Category Archives: garden

Any Room At Your House?

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Tis the season of busyness and preparations for the holidays.  Presents bought and wrapped.  Baking.  A surprise visit and present from my son.  It is Dean and I’s heart to get these holiday greetings sent via postage mail long before Christmas week. Please know that you are in our hearts year round. Christmas joy has filled our home, peace with God and grace to all people despite any differences.  This snowy Christmas Eve is the slow-down to reflect on His Gift, Jesus, lessons from 2017 and what is hoped for 2018. The 4 Advent Sundays reminded us of this moment. Father Peter shared at Mass tonight the Christmas story, how there was no room for Joseph, Mother Mary, and the birth of baby Jesus.  A meager manger would be the chosen place of His birth. It was asked how many of us would say the same “no room at our house”? “What would you do if Joseph and Mary came knocking on your door tonight?  Do you have time to deal with this?  Can you make space in your house without resentment or casting judgment?  Would you empty the tool shed or a spot in the garage?  Would you charge high $$ to profit from this situation?  Or worst yet, steal their possessions, what little the guests have?  Scriptures tell us “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.”

“Family” would summarize our year of 2017.  As a reminder, Dean and I have 6 children, 5 in-law children, 6 grandchildren, 3 parents, 5 siblings and their families, and we cannot forget our dog, Midnight and cat, Celine, the 7 grand dogs, and 3 grand cats.  Dean and I began 2017 in Key West, Florida with his parents and siblings, an 80th birthday celebration for Dean’s mother.  Such a while ago, but lovely memories of the beach breezes, discovering new sites, and time with family.  We still have our greeting card boxes that niece Amelia made each of us.  After the hurricanes there, I suppose the scenery is quite different.  In a couple of days warmth awaits us in San Antonio, where we will meet up with Dean’s son, AJ, Nancy, Elise, and  Nancy’s family there.  Spiced rum eggnog, homemade chicken soup, Christmas carols, and having each other will keep us warm tonight …

In February my daughter, 33-year old Elisabeth was diagnosed with 2 types of breast cancer, stage 1 and stage 2. Elisabeth went through a strict regimen of chemo treatments, hair loss, zapped energy and strength. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. We are so very thankful to our Father as she has been given a cancer-free diagnosis in July.  Elisabeth is regaining her strength and hair while under hormone therapy and low-dose chemo.  Her husband, children, family, friends, and all the supportive, praying communities continue to surround her. Her bravery and fighter personality helped Elisabeth stay above.  I reached out for prayers by many women, visited church 1-block from my office to take part in many noontime prayer vigils, and Dean and I together continue to provide a quiet and calm home while she heals.

Refreshing spring brought us to the completion of our 2-room addition.  It took a whole year, but it is beautiful and has provided the much needed space to our home.  At this season of our lives we share our home with my daughter and her family.  More warmth with the woodwork, a set of barn doors matching the stained doors in the rest of the house as well as a high ceiling to heighten the spacious floor layout.  We use the 2 rooms as a family room/dining area and an extra bedroom that Elisabeth and Mark can rest their heads in. In May Dean and I spent almost a week in the Smoky Mountain region of our beautiful states.  Experienced the AirBnB hospitality for this vacation. We loved Gatlinburg, TN and Asheville, NC.  Antiques, the arts, and foodie places were our hangouts. Of course, a few walks in the woods. There was a sign warning us, and you know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Dean drove the Dragon’s Tail Highway with all its hairpin turns, not understanding what we were in for.  I was very close to losing lunch during that ride. We tried the glamper scene one night in the middle of nowhere land. And we stopped in Nashville for a night. Love the nightlife there with all the honky-tonks and country music.

Weekend trips to Lee’s Summit and Farmington keep us on the road at least once a month visiting with children, grandchildren, and Dean’s parents.  When we are home we read, write, catch a music venue or new foodie joint in St. Louis.  And there is always those weekend chores.  We garden and mow at the greenhouse site on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance 7 or 8 months out of the year. This year’s gardening included a voluntary cherry tomato plant that literally took over the whole vegetable bed from July until the October frost killed it.  We dubbed this plant as “Audrey” from the play/movie Little Shoppe of Horror. We made a delicious green tomato marmalade from the abundance of fruit left after the killing frost.  Our perennials are inside now, and our bird of paradise is about to bloom again under the plant lights in the garage.  Autumn brought Dean and I a steal-away weekend to Pella, Iowa.  We loved this Dutch town so much, we are planning a Mother’s Day weekend there with our mothers.

My occupation as the employee wellness coordinator of St. Louis County is the work God called me to this season of my life.  We had our Billion Steps Challenge using Fitbits and a web portal called One Community.  With two 8-week walking challenges this spring and summer, we cleared the 1 billion steps goal and went well over 2 billion steps amongst 2800 participating employees and spouses.  I have been asked to speak along with a panel at the St. Louis area American Heart Association’s Wellness Forum in February discussing employer wellness budgets on a shoestring.  Personally, my biometric numbers were improved substantially with the walking challenges, and my primary care physician is thrilled.  The walking culture continues through winter.  Dean, Midnight, and I still take an evening constitutional almost every night.  At 20 degree temps, I declined tonight. Hives or worse a visit to the emergency room would not be good.  Dean’s occupation with the National Archives keeps him going, and work he was called to as well.  He loves the hunt for military records especially for his family and friends.

Our youngest granddaughter, Elise has captured her Grandpa Dean’s heart.  I think he counts the days until he can see her again.  This Father’s Day was a wonderful gathering of Dean’s children and their families with us at our home. The red children’s swing in our sweet gum tree remind us of that special weekend.  We had a Gall Family Thanksgiving  at Rainer and Erica’s newly bought house in St. Louis City, and a birthday gathering for Dean the following day at a local bakery cafe. Another day that weekend we celebrated my oldest grandchild, Hannah’s 16th birthday.  Church every Sunday and occasional birthday celebrations and plays keeps us in touch with my mother and family. While celebrations and victories punctuate our year, so does illness and death. Dean’s extended family lost a cousin recently. Cancer, this wicked stuff.  Keep Mike’s wife, Terri and 2 daughters in your prayers please.  Another extended family member is undergoing treatments ; please say a prayer for Marion, our son-in-law’s father.  My oldest daughter, Rachel has multiple medical conditions, her conditions declining, which cause severe pain.   In 2018 I plan to take more time off from work each month to help Rachel with the kids and house.  Please bathe Rachel in your prayers.

What room do you have in your heart, home, and life for the least of these My brothers?  What has God prepared you for this very night, or the 365 days in 2018?  Blessings to you this eve of Jesus Christ’s birth.  As the carols sing … “Christ was born to save!  Christ was born to save!”… “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world!

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Change

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Midnight, our almost 13-year old Labrador wanted outside at 3:30 this morning. Odd, as he is usually sacked out on the couch at this wee hour of the morning. And then he did not want back in. Midnight wanted to lay in his backyard, and Dean left him there. Morning came an hour earlier today…Midnight & New Pillow 2016

As we set out for work this Friday,  I understood why Midnight wanted to stay outside. Our dog was welcoming the “change in the air”, the first of the family to feel the air switch directions, a cool brisk wind from the north.  It is an annual event, noticed by the animals and nature-sensitive people. This colder air brings the geese honking and ducks quacking overhead at sunrise and dusk. Deep-sighing breathes are taken in relief of the sultry summer heat.  Dinner menus change to comfort foods. Poems are even written about this change in the air. My oldest daughter wrote this poem in honor of this change and her mother saying every year …

The woods begin to vibrate with gathering and preparation. 

The sounds so crisp, electric.

Her words were “I felt the air change today.”

Red, orange, yellow, green, brown.

They dance while falling.

A choreographed waltz.

Every year she said “I felt the air change today.”

Beautiful, breathtaking, loyal.

The Canvas.

I think I felt the air change today.

With this change in the air comes thoughts of autumn and winter, getting the household, greenhouse, and gardens ready for the cold seasons. Another crop of greens will be sowed next week, maybe give us 2 or 3 more months of salads. Smaller pots and baskets of our perennials will be combined into bigger pots in preparation for their indoor home. But this time it is something more than a season change for our green life as said in the lyrics of A Change in the Air sung by Clint Black …

There’s something talkin’ in the wind
Whispering through the trees
That feeling in my bones again
Just puts me right at ease
It takes me back to all the times
I’ ve been here before
But crossroads, old familiar signs
Tell me there’s something more

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

The leaves are turning, soon they’ll fall
There’s a norther blowing in
The memories flowin’, I recall
Those changes in the wind
But I can never try to understand
There’s nothing you can hold in your hand

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

Yes I’ll surely feel a change in the air

Fall Quote

Punctuated With Green

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My whole life is punctuated with green.  Green color and green life is found in my meals prepared, the walls and art decorating my home, plants breathing life in my office, and voluntary as well as deliberate gardens of vegetables and herbs.

I recently read in a book about small houses and spaces, that one color needs to be threaded in every room in order for the space to feel bigger and flowing.  I would say green is that color.  My living room and kitchen walls are a subtle mint green.  Blue and taupe tones on the bedroom and bathrooms walls are contrasted with green in the art pieces, textiles, dishes.  As I read what the color green symbolizes, I understand why I am drawn to green.  And yes, my whole person matches green.  I think plants and me are inseparable.

The Gardens, Soups, and Salads

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My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends.  I love this kitchen accessory.  In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine.  This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds.  And the leftovers are awesome.  I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast.  Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas.  Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.

I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week!  This early crop was sown on February 20.  So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning.  Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard.   Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt.  “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling.  Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning.  The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.

 

Making Way For Spring Colors

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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!

 

 

March Is Mad

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March is mad. It seems to be mad at the world with its destructive tornadoes earlier this week and dive-bombing temperatures this weekend after spring was introduced weeks ago. The below freezing temps continue for 6 days, not just one night. And snow in the forecast!

I had my early spring sprouts emerge from the organic soil of the raised bed at least a week ago. Dean and I went to the farm last night between the spring showers and by lantern light we covered the vegetable bed with a plastic tarp. This bed is inside the screen house, so the baby plants just need an extra layer of protection the next few days. See what happens. Gardening is definitely one science experiment after another.

March is also the month to celebrate a few birthdays. Today, my father was born 81-years ago. He is no longer amongst us on earth, but they must celebrate birthdays in heaven! Happy Birthday, Dad!  Hope you are celebrating with Grandpa and Uncle Lee!  I miss you dearly!  I hope you are proud of your family and what we are in our lives presently. That makes me happy to think you are. You must know about your granddaughter fighting a battle with cancer. I have asked for prayers and for the angels to watch over her. You and God must hear these supplications daily, hourly. Thank you for listening. In God’s hands…

Earthy Goodness

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“We have learned that more of the ‘earth-earthiness’ would solve our social problems, remove many isms from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.” Ruth R. Blodgett.

The week-long sunshine and humidity boosted garden growth.  Clean, crisp leaves of arugula and leaf lettuce will make a big bowl of salad for the family crowd this week. My sister is in town from Minnesota, cause for celebration.

Sweat beaded my neckline, and then down my back and chest as I harvest the garden greens. Already 88 at 10 am. Soon salty droplets dribble onto my lips. The greens are almost sweet before the extreme afternoon temps turn them bitter. Are not we all?

The herbs thrive in the summer heat, with plenty of water. More chives need cutting. Snipette of tender dill and cilantro came ready in a couple of days. Next week I will be freezing my surplus herbs for the winter meals. The pea blossoms produced 1-inch pea pods in a matter of a week. Plant scraps are added to the compost. Earthy goodness. Primal to my taste buds. Organic gardening.Arugula.

Green Whispers And Wryly Weather

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After repotting my perennials and mulching last weekend, the weather turned wryly. Chilly, rainy days like very early spring or a late autumn started the week. What happened to May? My spinly pear tomato plant is probably wondering the same.  The rain water will help produce juicier fruit, but the leaves did not like the overnight temperatures in the 40’s.  Plants are resilient, as new growth is  coming from the base. This is the second growing season for this pear tomato plant given to me by my girlfriend from Minnesota.

An absolutely gorgeous Saturday today. Our plans changed for the day, and Dean and I will get to the Missouri Botantical Gardens tomorrow with family. This morn I rest and reflect on the front porch with my sanctuary of green surround.

I pitch a withered branch or two from my geraniums. The new buds have popped up and the leaves greened with the spring rains and sunshine. Their red blossoms should open next week or so. What I love about my gardens is there is no time table. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific gardener like my father was. A meandering pace and organic existence are what I need from my green passion.

“Working in the garden gives me something beyond enjoyment of the senses…It gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.”  Ruth Stout

 

Dabbled Gray Sky Against Walls Of Color

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The dabbled gray sky has turn white this morn.  A welcome sight.   Big heavy snowflakes.  Midnight heard me say “snow” while hunkered in his bed next his master’s side of the bed.  Up he arose, click-clack on the wood floors, stretching before reaching the back door.  Our Labrador was excited to go outdoors to see the white spectacle.  We sure welcome this snowy Saturday.

Dean and I visited the house again today.  Renovations are coming along nicely. Drywall and mud have been completed.  The painter is working over this Saturday.  Splashes of our new color choices were on the walls yesterday.  Today the whole walls are cool hues, such a contrast to the gray sky.  A shade of teal and blue in the kids’ room.  Two shades of grayed blue in the 2nd bedroom. The master bedroom is “kissed blossom”, just a touch of lavender-pink.  The bathroom is “bungalow white”.  The living room has “pillow mint” suggesting a restful room.  The adjoining kitchen ‘s”sweet mint”is a tinge deeper shade, reminds me of our garden herbs.  Such a cool palette.

Dean and I finished a few Saturday errands, pet food and wild bird seed at the old town country store and a few other items at the crowded grocery store. The sky lightened for a bit, but soon the gray returned.  A table lamp and cup of hot peach tea bring warm comfort into the house as I write.  I anticipate more snow before the night is over.  Temps are dropping and will dip down in the teens overnight. White bean chili and sweet potato muffins will bring coziness to the dinner table tonight. Might find a jigsaw puzzle to busy myself with this evening while the cats curl in their furry balls. Snuggle time with a warm throw, maybe Dean and Midnight to join on the couch.

 

 

Silence Is Golden

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Ahhh, a breath of the evening’s fresh air.  No stars or moon to be seen as clouds blanketed their light. The silence of the countryside, silence from urban noises was calming this dark evening.  Crickets replaced the buzzing traffic and voices of people.  It was just Dean and I and our labrador, Midnight at Boone Hollow Farm . The pink and orange sunset came and went by the time we pulled up next to the greenhouse. I harvested the last of our basil and cilantro by the lantern light.  Next weekend I will transplant our organic chives, thyme, and sage plants into terra cotta pots for the kitchen.  My indoor herb garden will flavor many a soups and casseroles this autumn and winter.

Sometimes the silence of nature is like that blanket of clouds.  The audible or written word is insignificant.  The silence speaks on its own.  Mindful of the surroundings, green and bug life, my heartbeat, my breath.  Autumn is here.  I am at peace.  Golden indeed.  And mighty indeed.  I thank You God that the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in me.  I can accomplish the tasks which You have called me to do one day at a time.

Fall Quote