Red, white and blue … and lavender

 

Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day, and the lilacs are heavy with fragrant blooms as they ought to be in late May. I have two more lilac bushes on my property that I didn’t realize were ours last year when I counted only one bush. Though choosing a favorite flower is a bit like choosing a favorite child, lilacs are among my favorite.

Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Stop, smell the lilacs and remember a soldier.

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Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Tyler has a little more time to devote to gardening pursuits this year than he did last year when he was hammering and assembling and sawing and sweeping like it was his job to turn the old church into a home.

He’s the one with the green thumb in our relationship. I don’t like the feel of dirt on my hands, what can I say. But he dives right into a pile of compost like it was bread dough.

We preserved the front garden of the church, a flower plot I showed off here earlier this week, but we destroyed four raised gardens in back last year when we poured concrete for the garage. I understand those gardens were used to grow vegetables for the food pantry that operated out of the basement before we acquired the property.

Tyler moved the vegetable garden to the far corner of the property under the flag pole. He planted a few tomatoes and peppers there last year, but he’s expanded it this summer. Earlier this week, he hauled in some fresh yummy compost (well, it’s yummy to the plants!) which St. Johnny was designated to spread around; Tyler acquired the compost from the mushroom farm not too far away and, if you’re a fan of dirt, it looks “rich and thick and chocolit” (thank you, Nestle Quik, for that jingle that rattles around the brain for decades).

back garden
 I wish I could name these plants for you, but plant names are like parts of a car to me: Incomprehensible and unmemorable. But you master gardeners know what’s planted here.

A number of benefactors have contributed flowers and plants and decorative grasses to the landscaping at Church Sweet Home (thank you, benefactors!), and a few of the gifts have found a home on the street side of the vegetable garden. Behind them, Tyler has begun planting a few vegetables, and he made room for a few more being percolated in a friend’s green house.

tomatoes

He also found some colorful tomato cages at our favorite home improvement palace, Home Depot. I find it amusing that an entrepreneur would paint tomato cages; they’re nice now, but before long, they will be so obscured by the plants that it won’t matter what color they are. To each his own.

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Today’s headline is the beginning of a Mother Goose nursery rhyme that is nonsensical, even to the nongardeners among us: Mary, Mary, quite contrary/How does your garden grow?/With silver bells and cockleshells/And pretty maids all in a row.

No matter how long it takes, winter always comes to an end (repeat as necessary)

Sometimes, when I’ve got my act together, I plan the topics for my blog posts a month in advance. A month ago, I planned “bush buds” for subject matter today, thinking spring would have sprung by now.

Well, here are the tiny leaves on the flowering bushes that line our driveway. These distinctive bushes have been a feature of the church property for a very long time.

bush buds
You can see the belfry in the background on the upper left.

Those water droplets look spring enough, but they don’t reveal what’s really happening today in our neck of the woods.

snow on April 27
Our flagpole stands tall, despite the oppressive clouds.

It’s snowing. And the flakes are sticking! It was bad enough when it snowed two weeks ago. We’re practically into May now. This winter doesn’t seem to want to let go. And I know I’m not the only one sick of it. Enough already! Give spring its turn!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” 

~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature

Our story so far: We were in a good place, figuratively as well as literally in the renovation of the old Methodist church into our home. As we coasted down the side of the mountain that was finishing the floors, we admired a new detail on many days.

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turks cap lily
Turk’s cap lily growing in the flower garden.

Among the discoveries we made as summer progressed was an abundance of perennials in our yard. Surely these beautiful flowers blooming in the warm summer sun had been planted and tended to by members of the church at one time. We had demolished what we heard were vegetable gardens in the back yard when we poured the foundation for the garage, but a small flower garden on the side of the church continued to grow and displayed new color every month. In April and May, yellow tulips and yellow-white daffodils showed off their finery. In June and July, it was orange lilies and purple phlox.

purple phlox
Tyler planted his “garden art” compass in the flower garden before we knew how many beautiful blooms would be thriving there.
turks cap by uncle al
Tyler’s uncle took this bottom-up photo of the turk’s cap lily in our garden.

Tyler’s uncle paid us a visit and the lilies caught his eye. He knew their species well, having had them in his own garden at one time.

“They are called turk’s cap lilies,” he said. “They look like little turbans. If you fertilize them and take care to replant their seeds, they will be an even deeper color and grow huge!”

The garden, truth be told, had probably gotten no attention at all in at least two years, when the congregation vacated the building. Now it was surrounded by mounds of dirt and construction materials. But soon, if not this season, it would receive more than Tyler’s glancing attention.

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Today’s headline is a quote from French poet Gérard de Nerval.

Tomorrow: Where words flower. Read about it here.

Bona fide is Latin for in good faith, and isn’t planting an act of faith?

Our story so far: Renovating the old Methodist church into a home was a big project with a lot of moving parts. And moving mud.

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The last day of school at the elementary across the street created an uncharacteristic parking jam; the streets all around our church were lined with cars owned by parents who were marking the day by picnicking with their children on the school grounds. Interestingly, people recognized our new driveway as “real,”  even though it was closed to entry by yellow caution tape. Relieved to find a spot, I slipped into the opening with the beat-up pickup after an errand.

moving mud
Tyler moving mud with a skid loader; his hired man St. Johnny moving it with a shovel.

Tyler, meanwhile, was self-conscious of his construction mess. With the driveway poured and hardening in the summer sun, Tyler took advantage of the skid loader he’d borrowed to landscape the piles of dirt created by the driveway project. He fashioned a low berm that lined the driveway and protected the roots of the ancient pines in the back yard; we’d designed the project to spare all of our trees.

Though it would take a few weeks to grow, he spread grass seed over the dirt. Soon we would have a bona fide lawn again.

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Tomorrow: A different beam gets installed. Check it out here.

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness

Our story so far: Over the phone late one afternoon, my husband told me he was excited about a “big score,” and he summoned me forthwith to the church we were renovating into our home. 

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dump truck
The view from my windshield: Dumping a load of dirt.

As I exited my truck, I heard the foreman telling Tyler he had two more loads. Did he want them?

“Yes! I’ll take all the dirt you’ve got!” Tyler told him.

The semi truck and the foreman left the scene, and Tyler, sipping a beer, regaled me with the story of his score.

school dirt digging
The origin of the dirt: It came from the school yard across the street.

That morning, Tyler was knee-deep (quite literally) in his garage foundation construction project. He noticed an enormous backhoe digging a hole in the here-to-fore green yard of the elementary school. Huh, it had looked like the construction workers over there were wrapping things up, and now they were turning new soil.

Naturally, Tyler didn’t let curiosity gnaw at him. He walked over to find out what was going on. He was told they were building a turn-around for trucks that delivered lunch to the school.

“What are you doing with all that black dirt?” Tyler asked. It was rich, beautiful black dirt (if dirt can be beautiful—apparently, the blacker the dirt, the more organic matter and nutrients are in it).

“Haul it away, I guess,” the foreman told him.

Tyler offered to let them haul it one block. Straight to the church. His offer was one the foreman couldn’t refuse. Rather than pay a driver to haul it an hour away, he could niftily get rid of it only a block away.

“We’d pay $600 a load for black soil of that quality,” Tyler told me when I expressed disappointment that his score turned out to be … dirt. Only a gardener could appreciate the value of dirt; I was not a gardener.

two loads of dirt
That’s a mighty lot of dirt.

Well, we were the proud new owners of four semi-loads of black dirt, enough for a king-sized berm.

“The timing is perfect,” he continued. “I’ve got a grader right now to move it around.”

Indeed, he did. His cousin had lent his to us for our garage project.

Lucky us.

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Today’s headline is a quote from the Dalai Lama.

Tomorrow: Chapter 26 tells the story of ancient technology. Read about it here.

Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these

Our story so far: Spring arrived at the old Methodist church we were turning into our home, and with it, the drywallers began work inside while Tyler broke ground for his garage outside.

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Some of the greenery in our yard didn’t require planting, only discovering.

raspberry plant
Raspberry plant?

On the edge of our property bordering the dumpster area for the nearby rental properties, Tyler spied a raspberry plant. He claimed this as ours. This he would baby until he could coax it into producing berries. Near the front of the property, the congregation had left behind a garden plot, and a vast array of perennial greenery grew up in it, including a beautiful yellow tulip and a daffodil.

daffodil
Daffodils are an optimistic flower. And foolproof.
yellow tulipd
Tiptoe … through the tulips … with me.

Tulips were my favorite spring flower. Picking them only spoiled their beauty so they were best enjoyed in situ, which served to inspire many a spring walks. In a few days, the tulips were gone.

lilac bush
Nothing is so fair as lilacs in spring.

Not quite as ephemeral, but still fleeting and worth appreciating in their time, were lilacs. The lilac bush on the corner of the property that I prayed would bloom when Tyler trimmed all the bushes in the fall did indeed offer up woolly purple blossoms, intoxicatingly fragrant.

The yard may have been a muddy mess, but she wore a mighty pretty corsage.

lilac closeup
“The smell of moist earth and lilacs hung in the air like wisps of the past and hints of the future.” ~ Margaret Millar

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Today’s headline comes from Matthew 6:29.

Tomorrow: Chapter 24 opens with the fireplace budget. Or lack thereof. Read about it here.