I have been hibernating in the house for days now. I went out on Monday in between snow showers to pick up Dean at the train station after his Super Bowl weekend in Kansas City. Since then, I haven’t even stepped out to get the mail from the mailbox. Just plain too cold with the arctic blast! The sweatered teddy bear sits on the window still reminds folks that the warmth of love reigns in this home. The perfectly formed snowflakes glisten in the occasional sunlight while the colorful Valentine decorations, hot beverages, sweet treats, and my sweetheart, Dean will keep me cozy warm this 3-day holiday weekend. We have another week of these near zero-degree nights and less than 20-degrees days. What an opportunity for bird watching from our windows, writing, reading, cooking, baking, and movie watching! BTW: When did that groundhog say spring will arrive?
“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!
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!!!
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
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 online used 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?
Over the course of the winter and this early spring the busy red and gray squirrels in our neighborhood have managed to empty the two patio cushions on our next door neighbors’ patio furniture. I suppose the amount of leaves and branches in the neighborhood is not enough for these rascals. Hoarders and self-absorbed. Sound familiar? The synthetic stuffing that I call “white fluff” has been scattered about in the immediate neighborhood found in the green grass, bushes, trees, leaves, and the huge squirrels’ nest in our cherry tree. This has been going on over the past 5 months, with maybe the final unloading last night. We don’t see another cushion laying in the yard or patio furniture, thank God. The neighbor who owns the patio cushions appears clueless or could give a darn. Dean and I spent a few Saturday afternoons cleaning up the “white fluff” from our yard, and the next door church’s yard. A couple of months ago Dean fully emptied the one cushion the squirrels chewed a hole in and threw the remaining contents in the trash bin. The squirrels found the other cushion, and chewed a hole in that one. So a repeat with the second cushion, we have spent a good hour here and there cleaning up. Rather comical at times, but mostly aggravating.
On a more serious note, this “white fluff” illustrates to me the novel corona virus and the community’s responses. The squirrels are those people who carry the virus, and share their germs while out and about with their busy, careless activities like hoarding the toilet paper and taking their children to the grocery store for a “social hour”. The clueless neighbor is the person who refuses to self-educate with reputable, accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information and seems to hide from life. Dean and I are the millions of people trying to keep our world cleaned-up and safe for ourselves and others around us. How about you? Are you watching after yourself and those people placed immediately around you? Surely you are not one of the squirrels making more of mess for the rest of us! Let’s get this “white fluff “cleaned up, obey the social distancing rules, and pray we have a vaccine before the next season arrives.
We got through January with bouts of snow, ice, and cold rains. But the first two days in February softened up to temps in the 70’s by Super Bowl Sunday. What a gorgeous and glorious weekend. On Saturday I opened my eyes in the wee hours like a work day while the first February sunrise greeted me in its pink hues, flirting the Valentine’s Day’s colors. I had plans to get the house thoroughly cleaned after being away for the 2 weekends previous. I accomplished that but made the time to pull out the Valentine decorations. The big Valentine red heart wreath went on the turquoise door. An adorable welcome!
The neighborhood outdoor grills fired up on Sunday in celebration of the grand weather and football game. After church, Dean and I went outside for some outdoor chores. Dean washed layers of salt and junk off the car. It is spiffy and shiny now! I sanded a couple of outdoor furniture pieces. The old metal-framed glider that came with the house and carport finally had a sander workout. Down to some pretty smooth cedar planks. A coat of stain and varnish will go on the cedar planks after I finish sanding the metal frame and a coat of enamel on the frame. Most likely an early spring project after the frame color choice is decided on and more warm weekends.
A little child’s chair used as a perch on the front porch was a less than $10 purchase at a French Town antique shop last spring. It apparently had a layer of paint quickly brushed on it before I bought it. The paint peeled terribly when the cold weather arrived this past autumn. So I set the poor thing in the basement and waited for a break in the weather to sand and repaint it. Sunday was the day to get it started. A coat of white primer after the sanding. And then for artistic impression, “nifty turquoise” to match the front door. My mid-week artist’s project, painting will be a great diversion from this crazy world.
February is obviously a red month. Why look at the KC Chiefs, the Super Bowl champions! A sea of red confetti at the game and parades. Oh, we cannot forget Red Dress Day this Friday. Always the first Friday in February. Wear that red and be good to your heart. So the gray winter gets a splash or two of color, and I love it. The red and turquoise palette suits you well, February!
No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal. The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days. Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day. Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year. No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on. Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains. Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home. Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both. Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.
Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins. We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon. We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week. Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments. Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around. Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.
The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul. Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure. Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake. It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations. Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years. Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.
This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career. The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind. The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song. A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing. Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet. In today’s words, live today, be present moment. Some answers come eventually.
The winter chill came a month early in Missouri, and I believe most of the Midwest. The perennials came indoors to their wintertime home. The last of the ketchup and mustard rose buds were snipped and put in a shot glass, my make-shift bud vase. A welcome greeting in the kitchen. We have space for only one of perennials, our arrowhead in our little cottage living room. And how it has grown during the summer months and brief autumn weeks outdoors as we place it under the front window. The other plants are housed in the temperate climate of the basement under a plant light set on a timer. Much like the wintertime shedding that a pine tree goes through in this region, our perennials shed during the winter indoors. My pot of colorful lantana and geraniums dropped many leaves, but are still blooming.
I feel like my perennials and the outdoor plants during the winter. A major adjustment to the climate change. Many people with auto-immune disorders have worsen arthritic symptoms during the cold season. For some, the pain is much worse. Depression can set in. If you are not into gardening, I suggest to have just one potted geranium, Christmas cactus or another succulent to share life with this winter. With winter there is loss of luster, but an indoor plant may produce a bloom or two despite the season. Kind of like some of us people folk.