Sunday, March 25, 2012

mixed blessing

I'm so distracted by this uncommonly early spring weather. I feel as if I've been holding my breath waiting for a blow.

The first of my yearling trees is fully open now,  a Moongold apricot. I walk daily among these sweet eager babies whispering "Go back to sleep" but they cannot resist the soft air and tender nights.
Friday I visited my local garden center, The Flower Basket, to thank them once again for the marvelous arrangement they delivered from Jerome on the first day of spring,

(that's a moss kissed, terra cotta watering can vase that actually pours water!) but also to talk with them about this phenomenon. Not since they've owned the nursery, nor in the memory of the previous owner, has there been a spring like this. They, like me, are holding their breath hoping to avoid a temperature plunge that would deal a devastating blow to the accelerated growth of their seasonal stock.
And living in a farming community, my neighbors, too, are watching the weather with more than the usual interest.

I know many are happy with this lovely warm March. It has been pleasant to be sure.
But..... when I hear the frogs calling one another in the night and think of the fragile baby offspring that will not survive should that pond once again chill down, I shiver for them.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22


                                                         Happy birthday, my lovely girl.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

tapas bloggers style

Tapas: a wide variety of appetizers.
Never had them in the culinary sense but thought my post today might be an opportunity to share tapas in the form of visual snacks.
Just before I left for Illinois, I had an awakening regarding the folded boxes I had helped to create for the herbal classes at YIHS in January. I had already thought to use old calendar pages folded as the box tops. Earlier this month I remembered a few calendars I had put aside years ago: a quilt calendar and a couple years of Literary Calligraphy.

a crazy quilt top and simple black bottom from the old quilt calendar
 a  folded Susan Loy page

Susan's calendars are collections of paintings encircled with calligraphy done in a square format. Absolutely perfect for folding a square box: centered design on the box's top and aligned lettering and floral design on the interiors.

Beauty inside and out.
I had to restrain myself from folding all of them right away. I did send an email to Susan to let her know, but received a disappointing reply: one sentence simply thanking me for my interest in Literary Calligraphy and addressed to dear Sandra. Oh well, I refuse to have my enthusiasm for the discovery be deflated.
Early in March I began to plant seeds for this summer's garden. The first were a set of wave petunia seeds in shades of blues, violets, purples and white. The seeds came 10 per package, thankfully pelleted as petunia seed is tiny indeed.

and now
Since that first flat of seeds I have planted about a dozen others and there are two more flats on the kitchen counter waiting for today's seeds. Each day brings sprouts that thrill and bring hope. If such tiny, fragile life can struggle to fulfill its destiny surely I can persevere. And just for fun I put a new face on each of these old markers.

I left for the city on Sunday the 11th with plans to return to the farm on Friday the 16th. I didn't want to leave the baby seedlings alone too long and the students at the high school where I volunteered in January were putting on an art show Friday night that I wanted to attend. That didn't leave much time to fit in all that I had hoped to do in the city...
Monday my garden buddy Barb and I went to the Chicago flower show at Navy Pier. The theme was Hort Couture, though most of the displays were a stretch to meet the fashion theme. Here is one that directly related.

Two other displays especially caught my interest. For the first time ever there was a chicken coop with live chickens. It was presented by EZ Clean Chicken Coops and part of a larger display demonstrating sustainability. The second was called Aprons: Myth, Memory, Fantasy in the Kitchen. While viewing this particular display Barb and I overheard someone identify a white ruffled apron heavily decorated with colorful embroidery as an Amish apron. Unfortunately her comments were heard by several around her. I do hope they knew better. We visited the vendor area where I bought a small aloe for the farmhouse kitchen and also a variety of seed which Barb called to my attention. It will be my "something new" for this season and is called an asparagus pea. The seed packet stated that it grows a pea vine that produces a pointed vegetable that when picked at one inch long and steamed resembles asparagus in flavor. Anyone familiar with this??
On the way out of the city toward home we stopped at Gethsemane garden center where I succumbed to a new variety of sansevieria. I haven't grown one for a very long time and thought it would be good to have one again.
Tuesday I shopped at a few stores I miss here in Wisconsin and then met my sister Terri. We had lunch, shopped at Pasquesi Home and Garden center where I found the most exquisite pansies for the city front porch, the farm back porch and a primrose to knock your sox off. We also went to Ikea, where I loaded up on my favorite candles and tea lights and found 2 solar fabric lanterns for the farm house.
Jerome planned to take Wednesday off and possibly Thursday. On the coming Sunday he would be playing and conducting the Dubois Seven Last Words. He could have been spending that time in continued preparation but opted to give me the days.  We spent  Wednesday cleaning out the debris of the winter in our city garden, an expenditure of our precious free time that I convinced him was necessary and that we both thoroughly enjoyed. We both miss working on projects together. We fit in a half day at the Chicago Botanic Gardens on Thursday. We hadn't been there since Christmas time. The work on their shore restoration continues on the great north lake, the most visible area of the gardens. What a monumental task.
I had been surprised to see how much had survived the winter in the city garden as if there hadn't been a winter. The roses had no die back, the butterfly bush was green throughout its 5 feet height, the easter lily bulbs were up along the porch. Arriving back at the farm brought more surprises. The Friday before I left the high temperature was 30 degrees and the wind was fierce out of the north. When I returned, spring or rather early summer had arrived. My spinach, which wintered over without any covering at all, had begun to grow anew.

I've been picking and eating it almost daily since I returned. The yearling trees in the orchard are budding out and there appear to be flowers on the Moongold apricot near to opening.  Nights are filled with frog song and during the day I hear the constant calling of what Eli this morning identified as ring-necked pheasant.  I described what I had been hearing and Eli said he had once seen a pheasant on a fence post call and then shake its feathers making the sound I described to him. Sure enough, checking the Cornell site I learned he was right. They have been all around the farmhouse this week. Last evening I sat on the front porch where I could clearly hear them across the road hoping I could see what was making that sound. I didn't, but it's enough to have learned what they were and that they are near.
In fact, I am surrounded by creation and feel as if a banquet has been spread before me. I feel nourished and thankful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


It has been ridiculously warm and flora and fauna alike are helpless to resist. Spring is ephemeral enough played at normal speed. At this pace there is little time to savor...

These wee iris were up and gone in a day at the city house. Sad to know it will be another year before they return. Yesterday here at the farm there was no sign of the garlic I planted last October. This morning I spied two rows of it 4 inches tall. How can that be?

So very delightful to reach the vernal equinox and know that for the next six months there will be more light hours than dark ones,  to enjoy dinner leisurely before darkness falls, to walk the meadow after dinner looking back at the farm house washed in crimson and lilac by the setting sun. There are still only 24 hours in a day, but somehow time feels more abundant. Daylight savings time helps with this, of course. I've learned that the Amish here do not set their clocks ahead. They acknowledge that the rest of us are an hour ahead.  They choose to continue on what they call "Slow Time."

On this first day of spring I wish each of you the grace of slow time, time to savor the sweetness of the season.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

M is for melodies

Sounds that stir the weariest of souls: helplessly giggling children, bees going deliriously about their business within a blossom's bosom, and the raucous improvisation of bird call. Rapturous rhapsodies.

My fair weather friends have returned.  Friday the meadows and trees around the farmhouse were suddenly full of the unmistakeable and so very welcome sound of red-wing blackbirds.  Mourning doves and robins arrived as well.
Morning has broken.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

L is for light

I haven't posted along the alphabet theme for a while. Today's post seemed a good time to go back to it. I am hungry for sunlight, starving actually. So what do I do when I'm hungry? go looking for something to satisfy. I found this lovely flower on my parlor palm which actually resides in the bathroom. It holds a special place in my home. It was a tiny plant in among a variety of potted plants in an English Garden basket arrangement sent to my father-in-law's funeral. It has become a lovely large plant over the years and when I breathe the oxygen it produces for me I feel Pater's spirit rise up within me. I feel lighter.

a bloom on the palm

This morning I found a comment from a new visitor to my blog. Hello, Tillybud, so lovely to hear from you. So of course I had to go visit her at Small and lucky
I love how her banner reads "Finding life's little twinkles..."
Finding the twinkles among the glares of 21st century life isn't easy. But the miracle is this, when you need them, they appear. They are given by the plants on your windowsill, and bloggers also taking a moment to notice and share the spark, the twinkle.
Thank you Tillybud for reaching out to me today and sharing the twinkle that is you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1

This morning, as I have done for 36 years, I turned the calendar and my heart swelled at the thought of my first born.
Anne.  Happy birthday month, sweetheart.
March also brings with it the intoxicating scents of promises. Winter can have its way with us and we can smile.
In honor of March I took a walk around the grounds here on our ridge meadow farm after lunch, seeing if I could note any changes indicating that spring arrives in just under 3 weeks. It's a "lamb" beginning for this year, even the winds are mild today. Temperatures hovering just barely above freezing.  Yesterday's ice/snow is disappearing, exposing puddles and mud. Alas no sun, again.
In the spirit of spring anticipation I've begun several trays of seed. This year I decided to assemble the mini greenhouses for germinating before the babies go under the plant lights in the basement. It's a little too chilly down there for germinating most things. And I can keep a closer eye on them. It feels so GOOD to be planting those tiny bits. Contemplating a seed is right up there with gazing at the stars.
Ah, March. Welcome.