Here in my neck of the woods autumn arrived overnight when a cold front blew in rain and cooler temperatures. By the books the summer ends today and the meteorologists are saying officially the autumn equinox takes place this evening. But my senses tell me it is already here! All just in time for a road trip to Colorado to see groves of glowing aspen, rigid mountains, and brief visits with friends and family along the way and back. Packed long and short-sleeve shirts, shorts, leggings, jeans, jackets, socks and my boots. I brought my sandals as well as a winter coat just in case. Ready for it all!
Preparations have been made all week. Bills paid ahead, ordered the mail to be held until we get back, arrangements made for my brother & sister-in-law to look after our cottage and yard, ate leftovers and emptied the frig. All were a reminder that vacation is finally here. Dean and I put off a week-long vacation this summer to experience this autumn get-away. Our last long road trips this year were to St. Augustine in February for a sunny vacation, and Gulfport, Mississippi in March to make arrangements for my younger brother’s remains after his sudden death. But these next 9 days away we will travel to the countryside and be with the “Talking Tree, a place where spirit and nature can be”.
Come with me to the Talking Tree
a place where spirit and nature can be.
Where science of the forest couples
with ancient traditions of the land.
Where indigenous people learn to live
with trees mindfully hand in hand.Listen to branches rustling hymns
through silent sounds in their limbs.
Mighty Maples murmur in the breeze
sweet tales of syrup drawn to please.Trees converse, they do care
sending forest messages everywhere.
Through the air and underground
signals pulse from floor to crown.Quaking Aspen is known for being
the earth's most massive living thing
these trees united by one root system
the world's largest superorganism.Trees often act for collective good
doing exactly what they should.
Sometimes they will reset their mast
until the attacking danger's passed.Internal rhythms set their pace
slower than the human race.
Tree's daily burden that they bare
is they process the world's air.Did trees learn survival plans proven
in the 360 million years pre-human?
What do 7 billion humans foresee
as the fate for earth's 3 trillion trees?Fallen trees again live too
vessels that life flows through.
Their wood relives deeply in
buildings, books even violins.So stand with me in equanimity
and listen for lyrics patiently.
Wait to hear beneath this tree
poised to the sound of "poetree".
by Greg Gaul
Our spring was a very pleasant one, picturesque in its temperatures, rainfall, the length of the season, and beautiful blooms. Spring continued right through May and into early June. But since the week of the summer solstice, it’s been hotter than the dickens. A scorcher, hotter than I remember in a long while. All through July up until the 26th, we had very little rain to water these parts of the earth. And then the flood gates opened literally just before midnight on the 25th and all day on the 26th. Rains watered our parts of the earth, 8 – 12 inches! Thunderstorms off and on for two more days afterwards. Again, last night almost 4 inches of rain coming down by bucketsful. The meteorologists call these storms “microbursts”. It as if we are reliving that biblical story, Noah’s flood. In some regards we are. The aftermath is devastating to many folks in certain communities, my hometown of St. Peters, Missouri to name one. All Old Town was in 4-feet of water with no warning!
I pause to think about my summer. It started with Gall family photos at the local wildlife area the first weekend in June. Then, I made preparations for two missionaries to stay with us for a week while they ministered to the children in the neighborhood parish. These young ladies were delighted to be so close to the church. I joined in prayers every morning at 7 am Mass that week to keep their evangelizing efforts as well as my loved ones in collective prayers. Late June I trained for a new job working 1 or 2 days a week at a counseling office. So many people still deal with anxiety and the aftermath of COVID. I subbed for a couple of kids’ culinary camps. And I have helped a couple of senior ladies through the organization called Papa. We have rented our cottage home on Airbnb one weekend a month and continue with “super host” status. Dean and I took a day trip to Hermann for our anniversary, spent a fun evening with friends for the 4th of July, another day trip to St. Louis south city, and a couple of trips to visit family in the western parts of the state. We’ve had some quality summertime fun with the older grandkids with a matinee that no longer includes a PG movie because they are getting older. Thor: Love and Thunder it was. The Union Station aquarium and local Lewis & Clark history museum were with the younger grandkids. A short trip for a Vince Gill concert comes very soon for Dean and I as well as family visits in Chicagoland. But our longer vacation away is reserved for late September to see the Colorado aspens in their autumn colors.
My potted perennials, herbs, and flowering annuals receive early morning waterings during these hot days of summer, most still flourishing with their bright green, yellow, pinks, purples, and blues. My philodendrons and ivies received a trimming last week as they were taking over and rooting on their own in the mulch. The spider plants are quite prolific themselves, baby shoots and tiny white blooms. More greenery for future planters. The newest pottery planter in our backyard is my mother’s blue ceramic. I sowed zinnias and wildflowers for the pollinators, but the squirrels used the fresh potting soil as a playground. So, one lone zinnia made its way to full bloom. Our surprise lilies surprise us every year. The tender stalks rapidly grew 2-ft in a week, and now the showy beautiful pink flowers bloom. I have mixed a medley of my herbs for several dishes this summer. I still aim to create a blackberry-sage medley for tea. We started greens at the screenhouse, but it was a bad batch of seeds. The severe heat kept us from trying again this growing season. So fresh veggies and fruits are bought at the grocery stores and farmer’s markets this year. The songbirds and hummingbirds continue to thrill us and bring peaceful songs to our days. It is the critters and people we meet along the way that make this life worth living.
What a blessing to call myself an American! We are truly blessed to live in this country where freedom of speech and worship is allowed! May not agree with the person speaking, but know it is okay as I can disagree and still respect at the same time. And you will do the same for me! Dean and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary this weekend as well as this great country’s 246th birthday. Rich chocolate silk tartlets made and shared with family, grand time with our friends in DeSoto, MO for dinner, music, dancing, and fireworks on Saturday! Sunday brunch and then to Hermann, MO for Tin Mill Brewery beers and pizza followed by the kids’ tractor pulls and the town’s annual 4th of July parade. The whole world changed in a minute that first 4th of July Dean and I met. So happy Dean and I said, “I want you”. And that Old Glory still flies!
“Whole world could change in a minute Just one kiss could stop this spinning We could think it through But I don’t want to, if you don’t want to We could keep things just the same Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose But I don’t want to, if you don’t want to
Never waste another day Wonderin’ what you threw away Holdin’ me, holdin’ you I don’t want to if you don’t want to
We could keep things just the same Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose But I don’t want to But you don’t want to
But I want you.”
~ Lyrics by Jennifer Nettles sung by Sugarland
“And I’m proud to be an American Where at least I know I’m free And I won’t forget the men who died Who gave that right to me And I’d gladly stand up next to you And defend Her still today ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God Bless the U.S.A.”
~ Lyrics and sung by Lee Greenwood
“American girls and American guys We’ll always stand up and salute We’ll always recognize When we see Old Glory flying.”
“May the flowers remind us why the rain was so necessary.”
~ Xan Oku~
April and May showers brought these beautiful blooms this month. Some sunshine had something to do with their vibrancy, too. The rainstorms brought peony petals to the ground quicker than desired, but I was able to capture their beauty before the rains.
“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”
~ Theodore Roethke~
“Bloom as if you want to make the whole world beautiful.”
~ Debasish Mridha ~
Dean and I took on a spring garden project of sanding an old cart, hopefully staining it very soon. Its purpose will be a huge planter for lettuce, spinach, and arugula greens, up and away from hungry rabbits. We always enjoy watching the birds and this time of year the baby birds fledge. Here is a robin fledgling perched in our front door wreath with a metal bird. Maybe he or she felt at home there? We just saw a young hairy woodpecker come to our feeder and water fountain with momma close by. Hummingbirds frequent the sugar water feeder. And a short trip to Branson and central Missouri’s countryside gave us spectacular views this May! Light seems to shine even between the clouds!
“Finicky”, “fickle”, “temperamental” whatever you want to call this weather, April has had it all! Ice, snow, sleet, hail, rain, windstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, rainbows stretching from one horizon to the next it seemed, the 80’s to the 20’s with the temperatures, and even a 2.8 earthquake felt this evening as I finish this blog post. The epic center was in the St. Louis metro area.
The miracle is despite the bizarre weather the gold finches and orioles have come back in full swing, nesting and feeding like crazy. I just heard reports of the hummingbirds’ return to Missouri. This weekend Dean and I will be getting our hummingbird feeder filled and hung on the hook near the guest bedroom window. I have the huge ceramic pot that belonged to my mother as well her shepherd’s hook to hang another hummingbird feeder in our backyard. Destined to be together, the pot will have wildflowers blooming from this weekend’s sown seeds, a double-attraction for those hummingbirds and bees.
We might be frost-free now? If the 10-day forecast tells us it is safe, Dean and I will bring the perennials out from their winter home on Sunday. Some of my herbs have started to get fresh growth while in the basement under those plant lights. The green life just needs fresh air, rainwater, and real sunshine for these next 6 months, just like you and me. Within a week, our perennials will be thanking us!
Our organic greens at the screenhouse are coming up nicely. Weekly watering plus the natural moisture making its way through the screen have been sufficient for growth. The occasional light frost has not zapped them. I look forward to a salad bowl filled with our lettuces and spinach in about a month. Volunteer arugula made its way through the soil again this year. I want a plethora of basil for my Stone Soup workshop in August. Fresh plantings may be started in the next week or so.
As the weather goes back and forth, I enjoy a cup of hot tea on the cool days. Warmer days, it is iced tea. Earlier this week it was cleaning up weeds, twigs, and leaves in the backyard. This spring afternoon, I find comfort writing while a mild thunderstorm brewed along with my tea choice of herbal vanilla-lavender. I find joy inside and outside. The sweetness of a fruit tisane and the relaxing tap-tap on the keyboard bring sheer delight to my senses. When stepping to the outdoors I see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the wonders of nature that surrounds me. Oh, the joy of living one moment at a time. I feel blessed and loved by our God who is still in control and is Omnipresent.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
Where did March go? I intended to get a few words blogged in March but occupied with other writing projects, teaching culinary classes, Lenten Friday fish fries, clearing brush and late dropping leaves in our backyard, then started the greens bed out at the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. The trail of the Defiance December tornado is still very visible, so much destruction. Repairs and rebuilding are still underway. The air is still trying to decide if Spring is here to stay for a couple of months anyway. Wet snowflakes dropped from the gray skies on March 31 reminding us that spring is still wishy-washy here in Missouri. No fooling, a freeze warning on the first day of April. The daffodils drooped all morning seemed saddened by the cold air; much like me. The afternoon sun pepped them up quite nicely, and my heart, too.
“April is the kindest month. April gets you out of your head and out working in the garden.”
~ Marty Rubin
The spring greens of leaf lettuce and spinach are sown, and I am trusting to see sprouts of green tomorrow when we get back to the greenhouse. I intend to get my herbs planted Easter weekend, depending on the weather these next few days and warmth of the organic soil. We hope to get another raised bed made for a “stone soup” garden. I have a family favorite Italian soup recipe based on the famous children’s Stone Soup tale. This garden will include basil, zucchini, yellow squash, a couple bell pepper and tomato plants. This recipe also calls for garlic, and we already have wild garlic growing in the backyard near the alley. This summer I will be sharing my recipe at a parent/child story time and recipe demo workshop at a local farm. If my garden produces well, what I am sowing this spring will be featured in the workshop. More on this later …
As I welcome April I am reminded of rebirth. The cherry trees and red buds bloom color despite the coldness this week. Rebirth of plant life, but also of hopes and dreams. My heart has been saddened greatly these past few days by some cold news I received about a loved one. I will write more on this in a couple of days. Still too fresh, I am raw right now. Last week during spring break I spent a wonderful afternoon with all my grandchildren, Hannah, Libby, Ella, Brendan, Eli and an adopted granddaughter, Riley. After our picnic lunch we gazed onto the rippling waters of the St. Francis River and overlooked the valleys in the St. Francis Mountains. Such a beautiful day with my daughter and grandkids. Nothing replaces those kinds of moments. Thank You, God for the hopes and dreams You place in our hearts.
For a reprieve from the Midwest weather, Dean and I spent a few days away, travelled to Nashville, TN for the live Grand Ole Opry Show featuring Lauren Alaina’s induction. Then we went to the eastern coast from the “Music City”. We meandered from Savannah, Georgia and into northern Florida as close to the coastline that the highways would allow. We found a small town and island, St. Simon’s we fell in love with. We want to spend more time there when an opportunity allows. We were able to get a walk in along the pier and beach, collected our first seashells of this winter vacation.
Our final destination was St. Augustine, FL, the “Ancient City” and all its history and coastal beauty. It was chilly when we first arrived, and we had hoped it would warm up for these Midwesterners. We were not disappointed. After a day the daytime air was in the low 40’s early mornings with temperatures climbing to low 80’s by mid-afternoons. Clouds would roll in and build up like rain would pitter-patter, but we may have felt a drop or two those 5 days. The full moon shone gorgeously with the palm tree silhouettes stunning across the nighttime skyline. During our evening walk the old fort provided the backdrop, as if we were thieving pirates in an escape route to our ship waiting in the bay.
The mysteries of the “Ancient City” were enough to keep my creative mind going for future writings. I managed to get a few words journaled during our 10-day trip. Sea and land tours provided grand culture and history tidbits. Photos galore were taken. Plenty of eateries visited and regional cuisine were partaken. Empanadas, seafood pasta, shrimp ‘n grits, key lime pie, and rum cocktails to name a few. It amazed us how old the city is, the oldest in our United States. Over 450 years old and preserving some of the history through museums and the park system. But also, in the people and community, how they care for the city, with clean streets, public transit, marine conservation, and ordinances that do not allow skyscrapers to take over the skyline. Oh, the arts and culture. The boutiques found along St. Gregory Street.
On the way home from our Florida trip, we saw a bright sundog in the sky, a sure sign of severe weather. So today, it is a sky watch for sleet and snow here in St. Charles, MO. The weather people have forecasted ice, snow, and then more ice the next 30 hours. Despite all this weather nonsense, my daffodils have sprouted out and you can see hints of yellow underneath the green shoots. Soon they will be showing off their bright yellow blooms. Yes, spring is promised. Just exactly when, well only God knows. Not sure the groundhog got it right nor the meteorologists. I just know I am ready like many of us. Hope to sow some lettuce, spinach, watercress, and arugula seeds in another week or so at the screenhouse bed of organic soil. In the meantime, we picked up some baby succulent plants while in Florida, and I will get those repotted into some cute vessels tomorrow while the snowflakes come down outside the windows. Enough sky watching, just getting my hands in the soil will be therapy enough for me.
The COVID pandemic life continues another year with social distancing, masks, vaccines, remote work, and political debates. Dean and I felt more at ease once we received our vaccines early spring. This year became new, uncharted territory when I retired from full-time government administration work in June. Several years without regular pay raises due to tax issues and corruption had something to do with my decision. My inheritance allowed me to make this life change now rather than later. Subsequently, my mental and physical health improved while focusing on different work. God’s new purposes are being revealed to me one day at a time.
I am in full swing to my loves of writing, gardening, cooking, & antiques. I now teach per diem adult & children’s culinary classes at the local community college in their continuing education program. I opened a booth in an antique store & flea market near my daughter’s town and taken other items to resale stores repurposing items once belonging to myself, my mother, & others who donate. I dubbed it “Flock Together Mercantile”, as it is a “birds of a feather” endeavor. Monies earned go towards my daughter’s medical bills to treat her rare nerve disorder. Mom would have approved. A non-profit may be in the future? My life-long passion of writing includes recipes & poems found in eMerge, an online publication as well as my WordPressblogs, & more recently six-word stories on gratitude with Flapper Press. My Seashells poem is included in the book Dairy Hollow Echo that came out in August. This collection of poems & short stories on love, joy, & hope has already made Amazon’s best seller’s list for the anthology category. Since August we once again opened our St. Charles cottage one weekend a month to Airbnb guests. A detached garage with a studio is in the expansion plans for 2023, but maybe sooner. We will be able to offer many more weekends to guests. This year we had installed new roofs for both houses & gutters as well as a new HVAC system for the St. Charles cottage.
Dean & I road tripped several times, keeping off airplanes during the pandemic. Besides, it’s the journey getting there as well as the destination. Late March into April, we visited family & friends in Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri. We searched, finally found the Texas bluebonnets blooming in the fields as we visited during their early season. We enjoyed a family weekend in Branson in early June. During the summer I spent a week in Eureka Springs at The Writing Colony at Dairy Hollow in their culinary suite. What a lovely experience, a week to just write, make culinary creations, & meet other writers. A September week included cranberry bogs & festival in Wisconsin, & a millinery boutique in Galena, Illinois where we purchased Edwardian-style hats for a costume party. Dean’s cousin, Leigh passed away in October, traveled to Arkansas for her memorial services. Mid-November was another weekend in Branson & where we will finish the year there with family all wearing our red buffalo check attire. In 2021 Missouri celebrates her 200th year as a state in the Union. Dean & I saw so many places & towns taking the country state & county highways this year. We discovered the quaint Missouri River town of Glasgow while staying at Dean’s classmate’s charming inn, The Orchard House Inn. A few Friday nights were enjoyed at the DeSoto CIA Hall where my childhood friend serves an elaborate menu to the local community while her partner plays old country-western, gospel tunes. Our Saturday nights we still watch the Opry show on the Circle Network with country radio personality, Bobby Bones. Hope to be in Nashville in 2022 to see a live Opry show.
A spring tea party, birthday celebrations, memorial services, a nephew’s wedding, long weekends, & holidays brought us together with family. Dean & I’s eight grandchildren continue to grow, ages now range from 20 years old to 14 months. Our six grown children work hard at their occupations & homes. A stray puppy found on the streets near my daughter’s came home with me for a week until we found a home for Peanut Butter. Dean’s brother & family adopted & renamed him Scout PB. My twin sister, older brother, sister-in-law, Dean, & I cleaned out my mother’s villa this summer. We made some minor repairs, put it on the market, & the home sold at a price higher than we asked for. Dean’s parents have had a difficult year. His mother fell, requiring hip surgery with a slow, but sure recovery. I spent a week & Dean most of November in KC helping his parents, making their house more safely accessible.
Dean hopes to retire in about four years. I picture him in free-lance research & consulting after his work with the National Archives, as his love for history is broad. He returned to the federal building two days a week this autumn, works remotely the other three days. My 61-years old hubby remains in good health; tall, dark, & handsome as ever in his salt & pepper hair. Dean tinkers with his plane models or the bird feeders where he tries to make them squirrel-proof. Key word is “tries”. A December tornado just missed our greenhouse/screenhouse in Defiance. Spring greens from the screenhouse still fill our salad bowls during the warm weather months. Harvested herbs spice up our dishes during the winter months. Our hydrangea blooms provide texture and color the year round inside & out. We revel over the maroon pansies blooming on the porch planter late into December, the longest growing season that I recall. No white Christmas here. In 2022 I hope to complete my first book of short stories with a culinary theme as well as a poetry chapbook. Meantime, I write & will submit to more literary magazines & websites. Our feathered derby & cloche hats wait on the chaise for our next outing on the town. Established routines such as quiet time, prayers, & journaling are interwoven with such spontaneity. The days do not have to be same old, same old. Revere each day & moment like a gift. Then it becomes just that, a gift even on the difficult days. Sometimes it’s a simple red apple from the fruit basket, or a fancy wrapped package. Untie the bow, unwrap the paper. There is something wonderful inside for you. God-given.
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
Besides my lobelia drying up to browning nubs of scarce purple blooms, bumble bees filling up on the lasting blooms’ nectar, the hummingbirds’ rapid-fire feedings at the feeder every few minutes, there is the change in the air felt when autumn is near. I first noticed that change this year on the evening of August 31 into September 1 while walking near my St. Charles, Missouri home. It is late this year, so will the autumn season be late and shortened, or long with a shorten winter season? Please, not a long winter. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says September and October are to have below-normal temperatures and rainfall. September didn’t look like this. See what October brings.
Some years ago I wrote about how that change in the air felt. Read about this at https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2017/08/04/change/. My daughter wrote a poem about my observation of autumn’s change, and I shared this poem on the post. Today is the official autumnal equinox. Dean and I could not wait, so we traveled a bit north earlier this week, as far as Wisconsin to see the autumn colors and feel the chill in the air. We had a memorable boat ride on the Wisconsin River this sunshine-filled first day of fall. A memory has been created today.