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!
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.
The word “frost” came into the weathermen’s forecasts a couple of times last week. The late afternoon of October 1, Dean and I decided to move our perennials indoors while the colder air pushed its way into our town, but before a frost could lay its frozen fingers on our delicate green friends. We moved 20 planters of several varieties of ferns, lantana, lobelia, geraniums, swedish ivy, moses-in-cradle, philodendrons, and a Meyer’s lemon tree to the basement under a huge plant light on a timer. Two favorite perennial planters went upstairs in the house with us, along with 5 pots of herbs. It always amazes me how big the plants have grown over the past 6 months under mother nature’s care. Maybe I have a green thumb, but more so God blesses us with sunshine and rain at the right times. He reminds me when I can help with a watering can, pruning, and plucking the withered leaves and blooms. The frost finally gripped its frozen fingers on the cars, rooftops, and the earth very early this morning. But 27 pots of plants are snug and safe and sound in Deanna’s Cottage here in St. Charles, Missouri this autumn and winter seasons.
Withered leaves rustle
Acorns scatter all the while
Swallowtails, bees nurse on
Succulents’ cerise pink blooms
Before leaving summer’s home
The cicadas have clicked and buzzed in harmony since late July. August came and went with floods at the beginning of the month and ended with a drought. Now it is September. It is the month that summer fades into autumn. The songbirds, swallow tail butterflies, and honeybees still gather at the fountain for a drink. For our feathered friends, it is also a communal bath. A refreshing rain cooled the air, and gave the thirsty earth a drink. My morning walks start a little later as the sun waits to come up as the moon slowly leaves the sky. There is a rustling with the flowering bushes and leaves in the trees when the wind shifts, some days blessed with the cooler northern air. Lush greens are giving way to hazel. Early autumn colors of yellow, orange, and red are seen. I gathered a handful of leaves to put in water as I walked home one morning. The evening stroll in the yard brought me to resilient blooms holding on until the first frost, or my snipping shears. The imperfect yet resilient petals show bug bites and drying tips, but still the hues brighten my September day. I am reminded of God’s promise, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” ~ Psalms 46:5
The summer rains woke me this morning. Typically, it is the sun peeking through the white curtains in our bedroom or the first tweets of our neighborhood birds that welcome me to the new day. The earth needed some fresh rain water in my spot of the world. And so it did just that, watered our flowers, plants, and grass to a vivid green. “Aw”, my green friends say. What a lovely, milder day of summer we had today.
My 3-mile power walk will need to wait until tomorrow. During our morning computer screen break between rains, Dean and I took a casual walk up the street to the newly opened coffee shop. A unique place, a coffee roaster situated in an old auto brake shop, Upshot Coffee Brake Shop. Dean treats himself to a cappuccino, and I to a herbal tea. I think this new establishment will be a once-in-awhile daytime perch for us during these mundane work-from-home arrangements, like it was today. Make it a special walk for a special moment in time.
I can be a little green with envy about gardens. Pun intended. Garden envy. Any gardener out there can relate. When I walk the streets of my town or thumb through a magazine I love looking at neighborhood gardens, the trees, flowers, veggies, and pots. Our neighbors are creative with their plant, container, and cute garden art selections. The most impressive are these moss baskets placed atop tall wooden posts. Baby’s breath, impatiens, possibly geraniums cascade from holes inside the moss lining as well overflow from the top. Dean and I plan to put in three of these planter poles and baskets in the new mulched terrace in the side yard next spring. The flowers can be admired from our living room and bedroom windows as well as from the front and back yards.
While on vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia Dean and I visited the site of the oldest governor’s mansion. Of course, the mansion, grounds buildings, and gardens are replicas. We came across a colonial garden that captured my gaze for a few minutes. I took this photo before we moved on with the tour. The garden was not big, but big enough to yield a family a good share of food supply through the winter months. All the rows neat and tidy. Herbs in one patch; corn, vining beans or peas, squash and pumpkins create the 3-sisters in another patch; tomatoes and pepper plants caged, with flowering zinnias and marigolds surround. So I am impressed to recreate a colonial-style garden for the next growing year. I need to gather some books on colonial gardens to read over the winter months. So what have you seen in a yard or garden that you would like to try for next year? Or are you up to your eyeballs in zucchini and tomatoes right now to even think about next year’s garden like my friends Elizabeth and Gary in Festus, Missouri? Take pride and you have grower’s bragging rights! Happy gardening everyone!!!
This summer continues to bring us more opportunities for projects at Deanna’s Cottage. Dean and I put in new retaining walls between our house and the church next door. Dean did most of the labor as the blocks were much too heavy for me. But I was able to handle the capstones and raking of the weeds and sparse grass. We will cover the space with landscape fabric and mulch another weekend. There are three hydrangeas not blooming because they are under the humongous tulip poplar tree in the backyard not getting enough sunlight. So later this summer when it cools a bit we will transplant them to this new south-side space, where it is evenly sun and shade throughout the day.
The last harvest of our spring crop of arugula went into this crustless quiche. Much like wilted spinach, I sauteed the chopped arugula with chopped shallots in bacon bits and drippings before folding into the egg and gouda cheese mixture. I removed the tough stems in the bigger leaves before chopping, so this becomes a labor of love. Similarly, the lemon herb tea bread I made included fresh sprigs of my potted lemon basil and lemon thyme steeped in steamed milk. Then, the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest were folded into the dough. Oh, so lemony! A luscious summer bread for breakfast. I made cake muffins with this batch. If topped with sliced strawberries and dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, it is a delightful summer dessert. What are you making with your garden goodies?
We have had such a wonderful spring for the garden greens, a full 3 months worth of mild temperatures and salads for at least 3 families. The summer heat cranked up this past 2 weeks, and the arugula bolted. Last week I pinched a few of the flowering buds, but as the temperatures increased so did the flowers on arugula. We finally cut the longer stemmed arugula and gathered enough stems for two vases. The fragrance was pleasantly earthy in the cottage for a couple days. The arugula gets bitter after bolting, so we say goodbye to our spring crop, and hope for a mild autumn to plant more. The lettuces loved the shade of the arugula, but will soon cease to produce due to the hot summer heat. That, too, will be an autumn crop if the weather permits.
This week the tropical storm brought Missouri cooler air. The windows are open for a welcoming breeze inside the cottage. The mustard & ketchup roses and yellow lilies grace our table and kitchen window. The herbs flourish to my delight, flavor enhancements and more nutrients to my dishes and drinks. What tops a glass of iced mint tea on a summer evening on the patio? The pleasures of gardening are many. And there is the more cynical view of gardening I had to laugh at. The other day I found this on a t-shirt online ad, “I garden so I don’t choke people. Save a life, send mulch.” With today’s societal woos, no wonder more people are picking up the hobby, rather I should say “the therapy of gardening”. The climates, weather and society, change from day to day, as author Madeliene L’Engle has been quoted, “If there is to be any peace or reason, we have create it in our own hearts and homes.” Have your heart and mind at peace and it will protect you and those around you.