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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
Dean and I have been living in this WWII era small home in historic St. Charles, Missouri for just under 2 years. It is Dean’s dream home, and becoming mine. Deanna’s Cottage is the name we give this home. In 2019 the cottage had been rented out via Airbnb for 7 festival weekends. It has such an ideal location, just 6 blocks from Historic Main Street. Each of our cottage guests have rated our little place 5-stars. Thus far this year, the pandemic has kept us from renting Deanna’s Cottage. It will be the second half of 2020 before we will accept reservations again on Airbnb, provided the threat of COVID-19 has subsided significantly. Those weekends when the guests come stay at Deanna’s Cottage, we stay at our previous residence. Our old house is rented to my daughter and son-in-law, a family of four. There is our old bedroom we invade for 2 nights at a time with our feline friend, Celine who has taken permanent residence there.
With the social distancing for 6 weeks now in the state of Missouri, we have more time on our hands. We would rather be visiting with our kids, grandkids, parents, siblings, and friends on the weekends. Sure understand why, and respect the rules set in order for this invasive virus to die down, but it is hard not to be with everyone. Our two youngest grandkids have April birthdays. We left the fixings for a birthday party on the porch and did a drive-by birthday greeting for the 10-year grandson earlier this month. But our 4-year granddaughter will not understand why Grandpa and Grandma cannot stop to visit. So birthday presents were sent in the mail to the other side of Missouri for our granddaughter to open on her birthday this Sunday. May be able a Facetime event.
So what else to do with all this time, especially on the weekends? We gained 2 hours every weekday with telecommuting, and little prep for work. So one project after another runs in Dean and I’s heads separately and collectively with conversations and plans to follow. We have plans to take out the carpeting in the living room, hallway, and master bedroom to get to the bare wooden floors. We are not sure what we will find, so we have put that off for awhile. We think it will take old-fashion time and elbow-grease with refinishing the floors. And what to do with the furniture while we work on it? With the lovely spring weather, outdoor projects have taken priority. Off and on since last autumn Dean has worked on the windows, scrapping, glazing, priming, and painting. That project is weather dependent. The awning over the front porch needs repainting. The back awnings just need to be removed. The back porch/deck needs to be replaced. Fencing replaced, too. And then there is the landscaping. This includes a huge tree removal, resetting a small retention wall on one side of the house, and putting in a pebble patio in the front with a small fountain. I love this project as it means a lawn chair to sit in at the end of a long day to relax under the dogwood tree sipping on iced tea or a cup of hot tea. The weather temperature tells me which.
I have many longer-term plans in my mind for Deanna’s Cottage. Did you ever hear of the book A Place Of My Own: The Architecture Of Daydreams by healthy food activist and author, Michael Pollan? He dreams of a small structure, then he builds it himself, and uses as his writing studio. A quiet space, purposeful place. I found this cute place onlineused as a small venue for parties, showers, rehearsal dinner, and luncheons. I could see Deanna’s Cottage used as a small gathering place such as this. I can also see a quainter dwelling, maybe about 500 square-foot to be built in the big back yard within the next 5 years used as an atelier for reading, writing and art projects, but also for periodic guests and gatherings. My flower, herb, and vegetable gardens surrounding the dwelling. But what does God purpose for Dean and I at Deanna’s Cottage, and this smaller structure I dream about?