Archive for September, 2017


We got up earlier than usual for a day off, as there were things to do. It was foggy and cool, but not cold. There was not even the slightest breeze in the air, and the lake, when we reached it,  was like glass. The sun, barely up an hour, looked like a big pink orb hanging low in the sky, and I was glad I was not driving, because the surreal color fascinated me so much that I couldn’t stop looking.  They say our beautiful sunrises and sunsets here in northern Minnesota are partially due to the fires and smoke from the northwest. Our pleasure comes from their pain, unfortunately. The past few weeks of hearing what is going on in the rest of our country, not to mention the world, has sometimes made me want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers up over my head. The fires, the floods, the hurricane force winds, and the threat of war. Always, it seems, there’s war. Today, in my sheltered Minnesota world cocooned by the fog and surrounded by the beauty of the fall leaves,  I am thankful. My home and family and friends are safe. My beloved north woods are intact. Our lake is not overlapping its banks.  I know this truth: As long as there is sorrow in the world there will be grandmothers who pray. Today, in these woods, I am in my church. In the meantime, we drive along the roads of my childhood, and the fact that they haven’t changed much brings comfort to my soul. To make it last just a little bit longer, we turn right at the end of the narrow dirt road and take the long way home. 

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The Hollyhocks

If truth be told, I’m not much of a Farm Woman these days, if you go by the usual Farm Woman standards. My garden beds are weedy. I don’t have jars and jars of home-canned beans and tomatoes lining my pantry shelves. I only have a few pitiful looking tomatoes ripening on my windowsill. I’ve had plenty of zucchini, but only a dozen little cucumbers. The deer ate the tops of all the sunflowers, so I am missing their dramatic size and colors which have brightened my yard every summer, lasting into fall. Even the small African violet on the kitchen counter is looking like it is ready for that great flower garden in the sky, but let’s just have that be a secret between us, because I am supposed to be keeping it for a friend. I’m sure she meant that I was to keep it alive rather than just keep it, but things aren’t looking good. When it comes to gardening, both indoors or out, some years I win and some years I lose. Except when it comes to hollyhocks, which are always winners. Although I take all the credit by calling them mine, I am only the keeper of the hollyhocks. They were here when I got here, and hopefully, they will be here long after I’m gone. I noticed the seedlings in early June the first year we moved here and wondered what they were. The large-leafed green plants grew taller every day and soon burst forth with big blooms of pink and white and red that resembled the skirts of long-ago Southern Belles. They start flowering about halfway up the tall stalk, a few at a time, and as the flowers on the bottom die off, the ones above them start to bloom, leaving seed pods behind. They bloom throughout the summer and the bees love them even more than I do. I have read that on old homesteads, hollyhocks were often planted around the outhouses. They don’t have a scent, so I can only assume that since they grow as tall as the roof that they were there to add a little bit of beauty to the biffies of rural America. Hollyhocks reseed themselves easily, even coming up in the grass two feet beyond their bed. Since HE mows right to the edge, I have tried digging them up to transplant them around the outbuildings and even the old outhouse, but they must be finicky, because only one has ever survived, but it does come back every year. Usually, I just wait until the last Southern Belle has shown her bloomers and break up the dried seed pods, sprinkling the seeds liberally in the south-facing garden bed, just as generations of Farm Women before me have done. If only African violets would be so easy.

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