Watching for change

Today was a day of noticing little changes. Things are changing constantly. Sometimes we are aware of it but most of the time those changes go right past us. We are so busy that we get caught up in the bigness around us and we miss the little things.

My noticing started early this morning when I went into school to finish testing a few first graders. These little folks are repeating a test they took in the fall on the computer. Today they marched in, sat down, found their name and logged themselves in. They, for the most part, read the questions and finished in a short period of time.

Last fall they were crazy when they sat down before the computer. They could not recognize their name, they clicked all over the screen even after slow and careful directions. They click right past the end of the test not knowing they were done.

Now one school year later they had changed. I had not seen it as they scurried down the halls each day but now sitting with them close I could see the difference. A year of growth and learning was visible in everything they did – the questions they asked, the way they raised their hands at the end of the test, the way they left the room and walked or skipped quietly back to class. Not all will past the test, not all have mastered the reading skills they need but all have learned so much else that is not seen unless you look closely.

I left there mid morning to return home to my garden. It was much like those 1st graders. So many of my plants had matured over the last year or so. They had changed and I had not noticed until I was up close and personal with them. There were plants that had ground coverJPGdropped seeds last fall and now there were new seedling everywhere. Some had grown old and woody from years of growth. Those plants were sending up new shoots to take the place of the old wood.

The garden is maturing in its own way. Plants that were small each spring are now quite large or show the signs of becoming an even larger plant through out the summer.  There are plants who are flowering for the first time, like the ground cover I put under the bushes last year. It was little bits of plants placed here and there. Now it covers the whole area and has beautiful yellow flowers on it.  Growth!

Like our children the plants grow and mature at different rates. They flower and set seeds at different times. Each one has it’s own life cycle to follow. I have a tulip that I was so disappointed in. It was white – all white. I thought I had planted tulips that were white with lots of purple. I was so ready to complain and then I looked closer and watched over days. Each day as the tulips got older and matured there was more and more purple. I just needed to watch and give it more time.

Plants and children sometimes just need to be given time. They grow, mature and change. If we let them they will surprise us every time.

We just need to slow down and watch for it!

 

 

 

 

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Fighting the Beasts

Spring has hit full blown in Minnesota. It took awhile to get here but here it is. The trees are leafing out in record speed. The flowers are popping quickly and it only took a couple days for spinach and lettuce seeds to sprout along side the radishes.

The days of walking through snow and ice are gone leaving sun and 86 degree temperatures in their wake. It also has left the beasts of summer to struggle with. I am not complaining here just stating facts.

The first round of beasts are of the animal variety. The cute not so little rabbits that seem to be acting like they are starving. ( but they are not – they are huge) They are eating any green growing thing they see. NO – wait, let me state that correctly. They are eating any green plant I have planted and am waiting to flower. The other green plants – those things we call weeds – are not being touched.

IMG_5683.jpgI left my garden last fall in a state of dying. I did not do my usual heavy duty clean up thinking it best to leave seed pods and plants for the animals during the winter. Well, we will not be doing that again. The only animal that took advantage of that was the rabbits. They ate most of the cultivated plants down to the ground leaving the weeds with space to grow and expand.  So now I have spend several days just working to clear out the first 1/4 of the perennial bed. I have pulled the weeds and roots out and mulch but the “rabbit beasts” think I am just making it easier for them to find the high quality greens – my flowers! (Note the photo – look closely – the tulip is hiding in the Lilac bush but the rabbits still ate most of its leaves.)

The other beasts are those weeds the rabbits will not eat! They are invasive – things like Creeping Charlie with the pretty purple flowers and the long running roots that quickly cover the ground even when there is snow and frost around.

There is another lovely green weed ( I have not ID’d it yet so do not have a name for it yet) with under ground roots that vine plus have a large tap root on the mother plant. This little thing has a bright white root that if you leave any of it behind it will sprout a new plant for you in a few days. Amazing and madding all at the same time.

As a beginning botanist I find these “weed beast” fascinating. The fact that they have cells in their roots that can create a new plant from a very small root piece is amazing. The fact that these beast have cells that can change jobs to help the plant survive, that it has created a bitter taste or toxic substance so the critters won’t eat it is stunning.

However, as a gardener who is working to have a mildly cultured garden it is driving me downloadcrazy. Today I worked for three hours before the lovely spring rains came just digging weeds out from around the plants I want to save. I did not get far before I turned around to see Mr and Mrs Rabbit sitting waiting for me to move so they could have a mid IMG_5685.jpgmorning snack.

 

Needless to say they did not get their snack this morning for I gave chase stumbling over tools and my garden basket determined to prove to them that this was not their buffet!

And so the gardening season begins! I can be frustrated, and at times a bit angry at those beasts as we battle our way through the warm seasons but it is a battle I am not willing to give up. I am never going to really win this fight. I know this! There will always be more weeds and more rabbits but it is worth it to me to spend time with my hands in the soil, fresh air to breath and occasionally a few flowers for me to soak in the bright colors and enjoy this amazing world we live in.

 

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The kindness of strangers and tulips

magnola.JPGIt is May first and we have traveled south from the winter lands of Minnesota to southern Iowa. Really it is only about 5 hours drive. Not that far south but the change in environment is amazing.

We left Minneapolis with warm sunny weather but snow still on the ski hills outside of town with frost and ice still hiding under trees and bushes in the garden. It was warm enough to plant the cool weather crops in the raised beds that sit in the sun so I would call this early spring not really winter.

As we traveled we noticed more birds, trees with hits of green and we moved from the forest of the north to the flat prairie farm land of Iowa. Once we reached Des Moines, the capital city of the state, the red bud trees were blooming, daffodils were in out and grass was green. In fact there were people out mowing.

After a brief stop we moved on to Pella, Iowa only 30 or 40 minutes southeast of Des Moines. The flat land changed to gently rolling hills with terraced fields waiting to be plowed for spring planting. Here we took a evening walk in 79 degree weather with a light breeze. We slept with the windows open to the night air. purple.jpg

Morning brought clouds but comfortable temperatures. So we headed out in short sleeves to walk the town again in daylight and capture the tulips on camera. It was a lovely walk around town. The tulips are just starting to bloom and many still need a day or two of warmth and sun to open up.

We wander out into the neighborhoods to see another garden when the sound of thunder came and lighting flashed. We tried but the rain came fast and furious as we started the run back to town and our car. About two blocks into the run a car pulls over and they yell – “Do you want a ride?” !!  My big city self wants to say  “hell no” but we are wet and in Pella – a small Iowa farm town. So yes, we climb into the back seat of a young couples car. They are born and bred in Pella, late 30’s or early 40’s and so kind. They would drive us where ever we needed to go.

We really only needed about a three block drive before we were at our car. A quick thank you and they were on their way and we sat dripping in our car. We grew up in Iowa and know this kindness. I have seen this kindness in the big city as well but there was something sweet about this couple stopping to help out the soaking wet older couple running in the rain. My Iowa background comes out and I want to make them a loaf of rye bread as a thanks but other than that quick hello in the car we will not see them again.  A random act of kindness – thanks Pella for raising up some wonderful young people.

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This and That – spinning

It is mid evening. The day has been long and there is still a small pile of things to do for my job sitting next to me. I have not written since last week. I am missing the daily Slice of Life of March. It kept me focused and pushed me to write. I am or was so ready to skip this writing – I have nothing to say and to much to say.  But here I am!

The thoughts jump through my mind a bit like the rabbits I have been chasing in my back garden. They run in a zig-zag fashion with eyes wide, ears alert and tail up.  There are to many thoughts in their head – which way do I go, why can’t I keep eating, I hear dogs over there, and the fence in in the other direction. Their little brains are running as fast as they are.

I am in that same space tonight as I begin to write. My brain can’t settle on one idea. I could write about the melting 18 inches of snow, or the state tests we are in the middle of. There is a up coming trip to see tulips and the frustrations of quilting, the plants struggling to grow in the basement, the frustration of quilting and the joy of getting help to solve my problem. There is the wonder and joy of sharing our home with our adult children for a short while and there is yoga.  – Ah Breath —–

Enough spinning and acting like a rabbit – I am going to breath, slow down and share just a few pictures of what is slowing surfacing from under the snow – what is emerging from the cold soil to reach the warmth of the spring time sun –

The last pictures is the view from the steps of the melting snow!

See you next Tuesday when I will be calmer and can share with you blooming tulips from Pella, Iowa. The tulip festival is almost here! Spring Time!

Posted in nature, Reflection | 5 Comments

Gathering

snow 3It is 7:22 pm on a Tuesday night. The sun is just setting over the houses across the street and it was a glorious day of sun, blue skies and warming temperatures. We made it all the way to 44 today. A weekend of blizzard winds and wild snow took to melting at record pace. Earlier this evening the snow plow came down the street pushing large boulders of snow.

We are on an incline and by the time the plows were at the top of the hill a torrent of water came rushing down the street creating large lakes at the end of each driveway. The neighbors rallied with snowblowers and shovels to open up each drive way and move the lakes down to the corner drain.

Nothing like a good blizzard and then a quick melt to bring the neighbors out for a good chat. Some of the neighbors I have not seen since last October just before it turned cold. It was great to have them out and to check in. It is like the gathering of relative at a funeral. You don’t see them for years and then someone dies and we all gather to celebrate a life well lived or to morn the passing of a life lost to soon.

It is interesting how the more negative events will pull us together. I can put a call out of snow 2happy hour at our house or on the deck when it is warm and maybe a few people will come but have something negative happen and everyone is out.  It was amazing to see everyone gather around with shovels in hand chatting about the storm, the plow and the water rushing past their feet.

What is it about events that create problems that bring us together? Is it the desire to help or support those in need? Is it the need to share the problem with someone besides ourself?

I am not sure why we gather but I am glad it happens. The past two weeks have been busy with a funeral, snow storms, stuck cars and more. In these weeks I have seen and heard from more people – family, friends and neighbors. I did not really enjoyed the events – a funeral is sad but the time with family not seen for years was nice. The blizzard was wild, a bit scary (although I have to admit I love a good storm) but what a feeling of joy to be out there shoveling against the storm with neighbors checking in. Or the fun we had being inside making cinnamon rolls to give to those who helped clear the walks and drives.

Today the sun and the disaster of the plow dumping large piles of heavy wet IMG_5539.jpgsnow on everyones driveway brought us out again. Chatting, complaining and having a great time connecting.

We gather – it is what we do. We help people out, we check in on each other and support each other when things go wrong. Lovely!

Now I wonder if I can get people to do the same thing when things are going well. At some point this spring the snow will be gone, the temperature will rise and I will try to gather our neighbor group for cheese, crackers, wine and good conversation.

HMMM – maybe I will have to create/pretend I have a small disaster to get them over here and then we can all just sit down and chat. We will see what spring brings – when it decides to come.  Rumor has it we are getting snow again tomorrow.

Do you find your neighbors chat more when there are storms or issues?

Posted in behavior, Reflection | 3 Comments

Bloom Day – April 15, 2018

There are many gardeners who blog and connect once a month to share what is blooming in their gardens. The connecting blog is May Dreams Garden. Gardeners around the country list what growing zone they are in and then share what is happening this month. It is spring so there is so much going on around the country. It is worth it to take a jump over to May Dreams and see what is growing this time of year.

Here in Minneapolis Minnesota (zone 4B) we are in the middle of a “historic blizzard”. We are on day two of almost continuous snow and wind. I am in the middle of the city so our winds have been more like 25 to 30 miles an hour. In the open country they are reaching in the 50’s.

Here are images of my garden right now:

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Given this sorry state of affairs in the outside garden I decided that it is best to show you the indoors garden. Here the Christmas cactus is finishing a second bloom this “winter”, the Orchid is just beginning to bloom and the African violets are also starting a bloom cycle. One violet is in full bloom the other two you need to look closely but the buds are there and will be in flower later this week I am sure. Those two violets are slips from a friend who lives further north than I. This is their first time blooming.

 

Here’s hoping that our next Bloom Day I will have something to show from the outside garden. May 15 is suppose to be our last frost date but all bets are off this year.

 

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The urban farmer

IMG_3970.JPGI have been growing veggies for about 8 or so years – flowers for as long as I have had a house with land to plant. I am not the full fledged urban farmer with chickens and other animals. I have have thought about it but am reluctant to be that tied down to my yard. So my energy goes into the plants – testing and trying new things.

(photo of Aconites last year on April 6th)

I use the science I learned while teaching kids. Expect that this year I realized I am a lousy scientist. I know that when experimenting you need to change one variable at a time. You need to have a control group so you can tell what is making the difference in your work.  Well, that is all well and good until you are dealing with old man weather! The variable that I have no control over.

Last year my little seedlings struggled. My pepper and tomato plants just did not grow. I worried over them. I watered them carefully and kept them on a heat mat. I transplanted them hoping the soil mix would help them. They did grow oh so slowly and we did get to plant them late in May. The ground was ready for planting in early May.

This year I decided I would experiment to see what could improve this growing issue. Step one I got new grow light bulbs thinking mine were several years old and may have lost some power. Step two I planted them a bit earlier hoping to give them a head start so they would be ready by May 15th. Step three I kept them on the heat mats much longer.

Well, it worked but now I have a bit of a tomato plant jungle in my basement. It is my daily dose of green since out side there is still that white stuff – that we are not talking about any more. The green is wonderful but I have transplanted some ofIMG_5519.JPGplants twice already. I am running out of room under the lights. Two flats of small pansy plants are now taking over the house plants upstairs in bay window. The peppers need to be transplanted soon and I have no place to put all those larger pots. IMG_5517.JPG

I also have no idea what made the difference. Why do I have a tomato jungle this year?  Was it the lights I changed out? Was it that I started them early or that I used more heat?  The only think I did not change was the water and the seeds. I goofed – to many variable to tell what happened.  Plus we have old man weather who is extending the winter season. There is no way my soil will be warm enough to plant tomatoes by May 15th. To be honest these plants are going to be ready by the beginning of May – to early for sure. Our last frost date is May 15th and this year my guess it it will be even later in May.

I don’t think I will worry about why they are growing like weeds I just need to find another window with light because my outdoor garden beds are still under that stuff and more is expected this weekend.

Urban farming or any farming is a risk – there are lots of variable – some you have control over and many you do not. Weather being a big one that we have no control over. Little animals is another one where there is little control but we will save that for a time when we actually can talk about plants that are outside. For now I need to go and re arrange my house so I can put these plants some place where there is light.

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