Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Flower Dilemmas and Deliveries

So how's the cut flower business, Earth Girl?

It's been a tough spring. Comparing this year's deliveries to last year's deliveries, I lost several weeks of flowers due to the early blooms. For example, the pussywillows are usually good for several weeks of delivery, but this year they opened and matured within days! Another example is that the early, mid and late season tulips bloomed at the same time.

Now I'm trying to figure out when to plant the summer annuals, with the early warm weather but still a chance of frost.

Forsythia and daffodils made a cheerful first delivery of the season of my field-grown cut flowers.

The next delivery was tulips. These are especially lovely cut flowers as they open wide and then close at night. Usually when tulips open wide in a vase, they are at the end of their vase life.

These are pictures of peony-flowering tulips. They have become one of my favorite tulips for cutting and create quite a bit of feedback from the restaurant's customers.

This week's delivery included more tulips and lots of grape hyacinths for the smaller vases. The grape hyacinths come with a little story that I posted earlier on Facebook:
Sunday evening as I was picking grape hyacinths, I walked into a redbud limb and it scratched my eye. The doctor put a patch over it yesterday and, reaching for my purse on the floor, I said, "This is going to affect my depth perception." Then I banged by nose on the arm of the chair, which I thought was much further away.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Visual representation of homestead

We are meeting with contractors this week and one asked me to bring pictures of what the house will look like inside. Yikes! It's all in my brain. So I'm scouring Pinterest and Google Images, but am having a lot of trouble with the kitchen. Most of today's kitchens are white with black, brown or grey accents. I want something warmer, something that invites you to come in and see what's simmering in the pot or baking in the oven. I want my whole house to be inviting and calming.

Friday, February 24, 2012

First Impressions

We've had good times at The Highlands during the last 17 years, planting trees, camping, star-gazing, and skiing, and we've met our neighbors and some of the community. However, last weekend, I think I made an interesting impression on them.

Monday evening, we were staking out the house and I dressed for the chilly wind and muddy ground. On the way, I decided to pick up picnic supplies at Grabill Country Sales, a bulk food store with bakery and deli. As I browsed the cheeses near the deli tables, I sensed that someone was looking at me. As happens in small towns across the Midwest, a group of local farmers had pulled together the tables to drink coffee and talk. They were all looking at me and so I smiled and they grinned back at me.

It wasn't until I was leaving the store that I realized why they may have been staring at me. They saw a gray-haired lady wearing raspberry pink knee high mud boots, a hoody sweatshirt with dragons on it (inherited from my son) and a hot pink trappers hat with fur ear flaps.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stakes in the ground

Sunday afternoon and Monday evening, Steve and I staked out the driveway at The Highlands. We put a drive from the road to the barn 15 years ago. Over time, people started to cut corners so the location of the base layer was not visible, but the ruts where cars were driven were getting deeper. Without getting more stones, construction traffic would wreck havoc on our land.

So with a couple of spades, a stack of stakes and a hand sledge, we set out to find our old driveway and stake our new drive in preparation of ordering gravel. I took the soundings and Steve pounded stakes. Now to order base gravel (#2s) for the new turnaround and garage drive and top gravel (#73s) for everything.

That done, we decided to rough stake the new house. We didn't have a compass, so it isn't exactly right, but we had fun standing on the future porch, opening the front door, walking through the living room into the kitchen and then the dining nook. Our bedroom seemed small, but that may have been our staking since it looks fine on the drawing.

On Monday, we warmed up by the campfire that heated our supper soup and ate it to the sound of the hooty owl in the pines. This is really happening!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

You have to churn somewhat when the roof covering your head is at stake, since to sell is to walk away from a cluster of memories and to buy is to choose where the future will take place.
Under the Tuscan Sun

Sunday, January 08, 2012

House Plans

We reviewed the third set of plans tonight and are ready to give comments to the designer. We like it and think it is falling into place, but the scary thing is that every time we look at it, we come up with another good idea. At what point do we say "Go"?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Decluttering Discoveries

Every day I try to tackle one small thing to get the house decluttered before it goes on the market. It's amazing what I find.

Today I found three thank you notes written by Rick in 2008 for graduation presents. Somehow, these notes sans addresses ended up in my kitchen desk along with note pads and coupons. So Rick thanked Mrs. Sigmon, Nick Staker and the Stanley family for their gifts, but I threw the notes away almost four years later.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


I knew there was something I didn't like about New Year's Resolutions. The focus is on what is wrong in my life and not on sustaining what is right. So I'm starting to think of some non-goals for myself.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

How can I be behind already?

I function best with lists, but have fallen away from that habit recently. In 2012, I determined (OK, resolved) to improve my productivity. The first step was to find the list organizer I purchased several years ago. (Does anyone else love office supplies?)

So I crossed one thing off Sunday's list and one thing off Monday's list. I'm working now on Sunday's list (invitations to a baby shower), with Monday's list (paperwork) panting for attention and Tuesday's list (errands) growling in the background. Is this how it is suppose to work?

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year, New Granddaughter, New Home

Do you think I can write more than 7 posts in 2012? That was the number I wrote in 2011. It's not for a shortage of topics, thoughts, adventures, joys and heartbreak. 2011 was full of them. It's that I tend to post on Facebook instead of my blog.

I don't know what 2012 will bring, but I do know two things are pending: a new granddaughter and a new home. Pretty big news, eh? And rather bloggable too.

Madelyn Mae
Madelyn Mae is due to come into the world mid-February, but she is pushing things a bit. Her mom is on bedrest, trying to eke out three more weeks. Madelyn has a two-year old sister. Sister is not too happy with Mom on bedrest, so I can't imagine how she will react to the intrusion of an infant who can't even play with her yet.

The Highlands
In 1995, we bought several acres of farm land on a high bank of the river in DeKalb County and dubbed it The Highlands. Then two months later, we adopted the twins and decided to stay put. Over the years, we built a barn and planted thousands of trees on the land. Last fall, we decided to build a house and move there. We are now deciding how to site house, outbuildings, drives, gardens, orchard, septic and well. We are on round three of a house design and the land has been surveyed and platted.

So with these events, and whatever else 2012 sends out way, perhaps you will see me here more often.

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)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Peg's Personal Story

My sister sent me this email yesterday, Veteran's Day, which I am publishing with her permission.

Hi! Happy Veteran’s Day!

My cousin Linda sent the following email to me, which brought tears to my eyes because it hit so close to home.

In 1970 when the military started drafting husbands and fathers for the first time since WW II, Craig was drafted and sent to Viet Nam as a foot soldier (aka grunt) leaving behind Laura and me. There was no way to explain to a two-year old that Daddy was off fighting a war, so she kept searching for him. At the sight of any old geezer on the street, her eyes would light up and she would inquire in a tremulous voice, “Daddy?” When Craig was discharged, he missed his connecting flight out of Chicago, so John who had a fast car drove Laura and me to O’Hare to pick up Craig. We all entered the terminal at the same time and Laura ran to Craig laughing as tears streamed down her face saying, “I knew I had a Daddy!”

At that time there was a vicious hateful mood in the country towards the military, there were no returning heroes welcomes like after WW II and soldiers were more likely to be spat upon in airports. So Craig never volunteered that he was a Viet Nam vet. Then in 1983 when Laura was a flagger marching in the Three Rivers Parade with Northrop’s Big Orange Pride, a small rag-tag group of men in camo marched by holding homemade signs saying “Viet Nam Vets” and the crowd gave them a standing ovation! It still makes me cry, so you can see why the following email touched my heart.

Love, Peggy

P.S. Craig also saw Bob Hope and Ann Margaret in Da nang Christmas ‘71 – He was sitting in a sea of men so far away from the stage that he could barely see them!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Our Fourth

Two days. Two couples. Too much fun.

Saturday morning we needed jackets as we took our camping gear to The Highlands with the top down and doors off the Jeep. On the way, a grey fox stepped out of the cornfield, stared at us and then loped back into the woods. After meeting our friends for breakfast and decorating ourselves with "Growing Wild for Conservation" tattoos, we loaded up two kayaks, one Rob Roy (Steve built it) and two solo canoes and headed north to paddle Pigeon River.

We put in at the bridge by Highway 327. The water was cold and the current was strong. Tammy, Stephanie and I used our paddles only to guide us, but we suspect Steve and Brian used their paddles to paddle backwards as we outdistanced them.

We pulled over at the first bridge to wait for them as there is a little rapids over an old dam. After "wheeeing" over the dam, we exited our boats and body surfed in the water. You can see Stephanie at the far left of the first picture, which I took when she first jumped in the fast water.

These photos show the brushy area where we tied off. Brian grabbed a dark branch to steady himself and it moved quickly into the water. The snake headed straight for Stephanie and tried to get in the Rob Roy. Just a little shriek was heard above the roar of the water.

The next section took us deeper into the woods. The shade was welcome and the dappled river bottom mesmerized me. In the sunny patches, swamp milkweed and pink roses were in bloom. We had a picnic lunch creekside and then tackled the last stretch. Again, the girls outdistanced the guys. So we stood on the bridge, drying off, and played with our shadows, until the guys rounded the bend.

Back at The Highlands, my brother had already started a fire, so we set up camp, cooked dinner, and played with Sampson.

As night fell, we sat around the campfire star gazing followed by a midnight walk through the woods down to the river. The night was clear and the stars were bright. We saw Draco the dragon stretching over the barn, the binary star in the Big Dipper, satellites, and shooting stars.

It was a lazy Sunday due to the heat. Our children came to visit and left. Then Steve, Brian, John, Anna and I took the river boat to watch the Leo-Cedarville fireworks from the water. I caught the setting sun but have no fireworks pictures. I put my camera away to participate rather than just observe. It was a long dark trip back to the property as we kept close watch for logjams, floating logs, and the river channel.