the boxes unpacked before 2020. 

The thing is, none of the things I worry about are at all impressive. I get my knickers in a knot about the most mundane things, but from the point of view of panic they seem insurmountable. Yesterday I took a break from worrying and doing all the jobs and being snappy and irritable, and went back to the old house, this time not to pick up the cat, but one of my lemon trees. The new owner removed one, and as he knows how attached I am to all my trees, he offered it back to me, which was very nice of him. I went and picked it up and brought it to its new home, found a sunny spot and started to dig. There is already a lemon tree here, and while I was poking around I found another wee lemon tree, almost smothered under weeds and a wildly tangled rose bush. Feeling like Mary in The Secret Garden I rescued it and dug it in to my ever expanding new little citrus grove.

Newly discovered lemon in the citrus grove at the top of my weedy new garden.

I moved into a house with one lemon tree, and now I have three:)

My new-old lemon tree. It is a Meyer, my favourite. The terrible thing about transplanting trees is that you have to cut all the fruit off to let the tree put its efforts into roots rather than fruits. It feels mean.

But here is what I remembered as I dug and weeded and planted. Gardening makes me calm. Gardening is literally a grounding experience. All the worries fall away as I potter about and talk to birds and plants and earthworms and enjoy the sun on my back. For the past weeks I have been diligently doing my jobs inside, unpacking and cleaning and cooking and rescuing cats and comforting children, and for the weeks before that I had been doing the same at the old house. What I was missing was hands in the dirt! So today I went out and planted daffodil bulbs from the old house that I found in a box. Luckily there is always another job to do in a garden. In this garden I have years of anxiety-reducing messing about in the dirt to do. Such a relief:)

What do you do to calm down the panic stations?


Anonymous said…
Initially I was saying, "Breathe, Jo. Breathe. No point panicking. Even if they are all things that might be worth panicking about or things you might not like." (Like the possible lack of sun.)

But then I see you rediscovered your self-soothing technique. For me it is walking.

And I agree, it seems mean for the lemon tree. Cruel to be kind!?!

I love how cats are territorial. And remember their old territory. Lucky you didn't cross the strait. Imagine the journey your cat would have then!?!

And you still have a beautiful view. Is it your new morning reading spot?
Linda said…
Glad your gardening was therapeutic. We all need a safety valve and you have found yours. Mine is sewing - quilting to be precise. If I am choosing colours and fabrics, measuring carefully and cutting with a rotary cutter all my energies are focussed. All other random worrying thoughts are pushed out of my head. Don't worry too much about the boxes, they will get emptied in time. Enjoy rescuing your new garden and reclaiming it from the weeds.
Treaders said…
I think most of us have to-do lists as long as our arms. I know I happen to like being busy but sometimes it is overwhelming. In fact I couldn't sleep last night as I had been ill and my mind was buzzing of "then I should do this, and then think about a new sink, and then ...." But I have a huge pile of wasted paper from work (I hate the fact that we use so much paper but ...) so I always just start writing scrappy lists of everything and anything. I can't keep all that stuff in my head and my paper diary looks like it went through the Blitz, but it works for me.

And of course, by going outside you are getting the fresh air and vitamin D that are both essential to our well being aren't you. Good for you, I'm sure your new garden will look beautiful soon too. Anna
have a cry, call my mum :-) cup of tea, fresh air.
gardening doesn't always make me calm - gardening can sometimes be the cause of the frustration.
how lovely that you know have your lemon trees :-)
Jo said…
Lucinda, I am imagining my small, stubborn cat determinedly paddling across Bass Strait. Makes me smile. He would, too:)

Linda, quilting, yes, what a wonderful, soothing image that is. For me, of course, there would be crying and naughty words, but each to our own self-soothing technique:)

Anna, thank you, yes, lists, I usually write dozens of lists, and as you say, it gets it all out of your head and 'parked' on a piece of paper. I haven't been writing lists because I have yet to unpack my scrap paper drawer! But I just pulled a bunch of envelopes out of the recycling bin, and have started a new list. I feel better already!

e, I honestly can't ever remember feeling frustrated in the garden. Sometimes about the garden, but not while I am actually out there amongst it all, even when it is a weedy jungle, as now. It is wonderful imagining it as it will be in a few years.

And lemon trees - how does a garden grow without at least one? And how do you cook without lemons?
Hazel in Canberra said…
Hi, Jo, I've been reading your lovely blog for a while. I'm so glad that you've found your first bit of calm after the stress of moving, and the discovery of the extra lemon tree is the universe saying you are in the right place! Personally, I read to calm myself - but then I read for almost any reason at all. Maybe I should take a leaf from your book ( or lemon tree?) and get out in the garden.
GretchenJoanna said…
I know you know, how I relate so well to the gardening therapy. A lot of my worries over the last months were new-garden related, but I think only because it was winter and I couldn't get out there between rainstorms and DO anything. Once I started behaving like a gardener I calmed down, and now the garden is the one thing I'm not anxious about. It also helped to have a table and increasing sunshine in which to sit at it.

Once you get the wood stove mastered you can cozy up to it during the winter, and that should also be comforting. Reading your stories makes me thankful that I haven't had upheaval of the house *and* the garden at the same time. Blessings on your home, Jo!
Jo said…
Hazel, oh, I relate! I could read for about 20 hours out of the 24 and it is wonderful for a little escape and relaxation - especially my comfort books which I read over and over again. But for unknotting that anxiety I recommend digging and hands in the dirt every time..

Gretchen Joanna, I do know you love your garden - it is starting to look lovely. Isn't a new garden just bewitching?
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Oh my! I was starting to worry simply reading about your worries...

What a score with that lemon tree and it is a really good time (and this year will be good) to plant citrus trees. The meyer lemons are the best tasting and most productive aren't they? I have a eureka, lemonade, bush and lisbon lemons - but the meyer is the best of all.

Ha! Well, you have discovered the happy vibes one gets from mucking around in nature and the soil.

Since you asked, mucking around in the garden is a form of meditative practice and just learning to be in the world. That sounds a bit hippy dippy doesn't it?

Worries can be eliminated by writing down a list of things to do - that way you don't have to carry them around in your head. Dunno.

Also not tackling every job all at once. Cut yourself some serious slack and undertake one task at a time and learn how to prioritise. You don't have to get everything spot on straight away. That's life. Oh yeah, remember to factor in some down time so that you can enjoy sitting in front of the wood fire toasting your toes and reading a good book. Actually I'm reading Michael Lewis's book: "The big short" which the recent excellent film was based on and it is hard putting this book down. It is total riveting!

Hey, with the wood fire, you probably already know this but:
- Leave a layer of ash at the bottom of your wood fire box. About one to two inches should do it depending on the constructions. That ash for some strange reason makes the fire start quicker and hotter.
- Get the flue cleaned out by the local chimney sweep dude. That really makes a huge difference if the exhaust gases vent quickly and cleanly. I've used a chimney sweep in Melbourne and he was very good and the whole process was very clean and I don't recall that it cost more than $100. I do my own chimney sweeping nowadays.
- I start a fire by scrunching paper into loose balls and then add a layer of sticks, bark and then small bits of timber.
- Don't be tempted to play with the fire until it has clearly taken. A person cannot rush a fire, it takes its own time.
- The clarity of the glass is a good indicator that the flue is clean. A very dirty glass can mean that the flue is full of gunk - and you don't want that at all for all sorts of reasons.
- Get an electric log splitter, don't wreck your back and shoulders. I gave a link to one over at my blog and the thing is awesome and a lot of fun to use as it is so easy. The editor uses it all of the time and it is a simple joystick operation. Just be careful with it and do not have anyone or anything in front of it when it is in operation as the timber can ping. Oh, you also have to have the front uphill of the motor and joysticks for it to work best too. It is a bit heavy, so get a bike chain lock for the tool so it isn't stolen. Once your neighbours see you splitting timber like a professional, they may want to nick it... :-)!
- I have a galvanised garbage bin which I store the kindling in so that it is out of the weather and stays toasty dry and the fire starts first time every time. Get your kids to pick up a collection of sticks from the nearest forest or park and you'll have months of free kindling and most of your starting problems will go away.
- The firewood bays out of the weather are a good idea. Just make sure you can access them easily for the delivery process.
- Not all suppliers provide the same quality firewood. Shop around.

That's about it really, but mostly I learn what to fight and when to simply look at a problem and say: "Meh!"


heather said…
So nice to see the caring, reassurance, and advice exchanged here. It's rather reassuring me about the world just to read the comments back and forth!

I get the overwhelmed feeling too, and agree that gardening and lists are two essential tools for coping. I also try as much as possible at those times to attend to the very basics- nutritious food, enough exercise to tire me out physically, and being disciplined about sleep (I know you can't force yourself to actually sleep, but at least turn the light out at a reasonable hour and try to distract yourself with boring thoughts…) These things are surprisingly easy to forget when my mind is set on "worry", but attending to them helps keep the needle out of the red.

Hope you settle into your new place, the kids and critters do to, and everyone starts to feel at home.

--Heather in CA
Jo said…
Chris, thank you for Fire Lighting 101. A number of those suggestions are excellent and helpful. I especially like the one about leaving the fire alone. SO hard to do:)

Heather, oh, I just love the comments and commenters here. I get so much encouragement and kindness and wisdom winging its way to me every post.

And sleep - well, I sleep like a dormouse. The more stressed I am the more I sleep. Waking up in the wee hours though, that's another thing. Everything is worse at 4am..

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