Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"twisted fruit"

Before moving to the farm I had a long history of growing African Violets. But not a single one would grow well for me here. I've tried and tried and not a one has survived. Very sad, I tell you.

Two years ago I came upon a lovely little flowering plant at an Amish greenhouse. Its name is streptocarpus. It's from the Greek via Latin meaning "twisted fruit." A relative of the African Violet it is often called a cape primrose. The Amish call it a lady slipper. 
First residing on the front porch, then inside at the upstairs sliders with the orchids, within a year it multiplied into a robust mound of half a dozen plants and remained in bloom without pausing even once. Despite a serious attack of mealy bug, it has lived to multiply again. You see it in the photo above.
Naturally, last summer I was on the lookout for another variety hoping to begin a collection. I found only one. This little charmer joined the family.

This spring, after a year, it too has multiplied into many individual plants and will be divided and shared before being brought in for the winter.
Of course, this spring again I looked and amazingly I found three more flower types! None of them were in robust health but that didn't deter this new addict.

Aren't they lovely? This fall they'll get a plant stand of their own and be watched very carefully for the insidious little fuzzy invaders.  
By the way, garden centers sometimes sell their little cousin, streptocarella. It's a cutie, too. Clusters of smaller violet hued flowers on dangling stems. Cheerful. Friendly. 
And the humming birds that visit the nectar feeder out the front porch love them too.

Friday, June 22, 2018

thinking on tomatoes and second chances

My relationship with, or more honestly, my passion for, plants began early. As children we were required to help in the garden, usually given the task of weeding designated spots in the flower beds or vegetable rows. Now this assignment could just as easily have caused me to hate the garden. It did the opposite. My conversations with plants developed in those early years. (I was a child after all.) My understanding that interaction with plants was good for me developed later.
My father especially loved to garden. It was a pleasure he never lost. The day of his heart attack, his first words to me as I hopped into the ambulance before he departed for the hospital were "Don't forget to water the tomato seedlings!" Unfortunately, though those seedlings lived to be given to friends and family at his wake, he never lived to eat of their bounty. Today, my brother in Colorado, still raises tomatoes from the generations of seeds that he has saved from those seedlings in 2006. So, I'm not the only one of us kids who inherited the crazy love of playing in the dirt. In fact, all 7 of us kids have gardened for joy as adults. 
It is this idea of "garden for joy" that guides what I expect of myself and the gardens here on our ridge meadow property. My responsibilities as steward of this little bit of land in my care. My honest acknowledgement of what I am physically able to do. My goals are not to fill the larder for winter. Not to harvest the first ripe tomato on the ridge. Not to turn my joy into burden. To develop a balance of what I am capable of with what needs to be done as I age. To have fun. To have time to see and savor the joy.
Am I the only one who apologizes to the seedlings that get culled when thinning a row? Does anyone else comfort a shrub or a tree when pruning it? 

(Can you identify the plant rooting in the jar in the photo above?)
Every summer I like to grow something I've never grown before. I like to experiment with methods of growing the tried and true.

This year I am growing my tomatoes on hog panel trellises. With the weather we've been having the tomato stems have become fragile, in need of very careful handling. I actually snapped off a plant at the ground just by easing it over toward the trellis last week. Was all lost?

The first year I gardened as a newlywed, a cutworm had toppled a young tomato plant which I discovered when the severed plant was still fresh with dew. I popped it into a jar of water, it rooted happily, and eventually was replanted to flourish and fruit for the season. And so, 46 years later,  I didn't hesitate to do the same with this little one. As you can see the roots are coming along nicely. The plant is perky and fully of flowers. Soon it will be planted and then reintroduced to the out of doors. 
Do you sense a parable? 

Monday, June 18, 2018

thoughts on a mid June Monday

I have a theory that as we approach the summer solstice the earth spins faster than at any other time of year. The days are the longest but for some inexplicable reason there seems to be less time for everything,

Add to this a long list of "what I want to accomplish this summer" and pretty soon it's like  being pummeled by waves. Not little, lapping, tinkling waves like minnows nibbling your toes. The sort that make you reach for handholds and cause you to check that your life vest is fastened.

I admit the heat and humidity really do me in. And the bugs?? eek, they love me. Truth be told the combination, if allowed, can cause me to forget all desire for being outdoors.
Yet the garden needs tending. The chickens require tender attention. Life on the meadow needs to be noticed.

I'm wondering if getting older I'm coming to realize there's no longer enough time for  everything on my "want to accomplish list." An idea, that if allowed, could immobilize.

Today, though, I choose to "do". Something. To allow myself my humanity. To let go of the falsity of being in control.
To acknowledge gratitude.
And to share with each of you some of the joy that hums its soft melodies if we but have the ears to listen.

Love and thanks to each of you for being who you are persevering in the face of your own challenges of spirit.

"Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard."  (Anne Sexton)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

grace abundant

What is it about this time of year that so fills the heart to bursting?
the beauty?
the rapid growth and change all around?
the smells and sounds and sights of the world fully alive?
the impossibly unstoppable will of Mother Nature?
the simple acts of sunrises and sunsets each as old as time and yet so new they cause you pause and    wonder?
It's healing. It's nourishing. It's God's good grace.
And it's limitless.
All we need to do is be present.

Friday, March 30, 2018

is it spring yet?

It's snowing lightly just now and the forecast shows a low of 13 for tomorrow night.
Yesterday we pruned the grapevines and today took down a diseased fruit tree. Too soon to clean up the flower beds or spread the compost. But I'm eager.
Still no sign of spring bulbs and only the tiniest bit of red identifies the spots where the rhubarbs live. Or did I imagine it?
The cats daily watch through the windows, being entertained as the birds consume the remains of last summer, the rabbits continue to put shrubs and small trees in jeopardy with their incessant nibbling, and winds rearrange the oak leaves around the yard.
Oh for a little bit of green.
Soon. Soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

holy week hoarfrost

National Weather Service predicted today would be an ideal day to prune the grapevines. Sunny, light wind, mid 50s.
In a late March moment, Mother Nature decided to softly blow her frozen breath across the landscape.

I have not as yet emptied the urns at the front porch steps. Looks as if this arrangement has been flocked.

And the grapevines...

frost covered this morning, are now standing in the brilliant sunshine, waiting for me.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

one good thing

I've been away from this blog for a while. Life hasn't been standing still for me. Usually when I find myself returning to post after an absence, I feel the need to fill in all the blanks between the last post and the present.
Today I prefer to concentrate on just one good thing.
Anne celebrated her birthday this past Thursday and has been our custom since they've joined us out here in the driftless region, she was given the task of choosing her birthday lunch venue and any interesting places to explore nearby.
You can see her post about her special day here.
Let me begin by saying we had a most enjoyable day. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum is a gem. So many amazing pieces in the permanent collection.
And such a wealth of local artists whose work is on temporary loan.
One temporary exhibit currently in place still brings joy several days later. Anne shared her favorite piece in the Leo and Marilyn Smith retrospective collection. Below is my favorite, Shaggy Walker.

The lighting of these pieces cast deep shadows on the carpet below.

Not an accident as there was a table in this room set up with a tiny focused lamp shining on a roll of white paper, several objects of various shapes to hold in front of the lamp to cast shadows, and crayons for drawing the silhouettes onto the paper. Shadow art!

The museum is in Winona, Minnesota. A town named for an Indian princess.

If Lake Pepin sounds familiar it's because Pepin is the town from which Laura Ingalls and her family moved at the end of Little House in the Big Woods. It is just up the Mississippi from Winona on the Wisconsin side where the river bulges to form a lake named for the city beside it.
I also loved the Smith's interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf,

and found a child's delight in this river otter.

I had several questions for the docent that was working while we were there.  He explained that many of the pieces in the permanent collection are owned by private parties but on permanent loan to the museum. I guess I hadn't consciously realized that tiny museums could never exist without benefactors and we would never get to stand before these treasures owned by wealthy individuals without their generous spirit of sharing.
Thanks to each of you, whoever you are.