Happy autumnal equinox

Fall arrived, as it predictably does, on Thursday. It brought with it a cold front and partly cloudy skies after several weeks of late summer weather that was so grand, it punctuated the list of small-talk topics for Midwesterners like an exclamation point. For some folks, autumn is their favorite season of the year. My dad, for instance. The season has a lot going for it: harvest, turning leaves, crisp morning air. But the rapidly diminishing sunlight? I’m not a fan. Here’s to appreciating the light.

I like to walk in the yard and see what Mother Nature is wearing

“Yesterday, I was but a pile of wood chips,” said Mulch, “and today I am grand bedding for your flowers and trees.”

“Yes,” I said, “good job for refuse.”

“You underestimate my worth,” Mulch said. “I encourage water to stick around and discourage weeds from springing up.”

“Maybe,” I conceded, “but I think my husband likes you too much. He told me he was going to go ‘all out’ this year. How much mulch does one man need?”

“Three pickup truck loads, and not a clod more,” Mulch advised.

“Hey, quit picking on Mulch, my dear lady,” said the Front Garden with her two cents. “Mulch makes a nice accent to these blooms. Did you plant these tulip bulbs?”

“Not I,” I said. “We can credit for that Tyler’s uncle, a green thumb if ever there was one. He gave you some much needed attention last fall and determined you could use some fresh bulbs. They are, indeed, pretty finery in your high profile locale.”

“None for me, thank you very Mulch,” the Violets chimed in. “We’re happy blooming where we are planted.”

“As should be we all,” I agreed.

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Today’s headline is modified quote from American novelist Flannery O’Connor. Instead of a yard, she like walking in the woods.

Even in winter, it shall be green in my heart

Nothing says summer like green grass. In the middle of winter when the white stuff covers the northern landscape, a little bit of greenery, even if it’s only a memory, is good for the soul.

The grass in most yards is like a military crewcut—neat and rather rigid in profile when it’s properly cared for. At Church Sweet Home, caring for the grass falls to my husband who enjoys driving a zero-turn riding lawnmower around to whack the shoots of grass into submission.

But my favorite grasses in our yard (and anywhere for that matter) are the ornamental grasses which come in a variety of greens and other hues, including purple and dark brown, and many have tufts, blooms and seedheads. Ornamental grasses are kind of like ’80s hair: big, wild and eye-catching. Marvel in their ostentatious beauty.

We began decorating the yard with fancy grass donated by a benefactor (and fan of this blog) who had an abundance in her own yard. Ornamental grasses are like hostas in that way: easy to divide and share.

Tyler planted this gift in a clump just off our patio. In late summer, beautiful pink seedheads decorate the tops. When the sun catches them, it’s like jewelry.

Last summer, Uncle Al gifted us with some more ornamental grass, this type with variegated leaves. Some of it, we planted outside the patio, to enhance a corner of the church.

More of these variegated variety, Uncle Al planted for us on another corner of the property. Here it camouflages some long forgotten and no longer useful utility pole. Tyler says it belongs to AT&T, probably not the current amalgamation but something closer to American Telephone & Telegraph (ha, ha, the telegraph, how quaint).

Here’s a close-up of the variegation-—yellow and green stripes.

Ornamental grasses can add big statement to your landscaping. According to the Extension Service, ornamental grasses can be planted in the fall or spring, so maybe now’s the time to dream up where you might plant some in your yard so you, too, can marvel in their beauty.

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Today’s headline is a quote from Frederic Chopin, a Polish-born pianist and composer.

April showers bring May flowers

Despite a deadly virus. Despite snow and severe weather. Despite a total lack of attention. Look what’s blooming.

flowers ground cover

Little purple petals, covering the ground.

flowers purple

A poof! of blooms.

flowers tulip 2

Oh, those hardy tulips. Every year.

flowers dandelion

And hostas, too. As you can see, nothing keeps a dandelion down.

flowers tulip 1

And here’s my favorite. A lone tulip, blooming in the front garden. A former member of the church planted this tulip who knows how many years ago. Tulips are such a beautiful reminder that what we do now matters later.

A big thank you to my photographer, St. Johnny, who obliged to finding evidence of flowers in my yard for me.

As lovely as they are, I have a few more flowers in my archive to share with you. These fresh flowers were given to us by the spiral stair proprietress for our open house last fall, a generous gift of congratulations. My mother, bless her heart, arranged them for me. Enjoy the bouquets.

flowers dining room table

flowers island
I love those lilies.

A couple bathroom vanity bouquets. And my favorite…

flowers balcony

Mom arranged this one in an heirloom art deco vase given to me by my mother-in-law.

I hope these flowers have brightened your day!

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.


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

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.

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.

If we had no winter, spring wouldn’t be so pleasant

Our story so far: While Tyler built walls and ceilings, the HVAC guys, the plumber and the electrician worked their magic in the 126-year-old Methodist church we were turning into our dream home.

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Chapter 23

Notwithstanding a late-spring snowstorm that left inches of heavy, wet snow behind in Old Man Winter’s ridiculously long wake, spring arrived and so did Phase Three of our renovation: Drywall, Paint & Flooring.

tulips under snow
Could those be tulips growing in my yard?

Long, sunshiny days replaced months of gray skies. Slivers of green poked through dirty snow. Though strange to hear birds singing as I tramped over snowy sidewalks no one bothered to shovel because they knew it would melt soon enough, I shed my fleece scarf as I inhaled the frosty air on my way from the rental house to the church in the morning. Spring was my favorite season of the year, and ever-widening sidewalks were as distinctive a turning point to me as robins. Growing up, I walked to school in north-central Minnesota; in winter, it was a slippery trudge in boots, but in springtime, I could skip over clean concrete in my Nike tennies.

sap running
You can see the sap dripping from this cut in our maple tree.

Earlier, before the snowstorm, Tyler made note of the maple tree in our front yard that was dripping sap like mad. In another spring when we weren’t so preoccupied by construction, he planned to tap the tree for its sweet syrup. Leafy green perennials in every corner of the yard toughed out the white stuff. It looked like we’d have blooms of some sort soon. Tyler’s hired man St. Johnny spread a load of mulch around trees and over the flower bed once tended by members of the church.

Our freshly mulched flower garden.

Soon, we would have to mow. Tyler also snapped up a deal on eBay for a riding lawnmower he intended to teach me to use. I preferred the push variety, and I scoffed that we’d have any yard left after he poured concrete for the driveway and garage, but I couldn’t complain too long. The practically new mower was a good deal, and we picked it up from the seller less than forty minutes away.

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Tomorrow: We pass the test. Read more about it here.