This morning I walked 4 blocks to attend church at 7:00am and it already felt like a sauna. It is not even officially summer, and it is 100 degrees at noon today! Heat index is expected to be 115 degrees! Clouds are starting to build up like an afternoon storm. Yet no promise of cooler weather until Thursday according to the weather folks. Yesterday Dean brought in a hydrangea bloom with hues of pink, purple, and blue within the one flower. A gorgeous display to brighten the bathroom. This morning the hydrangeas were perky and showy but are wilting with heat stress at this afternoon hour. I am glad I watered the potted lobelia, cherry jolt dianthus, and coleus. Tomorrow morn I will need to include the hydrangeas. And glass of iced tea coming for me …
“Finicky”, “fickle”, “temperamental” whatever you want to call this weather, April has had it all! Ice, snow, sleet, hail, rain, windstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, rainbows stretching from one horizon to the next it seemed, the 80’s to the 20’s with the temperatures, and even a 2.8 earthquake felt this evening as I finish this blog post. The epic center was in the St. Louis metro area.
The miracle is despite the bizarre weather the gold finches and orioles have come back in full swing, nesting and feeding like crazy. I just heard reports of the hummingbirds’ return to Missouri. This weekend Dean and I will be getting our hummingbird feeder filled and hung on the hook near the guest bedroom window. I have the huge ceramic pot that belonged to my mother as well her shepherd’s hook to hang another hummingbird feeder in our backyard. Destined to be together, the pot will have wildflowers blooming from this weekend’s sown seeds, a double-attraction for those hummingbirds and bees.
We might be frost-free now? If the 10-day forecast tells us it is safe, Dean and I will bring the perennials out from their winter home on Sunday. Some of my herbs have started to get fresh growth while in the basement under those plant lights. The green life just needs fresh air, rainwater, and real sunshine for these next 6 months, just like you and me. Within a week, our perennials will be thanking us!
Our organic greens at the screenhouse are coming up nicely. Weekly watering plus the natural moisture making its way through the screen have been sufficient for growth. The occasional light frost has not zapped them. I look forward to a salad bowl filled with our lettuces and spinach in about a month. Volunteer arugula made its way through the soil again this year. I want a plethora of basil for my Stone Soup workshop in August. Fresh plantings may be started in the next week or so.
As the weather goes back and forth, I enjoy a cup of hot tea on the cool days. Warmer days, it is iced tea. Earlier this week it was cleaning up weeds, twigs, and leaves in the backyard. This spring afternoon, I find comfort writing while a mild thunderstorm brewed along with my tea choice of herbal vanilla-lavender. I find joy inside and outside. The sweetness of a fruit tisane and the relaxing tap-tap on the keyboard bring sheer delight to my senses. When stepping to the outdoors I see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the wonders of nature that surrounds me. Oh, the joy of living one moment at a time. I feel blessed and loved by our God who is still in control and is Omnipresent.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
~ Mother Teresa
Where did March go? I intended to get a few words blogged in March but occupied with other writing projects, teaching culinary classes, Lenten Friday fish fries, clearing brush and late dropping leaves in our backyard, then started the greens bed out at the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. The trail of the Defiance December tornado is still very visible, so much destruction. Repairs and rebuilding are still underway. The air is still trying to decide if Spring is here to stay for a couple of months anyway. Wet snowflakes dropped from the gray skies on March 31 reminding us that spring is still wishy-washy here in Missouri. No fooling, a freeze warning on the first day of April. The daffodils drooped all morning seemed saddened by the cold air; much like me. The afternoon sun pepped them up quite nicely, and my heart, too.
“April is the kindest month. April gets you out of your head and out working in the garden.”
~ Marty Rubin
The spring greens of leaf lettuce and spinach are sown, and I am trusting to see sprouts of green tomorrow when we get back to the greenhouse. I intend to get my herbs planted Easter weekend, depending on the weather these next few days and warmth of the organic soil. We hope to get another raised bed made for a “stone soup” garden. I have a family favorite Italian soup recipe based on the famous children’s Stone Soup tale. This garden will include basil, zucchini, yellow squash, a couple bell pepper and tomato plants. This recipe also calls for garlic, and we already have wild garlic growing in the backyard near the alley. This summer I will be sharing my recipe at a parent/child story time and recipe demo workshop at a local farm. If my garden produces well, what I am sowing this spring will be featured in the workshop. More on this later …
As I welcome April I am reminded of rebirth. The cherry trees and red buds bloom color despite the coldness this week. Rebirth of plant life, but also of hopes and dreams. My heart has been saddened greatly these past few days by some cold news I received about a loved one. I will write more on this in a couple of days. Still too fresh, I am raw right now. Last week during spring break I spent a wonderful afternoon with all my grandchildren, Hannah, Libby, Ella, Brendan, Eli and an adopted granddaughter, Riley. After our picnic lunch we gazed onto the rippling waters of the St. Francis River and overlooked the valleys in the St. Francis Mountains. Such a beautiful day with my daughter and grandkids. Nothing replaces those kinds of moments. Thank You, God for the hopes and dreams You place in our hearts.
The COVID pandemic life continues another year with social distancing, masks, vaccines, remote work, and political debates. Dean and I felt more at ease once we received our vaccines early spring. This year became new, uncharted territory when I retired from full-time government administration work in June. Several years without regular pay raises due to tax issues and corruption had something to do with my decision. My inheritance allowed me to make this life change now rather than later. Subsequently, my mental and physical health improved while focusing on different work. God’s new purposes are being revealed to me one day at a time.
I am in full swing to my loves of writing, gardening, cooking, & antiques. I now teach per diem adult & children’s culinary classes at the local community college in their continuing education program. I opened a booth in an antique store & flea market near my daughter’s town and taken other items to resale stores repurposing items once belonging to myself, my mother, & others who donate. I dubbed it “Flock Together Mercantile”, as it is a “birds of a feather” endeavor. Monies earned go towards my daughter’s medical bills to treat her rare nerve disorder. Mom would have approved. A non-profit may be in the future? My life-long passion of writing includes recipes & poems found in eMerge, an online publication as well as my WordPress blogs, & more recently six-word stories on gratitude with Flapper Press. My Seashells poem is included in the book Dairy Hollow Echo that came out in August. This collection of poems & short stories on love, joy, & hope has already made Amazon’s best seller’s list for the anthology category. Since August we once again opened our St. Charles cottage one weekend a month to Airbnb guests. A detached garage with a studio is in the expansion plans for 2023, but maybe sooner. We will be able to offer many more weekends to guests. This year we had installed new roofs for both houses & gutters as well as a new HVAC system for the St. Charles cottage.
Dean & I road tripped several times, keeping off airplanes during the pandemic. Besides, it’s the journey getting there as well as the destination. Late March into April, we visited family & friends in Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri. We searched, finally found the Texas bluebonnets blooming in the fields as we visited during their early season. We enjoyed a family weekend in Branson in early June. During the summer I spent a week in Eureka Springs at The Writing Colony at Dairy Hollow in their culinary suite. What a lovely experience, a week to just write, make culinary creations, & meet other writers. A September week included cranberry bogs & festival in Wisconsin, & a millinery boutique in Galena, Illinois where we purchased Edwardian-style hats for a costume party. Dean’s cousin, Leigh passed away in October, traveled to Arkansas for her memorial services. Mid-November was another weekend in Branson & where we will finish the year there with family all wearing our red buffalo check attire. In 2021 Missouri celebrates her 200th year as a state in the Union. Dean & I saw so many places & towns taking the country state & county highways this year. We discovered the quaint Missouri River town of Glasgow while staying at Dean’s classmate’s charming inn, The Orchard House Inn. A few Friday nights were enjoyed at the DeSoto CIA Hall where my childhood friend serves an elaborate menu to the local community while her partner plays old country-western, gospel tunes. Our Saturday nights we still watch the Opry show on the Circle Network with country radio personality, Bobby Bones. Hope to be in Nashville in 2022 to see a live Opry show.
A spring tea party, birthday celebrations, memorial services, a nephew’s wedding, long weekends, & holidays brought us together with family. Dean & I’s eight grandchildren continue to grow, ages now range from 20 years old to 14 months. Our six grown children work hard at their occupations & homes. A stray puppy found on the streets near my daughter’s came home with me for a week until we found a home for Peanut Butter. Dean’s brother & family adopted & renamed him Scout PB. My twin sister, older brother, sister-in-law, Dean, & I cleaned out my mother’s villa this summer. We made some minor repairs, put it on the market, & the home sold at a price higher than we asked for. Dean’s parents have had a difficult year. His mother fell, requiring hip surgery with a slow, but sure recovery. I spent a week & Dean most of November in KC helping his parents, making their house more safely accessible.
Dean hopes to retire in about four years. I picture him in free-lance research & consulting after his work with the National Archives, as his love for history is broad. He returned to the federal building two days a week this autumn, works remotely the other three days. My 61-years old hubby remains in good health; tall, dark, & handsome as ever in his salt & pepper hair. Dean tinkers with his plane models or the bird feeders where he tries to make them squirrel-proof. Key word is “tries”. A December tornado just missed our greenhouse/screenhouse in Defiance. Spring greens from the screenhouse still fill our salad bowls during the warm weather months. Harvested herbs spice up our dishes during the winter months. Our hydrangea blooms provide texture and color the year round inside & out. We revel over the maroon pansies blooming on the porch planter late into December, the longest growing season that I recall. No white Christmas here. In 2022 I hope to complete my first book of short stories with a culinary theme as well as a poetry chapbook. Meantime, I write & will submit to more literary magazines & websites. Our feathered derby & cloche hats wait on the chaise for our next outing on the town. Established routines such as quiet time, prayers, & journaling are interwoven with such spontaneity. The days do not have to be same old, same old. Revere each day & moment like a gift. Then it becomes just that, a gift even on the difficult days. Sometimes it’s a simple red apple from the fruit basket, or a fancy wrapped package. Untie the bow, unwrap the paper. There is something wonderful inside for you. God-given.
Autumn weather lingers well past Thanksgiving into December, now on this winter solstice. My purple pansies still bloom on the porch. This month severe weather plagued our Midwest. Over 8 years ago a summer tornado went above Dean and I while at our greenhouse on Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. That tornado touched down in nearby Weldon Springs and Harvester that Friday evening. I wrote my account of the experience in this blog post https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures/. This year on December 10, another Friday night tornado touched down just yards from our greenhouse, leveling several homes, barns, and outbuildings in a 3-mile stretch on Highway F outside of Defiance. Sadly, one fatality. Farmer Chuck explains the hole in his barn door, “I can’t imagine the power needed to pick up the huge oak beam and throw it like a spear across the road, through the trees and into the barn door.” This beam was hurtled across Highway F from one farm to another. Dean and I watched online while the local meteorologists reported a tornado on the ground in Defiance. We waited to go out to the farm, went the following afternoon to allow utility linesmen to get the lines off the roads. By the grace of God our greenhouse still stands untouched. Mother Nature’s temper tantrum disrupted this rural town much like our granddaughter’s protest for her 2nd COVID vaccine. Wasn’t one enough? The community rallies around the survivors to clean up and rebuild as Christmas and the New Year approach.
This Advent season I wait for Him. I prepare my heart. “Make me blameless, white as snow through Jesus Christ,” I pray. “Keep me on task, direct me to Your purposes. Speak to me, Lord.” The word “advent” means “to come” or “arrive” in Latin. Holiday music, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and baking fill my unhurried post-retirement days. There was one Christmas many moons ago, 29 years ago to be exact when I was post-partum with my son that I was most relaxed and prepared for the holidays. Ben was due around Thanksgiving, so I knew I would need to get the holiday tasks finished prior to his arrival. I eased into the holidays at an easy pace and a peace like no other to this day because I prepared. My Ben was a miracle baby, and I knew God’s hands were on us. Let me approach this Christmas and New Year knowing Your hands on me and those around me. “Let the storms of this life dissipate.” As Alan Jackson sings …
“Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the hearts of all people both near and afar
Feel the love of the season wherever you are
On the small country roads lined with green mistletoe
Big city streets where a thousand lights glow.
Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere …”
“Let there be love that lasts through the year.”~ Alan Jackson
Every autumn comes the day to gather the perennials indoors for their winter home, the basement. Dean and I know it is coming, and make room in the basement under the plant lights. Some years it is sooner rather than later. For 2021, it is much later. The cool mid-40’s mornings warm up quickly to warmer, mild afternoons. The weather forecast shows a probable frost in the 3-day forecast. I pluck falling gold, orange, and red leaves from the plants’ foliage and take cuttings while the perennials are outdoors. The cuttings we propagate for next spring’s pots. I gather a variety of these cuttings in water-filled recycled mayo and jelly jars. Both of my daughters have a love for our green friends so some jars of cuttings will get passed on.
Our perennials grew lusciously this summer, such a long summer season with rain. Our showiest pot is a Kingston fern with a philodendron planted together in April. I trimmed that thing three times already! Now gathered greenery fills our basement under the plant light tonight, their home for the next 5 months. I need to harvest the lasting herbs of mint, thyme, basil. oregano, and parsley, so the pots gather on the kitchen counter for tomorrow’s project. Our last single ketchup and mustard rose gets snipped and put into a bud vase to treasure just a few more days indoors. My northern friend shares her last rose in an amber vignette saved before Minnesota’s killing frost.
A nephew’s wedding brought us to a few family gatherings this weekend. Dean and I found some Edwardian era reproduction hats while on vacation in September to wear to the costume rehearsal dinner party. I found a suitable dress on sale from Victorian Trading, and Dean wore a dark suit with a vest and skinny tie, and both wore feathers in our caps! A fun gathering to distract from my sprained ankle, caring for aging parents, and work schedules. This evening our front porch awaits a gathering of Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Besides my lobelia drying up to browning nubs of scarce purple blooms, bumble bees filling up on the lasting blooms’ nectar, the hummingbirds’ rapid-fire feedings at the feeder every few minutes, there is the change in the air felt when autumn is near. I first noticed that change this year on the evening of August 31 into September 1 while walking near my St. Charles, Missouri home. It is late this year, so will the autumn season be late and shortened, or long with a shorten winter season? Please, not a long winter. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says September and October are to have below-normal temperatures and rainfall. September didn’t look like this. See what October brings.
Some years ago I wrote about how that change in the air felt. Read about this at https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2017/08/04/change/. My daughter wrote a poem about my observation of autumn’s change, and I shared this poem on the post. Today is the official autumnal equinox. Dean and I could not wait, so we traveled a bit north earlier this week, as far as Wisconsin to see the autumn colors and feel the chill in the air. We had a memorable boat ride on the Wisconsin River this sunshine-filled first day of fall. A memory has been created today.
Prayers, proposals, projects, lesson plans, puppy love, and plenty of laundry all in a week’s time. Last year it was a major yard project in building a rock and fountain garden as well as a pebble patio area and replanting some hydrangeas in the newly mulched area of the side yard. This year it is the sorting, then removal of home goods and furniture with major cleaning and sprucing up of my mother’s villa for the real estate market. Dean and I along with my brother and sister-in-law spent hours and hours of hard work these past 4 weeks. Carpentry, electrical, gardening, sorting, and scrubbing. Summer gave us the time for very purposed labor. The gift is one sparkling clean, revamped premium piece of real estate during a prime time market. We have prayed for the just right buyer and the St. Joseph statue is buried in the mum garden. “O Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers”.
Between jobs and the villa, we celebrated our youngest grandson’s first birthday last weekend and fostered the cutest rescue puppy ever for a week. I had wished we could have adopted him, but Dean and I aren’t ready for that long-term commitment yet. Peanut Butter goes to the loving home of Dean’s brother’s family. I believe these words ring true today that St. Francis shared many years ago. “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We hosted two ladies at our Airbnb cottage over the weekend, the first time since COVID hit our area. There is plenty of laundry and sanitizing this Monday. September’s lesson plans and my class proposal for the spring semester are due this week. My “Soups On!” class needs more students. Interested to learn how to make my Italian stone soup, chicken-vegetable noodle soup, and my famous potato soup? Sign-up at http://www.stchas.edu/learnforlife under culinary classes/seasonal favorites. Guess what, four contracts came in after the Open House on the villa this past weekend! And these contracts are for more than we asked for! Thank you, God and St. Joseph! My siblings and I decided on an attractive contract, and its being worked on as I blog.
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.