Slice of Life /24 – Gardening in the Basement

Growing plants in the northern states of North America is always a challenge. The IMG_5998.jpegnative or perennial plants are great. They do their own thing. They know when to start, flower and seed. It is the plants we wish to bring into this cold climate that make things a bit more difficult. The plants that need long growing seasons to flower or the veggies that we love to eat directly from our garden are the issue.

I have been watching lots of gardeners across the country and they have these large beautiful plants ready to head outdoors and into the ground. Well, that just does not happen that quickly up here. We are still watching the snow melt. So I am like the many other gardeners around me – I have lots of tiny little plants in my basement under lights.

They are slowly making their way out of the soilless mixture and reaching for the light. They look like there will be lots of plants but when I take stock of what is really growing me are missing plants. This would not be a big deal except that I took on the role of family garden nursery this year. I have four family members who are excitedly waiting for plants from me for their gardens.

I was super excited about this – I love starting plants. I love giving plants to others so what could go wrong? The what can go wrong is the germination rate of the seed I IMG_7055.jpgplanted. Some of the seed is old and may just not be viable – other seed is new and so I am unsure what the issue is for those seeds.

I am now in the waiting game – do I wait to see if these other seeds will come up? Do I replant with new seed? The replant with new seed seems like the thing to do but last year I did that and ended up with plants everywhere. People were beginning to run away from me as I approach with yet another tomato plant. You see those of us who are crazy gardeners have a hard time throwing away a healthy plant.

IMG_7054.jpgI know my family will not yell at me for plants that did not grow but I also don’t want to disappoint them. Funny I know – I am frustrated and a bit worried but you know what – I am loving it! This kind of stress I can handle, this problem solving keeps my brain going in positive ways, this sorting of details and numbers of plants growing and not growing is a great distraction from some other parts of my life that are super hard and I have no control over.

I have control over these plants to some degree. If they don’t grow I replant – it is as easy as that!

So here is to spring! To growing in the northland! and finding healthy distractions when needed!

Here is an image from last summer – this is what we are moving towards – strong, green leaves with small flowering buds!  A summer garden!




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Slice of Life /23 Book Groups

images.pngThis week my book group gathers for conversation and snacks. Oh and maybe a bit of wine. Our group is all people who worked in the Minneapolis public schools and are now retired. It doesn’t mean they are not working but they are no longer working full time. Teachers are teachers and they just don’t really know how to slow down and sit around. They do, however, know how to read, how to pick interesting books and how to have long, sometime loud and involved conversations.

There are about 10 who show up on a regular basis. They always meet at my house. I provide the space and they bring wine, bubbly water, and snacks – lots of snacks! We always begin with social conversations in small groups. We cover the trips people have been on, the local gossip from the school district or local politics. Leave it to a group of teachers to be up on all the news.

During this time I listen closely for the right moment when I can say – oh that reminds me of our book – what did you think about our read for this month? I try to be subtle about it but they laugh and we are off to discussing the book of the month.

Many books lead us to politics or education – to the educational gap and the needs of people and the environment. Even a good mystery will get connected to our past employment. Once a teacher always a teacher.

We tend to read heavy books with lots of thinking. It is a good thing since when I pick up books I tend towards lighter fair – a good mystery, a realist fiction – some thing quick and fun. This group pushes me into much deeper topics.

We have read:

  • Killers of the Flower Moon
  • Hillbilly Elegy
  • This is the Way it Always is
  • The Last Equation of Issac Severy
  • There There
  • The Boys in the Boat
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings
  • The Sympathizer

The list goes on since we have been meeting starting in 2015.

We meet monthly so there are times when I feel rushed to get the book read since I am always sticking one or two other books in my reading list as well. There are times when I think really do I want to do this? I can’t get all the books read that I want to read.

In the end – yes I want to do this. Yes, I love that this group pushes me out of my comfort zone when reading, This group connects me back to my past and pushes me into the future. There are woman who I worked with but didn’t know well,  who have become good friends. I know that if I needed help any of them would be there for me.

It is funny how books can build a community of friends!  I think I would feel lost without them.

Do you have a book group that pushes you to new places and thinking?



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Slice of Life / 22 Fiction or not???

A few things in my life have gone off the rails this month. There is high emotion and little sleep, lots of tension. A topic I don’t want to write about here – at least not yet but an interesting thing has happened because of this life changing mess. My time has been very limited to write, my brain is fried and I am struggling to find words. So I have spent a bit of time looking back. I am trying to honor my commitment to write each day – working to keep a few things normal for now.

I have dug into my writing files on my computer and have started to pull out my download.jpgjournals seeking ideas for writing. I have indeed found ideas but I have also found pieces of writing that I had forgotten about. There is a children’s picture book I wrote and blocked out in pages about a grandma, granddaughter and growing potatoes. Who knew I wrote this little book?  It was kind of cute – just needs some powerhouse art to go with it.

I found poems and short stories. There are starts to many children’s book. I have forgotten about most of it. What an interesting journey to go back and mine your own writing. There is more there than I thought.

It has left me with the feeling that this summer as things begin to settle I will continue this journey through past writings to see what can be developed.  Into what I don’t know but I like the idea of taking the bits and pieces of early work and improving on it or finishing it. Maybe here on the blog would be a place to share some of that fiction. I have never really thought of posting fiction to my blog.

So my question is – (my husband I discussed this the other night)

  • Is a blog the right platform to share fiction?
  • Could you share a story in three or four parts?  Will people follow it?
  • Would that make sense to readers?  (I have always thought of posts as a stand alone piece of writing.)

What do you think?   Fiction for a blog post?




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Slice of Life /21 Visiting Grandfather

Visiting Grandfather

The coral-bells blew gently

Bringing forth the sound of grandfather

Walking slowly between the rounded beds

Giving his nod to each new variety that grew



The family is no longer there

To listen as the flowers turn their voices to the sun.

The house stands old and stately

Reminding us of summers past.



The farm is hidden in the dense growth.

Color takes over as each plant finds its time to speak.

The phlox, lilies, hydrangea and wild rose

All competing to tell their story.



In the voices of each flower I hear

Grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins

Reunions, weddings, and funerals.

They speak from their roots deeply imbedded in the soil.


Years have past by

the large rocks still border the gardens.

Those giant stone seem small and lost

Along the flowers not at all the great islands

We use to leap from while playing in the rock garden.




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Slice of Life / 20 Welcome Spring

Bird songs IMG_5566.jpg

Running water down the street

Dried grasses rattling in the breeze

A bit of warmth from the sun on my face

It is March 20th and we are calling it spring! There is a bit of brown grass and mud to be seen at the edge of  the sidewalks. The need for puddle boots is clear if you plan on walking anywhere.

The wooden edges of the garden beds are peaking out along the southern end of the frame. The northern side is still under several inches of snow. The large stones that border the back perennial bed have gather enough heat to melt the snow and leave open muddy ground where the hopes of early daffodils might peak up in a few days.

Squirrels are running everywhere in a wild chase for mating. Woodpeckers are pounding out their mating calls on every tree and wooden surface they can find. The shadows are long as we walk in the fading sunlight of the early evening.

My joints are stiff and my body aches as it stretches out from hunching over to chop ice and shovel snow. My coat is unzipped, I am wearing one less layer of clothing, the scarf is left hanging on the hook but the mittens are still in use. A few young folks are seen already wearing shorts but are showing off red chilly legs as they walk determined to be done with winter clothes.

Yes, it is spring – the first early days!

We are welcoming this time of

muddy fields of brown grass

of running water

and bird songs!






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Slice of Life / 19 A Quiet Voice

A Quiet Voice

The rush of waves over sandIMG_1670.jpg

The sound of gulls in flight

Call us from our sleep.

Adventure pulls as we tumble

Down the rocky cliff to the waters edge,


A path different today,

Moss flowers, geodes, or fox tracks,

Treasures to explore.

A leap from the hill

Lands us in rocky sand.


There are waves

To chase as we slip

From their chilly grasp

Quieter now. The waves are

Smaller, waiting, watching,


Drawing pictures in the sand

Masterpieces to be shared

For a moment, then washed

Away into the lake

As the waves stretch to meet them.


We draw again stronger, deeper

Determined to have

Our art remain.

But the waves play

Leaving a clean canvas.


Frustration as we want

The pictures to stay

The treasures to remain

Our masterpieces there

For us to share.


Waves nudge us whispering,

The world will transform

A moment from now

A hill will be here,

The treasures will be different.


The waves will be here.

The canvas of sand will remain.

The masterpiece will be different.

We hang on to the change

Change sustains us.







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Slice of Life /18 Keep Writing

Kate DiCamillo -Facebook post March 14th

“I was up this morning, early, working on a story; and it is a mess.
I don’t know what’s going to happen.
I don’t know how it’s going to happen.
But yet, I keep showing up each morning.
I’ve been writing for 24 years now (!) and I’ve learned a few things:

1. Nothing happens unless I show up.
2. The story is smarter than I am, but
3. The story has to be a mess before it can be made better, and also:
4. Nothing happens unless I show up.

I am writing this all down here to remind myself–to give myself hope and comfort.
And for all you writers out there: maybe it will give you some hope and comfort, too.”


I also have been writing for years – I am not published as Kate is but thinking about this post I found myself going back over things I have written. The three children’s books hiding in my computer, the middle grade novel half written, the poems that went into a hand made book for an art fair, the article on teaching hands on science and the article for the National Writing project. There are the all the blog posts on two blogs over 9 years. (the Garden Learning blog is dormant right now)

When you think about it this is a lot of words, ideas and writing. If I return to that early work it is all pretty funny – especially the early blogs. There is lots of editing that should be done on those odd sentences, miss spelled or typo errors, poor grammar that should be cleaned up. I leave it all sit for it is a record of my learning and growth. I have not taken any writing classes but I have read blogs and books, I have sat with my writer husband and had him edit here and there. I have re worked poems and articles for them to be published. Most importantly I have just continued to write.

As a child I had many tales to tell my mother. Her reaction always was “why don’t you write it down?” Whether she as really encouraging my writing or just tired of listening to me talk I was never sure. What did happen was I have thought about writing since then. I did not write down those early stories. My issues with spelling and the fear of mistakes were blocking the act of writing. The content of stories and ideas have not left.

Now as time opens before me in my older age I am slowly returning to my old work. At times for a good laugh but at others with a true wonder:

  • What would happen if I showed up each day to my words?
  • Is the story smarter than I – if I kept pushing at it can I solve the unsolved mid grade novel about Lily?
  • It is true that most of my writing has started out a real mess then with time it got better.

I have learned through reading authors like Kate, through just writing every day in March, Tuesday throughout the year, and in my daily journal that if you show up things happen!!

So fellow writers you might want to think about Kate’s words from March 14th – I sure am!

1. Nothing happens unless I show up.
2. The story is smarter than I am, but
3. The story has to be a mess before it can be made better, and also:
4. Nothing happens unless I show up.

            Thanks, Kate DiCamillo for pushing both your own writing and mine!

It is mid month folks – keep writing!


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