On this final Monday in the month of May 2011, I am a proud mama. My daughter, Heather, wrote a post on her blog about teaching children that, yes... Memorial Day is picnics and parades, but what is the meaning behind these traditions? Too often, Memorial Day is just a three-day weekend... an extra day off from work. Heather's sharing memorial day with children post is apropos for adults as much as children... to remind us of the sacrifices... to appreciate... on this day officially set aside to remember those who have died serving our country.
When Dick and I travel to St. Cloud (Minnesota), we like to stop at the Good Earth Food Co-op where large pots of three different kinds of homemade, wholesome simmering soup await us. Today, we chose vegetable curry. As usual, we were not disappointed. In the springtime of the year, their annual organic plant sale is as much a draw. I came home with bok choy, 'bright lights' rainbow Swiss chard, kale, 'red knight' pepper, and 'celebrity' tomato plants.
Transplants satisfy my impatient spirit, as I wait for seeds to germinate and poke through the soil.
I grew up on a 160-acre farm 10 miles southeast of Brainerd. The farm is entirely intact and remains in the family. Presently, I live on 35 acres, raise chickens, and grow a portion of the food that ends up on our plates. A farming lifestyle is central to who I am. Several years ago, I had purchased a small-scale two story house that is illuminated by a 5 watt bulb. It provided a cozy glow in the evenings, but it felt incomplete. A saunter through a downtown Brainerd antique store provided the missing piece... an old tin barn, silo, and tractor. A bed and breakfast guest gifted me with a set of farm animals that are the perfect scale to complete my mini farmstead.
But wait, there must be someone to keep house and care for the animals on my farm. In a flurry of activity, Lizzy was created by my granddaughter, M, from a wooden knob, felt, string, and a rubber band.
Look! Lizzy even has a fringe cut on the bottom of her jacket.
Last month, when I was in the Tractor Supply Co. buying some chick feed, I filled out a 15 minute in-store online survey to receive a $10.00 gift certificate. When I returned a week later to redeem the certificate, I carried two bags of poultry grit @ $4.99 each to the checkout counter and handed the cashier my certificate for payment. She politely told me that I couldn't use the certificate unless my total was $10.00 or more. I was two cents short. Despite offering to write-off the miniscule balance, she explained that I would need to buy an additional item to increase the total to at least $10.00. She helpfully showed me a candy bar that I could buy for $0.49. I wasn't desiring anything sweet at the moment, so I browsed the aisles... a little box of nails to hang pictures on the wall or a hook to hang a potted plant on my porch perhaps? I thought hard... Does Dick need a drill bit or a package of sandpaper? My trip to the farm store to use the $10.00 gift certificate was turning out to be way too complicated... then, there it was! The cutest molded rubber chicks for $2.99 to add to my mini farmstead.
They are happily pecking bugs, seeds, and grass in the sunshine... just as chickens are meant to do.
Despite the below normal temperatures here in Minnesota during the month of April, that have also crept into the beginning of May... this week there is a change in the air, and along with it are signs that spring has returned. A Dwarf Korean Lilac that is just beginning to bud out and Autumn Joy Sedum shoots poking through the soil.
A hardy perennial herb, that has been dutifully displaying its early spring green and purple splendor for years in my zone 3 garden, is lovage. It grows six feet tall and spans three feet, so it's an excellent background plant behind shorter perennials. It self-seeds, so the plants can (and should) be divided to replant in a new plot so they don't become overcrowded. Rabbits don't nibble it and it's almost completely resistant to insects.
Every part of the plant is edible. The leaves and stem can be used in cooking like one would use celery. The large, aromatic roots can be peeled and eaten as a vegetable. The seeds can be harvested from the seed stalk that forms in early summer and used like celery seed. I have found the plant's flavor, which is a combination of anise and celery, to be quite over-powering... a little goes a long way. How about this little bit of fun? Remove the leaves and the hollow stem can be used as a drinking straw for summer beverages. The straw's flavor has a bit of a "bite", however, when used fresh. I prefer to use the stem for a straw after the plant has dried in the fall.
Today was my mom's funeral.To make her going away party a special one, I had trekked out to my friend Sandy's Country Roots Greenhouse on Highway 18 east of Brainerd earlier this week to select some flowers for luncheon table centerpieces.
Upon returning home that same day, I repotted the flowers in 6-inch pots... sixteen of them... one for each table set for luncheon guests. I wrapped each pot with sewing pattern tissue paper and secured it with ribbon encircled twice then tied into a bow. Set atop a pattern instrution sheet... look how cute!
You're wondering what is the significance of the sewing theme? My mother sewed clothes for all of her twelve children. She made all of my brothers' button down shirts and dresses for my sisters and me. I don't remember owning a store-purchased dress. What fun it was in mid-summer when the Fall/Winter Sears Catalog arrived in the mail! I spent hours poring over the pages of the catalog choosing the perfect fabrics for the dresses my mother would make for the new school year.
If you have been visiting my blog recently and I have appeared not to be "home", it is so. My 93 year old mother has been ill. On Good Friday, April 22, she departed her earthly world to be in the presence of her Heavenly Father. It is a home she has prepared herself for all of her life. As a child, our family would kneel on the living room floor each evening as she read a passage from the Bible then, in unison, we would pray the rosary. We each chose a section of the couch, a cushioned arm chair, or a chair brought in from the kitchen to lean against as our support while we knelt. Now, I see that chair as symbolically representing the support that our God in Heaven provides each of us as we walk through happy, difficult, confusing... and sad times. My mother taught me well. Today, as we celebrate Easter... a commemoration of the Resurrection of our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ, my mother is reaping the reward of the sacrifice Jesus made on Good Friday... as he took upon himself all of our sins then died on the cross so that we might live eternally with him in Heaven.
My mother got to feel her first great great grandchild before she died, as my niece Buffie's oldest daughter, Whitney, is in her second trimester of pregnancy. She proudly beamed when she shared the news of the pending arrival of a new generation with visitors who stopped by. Her legacy will continue to thrive despite her absence. There is a life cycle in plants, too. It is wondrously healing to witness. I recently allowed a sweet potato to sprout while sitting on my kitchen counter.
Some sources instruct you to suspend the sweet potato over a glass of water to encourage it to sprout. I learned in a recent gardening workshop that it's not necessary. It'll send out shoots unaided. Once the shoots grow to a length that will allow them some height above the soil when planted in a pot or in the ground, twist them off close to the sweet potato's surface. Insert them into a container with a bit of water and watch them rapidly send out roots in 3 or 4 days. (A friend of mine said that she used a grocery store sweet potato and it didn't sprout. My suggestion is to use an organic variety because I have read that nonorganic potatoes sold in a grocery's produce section are sprayed with a chemical to prevent sprouting.)
Yesterday, I placed an order for four different varieties of flower seeds and my parcel is on its way to me today. Parcel vs. package or shipment... I think the term denotes a heightened element of anticipation as I await its arrival, which perfectly describes my present state. You see, these are not just any seeds. These seeds are organic, heirloom, homegrown, hand-harvested, and... they are housed in handmade envelopes! They have been lovingly tended by Etsy shop owner, Jenny aka Jen, of The Little Ragamuffin. My shopping experience gets even more special, but first see what I ordered! (These are photos from Jen's Etsy shop since obviously I haven't planted my seeds yet.)
Top: forget-me-not and plains coreopsis Bottom: black-eyed susan and lanceleaf coreopsis
Now here's where my little seed ordering adventure gets good. I recently wrote a post about The Little Ragamuffin because I was so smitten with the owner's way of life and the Etsy shop's name... instantaneous unbridled love. Upon placing my order, I received an email from Jenny. Here is a paragraph from that email: "It's funny, some time ago I somehow ran across your beautiful photograph of the plains coreopsis (on my blog's home page) growing along the stone path and fell in love with the flower. It was that photo that got me to growing that variety. I think we were both seeking one another out and it was bound to happen that we meet! all the best, Jenny" Life is precious because of the people who make it so and it is the little quirks that make it fun.
I scarcely had time to decide upon a location to plant my flower seeds from The Little Ragamuffin and in my mailbox... there they were!
The seed packages and shipping envelope are all handmade from recycled paper. Jenny's special attention to detail is evident in the vintage look of the shipping envelope's paper as well as how she folds the paper to create a visually appealing, artsy presentation.