Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Here is something for the winter solstice:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pizza Park

There is a park in Cedarville that my family calls Pizza Park. The name came from the days when my boys were young and we would play at the park and then carry-out pizza from Pizza Prize across the street. (Great pizza. I miss you, Pizza Prize.) The park had old-fashioned playground equipment, so old that I remember them from my grade school days. Remember the maypole, a tall column with chains hanging down with handles attached. We would grab a handle and start running in a circle and soon we were airborne. And the old merry-go-round that would go so fast that you knew you would surely sail off clear across the playground.

Through a massive community effort, a new playground was constructed in 1997. Here is a carved sign thanking the many volunteers that made the new playground possible.

Take a closer look at that sign and you will see my husband! He took the then 8-year-old twins there often to help build a new playground.

Yes, he is the one in the baseball cap with a towel hanging off his pocket.

Last night, we went to Pizza Park. We stopped at the sign and Steve said, "I didn't know it then, but I built this for my granddaughter."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Beyond Community Gardening

In my town, there is a new community garden, the vision of one woman. The city razed an empty house on her block in this working class area and the woman and her husband bought the empty lot. I got involved because storm water was eroding the bare earth and I am the garden coach/consultant for the city's rain garden program.

Last April, she requested an on-site visit and we walked through the muddy lot and she shared her ideas. Before I left, I did a rough sketch of the site: entry with a curving walk behind prairie plants and past the rain garden into an area of raised beds for vegetables. She called me in May for encouragement and then again in July inviting me to stop by to see the High Street Gardens.

I was blown away!

This is the entry. Not only did she plan, prepare, plant and tend the garden, she made signs for visitors. Another sign tells neighbors to walk in, enjoy and pick the herbs and vegetables. This woman and her garden feeds the bodies and souls of her neighbors. Last spring, she was especially interested in reaching the elderly and the children.

Next the path goes by the rain garden, supported by a program through the city. Her plants are thriving and already starting to bloom, such as:

Joe-Pye weed,

blue lobelia, and


Across from the rain garden is a pumpkin patch, then sunflowers screen this bird bath bordered by a black drain pipe decorated by the neighborhood children. The bird bath was donated by Stuckey's greenhouse.

Then come the raised beds, decorated by the children.

The beds and the fence line are filled with vegetables, herbs and berries, ready to be picked by any neighbor when ripe. As a gardener, I noticed and appreciated the compost pile in the back of the lot.

And annuals are mixed into the beds for the pure joy of it. The coleus/sweet potato bed was donated and planted by Stuckeys. The galvanized tub planter was found by a neighbor and donated. The neighborhood is starting to understand that this was created just for them and are slowly becoming involved. First the kids and now the adults. But this one woman still drags her hose over from her house to water every morning during this intense heat wave (and pays for the water and property taxes.).

Community gardens are usually publicly owned and the produce belongs to those who work in it. This garden is privately owned and the produce goes to the public. One woman with a vision and this is just the first year. The perennials will only become more spectacular and she is talking about putting in grapes or fruit trees. I am forcing myself not to use an excess of exclamation marks.

(Forgive the quality of the pictures. I was not expecting this so only had my iPhone and it was in the middle of the day.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

What was lost is now found

I have been searching for something since the spring of 1988. Yesterday I found it. Rejoice with me!
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:6-10
Over 20 years ago, the first spring I lived here, I was walking in the woods, checking it out, when a sigh of disgust at litter escaped my lips as I saw a partially inflated balloon stuck on some foliage. I went over to pick it up and discovered:

A lady's slipper! A native Indiana orchid! A Cypripedium pubescens! It is an uncommon wildflower, considered threatened in many Midwestern states.

My woods had been ravaged by the former owner who fenced it and kept goats. The goats were very destructive and we have worked hard to restore the woodlands. Every spring I searched the area where I found the lady's slipper and never found a trace. Yesterday, I was working in the woods, pulling garlic mustard, removing bush honeysuckle and marking tree starts. I was scanning every square inch of the woods, when I beheld the long-lost flower.

Oh, pretty one, where have you been?

Now for a bonus photo from the adjacent woods:

Now that's one giant jack-in-the pulpit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mow gingerly

I wrote this as a comment on a native plant blog, but decided I should share this story here.

About ten years ago, we planted redbuds and tulip poplars between our lane and the woods. As the trees matured, we noticed the wildflowers expanding their territory. Bloodroot, bluebells, and monarda were the first to appear. Then we discovered jacks, bleeding heart, native sunflowers, and asters. Of course, we stopped mowing this area until there was only a mower's width up the lane to allow access to the meadow.

I love wild ginger but failed in my two efforts to establish it here. Just last week I found several patches under those redbud trees. I really wonder how they traveled so far. I was so excited and dragged my husband out to see it several times. I envisioned a carpet of ginger under those trees.

Then Ricky mowed the lawn. You know what happened next, as he was just trying to keep the lane neat. My son felt so bad because my first response was tears. My second response was hope that the ginger responds to this pruning. The other flowers will do just fine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Doctrine of Signatures

For years I used the scientific names of plants, eschewing the common names. This year, however, as I enjoy the spring ephemerals bursting in the woods, I am also enjoying the stories behind their common names, specifically the Doctrine of Signatures. This 16th century medical doctrine is based on the belief that God marked plants with his signature so we would know the purpose of the plant.

Today, I found the first blooms of trout lily, but the older common name is adder's tongue lily. According to the Doctrine of Signatures (DoS), this plant will heal snake bites because it looks like a snake's tongue.

Another spring wildflower is cut-leaf toothwort, whose roots were thought to resemble teeth, so this plant was used to treat tooth trouble. Even the genus name,Dentaria, reflects the DoS.

One of the most beautiful spring flowers is hepatica or liverwort. "God's mark on Hepatica was that its leaves turned liver-colored in winter and by a stretch of the imagination looked like little slabs of chicken livers."

On a sunny early spring day, the white blooms of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) are charming. The roots produce a red dye, so this plant was thought to cure blood disorders.

The may-apples in my woods are just starting to unfurl their umbrellas leaves. Although not related to the Eurasian mandrake, its roots are similar and was called mandrake in the New World. Mandrake is suppose to promote sexual passion in females due to the shape of its roots.

The lungworts (Pulmonaria) are blooming in my cultivated garden, Their spotted oval leaves looked like spotty diseased lungs to someone, thus the common and scientific name. It was used to treat pulmonary infections.

The maidenhair fern will be emerging soon in the woods of Indiana. Of course, because of its fine fronds, it was used to cure baldness when the Doctrine of Signatures was the source of medical treatment.

There are many other examples of the Doctrine of Signatures, but these are blooming now in case you want to try some superstitious medicine.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Hoosier Wilderness

Driving through Indy, I could not suppress a squeal when I saw my first daffodils of the season, but I soon learned self-control as I was with my husband and our friend Ed to spend several days in Charles C. Deam Wilderness area in the Hoosier National Forest. Spring was evident everywhere.

Our first stop was Oliver Winery where we had lunch of smoked gouda, rosemary pink salt flatbread and Riesling.

After checking into a motel and scouting part of the 13,000 acres of Hoosier National Forest, we headed in for the night and another bottle of wine. Just then a large green shooting star streaked across the southwestern horizon.

Sunday morning, we headed out to explore Indiana's version of wilderness.

And discovered spring flowers, such as spring beauties with its edible tubers,

cut-leaved toothwort,

dogwood blooms (OK, I'm pushing this as a bloom but it's almost there),

and club moss and Christmas ferns carpeting the forest floor.

Cress, trout lilies and redbuds were in full bud, but I was liken' the lichen.

Terrill Cemetery was at the end of one trail. There were a few modern gravestones, but some stones were hand carved, such as this 1848 marker with the holes acting as guidelines.

Some stones were crudely hand-chiseled and some graves were marked only with a stone. I was amazed that WH is still remembered with a fading daffodil and a flag.

We left the marked trail to find a little lake.

It was time for a short rest, lunch and a nap.

Ed tried out his Katedyn water filter in the lake. I was very interested as a water filter has been on my wish list for some time.

Refreshed, it was time for some bushwhacking, using a compass and a topographical map. We stuck to the ridges and headed mostly south, avoiding ravines such as this one that was over 200' deep.

The ridges took us through some thickets of wild roses and the wind started to pick up. Gusts up to 50 mph were forecast. The tops of the trees were dancing up a storm while singing to us. We used extreme caution to avoid falling limbs and trees. Just as we hit the trail, a 50' hardwood tree came down about 25 ' from Steve.

Back at the car, we decided to take a brief look at T. C. Steele State Historic Site and then time for a hot shower. The temps reached 80 degrees and the hiking was strenuous, so the hot shower was a real luxury.

It was a great way to spend our anniversary weekend. (19 years)