When Garden Art Comes Home

Garden Art Comes Home, Part 1

By AMG Julie

Little did I know when Bethany wrote her colorful article on Garden Art in the June issue of Across the Fence (publication of the Master Gardeners of Allen County, Indiana, of which I am Editor) that I would soon receive an unexpected gift of my own!

About 5 years ago I decided to send a letter to the owner of my childhood home.  There was a unique piece of garden art in the backyard placed there over a dozen years ago by my now deceased Mom.  Is it still there?  If it is and you find that you no longer want it, would you kindly let me know?  I didn’t hear anything and never drove by the house during that time to see if it was still there, visible from the street.  Life went on until I got a surprise phone call on Friday, June 5, 2020.

I found your letter in the back of a bathroom cabinet when I was remodeling a few months ago.  I have the metal piece sitting outside against the house in the backyard if you want it.  I figured it would be meaningful to someone.  Give me a call if you do . . . 

I was in shock!  Holy cow!  Mark J had removed the garden gate from the garden “hill”  on the side of the house, concrete and all, and had it neatly secured with pavers against the red bricks of the old house.  I talked to my husband (always up for a driving adventure), thought about it overnight.  And then I got really excited!  I called Mark on Saturday and said YES!  We’ll come get it!

My childhood home is in Warren, Michigan.  I had moved away in 1983 after college to the Chicagoland area then again north of Fort Wayne in 2007.  Favorite plants made the journey here as well.  But I never would have expected that this prized possession of the original garden master in my life would come home too.  I called my brother right away and had some fun reminiscing about our garden projects with our mother over the years.  I sent him photos of the garden gate on Saturday when Mark forwarded them to me.  Plans were coming together to drive up to Michigan on Sunday to pick up our new found treasure and have a quick visit with my brother and his family as well. 

The visit never happened.  Or at least not yet.  Twenty-six minutes before Mike would have received the photos that I sent by text, he went into a medical crisis that would end his life.  He never saw the photos.  We did not drive to Michigan that weekend.  I never saw my brother alive again . . .

The meaningfulness of this experience and simple piece of garden art is now greater than ever before.  Mike made his gateway to heaven the very day after our Mom’s garden gate came back into our lives.  When this time of mourning has passed, my beloved and I will make our way to Michigan for a Memorial Service and retrieval of a memorable artifact from my personal heritage.  It’s a little thing in the scheme of life yet I’ll bet that I’m not the only one out there with meaningful touch points in his or her garden beds that reflect your own stories as well.

I’d love to hear them.  JJ

It’s like I’m writing my thesis again

A long time ago in another State, marriage, home, and occupation I was writing my Master’s thesis.  As a matter of fact the weekend after I came home from my honeymoon (with the man who eventually decided he was Mr. Wrong), I spent over 20 hours pounding on the keys of an IBM computer.  Remember word processing in DOS?  No, not me either.  That actually came 3 years later.  I was typing at a TYPEWRITER and hired a TYPIST to create the final 125-page report!  Back then a trip to the copy place was an event and choosing the right type of watermark paper could make a difference between acceptance and rejection of an important document.  At least having it professionally bound was not a requirement back then . . .

All of that typing did not do me, my forearms, nor the first years of my marriage any good.  Eventually I graduated with my Master of Science degree with a thesis that was as long as most Doctoral dissertations at the time!  Oh well.  That’s what happens when your first reader is a scholar in your profession and your third reader is the head of the Department of Occupational Therapy in addition to being a pioneer in the field as well.  I remember Dr. Anne Fisher handing back to me the 11th total re-write of my baby:  it was covered in red ink!  “You are a good writer,” she said.  Say what?  Could you maybe mention that to your ball point pen my dear professor!  Sigh.  Back to the typewriter I went on my way to bilateral epicondylitis or whatever.  I think eventually the repetitive motion injury from typing turned into fibromyalgia.  So I got more than my “MS” degree in graduate school but I digress.

That was 25 years ago.  I now live in a different State with my Intended Beloved, a different occupation, pet dog, hobbies, gardens, vehicles, hair styles, family, friends, church, and dress size!  It’s all good.  And today I completed three different writing projects and it only took about 12 hours!  Thank goodness for word processing, the internet, and Office Depot!  The 3 projects included:

  1. Editing and completing the photo layouts/covers of the Fall issue of Canoe News of the United States Canoe Association.  My husband, Steve, is the Editor and I am the Assistant Editor of this quarterly publication; Fall brings the biggest issue of the year.  It took me about a week to get into the right health state to do what needed to be done and now in the wee hours of the morning I am ready to send it back to my River Bear.

  2. Revising the Huntertown Family Park Rain Garden Project proposal and submitting it to my contact person at the Department of Natural Resources Urban Wildlife Program in application for supplemental funding.

  3. Finally figuring out the Microsoft Sway online software program enough to a) export the October issue of Across the Fence to Word then b) create a pdf file to c) email it to the Horticulture Educator at the Allen County Purdue Extension Office.  This will be my first issue as Editor of the ATF newsletter for the Master Gardeners.  The Educator has been answering all my questions and yet it has been frustrating for both of us.  I hit quite a few snafus with the program not working correctly in our Chrome browser at home; going back to Internet Explorer appears to have solved the problems for now!

Tomorrow will be a rest day.  A good volunteer must do her jobs then rest and recover the next day.  Part of my day will be praising the Lord that I could even do these tasks with the lingering effects of serious illness.  Thank you Jesus for sustaining me, clearing my mind, and helping me to do the tasks to which I am called.  I do pray for restoration now as there are many unfinished chores throughout the house.  Please help me to take care of the things you have entrusted to my life, to love and serve my Stevers.  I know that You see my responsibilities and weaknesses and watch over all of the details of my life.  I rest in your gracious care my Lord.  To You be the glory for the good things accomplished this day.

In Jesus name, amen.  JJ

Canoe News, paddling, competition, racing, wife, magazine, Editor, racing, USCA, volunteer
Cover photo from Canoe News, October 2018

rain garden, rocks, drainage, flooding, native plants, volunteer
Rain Garden model bed pending for the Huntertown Family Park

master gardener, volunteer, Purdue Extension, cooperative, gardener, certification, Across the Fence, Editor

What would suit her best?

That funny bush with the orange berries

That I found tucked in a nursery corner

Was her birthday gift many decades ago

And became another treasure of uniqueness, much like that of her own.

Or the specimen discovered from the zoo

When she found the groundskeeper

And pleaded to give her a cutting

To grow with her collection of rare finds and vagabond species too.

Perhaps the devil’s tongue would be it

That bloomed in the closet each Winter

With a stink much worse than her smokes

And a tropical canopy outside in summer:  uniquely placed in the Midwest.

Surely she would be planted on the hill

Where the orange pavers from Woodstock days

Used to mark the side door to the home

Laden with so many memories and metal trash cans covering some of them too.

Oh I’ll bet she’s still out there somewhere

For her ashes got sprinkled into the earth

Forever mixed with the fruit of her hands

And beautiful gardens, a spa, some whimsy, all in squared borders of suburban fare.

Oh mom, how I miss you this day

As I tend to my own soil and dig

Preparing for Spring flowers and food

Adding amendments, turning it over again until everything crumbles just right.

One plant in particular we share

From your garden and mine:

Those “bee bush” perennial sedum

That you made me edge around in the hot summer sun by back-breaking hand!

Oh how you would love

To see me hail a sharpened spade

Defining my borders so clean with

Just one more bed added most years ’cause it’s also a passion for me borne from you.

Maybe the climbing Baffin rose

I will dedicate to you, Rose Anne:

A rambler, a bit wild yet beautiful

Yes this you shall be in my garden scrapbook come alive where you and me will always meet.

JJ

William Baffin, roses, fuscia, pink, red, climbing, vines, fence, garden
Fuscia William Baffin Climbing Roses

 

Now for some horticulture therapy!

 

Some good things noted in our gardens this year included:

  • Plants from our local Master Gardener Plant Sale did really well at bargain prices; patience paid off by the end of the season for the new rose bush ($5) and 2 tomato plants ($1 each).
  • Variegated liriope (with the purple flower spikes) was a great addition to our newest island bed (until the rabbits found them!)
  • Around the flagstone patio, the hydrangeas, Japanese maple, dwarf mugo pine, and Golden Thread cypress have matured to form a nice screen between us and the neighbors.
  • We got a nice showing from the (clumping) bamboo through continuous soil enhancements and 7 years of waiting.
  • The hydrangea vine that now covers a great deal of the trellis by the front door bloomed for the 2nd Spring in a row after waiting 6 years.
  • Elle continue to love drinking out of the bird bath almost as much as the birdies.
  • The anise hyssop re-seeded itself at the base of the trellis on the left of the patio instead of the right this year.
  • Walker’s Low Catmint is the most profuse blooming perennial I have ever seen.
  • Painting the planters black that adorn the bird bath was a good idea, helping to keep the focus on the annuals planted within them.
  • I got to make a lovely Fall wreath from our hydrangea blooms (picture to follow).
  • Dahlias never disappoint; I’m glad I planted all 3 of them in the front yard this year.
  • We are grateful for our first, ever-bearing harvest of blackberries since establishing the raised bed 4 years ago.

Footnotes for improvements next year:

  • Put hardware cloth (wire fencing) in front of the mulch pile to keep out critters from dining on new additions.
  • Move the wisteria by the left trellis and the cannas from between the trellises to sunnier areas.
  • Install a new and permanent mylar deterrent above the bluebird house to scare off intruders.  Ours blew off!
  • Coach our plant sitters a little more carefully when we are away to keep the cucumbers from perishing.
  • Thin out the native plant bed to help keep ahead of the lemon balm re-seeding and Catmint spreading.
  • Re-work the new strawberry bed area to save time trimming around everything.
  • Oh and about 15 other projects!  Is a gardener’s work ever really done?

Thank you Lord for your bounty and beauty, the grace and strength to keep things going as best as I could, the blessings of sharing our harvest with others, and for a lovely view out my window on the days you know I needed it most.  You are so good to me!  JJ

The Missing Needle Nose Pliers

 flat nose pliers, jewelry making, o ring, jump ring, making jewelry

Husband asks:   Where are my needle nose pliers?

Wife answers after a long pause:  I might have sent them to Minnesota . . .

And then another looooooong pause follows with:  silence!

Sometimes the logic of the moment doesn’t make sense to anyone else but oneself.  Know what I mean?  Hey, I was selling my jewelry business this past Fall and wanted to send along all of the tools that the new owner would need.  I noted that there was a nicer pair of pliers in the tool cabinet so surely hubby-dear would agree that I should make my customer happy to have both pairs needed to successfully open and close jump rings?  Besides, I did ask him about it didn’t I?  He did not remember me asking him.  I did not remember it exactly either.  Well DeeAnn in Minnesota is happily making jewelry and that’s all that counts, right?

Well maybe not.  Within a day I made sure that we picked up for my beloved, a nicer Stanley-branded pair with ergonomic, non-slip grips at Walmart.  Win!  Win?

We employed a similar rationale four years ago when I never really recovered from acute hepatitis.  For more on that story, see the About Julie page here.  It seemed the right thing to do to use an alternative technology to treat Lyme disease when a trial of antibiotics left me wretchedly ill.  Sadly, the Beam Ray Rife machine hurt me, sending me into a tailspin.  There would be no easy solution(s) to this complication.  I developed seizure attack episodes within 3 weeks of running very short programs on the unit which exposed me to various frequencies of light and sound waves.  A dozen or more local folks using their own machines noted benefits.  I did not.  I sold it about 1 1/2 years later with a net loss of $1500 and what has become 4 years of daily convulsive episodes.  This weekend there have been 3 major and several minor wretched episodes within the last 24 hours.  Lord have mercy!

Beam Ray, Rife, sound, light, wavelength, alternative medicine, Ray Rife, Lyme disease
Beam Ray Rife machine

 

As you can read in the link noted above, we have tried many different kinds of valid treatments coached by skilled practitioners.  I have benefitted from taking down mold exposures and illness, mercury toxicity, Candida, parasites, and the extraction of 2 root-canaled teeth.  Even so I feel like a beaten puppy!  But now we know that they very likely are related to Chronic Lyme Disease requiring the use of powerful doses of IV antibiotics for many months.  Seven weeks into the treatment I can tell you that there are some positive changes.  Unfortunately I am having complications from the weekly IV infusions so later this week I will have a port surgically placed in my chest wall.  This becomes a direct-access site without the need for sterile dressings that irritate my skin or superficial phlebitis that has plagued my forearms for about 3 weeks.  (Thank the Lord that I discovered horse chestnut gel when the warm compresses did not help.)  I am also hoping there won’t be any more violent episodes with the treatments. Even intramuscular injections have been exceedingly difficult.  Whew!

So there ya go.  A funny story, an update, and a little hope beyond the saga of late.  Lord willing, I am going to get well!  And when I do I might just get out my own tools here in Indiana, not Minnesota, for digging in the garden.  By the way, Spring weather is forecasted for this week .  Since I won’t be tethered to an IV line I can safely get a little dirt underneath my fingernails if I am up to it before the surgical procedure on Thursday.  The garden pup is ready.  You could say that I’ve traded the needle nosed pliers for an aluminum shovel!  So let’s get to it . . .

I wonder how those carrots are doing that got left in the ground last fall?  Having a little extra time in the soil should make them as sweet as candy by now dontcha know?  :JJ

life began in a garden