Sunday, December 04, 2005

Corporal Blair

Thursday, Corporal Jonathon Blair, 21 years old, was laid to rest. I met him when he was just a toddler and I last saw him at a campfire by the river before he went to basic training.

My tears were for the loss of a young man. A young man who planned to marry his sweetheart and become a chef when he got back. A courageous young man killed by the terrorist cowards in Iraq. A young man full of laughter who invented veggie baseball at the river.

My tears were for his mother. A single mother who did a marvelous job raising a son. A mother who drove over 400 miles last September to give him another hug when his deployment was delayed two days. A mother who brought home medals instead of a son Thursday afternoon.

My tears were for the rest of his family. His grandmother and grandfather who helped raise him in his youngest years. His aunt, one of my best friends, who is grieving for herself and for her sister's incredible pain. His six-year-old niece who decided just to pretend that he was still alive.

My tears were for my son who wants to join the army, who only sees honor in a fallen soldier, especially a soldier honored by his comrades. My need to let my son go, make his own decisions, become his own man.

And as I followed the funeral procession, my tears were for the outpouring of respect and thankfulness by the community. Staff Sgt. John Beville, who trained Blair and served with him during his first stint in Iraq, said "I wish all soldiers got this."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Going Overboard

Several years ago, I left my mop and bucket sitting in the hall outside the bathroom before my garden party. This week, I left my To Do list sitting on the counter. My niece Laura and sister-in-law Terri had a laugh about one item that wasn't crossed off: Scrub laundry sink and wipe down laundry walls.

Contrary to all Flylady's mandates, I do go overboard in cleaning when I have a party. It's my way to do the spring/fall cleaning. There are downsides to this approach, other than being exhausted when your guests arrive. My husband announced that, the next time I entertain a large gathering, he and boys would be leaving for a week. They enjoy hosting and would show up for the party though. OK, perhaps I stress out a little and perhaps I become demanding and perhaps my sense of perspective is skewed. I don't care. I love having people in my house.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Enough whoopses already

Thursday afternoon, hubby was warming the car while I finished my hair on the way to Thanksgiving dinner at my inlaws. The boys were dressed and waiting. I heard an outburst and started for the front room. Hubby stopped me. "You don't want to go out there." Scary words. When I worked up the nerve, I saw droplets of milk on the living room ceiling, milk dripping down the living room walls, milk covering the piano, milk on the carpet, milk on the leather chair and even milk on the french doors in the dining room. Seems Ron was drinking a glass of milk, not in the living room which is against the rules, but on the very edge. He decided that he would stop his twin brother from wrestling with the dog with one hand while holding the drink with his other hand. Well, brother didn't like it and responded by kicking out with his leg not knowing his brother had a glass of milk.

I decided to cook the turkey today since the oven would be busy with ham, dressing, bread, etc. for my family's Thanksgiving here tomorrow. Ricky was helping by thoroughly cleaning the range. He removed the burners and knobs and did a good job cleaning. I was mopping the floor, and gave him the (rather clear, I think) instructions to spray and wipe the oven door. When I checked his progress, I discovered he had somehow turned on the Clean oven switch and the oven door was locked, charring a 20+ pound turkey. The outburst, this time, was mine. Hubby finally managed to get the door unlocked and the turkey proceeded to cook normally.

A few hours late, Ricky cleaned the refrigerator for me. He took all the food out, threw away the mysteries, and wiped everything down with soapy warm water with a little bleach. As he put the food back, he announced how he was organizing the food. I went over and opened the door preparing to praise him, when the bar that holds the bottles on the shelf in the door fell out along with the bottles. Only the very large, almost full glass bottle of hot sauce broke splattering sauce and glass shards all over the kitchen. By now, I just had to laugh. Seems he thought the bar was removable and it broke. He pressed it in place but that doesn't work too well with plastic.

I'm a few hours behind schedule for tomorrow's influx of relatives (31 in all), but I know they won't care if I don't do everything on my list. I am so thankful for my family. I'm even thankful for my teenage boys.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Prayer Request

Yesterday several soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne were killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad. They knocked on the door of my friend last night. She refused to open it at first, but that won't change the fact her son will be forever 21 years old. RIP, Jon, you grew up to be an honorable man.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Important Scientific Information

I just discovered an important scientific study from MIT that is not getting the press it deserves. Please go here and read carefully.

First Snow

It snowed yesterday, with a strong biting wind. I worked yesterday. Luckily, I had some indoor work to do - cataloguing the plants in the garden beds, documenting plans for next year's garden, and researching the history of the garden.

It has been a warm, dry fall. Not best for the plants, but wonderful for someone who is working outside for the first time in her life.

Here's another picture of the garden. This is on the lower east side of the garden with a sitting bower to the left and the lake behind it. My plan is to plant this bed more densely and to group the plants for more of a dramatic effect.

Mama Bear Restrained

One of the hardest things for me to do as the boys approach manhood is to shackle my mama bear instincts. Several nights ago at dinner I asked about their day. Ron, with a fleeting expression of pain and disappointment, told me that he was not going to be the basketball manager this year. He was led to believe by the coach that he would continue this position from last year and I was there when the new coach told him he didn't have to attend try-outs. When Ron asked the coach about the scrimmage game this Friday, the coach told him that he wasn't the manager as it was given to one of the boys who attended try-outs.

OK, so the coach can select whomever he wants for this position. Just don't mislead the boys. Just play fair. Just give him a valid reason. I was ready to contact this man and ask some questions, but when I suggested it to Ron as we said prayers that evening, Ron told me to drop it. I think he was pleased that his mama was so much on his side, but he doesn't need his mama to step in anymore.

I'm so proud of how he has handled this. I know he hurts, but no one else would know. He decided not to ask about the decision, but go on with his life. A friend who teaches high school told me once that some kids just have to survive high school and then blossom as adults. Nonetheless, I think it is important for the boys to be involved in school activities, to belong to a group, and I hope (pray) he finds his niche.

Thursday Three

Here's today's Thursday Three from Terry.

1) If you had an unlimited amount of money, what sort of house would you like to have?
This is the hardest question. For certain, I'd spend more money on the land than on the house. The house would overlook the sweeping vista of a valley (all mine!), surrounded by old growth timber, wildflower meadows, lakes, rivers, swamps. Can I also throw in a desert and ocean? I thought I knew about the house until Terry linked to the Gamble House. So in this Arts and Crafts style, my house would have two angled wings connected to the main house by glass enclosed, heated and cooled, covered walkways overlooking the gardens. One wing would be mine and the other wing would be my husband's. My wing would include a conservatory, craft room, multimedia room, and library. Hubby's wing would probably include a woodworking shop and his library. It's not that we don't love to spend time together, but we need room to spread our stuff.

2) If you decided to chunk it and go the full Thoreau route, what sort of hovel would you like to have?
Probably not much different from Thoreau - cabin in the woods. It would be a wildflower woods and have a river running by it instead of a pond.

3) What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the house or apartment you live in right now?
One thing! You're kidding, Terry. We remodeled about six years ago after much thought and deliberation, but there are still things I would change. Since this is one sentence, I'm going to count it as one thing (don't you love colons, semicolons and parentheticals!): make the boys' bedrooms larger; change the entryway; include a baking center in the kitchen; at least double the size of the laundry room; use wood flooring; add soffits to better define the open living space; enlarge the closets; and add more storage. Don't even get me started on the outside.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Urban Experience

Chicago. Saturday night. Somewhere near Garfield Park. Hip Hop Poet night at an urban church. Several groups performing. Request goes out for a male and a female volunteer. A young black female volunteers. Another call for a man. A skinny 16-year-old boy stands. Mouths drop in disbelief at this white boy in glasses. They shrug, motion him forward and hand him the microphone and tell him to rap about his glasses. "Nah, breakdancing." And off he goes. Brings the house down.

This is the story related to me, his mother, by several people when I picked Ricky up from the mission trip to Chicago. No, he didn't breakdance (surprise!) but he sure rapped about it.

All Saints Day

We celebrated All Saints Day this morning at church by displaying the names of those who died during the last year, by communion (with the saints) and by lighting a candle in their memory. This is the picture I shared of my mother.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A Typical (?) Friday

What shall I post about on this quiet fall morning? Another chapter of The Slaughterer? Where the boys are? A Night at the River? OK, here's a recap of yesterday.

The boys are on fall break and headed separate ways. I dropped Ricky off at the church at 8:30 for a missions trip to Chicago. They are taking the bus to South Bend to catch the South Shore train and then taking a city bus to First Church of the Brethren near Garfield Park. This church has an active missions program and Ricky will be doing some type of work project on Saturday, with a "cultural event" Saturday evening. He blew hot and cold about going on this trip (if you have an image of teenage uproar in our house for several days, you are right), but I have a strong sense that this trip will change him more than anyone he serves. He called in the evening to let us know he got there and that he loves us. The call was unexpected and sweet.

After I dropped him off, I headed to work. I was planting tulip bulbs in the West Arbor Bed, when fellow sane gardener whispered, "I think The Slaughterer is in the gentians." I ran across the garden and found three out of the four transplants in her wheelbarrow. I let out several pathetic mews. "My gentians, my sweet gentians!" She felt truly sorry, but how could she have not known? She suggested they be planted there, they were in sunken pots (which she said was confusing), and they were surrounded with stakes and a chain. I dug them out of the wheelbarrow and replanted them, but they are extremely difficult to transplant and the seeds I had oh so gently shaken onto the soil were lost. Of all I've done in these gardens this fall, I was most pleased with the gentians.

I raced home, fed Ron and took him to his weekend activity - Go Mad - sponsored by Youth of Christ. This is essentially a weekend of games and fun with some devotions which caused his twin the angst about having to work in Chicago while his brother played. And why did they ever name this event Go Mad? Say it aloud. That's the last thing teenage boys need to be reminded of.

Then I raced across town, picked up some Subway sandwiches and met hubby and friends for a campfire at the river. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the evening. And hubby and I have a




Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fall Gardening at Wildflower Woods

I know it's been a while since I last posted and this may be cheating, but I've been asked to write a garden article for the site's newsletter. Here's the inaugral article for my column called "Under the Arbor."

With a riotous backdrop of chrysanthemums, asters, sedums and cosmos and the sound of school children touring the garden, the gardeners have been busy this fall getting the Formal Garden ready for winter.

Before the heavy frost and snows, most beds have been weeded. The west Arbor bed has been readied for renovation next spring. With deep shade, competition from the wisteria vines and lack of irrigation, this bed was overtaken by wildings, to use a Gene Stratton Porter term. Others may call these wildings weeds, but a weed is only a plant where it doesn’t belong. Wild ginger was running rampant in the arbor bed, but it is a delightful plant along the paths in the woodlands.

Fall is also the time for planting. We are planting spring bulbs, but this fall we had a very special addition to the garden. One of the Board members discovered that a large bed of fringed gentians were in danger of being destroyed by a gravel pit. We dug four plugs, about six inches square, and transplanted them near the flagpole. They were planted in sunken pots filled with gravel, in order to mimic natural conditions. Since fringed gentians are biennial, with seeds germinating into small plants the first year and blooming the next year, we may not see their fragile blue blooms again for two years if we were successful in this tricky transplant.

Seeds have been collected to plant next spring with the extra seeds packaged for sale in the gift shop, benefiting the Society. We are attempting this winter, for the first time, to save the especially beautiful or rare tender annuals by pottings or cuttings. These annuals are spending their winter in the big bay window at the farmhouse.

Many bulbs have been dug and dried on screens in the Garden Shed (reminiscent of The Harvester) before being stored in the cool, dark farmhouse basement for the winter. These include gladiolas, begonias, canna lily, peacock orchid, and dahlias.

The hardy plants overwinter in the garden. Some have been cut back, but those with attractive foliage or seed heads remain intact, as they are especially beautiful in winter laden with snow.

Perhaps the best part of fall gardening is planning for the next season. We have inventoried the plants in the formal garden beds, noted what works well and what hasn’t thrived. We then cross-referenced the existing plants with the plant list maintained by Gene Stratton Porter from 1912 through 1922. And we talk about the “what ifs.” What if we plant these in drifts for more impact? What if we revive the yellow bed, perhaps adding this plant? What if we make part of the herb bed into an herbal tea garden? What if we outline these beds to draw the eye to the layout? What if we move this to the rock garden? What if we add some cabbage roses to the rose bed? What if? What if?

If you have some “what if” ideas to share, now is the time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
—Oscar Wilde

All By Myself

Remember when your toddler wanted to do it "all by myself?" Nothing changes when that toddler becomes a teenager. While the boys constantly test the limits of "all by myself," life is easier now that they independently mow the lawn, cook dinner (their menu of course), do the dishes, sweep the floor, do their own laundry. I'm afraid we will get used to this and then they will be gone and we will have to do it "all by ourselves" again.

Ron signed up to bring cookies to school today. Last night, as I was leaving the house for a meeting, he asked me if two sticks of butter equaled a cup. When I got home, he had stirred up and baked a large batch of chocolate chip cookies to take to school. He even pointed out that he washed the baking dishes and wiped the counter. That sure beats me staying up late to bake treats for school.

This morning, Ricky asked me when he could bake cookies "all by myself." Hmmm, Christmas baking may have gotten a whole lot easier.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Wisteria Hysteria

School was out due to teachers' inservice (they never had these when I went to school!) and Ron came with me to work about a week after I stopped the Slaughterer from cutting the supporting above-ground roots off the venerable wisteria. When we arrived at the gardens around 9 am, I found the Slaughterer standing in a large hole swinging an axe underneath the arbor. In the middle of the hole was a large root, all that remained of a hundred year old vine. Without asking, Ron hopped in the hole and took over the axe. To my horrified "That vine was still alive!", she replied, "It was getting in the way of the beautiful clematis."

It's been several weeks and things have calmed down around the arbor...but there are stories to be told about her love affair with invasive plants.

Pick up some quantum dots while you're at the store, honey

This is such a fun thing to consider: the end of light bulbs and the start of light dots.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Wisteria Histeria - Continued

When we last left Slaughterer, she was randomly attacking the wisteria vines. Next, though, she gets down and dirty.

The arbor, designed by Gene Stratton Porter, is about 200 feet long, made of rustic logs over a stone path. She planted wisteria, trumpet vine and Tara vine. Wisteria is a hardy plant once established, (thank goodness-that's my only hope!) and her original vines were still there when the garden was rennovated in the 1950s. The bed along the west side of the arbor was overgrown with weeds and invasive ground cover. It is shady in the morning and sunny in the afternoon and there is intense water competition with the wisteria. We decide to clean the bed out and start over. The plan is to mulch 2/3 of the bed where the wisteria is planted and to replant the other third with suitable plants. (That means I haven't decided yet what to plant!)

As we clean up the bed, we discover lots of runners and suckers from the wisteria. "Sure, Slaughterer, it's ok to cut off that growth." But she cannot forget her intense hatred for this vine and starts pulling up the smaller top roots and calling them runners. I explain the difference (and she is has almost attained the status of Advanced Master Gardener) and once again think I have the situation under control....

until I look up and see her with a bow saw poised to cut an extremely large root running along the arbor which provides not only nutrition to the vine but also support.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wisteria Hysteria

I was warned. Eddie warned me when he first talked to me about this job. He needed someone to guard the garden as he couldn't be there all the time. He told me several horror stories about one of the part-time gardeners, including the time she started randomly cutting the thick trunks of the 100 year old wisteria covering a long arbor, the showpiece of the garden. The gardener then justified her actions to Eddie claiming the top foliage was dead, even though the vine was very much alive until she snipped it off. Of course, at 80 years old she couldn't climb up and remove the entangled, now dead, vines.

But I was enchanted by the garden, the site, the history of the garden and the challenge of restoring it. And I wasn't too concerned about this gardener because I've managed people for many years, some who were very difficult.

Oh, but my eyes have been opened.

The first week was uneventful. The next week, when I got to work, I discovered that she (hereinafter known as Slaughterer) had been pruning the wisteria for over an hour. Slaughterer has an interesting pruning technique, reaching up and snipping the middle of any vine that catches her eye, even though these plants are mature enough to have clearly defined collars where the vine leaves the trunk. The other gardener, a gentle woman in her 70s, was ineffectively trying to stop her. Slaughterer emphatically stated how much she disliked wisteria. I managed to convince her to take a break and we went into the garden shed (an original structure) to research how to prune wisteria. We agreed (I thought) not to prune it until after it bloomed and to contact the horticulture guru at the Extension for guidance.

On my way back to the garden, I happened to see Eddie and filled him in on the morning's murderous activity. He meandered over as we were discussing how to apply what we just learned to the arbor wisteria. While we were filling him in (and I subtly set-up Slaughterer to respond so she would have some ownership in the decisions), she reached over his head and snipped another vine! And then she reached over my head to snip a vine. Was I going to have to tackle this woman to keep her from mutilating if not killing the cherished arbor plantings?

The saga continues. More tomorrow.

I was reticent to blog about this at first, thinking it was resolved, but after a month, my gardening gloves are off. I have little hope that the story has ended yet.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Watch Out World

Ron has his driver's license as of an hour ago and he's just itching to drive without a parent. Our challenge now is to make him understand that a driver's license does not mean he can drive anytime, anywhere he wants. It also does not mean that we will give him his own set of keys.

Rick's broken hand slowed his driving progress a bit. He drove home the day the cast was removed. It was drizzling and he hadn't driven for over a month and it was rush hour. As we pulled up to a stoplight, a car stopped beside us and the driver gave us an angry look for the slow and rather erratic driving. Then he smiled as he saw the young man behind the wheel and the mother griping the dashboard.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I was so struck by the way this grass and the mums complement each other, that I mentioned it to a girlfriend on the phone. She told me to post the picture. Next year, I'll move the mums next to the grass. There is a large bed of pink and white cosmos inbetween. They fell over in the last windstorm so the scene is not really as pretty as it looks in the picture. I think I'll clean it up and put some pumpkins there. Following are more pictures from my October garden. Posted by Picasa

This is one variety of Toad Lily in my garden. This is a lighter color than the other Toad Lily and it blooms along the stem while the other one sends up flowers on small stems. Posted by Picasa

Here's the other Toad Lily variety. It's next to my front step and easy to see these small, unusual flowers. Posted by Picasa

My garden in October. I like the way the repetition of the sedums draws the eye through the garden. I also like how the color of the grass heads picks up the color of the sedum. Posted by Picasa

Blackberry Lily seed pods in front of Sedum Posted by Picasa

Fringed Gentian

It is the week for rare sitings. Yesterday at work we were called to rescue a colony of fringed gentians from a gravel pit operation. I took my camera to work but forgot to bring it to the gravel pit, so you will have to settle for an Internet photo. It is a biannual so we tried to find some first year plants and we tried to find some seed pods. We did not take the whole colony but five large plugs.

The transplants are in a holding bed now and I will try to recreate their natural habitat tomorrow. They like a sunny location that is consistently damp but well-drained, which is why you find them in sand/gravel next to water. The site has damp/well-drained locations but they are all in the shade. I'm thinking about burying a large tub in one of the gardens with several drain holes with the bottom filled with gravel and a thin layer of rich topsoil. We will have to water it frequently but I hope the tub will help keep it damp. They have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizae fungi so I took a lot of soil with the transplants and hope the fungi is present. I also determined that you can buy the fungi but there are over 2500 types of mycorrhizae fungi so it may be difficult to add this to the soil.

It would be nice to have fringed gentians in Gene Stratton Porter's garden as it was her favorite swamp plant and is mentioned in many of her books.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


This is not a comment heavy blog; probably because someone has to read it first before commenting. The exception are the spammers. I'm tired of deleting comments. I have a rather full life outside of my blog and comment spam is an irritant I don't need. So I just added a small barrier to commenting. You have to verify you are human by entering a squiggly word.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Osprey Sitings

Osprey are endangered in Indiana and two years ago chicks were reintroduced but not in this area. So it was with great excitement last night that Steve and I observed an osprey take off from the river bank, circle over the riverboat and head downriver . We watched it land and as we went downstream, it took off again. Tonight Steve was on the river and sited the osprey again. Both sitings were at dusk on the St. Joseph River north of Leo.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Growing Up

Rite of Passage

Is the pursuit of moron projects hardcoded into men? Son comes up with a new moron project every day...all involving $200 cars. Of course, every $200 car needs a neon shift knob and an amplifier in the trunk. I'm beginning to think tearing apart an old car is a rite of passage into manhood and perhaps we need to let him clear a space in the barn for it.

The Magic Gardener

Yesterday a visitor strolled through the formal garden at the Wildflower Woods while I was rescuing peonies from the feral ravages of ginger. The visitor, who read Gene Stratton Porter's books when she was young, was pretending to be walking through The Magic Garden. I pretended to be an old Italian male gardener to enhance her fantasy. With my marked lack of ability to talk in an accent, I think I managed to destroy the moment for her.

I haven't read her books since I was young. Her first books were nature studies and they didn't sell too well. So she decided to wrap the nature studies in a treacly plot and became a best-selling author, rivaling Jack London at the time. I will read the books this time to garner clues about the garden plantings.

The pictures are in the upper west end of the bed. I spent the first week cleaning quack grass out of the bed on the left and then started on the bed on the right. In the top picture you can see in the foreground the ginger overrunning the peonies. Other wildflowers have been allowed in this bed, such as the tall Joe Pye weeds and violets. The round bed in the center is suppose to be the blue bed, but is more orange and yellow now. These are just 3 of the 35 beds in the formal garden. The garden really is lovely. I just chose to start in the beds that needed the most work.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I'm trying to work and all I can think about is my husband in his maternal grandmother's hospital room, while I'm at home with a sick son. She is surrounded by her family, who is waiting and waiting and waiting. They anointed this 91-year-old woman seven hours ago and gave her last rites.

But I'm not thinking about that now. I'm remembering Grandma and what a character she is. The day before our wedding, I received a call from my future mother-in-law, asking if it was OK if Grandma wore a purple jump suit and white boots to the wedding. Of course! I think her daughter was mortified, but I knew Grandma always looked great. She wore purple as an old woman long before the Red Hat Society and without having to read Jenny Joseph's poem. She lived a colorful life, on her own terms, mortifying her daughter for over 70 years. I love that woman. Peace, Grandma.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Showcase Garden

One of the cabin guides told me yesterday that Gene Stratton Porter wrote that she wanted her formal gardens to be "the showcase of Indiana. So you have to make the garden showy, Earth Girl."

Luckily she is not in any chain of command, but everyone has their own idea of what the garden should look like. Ok, I'll admit it, even me. There has been little design direction over the last ten or so years so people are invested in their vision of the garden which they have created in a bed or two. The result is chaos, not in the structural layout or bones of the garden, but with the plants or flesh of the garden. Your eye doesn't know where to go; there is no unity in the design; each bed has a focal point; you have no sense of the layout, the plantings do not lead you through the beds of the garden. And many plants are not from 1912-1922 when the original garden was planted.

With good bones, healthy plants, good soil, and hardworking gardeners, I am thrilled to tackle the design challenge and making others at the site enthused about the direction. It has the potential to be the showcase of Indiana, even if it is not too showy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tacky Tuesday

Nina is talking about a regular feature on her blog. I have been toying with Tacky Tuesday since May. The idea was to post pictures of tacky landscaping and write wonderfully snarky posts about it. All summer I have been noting subject matter for this feature but have been too reserved to stop the car and take the picture. I would also invite others to submit photos to me for consideration. Tacky landscaping would not be the overgrown messes that come from not caring, but rather landscaping that has taken considerable thought, energy and money to achieve their tackiness. It's getting late in the season to start this effort, but what do you think?

Of course, I doubt if I will find anything so wonderfully and inadvertently tacky as this picture I recently found under "Don't DO That" link on the Renegade Gardener's website. Click through on the links to read his comments.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


With great joy, Ron reported to me that he found his car...for only $200! (Yes, that is the right number of zeros.) He plans to fix it up and then let me drive it. I'm such a lucky Mom.


I worked at a large insurance/reinsurance company for 31 years. Last week I started working as a gardener at a state historic site. Here are some things I've noticed. This is the first time I haven't worn panty hose to work. This is the first time I take a shower after work instead of before work. This is the first time I've ever had to pack a lunch. This is the first time I take a raincoat instead of an umbrella. This is the first time I've ever worn gloves and a hat at work. (My image is of a properly dressed woman in 1960, but think ball cap and garden gloves.)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Pork Busting in Indiana

I'm going to try my hand at Pork Busting. Here's an explanation of this effort.

After reviewing the various potential pork projects in Indiana and, more specifically Allen County, I am registering the $8.8 million (#2346) to extend Maplecrest Avenue. They already extended it to I469 to the north and it stops at the river to the south, so what are they planning now and how does it relate to FEDERAL highways? Whatever the plan, either fund it locally or drop it.

I am very inclined to list the following items , but do not know enough about Indianapolis to make a call that this is true pork.

$12,280,000 (#2189) in the Federal Highway budget for Indianapolis Convention Center Redevelopment Project, which is $1 million more than the I69 Evansville to Indianapolis construction! This project includes street resurfacing, pedestrian walkways, streetscape improvement, signals, plaza improvements and pedestrian bridges.

$5,720,000 (#3531) for "downtown road improvements" - which downtown and what improvements? I don't think this is Indianapolis as there is a separate entry of $4,500,000 (#4155) for downtown road improvements in Indianapolis and ANOTHER entry for $6 million (#4182)for "downtown road improvements" in Indianapolis in addition to the over $12 million for the conventions center and $5 million (#4181) to remove the Market Street Ramp and streetscaping..

While we are reviewing pork earmarked for Indianapolis (which has fewer pigs than any other county in the state), let's look at bus facilities: $11, 704,000 for a downtown Indianapolis transit center plus a separate entry of $4,000,000 (#544) for the same item, $1,672,000 (#220) for IndySmart program (what is this?), $4,180,000 (#235) for Indy IvyTech multi-modal facility, $11,740,00 (#378) plus $836,000 (#417) for multi-modal at the Children's Museum. I smell almost $62 million of bacon here.

A drop in the bucket, but why does Fishers need Federal money to "construct multi-use pathways"?


Monday, September 12, 2005


I volunteered at the extension this morning - "This is Earth Girl, Master Gardener, returning your call about..." Anyway, I learned a new word used in academia (of all places!) - actionize. So I'm actionizing my intent to blog.

Just now, I was hitting the "next blog" button on the top right of every blogger screen and I read an entry by a young cashier who got a call from "from lost control; you know, the people who try to prevent theft." Good idea! Put every person who has a proven skill in losing control into one department and make it easier on the rest of us.

Then I hit the "next blog" button again and read the following entry. A wee bit of observation would show that cows don't chase people. Bulls, yes.
i may have a totally ungrounded and irrational fear of cows. they arent cute. they arent nice. i dont want to pet them. they are shifty-eyed and unpredictable. you never know what they could do next. one minute it could be happily chewing grass, they next you could be mauled. i've heard of it, cow maulings. when i was in high school our cross country course meandered through these rolling hills where cattle were always grazing. and, OK, so no one got mauled. or even chased. but I was convinced the cows were going to chase me.

No more "next blogs" for me. I'll stick to link lists if I decide to surf the blogosphere again.

Update: A friend sent me the following in an email.
By the way, folks have funny ideas about 'cows.' For some a cow is any bovine...then there are people who think if it has horns it's a bull. What I didn't get about that blog was the thing about the eyes...cow's eyes seem almost mournful to me. But I spent a lot of time around steers, whose main job was to fatten up. No wonder they seemed sad

Here's the layout of the Formal Garden. Posted by Picasa

Historic Gardener

For the last five years, I have either been retired or a stay-at-home-Mom, although with teenagers without drivers licenses, there has been very little staying at home. I do freelance work for a little income and to keep my skills sharp (and will continue to do so).

As of this week, I am on the state payroll as an intermittent employee. I will be taking care of the gardens at the Gene Stratton Porter State Historic site in Rome City, Indiana. Gene called it her "Cabin in the Wildflower Woods" with over 100 acres of fields, woods and gardens along the shores of Sylvan Lake.

I will be working in the Formal Garden plus other beds throughout the site. [And with the site's small staff (well, they are really full-sized but there are few of them), I've already been told that I will be tapped for other things.] The "bones" of the formal garden are authentic, having been extricated from overgrowth about thirty years ago with the stones outlining the beds still in place and some of the arbor's wisteria still alive. With 35 beds in the formal garden, plus beds at the entrance to the site plus landscaping around the house, plus a water garden, I think I will be busy enough.

Even though this job is a small step up from being a volunteer, I am excited about the prospects. I can't wait to get my hands on the files to research the historic aspects of the garden to ensure there is integrity in the garden. The house and woods have been conserved, but a lot of modern plants have crept into the garden - primarily to please tourists who want to see something blooming no matter when they visit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What are you reading?

Here are a few of the books I read this summer.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder - I strongly recommend this book about Dr. Paul Farmer and his work with infectious diseases in Haiti and other countries. While I'll never be a Paul Farmer, he encouraged me to not give up even if the situation seems insurmountable.

Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi - This novel is over ten years old so you may have read it already. I almost set it down because I didn't want to read about a zwerg (dwarf) in Hitler's Germany, but I'm glad I kept reading as it taught me that everyone needs to figure out how to handle whatever it is that makes us different.

The Pilots Wife by Anita Shreve - Not in the same class as the other two books, but a good page-turner.

I enjoy detective novels. My all time favorite is Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. I've discovered that I like an impertinent but intelligent, wise guy character (Archie). That's part of the reason I also enjoy Nelson DeMille's character John Corey in Plum Island and The Lion's Game. I was looking forward to reading James Patterson as I've heard him favorably mentioned. I read two of his novels this summer, Cat and Mouse and The Big Bad Wolf, and was disappointed in both, probably because they were too graphic and too far-fetched. I was pleasantly surprised by a compendium of mystery stories written by Dorothy Sayers.

Of course, I skated through the last Harry Potter book, but am trudging through The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. I agree with a lot and I disagree with a lot of what Berry has to say, but these essays make me think and I like his writing style.
These are the books that were recently recommended to me. If you have read them, would you recommend them?
Blue Virgin by Tracy Chevalier - My friend Mary recommended this book and she rarely steers me wrong. Here's the Amazon description which calls it "clunky," but I enjoyed Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd: A Novel
by Jim Fergus - Another friend that has given me great book tips (Peace Like a River, Girl Meets God) recommends this story. Would this be called alternate-history since a Cheyenne chief really did propose to trade 1000 horse for 1000 white women?

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson - I understand that this is an excellent book, especially about fathers and sons, although the premise wouldn't indicate it.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride - I don't know the person who recommended this book (it was through my husband's work at the writing center), so if you have read it, let me know what you think.
As we head into the fall and winter months (prime reading seasons just like spring and summer), do you have any book recommendations for me?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What's happening here

I've had blog posts rolling around my head for several days now, but just haven't had the time to write.

Here's an edit I made to a newsletter job recently.
Submitted copy: ...a quick and easy way to impact your cost mitigation agenda.
Revised copy: ...a quick and easy way to reduce costs.
So, as you can imagine, this project is taking longer than anticipated.

School started yesterday. My sophomore sons came home brimming with good cheer, burbling about the classes, the teachers, their friends. I am so blessed not to have sullen teenagers, although they have their moments.

Date Update: The girl never returned Ron's call, despite his follow-up calls. She always had to go somewhere or do something and would call him back. So he has not yet had a first date. Instead he and his brother went to an early movie and then shopping at the mall to spend their birthday money. We are a little relieved because we now think 16 is still too young to date, but I wish the girl would have had the courtesy to tell him yes or no. I guess she still needs to learn how to decline a date graciously.

Garden is looking fine for late August except for the damage done by the dastardly grasshoppers. We are having a plague!

I'll try to post about the canoe saga, involving a transient and the sheriff, soon. (This teaser probably overstates the drama.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cheap Hope

I clicked on a link to an article about hope and severe back pain because my sister has been suffering from back pain for some months. I wasn't prepared for the insight, wisdom, personal applicability of the article. Go read about Cheap Hope written by Dr. Stuntz, a professor at Harvard Law School.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sweet Sixteen

The twins turn 16 tomorrow. Every year is the "last" year for a party. So we are having a few guys over for swimming, movies, pizza, and games. Even though they are spending the night, it is no longer called a sleepover 'cause that is for kids.

"No dating until you are 16" has been our long-standing rule. Since they will have male guests when they turn 16, Ron asked a girl to a movie and dinner the next night. He didn't waste any time and all his father and I can do is look at each other in confusion. Of course, Mom has to drive and the girl hasn't accepted yet. He's trying to determine where to take her for dinner. "It has to be a nice place but not too nice." He decided against Burger King and is leaning toward a Chinese restaurant.

Oh, and he asked for money for his birthday to finance this date. He'll soon discover that dating can be expensive in several ways.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bouquets du jour

To balance the last snarky post, let me describe the two bouquets I picked today.

On my table is a delightful bouquet in shades of lavender and purple in a little antique jar Hubby bought me years ago. Cosmos. Phlox. Butterfly Bush. On my pantry is a bouquet of pink and yellow glads in a tall green art vase that was a gift from my staff one boss' day.

It is amazing how these spots of beauty can charm and soothe me.

Paypal Sucks

I like to shop online but I ALWAYS have trouble with PayPal. It has something to do with using Firefox, my cookies settings (but that should be resolved) and perhaps my firewall. Well, someone just lost an online sale!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Blog Links

As I wrote previously (which I now cannot easily find), I do not agree with the conventional wisdom for linking blogs to generate traffic as it assumes the goal of my blogging is to get more readers. I link to those sites I find interesting because those who read my blog may also find the sites interesting. Many of the measures of a site's traffic rely on counting links, so the more people who link to your site, the higher you are ranked.

This is an excellent post about linking, the bias in current metrics and the forces behind links. The core issue, as I see it, is that the blogosphere is not homogeneous, just like the print media is not. It would be like comparing such diverse print media as the NY Times, The American Poetry Journal, Garden Design, JAMA, the monograph Game Theory, Optimal Stopping, Probability and Statistics, Farmers Almanac, and the local shoppers newsletter. Well, you get my point and I'm having too much fun finding print media to illustrate a point that was already made by Zephoria.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

"You sure are a good cook, Mrs. Earth Girl" said one of my son's friends to me. I thanked him with a spontaneous smile and a welling pride.

Yes, I am a good cook. I learned from the best - my mother - and then honed my skills through Joy of Cooking, experimentation, observation and experience. Some of the dishes I prepared last week were pasta with pesto, chicken, and red peppers; spinach and ham quiche; apple coleslaw; polenta with portabello mushrooms; orange chicken salad. None qualify as gourmet, I suppose, but all were healthy and delicious and appreciated by my family.

I enjoy getting an idea for a dish, reading several recipes and then creating my own version. I remember getting upset with my mother when I was first married because she couldn't give me her soup recipe. She made the best soups ever but each time it was different based on ingredients on hand and whatever captured her fancy. I understand now and employ some of her basic soup-making techniques (homemade stock, fresh ingredients, and seasonings other than just salt and pepper).

So I was pleased that this teenager noticed my cooking. But pride goeth before a fall. He then added, "You make the best macaroni and cheese." That dish, dear reader(s), was not my recipe using bechamel sauce and several types of cheese, but it was prepared by my son using the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Rewarding End

It is amazing how tranquil the home feels when it is organized.

Room 1
The boys' computer room also serves as the exercise room. The newly painted room is furnished with the computer desk and two chairs, exercise bike and mats, and three bookshelves. The very old and battered metal closet doors are discarded for an open storage area for their "stuff." Adding the rug, window treatment and some pictures completes the room for now, although I would like to change the window treatment at some point.

Room 2
The brass bed is in the larger bedroom with dresser, nightstand, bookshelf and desk. Today I purchased a new comforter and decorative pillow to complement the curtains. The pictures and accessories were hand selected by son, who has faithfully made his bed and picked up his laundry for about a week now. This is a small miracle. To complete the room all we need to do is hang the mirror.

Room 3
The other son has the twin bed and antique dresser. The room also includes a small desk and bookshelf. The closet is organized with 15 pairs of jeans and I didn't bother to count the shorts! His brother had a growth spurt first so he has all of his clothes plus his twin's hand-me-downs. Pictures are hung and the windows are finished. I still have a project to create a cosmic headboard for which I have all the material.

Perhaps I shouldn't be thinking about when we have an empty nest, but my plan is for one guest bedroom, a sewing/craft room for me and a room for hubby for exercise or whatever he wishes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Chaotic Middle

After buying the bed and dresser, we have four days to get the boys' rooms ready, two bedrooms and a computer room to de-junk. The plan is the normal pitch, donate or organize routine. Also Rick's bedroom is in great need of painting.

We start with Rick's room. Do you know how much stuff can be stuffed under a bed, stacked on the unused upper bunk and hidden in a closet? I commandeered the dining room table for sorting and stacking and the sitting room for holding what would be returned to the rooms. His empty laundry basket is soon brimming with "found" clothes. We carry bag after bag out to the garbage can and we start filling up boxes for the church's rummage sale. Hubby commences with leading the boys in painting, beginning with patching a few mysterious holes in the wall. As we paint, Ricky decides that he wants the computer room for his bedroom, so that is the next room to de-junk. The garbage can is overflowing, the boxes for the rummage sale stack up and we add more "treasures" to the dining room table to organize. Finally we tackle the last bedroom, resulting in the use of two back-up garbage cans.

If you think I'm exaggerating about the chaos, here is the proof. I almost didn't post these pictures because it was so bad. I couldn't bear to take pictures of the donations and the trash cans!

Innocent Beginning, Chaotic Middle, Rewarding End

The Innocent Beginning
It began so innocently. An elderly widowed neighbor sold her house and was having a sale. So I woke early one Friday and walked down to see what she had. Regardless of my efforts to simplify my possessions, who knows what treasures I would find?

The first quick perusal yielded nothing of interest. Then the daughter mentioned that they would be cleaning the attic that night and more stuff would be out...including an antique brass bed. I expressed interest as the twins needed new beds. They had outgrown their beds and I wanted something that could be used for a guest bedroom once they flew the coop.

So she took me upstairs. The bed was beautiful, though tarnished. It was dated 1913 and was her grandfather's bed. It is very masculine with massive brass columns. I bought it immediately before we even came downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs an antique dealer was waiting like a vulture ready to swoop in on his prey. He said he wanted to see the bed but it was already sold! This never happens to me. I went home pleased after arranging to pick it up the following Wednesday.

The next day I walked down again to see what the attic yielded. I missed a beautiful 100 year old dresser because it had been refinished in an ugly stain with ugly pulls. I decided to talk to Steve first who said "One twin can have the bed and the other twin the dresser." I returned immediately to announce I wanted to buy the dresser. The daughter acted a bit flustered as she was in final negotiations with another woman. I moaned and told them the two sons, two pieces of furniture story. The woman who was buying the dresser told me I could have it! She was buying it as an impulse for her entryway and I had a much better use for it. How sweet. Now I had a "new" piece of furniture for each bedroom.

And that was how my nightmare began. To foreshadow the Chaotic Middle, just imagine what two teenagers can cram into three bedrooms.

Template Update

I'm going to stick with this template for a while...until I have time to invest in the design I want. It is similar to this one, but it does not seem to work with Blogger. Of course, with freelance projects, school starting, my fall volunteer schedule, it may be a while before you see any changes.

Update: You may have to refresh the screen to have it display properly.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Template Changes

Just as I rearrange my furniture, I am rearranging my blog. Please bear with me as sometimes I move the furniture several times and then move it back to where it started.

The blogroll will be completed once the template changes are satisfactory. My old template would not publish the Titles so I had to add bold titles. Both show up on this template. Again I will make fixes after I find a "skin" I like.

Update: Now this post has no title.
Update 2: I tried several looks but couldn't get my favorite to work with blogger archives. More changes to come.


Yoop, you're right. We were "fudgies" in the UP. We camped on the shore of Lake Superior in Whitefish Bay, infamous for the number of shipwrecks, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. We had incredible weather for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - highs were in the 90s and lows were in the 50s. Usually the lake is much too cold to swim in, but it was bearable in the heat of the day. Of course, that didn't stop the twins from swimming until sundown.

I brought back quite a few stones for my garden, and have started planning (you know, that dream stage of planning) a new water feature - rocky stream and falls down the hill into the existing pond, with paths, low bridges and a bog garden.

Free speech for whom?

Free Speech as per ACLU - I can't say I'm surpised.

Aging Gracefully

I have been blessed to have personal role models for aging gracefully, but there are so few examples in the media. Here's an exception.

UPDATE: Nina talks about frumpiness in this post, physical but also intellectual and emotional, and here's an interesting site documenting "what it's really like to get older."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Next Vacation Clue

A few minutes after I snapped this shot of Ricky, a storm rolled in. And rolled is the operative word here. The low cylindrical cloud was spinning at an incredible speed across the lake, with a few tendrils dripping beneath it. You can't tell from the picture but it was very close to the lake and the other clouds were very high. When the spinning cloud reached us on the beach, the wind immediately reached 50 to 60 mph. Then it rolled over us and was gone.

This was a July storm; I wonder what it would be like "When the skies of November turn gloomy"?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

You could see the sunset right through the waves. Can you tell that I'm an earth girl, not sea girl, nor sky girl, as mesmerized as I am by the sun and water? Posted by Picasa

And I didn't photoshop the colors - this is what I saw. Posted by Picasa

Another cropped shot Posted by Picasa

Close-up Posted by Picasa

Clue Four: The sunsets last forever

I took quite a few pictures of the sunset through the waves. These are some of my favorite

Clue Three

Actually, not much more of a clue except the trees in the background. Ron asked for his own tent. When we got there, he promptly erected it and started the fire. He wasn't too comfortable sleeping, though, as he neglected to rid his tent site of pine cones before he set up the tent.

Vacation Clue Two

Here's another clue to where we were last week. This is Ricky after a long swim. Follow the path up the dune behind him and you will find our campsite. Hint: The sun is setting on his left, so he is facing which direction?

Did you know you could click the picture for a larger view?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Where Have I Been?

Quiz: Where have I been?
Using the clues from this picture, can you determine where we vacationed last week?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Up in a Swing

Through a link from Ocean, I found a poetry site and the poem of the day is one that my siblings and all of our children and grandchildren recite as they swing. It still evokes the thrill of swinging in the huge swing that Dad built us when I was child. I suspect Mom was appalled by the eyesore, but she never let us know since we took so much pleasure from the swing.

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Basil Deee-lish

Every time I walked past the basil in my garden (I used it as an ornamental plant), the scent was so deee-lish-us that I decided to harvest some today for supper. I made a pesto sauce and added it to pasta, broccoli and carrots. Mmmm, it was deee-lish-us.

So when Ricky sat down to the table, he wrinkled his nose and said, "I'm not eating any of that." It seems that teens decide on a whim what they like and don't like, whether it is food, clothes, activities. So rather than confront him with our old mantra, "You have to try it before you decide you don't like it," we took the tack of enthusiastic endorsement of his decision not to eat. Then we proceeded to eat our portions with much delight. Soon he had a helping on his plate, gushing about how good it was, and remarking on how nicely the table was set.
When I almost ran down Michigan's governor on vacation, I thought I heard her mutter something, but couldn't make it out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I have been using Hello by Picasa to post pictures. It has been quick and easy and dependable, but didn't give me enough flexibility in titling and layout. So I tried Blogger's photo tool in the Boreal Forest post below. It was easy and appeared to be flexible but took a LONG time to download the pictures. I messed with the text so that the paragraphs aligned with the pictures just so and then published. What happened? Photos moved next to each other and text wrapped funny. I wonder if it appears different on different browsers and settings. So do I stay with Picasa or use Blogger or search for another photo tool or just forget photos?


Driving Update
Driver's training is done. One son is doing well and the other needs more practice. Here's a clue to which son is which.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Boreal Forest

The boys went on a trip with their youth group last Thursday through Saturday so Steve and I took that opportunity to have our first vacation alone in over ten years. We headed north, north to the woods, north to the rivers. Specifically, we went to the Pine River in northern Michigan, about a six hour drive.

Thursday afternoon we set up camp (the Taj Mahal) next to the river in Manistee National Forest and purchased a permit to canoe the Pine River for the following day.

Then we headed even further north. First stop was at the Cherry Hut in Beulah for some world famous cherry pie. We would have avoided it as a tourist trap except we read about it in the Sunday magazine. As we were walking to our table, I had a close encounter with Michigan's Governor Granholm as she was leaving; yes, I ran right into her. I'm just glad it happened on the first day of the trip instead of the last day, as primitive camping means primitive bathing.

And then on to our destination - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

"From here you can see several of the National Lakeshore's key features including the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands. The names of these features have their origin in American Indian legend. Ojibway Indians tell of a mother bear with two cubs on Lake Michigan’s far shore. Forced into the lake by a forest fire, they tried to swim across but the cubs tired and drowned just short of this shore. The saddened mother climbed a high bluff, turned, and lay down to watch for her cubs. Manitou, the Great Spirit, took pity and reclaimed the cubs, transforming them into the Manitou Islands. He saved the mother as the Sleeping Bear Dune, still watching her cubs."

The little signs mark the restricted nesting area for the endangered piping plovers. They nest on this little spit of land plus one place on Lake Superior. The last time we were here with the boys, a researcher was watching the nests with a telescope and she let us look at the nests and birds. Since then we have followed the fate of these shore birds with interest.

Steve was making interesting patterns in the wet sand as the sun set. Our pockets were full of rocks. I started it and when my pockets were so full I had use both hands to hold my shorts up, Steve asked me what I was going to do with them. I explained my idea for a water feature in the garden using the rocks we have collected on vacations through the years. He then started collecting the most interesting rocks.

Friday morning we got up early and staged the canoes for a four hour paddle down the Pine River. I can't describe the beauty of this river as it cuts through the pine forest, sand dunes and flower-filled meadows. The current is fast with some white water to make it challenging. Well, it challenged me enough that I ended up in it. I made a mistake and scared us both, but emerged unscathed. We came across four biologists studying the fish population since the removal of the dam and creation of a quarter mile riparian buffer zone. The result is a very scenic and fast river, and improved fish population.

Saturday morning we broke camp and drove an hour north to canoe the Platte River, a fast and gentle river that dumps into Lake Michigan. It was crowded but there still were stretches of solitude.

The end of the Platte River and the beginning of a great lake. The end of our brief vacation and the beginning of the drive home.