Friday, February 29, 2008

A Country Life

I come from a farming, gardening family going back generations. My great-great grandparents farmed in Nebraska, as did my great-grandparents . My grandparents had their little 40 acre farm in the Ozarks, the setting of some of my fondest childhood memories.

My grandfather had degrees in journalism and horticulture. Like so many college-educated women of her generation, Grandma studied home economics. Grandma had grown up on the family farm, Grandpa was the son of immigrants and grew up in New York City. He dreamed his whole life of being a farmer. Finally as their children were becoming young adults and economics allowed, they made that dream come true with the purchase of the little farm and orchard in the beautiful Ozark Mountains.

My mom and stepfather live partially off their own land on 68 acres with woods, meadows, wildlife, fruit trees, berry bushes and brambles, perennial gardens, and huge vegetable gardens where they grow and preserve a bounty that sees them through each year from harvest to harvest.

Although they own enough acreage for livestock, they limit their production to fruits and vegetables. They buy most of their meat, dairy, and eggs from Amish and organic farmers in their community, and other staples through local co-ops and buying clubs. In doing so they help support and sustain the local farming economy.

Because so much of it is undeveloped and unfarmed, their small piece of heaven on earth is mostly a wild and beautiful flora and fauna preserve existing unmolested and unharmed much as it would have long before Columbus.

They participate in an ecologically-sound forestry management program. They re-use, recycle, or compost most of the little bit of waste they generate. They are shining examples of organic gardening, buying local, supporting this country's endangered family farming culture, and sustainable, energy-conscious, environmentally sound living, and they get to live here:

This is a bit of my heritage which may serve to illuminate my recently recurring fantasy of a country life. My kids, at least for now, live reasonably close. Two of them are in the city about an hour away, and one is closer about 30 minutes away in the suburbs. Two of my three girls have started families. I have one grandchild and counting. In part because it's hard to imagine living any further away from my daughters and my grandchildren, it's hard to think about pursuing that country life fantasy.

Yet there's a deep part of me dreaming of a country life. Is it nature or nurture? I guess it's a bit of both. And it seems it's something I've passed on to at least one of my daughters, who like me and generations before us, long for country life.

My mom and stepfather, and grandparents weren't much older than me, and like me, their kids were grown and mostly on their own, when they took the plunge and made their country-life dreams come true.

For now and for the foreseeable future my country dreams will remain dreams. Sometimes though, a familiar yearning takes hold. . . And on February days like this, when it's too cold to work it out in my suburban back yard garden, it can be palpable.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Grey Area

I sometimes wish I was a more 'black and white' sort of person. I have a penchant for over-analysis.

I respect and appreciate a wide variety of viewpoints and lifestyles. I value diversity.

I like multiple choice better than true/false. I like fill in the blank better than multiple choice. Essay is my exam of choice. With essay there can be multiple angles, multiple possibilities, and more than one right answer.

Maybe if I was able to see things more as black or white I'd be a more decisive person. Been seeing shades of grey lately.

This was the view facing west after the latest snowstorm of this long cold winter.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Winter Watch

Don't you just want to bring each of them a snowsuit, some warm boots and mittens, and a cup of hot chocolate?

I know I do.

Hmmm. . . hot chocolate. . .

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Crow and a Kitten

A beautiful story of an unlikely friendship.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Garden in the Shade

There's some dappled morning sun on the patio, garden, and lawn. Mostly though, our garden is deep shade.

I've lived and gardened here for the past four years since moving in with my husband.

I do sometimes miss my vintage Georgian with its sunny borders and vegetable garden. I miss the tomatoes most of all.

Still, I love this garden in the shade. During the dog days of summer it's a cooler, breezier retreat from the sun than the suburban back yards of most anyone I know. I can work back here any time of the day I choose without having to slather myself in sunscreen. Because it's so shaded our house stays cooler inside than most. We don't have to use our air conditioning as often. We save energy, we save money, and we get to enjoy the fleeting sweet sounds and scents of summer borne through our open windows on soft, sensuous breezes.

We spend a lot of time outside, from early spring through late fall, and all throughout the summer. The summer shade in our backyard is so much a part of the pleasure of our outdoor lifestyle. I do miss my vegetable garden, but oh, how I love this garden in the shade, and the man I get to share it with.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Coral Bells, Where Have You Been All My Life?

I came late to the heuchera party. Eight years and two houses ago, I had some relatively ordinary green coral bells (a/k/a heucheras,) with deep pink flowers in a mixed border. I dug one to transplant when I moved. To my dismay, the transplant didn't survive three weeks in a pot and planting into my new garden that hot, dry August.

I forgot about heucheras for a while after that. There were so many other plants perpetually on my list. There were two more moves during that eight years, each of which meant building new gardens from scratch. I didn't meander back to heucheras until two years ago when I got a few Lime Rickeys and Obsidians.

In the last few years, the variety of coral bells available has exploded. The magnitude of choices in leaf shape, color, and variegation is nothing short of astounding. Add tiarellas (foam flowers,) and heucherellas to the mix, factor in new varieties available each year, and it boggles the mind.

I can't get enough of them. Their mounding habit, tiny, airy, spiky blooms, showy foliage, and willingness to thrive in my shady zone 5 maple-root-riddled garden have me addicted. They're great planted in the ground and in pots. And if their seasonal loveliness weren't enough to recommend them, many are even evergreen! It's grand seeing them peek through the snow blanket, adding interest to an otherwise mostly-dreary winter scene.

Working at a greenhouse, I get to scope out my spring plants during the fall planting frenzy. At least a few new varieties of coral bells will find their way into my garden this spring.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lots of Pots

Last spring we had a late frost. I'm a always a good girl and wait to plant my pots until after May 15th in our zone 5 climate. Once they're planted I listen to the weather forecast very carefully until we're safely into June.

Late last May, for the first time, I found myself gathering all the pots together in the protective shelter of a corner of the patio. I covered them with old sheets at night and uncovered them during the day.

I'd never counted them, and didn't realize I had more than 4o pots on the patio and on the front steps. And of course, since they'd just been planted, they were well-watered, and hea-vy.

I left those 40 pots in that corner for more than a week. I made good and sure when I moved those babies the next time, it was gonna be the last time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day to my Love, Perennial of the Year - 2008

Geranium Rozanne! Isn't she a beauty? Rozanne is without doubt the longest-blooming perennial in my garden. She starts in May, and keeps going through October. Sometimes she even has a few precious blossoms in early November.
She has clusters of gorgeous, delicate, intricate violet-blue blooms. She's low-growing, and hardy in zones 5-8. Her oh-so-subtly variegated, deeply-cut foliage remains fresh throughout the growing season, and has lovely bronze fall color. Rozanne blooms in full sun through part shade, and she's beautiful in containers. She even loves the dry, maple-root infested, mostly shaded challenge I like to call my garden. She is one. tough. cookie. I can't think of a single reason not to grow this delicate, floriferous beauty. I'm in love.