Thursday, March 30, 2006

The eastern beds of Gene Stratton-Porter's formal garden on Sylvan Lake. The beautiful green beds clearly show the bones of this garden, with the sitting arbor in back. If left untouched, these green beds will explode with delicate white flowers in a few weeks. Unfortunately, it is my goal to remove these bulbs, many the size of a piece of rice, to allow other things to grow and bloom! Posted by Picasa

Memories of 7 year old sons

The other night, Steve and I were reminded of a story from a vacation when the boys were just beginning to read. We rented a rustic cabin near Mom's in the Ozark Mountains.

Late one morning, Steve saw Ricky acting strange and, knowing more about our children's bodily functions than we ever thought possible, asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom.

"Yes," he gasped, "real bad."

"Then go back into the cabin and go," Steve responded reasonably.

"I can't! We have to go to Grandma's house!"


"Because of the sign."

"What sign?" Now Steve was perplexed.

"The sign in the bathroom."

We went into the cabin to check out this sign, as we were sure the toilet was in working order. Here's the sign:

Sometimes you're up and sometimes...

Some teenagers picked up Ricky for dodgeball Sunday. I went out to talk to them before I let my precious son leave with them. (This letting go is a hard one.) Tuesday evening the other son told us that one of the girls thought I was in my 30s!

That evening I picked up some groceries to take advantage of the 6% senior citizens' discount. As the cashier gave me the total, I said, confident that it would not be evident, "I get the ..."

"Yes," she interrupted, " I already took off the discount."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


When Gene Stratton-Porter built her cabin on Sylvan Lake, she was determined to create a home suited just for her. With the east windows facing the lake and the south windows facing the garden, her conservatory is a bright, warm room of windows. I spent Monday afternoon starting seeds in this room. The sense of history was strong and, perhaps, I imagined I was Gene doing the same thing almost a hundred years ago.

I planted Heliotropium arborescens "Marine", Lobelia cardinalis, Convolvulus "Blue Enchantment, Amaranthus caudatus or Love-Lies-Bleeding, and ageratum. Seeds for all but the convolvulus were purchased from Select Seed.

I have six flats of sprouted seeds in my bay window with Verbena (mixed colors), Apricot digitalis (foxglove), Bells of Ireland and Cerastium (Snow-in-Summer). Some will go to the site and some will stay in my garden.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shade Containers

I haven't settled on what to plant in the shade containers, but here are some of my ideas. I'm very interested in your suggestions.

There are containers scattered throughout the site, but the four containers at the entryway to the cabin are especially important. Two are large urns at the base of the steps, set on stone pillars. The other two are large boxes on the porch rail. I'm thinking the urns should have a stately upright look, complementing the container and pillar. I envision the boxes with a curtain of trailing plants cascading down the stone front of the porch.

I ordered several cultivars of Caladiums, (this is one) which, with their showy leaves, would provide the focal point, bulk and season-long color. Coleus would also serve the same purpose and would be pretty with heliotrope. Lamium Golden Anniversery is under consideration as a trailer if I decide on a yellow, gold and purple box. We have purple oxalis and a small yellow leaved hosta and I ordered trollius and toad lilies which would fit this scheme. Begonias were always planted in the boxes and I may put them back, although there are hybrids available now with showier foliage. I overwintered Sutera cordata, a vigorous trailer which bloomed abundantly last year. It may require more sun than is available at the entryway, but I may try it. I also overwintered a trailer with tiny green leaves and red stems which would look pretty with the caladiums.

We get a lot of early spring visitors and I thought I would fill up the window boxes with pansies, which can be viewed from the porch as well as the entry. I wish I had thought to put some bulbs in the urns last fall.

So I don't have a plan yet, but I am thinking about it. This leaves room for the muse to hit!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Site Visit

I spent the day at Gene Stratton Porter Historic Site. After completing the paperwork to return to work on April 4 (and I agreed to work more hours), I toured the green gardens, green with invasive Star of Bethlehem plants. While in the garden, I heard loons call on the lake, a stop on their migration north. Then I headed to the farmhouse to care for the plants we overwintered. There was about a 50% success rate. Acceptable, but Ed and I made plans to improve it next year. Of course, if I only attempted overwintering plants that are amenable to it, my success rate would soar, but I'm pushing the envelope with some of them. I was especially pleased that the heliotrope not only survived but has a flush of new growth.

Last fall I tried an experiment with the pelargonium (commonly called geraniums but not really geraniums). I left several plants in pots, I hung other plants by their roots, and the rest I stacked in a box and covered it. All of them survived and had sprouted new leaves, but the ones I hung upside down were blooming! Unlike my sister, I'm not a scientist, so I can't evaluate the experiment further since I mixed them all up when I potted them.

It seems every few years I develop a new passion in my garden. Lately it has been container gardens. I do not plant "geraniums" in my containers, except for "real" geraniums, commonly called cranesbill. Yes, I can be a plant snob. However, I inherited these geraniums and I thought I'd have some fun with them. There are quite a few containers at the site, all shady, and I'm planning some fun plant combinations for them.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Another favorite sign of spring--pussy willow or Salix discolor. Willows are a symbol of sorrow, desolation, or desertion: "A wreath of willow to show my forsaken plight." Sir W. Scott. After taking this picture last week, it snowed two inches, so spring thus did desert me. Posted by Picasa

Emily loves to be tightly swaddled, except for her hands. She loves her some hands. So will her hair be red or brown? Posted by Picasa

Spring is coming

Check out the bluebells in Alabama on Rurality and then compare them to the bluebells in my woods in the picture below. Don't you just love blogs? I can enjoy what is to come while enjoying what is.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 17, 2006

Welcome Emily Mae

I had the baby shower just in time as I just received this email:

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!!!!!!!!

Emily Mae was born at 2:04pm 03/17/06. Peg said she has light brown hair, but Mike said she has red hair. Sounds like an Irish lass to me. Seven pounds, nineteen and one-half inches, and she has a dimple when she smiles.

Peg said Emily is a bright-eyed beauty. Everyone is doing well.

Proud Grandpa

A few days ago, it was spring. Posted by Picasa

Winter is not over officially for a few more days. Winter is not over in reality with two inches of snow last night.  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dense bread rising.  Posted by Picasa

Holy Yodel

24 hours ago, hubby invited me to take a ride to look at some river bottomland that was for sale. "What's your vision?" I kept asking him as I stumbled around the wet field, sick with a nasty virus, thinking of floods. Then, Holy Yodel, he finally came up with something to entice me, planting sugar maples for a sugar camp. Not that either of us would ever tap a tree, but maybe our sons or grandchildren would.

Home, fell into bed exhausted. Two hours later, Holy Yodel, I'm awakened with the report that Ricky twisted his ankle and is cold and clammy and in lots of pain. Spent two hours with him in ER. Came home with crutches and an air splint. No fractures, just a painful sprain.

Dinner is tomato soup and peanut butter (on crackers and celery) plus an orange. Holy Yodel, I need to go to the grocery store.

Then I spend several hours on the relational database for the garden at Gene Stratton Porter. Holy Yodel, that's a lot of data.

Sleep, blessed sleep. Drive boys to school because Ricky is uncertain on crutches. When we get there, Holy Yodel, he decides to leave the crutches in the car, but I drop them off with the school nurse just in case.

To the grocery store. It's Tuesday. And, Holy Yodel, here's a benefit of being an older mother: you get the 6% senior citizens' discount to help feed teenage boys. Not very many places give the discount at 55, but I'm on a mission to find them. Lots of produce. Decide not to buy bread, but will bake instead since it is cold and snowy.

Holy Yodel, the bread is dense, dense, dense, with whole wheat flour, 12 grain flour, oat groats, oat bran, and flax seed, but sweetened with honey.

Then, Holy Yodel, the sun is out. Let's take the daily cruise with the dog around the old homestead to see what's new.

Back inside to punch down the dough and decide to make a special (low carb) dessert to go with the flank steak that's marinating in oil, wine, garlic and herbs. Holy Yodel, inspiration hits and a lime mascarpone cheesecake made with Splenda without a crust is in the oven now.

Yes, I'm tired of Holy Yodel too. You see, my husband read the expression yesterday and has been using it constantly...with an Amish accent.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Kathy, a long time family friend, brought her professional bakery expertise and a lot of laughter to the kitchen. Posted by Picasa

Jennifer's sister (and mother of the bug-catching five year old) led the games (we didn't diaper a cat), made the party favors (including hand lettering a poem on 25 favors) and brought the best fruit pizza. We asked that each woman write mothering advice for Jennifer and then, as an icebreaker, we each shared what we wrote. That was my favorite game, involving tears, laughter and lots of wisdom.  Posted by Picasa

Jennifer had lots of help opening the presents. I gave her dresses, including an embroidered dress I wore as a baby made out of the thinnest material possible.  Posted by Picasa

The baby's kicking me (and Jennifer too). Posted by Picasa

Jennifer and her Aunt Wanda (her grandfather's Aunt so that would be the baby's great great great aunt) checking to see how close she guessed Jennifer's girth. Posted by Picasa

My sister, her very pregnant daughter and her bug-catching granddaughter by the cake table.  Posted by Picasa

My sister brought a "few" savories (this is less than half) and decided that she never wants to be a caterer. Posted by Picasa

Spring Cleaning Surprises

I haven't posted for a while because I've been cleaning. The house sparkles except for the boys' rooms for which they are responsible. Although I mop regularly, I was shocked at the dirty water when I finally got down on my knees for a thorough scrubbing.

Why this frenzy of cleaning? Well, it was needed, but I hosted book club Friday morning and a baby shower Sunday afternoon. Plus I will soon be spending all my available time outdoors.

So I set up an aggressive cleaning schedule early in the week, but did not take into account that Steve would remodel the bathroom since he was off for spring break. Remodel is too mild of a word, transform is a better word since it basically hadn't been touched since 1960. It is about 90% complete (needs molding plus towel and tissue hangers). While it skewered my cleaning schedule, it looks wonderful.

Another unexpected twist in my plans was the invasion of box elder bugs. Oh well, it gave my five year old great niece something to do during the shower...capturing and releasing outdoors the bugs with orange on them.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My Knight

In this post, Lucy captures something that I haven't been able to put into words about my husband but which I know to be true. Steve is a gentle man, but he is my protector. I feel safe with him.

When the Evil Boss was abusing me at work, it was as stressful for my husband as for me. Every fiber of his being longed to rescue me. There was nothing he could do, so he urged me to quit, to remove myself from the situation. I didn't and my physical and emotional health suffered.

When someone verbally attacked me, my husband's response was, "He wouldn't have said that if I was there." He's right. The look in his eye would have stopped it.

My sons were taught from an early age (and it is being reinforced in their teen years) to respect me. They see Lucy's "bad boy" in their father and know this is a line they cannot cross. This is a good lesson on how to treat women.

Don't misunderstand, I am not encouraging domination and the caveman approach to women. As I said, Steve is a gentle man. And I am not suggesting that women are the weaker sex. We are strong, but in different ways. But there is something I need in this expression of my husband's masculinity.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Notes from sitting in a hard wooden chair providing hallway security for six hours at a Show Choir competition last Saturday

"Polka dots kick ass" according to one lovely young lady to another wearing a long white dress with black polka dots. Of course, I already knew that since I discovered A Dress a Day.

Curlers are back. Lots of teenage girls in curlers roaming the hall until time for their performance.

Teenage boys still sit on the floor strumming acoustic guitars for hours.

Make a statement with Crocs in your school colors.

My sons are flirts. Honest flirts, but still flirts.

Only in show choir do you think nothing of a 16 year old boy in a bright purple suit or neon green satin shirts.

I'm on a different planet than my son. He stops by my security post while I'm looking at a garden catalog and I remark that there are a lot of honeysuckles. "What?" he responds. I repeat, "a lot of honeysuckles" while pointing to the catalog. With a clear glimpse into his mind, he said, "Oh, I thought you meant people kissing."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Who's Eliot Spitzer?

Just got a call from my niece, who had read my post about Crunchy Cons, to tell me her email was just published on NRO's Crunchy Con blog. Go read it. You may need to read the post to which she is responding also. She's such a good writer, which I'm convinced is not only based on a good command of the language but also based on clear thinking.


I just spotted a Baltimore Oriole's nest swinging in the breeze in a large maple tree across the creek. I excitedly called my husband, who had spotted it last fall and has been keeping an eye on it. He reminded me that he pointed it out to me last fall. Oh, now I remember.

Oriole nests are a tightly woven sack, as deep as 8 inches, hanging 30 or more feet from the end of a branch near the top of a tree with a 3" opening at the top of the pouch. The nests are difficult to spot when the leaves are on the tree, and they seldom reuse old nests although they return to the same territory. We have found several nests on the ground over the years and the construction is amazing. When horses were more common, long horsehairs from the tail and mane were tightly woven around a twig framework. Now string, yarn and plant materials are used to finish the nest.

Francis Hobard Herrick in 1935 described the building of an oriole nest:

The first strands of bast, which are apt to be long, are wound about the chosen twig rather loosely with one or more turns but subsequent modes of treatment tend to draw these threads tighter, and as their free ends are brought together, other fibers are added. From such simple beginnings a loose pendant mass or snarl of fibrous material, which I have called the primary nest mass, is slowly formed, but it is a long time before it takes on the semblance of a nest or nest frame. . . .

Behavior at each visit, after a certain number of strands had been laid and joined, was essentially the same, the oriole usually bringing in but a single fiber and carrying it around the support and working it into the nest mass by what I have called shuttle movements of the bill. Clinging to the principal twig, hanging often with head down, and holding the thread, the bird makes a number of rapid thrust-and-draw movements with her mandibles. With the first thrust a fiber is pushed through the tangle which soon arises and forms the growing mass, and with the next either that or some other fiber is drawn loosely back. . . .

While these shuttle movements are, first and last, very similar, and almost equally rapid at all times, the number made at each visit tends to increase with the growing complexity of the product. At least one hundred shuttle movements were sometimes made at a single visit, but these were often so rapid that it was impossible to count them, and many of them must have been abortive.

In all this admirable work there was certainly no deliberate tying of knots, yet, as the sequel will show, knots were in reality being made in plenty at every visit. There certainly was no deliberate directing of the thread, The work was all fairly loose at first, yet naturally some of the threads became drawn more tightly than others. I do not wish to imply that the same thread that is first thrust through the nest mass or the nest wall is immediately drawn back, but only that some thread or other is blindly seized by the bill and withdrawn. . . . The irregularity of the weave of the finished work shows conclusively that the stitching is a purely random affair, though, for all that, none the less effective.

In the late stages of construction "the bird settles down in the nest and shakes all over in an effort to bring the pressure of the breast to bear upon its inner surface; he [in this case the bird was assumed to be the male] rises, turns, settles, and shakes again. These are the typical molding movements, and they are applied all over the lower parts of the pouch, their violence at times being such that the surrounding leaves, and even the slender tree itself, are all a-tremble."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Signs of Spring

My species crocus are blooming and the songbirds were singing early this morning.

A Dress a Day

This is scary. I haven't sewn since 1972, but this site has awakened the creative sewing urges. My 45 year old sewing machine hasn't worked very well for several years, and sewing was the last thing on my mind. The stars are beginning to align though: I inherited my mother's sewing machine. I found a site that makes me want to sew dresses of all things, now that my normal garb is jeans. I visited a sewing store for some special craft supplies and I had to run my hands over the beautiful fabric. I've been following Project Runway. And my husband, a master craftsmen in wood, asked me recently about the similarities between furniture construction and dress construction. Stay tuned for the inevitable.

The Renegade Gardner

I've linked to his website previously, but I'm going to do it again because I just heard him speak this afternoon at the Home and Garden Show. I laughed, I nodded in agreement, I smirked in self-satisfaction, and I squirmed in self-recognition. For those of you in the area, don't miss him.