Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to all

We will soon leave for Christmas Eve services. After Santa comes in the moring, we are going to my inlaws. Saturday is the Bishop Brunch here (over 30) and Sunday is the Ferguson party. You know, the 12 Days of Christmas begins on Christmas.

And here is a thought for this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My decades coincide with the calendar decades, minus two weeks. Happy Birthday to me as I turn 60 today. Reflecting on the decades, I came up with one word for each. These words are not all-encompassing but capture the general focus of how my life evolved.
20s was my decade for education
30s was my decade for career
40s was my decade for family
50s was my decade for community
What will this next decade bring?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"We can't see the forest for the T- Mobiles"

I don't think this is a problem for garden bloggers, but is it a problem for others? A friend's son recently graduated with a degree in recreational forestry (or something like that!) and his first job is at Pokagon State Park. He doesn't like the wifi in the campgrounds, because it distracts visitors from enjoying nature, but the visitors are demanding it.

I particularly like this part of the article:

Landscape designers talk about bestowing on a garden its genius loci, or spirit of the place, that bubbles up into your consciousness if its presence is strong enough and the visitor meditative enough to receive it.

Harrison says a garden truly reveals itself only when its own depths and those of the beholder flow together. But that takes time. "For the gardens to become fully visible in space, they require a temporal horizon that the age makes less and less room for."

Friday, December 04, 2009

This is my man

It is 27 degrees outside now. He teaches 4th grade and, unless the weather is extreme, they have outside recess. Yesterday he had recess duty and asked a girl (not in his class) if she had a coat. "My Daddy said he would buy me one when he has the money." I mentioned getting a free coat for her at our church's clothing bank. He just gave me a look that said, "This little girl will have a new coat." My husband bought a bright pink coat last night and will leave it on her hook this morning.

This is my husband. A good man, quietly making the world a better place, wanting no recognition. Truth be told, even this post is too much recognition.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Family Drama

Thanksgiving is about family and family is about drama. Right?


I am thankful this year that there is so little drama in my family. Oh, we're passionate and opinionated, but we are also kind. So much family drama involves some type of cruelty.

I don't understand those who thrive on drama, those who create drama for its own sake, those who stir up drama.

So this year, I am thankful that I am part of an extended family that thrives on love and kindness.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Last planting of 2009

I just planted 300 crocus bulbs in irregular groupings where my front walk opens to the sitting area under the maple tree. You can see the opening in this photo, which obviously was taken in late May/early June during the blue phase of my garden. (Yes, I could look up the exact date, but then I would get distracted by something and never post. ) The pond is on the other side of the tree so you are drawn through the opening and under the tree toward the pond. Usually I have reasons for my "designs" even though the reasons may not be obvious to visitors. hey, this is MY garden. The older I get, the more freedom I give myself to do things my way.

I love the larger crocus but they bloom two weeks later than the early crocus. I am so hungry for flowers in March that I decided to plant the smaller, earlier blooming crocus: white (Biflorus Purity), lilac-blue (Sieberi Tricolor) and yellow (Chrysanthus Goldilocks).

So does that mean my fall chores are done outside? Not quite. I still need to clean up a few beds and add the detritus to the compost pile and then turn the compost pile. I'm composting at the end of a new vegetable garden and will expand the garden next spring to include the compost area.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What are you doing Saturday?

Come join me for a Holiday Walk at Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site in Rome City, Indiana. Here is more information.

I will be working all day and hope to see you there!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Veggies Update

Green Beans
While I was recovering from pneumonia, the green beans came and went. We were able to have German Potato Salad with fresh green beans and new potatoes before I was stricken, but there are no beans in the freezer and dried pods are still on the vine in the garden. I may start a fall crop and hope we have a long fall.

For some reason, growing potatoes gives me a thrill, cutting the tuber in small pieces and getting a bounty from it. I still have some to dig and I hope they are OK with all the rain we have had these last several weeks.

This is my second year growing corn. Last year I was able to freeze enough to see us through the winter. This year, we had one good meal and two rather pathetic meals from the garden. They germinated sparingly and about half of them grew tall and the other half were stunted.

Just starting the harvest. I love the heirloom "black" tomatoes. I'm drying most the Roma tomatoes with oil, garlic and herbs.

These are just starting to produce. I look forward to a good harvest of red and yellow bell peppers.

This is my third season growing cucumbers. The first year was good, last year was horrible and this year was amazing. I have canned many pints and quarts of bread-and-butter pickles and still the vines are producing.

I have watched many clusters of grapes form on the vines and mature to fat green clusters, tracking their ripeness carefully so I can pick them at the peak pectin stage for grape jelly. Then I went out this weekend and I may have ten grapes (not ten clusters, but grapes). What happened? Luckily, my in-laws have lots and lots to share with me. Oh, and the wild grapes are about ready to pick also.

Teenage Sons

I have a category called teenage sons. I will have to change it to sons, because they are no longer teenagers. I started blogging when they were 13 and now they are 20. The last seven years have gone by quickly (and sometimes slowly).

It's a whole new parenting game, guiding them while letting them stand on their own. They are so eager to fly from the nest, but I want to help them avoid any big crashes. About the time I master this stage of parenting, they will be on to the next stage. But so it went in every previous stage.


I'm a winner! Of course, thanks to the good people at CobraHead, all commenters were winners. I thank Carol at May Dreams Garden (check out her blog) and I thank the CobraHead family (buy their tools).

It has been an unusual summer, and I'm not talking about the weather, which warrants several posts. I started strong. Then the day after my niece's graduation party at our house, I went to my bed with pneumonia and didn't get up for ten days. It has taken a while for me to get any energy back. I'm told that is to be expected, but, having been healthy all my life, I'm impatient to be able to work all day in the gardens at Gene Stratton-Porter and then come home and whip out the housework, dinner and work in my garden.

Which circles me back to the CobraHead. After two months of neglect, I spent the weekend in my garden. I made good use of the CobraHead and it is definitely a wonderful tool. I tackled the ornamental garden along my walk and it sure lifts my spirits to see it looking so nice.

As I was removing errant grass under the hydrangea with the CobraHead yesterday, I noticed the funniest looking worm slithering away. Wait, worms don't slither. It was the smallest brown snake I ever saw, about 4" long and 1/4" across. I lifted it up with the CobraHead and it moved its tiny head back and forth and flicked its little tongue. A cobra wanna be?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My guiding principle

Two bits of wisdom from my past converged this week resulting in an epiphany of my life's philosophy.

My Father and Tennyson
My father read Tennyson and I have his book, The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, copyrighted in 1892. When I was a mere child, Dad had my sister and I commit to memory a portion of Lady Clara Vere de Vere. This portion is underlined in Dad's book:
Howe'er it be, it seems to me,
'Tis only noble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
and simple faith than Norman blood.
This week I was reminded of the verse when my husband wrote a parody for a friend based on The Lady of Shalott and we pulled out Dad's book for reference.

Proverb Plaque
A few days later, I noticed a plaque hanging in my house. I hand-carved a proverb 25 years ago as a gift to my ex-husband, trying to encourage him to live a better life. When he left, he left the plaque. I put it away, but when my husband found it years later, he loved it because of the sentiment and because I carved it. He insisted that it be hung. This is Proverbs 21:21, Revised Standard Version:
He who pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor.
The Epiphany
Is there anything more winsome than kindness? Righteousness connotes that one is living a life that is pleasing to God and the root word in Hebrew means upright, just, straight, innocent, true, sincere.

Can I live a life of kindness? Can I live a life that pleases God? I often fail, but it will not stop me from pursuing kindness and righteousness.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Exercising My Brain's Executive Network

While you may have thought my last post was about daydreaming, I was only giving my lateral medial prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex a heavy work-out.

Here's the basis for my claim.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Garden Plans

It's a rainy dreamy day and I'm dreaming of my veggie garden.

Steve tilled the fenced garden this week and I wanted to plant today since I'm off work. I can just see the sweet corn, green beans, Roma tomatoes, red peppers, and cucumbers (for bread and butter pickles). The heirloom tomatoes and basil will go in the raised bed once I harvest the spinach and lettuce. The new compost bed has potatoes coming up and I think I will put some squash on the end.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Aliens Attack Earth Girl's Home

Several alien invaders have insidiously established strongholds around our home, but Steve and I have been attacking them on several fronts. Here's a report from the fighting front.

Bush Honeysuckle
Twenty years ago when I noticed how much the birds like the red berries on the pretty bush by the bridge, I should have been suspicious. Now we are surrounded by bushes, blocking our view of the woods. This spring we launched a full scale attack. While there have been skirmishes elsewhere, the main battles have been along the stream bed and the meadow edges.

Autumn Olive
Oh, your heavenly scent seduced me into leaving just one or two bushes. Then you show your true colors. If you cut the thorny bush down, it sends out suckers. Off with its head with a few drops of pure glyphosate on its neck. It likes to hang out with the honeysuckle, but our brush pile is now about 20 feet tall as we attack both invasive shrubs.

Multiflora Roses
Sure, you call yourself a rose, but I call you dead. Once upon a time, I had a pretty native pink rose growing here; what did you do with her?

Garlic Mustard
Just search my blog with this term to find out how long I've been battling this alien. Every time I think I have won, I find you hiding among the canes of the multiflora roses, or under a large mayapple. And you are mutating into ever shorter plants all the better to hide from me. But I have trained my eyes to find you, even to the point of missing the morels.

Potential Threats
I won't even mention the English ivy that is trying to creep into the woods, or the ajuga romping along the stream edge, or the dandelions, or the red osier or poison ivy. And how did lily of the valley get in the woods?

Please send care packages!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


This article captures what I think is one of the secrets to a successful and happy personal life, and it makes the case that it is effective for other systems also. Resilience is a skill that we have worked hard to teach one of our sons, battered through his experiences before we adopted him at almost six years old. It is not his natural state, but he has made great strides.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

GSP Outdoors

Check out the recent posts on GSP Outdoors. Our site director is now posting on it also and there are pictures of wildflowers, salamanders and bobcat tracks, all from the grounds of the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site.

An Easter Sunday

As my nephew, his friend and my son headed up to the road to play ball today (and why in the road when we have a perfectly good meadow?), I called after them to watch for cars. Our road is not heavily traveled, but there are two sharp curves that block vision. My husband laughed and reminded me that my nephew and his friend just returned from combat duty and could probably handle the rare car on a back road. The "boys" were good-natured about my warning though.

A walk is always on the agenda after we eat and we headed down into the lowlands next to Cedar Creek. Yes, we did get a bit muddy, but the spring flowers were just emerging. I discovered several large patches of wild leeks or ramps (Allium tricoccum). My ten-year-old nephew was especially interested in identifying animal tracks in the mud. He called me over to look at one track that he couldn't identify, but my husband identified it first. As Sean held a mud caked stick behind his back, my husband announced it was the track of the wild Sean-boy dog.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pileated Woodpeckers (plural)

I just walked onto the back deck and saw 2 - TWO - pileated woodpeckers in the woods. I looked because of the loud pecking and then saw the second further back in the woods moving around the tree and then flying to another tree. I wonder if we will have baby peckers this spring?

Friday, January 30, 2009


There is a lot of chatter on blogs about the medical benefits of letting children play in the dirt. I just read an interesting article about how high fever, whether viral, bacterial or plasmodic in origin, triggers the immune system to fight cancer.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Deja Vu

Just when I thought I had nothing for a blog post, there is a twin repeat from last week. Car in ditch. Ricky this time. "Mom, it's been 3 months since the last time."

Oh, he's fine, except for a huge bruise on his left shoulder and some self-disgust that it happened.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I've changed my (kitchen) ways

Parchment paper
I grew up "greasing" cookie pans. It worked but was messy. Parchment paper is easy to use, easy to clean and works well. I recently tried "Baker's Joy" oil and flour spray and didn't like it except for those tiny muffin tins that are impossible to grease and flour as well as pans with ridges.

Chef's knife
I used a Chef knife for the last 15 years of my 40 or so years of adult cooking. Whap, whap, whap and I'm done slicing and dicing. I remember Mom dicing a whole onion with a paring knife while holding it in her hand.

Joy of Cooking
I started with a Betty Crocker cookbook. Sure, there are serviceable recipes in it and I still use a few of them. I changed my ways about 1985 with the purchase of Joy. It gives me so much background and variations that I often I just create my own recipes. I am now migrating to the internet, researching recipe variations and then creating my own.

In the olden days, I used the smallest side of a grater to zest lemons and oranges. Then I upgraded to a Pampered Chef zester. It was easier but still resulted in chunky zest. The microplaner is perfect. I use it for nutmeg and hard cheese also.

Potato Masher
For years I whipped out the mixer to whip potatoes. I now scrub the potato, cut them into small chunks, skin on, and then use the oh-so-quiet potato masher. We like little chunks in the potatoes, especially with lots of butter (and cream cheese or sour cream or whatever else I feel like adding.)

Pyrex small bowls with lids
I bought eight 2-cup glass bowls to bake and serve individual berry puff puddings at a dinner party. I used them so much afterward that I bought four 1-cup bowls and lids and then another eight bowls. I use these bowls instead of plastic storage containers or freezer bags for most items. Cook, freeze, microwave, serve--all in the same bowl. I use the refrigerator freezer to store prepared food in these containers and all we have to do is pop the lid and microwave. Right now, you could serve yourself potato soup, cuban black bean soup, turkey and noodles, chili soup, teriyaki pork or meatballs from these bowls, all neatly stacked in my small freezer.

A day at The Highlands

After church, breakfast and grading homework, we headed out to the tree farm for some cross-country skiing. We call it The Highlands because of the 70 foot bluff overlooking the river and the fact that my husband's ancestors came from Scotland.

We discovered the neighbors from the Art Farm (two artists are rehabbing an old Amish farm across the road, starting with purple paint) had laid ski tracks around our land and through the neighbor's woods. A fine powder of snow filled the tracks for perfect skiing. The weather seemed balmy (24 degrees) and the sun was shining, but the wind was blowing hard. After some skiing, we built a little fire in a sheltered spot and warmed up Cuban black bean soup for lunch.

We hit the trails again and then switched to boots to prune some of the trees. Note the small hardwoods behind Steve. We are pruning so all the hardwoods have one dominant straight leader. This is called financial pruning (best timber price when mature) rather than aesthetic pruning, although I let one oak in an open spot continue growing with spreading branches. Maybe someone will put a swing there someday.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Daily Life/Daily Disasters

I'm sure glad yesterday is done, over, kaput, never to be seen again. Today has been much better (so far).

First, the temperature is now a balmy 26 degrees compared to last night's negative 14 degrees. I went outside several times today in just a lightweight jacket, while I dressed in layers yesterday. I recently read that what I call long underwear is now called a base layer. Much more civilized, don't you think?

Second, I got a call from my son yesterday morning. He was sitting in the ditch in the canyons, just like his brother several months ago. Car sustained damage from the front bumper to the rear bumper. Son missed the big trees. Son was not injured. This is his "new" car. My husband cosigned for it. Insurance is already over $1400 a year for him. And to top it all, I told him to stay home and he disobeyed. Last night I decided to talk to him as an adult instead of a child. I reminded him of Proverbs 19:20, "Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days." And I think his eyes glazed over while I was talking.

Finally, I made the best Cuban Black Bean Soup last night. See that line: If a thicker, smoother soup is desired, purée half of the soup in a blender. I decided I wanted a thicker soup, so I put part of it in the blender and hit pulse. The lid flew off and black goop literally flew five feet in every direction. Today, my kitchen is clean and I'm heating a bowl of soup for supper.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"This is a piece of cardboard...

to be used only if you need a piece of cardboard."

This morning, I found this in a box of papers from my mother's estate. It was written by Dad. I'm sure it made my mother laugh.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Do it sooner, rather than later

I painted my dining room today and it reminded me to make changes sooner, rather than later. A good reminder for the new year.

I have disliked the color in the dining room since I painted it, about ten years ago. Here's a picture from a baby shower that shows the dining room. The french doors are open in the picture, but there's a good shot of one wall. The paint has a pinkish cast and it washed out the beauty of the woodwork.

Here's what it look like tonight, almost finished. The color is not true; it's darker and not olive. The tape is still on, I have some trim to finish on the built-in sassafras china cabinet that my husband made for me, and I need to iron the freshly washed valance to hang over the doors. Oh, and clean up my paint mess, too.

So on the theme of changes, perhaps I shall work on getting the plank floors I want. It may be a while since my husband wants to put radiant heating under the floors and build the planks himself, probably from trees harvested from our tree farm. Oh, well, I'm pleased with the new paint for now.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Critters

Two critter encounters today: opossum and hawk.

While I was shaking some rugs on the back deck, a large hawk (20 inches) flew within ten feet of me. It landed in a small tree about 20 feet away, with its back to me, and slowing moved its head one way and then another, looking for prey. I never did see its front, but it had a fan-shaped tail with wide brown and black stripes, ending in a white stripe. Its brown back had buff dots and its head was a lighter shade of brown. I couldn't make a definite ID from my references, but it was fun to watch.

Then tonight, Steve called me to look out the back door, where he had sat a half full bottle of wine to remain chilled. (I must be an optimist, because I didn't think of it as half empty.) A (o)possum was gnawing on the cork, trying to get a taste.