Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hell Semester Under Our Belts

We survived the semester. Steve took 18 hours, including two non-credit labs. Most of the burden fell on him, but it rippled over to the family as he was not as available for parenting tasks and household chores. And with three properties, there are a lot of chores. The best news? He got A's in all of the classes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas bulbs

Despite a To Do list that has every moment filled, I have to find time to plant 2,700 spring bulbs. That's right, thousands of little bulbs. Someone at church gave them to me Monday evening, surplus from a promotional giveaway. One man and I managed to plant about a thousand bulbs yesterday at church until it got too dark and cold to work any longer. Yes, I dug a little trench and dumped them in. Who knows what it will look like in the spring. I brought home about 500 bulbs to plant today (when???) and the rest are in the foyer at church. Perhaps I will give them away as party favors on Satuday. They are in cute little boxes already.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

December's Garden Book

This month's book is My Favorite Plant edited by Jamaica Kincaid. Carol has given us the option of just posting our favorite flower. Perhaps I need to read the book for inspiration, because my favorite plant changes frequently. I'm indiscriminate, a promiscuous plant person. So here are some of my phases.

My garden is filled with remnants from my iris phase. I started with bearded irises, a demanding mistress. To remain vigorous, they need divided too often. The bloom period was short and the blooms were almost too showy. I lost interest in these demanding floozies, when I planted their well-behaved, refined cousin with attractive foliage, the Siberian iris. I have very tall dark purple, Butter & Sugar (yellow and white) and Steve (light blue). I then added a mix of Japanese iris and finally wild iris (blue flags and yellow flags) around the pond. These iris still give me great pleasure, but I can no longer label them "My Favorite Plant."
Siberian IrisesBlue Flag

Another phase was old roses. It started with transplanting Harison's Gold from an abandoned farmstead. You can tell from the picture of the yellow roses that it thrived in my garden. Then I ordered several old roses, charmed by their history: Empress Josephine, Apothecary and several others whose names I have lost. Moving on, I then planted about five types of David Austin roses, striving for the fragrance and form of the old roses but with repeat blooms. The last roses I planted were blushing Knock-Outs, not an old rose but still a nice addition to the garden.

Harison's Gold
Empress JosephineBlushing Knock Out
When I first moved here, my favorite plants were wildflowers, thanks to my meadow and woods. These are still some of my favorite flowers. I'm amazed at the color combinations and the health of these plants.

Black-Eyed Susans and Asclepias tuberosaCommon Milkweed - look at the intricate detail and they are so fragrant
Volunteer Cattails and Joe-Pye Weed
Jack in the Pulpit

I'm just finishing a container phase. I enjoy designing these "mini-gardens" because it was easy to experiment with plant combinations and colors. And then you combine the containers for a larger display. Next year I will still have some containers, but with 3 acres to plant and the watering demands of containers, I think I will scale back.

Created for Master Gardener talk

Over the years, I've flirted with dianthus and still have three species and several cultivars in the garden. I'm still in love with Lady's Mantle. The foliage is so attractive and the chartreuse flowers fill in bouquets so nicely. Another favorite is columbine. And I could go on and on!

Dianthus "Essex Witch"
Lady's Mantle

I'm in the middle of a sedum phase. Do you know how many sedums there are and how different they look? The blooms are unusual, usually red (from light pink to almost black) or yellow. The foliage is attractive from early spring to late fall, with a wide variation in color (light and dark green, red, dark purple) and form (trailers to upright). Planted together, they form a tapestry of color and shape. Perhaps I will get a picture of these next summer.

I'm just entering a tricyrtis or toad lily phase. I have three varieties and and longing for more as I peruse the garden catalogues.

So with this long post, I think I have sufficiently supported my thesis: I am too fickle to have a favorite plant. This reminds me of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem I learned in my youth, which I have found to be true these many years (and I added another year today...Happy Birthday Earth Girl).
The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Not a good thing

This is not a good thing. We had heavy rains, then a deep freeze (17 degrees) and then a warming (41 degrees). The result: frost heaving in November despite the leaf mulch.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Name that dame

Here's your daily Martha dose, Renee, and thanks for the comment on my last post as it nudged me into action. Carol wondered if I had a name and so I do. It's Martha.

No, I wasn't named after a maiden great aunt, but because my father thought it was a beautiful name. My sister and three brothers were all named after someone in the family. As a child, this bothered me; I was sure I was a changeling. I tried to transform myself into a Marty in Junior High School, but I was a Martha.

The name was dropping in popularity about the time I was born, but was a very popular name when my father was young. (The link won't display the results of the name. You have to type it in so the Java app can run.) I even asked him once if he had a girlfriend with that name. He denied it, but I suspect there was a positive association at some time with the name.

The origin of my name is Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke and it means lady. One of my favorite Bible verses is John 11:5: Jesus loved Martha. Why is it past tense though?

Additional thought: At least my pet name isn't Quack Quack.

Friday, December 01, 2006


How did I do with the National Blog Posting Month experiment? I made 29 posts in November, which does not mean I only missed one day. I missed six days, but had multiple posts on other days. So I didn't make my goal, but I did a lot better than the 11 posts in October.

The new Blogger monthly stats brought out my latent statistician tendencies, but I resisted doing a regression analysis. However, here is a chart showing that I tend to post most often in spring and fall. It also shows that if I have a heavy month of posts, it drops precipitously the next month. My first post was June 5, 2002.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Indian Summer

Today may be the last day of Indian Summer and I made good use of it. The compost is on the kitchen garden and then I topped it off with shredded leaves. The compost pile has been turned. I found more things to put away for the winter and I got the snow shovels out preparing for the snow coming our way. Even when I think the garden is ready for winter, it is amazing how many garden chores I can find on a warm day.

Testosterone Tree

I was wrong about the tree. It is not 8' in diameter. It is 12', which means it is impossible to reach the upper limbs even with a 10' ladder because the ladder is 6' away from the trunk of the tree. So the top third of the tree is undecorated. And the bottom third has no ornaments, just lights, because the dog has no control over his tail. I did buy some honking huge red and gold disco balls, which helps fill in the gaps between the limbs and are scaled right for the size of the tree. The menfolk in my house insist it is beautiful, but, heaven help me, it is Charlie Brown's tree on steroids, roped off to the ceiling!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holiday Day

My sister had Thanksgiving for my family today, or the 33 of us that could make it. Lots of good food, good conversation and laughter. As is the tradition, started by my father, we took a long walk after dinner. Niece Jennifer claimed the 7 point antler we found in the woods. My husband noted that the many children living nearby hadn't found it because they weren't out exploring the woods, or even outdoors at all, in the sunny 60 degree weather.

Ron made a trip to our tree farm this morning to cut the Christmas tree and when we got home from the get-together, we put it up. Ladders, ropes and wenches were required. It is the largest Charlie Brown tree you ever saw. And it is beautiful! It looks like a real tree. I'm a little perplexed how I'm going to decorate it as I do not have gigantic scale ornaments. Here are the stats: original tree -13+ feet; ceiling height - 11 feet; breadth of tree - 8 feet. And that's on our enclosed porch. No way will it fit into the bay window, the traditional spot for the tree.

UPDATE: I was the required wench, although we used a winch to hoist the tree. My husband is the source for this correction.
Ron, tree gatherer extraordinaire and Earth Girl herself
wondering if the tree will fit through the door.

It is taking two strong teenage boys with their father on the rope to put the tree upright.

And here is the tree in all its beauty, almost there. Just need to tighten the rope a bit.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Next steps

Next steps-Holiday
How do those people shop the day after Thanksgiving? I'm still pooped from cooking and cleaning and eating. It is our tradition to cut the Christmas tree today from the tree farm at the Highlands. The trees are getting too big and we now have to cut it in half and only use the top part. Last year I tried to make wreaths with the bottom limbs but that does not seem to be my skill set. They served as winter mulch for the heuchera, which always heaves with the constant freezing and thawing in northern Indiana.

Next steps-Unknown
My weariness is not only physical. My dear mother-in-law made a raw announcement (how could it be anything else?) yesterday about her health. Final tests and biopsies will not be done for several months, but it doesn't look good. Her sons were shell-shocked; still are. We are in that dreadful waiting period between knowing something is seriously wrong and knowing what the medical plan will be.

Next steps-Maturation
And I have to run errands with both sons. Ron needs to establish a bank account to deposit his National Guard earnings and Ricky needs to renew his driver's permit.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Preparing for Thanksgiving

My in-laws are coming here tomorrow for Thanksgiving and I spent today in the kitchen. There are three pies cooling, two loaves of cranberry nut bread, five loaves of homemade wheat bread plus a gaggle of rolls, a large bowl of apple coleslaw and a large pot of cranberry chutney. The turkey is thawed and ready for the morning.

This year I made an apple-butter pumpkin pie from a recipe that Ricky made in his culinary arts class. It didn't set as solid as a traditional pumpkin but it sounds good. The cranberry nut bread is a recipe from my childhood and a Thanksgiving tradition. For over 30 years, I have used the Tassajara Bread Book as my guide in baking. It contains my favorite recipe line; when describing the sponge method, it says, "Let it rise for an hour or 45 or 70 minutes." I totally did not follow instructions because I let the sponge rise for 75 minutes. The cranberry chutney was a new idea this year, sparked by something I read online somewhere. It turned out pretty good, even though I added a tablespoon of cinnamon instead of half a teaspoon. I thought I could shake out an approximate amount, but it flowed way too freely. There's enough to take to my family's gathering this Saturday, and I think it will be delicious on leftover turkey sandwiches.

The boys were off school and cleaned the house, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, picking up their rooms and doing laundry. Oh, and they ran the dishwasher three times! All that's left is a last clean of the bathrooms. It's a blessing for them to clean without constant supervision. Tomorrow I will put them in charge of setting the tables. Let's see if they remember how the silverware is placed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Minor and Major Day

Most of my day was spent doing little things, such as finally planting those peonies and ferns. Then I picked Ron up from school and turned him over to the Armed Forces. The papers are all signed but he still has to pass his physical next week and there is a minor problem with flat feet. He's been practicing standing with his toes curled under to arch his foot and minimize the problem. If he passes, he will be inducted into the National Guard on December 1, beginning his weekend duties. Between his junior and senior year he will take basic and then his advanced training after he graduates from high school. He's planning to train as an MP, while taking college classes in Criminal Justice.

I just erased a paragraph making an analogy between planting the flowers and releasing my son, but it didn't work. Too weak. This letting go stuff is hard. He is only 17 and still so young.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Late Autumn Activities

My tender bulbs are stored in a cool dark place, even though I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are harsh mistresses, beautiful but demanding. My tender annuals are potted and mostly adjusting to the indoors. I'm ashamed to admit that I still have some peonies and cinnamon ferns waiting to be planted, or at least heeled in for the winter. But I did manage to can the pears given to me by a co-worker. These are winter pears and very tasty. I think this is the second time in my life I canned anything and all six jars "pinged."

I had a little rant going in my head about how I buy "perfect" fruit in the store, but am pleased to receive "real" fruit from local orchardists. As I was leaving my local garden market last summer, they asked me if I wanted a bushel of peaches free. Because of a few blemishes, they were destined for the trash but she knew, and I knew, that they were perfectly fine if you just cut out the bruises. We had peach cobbler that evening and the rest are in my freezer. The pears weren't perfect, but we munched on them for several weeks as they ripened and I have six pints for this winter. What didn't feed my family, fed my compost. The same is true of the free apples I get. I wouldn't buy them in the store, as I search for only the most perfect specimens, but I am pleased to get a bushel from my brother every year. Of course, most of these are varieties that you can't find in the grocery store. Makes me want to go plant a few fruit trees.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nurturing the soul through gardening

I wasn't sure what I would post today, until I read a review of a recommended book. The book is Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul by Dave L. Goetz. A friend at church, the source of many good book recommendations, thought I would like this book about searching for community. It sounds pretty good, but a comment by the first reviewer made me cringe at his cluelessness about gardening:
In the pleasant bedroom communities of America, it can seem as if people are more concerned with tidy flowerbeds than they are the things that nurture the soul.
When I need to nurture my soul, I get down on my knees, hands in the dirt, working with God's creation. I observe the beautiful flowers, the patterns in the leaves, the growth habits, the tiny creatures, how it all works together. I breathe in the fragrant air, whether from newly-turned earth or flowers. I feel privileged to be part of it, to create a thing of beauty. My stresses melt away and I live in the moment.

Then later in his review he uses a garden as an example of ways to move toward more silence! If the garden can nurture the soul of a visitor, how much more does it nurture the soul of the gardener?

Now if he had referenced perfectly manicured, overly chemically-treated lawns as a soul-sucking surburban activity, then I would have nodded my head in agreement!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Four Books

I only have 13 labels under books and that is just not acceptable. If a book is good, I normally finish it before starting another. For some reason, I now have four good books underway: political history, gardening essays, classic novel, and contemporary novel.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin is one that I could not put down until the war started. The Civil War was so horrorific that I have to force myself now to read about the battles, the mistakes, the lost lives.

I'm reading The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell. I'm going a little slower than I normally would on this book because I'm posting thoughts about the essay for the gardening book club.

Since Team of Rivals is such a thick book, I couldn't read it while on the exercise bike, so I grabbed Vanity Fair by Thackeray off the bookshelf. So this is my exercise reading.

Finally, I need to start The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle for December book club. I'm looking forward to this read.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sukiyaki 1950s style

As I labeled old posts, I decided today's post would be in the category with the least entries and recipes won. It is conventional wisdom (which I always question) for blogging that no one cares what you had for dinner, but here is the recipe for what we had for dinner last night. Anyone who enjoys cooking may find this post interesting as it is a delicious and quick meal. Rave reviews even from the teenagers. And mostly healthy except for "lots of soy sauce." Why is it 1950s style? Because my mother made it for her family in the 1950s. I was fortunate to have an adventurous mother. She found this recipe when she gave a missions class to the teenagers at church about Japan.

Brown 1 pound thin-sliced tender steak in oil until medium rare. Add 1 cup sliced celery and 1/2 cup chopped green onion. Saute slightly and add lots of soy sauce. Cover and steam for several minutes. Add 4 oz. sliced mushrooms with juice and 1 package frozen chopped spinach. Steam until warm. Serve over rice.

Earth Girl's Modifications: I rarely measure anything. I used water chestnuts instead of celery last night because that's what I had on hand. I used several cups of sliced fresh mushrooms and fresh chopped spinach. I never use the grocery's "stir fry beef" because it is not tender enough. Partially freeze the steaks to make slicing easier and cut across the grain.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell

Carol at May Dreams Garden had a good idea for us garden bloggers this winter, a book club, and this is our first book. I read this several years ago and look forward to reading it again. This is not a "how to" book, but a series of delightfully honest and well-written essays focusing on the joys and agonies of gardening. I read three essays tonight and here are my thoughts:

On the Defiance of Gardens
"'s about time for another summer storm to smash the garden to pieces, though it may hold off until the phlox, tomatoes, daylilies and zinnias are in full sway." For me, it is always the peonies that take the brunt of storms. I tend to pick a huge bouquet just before they fully open so I can enjoy them.

"Indeed, almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise." This is one reason I enjoy taking photos of my garden. I also think perspective is important in viewing the garden as paradise. Just crop out the ugly parts. This is why I don't let the pictures of perfect gardens in magazines bother me anymore. I've gardened long enough to know that no garden is perfect.

"Whenever humans garden magnificently, there are magnificent heartbreaks." Almost a hundred years ago, Gene Stratton-Porter was concerned about the loss of native plants and transplanted over 10,000 wildflowers into her woods. She kept meticulous records and every year she added Hookers Orchid to her orchid bed. Her garden was neglected for about 50 years and Hooker's Orchid (Platanthera hookeri) was last seen in Indiana in 1969. That breaks my heart.

And he ends the essay describing how gardeners must be defiant to the "natural way." While I understand the whole concept of a garden is not natural and we are often fighting against nature's way (weather, weeds, design), I disagree that a desert or a swamp cannot be seen as a "garden." Here is my proof.

Earthman vs. the Seasons--Winter
"Resolve not to try delphiniums...again." But I have to! Gene's garden was filled with delphiniums. There are none now. I've tried them several times in my home garden with nice displays the first year and nothing after that. Another winter project-figure out how to grow delphiniums in northern Indiana!

"I must never let anybody know I suffer because..." This hit home. It is so easy to complain about what's not right, what I plan to do, how I meant it to look, rather than simply be grateful for what's right, what worked, and how it looks this moment. At work, Carol and I sometimes forget to enjoy the garden. Visitors' comments help us see the garden with fresh eyes and we've made it a habit to walk through the garden and look at all 35 beds at least once a week, noting what's beautiful as well as what needs to be done.

Earthman vs. the Seasons--Spring
There was a long section on various cultivars of daffodils. I love daffodils but their names have been lost if I ever had them. So many were "pass along" bulbs. The situation is even worse at the site. Next year I may have to try his highly recommended "Passionale." I'm a sucker for fragrant flowers.

Then he turns his attention to perennials, which most nurserymen sell in the spring, although "field-grown clumps, planted in the fall, are best." He's right. And the plants you find in the stores in the spring are forced to bloom before their time. You bring home a spent plant and then have to nurse it back for several years before they "show what they can do." This is because the nursery trade sells more plants if they are in bloom. That's bad enough for annuals, but even worse for perennials. The plants Mitchell mentions in this essay are all rather common, but delightful mainstays in my gardens: phlox, baptisia, hosta, daylilies, peonies, foxgloves, primroses, columbines, coral bells, hollyhocks, and shasta daisies.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm not ready for this!

Ron called me from the bus tonight, "Bad news, Mom, I passed my ASVAB test. Bad news for you, but good news for me."

I'm not ready to write this post. I need more time to think about it. But time has run out and this is not my decision. My son is 17 and initiated his first discussion with a recruiter over a year ago. He learned about a program where he can take basic training between his junior and senior year in high school, with advanced training after he graduates. No papers have been signed, but passing the test was the next step. He wants us to sign this week, so he can take his physical next week.

This is something my son has wanted since sixth grade, the 2001-2002 school year. Just as he was entering adolescence and his ascent into manhood, twelve years old, terrorists attacked his country. He felt so impotent. He was ready to bear arms that day. Ever since, all he has talked about is becoming a soldier. And he has researched it. He read books and watched movies about wars back to ancient times. Even when my friend's son was killed in Iraq, Ron's resolve did not waiver. Part hero. Part servant. That is just how he is made.

Ron knows I'm torn. If this is his heart's desire, I want him to succeed in it. I know the discipline will be good for him. I just don't want him to actually fight. When he first came to live with us, I would check to see if he was breathing at night, this miraculous gift from God to me, this precious boy. I worked hard to keep him safe, secure and free from harm, to erase the horrors of his first few years and fill him with good childhood memories. I don't think they will let Mama come along to watch over him. He would be mortified to know I even wrote that last sentence. And, truth be told, he is fast reaching the age where he watches over me.

So I tell myself, it's the National Guard and not full-time active duty. I can steer him into training in a non-combat field. They will pay for his education.

Still I'm scared.

I wonder if they really need my signature.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blog Changes

The reason for the new look is that I upgraded to the new version of Blogger. It's OK, but I wish I could change the title bar graphics.

I also modified the links to add blogs I read often and remove those I no longer read. The link order is not based on how much I love to read you, but by category. (And the new blogger doesn't give me the capability to add link headings.) The first few are gardening/nature links, then fashion links, then mother links and finally those that are not easily classified. I read a few political blogs every day, but didn't include those because this is an apolitical blog. A few of the linked blogs will have occasional political content with which I don't agree, but that is not the focus of the blog.

So go over to the links and find someone to enjoy today.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This isn't the best shot but we got lots of compliments on the tree. A Girl Scout troop was especially taken with the wasp nest, birds nest and other decorations courtesy of nature. Also the sale of dried hydrangeas (to support our seed catalog habit) was excellent, thanks to the drama of the tree. There was folk music in the Cabin and a band in the Carriage House. When things quieted down a bit late last night, we started jigging. I hope it worked off some of the homemade cookie calories I consumed.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bats at Christmas

I have regrets this evening. Regrets because I'm not usually passive-aggressive.

The craft lady at work uses the Garden Shed for crafts at special event. The last craft event was Fall Family Fun Day and the next event is tomorrow, the Holiday Open House. We have been working in hyperdrive mode for about a month getting the gardens ready for winter. To phrase it as kindly as possibly, she doesn't have a problem sitting for hours at a time while at work.

Anyway, she expects us to clean and decorate the Garden Shed; it is her due. Several years ago, there were six gardeners. There are two today. Somehow we two managed to clean and decorate the Garden Shed while she took the week off. We even managed, with the help of an awesome volunteer, to package some seeds, dried flowers, bulbs and herbs to sell during the event.

Doesn't sound very passive-aggressive, does it? Well, I refused to take down the bats hanging from the ceiling, which Craft Lady put there for the fall event. I thought about putting red ribbons around their necks, but stopped short of that.

First wasps and now bats. I wonder if anyone will notice tomorrow.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wasp nests at Christmas

Today's low will be tomorrow's high temperature, so it was a beautiful day to work outside. The work release crew did not show up so we had to open the paths in the garden for the Holiday Open House this weekend, especially since they are dedicating the new water feature in the garden. I had scheduled today to decorate the Garden Shed for the open house and made some progress. They use the Garden Shed for making crafts and there is a lot of traffic. Last year I was appalled at the condition of the tree ornaments used on the tree in the shed; they were tattered ugly craft ornaments from years past. They held a lot of sentiment for those who made the ornaments, but it made for one ugly tree. (Sure, I put ugly ornaments on my tree, but they were made by my children when they were young. ) So I decided to go with a nature tree in the Garden Shed, using lots of dried hydrangea, broom corn and seed heads. I also put in the nature items we've collected this year, such as birds' nests and a large paper wasp nest. I think it is beautiful, but we will see how others react.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tucking the garden in for its winter slumber

Twelve men from a work release crew were assigned to the site's garden today. Since the garden is surrounded by trees, leaves are a major problem. The work crew raked out the beds and paths and then mulched the leaves while my co-gardener and I cut back the plants in the garden. Then the work crew dumped the mulched leaves on the beds and we spread the mulch. The crew is coming back tomorrow, so the garden should be ready for its winter rest. I don't know how we would have done it without the help.

I have mixed feelings about cutting back growth in fall or the spring. I understand any diseased plants should be cut back in the fall and fall cleanup makes spring work easier. (Spring work at the site involves digging up a lot of invasive Star of Bethlehem bulbs.) If I cut back in the fall, I make sure there is a mulch layer to prevent frost heaving. On the other hand, I love pulling back the dead foliage in spring and finding tender green shoots. I also believe nature creates its own winter mulch for plants with the dead foliage. Meanwhile some seed heads create winter interest. So the site has been cleaned for the winter while my home garden remains filled with dead foliage until spring.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Late breaking wiper news

I hate.hate.hate car problems, and today it was only the windshield wipers. But it was raining (mist more than rain, to be truthful). And I was on the highway. Driving fast. With big trucks kicking up lots of dirty rainwater on the windshield. And that little booger decided to just flip over, the back of the wiper was scraping the windshield instead of the front. Using all of my mechanical intelligence, I pulled off the highway onto a country road where I could drive home without the wipers and dump the problem in my husband's lap. He just flipped it back into place.

Aren't you glad I decided to blog every day this month so you can read this enthralling report?

Monday, November 06, 2006

White Hat Answer

One last chance to guess who the man in the white hat is. Here are some more clues:

1. He died from getting hit in the back of the head with a suitcase.

2. At his funeral Rudee Vallee sang "Empty Saddles."

3. He appears on the sleeve of The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

4. He was one of Wyatt Earp's pallbearers.

5. Most of his movies were silent.

6. He starred in Westerns and his horse's name was Tony.

Still give up?

Here's the answer.

Tom Mix

An Effective Campaign Ad

Here's a link to page which will take you to a campaign ad that I have enjoyed. The "humorous spoof of a campaign attack ad" works very well for this voter.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Restoring a Historic Garden

Renee asked about my presentation last Friday about restoring Gene Stratton-Porter's "Tame" Garden, so here goes. The basic presentation was the same as I gave at last spring's garden walk (inspiration, creation, neglect, renovation, restoration), but I inveigled an overhead projector and added pictures to the presentation. Projecting some of the old photographs revealed amazing details. Click on the picture of her touring car for a larger view. This is what she used to collect specimens from the wild. She hung large waterproof bags along both sides of the car and stuffed them full of plants. Note the plants stacked high in the back seat. The most interesting feature is the fuzzy hood of the car, which is how she transported mosses she collected. I'm not sure what the black box is that she is holding, but I suspect it might be her 40 pounds of photography equipment. And she went into the field with high boots and breeches, very improper for a women in 1914.

The presentation went well, but I almost didn't make it. As I grabbed my coat to leave the house, I bumped the very large and very heavy table leaf that I store in the coat closet and it fell on top of my foot. I fell to the floor and just gasped, but the show must go on and I had both the laptop and flash drive with me, so I hobbled to work. Thank goodness for cruise control because I couldn't use my right foot much. It's feeling much better now but the entire top of my foot is black and blue.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

More Phone Calls

I vaguely remember the phone ringing this morning.

Ricky: "Hi, Dad! Is it late there?"

Dad: "No. It's only 7:45."

Mom, mumbling from her cocoon of blankets: "It's 1:45."

Dad to Ricky: "Hang up and go to sleep."

The phone rings at 8:30 this morning.

Ricky: "I woke up to a bed full of ice. Got to go now."


Samson, our yellow lab, has a thyroid condition so we have him on a strict feeding schedule. I was puzzled by his behavior this week. Pace, whine, nudge and stare with woeful eyes. I finally figured out that it was the time change. In his doggie world, he has to wait an hour later for his evening meal.

DST- Daylight Savings Time or Doggie Starvation Time?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Comments Moderated

Holy Yodels! What happened on the comment about NaBloPoMo? I have word verification enabled to prevent spam, so this commenter intentionally posted his/her/its rambling rant which I didn't bother trying to make sense of after a few sentences. Scrolling down to the second comment, I discovered Renee asked about the presentation this morning. Details forthcoming. However, I have enabled moderation of comments. Before a comment is posted, I will be approving it. Someone please comment so I can test this thing.

Teenage Phone Calls

Little did I know that I was buying a hot new product when I finally broke down and got cell phones for my sons. One is driving and both are in extracurricular activities, so they were always borrowing my phone. We have made some interesting discoveries about how 17 year old boys use the cell phone.

It's fall break and the twins are attending a Campus Life weekend trip. I just got a phone call from Ricky, "Mom, Ron hates it when I dance." I repeat his statement and ask what I'm suppose to do about it. Hubby chuckles in the background. Now they can tattle wirelessly. (One boy is an extrovert and the other introverted. One is having a wild and crazy time and the other is embarrassed. I've seen this pattern for years.)

When we had the soccer fire-up, the kids were text messaging each other. "Why?" husband asked them incredulously because they were all sitting around the campfire.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

National Blog Posting Month

So I posted the entry below (White Hat Quiz) this morning around 7:30 in order to have a post a day as I took up the NaBloPoMo challenge. I wasn't going to mention it on my blog, just attempt to make a post a day. Well, the entry was dated the first instead of the second of November. That's the reason for this post! It's not really cheating, is it?

OK, so I'll add a little more content. I'm still fine tuning tomorrow's presentation to national garden club execs. I think it will be fine except the content I'm adding includes the Latin names of the wild flowers on the site. I always botch the pronunciation. If I have time, I'll practice using this excellent tool, Fine Gardening's Guide to Pronouncing Botanical Latin, except these are mostly cultivated plants and not wild flowers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Who is the man in the white hat?

Friday I am giving a presentation to 45 executives from a national garden organization about the restoration of the formal garden, so I've been poring over the archives at the site (Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site--Wildflower Woods). I found an interesting photo taken in the garden in 1931. Can you guess the name of the man in the white hat?

Hint 1: I'm asking about the man in the BIG white hat.

Hint 2: He's a film star.

Hint 3: His films have no connection with Gene Stratton-Porter except they were contemporaries.

Fresh Spinach

About ten days before the massive recall of packaged spinach due to e-coli contamination, I planted spinach seeds for a fall crop. I was so pleased with myself for creating an alternative source of fresh organic spinach. However, we've had an early fall and the growth has been slow. The largest leaves are about half an inch now. If I picked the whole crop, I may have enough to garnish a salad.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Extra-fabulous cookies for Lucy

Lucy has an emergency. She needs cookie recipes "that make people pull you aside and beg (for the recipe). I want this experience burned in their minds!" I thought I would share with everyone. Even though there are three steps, it always seems easy to make. I think the secret of its yumminess is that the lemon glaze is unexpected and cuts the richness of the filling.

Lemon Squares (from Earth Girl's mother)

Cut 1/2 cup butter into 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1-1/2 cups flour. Pat down into buttered 9x13 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 275 degrees.

2 eggs
2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cups coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (I usually use walnuts but pecans might be good also)
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat eggs. Add rest of the ingredients and pour over warm crust. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Lemon Glaze:
While warm, spread with glaze: 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 1 T. melted butter and juice and zest of one lemon.

Makes 24.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fall foliage and spring bloom. Spotting this prompted me to take out my camera and shoot some fall pictures from my garden.

Update: This is a forsythia, deciding to flower in the fall. Unexpected beauty and surprises are bonuses to all gardeners.Posted by Picasa

I added a herb garden next to the back deck by burying, at different depths, some large clay drainpipes from the farm. The boys dug the holes and placed the pipes last spring in pouring rain, a memory-making event. Posted by Picasa

Sedum and grass. I like the way the sedum pulls out the red in the grass and its a nice combination of succulent rigid foliage and swaying grass even when it isn't blooming. Posted by Picasa

Part of my front yard and part of my finger. I love the colors in my garden this time of year. A close-up of the mum, which I only had time to trim back once this spring) follows. Posted by Picasa

This is one of my favorite mums, because it looks so unmumlike (the way I look?) They were covered with pollinators, still trying to produce even after killing frost and snow. Posted by Picasa

The last rudbeckia, still glowing by my garden path. Posted by Picasa

Fall Photos

I've been busy getting both the state's and my garden ready for winter. I have been very energetic these past few weeks, a function of lower temps and the amount of work I need to do. Seeds have been collected for sale in the spring, tender annuals have been potted and stored in the farmhouse bay window, and tender bulbs (tubers, rhizomes and corms too) have been dug, dried and stored. I still need to weed, rake and mulch leaves for bed covers and plant spring bulbs.

I took some photos of my garden yesterday. Blogger refused to publish them last night and this morning. I'll post them using Hello. Fall foliage and spring blooms. Studies in red. A daisy-like mum. The long-lasting rudbeckia.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Garden, Read; Read, Garden; Repeat

Soccer Sectionals were postponed from Thursday night until today (in an hour so I have to post and run). If you like to garden and if you like to read, check out the garden bookclub being organized over at May Dreams Gardens. The first book should be selected soon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Saturday night, Ricky invited the soccer team (and dates) to a bonfire to fire-up for Sectionals. It was a good bunch of kids and everyone had fun. It rained heavy all day but stopped half an hour before the party just as we were moving everything inside. There was a half moon and a sky full of stars.

Steve saw a shooting star and I told him to make a wish. He looked at me intensely and said, "I can't make a wish because I have all that a man could wish for." The boys groaned and muttered, "smooth," but I saw the look of pleasure in their eyes, the pleasure of hearing a man honor his wife.

They wanted Steve to play his dulcimer, but he was at the bottom of the hill. So I called him with our signal...I call him with an owl's call and he calls me with the bob-white call. So much nicer than yelling someone's name. My hoo-hooting startled the kids, but I had to giggle at Ricky's explanation, "Oh, that's Mom's mating call."

We mowed the wildflower meadow for the party. The asters were in full bloom and the butterfly weed pods were still green. I hope it doesn't harm the reseeding.

Conference Champs!

Ricky's soccer team tied for first place in their conference. Now on to the sectional games, starting Thursday against Bishop Dwenger.

I discovered I love soccer, and not just because I have a son playing. I'm not much for spectator sports; there are too many other things I enjoy doing. But soccer is different. It's fast, it's furious, it's strategic and often a thing of beauty.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

This Weekend's Teen Milestones

Last night, I let Ron take my car to return several movies. At a busy intersection (Coldwater and Dupont), he came to a full stop and then turned right on red, judging that he had sufficient time to make the turn. Unfortunately, the car with the green light was speeding and, even more unfortunately, it was an unmarked police car. The lights went on and he was pulled over for the first time. No accident. No ticket. Just an "Are you in a hurry?"

This morning, I asked Ricky to warm up the car before church while I finished dressing. He came in a few minutes later to report that somehow the left rear brakelight and lens were broken. I went outside and found the car wedged up against the farm tractor. He decided to turn the car around while it was warming up and the tractor was parked in our usual turn-around spot.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the spring of 2005, I planted five Blushing Pink Knockout roses to edge the flower bed by the front walk. I was underwhelmed by them last year, too few blooms and scrawny bushes. But they were only settling in for this year's show. They have been beautiful all season, setting off the white columbine in spring, the blue salvia and yellow lillums in the summer and now picking up the color of the dusty rose sedum. Most of the blooms are breathtakingly beautiful; however, to be fully truthful, I included a second picture.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hidden Motives of Mothers (Teenage Version)

When I dropped Ron off at high school this morning, I pulled past the door so other cars could queue behind me. At least, I thought that was my reasoning. Apparently, I had a hidden motive.

"Geesh, Mom, why did you pull up so far, just to irritate me?" Door slam.

"I love you, too, son and have a great day," I responded to the empty seat.

He's in Day 2 of his graduate qualifying exam. Think he's stressed?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Plague of Frogs

The fall lesson plan for our second grade Sunday School class is the story of Moses. Several weeks ago, I tried to turn my 6' aspen walking stick into a snake. My husband cut the staff for me 18 years ago for our first hike and it has been well traveled and well used, but failed miserably as a snake.

Yesterday was the story of the plagues. We focused primarily on the plague of frogs, rather than the death of the first born son. We hopped around the room and made origami hopping frogs. We chanted, "Pharaoh, Pharaoh. Let my people go" and sang songs. I had fun and so did the children.
I am a naturalist and enjoy studying frogs. We've created several frog habitats (on purpose and by accident). The frog plague seems more innocuous than boils. Until...

I screamed in frightened surprise as a large frog hopped by me in the bathroom yesterday.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


What a sweet delight it was to spend a week with my father's sister. Aunt Katherine will be 90 in several months, but that is not her defining factor. She is smart, funny, active, fun-loving, and ready for adventure.

After several days in Bend (central Oregon), we took off for the coast to visit places she loved but thought she would never have a chance to visit again. We headed straight through Salem and hit the three capes area just south of Tillamook. After playing on the beach, we checked in and headed for a dinner of dungeness crab in Garibaldi, overlooking the ocean. It just so happened that the young man she was in love with during college ended his career as principal in Garibaldi High School, thus starting the recounting of her love life over the next few days.

She went to college in the middle of the depression and what a different experience that was: her folks sending her $5 a month to help her out, boarding in a private home with two other students, cleaning to earn book money. These years also started her down the road as a Democrat, in that FDR had a program to educate bright young people as part of the New Deal. I had never heard about that program, but the country recouped its investment in Aunt Katherine as she spent her life teaching high school English and Social Studies with a long stint on the school board.

The next morning, after making a trip to the Blue Heron Cheese Company, we went to Ecola State Park, after struggling through the upscale tourist trap of Cannon Beach. The flowers in this town were gorgeous, worthy of the reputation of the northwest as an ideal gardening location. Ecola mean whale and was part of the Lewis and Clark adventures. We spent most of the day at the park, before heading north to Astoria. We crossed the Columbia River on the
original "Bridge to Nowhere," shocking both of us with a dizzying rollercoaster sensation as we plunged straight down to the water at 55 mph on a two lane road with cars passing us. See how the bridge is high on one end to let ships under it and is at river level the rest of the way.

It was shocking the immediate change in the coastline, from sandy beaches and huge rock formations, to gentle shores and islands covered in evergreens. It was almost like a caricature of my vision of Washington State. But after that bridge crossing, we decided to search out some coffee. I could only find a drive-through espresso hut, which didn't have fresh coffee, I asked Aunt Katherine if she wanted a latte. That was her introduction to mocha lattes, "I've never had coffee ever give me this type of jolt," and she asked that we find a mocha latte the next day in Hood River!

We crossed the Columbia that evening on the Puget Island ferry, which brought back poignant memories for Aunt Katherine of arranging to have the ferry there at 2 a.m. to return home with Uncle Buck and his band after playing for the dances in the small towns in Washington. When she met Uncle Buck, she was teaching at Clatskanie, the new high school teacher in a small logging town. The other teacher was also the principal and she boarded at his house. His wife took care of screening all the young bucks coming round to woo the new schoolteacher. She was asked to a dance, and she checked if it was OK, in that her last school would have fired her for going to a town dance. This town was different. If she didn't go and fill her dance card, they would consider her haughty. Uncle Buck was a musician and one of the best dancers, and stole her heart.

The next morning we started down the Columbia River Gorge. But now I have to start dinner so the story about my grandmother homesteading on the Columbia River will have to wait for another day.

Aunt Katherine enjoying our picnic lunch of Oregon Brie on bagels. Isn't she beautiful?  Posted by Picasa

Riding Jester, one of my cousin's mules, at sunset at Tumalo Reservoir. This is the edge of the high desert, with the mountains behind me. Rob was keeping a close eye out (what an odd expression) for cougars who had been spotted here recently. Posted by Picasa

Looking south from Ecola Park, Oregon. The last time Aunt Katherine had been here was in the early 40s, when she brought her high school class here for an end of the year field trip. She said it was as beautiful as she remembered. Posted by Picasa

Ecola Park, northern coast of Oregon Posted by Picasa

This sure looks like an emerging skunk cabbage, but it's not March. The quarter is there for size. Click on it to get an idea of the oozy ground. Posted by Picasa

We are still trying to ID this unknown plant. The flowers are about 1/2 inch wide and the plant came to my chin so it's about 5 feet tall. Note the fuzzy purple buds and stems which should be a clue to its identification. The leaves were alternative. Posted by Picasa