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
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.
My haven is home. So blessed during this stay-at-home order Dean and I have been given opportunity to care for our home and yard. Our home gives back so much more. And spring has been so pleasant this year, very much like spring should be. Sunshine, rains, a random storm brews up, cool mornings, and warmer afternoons. We had a couple of days it felt more like summer, but it cooled down after the rains. And then a few frost warning mornings, but it never came. Better safe than sorry, we covered our annuals and perennials. Kind of like the corona virus for us. We take the precautions: masks, social distancing, and extra sanitation in our home and when we are out.
These mild temperatures and regular watering from the rains has provided such a green haven of leaves, grasses, mosses, and foliage. Mid-spring the dogwood, azalea, clematis, irises and the flowering trees, bushes, and stemmed blooms are clothed in white or more showy colors of fuchsia, paler pinks, purples, blues, oranges, yellows, and reds. The peonies are exceptional this year. The song birds are plentiful. Their songs divine. The morning doves, robins, finches of purple and yellow, grosbeaks, cardinals, indigo buntings, nuthatches, and sparrows of many species come to our feeders and reside in the birdhouses or bushes. Hawks and owls call out throughout the day and night as their homes are nearby. Of course, families of squirrels and rabbits in the neighborhood are for the taking by these birds of prey. Occasionally, it is a morning dove for a meal.
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest; Home-keeping hearts are happiest, For those that wander they know not where Are full of trouble and full of care; To stay at home is best. Weary and homesick and distressed, They wander east, they wander west, And are baffled and beaten and blown about By the winds of the wilderness of doubt; To stay at home is best. Then stay at home, my heart, and rest; The bird is safest in its nest; O’er all that flutter their wings and fly A hawk is hovering in the sky; To stay at home is best. Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter. The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day. The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches. The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day. We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up. Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity. Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us. We now take a stroll twice a day everyday. We see neighbors about, too. If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately. The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk. First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom. The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after. Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display. Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire. Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.
My Sunday morning pancake making came with a comic note from any neighbor’s perspective, I am sure. While Dean slept in I made my from-scratch pancakes using an overripe banana left in the fruit bowl. You know the saying, “waste not want not”. While cooking the pancakes, I checked the bird feeder. The song birds and squirrels have managed to empty the feeders in a matter of two days. It didn’t snow overnight, just cold and rainy this February morning. Well, those pesky squirrels are hanging all over the bird feeders and has the big one twisted open. I got our ammo out, the spray bottle of water and open the door to shoot at the squirrels. They hate it, yet will feed on the bird seeds in the rain! Maybe a BB gun would more effective, but may scare the neighbors.
As I spray a stream of water their way, the squirrels scatter. One goes around to the hide on the other side of the house and the other runs towards the street. In the corner of my eye I see a tumbleweed going into the street between our car and the neighbor’s car. That tumbleweed is the bloom I clipped yesterday and added to a red wire basket setting on the front porch. I try not to waste anything, including the dried blooms left on our hydrangea bushes. They make great fill-ins for floral baskets. The wind must have blown it out of the basket. Oh, I smell burnt pancake and run back into the kitchen! Just a little too charred to suit me, but Dean will eat it. Waste not want not, you eat what is served, right?
I bundled myself with a warm robe before going out into the elements to rescue the hydrangea tumbleweed from the wind and rain. The rescue was a success! I shoved it back into the wire basket with a little more force and returned to more pancake making. Dean awakes to the aroma of semi-burnt pancakes and sausage. No, the smoke alarm did not go off to awaken him. As I tell him my morning adventures he selects the YouTube playlist of Gene Autry as well as Sons Of The Pioneers version singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds …
See them tumbling down,
Pledging their love to the ground!
Lonely, but free, I’ll be found,
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds…
We talk of our childhood memories of burnt meals. This morning pancakes came close to the charred pancakes Grandpa and Great-Uncle Lloyd made for the whole family when going to the family farm in Franklin County. Dean recalled similar stories of his childhood.
Missouri’s summer heats up in August. It started on the cooler side, but it is full-blown dripping hot now. The humidity does it, zaps the energy out of me. I am taking a couple of hours this afternoon in the air-conditioned cottage to reenergize myself. This summer I have managed to get a walk in every day while at work. I found a quiet, shady alley that provides some refuge from the madness in the middle of my day. Then flowers and gardening are my evening and weekend therapy. The blooms are flourishing.
This year Dean and I’s spare summer weekends are focused on repainting the window and door frames of our St. Charles cottage. Of course with a house that is 80 years old, projects are many. There is multiple layers of paint to sand down, so we get a smooth, clean coat of paint. We have found 3 layers with the front door frame and headboard. A coat of primer will go on the frame and headboard this evening, with the final white paint another “free” weekend. Then the front door is next. “Nifty turquoise” is the color of choice. Read The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell to know why I picked this color. Stay tuned for another post to follow with a picture of our finished project.
Vacation travels took Dean and I to the east coast in historic Charleston, South Carolina this past week. We relished the art, culture, history, and summer foliage that the city offers. We captured some unforgettable vignettes with alcoves, alleys, doors, windows, churches, homes, blooms, and green gardens galore. Its great to admire the gardens of other people, but always good to bring that admiration back to the home base despite the imperfections.
I have held up fairly well this very cold winter season. I kept busy indoors with a 1000-piece puzzle, reading, writing, vacation planning, and even a couple of hand-written letters placed in the mail box. You know, the old-fashioned way of communicating! My interior decorating picked up again, with our newest additions a chaise and lace-paneled screen for my boudoir, as well as a vintage stained glass window for the wall above the buffet in the living room. It brightens the room up with the sun on it; swirls of purple, blue, and golden yellow reflect into the cottage. Just what my soul needed … color! Having just a little spring fever …
Oh, but there is the love of dirt, too! I am anxious to get outdoors to dig in the dirt, sow seeds, plant flowers, move onto exterior decorating, and feel the fresh air and sun on my face. Daylight savings time began this past Sunday, and the Spring Equinox is a week away! Do you think the weatherman and mother nature saw the calendar, too? I sure hope so! No springtime snows and frigid cold blasts, please!
This will be our first spring in our little St. Charles cottage. Signs of green popped up a couple of snowstorms ago. I believe they are daffodils throughout the front and back yards. Bursts of yellow in a few days! I am sprucing up the indoor plants at home and at the office, trimming dead branches and topping the pots with fresh potting soil this week and next. My green friends have done well under the plant lights in the basement, where it is not quite as cold as the barely heated garage at the other house. And no feline friends to perch themselves in the potted plants! My citrus tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, and other potted perennials will go outdoors when the threat of frost is past, late in April.
Plans for very old awnings to come down, painting weathered window frames, window cleaning, and new fencing are on the top of the list of outdoor chores this spring and summer. But the other chore, which to me is so much fun, is yard designing with the existing garden beds, as well as the choices and placement of garden art. One of my childhood friends from Minnesota sent me a photo of her little mini greenhouse in the midst of an autumn snowfall, the sun gorgeously set behind it filtering through the autumn leaves and windows. It brought to life the desire to build such a potting shed, maybe a bit of a “she-shed” where I can play in the dirt and plants. But also to sit and relax on a comfy chair sipping herb tea, my writing journal, and pen among the birds, butterflies, and blooms.
Household and yard projects ruled the weekend. Dean and I managed to get a couple of walks in with Midnight between chores. On Saturday Dean cleaned and prepped the concrete slab for the laminate flooring to be installed this coming week in our house addition. While he did that I raked twigs and leaves, remnants of autumn and winter. The winds seem to blow the gum balls and pine needles from the neighbor’s trees our way. Cannot complain too much as these neighbor’s trees attract an owl that lives in the neighborhood. All the brown rubbish filled the compost bin, and then some. So that is just the front yard.
The back yard is one huge mess with the room addition project. The yard needs to be leveled and new grass seeded. Dean and I picked up huge tree roots and rocks unearthed from the foundation dig up. We continued discussion on making a small retaining wall, a rock swale, and small patio area. Piles of gray and brown sit curbside for the city’s bulky trash pickup this week; twigs, limbs, scrap lumber and old pipes. Seasons. Making way for spring colors. Greener grass; purple, pink, and white blooms; and the perennials being brought outside from the semi-heated garage one warm weekend before Easter. See what the March winds bring until April. Welcome Spring! So happy you came Today!