Belated update: prairies and garden plots

Sally's tree2

No time for reading blogs, no time for posting—what is the world coming to? I should have posted over a week ago about an upcoming trip, but I had this foolish idea that I’d be able to post while away. Yes I know, ridiculous. My husband can manage it, but he only needs six hours of sleep a night.

I’ve been in Wisconsin and Minnesota for the past week. The original reason for the trip is far from jolly—Steve’s step-mother of 25 years just died, quite suddenly, of complications from cancer treatment, and in an bizarre turn of events, her disabled but independent son died five days later. It was a sad time, but a good gathering of friends and family.

I have the feeling I’ll be seeing more of his dad than we’ve managed in recent years, and that like all visitors, I’ll be put to work on the farm. At 79, my father-in-law can wear out most people half his age; maybe by the time he’s 90 I’ll be able to keep up with him. When we’re headed out for a project he rounds us up from around the house, clapping his hands and saying, “Let’s go, let’s go! Sheesh, call that hurrying? A snail could move faster.” It’s a poor imitation of a curmudgeon, and fools no one.

He’s undertaken a huge project on the nearly 85 acres of field and woods known as the “farm,” which has gone through as many make-overs as some teenagers: strawberries, raspberries, Christmas trees, and now, a return to native plants. With the help of his youngest son, who lives nearby, Rick’s got prairie restoration going in one area and plans savannah in others, while others are dedicated to wildlife. It’s quite something.

Sally's columbine in wall  Then it was off to Minneapolis to see the friend who takes (and might even deserve) all the credit for my marrying Steve, since it was she who first suggested I “check him out” (her term, not mine) back when we were all in college together. It’s her redbud tree that’s featured at the top of this page. She’s got a small city lot, but azaleas are in bloom here, and vinca; violets, lungwort, magnolia, bleeding hearts, lilies of the valley, epimedium, and wild ginger. My new plant for the day is epimedium, a.k.a. Rowdy Lamb Herb, Barrenwort, Bishop’s Hat, Fairy Wings, Horny Goat Weed, or Yin Yang Huo, according to Wikipedia. How’s that for a list of pseudonyms? And for a list of blooming plants in a far northern state? When I get home the grape hyacinth, which were hard knobs at soil level a week ago, may have bloomed. If I’m lucky.

Steve w We also visited a friend who used to baby-sit our children almost twenty years ago. This time, we got to see her first baby, whom Steve pretty much monopolized, when he wasn’t directing operations at a downed tree removal site in the back yard. Ostensibly he Tree surgery 2was teaching Atango to use the chain saw, but given who ended up doing most of the work, you have to suspect that other motives might have been at play. The goal here was to clear a way through a gigantic tree that had deposited its carcass across the path to the back part of the property.

In the afternoon, Catherine and I made a flying visit to the garden store at one end of a four-acre Home Depot spread, then managed to dig up the sod and dig in the manure for a small garden plot, all between one and five p.m. Whew. The soil in her area is a very sandy loam, so far from my Montana clay that I hardly know how to proceed. It’s sure easier to pull up dandelions. When we had a house forty miles south of here, we had a much blacker, richer soil to work with.

Well, I’ve spent much too much time on this; Sally says dinner’s ready. Steve flew home two nights ago, and I follow him tonight. Maybe my composter has gotten there already. Sally says that if I don’t stop now, she’s going to eat my dinner too.

5 Responses to Belated update: prairies and garden plots

  1. Hope you got to eat your dinner. Sounds like a busy busy time. Glad to see your back in the blogosphere.

  2. Sounds like a sad time and a good time all at once, much like life itself. Glad you got to do some catching up!

  3. Man, that’s a lot of family tragedy, but I’m glad you got to visit a cool state (MN) and catch up with folks. My parents live on 6 acres in MN and are trying to put a prairie in there–I can only dream of 80 some acres and making it natural again!

  4. Thanks, Deb, I did. I’m not sure I’m quite back yet, but I’m working on it.
    Precisely, OFB.
    It’s pretty amazing, Benjamin, and I think it may save my father-in-law.
    –Kate

  5. It’s part of our lives,everyone of us has it’s on path in life.Hope you will recover from this.Thanks for sharing your story.
    -Ava

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