Tag Archives: gardening

Awaiting Lady Hope

It’s me again, Lady Dove, the soap historian, giving you an update on life here during the corona virus. I’ve been waiting to write until my creator “Mom” makes Lady Hope, which she’s been promising for weeks now. She even has two bars of Ivory Soap and a little charm that says “Hope” to use for a necklace. But she claims she’s lacking in motivation these days. Sometimes she can laugh about it, like when she tells people that her biggest accomplishment recently has been hand-picking 3,000 bagworms off the junipers. She says it’s rather satisfying to count as she picks. She also says it’s less satisfying to drown them in a bucket of water but what can she do? If one manages to crawl out of the water, she lets it go, as perseverance should mean something in this world. She added that survival of the fittest bagworms is not the best outcome for the junipers.

Mom is also getting a little tired of zooming and doesn’t worry about dressing up anymore. She much prefers her screened-in porch visits and has a circle seating arrangement with a place for everyone to set drinks and snacks next to them. Aside from the bagworms, she says her other accomplishment is finding ways to safely have real contact with people, and she thinks that is good for everyone. She does know a few friends who might think she’s being a little unwise, but she said mental health has to figure in too and we’re not meant to be alone. I can relate when I sit in the fairy garden and have tea on my own as that’s not the best way to have a tea party. I now have a mask to wear, just to show my support for everyone, because of course I don’t need it. I expect Mom will make one for Lady Hope, whenever that happens.

This morning daughter Rose found a butterfly that had just hatched on a fennel plant. Mom said it made the day better, seeing those beautiful wings drying in the breeze and thinking how it was magic for such a thing to happen. A lot of things are magic, she said, if we can just look at them in that way. She feels like that about her flowers and vegetables, growing from those little seeds. Every morning and evening she does her “garden tour” around the yard. She doesn’t know why the tomatoes aren’t ripening but there’s plenty of okra to batter and fry. She says anyone who doesn’t like okra hasn’t had them battered and fried. Her dad, I guess that would be my grandfather, came from Oklahoma and loved his okra. She also has made three batches of pesto. The last batch was bigger because she found a secondhand Cuisinart food processor that she’d forgotten she had. She started to read the directions but then just decided it wasn’t necessary. Even since she’s been using her Instant Pot she’s gotten more confident about trying new devices, in spite of all the crazy safety warnings.

Mom said watching TV shows can be strange as people are hugging each other and not wearing masks. She’s run out of scrap material for masks and needs to get some donations from her quilting friend Camille. She plans to make a special one to wear for daughter Helen’s wedding (now rescheduled), maybe out of off-white satin with some embroidery work. She wants to sew some little flowers in yellow and blue, as those are the wedding colors. She looked on Esty and says there’s a whole new mask industry but she just likes to give hers away.

Rose had her graduation ceremony cancelled for the second time but then Helen came up with an alternative. We were outside playing croquet (actually, I was just watching). Mom claimed she was once very good at croquet, just out of practice. I wouldn’t know about that, but she seemed to think it was okay to cheat a little. Then we heard a motor noise and good friend Wayne came around the corner of the yard and through the sunflower patch, driving the rider mower, with Rose in the trailer behind. She had on her cap and gown and even threw the cap in the air. The dogs barked and Mom yelled at Wayne not to run over the croquet wickets. Helen took a video on her phone and Mom posted it on Facebook. There were almost 100 likes and congratulations to Rose, and Mom read them all more than once. She said it was one of those pandemic memories that will be a special one.

I guess that’s it for this update. I’m really going to wait for Lady Hope to be created before I write another as that should give Mom some motivation. She says that me posting these blogs helps her feel better. And she likes to take the photos to go with them. I can hardly wait till there’s a photo with my soap sister beside me. It will be so good to have her company. After all, we could all use a little Hope right now.

Minding the Meadow

As I walked the dogs this morning, I got an idea for a new garden tour that could feature my place. The last one was “Why You Need Us Tour”, to be sponsored by local commercial landscapers and I’m still disappointed that they never took me up on it. This one (possibly endorsed by the Nature Conservancy) would show homeowners how to expand their natural habitat areas. It doesn’t matter if it was a well thought out decision or just that an older daughter who is skilled on the rider mower moved to Maryland. Either way, the grass now taller than me (no comment, please) provides shelter for lots of dear creatures.

 I still mow some pretty big areas with a push mower, taking it in rounds of five days of 45 minutes each, followed by a couple days break, then starting over. This cycle works unless it rains (yet again) and if that goes on too many more days the garden tour will last long enough to offer lunch midway through.

Part of this new habitat is a pasture that once had our horses and then a neighbor’s cows, but the cows kept getting out and I dreaded seeing an injured longhorn on the road or an angry person with a smashed truck. My sympathy would have gone to the cow and is it necessary to drive 50 mph on a gravel road? I think not.

The pasture has become a meadow, full of all sorts of grasses and wildflowers and is my favorite stretch of the daily dog walk. I often use my time to reflect on such concerns as whether I can get an educational institute to give me a free download of Microsoft Office before my 30 day trial runs out (so far no luck) or if I might have accidentally offended a friend by suggesting she could save money by mowing her TINY yard HERSELF.

Lately, however, I’ve been working on “living in the moment” and “mindfulness”, phrases used so much they’ve become clichés. There’s a saying “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t following you” and likewise, just because something is a cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pondering.    

So today in the meadow while young dog Finn was catching multiple cicadas and chewing them up, and arthritic dog Kosmo was trying to catch just one, I stopped and looked closely at the flowers. I use the term “flowers” here for anything growing with more than a stem and leaves because, really, isn’t that what flowers are?

Some had such an array of subtle colors that I later made them into a special color palette on my illustration program.

A tiny pick flower was covered in white dots only visible up close.

And a bug eaten Black-eyed Susan (I do know a few names) held up its blossom to the sky.

I’m imagining a brochure that goes with the garden tour in which I give numbered steps for mindfulness, to be practiced on the walk through my expanded natural habitat. So far I’ve only come up with two and maybe that’s enough:   

  1. Just like the first step to changing a bad habit is admitting it’s bad (for example, judging a friend who could easily mow her yard), the first step to living in the moment is recognizing that your mind is somewhere else.
  2.  The next step is to bend down and look at the sweet flowers, nestled in among the grasses by the side of the path, the white petals perfectly and wonderfully arranged around their bright yellow centers.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things


Kansas writer and artist

I have my very own crop circle, which is a mound of sand where we are NOT putting up the pool this year. Someone, not so politely, called it a very large litter box and indeed I have seen it being used for that. I am thinking about turning it into a Zen herb garden. I got this idea while visiting a friend whose husband made one. It is quite charming with white pebbles surrounding small round areas of herbs contained by black rubber tubing. My friend said it’s not so charming to her as she has a vivid memory of looking out her window and seeing her husband pull up what was her herb garden, the kind I tend to have, which means no white pebbles and certainly not properly contained. I suppose she could practice Zen by standing in the middle of this new garden while chanting, “Let it go…just let it go.”

I have to say I’m quite proud of my tree stump flower garden. With the cool spring and lots of rain, it has come close to what I lust for—an English cottage style garden. I suppose it’s a lust for lushness. You will find me there every morning and evening, along with several cats and several hundred mosquitoes. I have come to realize that whatever hasn’t appeared yet is my favorite, as in “But where are the cosmos?  They are my favorites!” Or else what has just appeared, as in “Oh, the nasturtiums are blooming.  They are my favorites!”  This resembles my feelings for the cats, as the one that is missing is suddenly my favorite, or else the one sitting on me is, but only if the claws are nicely tucked in. It’s rather like a dog: WALKS, my favorite! FOOD, my favorite! YOU, my favorite!

Helen would love for me to be non-dog-like in this area and say that she is my favorite daughter.  This came up again on Facebook when she turned 19:

Happy Birthday, my lovely Helen.

Am I your favorite yet?

Really?  That question again?


I can’t seem to get her to stop this badgering and even asked her friend, “Surely your parents never name a favorite, do they?” to which she replied, “Oh, yes, they tell me all the time that I’m their favorite.  But my brother is usually in jail.”

I know my father had many favorite flowers that he grew in our small Topeka back yard. I know because he tended each one so carefully, putting the ones who weren’t doing well in an area that he called his “intensive care unit”. But he did have one special favorite that I never understood until much later in life.


My Father Loved Asters Best


He grew them from seed

ordered from a Burpee’s catalog

in early spring.


Late summer was when they bloomed

and as a child I anticipated with him,

then felt disappointment at their smallness,

the faintness of their colors.


Hoping to prove the wisdom of

a father gone from earth

seven years now,

I ordered aster seeds

from a Pinetree catalog

in not so early spring.


It seemed they’d never bloom

and I grew tired of waiting,

as we among the living do.


But then I saw some buds,

and just this week the blooming has begun,

in front of bachelor buttons

long past their prime,

behind browning yellow annuals

I bought but never learned the names of.


At this moment I love asters best,

their delicate petals

subtle variations

of pinks and lavenders,


their blossoms like the upturned skirts

of ballerinas on a heavenly stage,

fluttering gently,

as though from the faint breath of those

still bound to earth.


(August 28, 2007)


Yes, Helen, you are my favorite. Just as Rose is my favorite too. And yes, at times you may be the current most favorite because you’re in front of me or, at other times, because you’re not in front of me (readers, feel free to take that one of several ways). I count on you both for the joys that favorites bring. How could I chose between my two daughters when I can’t choose between the humble daisy or the glorious iris, between the blue flax that line my roadsides or the larkspur with their likeness of a bunny’s head? Why would I limit myself in such a needless way?

I don’t know if my crop circle will go back to grass before it ever becomes a Zen herb garden or something more my style, but I did notice a delicate white flower growing there in early spring that I’d never seen before and it certainly could become a favorite. As for now, the Black-eyed Susans are my favorite. I love their bright yellow petals and their willingness to shine in the mid-summer heat. But soon another will take center stage. Each one in turn will lift my spirits, reminding me that heaven and earth are more closely bound than we ever imagine.

adoptive single mother


Letting it Go vs. Lying in the Lettuce

Kansas writer, adoptive mother, Memorial Day, Rosa Parks, Kansas Artist, vegetable gardens



Helen knows me pretty well after all these years.   Yesterday she said, “You’d be happy if you had a little piece of land with Jack and just puttered around gardening all day, wouldn’t you?”   When I nodded (well, really, what could be better, unless Jack didn’t wander off), she just shook her head with that, “It takes all kinds” look.

If you’ve been reading my blog since last July, you will remember that I can take great pleasure in an abundance and variety of weeds in what’s supposed to be a vegetable garden, but this year I have turned over a new leaf—-huh, unplanned pun.   I have three raised beds that Wayne built last fall.  I should mention here that this more than makes up for him “accidentally” mowing over flowers newly transplanted into areas not exactly designated for such use.   His exact words upon my horror were, “Oh, sorry, I thought I saw some flowers in front of the mower.”

But back to the veggie beds.   After much research with many contradictory suggestions, I went with the “lasagna” approach, which is alternating layers of “browns” (carbon sources) and “greens” (nitrogen sources) found in things around the home, like kitchen compost, dry leaves, and herbivorous animal manure—Jack, time to change your diet.   I liked this idea as it was easily adapted to mean throw anything that will more or less decompose and is organic into the beds.   Rose and I also got some worms at a bait shop and I felt quite happy saving them from fishing hooks, tossing them into the soft earth while saying, “Free Willie”.

So all is going well and I even escaped loss during the very late cold we had, except for some blacked basil and pepper leaves—growing up in Kansas, I knew better than to trust the “average” last frost date.   But there is a problem with the cats.   They like to lie in the lettuce.   Sitting I can sort of take, but in the photo above, one of the twins (I can never remember which is which, Carmel or J.J.) is obviously eying out a good napping spot in the lettuce bed, just beyond the sprouting sweet pea pods.   And when cats lie down, they may not get up for quite a while.

Last year, in my garden that gave visitors a sense of superiority, I let it all go, as in animals and bugs and weeds could have at it.   But not this year.   I didn’t do all this to have my lettuce squashed (and the puns just seem to keep coming) by cats.   There is a point where that line of being able to let it go is crossed.

Several years back it got bad where I worked.  Things happened that were just wrong and when I got upset, some people told me to “quit thinking about it and focus on other things” , to “let it go”.   But I didn’t, I couldn’t.   And as a result, I became the enemy (along with others of the same mind) to those I had questioned, the problem that needed to be gotten rid of.  I don’t work there anymore and I’ve never, ever regretted that I stood my ground.   It was one of those times when I couldn’t just lie in the lettuce.

So that’s my new saying—“Lying in the Lettuce”.   It means that something is too much or too important to forget about and you need to get up from the vegetable bed (or in the current case, do something to make the cats get up).   And if you can somehow make the stretch from wilted lettuce to tired legs, then think of my favorite hero, Rosa Parks, who decided there was no lying in the lettuce or sitting in a back seat on that day in 1955.

The truth be told, I likely won’t worry too much about where the cats nap.  Unlike last year, there’s plenty of “gourmet green variety” to share with all, whatever the purpose.   It’s about what I don’t want to become, while puttering around in my garden.  I don’t want to become so complacent that I forget about the line that needs to be drawn in the dirt, whether it’s the dirt in my happy worm mix or the dirt out in the world.  It’s about knowing when to let it go and when to take a stand.  And that’s something I want to remember on this Memorial Day, 2014.  So to celebrate, I’m going to pick some fresh greens for lunch.  It really is a shame that Jack won’t eat lettuce.

adoptive mother of girl from Vietnam, Kansas Artist and Writer





A Seed Order of Saint Flowers

seed catalog








Today I checked the 10 day weather forecast, as I did yesterday, as I will do tomorrow.  I’m looking for rain.  Spring rain, the rain that soaks the ground, the rain that all my trees and bushes and flowers are thirsty for.  The rain that will get me excited about gardening again.

It’s past time to make up my yearly seed order.  The catalogs are all here, have been here for weeks.  It’s a late winter ritual.   I look through my favorites and circle possibilities.  I add up the amounts, figure the shipping cost, recalculate to get the best for my money.  I find a few unknowns or untried that can give me a rush—picturing them outside, me stooping down to admire them, picking just a few to set on the table, mixed in with white daisies and  pink cosmos and yellow coreopsis and blue bachelor buttons—for in my usual late winter high gardening spirits I see all these in my garden, a lush paradise of color surrounding my house.

It’s a wonderful ritual and I’ve let it pass by.  It’s never easy to garden on the prairie—not for the faint of heart, I like to say.  Which makes it all the more wonderful when the things I’m growing are doing well.  Last summer they did not do well.  It was hot.  Not just hot, really hot.  Day after day after day.  And it was dry.  Hot and dry.  Of all the packets of flower seeds I planted, only the zinnias came up.  Not many and not great looking, but they came up.  It’s almost as though they had a mission to make sure I didn’t give up, that I would keep up that hope of the prairie people before me.    They’ve always been like that, even when my care was not the greatest.


Saint Flower


Zinnias are like some special kind of saint

smiling in the face of my transgressions.


They forgive me when I don’t water them

though the Kansas sun beats down like hell.


They accept it when I uproot them

to some godforsaken spot I need to brighten.


They keep face when I cut them down in full bloom

and let them slowly wilt on my sunroom table

while the cat nibbles at them

and the vase water begins to smell.


They even seem to nod their approval

as the compost pile becomes their final resting ground.



I see some now

from the front porch swing.


They are cheering a spot

in a made-over bed

their yellow, orange and red petals

barely faded

by dust from the road


and I have little to offer back


save the salvation they give me

on this late July afternoon.


July 14, 2007


I have opened one catalog to “Zinnia Mania”—Orange King, Cherry Queen, Purple Prince, Lilliput Mix.   I likely won’t have a mania of anything floral out here in the wind and drought and heat.  But I need to put that order in.  Maybe this year I’ll get The Zinnia Collection—-“If you like them all but can’t decide on your favorite”.   It’s true—I have no real favorite.  They all are saints to me.