This 4th of July was the mildest that I remember for St. Louis. 80’s and low humidity. And this week following is not too hot either. A reprieve from the typical summer sultry stuff. We had days of rain, but a dry spell for a week where we actually had to water our potted perennials and annuals. My blue lobelia wasn’t happily blooming one morning, so a good soaking it received. Our lettuces and greens are fully bolted. Nature takes over and seeds are being formed to reproduce more. The bed of greens has produced scrumptious salads for two months. We had the last harvest for the season. I may get a few rows sowed for an autumn crop late in August. The rain returned this weekend, some storms with it this time. Feast or famine. The rains or dry patches.
The past few days in the backyard birdhouse a pair of Eurasian tree sparrow nestlings hollered at their parents for their feedings. Dean and I watched with careful observation as the nestlings grew, seemed to add feathers and chirps each day. The nestlings became fledglings in a matter of days. They took flying lessons from the back porch rail. After this weekend’s storm, I found one of the baby birds dead in the back yard. Not sure if its sibling had a better outcome, hopefully safe somewhere in the shelter of the trees. Life is so fragile. Death is so final or it seems. Another brood of Eurasian tree sparrows will hatch this autumn or next spring or summer. Nature and its circle of life goes round and round. Lessons to learn.
This has been an odd Spring thus far. It came and went and came back for just a few days, and now feels like Summer. Lately, I have not written much about the plant life. Believe me, Deanna Greens still exist, alive and ticking. My busyness is crash training my full-time job before retirement while starting another job working just part-time as a culinary instructor. Just one more week of this. My health requires me to go at things with a slower pace. The weekend warrior stuff is over. I was diagnosed with PVCs a month ago, and probably had them for awhile. I am still tending to my green friends, but not with such vigor as the recent years past. Winter wanted to stay longer, so we took an early spring vacation to the southern states of Arkansas and Texas. My lettuce and greens garden was sown about 4 weeks later than my usual. This week Dean and I finally picked our first greens of the season and had a scrumptious salad for lunch.
The blooms have been magnificent this Spring. Vivid shades of blues, purples, pinks, and reds. And so many of them on each bush or stem. Red bud, white dogwood, German bearded and blue flag irises, “Granny’s bonnet” columbines, Chinese peonies, and mustard & ketchup roses. Our green perennials of ferns, philodendrons, arrowheads, and purple heart went outdoors to join the beauty of the bright colors. I potted some red begonias and purple lobelias. The neighbors, too have a rainbow of colors in their yards. A long Winter seems to bring out the colors come Spring. It is this plant life that calms me.
Spring came a bit late this year. The subzero temperatures in February stiffened the green sprouts on bushes and trees, as well as the gardeners such as myself who stay indoors during the severe winter. The cinder block basement houses our potted perennials under timed plant lights. In late January I was able to get cuttings from those perennials and put them in water or planted in small pots of soil. They all sprouted roots. This past weekend I designed and filled hanging wire planters with organic soil and my new tender plants. I have four lovely planters with room for new spring & summer growth. Tender herbs (parsley, lavender, golden & lemon thyme, basil & oregano, and chocolate & pineapple mint) were purchased from the local greenhouse down the street, and repotted into bigger pots. Adorable, and oh does that pineapple mint smell delicious! Cannot wait to make some delicious sweet bread and tea with it. Begonias and sweet alyssum grace the front porch at Deanna’s Cottage.
I am about a month late sowing our greens bed, but an early spring/post-COVID vaccinations vacation to Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri kept us away for 2 weeks. We saw more spring sprouts each hour we traveled further south. A bucket list item was to experience a field of blue bonnets, and we accomplished that. On Sunday afternoon we added more organic soil, then I sowed lettuce and spinach seeds in the bed. Very tiny sprouts of green appear in a couple of rows after 4 days from sowing. Where the greenhouse and screenhouse is housed, Boone Hollow Farm is lovely especially in the spring. The crab apples, pears, dogwood, and red buds are all abloom. The peaceful surroundings welcome Dean and I at every visit. And I welcome the pots and sprouts every growing season.
We finally had our daffodils surface 2 weeks ago, and they opened this week with the warmth and sunshine. I love spring! The promises of long hope appear. It was a mild winter up until February, and then a severe cold that has been hard to shake off. When green life appears, I know spring is not too far away. This week I read a mime “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually you have been planted.” Like seeds, hope surfaces and eventually blooms nourishing our souls. But nothing says “spring” more than a babe, or two. Fresh joy springing forth in every smile. Grandbabies, Clara and Jefferson chatting on Facetime.
February’s arctic blast did so much damage to plumbing systems. My oldest daughter and her family are bunked up in a Super 8 motel while their homeowners insurance company get their house repaired after several pipes froze and burst, and damaging their furnace. It seems pretty dark to them still, but once repairs are completed they will have a new furnace, all new plumbing system, and much more. A real life “Schitt’s Creek” drama going on. Waiting for restoration is hard. So many more families have similar stories. Snow is being replaced with rain, thunder, and even a rainbow. The birds appear at the the feeders earlier.
I awake every morning now before 5:00am with those creative thoughts running in my head, those kind you just cannot tune out. It is like my body knows spring is almost here. A fresh garden project or recipe idea surfaces to respond to. My days as an employee wellness coordinator are drawing nigh on June 1, and God has already provided a semi-retirement job opportunity for me. I am now a culinary instructor at the local continuing education program. My joy of cooking and baking will be renewed to share with many others once again. Take a gander at my new page “Culinary Classes, Too”https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/culinary-classes-too/ on this website.
I have been hibernating in the house for days now. I went out on Monday in between snow showers to pick up Dean at the train station after his Super Bowl weekend in Kansas City. Since then, I haven’t even stepped out to get the mail from the mailbox. Just plain too cold with the arctic blast! The sweatered teddy bear sits on the window still reminds folks that the warmth of love reigns in this home. The perfectly formed snowflakes glisten in the occasional sunlight while the colorful Valentine decorations, hot beverages, sweet treats, and my sweetheart, Dean will keep me cozy warm this 3-day holiday weekend. We have another week of these near zero-degree nights and less than 20-degrees days. What an opportunity for bird watching from our windows, writing, reading, cooking, baking, and movie watching! BTW: When did that groundhog say spring will arrive?
The new year rang in with the bang of the neighbor’s fireworks at midnight here at Deanna’s Cottage. Dean and I did carry-out Mexican, mixed cocktails of ginger ale with Disaronno amaretto, a movie, and hit the hay before midnight. The fireworks reminded me of a brighter year promised in 2021. Gray skies have taken many of January’s days. But the occasional sunny day has been well received, even produced a mid-afternoon walk. This last day of January the temperatures have dropped enough to see snow flurries floating. Kind of sleety stuff is misting the air now. The finches, sparrows, and cardinals chatter at the feeders. We had a 2-inch snow earlier this week. More to come this evening. The whistle of the the tea kettle calls me back into the kitchen while writing this afternoon.
On January 5 I received exciting news that my four recipe submissions and two of my poem submissions were accepted for a quarterly e-magazine called eMerge. Take a gander at this quarter’s submission, my scones recipe are featured. This publication is based from The Writers’ Colony At Dairy Hollow, which I have read about and have been on their newsletter list for years. On two occasions I drove by the place while in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, but didn’t stop in. A visit or two is in the making for 2021. This non-profit organization was established 20 years ago. They provide residencies where writers can stay in a comfortable suite and surroundings to work on a literary piece of any genre. They also have sponsored fellowships offered at various times throughout the year. Several online courses are available. This place once was the famous bed & breakfast owned by culinary and children’s author, Crescent Dragonwagon. Many years ago I read about this Arkansas bed & breakfast in a country magazine and thought “I want to go there sometime.” So my next trip to this eccentric, eclectic toursy town will be for the purpose to stay at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow for a 1-week residency in 2021.
January 6, who will forget that day? Some thought America might come to an end with the deadly riot ensued at the nation’s capitol. I was troubled in my heart as I witnessed and heard the news. I was and still am confident that our nation will pull together for a better, stronger democracy. It is going to take each of us to examine our own hearts, actions, and then pursue change in oneself first. Those restless hours at night have me sitting up praying. One month finished in a blink of an eye. Before we know it 2022 will be rung in. Make the most of each day, at peace with yourself and the world around you. “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” ~ Mark 9:50. A salty peace. Sounds like an oxymoronic scripture, but it is truth.
More days anticipated in the basement this wintry season had Dean and I reorganizing our storage spaces. Dean built a huge wood shelving unit and we have that about 1/3 filled with our boxes and various equipment. Dean has his little cubby area for model building. On an old table, I have a jigsaw puzzle to piece together. Hand weights and exercise ball are readily available for much needed physical activity. I finally started walking in the basement in 15-minute increments 3 or 4 times a day to get my heart pumping at a healthier rate. I work my way around the our perennials beholding the green life they bring to me. These basement laps have been opportunity for prayers and singing. I now call them my warrior marches. Read my womanwarrior.blog and you will understand why. So many needs out there and within. God hears our prayers, I hope you know. A desire to form a non-profit is in the works; it burns within me daily. My retirement date from my HR position with county government is finally coming in 2021. Onto new pursuits with part-time employment, my writing, my gardening, and developing this non-profit.
While at our local nature store during the holidays purchasing bird seed and gifts, we (and all their loyal customers) were given a cranberry seed bell, wrapped pretty in red & green tissue paper in a brown paper gift bag. Such a kind gesture. We saved the seed bell for this last weekend of Advent. A delicious dessert for our songbirds, or at least that is what Dean and I had in our minds. A neighborhood squirrel has another idea of who that seed bell belongs to. Within in minutes of hanging the cranberry seed bell on a hook, a squirrel is chewing on the rope so the dessert falls to the ground for his partaking only. By the time Dean got outside that blanky-blank squirrel is gnawing on that seed bell like a succulent buttery corn cob on an August day! In disgust, Dean shoos the squirrel away and rescues the cranberry seed bell from the ground.
Making do with what we have in the basement Dean finds an old metal curtain rod, metal wiring, and duct tape. Dean jimmy-rigs an extension pole from a current bird feeder pole. He is hoping this will deter the squirrels, or least make it more difficult to get to the cranberry seed bell. We still have squirrels feeding on the cranberry seed bell, but not totally taking over for their own pleasure. It is being shared amongst the songbirds and squirrels now. Such is the theme of the squirrels in our neighborhood, and I guarantee yours as well. We have learned to live with the squirrels, just make it a bit more of a challenge for the squirrels. And don’t take over what is meant for the common good.
Co-existence. Isn’t that the word? Much like the children’s tale of the king, mice, and cheese illustrates. The king dislikes sharing his cheese with the mice. So he brings in a cat to take care of the mice. The king doesn’t like the cat clawing on this furniture. So he brings in a dog. Then the dog’s fur gets on the king’s nerves, and he brings in … So the story goes on until the king realizes he has a much bigger problem than he had with just the mice. Can we apply that story to our current state of affairs in our nation? I think so. We can do so much better than we did this past week. We need to co-exist, agree to disagree, and respect boundaries despite our political views, creeds, races, genders, ages, and choices. So the lion and elephant do not crowd out our nation void, and you and I null.
“Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” author Gretchen Rubin wrote. I can so relate. And of course while in the kitchen I cooked and baked this long weekend. Some for Dean and I, and some for others needing an extra dose of love. “The people who give you their food, give you their heart,” Latino civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez once shared. “Cooking has nothing to do with the ingredients, but everything to do with love,” author Dominique Browning commented. I make-do with the ingredients in my well-stocked kitchen, but I beg to differ with Dominique that the right ingredients can make foods taste better. Muir Glen’s organic tomato sauce is the best for a rich red sauce contrasted with a from-scratch white sauce for spinach cannelloni. I happen to pick up a couple of cans last week. Of course, everything is done with love when it comes to cooking, even the acquiring of ingredients. That’s where my organic gardening comes in. Slow cooking, fresh, from-scratch and homemade reigns. “Through cooking, touching, feeling, preparing, and savoring good, real food made from real ingredients, I get to fully inhibit my kitchen; heal my body; connect with friends, family, the Earth, and the larger community where I live,” quoting Mark Hyman, MD. I had a fun weekend in my warm kitchen!
2020 has been a year like no other. We learned to wear a mask everywhere we go. New phrases such as “COVID-19”, “social distancing”, & “social bubble” have become commonplace. Teddy bears line our living room window to remind our neighbors love resides. Our living room has been “the office” since mid-March. I am on my work computer undertaking county government employee programs & benefits while Dean researches files & tags old photos for the National Archives. We try to time our Zoom staff meetings & webinars to not conflict with each other, or Dean wears his earplugs. I return to the Clayton office once a week for a couple of early morning hours to retrieve my mail and file papers. I brought home my comfy office chair and bought a narrow table to fit at the one of the living room windows for my make-shift desk. We have found solace at our small cottage as our home & workplace during the COVID pandemic, racial discord, stormy election, & natural catastrophes. Birds, blooms, blogging,“ bear chairs”, “brinner”, beverage breaks, the aroma of freshly baked goodies; these are a few of our favorite things in 2020.
The start of 2020 before the news of COVID, we met up with Dean’s cousins in Eureka Springs, AR for a long weekend. Those long weekends became fewer after the CDC announced the pandemic. Home bound we were and still are. I never dreamt I would be working from home, and for this long. I rather love it as an introvert. That time I normally would be commuting to work, my early mornings are greeted with the sunrise or the kiss of the last sunrays at dusk while I walk most days of my week. This is an opportune time with the challenge of a speed walking program. I continue into this colder season, but I have shortened that time and venture out mid-day. My allergy to the cold keeps me indoors with my perennials, crafts, reading, writing, cooking, baking, & antiques. Dean with his extra time has taken to his “man cave” (the basement) tinkering & plane model building after seeing the real ones. Our entertainment is the livestreamed Opry from Nashville, Turner Classic movies, and The Big 550 KTRS catching the Farmer Dave and McGraw talk shows. Dean & I turned 60 this year, me in late August & he on Thanksgiving Day. We both are healthy. The worst of our complaints have been the shortage of toilet paper & antibacterial hand soap at the stores, and the body aches from sitting at our work computers all day then becoming weekend warriors with our yard projects. We count our blessings.
Every year we enjoy feeding the neighborhood songbirds. Early spring Dean & I added a bird bath/fountain we found “on sale”. Funny how “a bargain” multiplies 1 major project x 5. Dean resurrected nearly buried rocks from the alley area out back to create a rock garden for under the bird feeders & fountain nearby our living room window. It took us 8 hours to piece together the puzzle of mossy rocks & purchased flat stones. We also built our pebble patio in the front situated under the dogwood tree. For our outdoor seating pleasure Dean assembled & painted 2 wooden Adirondack chairs dubbed “the bear chairs” as they are made by The Bear Company. The chairs’ color nicely matches our “nifty turquoise” front door. It is such a peaceful sanctuary under that dogwood tree. Well, until the neighborhood Cooper’s hawk comes for a visit. The birds chatter & squawk until the bigger bird of prey flies away with or without lunch. We finished out our warm season projects with a new retaining wall between our house & the church next door, then mulched between the flowering hydrangeas & peonies.
The green thumb report … Lettuces & greens grew prolifically at our screen house at Boone Hollow Farm, and our potted herbs & perennials here at Deanna’s Cottage. Such a truly gorgeous spring & mild enough summer we had here in our parts of Missouri. In 2021 we may grow birdhouse gourds, which need at least 180 days of frost-free days & plenty of climbing space. Here at the cottage, my garden projects will be to prep & stain a vintage cart, potting table, & garden bench as well as grow old-fashion flowers to attract more bees & butterflies. I was inspired by the colonial-style garden seen while on vacation. For our big backyard Dean will build a new deck/porch & replace our fencing. We will hire for tree removal while others need trimming. The shade of our grove of trees provides a refuge for our feathered & human friends alike.
Summer into autumn was bittersweet. Sweet was the week with granddaughter Elise at our home, a weekend with my grandkids exploring Meramec Caverns, and our 10th wedding anniversary travels to Williamsburg, Virginia. We drove to avoid the close confines of an airplane, besides we like the journey along the way. Multiple masks and hand sanitizer packed. Also, we welcomed 2 new grandbabies, Jefferson Dean & Clara Jean, one living in St. Louis & the other in Lee’s Summit. In October we had a long weekend at a cabin in remote Kentucky with Dean’s brothers. We played hooky & snuck in a brief couple of uncrowded weekdays in New Orleans. We drove once again. The bitter part, my mother became ill during late summer into autumn, but not from COVID. Mom was very cautious, staying home away from people during the pandemic. My brothers, sister-in-law, Dean, & I were gradually allowed in her “bubble”. I would bring Mom library books & comically brought her a box of 48 rolls of commercial-grade TP. We all would share photos & stories about the kids & grandkids. By the time she braved going to the doctor, it was too late. After 3 weeks of medical tests Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung & lymph node cancers. Hospice care was arranged. My sister & nephews made their way home for their last visits with her. Exactly 1 week after that diagnosis, Mom passed away at her home. My mother was a tough yet classy lady, & loved her family. Today I had the notion to call her & check if she would like to bake Christmas cookies this weekend. I miss her. Mom is Home now with our Lord, my Dad, grandparents, & many other loved ones who have gone before her.
The Christmas tree is decorated, adorned with a new “mask-wearing” Santa ornament. Holiday shopping is limited to uncrowded local boutiques or ordered on online & waiting for the packages to arrive on our front porch. Gifts are coming together nicely in the guest bedroom. Homemade goodies fill the cookie jar. Old-fashion Christmas carols stream from the TV. For us holiday parties, extended family gatherings, & Advent church services are virtual. Quaint gatherings are planned. Distractions have lessen considerably by being at home, allowing quiet reflections to abound. Authors Ann Voskamp, Matthew Kelly, and Rick Warren continue to inspire me. The Word of God is full of wisdom. This winter more frequent blogging will fill my hours. God loves you & I. He is still in control even though the outside world seems chaotic. “Wasn’t He awakening me to Beauty everywhere, because beauty is the way of the inner eye?” Ann Voskamp questions in her One Thousand Gifts book. “Beauty was all around … I sat very still, taking in the spirit of the night, until I felt that I was in a place as holy as a church. And I was ready to be home”, author Dominique Browning once wrote. I am ready to be snug at home this holiday season. Are you? Make home your most favorite place to be until you are called Home as the old hymn goes …
Come home! come home! Ye who are weary, come home! Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!
While the perennials are sheltered in the basement for two months now, the colder season will eventually show its true color. I anticipate white very soon. The holiday and winter season promises snow here in Missouri at some point. A white Christmas is what we sing about, but not always experienced. We have a 1 in 5 chance for the white fluffy stuff on Christmas Day. Dean and I experience the holiday lights and a “white-out” during an evening drive partaking in white snowman cookie and hot white chocolate from Starbucks. The white-out is fake snow, just simulating the real thing. I continue to take care for our perennials. Since I last wrote in this blog we welcomed a new white planter of lilies, mini roses, and a succulent sent as kind gesture as my mother passed away late in October. It is not doing so well in the living room, so I will move it under the plant lights downstairs. As I begin to address holiday cards I sing … “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write, may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas’ be white …“ As with the magic of snow, I anticipate Jesus’ coming for this Advent season, showering of real blessings. The real deal, nothing fake about it.