Category Archives: autumn

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.

The Change

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“Autumn is the season that teaches us that change can be beautiful.”

~unknown~

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.

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”

~ Nathaniel Hawthrone~

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.

A Green Thumb With No Frozen Fingers

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A Green Thumb With No Frozen Fingers

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.

Summer Fades Into Autumn

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The cicadas have clicked and buzzed in harmony since late July. August came and went with floods at the beginning of the month and ended with a drought. Now it is September. It is the month that summer fades into autumn. The songbirds, swallow tail butterflies, and honeybees still gather at the fountain for a drink. For our feathered friends, it is also a communal bath. A refreshing rain cooled the air, and gave the thirsty earth a drink. My morning walks start a little later as the sun waits to come up as the moon slowly leaves the sky. There is a rustling with the flowering bushes and leaves in the trees when the wind shifts, some days blessed with the cooler northern air. Lush greens are giving way to hazel. Early autumn colors of yellow, orange, and red are seen. I gathered a handful of leaves to put in water as I walked home one morning. The evening stroll in the yard brought me to resilient blooms holding on until the first frost, or my snipping shears. The imperfect yet resilient petals show bug bites and drying tips, but still the hues brighten my September day. I am reminded of God’s promise, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” ~ Psalms 46:5

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.

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?

 

Dormancy

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No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal.  The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days.  Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day.  Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year.  No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on.  Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains.  Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home.  Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both.  Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.

Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins.  We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon.  We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week.  Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments.  Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around.  Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.  

The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul.  Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure.  Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake.  It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations.  Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years.  Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.

This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career.  The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind.  The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song.  A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing.  Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.  In today’s words, live today, be present moment.  Some answers come eventually.