Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Friendship Gardens

I have many beautiful plants around my yard that are meaningful to me because each time I look at them I think of my friend who shared them with me. There are so many things to love about gardening and sharing plants is one of the best because they help build Friendship Gardens.

My lovely friend, Connie, who generously welcomed and introduced me to the local community gave me Autumn Joy sedums and iris the first year we were on our little ranch. The sedums have matured and add so much softness and interest around our little cottage. They really shine in the fall and their reddish dry flower heads are spectacular in the winter snow. The iris were magnificent this year and we were delighted that the yellow ones have multiplied.

Iris blooms are short lived but are velvety and feminine and a delight to
the eye in the spring.

The sedums have a soft rose
flower head. The birds feed off
them in the fall and winter.
Below are the sedum in summer
forming the beautiful flower

JoAnn, a Master Gardener friend, gave me the hosta plants that she was thinning out of her garden. They took well and are blooming now with lovely lavender flowers. They reside in the deep shade at the front of the house and seem to get stronger every  year. (See below)

JoAnn also gave me Aptenia Confifolia or Baby Sun Rose Red which is an easy growing succulent plant that spills over outdoor pots so beautifully. I take cuttings and keep it going inside during the winter where I will occasionally get some tiny red flowers to cheer the room. I've shared it with my sister, Sandi and several friends in the area. {Aptenia cordifolia, commonly called heartleaf ice plant or baby sun rose, is a succulent, creeping, short-lived, mat-forming perennial that is native to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is invasive in California}

I was looking at bulbs at Home Depot one year when another customer approached me and told me that if I'd like lilies-of-the-valley, she had many that she dug out of her garden and would be happy to give them to me. That started my bed of lilies-of-the-valley. I adore them for their heartiness and sweet scent and because Mother planted them on the north side of our farm house. There they proliferated into a large bed between the house and the sidewalk and it was a favorite place to play. With an open window in the spring, the sweet scent wafted into the kitchen. Then this spring while visiting friends Pat and Chuck in Lincoln, they offered me lilies-of-the-valley they dug out of a bed they were renewing. Now I have Pat and Chuck in my garden too.

A special friend, Sue Tuttle, from high school who has become a part of my life again, recently shared a cedar and a holly tree from her garden in Kansas for the windbreak in our yard. I will always think of her when I tend them. Below is the picture of the holly and cedar before planting in the yard where they are now living happily.

And my sister, Bonnie,of North Carolina shared several plants with me but the Pasque Flower is the only one that has thrived here. The others tried but couldn't survive the dry bitter winter. The Pasque flower flourished on my kitchen counter all winter but is now blooming in the flower bed at the front of our cottage. It is South Dakota's state flower so it can handle the harsh prairie weather.

My sister-in-law, Carolyn, gifted me with a beautiful plant during our last visit. She said it was indestructible but more importantly, it is beautiful. She wasn't sure its name - do you know? It is also a succulent of some sort.

I hope you share from your garden with friends and family and accept their offerings. It is a wonderful gardening tradition, one that should be tended.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Building the Not So Big House

Some of you have mentioned that you've missed my regular posting. Point taken. I've been remiss because of a special project I have been working on and I will share a little about it today.

I have had the opportunity of a lifetime knock on my door. Our friend and neighbor, Dick P, decided to build his new home on his beautiful land near us. We were delighted that he would be a close neighbor and I couldn't wait to watch the house being built.

This is one view of our neighbors land overlooking
oak and cedar forests sheltering local wildlife,
such as deer, turkeys, quail, coyotes, bobcats,
raccoons, ducks, and an occasional elk.
Much to my surprise, he asked me to help him design his kitchen. That led to the laundry room, then the whole house. Together we created a design that fit his lifestyle and interests at only 1460 sf on the first floor and a finished basement of 1,000 sf. It is the perfect The Not So Big House.

If you are interested in architecture, building, or design, check out my favorite architect, Sarah Suzanka and her book series, The Not So Big House. http://www.notsobighouse.com/

We broke ground in late May after the ground thawed. It was an exciting day.

The beginnings of the new house in late May

We spent the winter months finalizing the layout design and once that was done we began picking out the flooring, colors, fixtures, windows, doors etc. So as it turned out, we were way ahead of the game. It has been amazing to be involved in the process from the idea phase to the actual building.

Within days the forms were set for the foundation
Pouring the cement
With forms removed, it begins to look like a house

Finishing the garage floor

After the foundation was finished and set, we had several days of rain so everything on construction stalled until things dried. In June the framing begins...

The house is taking shape
Right, electrician Gene is installing the temporary
power for building. On the left is Dick the owner.

View from kitchen window. Did I mention
how beautiful his land is?
Rafters and joists going on.
View from back; right bottom window is bedroom &
left bottom window is family room; right top window
is master suite, middle is kitchen and 4 windows on
left are in living room
close to being enclosed
Enclosed and ready for shingles
In one day the shingles are on
This is the view from his living room - it's
a WOW!

The schedule is full for the coming weeks with lots to do. It seems to be moving fast now that the house is enclosed and we don't have to be concerned with rain setbacks anymore. So, as you can see, I've been busy with a very special project. I'll post again when we get more done.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Remembrance, Reflection and Reunion

On June 28th, Mark and I participated in the Memorial Celebration of Life of our dear friend, Gary Schroeder. He was Mark's childhood friend and we double dated with Gary and Judy in high school. We lost track of each other for several years and then one day while we lived in Burbank, CA. I got an amazing phone call and it was Judy! They too lived in California and luckily we renewed our friendship and enjoyed many fun times together before we retired to Nebraska.

It was a shock when Gary was diagnosed with lung cancer and a deep loss when he died on December 31, 2013. Gary was a lovely man, one of the 'good guys', a great friend, husband and father. At the Memorial, friends and family told wonderful stories that exemplified his character and personality.

He didn't know before he died that he would have been a grandfather, but a grand baby is on its way to the delight of Judy and his family and friends.

We had an emotional day remembering Gary as the person we knew, and the life he lived and the profound realization that we had him no more. We also thought of Judy and the new life she would need to create for herself; and their grandchild who would never know him personally, and his children who would miss his wit, wisdom and love.

All of us face this but it doesn't seem real until it happens to us or people we love. These occasions are significant in that they remind us of our own mortality and how precious our lives are so we get a chance to reassess and reboot, if necessary.

The Memorial was held in our home town in South Dakota so many old friends and classmates were there which provided the joy of the day. I was reacquainted with friends from high school that were 18 or 19 the last time we saw each other- that is 45+ years! Boy, is that a reality check. I don't know about you, but I feel like 'myself' inside and if asked an age, it would be 20 something. So when meeting with high school friends after that time apart, the reality of 'real age' hits hard!

(L to R)Judy McKay Schroeder, me, Linda McFarland Engel, Quindrid Albert Godden, Sue Miller Tuttle
The delight for me was that the faces were still the same but just a little more lived in. The twinkle of the eye, the wit,humor and laugh, the voice, the mannerisms and expressions were still distinctly there. It was great fun to catch up on each others lives and the people we've all become. I had such warm wonderful feelings as we left town and I thought about reconnecting with these lovely women and hoping there would be more visits in the future.

Old college friends; Me, Judy and Carol in front of the Campanile
on campus of SDSU
From our hometown, Mark and I travelled to Brookings, SD where we reunited with two of my dear college friends, Carol Nielsen Lovegren and Judy Schladweiler Rearick. Mark and I had visited Judy about 16 years ago but I hadn't seen Carol for 44 or 45 years!! We toured the campus of South Dakota State University and reminisced about what we could still remember. There were major memory gaps for all of us.

(Front) Craig & Judy Rearick (Back) Russ & Carol
Lovegren, Mark and me
We get so busy when we are young and building our lives and distance makes reunions more difficult. When that happens, getting together at this time of life means alot.

And finally a special shout out to my sister-in-law, Marilyn, who is recovering from triple bypass heart surgery. We love you and are so happy you are on the road to recovery.

Mark and Marilyn a couple days before surgery
Grandma Carolyn making granddaughter, Ava,
smile while great aunt, Marilyn, and great uncle,
Mark, look on
It has been a great summer so far. I hope you are enjoying yours.