My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends. I love this kitchen accessory. In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine. This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds. And the leftovers are awesome. I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast. Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas. Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.
I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week! This early crop was sown on February 20. So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning. Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard. Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt. “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling. Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning. The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.
After repotting my perennials and mulching last weekend, the weather turned wryly. Chilly, rainy days like very early spring or a late autumn started the week. What happened to May? My spinly pear tomato plant is probably wondering the same. The rain water will help produce juicier fruit, but the leaves did not like the overnight temperatures in the 40’s. Plants are resilient, as new growth is coming from the base. This is the second growing season for this pear tomato plant given to me by my girlfriend from Minnesota.
An absolutely gorgeous Saturday today. Our plans changed for the day, and Dean and I will get to the Missouri Botantical Gardens tomorrow with family. This morn I rest and reflect on the front porch with my sanctuary of green surround.
I pitch a withered branch or two from my geraniums. The new buds have popped up and the leaves greened with the spring rains and sunshine. Their red blossoms should open next week or so. What I love about my gardens is there is no time table. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific gardener like my father was. A meandering pace and organic existence are what I need from my green passion.
“Working in the garden gives me something beyond enjoyment of the senses…It gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.” Ruth Stout
My Saturday was filled with caring for green life, as so many Saturdays and Sundays in the spring time. Dean and I made an early run to the greenhouse as summer like weather was forecasted for the day. Dean mowed the grass while I attended to weeds and watering. Our peas, lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, and dill are sprouting. The chive plants are in full bloom. I cut a bundle, and dropped some off to Jack Mac, executive chef and friend at Chandler Hill Vineyards. He told me how to use the blooms in my cooking this week. For this weekend I put together a red potato salad snipping my chives and young voluntary dill sprigs into the bowl.
As tradition goes green plants and May flowers fill my Mother’s Day weekend. This year is no exception. Maybe it is tradition from my childhood. My mother still enjoys a potted tomato plant and another pot of summer favorites like petunias or geranium. This Mother’s Day I sit on the porch bench surrounded with early morning mist, song birds, and quietness from the world’s busyness. Midnight, our Labrador joins. He, too relishes the weekly early Sunday morning date with nature. My pots of perennials and annuals complete my sensual needs this morn.
As most weekend mornings go, I cannot sleep in long. Weekday awakening before 5:00am makes it difficult to sleep much past 7:00 am on the weekends. The weekend to-do-list is long, so Saturdays are packed. On Sundays, I start at a slower place making meditation and prayer a part of my morning. The front porch welcomes a cup of hot honey chamomile tea an inspirational gardening book, and me. The sights, sounds, and smells of a rain storm bring freshness to the morning. I became one with the springtime outdoors, crisp breeze and tender green plants and white dogwood blossoms. A bit shabby from winter life, my potted plants are waiting for a play date with their gardener. I withheld that Sunday knowing next Saturday will be a better time for gardening. This time was set aside to rest rather than produce.
Besides my green passion needs to get fluffed up like a flatten feather pillow. For months my focus has been our house, all those details with a major insurance claim … the funds, renovation, inspections, and the move back in. There is a good-size pile of paperwork still needs sorting through, but it can just wait. This gardener needs to get her green thumb out again, play in the dirt, sow some herb and vegetable seeds, design some pots of virid green life. We had no time to sow in trays, so direct sowing it will be this year. Better late than never.
Ambitious thoughts for another Saturday, Dean and I spent a good part of the day cleaning gumballs and rocks out of the front yard. The neighbor’s gumball tree scattered its fruit all over the neighborhood with the help of the spring winds. The rocks surfaced during the water and sewer line repairs. Perennials were brought out from the garage. The babies are seated in the cart while the large potted birds-of-paradise, lemon tree, asparagus ferns, geraniums, and arrowhead plant are now situated in the newly mulched landscape. Our succulents have been outdoors on the front porch for about a month. We placed a covering over them with a frost-forecast. Fortunately March and early April have been mild like much of the winter. The herbs and green leafy vegetables will be sowed next weekend as well as annuals planted in a couple of moss baskets. Only so much time during one day. The journey is a part of gardening, not just the end result … one day at time …one season at a time.
I relax on the porch another Sunday. This particular morning is special as my two oldest granddaughters join me. Talking and soaking in the morning sunshine, it is a tender moment indeed like the fresh spring foliage…and more porch Sundays to look forward to.
I had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.
Bird life on Island Lake this summer is very active. Forty-one loons and counting as more were being hatched this week. Two families of ducks frequent the boat dock and lake side looking for handouts. Apparently vacationers were feeding them, and the presence of more people posed the promise of more handouts. Duck audacity was proudly displayed even with our 85-lb labrador, Midnight present. Midnight had a whining fit as we kept him on the porch until the ducks and ducklings were back in water swimming safely onto their next destination. Flies, butterflies, and dragonflies flew with the breeze. Owls by night and chipmunks by day sat on the tree limbs watching the life underneath. Co-existence.
The summer rains followed Dean, my sister, and I to our beloved Minnesota. It rained everyday we were at Island Lake. But each day also included some sunshine and low 80’s. Thunderheads would build up with steam as the day went along. Then, the winds would blow the rain across the lake in sheets, causing ripples and then white caps in the lake. The cool north air would follow. Those storms created some awesome views from the porch of our favorite little red cabin or the boat dock. Dean captured a few awesome photos. Our Midnight embraced the noisy storms outdoors or on the porch with us. The thunder sounds different at Island Lake than in our Missouri home. Momma loon and her baby weathered the white caps in the bay, bobbin with each wave. Dean caught the reflection in the water as a double rainbow arched above the lake. Friendships continue after so many years. And new ones form even amongst the dogs. Another memorable week at Valhalla.
Another rainy May morning, this time meandering into the weekend. The rain may stop this afternoon. Maybe I will plant some baby geraniums into pots while home. Many weekend hours went into the creation of my garden vignettes. Planting flowers and perennials in terra-cotta pots, moss baskets, and unassuming vessels such as tea kettles and driftwood is one of my favorite hobbies. I design the various plants and art pieces into garden vignettes. This growing season the big wagon holds two large moss baskets of red impatiens, lobelia, vinca, and bridal veil. The other moss basket beds our perennials of wandering jew, spider plants, and an older, wildly growing red geranium. Another vignette is the child-size porch bench and table seated with young spider plants, moses-in-the-cradle, and geraniums while reaching for sunlight filtered by the tender bright red Japanese maple leaves. A nursery indeed. More red geraniums surround a bird bath and old red bike. A gorgeous red rooster-tail (twisted celosia) grows in the middle of our largest terra-cotta pot with marguerite sweet potato vine and clusters of yellow lantana contrasting. Pots of succulents are scattered on the patio and porch. Smaller coco-lined wire baskets of asparagus fern, wandering jew, and spider plants hang from our shade trees along side the bird houses and feeders. I hope you enjoy my garden art captured with Dean’s photography, the serene and comfort of green art.
Of course you have heard of the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. I always added to the end of that saying “and May flowers bring June bugs.” Well, I have refined that saying to “April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring June critters.” Missouri’s humid summer is here to stay for at least the next 3 months. The warmer season attracts the bugs as well as other critters to our plants. My two potted daisy plants were coming along finely near the front porch, watching each day for a week anticipating a blossom to open any day. Dean and I came home from work one evening this week with the two daisy plants knawled down to the roots! The neighborhood rabbits or squirrels must have had a mighty fine lunch of daisy leaves. There was plenty of other green vegetation to eat! The critters tossed the one lone daisy stem with a blossom to the water splash block setting under the front porch gutter. These furry critters must not like the daisy blossom, but I do. Not to eat, but I admire their simple beauty. I snatched the blossom and set it in water to co-exist with some airplane plant shoots. A repurposed medicine bottle found at the Chandler Hill Vineyard grounds while marketing last year now makes a lovely vase. The daisy blossom graces our kitchen and opened this last day of May. Lovely!
Rain water, the necessity of plant and animal life hydrated the Missouri earth on several occasions this past 3-day weekend. Some rains were more like 15-minute storms, others were a steady soaking for an hour or so. “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head” plays in my head, the beginning lyrics from an contemporary song written by Burt Bacharach in 1969 and played in the movie “Butch Cassidy And Sundance Kid”. It was the number one hit in 1970 with BJ Thomas singing it, and the song recently made Grammy Hall Of Fame status. I continued my gardening and farming chores in the rain, until the lightning brighten the cloudy sky and the thunder clapped with warning. Just 30 minutes ago it was blazing hot with the sunrays and humidity while planting my gourd seedlings. Before the lightning Dean managed to get another trellis tepee designed of repurposed metal poles, and placed in the ground for our gourds. We have luffa gourds on the outside, and bi-color pear gourds on the inside of one trellis tepees. On the other trellis teepee built last year, birdhouse gourds are on the outside with the hand dipper kind on the inside. Jude twine is weaved in between the poles for the runners to grab a hold of while the gourd plants grow. Monday afternoon’s storm came with much wind and heavy rain. Hopefully, the freshly planted gourd seedlings made it okay. We go back out to the Defiance farm on Thursday to observe and water the indoor plants. Fifteen miles from our residence, it is hard to say what it did at Boone Hollow Farm.
I repotted several fern planters into moss baskets while at home Monday afternoon. They now rest in the branches of our shade trees in our yard. Baby marigolds were planted to ward off insects. Now nestled inside a huge moss basket with the solar patio lanterns Dean has made near the backyard patio. More marigolds and zinnias await planting at the church rectory. Hail is forecasted with this evening’s storms, so we will continue to let these seedlings get stronger while in shelter on our front porch in their trays. Maybe this line of storms will move away by Thursday evening when time allows for more transplanted flowering plants in their “new home”. There is nothing like a refreshing rain.
Golden sunshine graced the Missouri earth this past weekend. Pots of red geraniums contrasted with vivid green leaves and vinca made their first showing near the front porch this warm Easter. More delicate Swedish ivy and arrowhead plants set in the shadows of the porch benches while breathing the fresh spring air. Ahhhh! Tree frogs and tweety birds sang the longest song I heard in months while in the countryside of St. Francois County. Even a few bumblebees and wasps made their grand entry for this warmer spring day. The ants and the puppy Bleu found the jelly beans inside the plastic Easter eggs hidden in the grassy farm fields before the grandkids did! Dean and I stuffed 95 plastic eggs and cleverly hid them, sadly not from the crawling critters. Why are we surprised by their presence? This is their world, too! What I love about nature is the lack of expectations. Co-existence. Just being in it, a part of it. No proving anything or acceptance needed. It’s there already. What Jesus did for you and I. His death and resurrection, a free gift of love from our Father God. He accepts you just the way you are now. He accepts me just the way I am now. One in spirit.