Category Archives: home

The Winter Solstice and Advent

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The Winter Solstice and Advent

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
Christmas everywhere
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

Autumn’s Gatherings

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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.

Reprieve Or Not

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Reprieve Or Not

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.

Pots and Sprouts

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Pots and Sprouts

Spring came a bit late this year. The subzero temperatures in February stiffened the green sprouts on bushes and trees, as well as the gardeners such as myself who stay indoors during the severe winter. The cinder block basement houses our potted perennials under timed plant lights. In late January I was able to get cuttings from those perennials and put them in water or planted in small pots of soil. They all sprouted roots. This past weekend I designed and filled hanging wire planters with organic soil and my new tender plants. I have four lovely planters with room for new spring & summer growth. Tender herbs (parsley, lavender, golden & lemon thyme, basil & oregano, and chocolate & pineapple mint) were purchased from the local greenhouse down the street, and repotted into bigger pots. Adorable, and oh does that pineapple mint smell delicious! Cannot wait to make some delicious sweet bread and tea with it. Begonias and sweet alyssum grace the front porch at Deanna’s Cottage.

I am about a month late sowing our greens bed, but an early spring/post-COVID vaccinations vacation to Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri kept us away for 2 weeks. We saw more spring sprouts each hour we traveled further south. A bucket list item was to experience a field of blue bonnets, and we accomplished that. On Sunday afternoon we added more organic soil, then I sowed lettuce and spinach seeds in the bed. Very tiny sprouts of green appear in a couple of rows after 4 days from sowing. Where the greenhouse and screenhouse is housed, Boone Hollow Farm is lovely especially in the spring. The crab apples, pears, dogwood, and red buds are all abloom. The peaceful surroundings welcome Dean and I at every visit. And I welcome the pots and sprouts every growing season.

Warm Home This Valentine’s Weekend

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Warm Home This Valentine’s Weekend

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?

Icy New Year’s Weekend = Warm Kitchen

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Icy New Year’s Weekend = Warm Kitchen

“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!

Garden Envy

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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!!!

Bolted Greens and Heighten Senses

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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

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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

Cottage Projects And Purposes

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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?