The word “frost” came into the weathermen’s forecasts a couple of times last week. The late afternoon of October 1, Dean and I decided to move our perennials indoors while the colder air pushed its way into our town, but before a frost could lay its frozen fingers on our delicate green friends. We moved 20 planters of several varieties of ferns, lantana, lobelia, geraniums, swedish ivy, moses-in-cradle, philodendrons, and a Meyer’s lemon tree to the basement under a huge plant light on a timer. Two favorite perennial planters went upstairs in the house with us, along with 5 pots of herbs. It always amazes me how big the plants have grown over the past 6 months under mother nature’s care. Maybe I have a green thumb, but more so God blesses us with sunshine and rain at the right times. He reminds me when I can help with a watering can, pruning, and plucking the withered leaves and blooms. The frost finally gripped its frozen fingers on the cars, rooftops, and the earth very early this morning. But 27 pots of plants are snug and safe and sound in Deanna’s Cottage here in St. Charles, Missouri this autumn and winter seasons.
The summer rains woke me this morning. Typically, it is the sun peeking through the white curtains in our bedroom or the first tweets of our neighborhood birds that welcome me to the new day. The earth needed some fresh rain water in my spot of the world. And so it did just that, watered our flowers, plants, and grass to a vivid green. “Aw”, my green friends say. What a lovely, milder day of summer we had today.
My 3-mile power walk will need to wait until tomorrow. During our morning computer screen break between rains, Dean and I took a casual walk up the street to the newly opened coffee shop. A unique place, a coffee roaster situated in an old auto brake shop, Upshot Coffee Brake Shop. Dean treats himself to a cappuccino, and I to a herbal tea. I think this new establishment will be a once-in-awhile daytime perch for us during these mundane work-from-home arrangements, like it was today. Make it a special walk for a special moment in time.
We have had such a wonderful spring for the garden greens, a full 3 months worth of mild temperatures and salads for at least 3 families. The summer heat cranked up this past 2 weeks, and the arugula bolted. Last week I pinched a few of the flowering buds, but as the temperatures increased so did the flowers on arugula. We finally cut the longer stemmed arugula and gathered enough stems for two vases. The fragrance was pleasantly earthy in the cottage for a couple days. The arugula gets bitter after bolting, so we say goodbye to our spring crop, and hope for a mild autumn to plant more. The lettuces loved the shade of the arugula, but will soon cease to produce due to the hot summer heat. That, too, will be an autumn crop if the weather permits.
This week the tropical storm brought Missouri cooler air. The windows are open for a welcoming breeze inside the cottage. The mustard & ketchup roses and yellow lilies grace our table and kitchen window. The herbs flourish to my delight, flavor enhancements and more nutrients to my dishes and drinks. What tops a glass of iced mint tea on a summer evening on the patio? The pleasures of gardening are many. And there is the more cynical view of gardening I had to laugh at. The other day I found this on a t-shirt online ad, “I garden so I don’t choke people. Save a life, send mulch.” With today’s societal woos, no wonder more people are picking up the hobby, rather I should say “the therapy of gardening”. The climates, weather and society, change from day to day, as author Madeliene L’Engle has been quoted, “If there is to be any peace or reason, we have create it in our own hearts and homes.” Have your heart and mind at peace and it will protect you and those around you.
My haven is home. So blessed during this stay-at-home order Dean and I have been given opportunity to care for our home and yard. Our home gives back so much more. And spring has been so pleasant this year, very much like spring should be. Sunshine, rains, a random storm brews up, cool mornings, and warmer afternoons. We had a couple of days it felt more like summer, but it cooled down after the rains. And then a few frost warning mornings, but it never came. Better safe than sorry, we covered our annuals and perennials. Kind of like the corona virus for us. We take the precautions: masks, social distancing, and extra sanitation in our home and when we are out.
These mild temperatures and regular watering from the rains has provided such a green haven of leaves, grasses, mosses, and foliage. Mid-spring the dogwood, azalea, clematis, irises and the flowering trees, bushes, and stemmed blooms are clothed in white or more showy colors of fuchsia, paler pinks, purples, blues, oranges, yellows, and reds. The peonies are exceptional this year. The song birds are plentiful. Their songs divine. The morning doves, robins, finches of purple and yellow, grosbeaks, cardinals, indigo buntings, nuthatches, and sparrows of many species come to our feeders and reside in the birdhouses or bushes. Hawks and owls call out throughout the day and night as their homes are nearby. Of course, families of squirrels and rabbits in the neighborhood are for the taking by these birds of prey. Occasionally, it is a morning dove for a meal.
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest; Home-keeping hearts are happiest, For those that wander they know not where Are full of trouble and full of care; To stay at home is best. Weary and homesick and distressed, They wander east, they wander west, And are baffled and beaten and blown about By the winds of the wilderness of doubt; To stay at home is best. Then stay at home, my heart, and rest; The bird is safest in its nest; O’er all that flutter their wings and fly A hawk is hovering in the sky; To stay at home is best. Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Dean and I have been living in this WWII era small home in historic St. Charles, Missouri for just under 2 years. It is Dean’s dream home, and becoming mine. Deanna’s Cottage is the name we give this home. In 2019 the cottage had been rented out via Airbnb for 7 festival weekends. It has such an ideal location, just 6 blocks from Historic Main Street. Each of our cottage guests have rated our little place 5-stars. Thus far this year, the pandemic has kept us from renting Deanna’s Cottage. It will be the second half of 2020 before we will accept reservations again on Airbnb, provided the threat of COVID-19 has subsided significantly. Those weekends when the guests come stay at Deanna’s Cottage, we stay at our previous residence. Our old house is rented to my daughter and son-in-law, a family of four. There is our old bedroom we invade for 2 nights at a time with our feline friend, Celine who has taken permanent residence there.
With the social distancing for 6 weeks now in the state of Missouri, we have more time on our hands. We would rather be visiting with our kids, grandkids, parents, siblings, and friends on the weekends. Sure understand why, and respect the rules set in order for this invasive virus to die down, but it is hard not to be with everyone. Our two youngest grandkids have April birthdays. We left the fixings for a birthday party on the porch and did a drive-by birthday greeting for the 10-year grandson earlier this month. But our 4-year granddaughter will not understand why Grandpa and Grandma cannot stop to visit. So birthday presents were sent in the mail to the other side of Missouri for our granddaughter to open on her birthday this Sunday. May be able a Facetime event.
So what else to do with all this time, especially on the weekends? We gained 2 hours every weekday with telecommuting, and little prep for work. So one project after another runs in Dean and I’s heads separately and collectively with conversations and plans to follow. We have plans to take out the carpeting in the living room, hallway, and master bedroom to get to the bare wooden floors. We are not sure what we will find, so we have put that off for awhile. We think it will take old-fashion time and elbow-grease with refinishing the floors. And what to do with the furniture while we work on it? With the lovely spring weather, outdoor projects have taken priority. Off and on since last autumn Dean has worked on the windows, scrapping, glazing, priming, and painting. That project is weather dependent. The awning over the front porch needs repainting. The back awnings just need to be removed. The back porch/deck needs to be replaced. Fencing replaced, too. And then there is the landscaping. This includes a huge tree removal, resetting a small retention wall on one side of the house, and putting in a pebble patio in the front with a small fountain. I love this project as it means a lawn chair to sit in at the end of a long day to relax under the dogwood tree sipping on iced tea or a cup of hot tea. The weather temperature tells me which.
I have many longer-term plans in my mind for Deanna’s Cottage. Did you ever hear of the book A Place Of My Own: The Architecture Of Daydreams by healthy food activist and author, Michael Pollan? He dreams of a small structure, then he builds it himself, and uses as his writing studio. A quiet space, purposeful place. I found this cute place online used as a small venue for parties, showers, rehearsal dinner, and luncheons. I could see Deanna’s Cottage used as a small gathering place such as this. I can also see a quainter dwelling, maybe about 500 square-foot to be built in the big back yard within the next 5 years used as an atelier for reading, writing and art projects, but also for periodic guests and gatherings. My flower, herb, and vegetable gardens surrounding the dwelling. But what does God purpose for Dean and I at Deanna’s Cottage, and this smaller structure I dream about?
The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter. The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day. The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches. The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day. We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up. Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity. Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us. We now take a stroll twice a day everyday. We see neighbors about, too. If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately. The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk. First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom. The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after. Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display. Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire. Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.
What a lovely day, so much like Spring. The daffodils started to bloom at our cottage this week. The gold finches are molting more each day in preparation for their spring and summer survival colors. Scripture reminds us not to worry about what to wear and what to eat as God supplies. “Look at the birds of the air…” I think Dean and I supply plenty of seeds for the song birds in our neighborhood besides what naturally exists. Not that God doesn’t supply adequately enough, we just enjoy the entertainment of the songbirds outside our living room window at the feeders.
The mild temperatures warranted an impromptu drive this Sunday afternoon to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. We packed a picnic lunch and stopped in the little historic river village, Elsah. We relished the quiet park and tiny town while munching on our sandwiches. Then we made our way to the river hubbub of Grafton, IL. Bikers, antique cars, and convertibles seem to take over the town. We managed to park the car and found a few little antique and gift shops to peruse. Such lovely art pieces. I found a garden sign with spring-like embellishments for my arrowhead planter. Just a matter of another 6 weeks before the houseplants go outside, and Easter 5 weeks away. Spring-like rains and weather continue this week with a winter return next week. Well, today I cherished this early taste of spring.
The winter chill came a month early in Missouri, and I believe most of the Midwest. The perennials came indoors to their wintertime home. The last of the ketchup and mustard rose buds were snipped and put in a shot glass, my make-shift bud vase. A welcome greeting in the kitchen. We have space for only one of perennials, our arrowhead in our little cottage living room. And how it has grown during the summer months and brief autumn weeks outdoors as we place it under the front window. The other plants are housed in the temperate climate of the basement under a plant light set on a timer. Much like the wintertime shedding that a pine tree goes through in this region, our perennials shed during the winter indoors. My pot of colorful lantana and geraniums dropped many leaves, but are still blooming.
I feel like my perennials and the outdoor plants during the winter. A major adjustment to the climate change. Many people with auto-immune disorders have worsen arthritic symptoms during the cold season. For some, the pain is much worse. Depression can set in. If you are not into gardening, I suggest to have just one potted geranium, Christmas cactus or another succulent to share life with this winter. With winter there is loss of luster, but an indoor plant may produce a bloom or two despite the season. Kind of like some of us people folk.
Missouri’s summer heats up in August. It started on the cooler side, but it is full-blown dripping hot now. The humidity does it, zaps the energy out of me. I am taking a couple of hours this afternoon in the air-conditioned cottage to reenergize myself. This summer I have managed to get a walk in every day while at work. I found a quiet, shady alley that provides some refuge from the madness in the middle of my day. Then flowers and gardening are my evening and weekend therapy. The blooms are flourishing.
This year Dean and I’s spare summer weekends are focused on repainting the window and door frames of our St. Charles cottage. Of course with a house that is 80 years old, projects are many. There is multiple layers of paint to sand down, so we get a smooth, clean coat of paint. We have found 3 layers with the front door frame and headboard. A coat of primer will go on the frame and headboard this evening, with the final white paint another “free” weekend. Then the front door is next. “Nifty turquoise” is the color of choice. Read The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell to know why I picked this color. Stay tuned for another post to follow with a picture of our finished project.
Vacation travels took Dean and I to the east coast in historic Charleston, South Carolina this past week. We relished the art, culture, history, and summer foliage that the city offers. We captured some unforgettable vignettes with alcoves, alleys, doors, windows, churches, homes, blooms, and green gardens galore. Its great to admire the gardens of other people, but always good to bring that admiration back to the home base despite the imperfections.