gravel road girl

Archive for the tag “Gardening”

We Have Bees

We Have Bees

We have bees–

or rather the bees have us.

Thrumming, humming,

like a pulse drumming

inside the skeletal walls

of this decaying crib.

Unlike Herculean Samson,

I will not

reach in to steal away

their golden lifeblood.

I will not

selfish seek to sweeten my life.

For they, by choosing us,

move life

from flower to flower.

(Not) A Poem a Day: The Clematis


The poor thing,

she needed to be moved.

In my absence

she was transplanted–

efficiently enough–

to a wind-buffeted southwest corner.

Staked and sturdied and twined,

barely blossomed,

tiny tendrils grasped for anything.

And so I found her

and loosened what held her upright.

She fell forward–

so oddly yet almost instinctively

like a child upon my shoulder.

My response,

“Oh, sweet plant!

I’m here to help you.”

And she rested there

and I thought I heard

a sigh.

(Not) A Poem a Day: A Pleasant Surprise

Photo credit: Greg Rosenke

A Pleasant Surprise

It is always a pleasant surprise–

like finding money in your pocket


nabbing the last popsicle

in the box–

that you uncover a nest

of ladybugs

red, polka dotted and

tumbling out into the

spring garden.

They are as surprised

as I.

Taking a Little Time


~Apples from my trees~

I got a few apples off of my two apple trees this year. Not very many–just a few.

Enough to make a pie and a couple of apple crisps for the freezer. 

I’m not a very good arborist. The deer gnawed off many of the lower branches this winter, the caterpillars had a heyday in the spring, and the birds enjoyed their fair share as the fruit ripened. I guess you couldn’t call me selfish.


Anyway, by the time I got around to picking them they were a little wormy and dimpled but still salvageable.

And one bite. . . well, there’s nothing better than an apple picked from your tree, shined up on your sleeve, and eaten–warm and fresh!

They tumbled into the sink for a good washing, but I knew, looking at them, that I couldn’t use my handy-dandy apple corer/peeler/slicer. It’s a nifty gadget that is a must-have if you’re going to be dealing with a lot of apples. But less-than-perfect apples don’t really work on it. It’s just a frustrating mess.


So I got out my paring knife and started in. 

One apple at a time.


Cutting away the soft spots from the ‘good apples’ picked up from the ground. 

Slicing away the worm holes.

Coring and peeling.

Just me, my paring knife, a sink full of bobbing apples, the open window, and sounds outside.


That’s all. 

Nothing else.


Sometimes half the apple went in the bowl.

It took time, but that was o.k.


It surprised me how calming this was–

to just stand at the sink and press the knife to the peel

trying not to take too much apple with the skin.

You can’t hurry the peeling of apples.


It’s a satisfactory thing–

to slush your hand around in the bowl

covering the apples with lemon water to keep them from browning.

To carefully slice and hear them–


into the bowl.IMG_0501

Beside my sink just under the cupboard I have a small picture.

It really isn’t lovely at all, and I paid all of $8 for it. 

I actually picked it up because I liked the frame. But the very

simple verse–typed and fading

actually caused me to keep it. 

It reads as follows~


May labor make me glad!

May I have eyes to see

Beauty in this plain room

Where I am called to be;

The scent of clean blue smoke,

The old pans polished bright,

The kettle’s chucking joke,

The red flames’ lovely light.

May I have wit to take

The joy that ’round me lies.

Whether I brew or bake,

May labor make me wise!

May labor make me sweet!

When twilight folds the earth

May I have grace to smile

And count the day’s good work

An old song in my soul

And quiet in my breast,

To welcome tranquilly

The night’s old gift of rest,

And gather strength to face

Tomorrow’s busy strife. 

Here in this humble place,

May labor bless my life!     

~Nancy Byrd Turne


~May labor bless your life.~

Mary, Mary, quite contrary. . .

No, I’m not Mary. And generally speaking, I don’t think I’m all that contrary.

Actually, I never really got that nursery rhyme.

Having just done a little research, you really don’t want to know the meaning behind it. Why are all of our childhood fairy tales and nursery rhymes of such gruesome origins?

Sorry, I digress. . .

My point is MY garden is growing quite lovely this year! IMG_9622

With all of the rain, everything has just exploded! I’m rather tickled that all these blooms look, well,

maybe just a little, like one of those glorious gardening magazines.

I was gifted this old, iron headboard from a fellow garden-loving friend.

It stays in my garden year round, but it really anchors this corner with hollyhocks,

daisies, lilies, and bee balm.

The bee balm (those red puffs in the background) look wonderful

in 4th of July arrangements of annabelle hydrangea and some blue larkspur.

Fireworks in a vase!


Daisies–what can ya say!


Many of the flowers I choose are old-fashioned breeds, and you just

can’t beat hollyhocks for a sweet, homespun look. Mine range anywhere

from this bright coral-red to a warm, buttery yellow.



Could there be any other name for this flower?

They go to seed quite easily, but who could call this

sweet, little thing a weed?

Not me.


I love nasturtiums! I think even if they didn’t have these

gorgeous cup-like flowers in all shades of coral, red, orange

and yellow, I would love them for their lily pad-like leaves! I think

I planted at least three packets of various nasturtiums. So I have

them bordering all my flower beds and my garden. . . sigh.


Yarrow is great for flower arrangements as it’s a wonderful “filler.” It’s

also one of those easy-grow, easy-to-divide, easy-to-move plants.

Love it!


And just because my chickens are gone (yes, that’s a story I haven’t told yet),

doesn’t mean I don’t have a use for the chicken feeders.

Easy care pink begonias and cheerful moss roses are a perfect fit!


And what would MY garden and yard be without an animal picture.

This is Marty (top) and Theo, and they are in Bonnie-evasion mode.

(See previous post if you don’t know who Bonnie is.)

Cats, even farm cats, don’t adjust well.

But Bonnie is nothing if not persistent. They’ll be friends. . .


“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”     ~Audrey Hepburn

“We’re not in Iowa anymore, Toto. . .”

Ohhh–kayyy. . . what’s going on.

It’s July 30th.

I’m sitting here with the window open drinking hot chocolate! I might have to put the heavy comforter back on the bed tonight.

Isn’t it suppose to be sweltering? Shouldn’t my legs be sticking to this leather chair?

The dew point should be higher than the temperature. (o.k., I know nothing about weather, so I don’t even know if that is possible.) Moisture droplets should be condensing on us as we leave Walmart.

We’re all suppose to be sitting at the pool or the ballpark asking, “Hot enough for ya?” as our sunscreen melts and drips from our elbows. Children should be doing the hot-parking-lot boogie as they race barefoot to the car.

We should have gone through at least two 100-count boxes of those nasty neon-colored popsicles by now. None. Nada.

We are knocking on the door of August, for pete’s sake! Dog days and all of that!

O.k., I know you all think I’m a bit loopy for praying for snow this winter, but what’s my beef with the gorgeous fall-like weather? Why would I complain about 78 degrees and cloudy? Well, it’s like this. I’ve got things I need to get done in August. House cleaning that’s waaaaay past due. School planning and book ordering nipping at my heels. Speech contest ideas richocheting around my brain. A couple of books that are just chapters from being finished. Some painting projects that really shouldn’t be procrastinated any longer. Scrapbooks that must be started before my girl’s senior year begins, or I’ll be huffing and puffing to catch up. And, well, it’s just too stinkin’ nice to be inside doing all of this stuff!

I need that blistering heat to wilt my garden and my enthusiasm. I must say that the japanese beetles are doing a pretty good job of decimating parts of my garden. But, really, it’s looking quite lush for verging on August.
2013-07-30 09.41.53
The zinnias are celebrating like it’s a circus.

2013-07-30 09.48.34

Sunflowers loom well over my head.

2013-07-30 09.40.04 2013-07-30 09.43.33

Black-eyed susans stare up at me.

My tomatoes are just beginning to blush pink but are amazingly free of pests.

Thick, ferny carrot tops create hopes of a harvest waiting below ground.

2013-07-30 09.41.08                                           And, my favorite, nasturtiums, bend like ballerinas with the morning dew on them.

This is Iowa stomping into August? I don’t think so!

Where’s the hard-packed dirt? The mangle of weeds taunting me to go back inside and forget about my garden?

Where’s the prickly lawn where the only green patches are crab grass and clover?

I need that affirmation that says, “Alas, there is no more hope. The heat has you beat. Go back inside where it’s cool and you can accomplish something worthwhile!”

But, blast it all, it’s green, it’s cool, the weeds (of which there are many) come out with minor coaxing. I have no excuse. . .

So, I will ignore the dusty floors and set aside the paint chips for a more muggy, miserable day that is surely to come. Green beans are calling me, and I have yet to gather a vase of zinnias.

Come on, Toto, let’s go outside. . .

“Ah summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”
–  Russel Baker


Hidden Treasure

I live in an old house.

No. I mean a really old house.

I’m talking 1880’s old house. Slanted ceilings and crooked floors old house. Creaky stairs no sneaking out old house. Small kitchen old house. Bad electrical, poor layout old house. No heat upstairs or air-conditioning anywhere old house.

Granted, when we moved in it was ugly-as-homemade-sin-updated-to-the-80’s old house. Thankfully we have, over the past 15 years, eliminated horrendous sponge painting, nasty sculpted carpet, homemade knotty pine cupboards, and a dumpster load and more of bad windows, cheap trim, and trashy light fixtures. Yes, we now have heat AND air-conditioning throughout this old house—ahhhh. We have updated the electrical and are no longer in fear of overloaded circuits. All of the rooms have been reimagined into lovely spaces.

And so, this old house isn’t such a homely misfit anymore. It has transformed into a crisp, white farmhouse on our bit of Iowa black dirt. Now you would think with all of this tearing out, ripping open, moving of walls and exposing of beams, we would find some really cool stuff.




No bags of family money found forgotten in the walls. No ancient love letters tucked up in the rafters. No Civil War weaponry worth thousands to parade onto Antiques Roadshow.

Nothing worth much, except. . .
2013-05-15 15.17.36

Yep, this old sink (in my really creepy basement! See, I told you it was creepy!) Now, to the untrained eye, this doesn’t look like it’s worth anything either. I’m sure it’s the original farmhouse sink. Fortunately, the previous owner, who seemed to think that anything older than 1980 should be torn out of this house and thrown in the trash, decided to haul this behemoth down to his basement. I’m not sure why because it’s solid cast iron and weighs as much as a prize steer. Anyway, I’m thanking the good Lord that it didn’t land in the dumpster because I’ve had plans for this baby. For a long time, I’ve had plans.

But as you know, in a marriage, timing is everything.

So it’s taken a good, long time for me to just TELL my hubby of my brilliant plans for this beast. One lovely, warm day I lured him out to the yard. . .

“Do you see this ugly cement slab by the garden shed?” I quipped.

2013-05-15 14.59.28

“Yesss. . .” He knows the ‘honey-please-hear-me-out-tone.

“I’d like to put a potting table there,” I smiled sweetly.

“Like what kind of potting table?” He seems to think this is a reasonable idea.

“Um, like the old, white sink that’s in the basement.” I say as fast as I can.

“What?! You’ll never get that out of the basement. How are you going to get that out of there? That thing weighs a ton!”

“Oh, it won’t be that bad. Just let me think about it.” I trail off knowing I have planted the seed. Oh, and I have some secret weapons. . .

Did you wonder why, when we’ve been in this house 15 years, it’s taken me this long to get that sink out of the basement and out to my garden shed? Well, besides a gazillion other projects taking precedence, I knew that hubby and I couldn’t get that tonnage out of the basement. I have the patience but not the strength; he, on the other hand, would be quite the opposite.

These are my secret weapons.

2013-03-20 10.41.18-2

My guys.

I’ve had to wait a few years for them to gain both the strength and patience to work my plan. But I’m a woman with a vision; I can wait.

So early this May, all the finals were done, the college stuff was home and tucked into every possible nook and cranny available, and the sleep deprivation of too many all-nighters was dreamt away. Today was the day.

We will move the sink.

I will talk sweetly and ply them with homemade goodies.

And so the process began.

It was not so pretty as I thought—the process, not the sink. I have one son who is a problem solver and a believer that all things are possible.

I have another who thinks a little more like his father.

“Why do you need this sink out there? Just buy a table!”

“That, my son, is not the point. It’s the aesthetics of it! And it’s enameled cast iron—it can take the abuse of the weather. C’mon, it’ll be great.” Again, the momma’s sweet smile.

2013-05-15 15.43.12

They got it this far with much grunting and groaning before they had to take it back down the stairs and remove the legs. I stood helpfully by handing them wrenches and other such manly tools as they needed.

2013-05-15 15.51.33

Ah! Sweet success! Up the stairs, out the door, and on its way to the garden shed!


2013-06-11 09.43.07

And there it is—perfect! That spot was just made for it. And I’ve potted up all of my doorstep beauties right there. The mud and mess washes right down into a bucket with each rain shower, and then I scoop out the rainwater to water all my plants.

See! It was my hidden treasure. All it took was a little vision, a little patience, and, well, a lot of manpower.

Happy gardening!

Garden dreamin’

I’m sitting here with my laptop warming my knees and a mug of chamomile honey tea close by–watching the snow.


Have you looked at the calendar? It’s May 2nd.

Just sayin.’

2013-05-02 15.54.24

Yes, I know, I prayed for it. People have been reminding me of that all day. I’m waiting for my house to be pummeled with snowballs. Someone even called me ‘the snow whisperer.’ (I kinda like that. I’m going to have a  t-shirt made–for next year.)

But for right now, I could do without the snow. The wind. The slushy mess that sent cars skittering into the ditches this morning. Not mine, thankfully. And I’ve been looking out at my forlorn daffodils, blooms sagging under a heavy hood of white. Tulips turning their backs to the icy onslaught. I think they’re going to be o.k., but I might need to go out and give them a pep talk tomorrow.

Thankfully, I haven’t done much gardening yet. By ‘much’ I mean very little! Like cutting back my perennials and raking out some of the flower beds. We’ve done the preliminary major dog do-do clean up. Actually, I’ll give credit where credit is due–Tessa and Seth did the poop-scooping. And I’m continually in the process of picking up sticks and branches. On 3.5 acres this is an ongoing thing, especially with the winds we’ve been having. And I’ve wandered around making lists of all the plants that need dividing. All necessary chores, but they aren’t giving me the gardening satisfaction I’m looking for. So, during one of those especially cold, dreary days we’ve had, I pulled down my gardening basket.

2013-04-06 10.37.10


If you’re a gardener-wanna-be, you need a gardening basket. If you’re a gardener and don’t have one, I’m not sure how you survive. You probably just make more trips to the garden shed, or, more likely, you’re much more organized than I am. This is like a purse for gardening–it has everything in it that I might need for a trip to the garden or around the yard. So I’ll give you the run-down of what I keep handy in my basket.


2013-04-06 10.48.02

These are last year’s mud gloves, and they are probably headed for the trash. Because they’re plastic-coated, a year of gardening leaves them pretty stinky and stiff.

2013-04-06 10.43.49


Here are this year’s gloves (notice the Target sale sticker! ALWAYS shop for next year’s gloves at the end of the season–great deals!) The orangey-colored gloves are rose gloves. The longer, leather ‘sleeves’ give great protection against thorns. Believe me, if you’ve ever tried to nab a weed down under a rosebush–it ain’t pretty! So I may not use these gloves often, but when I need them, I need them!


2013-04-06 11.32.24

I have a thing for pruners. Can you tell? It’s like athletes and their shoes. I have different pruners for different jobs. I have pruners that SHOULD be thrown away. And I have favorite pruners that don’t even work the best, but I still grab the ‘old faithful’ ones. And all of them are in my gardening basket. On this day I was sharpening my pruners. How tedious, right? A bit over the top maybe? But when you’re out there cutting back your mums or pruning your fruit trees, you’ll be glad you have a sharp edge. So I give everything a squirt of WD-40 and a scrubbing with some steel wool. Then I take my nifty sharpening tool (red half-circle in the upper left of the pic) and run the blades through the sharpener. You can buy this tool at the Tractor Supply store in Ankeny for under $10. Soooo worth it!

Let’s see. Other necessary odds and ends for the gardening basket–

–a couple of trowels (little shovels) for planting and for digging out stubborn weeds. Again, I have several–just because.

old sunglasses. You know, the ones that are outdated or slightly scratched. Great for gardening because you don’t care if you drop them, lose them, or break them.

–a plastic container and foam paint brush. For those stubborn or invasive weeds, pour full-strength Roundup in the container and use the brush to paint down the weed. Yeah, I pretty much mean business.

–an old butcher knife. Pick one up at a garage sale because these are great for dividing your perennials. Dig those overgrown bad boys out with a shovel and then cut it up into two, three, or even more plants! I also use mine to chop the leaves off my rhubarb once I’ve pulled it. No worries about using your good kitchen utensils.

–my favorite gardening books. I’ll talk more about these in another gardening post. But the two books I keep handy are Flower Gardening Secrets by Cynthia Van Hazinga and Trowel and Error by Sharon Lovejoy. I have others, too, but these are entertaining and inspiring as well as helpful.

–and SEEDS!2013-04-06 12.32.28

Once I start planting, I usually keep my seeds tucked into a large Ziploc bag (I’ve been known to forget my gardening basket in garden–overnight). I never have a chunk of time to plant my whole garden at once. So I’m constantly putting in a few rows of lettuce, more beans, or zinnias, zinnias, zinnias!! Really, don’t get me started on my favorites.

Anyway, those are the basics in my gardening basket. It won’t stay neat and tidy for long, though. I’m sure that warmer weather is on its way and will be here to stay. And then I’ll have those glorious mornings when I grab my coffee cup in one hand and my basket in the other and head out to my yard. Not a worry in my mind except how to get rid of those Japanese beetles, and where to move that clump of day lilies. . .


2013-04-06 11.54.59

In Defense of Snow, part II: Baby it cold outside–finally!

It’s coming. The weathermen say so, not that I’ve ever put much stock in their predictions. But, yes, I believe we might see snow this weekend. We’ve been praying fervently for snow since sometime in September. I find that many people think I’m one light short of a full string when I tell them I pray for snow. But occasionally I find other snow-lovers who share my enthusiasm. It creates an instant bond, like child-birth and gory operation stories. So, for snow-lovers and snow-haters, this is my 10 Ten In Defense of Snow List:

10. One to two inches of snow on your lawn is good for it. No kidding. It protects it from wind burn, and the melting snow pulls nutrients up to the roots. Lawn care isn’t really my thing. But I thought this might sway some of you lawn fanatics out there. Check out this website

9. Any arachnophobes out there? You know, fear of spiders? Yep, that’d be me. But temps below zero (and who wants it that cold without snow?) kill spiders and other nasty bugs. Yes, please.

*Can you tell I’m serious about this? I’m even doing research!

8. Are you SAD? Seasonal affective disorder is a depression that affects some people as the days get shorter and colder. But, according to this website, SAD is less severe when there is snow on the ground. And really, isn’t there just something happy about the sun bouncing off all those luscious whipped-cream drifts?

7. News flash: central Iowa is in a moderate to severe drought. Big Creek is starting to look like Big Puddle. We could use some moisture. Are we going to argue over the form?

6. Wardrobe confusion. In complete rebellion of the season, I pulled out a spring blouse and flip-flops the other day. Yes, it was warm enough for flip flops! I need a good reason to slip into a warm sweater and pull on a nifty winter hat—SNOW.

5. Cross country skiing. I know that’s selfish, as many of you probably have no intention of ever cross country skiing. But it’s great! Put them on and ski right away from your back door—no tickets, no travels, no break-your-neck-hills.

4. Snow angels!

3. Snow gives us all a good reason to just stay put, hunker down, peer out the windows occasionally and say, “Gonna have to plow in the morning.”

2. Snow days! At least for the kids, is there any better feeling than crawling out of a nice warm bed, watching the list of schools scroll across the bottom of the TV, spotting yours, and turning to shuffle back to your warm cocoon?

And the number one reason we need snow. . .

1. A twelve-year-old boy has been praying that “we’d get lots of snow so Ethan, Thad, and Tess can make forts and have lots snowball fights with me.”

Yeah, that alone is worth a winter full of snow.

Post Navigation


the networking e-zine for children's writers & illustrators


God is kind in ways that will not fit my mind

Susanna Leonard Hill

Children's Author


Authors & Illustrators Wild About Kidlit!

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Blog & site of children's book author Tara Lazar

A Journey with Music


The King's Daughter

A Peek into the Life of a Wife, a Mother, and a Daughter of the King News

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: