Spring came a bit late this year. The subzero temperatures in February stiffened the green sprouts on bushes and trees, as well as the gardeners such as myself who stay indoors during the severe winter. The cinder block basement houses our potted perennials under timed plant lights. In late January I was able to get cuttings from those perennials and put them in water or planted in small pots of soil. They all sprouted roots. This past weekend I designed and filled hanging wire planters with organic soil and my new tender plants. I have four lovely planters with room for new spring & summer growth. Tender herbs (parsley, lavender, golden & lemon thyme, basil & oregano, and chocolate & pineapple mint) were purchased from the local greenhouse down the street, and repotted into bigger pots. Adorable, and oh does that pineapple mint smell delicious! Cannot wait to make some delicious sweet bread and tea with it. Begonias and sweet alyssum grace the front porch at Deanna’s Cottage.
I am about a month late sowing our greens bed, but an early spring/post-COVID vaccinations vacation to Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri kept us away for 2 weeks. We saw more spring sprouts each hour we traveled further south. A bucket list item was to experience a field of blue bonnets, and we accomplished that. On Sunday afternoon we added more organic soil, then I sowed lettuce and spinach seeds in the bed. Very tiny sprouts of green appear in a couple of rows after 4 days from sowing. Where the greenhouse and screenhouse is housed, Boone Hollow Farm is lovely especially in the spring. The crab apples, pears, dogwood, and red buds are all abloom. The peaceful surroundings welcome Dean and I at every visit. And I welcome the pots and sprouts every growing season.
We finally had our daffodils surface 2 weeks ago, and they opened this week with the warmth and sunshine. I love spring! The promises of long hope appear. It was a mild winter up until February, and then a severe cold that has been hard to shake off. When green life appears, I know spring is not too far away. This week I read a mime “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually you have been planted.” Like seeds, hope surfaces and eventually blooms nourishing our souls. But nothing says “spring” more than a babe, or two. Fresh joy springing forth in every smile. Grandbabies, Clara and Jefferson chatting on Facetime.
February’s arctic blast did so much damage to plumbing systems. My oldest daughter and her family are bunked up in a Super 8 motel while their homeowners insurance company get their house repaired after several pipes froze and burst, and damaging their furnace. It seems pretty dark to them still, but once repairs are completed they will have a new furnace, all new plumbing system, and much more. A real life “Schitt’s Creek” drama going on. Waiting for restoration is hard. So many more families have similar stories. Snow is being replaced with rain, thunder, and even a rainbow. The birds appear at the the feeders earlier.
I awake every morning now before 5:00am with those creative thoughts running in my head, those kind you just cannot tune out. It is like my body knows spring is almost here. A fresh garden project or recipe idea surfaces to respond to. My days as an employee wellness coordinator are drawing nigh on June 1, and God has already provided a semi-retirement job opportunity for me. I am now a culinary instructor at the local continuing education program. My joy of cooking and baking will be renewed to share with many others once again. Take a gander at my new page “Culinary Classes, Too”https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/culinary-classes-too/ on this website.
2020 has been a year like no other. We learned to wear a mask everywhere we go. New phrases such as “COVID-19”, “social distancing”, & “social bubble” have become commonplace. Teddy bears line our living room window to remind our neighbors love resides. Our living room has been “the office” since mid-March. I am on my work computer undertaking county government employee programs & benefits while Dean researches files & tags old photos for the National Archives. We try to time our Zoom staff meetings & webinars to not conflict with each other, or Dean wears his earplugs. I return to the Clayton office once a week for a couple of early morning hours to retrieve my mail and file papers. I brought home my comfy office chair and bought a narrow table to fit at the one of the living room windows for my make-shift desk. We have found solace at our small cottage as our home & workplace during the COVID pandemic, racial discord, stormy election, & natural catastrophes. Birds, blooms, blogging,“ bear chairs”, “brinner”, beverage breaks, the aroma of freshly baked goodies; these are a few of our favorite things in 2020.
The start of 2020 before the news of COVID, we met up with Dean’s cousins in Eureka Springs, AR for a long weekend. Those long weekends became fewer after the CDC announced the pandemic. Home bound we were and still are. I never dreamt I would be working from home, and for this long. I rather love it as an introvert. That time I normally would be commuting to work, my early mornings are greeted with the sunrise or the kiss of the last sunrays at dusk while I walk most days of my week. This is an opportune time with the challenge of a speed walking program. I continue into this colder season, but I have shortened that time and venture out mid-day. My allergy to the cold keeps me indoors with my perennials, crafts, reading, writing, cooking, baking, & antiques. Dean with his extra time has taken to his “man cave” (the basement) tinkering & plane model building after seeing the real ones. Our entertainment is the livestreamed Opry from Nashville, Turner Classic movies, and The Big 550 KTRS catching the Farmer Dave and McGraw talk shows. Dean & I turned 60 this year, me in late August & he on Thanksgiving Day. We both are healthy. The worst of our complaints have been the shortage of toilet paper & antibacterial hand soap at the stores, and the body aches from sitting at our work computers all day then becoming weekend warriors with our yard projects. We count our blessings.
Every year we enjoy feeding the neighborhood songbirds. Early spring Dean & I added a bird bath/fountain we found “on sale”. Funny how “a bargain” multiplies 1 major project x 5. Dean resurrected nearly buried rocks from the alley area out back to create a rock garden for under the bird feeders & fountain nearby our living room window. It took us 8 hours to piece together the puzzle of mossy rocks & purchased flat stones. We also built our pebble patio in the front situated under the dogwood tree. For our outdoor seating pleasure Dean assembled & painted 2 wooden Adirondack chairs dubbed “the bear chairs” as they are made by The Bear Company. The chairs’ color nicely matches our “nifty turquoise” front door. It is such a peaceful sanctuary under that dogwood tree. Well, until the neighborhood Cooper’s hawk comes for a visit. The birds chatter & squawk until the bigger bird of prey flies away with or without lunch. We finished out our warm season projects with a new retaining wall between our house & the church next door, then mulched between the flowering hydrangeas & peonies.
The green thumb report … Lettuces & greens grew prolifically at our screen house at Boone Hollow Farm, and our potted herbs & perennials here at Deanna’s Cottage. Such a truly gorgeous spring & mild enough summer we had here in our parts of Missouri. In 2021 we may grow birdhouse gourds, which need at least 180 days of frost-free days & plenty of climbing space. Here at the cottage, my garden projects will be to prep & stain a vintage cart, potting table, & garden bench as well as grow old-fashion flowers to attract more bees & butterflies. I was inspired by the colonial-style garden seen while on vacation. For our big backyard Dean will build a new deck/porch & replace our fencing. We will hire for tree removal while others need trimming. The shade of our grove of trees provides a refuge for our feathered & human friends alike.
Summer into autumn was bittersweet. Sweet was the week with granddaughter Elise at our home, a weekend with my grandkids exploring Meramec Caverns, and our 10th wedding anniversary travels to Williamsburg, Virginia. We drove to avoid the close confines of an airplane, besides we like the journey along the way. Multiple masks and hand sanitizer packed. Also, we welcomed 2 new grandbabies, Jefferson Dean & Clara Jean, one living in St. Louis & the other in Lee’s Summit. In October we had a long weekend at a cabin in remote Kentucky with Dean’s brothers. We played hooky & snuck in a brief couple of uncrowded weekdays in New Orleans. We drove once again. The bitter part, my mother became ill during late summer into autumn, but not from COVID. Mom was very cautious, staying home away from people during the pandemic. My brothers, sister-in-law, Dean, & I were gradually allowed in her “bubble”. I would bring Mom library books & comically brought her a box of 48 rolls of commercial-grade TP. We all would share photos & stories about the kids & grandkids. By the time she braved going to the doctor, it was too late. After 3 weeks of medical tests Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung & lymph node cancers. Hospice care was arranged. My sister & nephews made their way home for their last visits with her. Exactly 1 week after that diagnosis, Mom passed away at her home. My mother was a tough yet classy lady, & loved her family. Today I had the notion to call her & check if she would like to bake Christmas cookies this weekend. I miss her. Mom is Home now with our Lord, my Dad, grandparents, & many other loved ones who have gone before her.
The Christmas tree is decorated, adorned with a new “mask-wearing” Santa ornament. Holiday shopping is limited to uncrowded local boutiques or ordered on online & waiting for the packages to arrive on our front porch. Gifts are coming together nicely in the guest bedroom. Homemade goodies fill the cookie jar. Old-fashion Christmas carols stream from the TV. For us holiday parties, extended family gatherings, & Advent church services are virtual. Quaint gatherings are planned. Distractions have lessen considerably by being at home, allowing quiet reflections to abound. Authors Ann Voskamp, Matthew Kelly, and Rick Warren continue to inspire me. The Word of God is full of wisdom. This winter more frequent blogging will fill my hours. God loves you & I. He is still in control even though the outside world seems chaotic. “Wasn’t He awakening me to Beauty everywhere, because beauty is the way of the inner eye?” Ann Voskamp questions in her One Thousand Gifts book. “Beauty was all around … I sat very still, taking in the spirit of the night, until I felt that I was in a place as holy as a church. And I was ready to be home”, author Dominique Browning once wrote. I am ready to be snug at home this holiday season. Are you? Make home your most favorite place to be until you are called Home as the old hymn goes …
Come home! come home! Ye who are weary, come home! Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!
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
The vivid beauty of this spring season is present at Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance, Missouri. In our attempt to get away from the urban or should I say “world” troubles, this farm became our mid-week oasis. It is almost magical at the farm where Dean and I’s greenhouse seats. The lowering sun illuminated the purples and greens in the fields and groves of trees, the grass plush. Birds singing their evening tunes, frogs peeping in unison, sheep in the neighbor farmyard baaing. A serene symphony of countryside calm. My country garden is a dwelling place for me, a bed to lay my cares aside. Our sowed seedlings in the screenhouse side of the greenhouse are coming up well. We are hopeful the leafy greens will be ready to provide the base for our salads by the end of April or early May. In the mist of viral chaos there is a dwelling place for each of us, even if it is just in the mind.
Over the course of the winter and this early spring the busy red and gray squirrels in our neighborhood have managed to empty the two patio cushions on our next door neighbors’ patio furniture. I suppose the amount of leaves and branches in the neighborhood is not enough for these rascals. Hoarders and self-absorbed. Sound familiar? The synthetic stuffing that I call “white fluff” has been scattered about in the immediate neighborhood found in the green grass, bushes, trees, leaves, and the huge squirrels’ nest in our cherry tree. This has been going on over the past 5 months, with maybe the final unloading last night. We don’t see another cushion laying in the yard or patio furniture, thank God. The neighbor who owns the patio cushions appears clueless or could give a darn. Dean and I spent a few Saturday afternoons cleaning up the “white fluff” from our yard, and the next door church’s yard. A couple of months ago Dean fully emptied the one cushion the squirrels chewed a hole in and threw the remaining contents in the trash bin. The squirrels found the other cushion, and chewed a hole in that one. So a repeat with the second cushion, we have spent a good hour here and there cleaning up. Rather comical at times, but mostly aggravating.
On a more serious note, this “white fluff” illustrates to me the novel corona virus and the community’s responses. The squirrels are those people who carry the virus, and share their germs while out and about with their busy, careless activities like hoarding the toilet paper and taking their children to the grocery store for a “social hour”. The clueless neighbor is the person who refuses to self-educate with reputable, accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information and seems to hide from life. Dean and I are the millions of people trying to keep our world cleaned-up and safe for ourselves and others around us. How about you? Are you watching after yourself and those people placed immediately around you? Surely you are not one of the squirrels making more of mess for the rest of us! Let’s get this “white fluff “cleaned up, obey the social distancing rules, and pray we have a vaccine before the next season arrives.
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.
This COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates have everyone’s routines turned upside down. Offices, schools, businesses, and now restaurant closings. Remote work and make-shift offices and classrooms at home. Priorities change, refocus on what is paramount, safety. As we as a world make improvising arrangements with our employment, schooling, medical care, dental care, traveling, vacationing, shopping, dining, banking, faith-based activities, entertainment, and list goes on. Cyberhackers take advantage, and magic potion con artists try their tactics. But such heart-warming people and their actions shine brighter. Did you see the California choir and their remote, online rendition of Over the Rainbow? How about those Christmas lights and décor shining bright, and the Christmas carols over the radio? The celebrities’ videos that keep us singing, laughing and smiling. Hotels opening their empty rooms to paramedics and medical staff for COVID-19 testing and quarantine stations. Neighbors helping each other with meals and errands. Have you sat quietly and prayed? I hope so. The world could use your prayers.
So after all the readjustments and new routines established, what are you doing with all the free time with no commutes or engagements? Cannot go out to the movies, ball game, concert, winery, coffee shop, or vacation destination. Please don’t turn to binge eating, drinking, or drugs. Keep yourself healthy and safe. Projects like deep cleaning, decluttering, home repairs, and yardwork are suggestions, maybe not so appealing to some. Indoor hobbies like scrapbooking, journaling, reading, painting, building a model, cooking, baking, making a music video, and blogging might be of interests. FaceTime, telephone, or do the old-fashion writing a letter to your friend or loved ones. How about going outdoors, while keeping your distance from others? Long walks on the paved sidewalk or trail in the woods, bird watch, shoot some hoops in your driveway court, or paint your front door a fresh color. Then there is gardening! I purchased my organic greens and herbs seeds, and will sow them in the warming organic soil at the screenhouse this week. My office plants came home with me, and I will attend to them under the plant lights of our basement. The Spring Equinox came yesterday evening, so perennial plants are closer to going outdoors each day. This season we will always remember. Make it a lemonade-out-of-lemons season. Just sweeten it up with your love, God’s love.
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.