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
Summer has been long and August lollygag gelled around until finally September has appeared. September’s shift is focused on seasonal changes. Cooler breezes, the air crispier, green leaves beginning to yellow, frantically feeding hummingbirds almost ready for migration, and squirrels burying nutty treasures before the frozen months. Welcome to the prelude of autumn. School children busy about their studies, football games, band practice, parents carpooling, traffic lines longer, and work schedules tightening after a lazier summer season.
This week my regular cooking classes start up again with 5 adults’, 4 children’s, and 1 adult/child class ahead of me. I am teaching this semester with the community college’s continuing education program plus 2 Saturday classes offered at a new venue, a local lavender farm. See more about these classes and where to sign up on my culinary class page. This weekend I worked on a recipe for photos for my crockpot apple cobbler. My Dean surely doesn’t mind being a taste tester. After that all-time record 10″ rain one night in late July, we realized our gutters needed new facia put in. So, Dean finished up the gutter project this weekend, replacing old facia boards that should have been done when a crew was hired last year for a new roof and gutters. That took 4 full days over the past few weekends to secure our cottage from these pop-up storms we have been experiencing.
Autumn is showing up in our neighborhood homes and shops, too. A prompting to shift my decor this week, an autumn wreath placed on the door, a leafy-print runner, amber lights, and pumpkins gracing the buffet. The perennials thickened up over the growing season. A trimming is needed before they come indoors early October, another project for this week. I plan to give away a few pots of houseplants as we have more than plenty. If you live in the metro St. Louis area and need greenery to warm up your home this winter, please let me know if you’d like a green houseplant such as a Boston fern, asparagus fern, spider plant, or philodendron. Each are in showy ceramic or terra cotta pots.
Summer Taking A Curtsy
Lazy daisy, dandelion days of summer are taking a curtsy,
Making way for golden rod, crispy air, and blowing winds.
Soon a final goodbye to the hummingbirds, butterflies so flirty.
With nectar-filled blooms giving a bow and then final bends,
Flowerheads wither, seeds scatter, food for the birdies.
An autumn canvas with yellow, orange, and red blends
Come after September’s rains and sunny days with certainty.
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.
This morning I walked 4 blocks to attend church at 7:00am and it already felt like a sauna. It is not even officially summer, and it is 100 degrees at noon today! Heat index is expected to be 115 degrees! Clouds are starting to build up like an afternoon storm. Yet no promise of cooler weather until Thursday according to the weather folks. Yesterday Dean brought in a hydrangea bloom with hues of pink, purple, and blue within the one flower. A gorgeous display to brighten the bathroom. This morning the hydrangeas were perky and showy but are wilting with heat stress at this afternoon hour. I am glad I watered the potted lobelia, cherry jolt dianthus, and coleus. Tomorrow morn I will need to include the hydrangeas. And glass of iced tea coming for me …
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.
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.
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.
Prayers, proposals, projects, lesson plans, puppy love, and plenty of laundry all in a week’s time. Last year it was a major yard project in building a rock and fountain garden as well as a pebble patio area and replanting some hydrangeas in the newly mulched area of the side yard. This year it is the sorting, then removal of home goods and furniture with major cleaning and sprucing up of my mother’s villa for the real estate market. Dean and I along with my brother and sister-in-law spent hours and hours of hard work these past 4 weeks. Carpentry, electrical, gardening, sorting, and scrubbing. Summer gave us the time for very purposed labor. The gift is one sparkling clean, revamped premium piece of real estate during a prime time market. We have prayed for the just right buyer and the St. Joseph statue is buried in the mum garden. “O Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers”.
Between jobs and the villa, we celebrated our youngest grandson’s first birthday last weekend and fostered the cutest rescue puppy ever for a week. I had wished we could have adopted him, but Dean and I aren’t ready for that long-term commitment yet. Peanut Butter goes to the loving home of Dean’s brother’s family. I believe these words ring true today that St. Francis shared many years ago. “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We hosted two ladies at our Airbnb cottage over the weekend, the first time since COVID hit our area. There is plenty of laundry and sanitizing this Monday. September’s lesson plans and my class proposal for the spring semester are due this week. My “Soups On!” class needs more students. Interested to learn how to make my Italian stone soup, chicken-vegetable noodle soup, and my famous potato soup? Sign-up at http://www.stchas.edu/learnforlife under culinary classes/seasonal favorites. Guess what, four contracts came in after the Open House on the villa this past weekend! And these contracts are for more than we asked for! Thank you, God and St. Joseph! My siblings and I decided on an attractive contract, and its being worked on as I blog.
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.
This has been an odd Spring thus far. It came and went and came back for just a few days, and now feels like Summer. Lately, I have not written much about the plant life. Believe me, Deanna Greens still exist, alive and ticking. My busyness is crash training my full-time job before retirement while starting another job working just part-time as a culinary instructor. Just one more week of this. My health requires me to go at things with a slower pace. The weekend warrior stuff is over. I was diagnosed with PVCs a month ago, and probably had them for awhile. I am still tending to my green friends, but not with such vigor as the recent years past. Winter wanted to stay longer, so we took an early spring vacation to the southern states of Arkansas and Texas. My lettuce and greens garden was sown about 4 weeks later than my usual. This week Dean and I finally picked our first greens of the season and had a scrumptious salad for lunch.
The blooms have been magnificent this Spring. Vivid shades of blues, purples, pinks, and reds. And so many of them on each bush or stem. Red bud, white dogwood, German bearded and blue flag irises, “Granny’s bonnet” columbines, Chinese peonies, and mustard & ketchup roses. Our green perennials of ferns, philodendrons, arrowheads, and purple heart went outdoors to join the beauty of the bright colors. I potted some red begonias and purple lobelias. The neighbors, too have a rainbow of colors in their yards. A long Winter seems to bring out the colors come Spring. It is this plant life that calms me.