Category Archives: highway

Lent, Love, Eagles, and Presidents


So what do lent, love, eagles, and presidents have in common? They share this 4-day weekend in February!  And Dean and I shared these 4 days with my five grandchildren.  The kids took turns with video games, movies, building with Lego blocks, and cooking in the kitchen. I prepared cheese tortellini with a garlicky white sauce for our first Lenten Friday dinner this season. Our parish hosted a 3-hour mini retreat on prayer Saturday morning. A much needed spiritual renewal for me.  Saturday evening Hannah and I made chicken and dumplings which filled everyone’s belly and we had an extra portion for the “Souper Sunday” mission trip fundraiser. Overnight french toast and maple sausage welcomed our Sunday with Ella’s assistance.  Church-bound this snowy, sleety Valentine’s Day. We are warmed by God’s love.  Then gifts of hand-made palm crosses, sweetheart candies, flowers, and Italian cuisine fill this day of love.  Red and white sauces, heart-shaped pasta, meatballs, cheesy baked bread, and pizza.  The star chefs are my granddaughters, Hannah, Libby, and Ella.

On President’s Day Libby led her cousins in making chocolate pancakes.  The Lincoln Museum is a bit far for us, so in the afternoon we took a drive north of our hometown to the Mississippi River scouting for bald eagles. We saw a bald eagle perched in a tall bare tree across the mighty river, as well as gulls and a blue heron.  We meandered down the country highway to the Our Lady Of The Rivers shrine in Portage des Sioux.  A few more eagles were seen high in the trees along the way.   This warmer afternoon had the ice and snow melting to a slush.  Perfect for snow balls!  Not sure who threw the first one, but it became a free-for-all for a good 20 minutes under the Blessed Mary’s statue.  Libby wondered what Mary must have thought.  I think Mother Mary rather enjoyed seeing us all having fun this winter afternoon!  A few wet shoes and stinging fingers, we warmed up with hot chocolate and marshmallows when we got home.  A wonderful weekend to share with the younger generation.


A Lone Sunflower and Wispy Feathers



Summertime textures and a palette of colors keep the canvas alive. The humid afternoon storm cleared with a lone sunflower opening as the clouds parted. A seed remnant from bird feed tossed during the past long and cold winter sprouted in our moss basket near the kitchen window and has grown to bring sunshine to my day. In the evening a breeze cuts through the humidity as Dean and I drive down the country highway to the farm where our greenhouse resides. Wispy feather clouds less than an hour before sunset seem to paint a silhouette…
Wispy feathers grace
golden eye with black shadows
hides behind hat brim

Anna Marie Gall
June 17, 2014

Brick Road, Skyscrapers, Suburbia, & Howling Coyote Country


What do all these have in common? M’waw! In any given 15-hour period I can be all four places: historical small town main street, bustling city streets, tree-deprived urban avenue, or a country dirt road. The brick road, Main Street Missouri’s first state capitol of St. Charles, global skyscrapers towering over financial hub Clayton, urban neighborhoods sprinkled throughout St. Charles and St. Louis Counties, and the countryside near Defiance’s howling coyotes and wildlife; each culture is within 15 miles from my home. Today, the contrasting changes were apparent to me. Sunday, I spent 8 hours on Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri selling herbs, spices, and other food items at a niche market with literally hundreds of people during the Festival of the Little Hills, shopping at leisure and a slower pace. Early Monday morning I entered into a landscape of skyscrapers after bumper to bumper traffic at the fast pace of a city freeway. Suburbia is entered on several occasions as I get off the freeway as soon as I am able, finding quieter routes through residential areas and strip malls. And then to the greenhouse, winding down as I go out of the city, then suburbia, onto a state highway, county highway, and finally taking the dirt road near the weathered barn up the hill to our greenhouse. Most evenings we hear the owl’s hoot and the coyotes howl. Currently, I co-exist in these four cultures. Though two of them I am most at home with. Guess which two? Adaptability and flexibility have been engrained into my character these past five years while working for St. Louis County Government. Will I thrive for another 11 – 12 years in the city and its commute? Or is small town main street calling us home? More words on that subject at another time. Praying to see what God has in mind for Dean and I these last years before retirement.

The Year of The Mattress


Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.

The Grass Is Greener?


Thomas Jefferson Quote
My husband, Dean and I at times wonder if the grass is greener elsewhere. Not sure where, but just elsewhere. We consider relocation, a fresh start as a second-marriage couple thoroughly in love with each other. We talk about a place called “our own”. Not raising young children any more, and in a few weeks an empty nest once again. A new beginning and more discoveries is what we sense. Is it a matter of a different house other than where I raised my children, or is it a different town, and/or new positions in a different area altogether? I came across a couple of young birds this morning enroute to another building on campus. One drank from a tiny puddle near the street curb. I said “little bird look over there, there is a fountain full of water.” Why drink from a small street puddle, when a fountain of fresh water is just one building over? Is the water fresher on the other side of the bushes, the grass greener on the other side of the fence?
Dean and I traveled to Arkansas this past weekend for a family wedding. Neither of us had been in southern Arkansas before this trip. We ventured off onto country highways from I-55 to camp at a state park on Friday night enroute to the Monticello, Arkansas wedding for Saturday evening. Cotton, rice, corn, and winter wheat fields dotted the landscape between rivers, sloughs, and bogs. Crop dusters flew over us like crows, leaving green pellets of God only knows what on the highway. The dull gray soil says it needs sustainable products rather than more synthetics. Stuttgart, Arkansas is the duck and rice capital of the world according to their signs. I do not want to venture on the validity of that statement, but it was picturesque after witnessing some desolate, impoverish homesteads before arriving in this prosperous town. Crepe myrtles, magnolia trees, snowball bushes, yuccas, cactus, and water lilies dotted the landscape with green and contrasting color as we entered into central Arkansas. The state park camp was so typical, inexpensive and loved by the other travelers and locals. Father’s Day weekend was not too terribly crowded, though plenty of children bicycling and playing ball nearby probably while their fathers wetted a fishin’ line. The bugs galore are summer-long tenants rather than visitors such as ourselves. I am chewed alive by mosquitoes, and the chiggers found me within minutes. Instead of fighting the insect population I decided to read inside the zipped screen of the tent on the comforts of the air mattress. As soon as dusk came, the clothes came off to cool down. My eyelids were shut within minutes after sundown. Early in the night a raccoon visited camp rattling a cup of ice we left outside our tent door. The people of new localities always interest me. The polite southern culture resignates in Arkansas. “Yes, ma’am, no ma’am”, the young folk say with sincerity. It was nice to meet some local folks at the wedding. The bride’s and groom’s families and friends blended well for a festive occasion. Good food, music, dancing, and laughter throughout the evening. An oldy but goody song brought Dean and I to our feet, and a Spanish-flavored tune just about sent me over Dean’s shoulder. I told my dance partner, “none of that fancy stuff, I need to be able walk off the dance floor tonight.” Castanets were in order, but none to be found. The Saturday and Sunday night hotel stays were restful.
Today reality hits, the work week is in full bloom. My more-than-busy Missouri life needs to change. Working 7 days a week with three jobs is much for anyone. Demands increase at work, with no pay raises. Change is in order, and around the corner. Let’s see what comes.

Sunset Honeysuckle Sweet



Summer evening still
Sunset honeysuckle sweet
Peachy sky resides.

This Friday evening I experience the calm after last week’s storms while enroute to Boone Hollow Farm where our greenhouse shelters our plants. Gorgeous week it has been, mild 70’s and 80’s. The fragrance of the honeysuckle growing wildly along the 2-lane highway fences engulf my nostrils. Such a contrast from a week ago. Dean and I load our van with market plants as every Friday night. Terra cotta pots of basil, dill, and sage have been taken to the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ Market this morning. Did you know that herbs do best in terra cotta? The pot absorbs moisture and allows the plant to be watered longer. I snipped thyme from my kitchen terra cotta pot for the turkey breast that will be tonight’s crockpot dinner. Roasted red potatoes and green beans will accompany the tender meat entree. Sunday will be more of the same at the Chandler Hill Vineyards Farmers’ Market. Only rain showers are called for Sunday. Dean will have a pleasant visit with his oldest son and his lovely lady while selling at the market. I will be selling spices and herbs at the Olde Town Spice Shoppe Saturday and Sunday. Buy local, and come visit me at the small shoppe in historic St. Charles. Dean with Deanna Greens And Garden Art will vend at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ Market and Chandler Hill Vineyards Farmers’ Market. Just look for our lush green perennials and herbs, and buy! Market leisurely this weekend in St. Charles County, Missouri, as we have much to offer.

My Friday Family Adventures


So this Friday is like so many of my days, filled with family adventures. Early morning we are greeted by my son-in-law asking to use our van to help a mutual friend move his bee hives. Big bee hives, and the trunk of a car would not suffice for the task. Of course, use the van, put gas in it, though do not leave any bees in it. Remember we will be loading the huge van with plants later tonight.
The morning goes along with a telephone call from my younger brother while at work, asking if we had found out if we can sell Grandpa’s snake-skin belts and jewelry at the farmers’ markets. A few days ago I told Dean about this request, but I had not heard whether we gained permission to include my grandfather’s handmade snake-skin crafts at our tent. But I will follow-up with this. The next question my brother ask, “Would you like to donate your body to St. Louis University when you die?” He asked this with no hesitation, like he was asking if Dean and I can come over for dinner tomorrow night. Now, I have to take a few seconds to think why he is asking this. With my pause in reply, he interjects that this is what our 97-year old grandfather is doing, and what him and Uncle Earl have discussed doing as well. “Would it be neat for the university to do genetic studies on the Bates Family?” Steve says. “I am going to ask Rick and Marge (my other siblings), too. And maybe Rachel and Elisabeth (my daughters) will consider doing the same?” So it takes what seems like 5 minutes to respond, probably more like a minute. “It’s a good idea, and I am open to it. I always thought to donate an organ to science after I pass, but I need to consider what Dean wants when I pass. I will ask him.” Dean and I discuss briefly on the commute home from our jobs, “no immediate answer, we have time for this decision,” I add.
Then Mom calls late this afternoon asking about the weather-stripping for the front door. It appears what we installed this winter caused a suction when it rained earlier this week, that she could not get the door open. Great, she is trying to sell the house. We will be up there to take care of this weekend or on Wednesday when we assist her with her move to the villa 1-1/2 miles from our house rather than the hour’s drive we currently have. Mixed feelings altogether there.
We get home to eat a quick dinner my chef son-in-law prepared, fried fish, mashed potatoes, and a tomato-mozzerolla salad. Dean and I needed to get to the greenhouse as soon as possible as a large cell of violent storms was on the way. Dean checked, and it was in Warren County, one county west of us. Onward to the greenhouse to pick up a few plants for the Saturday morning farmers’ market. The radio said a tornado had been sighted in Franklin County, one county southwest of St. Charles County. Probably 30 minutes from us. The earlier rains had the ground soaked already, so we parked the van just past the barn. Dean and I quickly walked up the hill, gathered armfuls of plants, each making 3 trips back and forth. By my last trip back to the van, the sky was an eerie green with a black cell right in the middle. Lightning flashes bolts bright, and the heavy rain starts. Our Charlie Brown spruce tree was in full glow with the solar lights like it was nighttime already. It was only 7:15pm. The van radio told me a tornado warning was issued for St. Charles County, and a tornado was sighted in Defiance. Wonderful, we are in Defiance! I guarantee that black cell I saw had a tornado in it! Dean arrived with his last armful of plants, promptly loaded them in the van, and backed the van up in a hurry. We slide off the gravel road right into the slippery clay mud. That van kept sliding towards the rushing creek! Inches from it! Dean tried pulling forward, and we were stuck. Dean and I tried gravel, wood planks, and prayer. We were not going anywhere, especially when Dean accidentally locked the keys in the van. Thank God the engine was turned off! Flash flood warnings came over the weather band radio in the barn. I asked my husband to call our landlord, to see if we could start the tractor to pull the van out. No keys were available, with the landlord in another county over. We asked for the farm neighbor’s telephone number. We called my son-in-law and this farm neighbor. My son-in-law got to us with our spare van key and a smile in his voice within 30 minutes. Our rescuer! The farm neighbor was not home, 30 minutes away but would try to get to us. Dean rocked the van back and forth shifting in reverse and back forward. Mick and I pushed with all our might. A wood plank shot back and hit my ankle. Bruised, swollen, and sore but no cut. Thank Jesus. Rocking back and forth for 10 minutes, the van was out of the muddy mess onto the gravel road. Shovels put away, barn light turned out, and we all managed to cross the creek to the safety of a paved county highway. A call to the farm neighbor to say we were out of our predicament. Reports of a huge tornado touching down in the local towns of Weldon Springs and Harvester, Missouri wiping out multiple houses came over the radio. Cannot help to think we were stuck in the mud for a reason, to avoid being in the path of that nasty tornado. A muddy mess and sore, we all three were, but safe in our house now tonight. Yes, my family adventures never end. Sometimes like the whirlwinds I experienced tonight. Peace I sense. Gratitude, I have family to help when we need it, and to be with on this stormy night. St. Louis University is not ready for me yet. Stay tuned, another chapter of our family life on this blog, maybe with Dean’s family.

Wet Weekend


Creek Saturday morning we awoke to rain! This is an occasion as we have been in a severe drought since last spring. The 14 inches of snow we received in the past 2 weeks, melted to 4 inches of liquid according to the rain barrel at the greenhouse. Now with this rainy weekend, we received another 2 inches. River barges started moving on the rivers again after sitting idle for 2 months. The melted snow running into the northern streams have made their way to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. Creek beds have filled once again in Missouri. The 2 creeks on Boone Hollow Farm were running with a cold rush, a soothing sound to the ear. I walked the plank to get over the creek and up the hill to the greenhouse. We cleaned the barn while the rain watered our earth. Late morning the rain subsided, and finally the sun peeped out of the clouds. A chainsaw was used on old trees near the barn, trying to avoid storm damage to the outbuilding and roads. Working alongside the half-full creek bed, I lobbed small limbs. I hauled the twigs to the huge bush pile down the gravel road while the tree frogs croaked “its spring!” Honey bees and flies buzzed about the warm afternoon air. Nature’s critters tell us.
My brother wanted to bring my grandpa out for a visit. This was their first visit to Boone Hollow Farm, so a countryside adventure for both this fine Saturday afternoon. Cellular telephone service is hit or miss, so I hoped they heard my directions okay. I explained several times before, “we are between Chandler Hill Vineyards and the Daniel Boone Home off Highway F, look for the huge barn on the right side.” Our labrador, Midnight chewed on sticks and chased after two barn cats up the larger trees while I cleaned up the limbs. He would follow with such enthusiasm walking near the gravel path alongside the wheelbarrow. But when a white SUV pulled onto the gravel road off the highway, and he recognized the sound of the vehicle. It was my father’s old SUV, and in it was two of Midnight’s favorite persons, Grandpa Earl and my brother, Steve. Grandpa took care of Midnight as a young pup. This overgrown Christmas gift became my father’s hunting companion when Midnight was too much for my 97-year old grandfather to handle. Now Midnight is Steve’s duck and goose hunting companion. Midnight ran to greet his buddies, and stayed at their sides their entire visit. Grandpa could not make the walk up the hill to our greenhouse, and it was too muddy to get a vehicle up there. So that will have to be their next trip to Boone Hollow Farm. But the farmer chat while the elder sat on the farmer neighbor’s bushhog was so refreshing like that spring rain heard in the creek bed. It backed me up 45 years ago, when jaws jabbered during the farm visits in Franklin County, where my Grandpa and Uncle Lloyd made their father’s farm into a weekend get away for their families. That circle of life again, Dean and I making a weekend refuge for our family now. And Grandpa was able to enjoy it after the weekend rain.

The Stars Are Brightly Shining


Before the rains come, we decided on a mid-week trip to Boone Hollow Farm last night to deliver our work station for the greenhouse. If it is too wet, we have to walk into the farm. We miss our jeep! The 18-passenger van is too heavy, and our jeep is still needing a new engine. Carrying this huge, heavy repurposed wood shelf and counter top up the hill to our greenhouse would be next to impossible this weekend with the rainy forecast. We invited my oldest daughter, son-in-law, and their three children to join us. So glad we opted to take the 15-minute drive last night! Christmas lights scattered throughout on the country homes and barns presenting quite a show for our eyes. Our Charlie Brown spruce tree shined with blue in the distance visible from the country highway. On the hill, next to the greenhouse the lights got brighter as we came up the hill. Those solar lights are awesome!
But the real celestial show was yet to be seen… An ominous night sky in the countryside of Defiance, MO with a shooting star visible every 2 or 3 minutes. Our Ella Serene and Michael Elijah witnessed their first shooting star last night, with 20 more to follow. A cold winter night, yet it warmed my heart to see God’s creations surround and feel His love blanket my husband, children, and grandchildren. Singing “O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining …” The grace of Jesus’ birth is for my family and yours. I read in the media this morning, apparently we witnessed the Geminid meteor shower.Shooting Star