Summer Songs

Hi Friends!

Ahhhh, the lovely soundtracks of Summer days…

Summer songs are all around us.

Can you hear them, too?

Each morning, as I step outside and stroll through the arbor into the backyard, I feel so grateful for all of the rainy days we have had this summer. The pitter patter of raindrops has been one of our most popular Summer songs! Over the past few weeks, we have had another 7 inches (17 cm) of rain.

In fact, our garden hose is still tucked away in the garage. Mother Nature has been watering for me all Summer long! 🙂 She even refills our bee baths and birdbath. I’ve been helping a tiny bit, using a vintage watering can to water the containers on the front porch.

Our perennial, cottage garden is quite lush and the weeds are most definitely thriving, too! The clematis blossoms that adorned the top of the arbor have been artfully rearranged by a frisky squirrel. I’ve been watching him climb up and down the arbor as if he were climbing a ladder. Although concerned at first, now I’m just tickled by the way the squirrel has arranged the pale purple clematis vines!

The garden has also been filled with a symphony of delightful birdsong this Summer!  Our feathered friends made themselves right ‘at home’ in the birdhouses throughout the garden and built a nest under the eaves. Their sweet songs always entertain me while I am busy gardenkeeping. My favorite garden task this month has been cutting bouquets of blossoms to fill stoneware crocks and Mason jars on the front porch. 🙂 What a peaceful way to begin each day!

Pops of color from the Asiatic lilies and wide drifts of orange and yellow daylilies in full bloom have been just lovely. This week, as I cut down millions hundreds of spent daylily stems, my heart smiled with gratitude for their glorious show during the past few weeks! An abundance of Annabelle hydrangeas allows me to cut armfuls of the huge, white blossoms to add cozy, old-fashioned charm to our front porch and dining room. It’s fun to send visitors home with a bouquet, too!

Now in the mid-afternoon, we can hear the cicadas tuning up. Their loud, boisterous chorus continues until  evening, when the daylight fades and the fireflies entertain us while we relax on the front porch.

The buzzing of the bees as they work to pollinate the garden is one of my very favorite Summer songs. When the bees are happy, the gardener is happy!

This month, the bees are also creating quite a buzz in my Self-Care bullet journal…

I played with a hexagon stencil and Distress Ink as I set up my July pages.

Each morning, I graph the number of hours I slept.

Every evening, I jot down things that I was grateful for that day.

My Gratitude page fills up very quickly each month.

It is always the most important page in my Self-Care journal.

Each day, I track my workouts,

the glasses of water I drink,

and my number of steps.

 

There is no mention of food

in my Self-Care journal.

(It’s so easy to track my healthy meals each day in the Weight Watchers app.)  🙂

This special journal highlights all of the other things

that make my life a healthy, happy one!

 

My sweet husband and I each wrote

‘Six-Word Love Stories’ about our marriage

and I added those heartfelt words recently.

The final July page in my journal holds a few heartwarming quotations.

Although it takes many hours to create my journal pages,

it only takes 10 minutes each evening to fill them in.

This reflective time always feels like

a special, little gift to me!

 I’m already thinking about an August theme

for my bullet journal.

Hmmm, perhaps… sunflowers!

 

There is still one more favorite Summer song…

Every year, one song becomes a celebration of my Summer days.

It’s been that way ever since my high school days. 🙂

My ‘Summer song’ seems to choose me,

very much like my ‘word’ for the year does.

This song has been following me

everywhere I go ~

whether I’m driving

or creating in my little

Paper Garden studio downstairs.

I’m always singing along!

♥ ♥ ♥

♫ ♬ This is my wish for all of you!

(With huge thanks to Jason Mraz for his wonderful lyrics!) 🙂

I’m so grateful that you stopped to visit today!

What kinds of Summer songs are making you smile this year?

Hope you’ll share with all of us…

 

Just keep singing!

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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Simple, Quiet Beauty

Hi Friends!

Dark, storm clouds threatened overhead very early on the Summer Solstice as my husband packed up our car. (Meanwhile, I took just a moment to make our online donation to “The Longest Day” fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. It made my heart feel so good to help fund the care, support, and research so desperately needed in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease.) Moments later, we drove off to spend “The Longest Day” and the next few days doing something we LOVE, while honoring special people we LOVE. It was a perfect way to celebrate our wedding anniversary! The reason was LOVEa whole lot of LOVE!

We set off in search of simple, quiet beauty, a bit of adventure, small town charm, and perhaps some antiquing, too! As we headed south, heavy rains accompanied us throughout our three-hour drive. Rain was also predicted for the next few days. We hoped for the best as we watched the skies.

Our destination was Amish Country in Central Illinois. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting Amish areas in Indiana. It would be so interesting to learn more about the Amish people living in our home state. We thought you might like to come along…

This beautiful, quiet region is filled with Amish farms, picturesque small towns with brick-lined streets, quaint antique shops, fun places to eat, and the friendliest people ever. The towns of Arcola, Arthur, and Tuscola, just a few miles apart, welcomed us… and the rain stopped just moments after we arrived! 🙂

 

Amish families moved from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Central Illinois, beginning in 1865, in search of more affordable land and wide-open spaces. Today there are more than 5,500 Amish people living in this area surrounded by large corn and soybean fields, stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Amish people are a very close-knit community. They are hardworking farm families, who often run small, creative, home-based businesses. Roadside wooden signs welcome visitors to quilt shops, woodworking shops, herb shops, bakeries, and more in Amish homes. The Amish are very friendly and open to answering questions about their simple lifestyle.

Religion guides all aspects of Amish life. They have chosen to live a life that is separate from the world. The Amish believe in peace and nonviolence and do not pass judgement on outsiders. They don’t fully accept the modern conveniences that we take for granted. By choosing not to use electricity, they are able to avoid many of the temptations that would impact their family lives. The Amish people value simplicity over convenience and comfort.

In this area, typical Amish farms are approximately 80 acres. The average Illinois Amish family has six children. When a young, Amish couple gets married, they are usually gifted with a parcel of land to farm, from one of their fathers.

We frequently traveled the winding, country road between Arcola, through the tiny hamlet of Chesterville, to Arthur. It warmed my heart each time we passed road signs reminding drivers to be cautious of slow-moving buggies. The familiar ‘clip-clop’ of the horse and buggy feels like a gentle reminder to savor life at a slower pace.

Most of the country roads have wide shoulders that serve as buggy lanes. For safety, the Amish people use battery-powered lights on their buggies. We always used caution whenever following a buggy and slowly passed them with care so we didn’t frighten the horse. We also saw many Amish people riding bicycles on warm, Summer days. Although the Amish people don’t own cars, they do accept rides in other people’s vehicles when necessary.

Each Amish farmhouse we passed had a large tank to store gas or diesel fuel to power their generators. They use bottled gas to operate their water heaters, modern stoves, and refrigerators. Gas lanterns and oil lamps light their homes.

Telephones are not permitted in Amish homes. We noticed wooden phone booths at the end of some driveways, near the road, shared by neighbors for emergencies and business. Today some Amish people have cell phones that can also be used outside their homes.

Families play games, build puzzles, do schoolwork, and read together in the evenings. No musical instruments are played in the homes for that would be worldly. As with all farm families, it is an “early to bed, early to rise” lifestyle.

 

In this area, families are “House Amish.” They gather in homes to hold their Sunday church services. There are 22 church districts in the area surrounding Arthur. When Amish families gather together, they speak their first language, a German dialect.

Horse-power is so important on Amish farms. Farmers drive teams of 6-8 horses to farm their rich land. Their tractors have metal wheels without rubber tires. In recent years, available farmland has become both expensive and scarce in Central Illinois. So, many Amish farmers have also taken on a trade.

In the evenings, we noticed Amish buggies hitched in the parking lot of several businesses in towns. After the farm work is done for the day, some Amish people may supplement their income by working in town for a few hours.

In addition to large farm fields, Amish homes also have big vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Beachy’s Bulk Foods sells everything else that a family might need to prepare meals and preserve fruits and vegetables for the Winter season.

As we drove along the country roads, we noticed every clothesline was filled with plain, dark colored pants, shirts, and dresses. Amish women work hard using wringer washers to do their laundry.

Our rainy Spring in Illinois has been very welcome to our farmers. Instead of “Knee-high by the Fourth of July,” the cornstalks were already shoulder-high by the third week of June.

It was fascinating to learn about Amish wedding traditions. November is the most popular month for Amish weddings. During Spring, Summer, and Fall there is too much work and little time for wedding celebrations. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the the usual days for Amish weddings, since they are the least busy days during their week. An Amish wedding takes place in the bride’s home with a four-hour ceremony. There are no rings, flowers, photos, caterers, or kisses. Typically, more than two hundred guests are invited to celebrate the happy couple!

 

“Amish people are not backwards, nor ‘stuck in the past.’

They are constantly adjusting to the pressures of the world

and striving to maintain their belief and culture.”

“It is a very delicate balance between tradition and change”.

~ National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom

We enjoyed every moment of our visit to Amish Country. I have much more to share in future posts, including several ‘hidden gems’ in the area. One of our most cherished memories is the kindness of everyone we met along the way.

The motto of the town of Arthur (population 2,200) is “You are a stranger only once.” There is so much to discover in this patchwork quilt of quiet, simple beauty and we relish the chance to learn more. We are already planning our next visit!

Although we kept our rain gear close at hand, we felt so fortunate to have dry weather for our adventures. While we were away, my garden soaked up three more inches of rain. It was a delight to find the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom when we arrived home!

I enjoyed slower-paced days the following week

without turning my computer on! 🙂

Where do you find simple, quiet beauty?

Happy Independence Day to all of our American friends

as we celebrate family, friends, and freedom!

 

Make each day sparkle!

♡ Dawn

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May Blossoms

 

Hi Friends!

Such incredible Springtime extremes! Very likely, you might also be noticing extreme weather events in your little corner of the world, as coverage of terrible flooding, violent storms, devastating wildfires, and dangerous volcanic eruptions fill our news reports on a daily basis. I just returned home to the Midwest after spending several weeks visiting the Sonoran desert of Arizona. Throughout this month, my thoughts often turned to extreme weather contrasts offering just a tiny glimpse into the month of May on our fragile planet.

I boarded my flight in late April on a frosty 31 degree morning and landed a few hours later in the warm sunshine. It was such a blessing to spend a few weeks making precious memories with my parents in their lovely Southwest home. ♥♥

I enjoyed many peaceful mornings in my parents’ desert garden. Unfamiliar birdsong, gentle breezes, and mountain views nourished my soul as I worked outside very early to avoid the afternoon temperatures of 111, 108, and 106 degree days. We were experiencing typical July temperatures in May.

Pulling weeds ‘desert-style’ requires a large brimmed hat, thick gloves, and long-nosed pliers. Although I didn’t know the names of any of the weeds, it was easy to identify intruders that didn’t belong in the their tidy yard covered with tiny pebbles, smooth river rocks, and beautiful granite from the foothills of Red Mountain. The red, parched earth in their yard anchors the deep roots firmly as they reach for water.

Less than one inch of rainfall in 2018 has caused extreme drought conditions in their area. The last measurable rainfall was in January. However, my parents’ desert neighborhood is in full bloom this month. The stunning colors, against the bright blue skies, were a remarkable treat to behold!

Palo Verde tree in full bloom

 

Jacaranda tree filled with blossoms

 

Pink blossoms of the Ironwood tree

 

Blossom-filled stalks of the Joshua Tree

Whenever my mom and I took early morning walks, she shared fascinating facts about the desert plants. We both love the majestic Saguaro cacti. This month my mom has noticed more Saguaro blooms than she has ever seen in her 23 years in the desert.

The white blossoms not only crowned the tops and arms of the Saguaros. The blossoms lined the prickly sides of the Saguaros, too. We were in awe of these plentiful blossoms everywhere we walked. The pollinators were quite thrilled with this spectacular blossom display, as well!

Some of my solo walks became ‘Artist Dates’ as I observed…

the beautiful shadows created by the Red Yucca blossoms…

the brilliant, ombre color palette of the Mexican Bird of Paradise blossoms,

the pale, pink Prickly Pear buds that opened into sunny, yellow flowers,

and the hummingbirds sipping nectar from the blossoms of the Ocotillo cactus. I’m quite certain that some of these desert wonders will inspire watercolors in the weeks to come!

♥♥♥

While I was away, I was so grateful that my sweet husband was keeping watch over our Midwest garden. He told me of hot weather, cold weather, huge rainstorms, and a microburst causing a tree to fall onto a home just three doors down from us. Each evening after work, he checked on the garden, sent frequent photos of our Magnolia in bloom,

and updated me on the activities of a very hungry groundhog.

(Last week, it devoured all of the buds on our Columbine plants. 😦 )

May has always been my very favorite month in the garden. I wondered if I might miss seeing my perennials in bloom with our unpredictable Spring weather. We had almost five inches of rain during my absence and I was so curious to see all of the changes!

My return flight landed late at night.

I was so excited for the dawn’s early light…

and my first peek

at my Friendship Garden!

Everything has changed so much!

I’m absolutely thrilled that the May blossoms waited for me!

Can’t wait to play in the garden!

Spring blessings!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  How is the weather in your little corner of the world?

 

 

 

 

 

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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts!

Hi Friends!

“Snow makes whiteness where it falls,

The bushes look like popcorn balls.

Snow-covered evergreens

The places where I always play,

Snowy scallops on the white picket fence

Look like somewhere else today!”

(Credit:”First Snow” by Mary Louise Allen)

My ‘History Garden’ casts shadows in winter.

We woke up on Monday to blue skies and sunshine… finally! Early in the morning, I bundled up and went for a long-awaited walk through my Winter garden. Very slowly, I trudged through the deep, glittery snow, several inches higher than my warm boots.

We had measurable snowfall every day for nine consecutive days, from February 3rd through the 11th. It truly looked like we were living in a snow globe! 🙂  Each day as I peeked through our lace curtains, while sipping tea from a favorite antique teacup, the snowflakes danced over my garden like Winter’s butterflies. Many times, I reached into my special ‘Basket of Sunshine’ for an extra dose of coziness during our long stretch of snowy days.

Glittery snowflakes falling in a shaker card

Shoveling snow became my daily ‘workouts,’ often shoveling two or three times a day. Traditionally, my husband prefers the ease of a snowblower, while I prefer the peaceful sounds of a shoveling meditation. As I slowly scoop the snow from the sidewalks, I always take time to quietly enjoy our Wintertime shadow garden. Every year, I intentionally leave the tall stems and dried flower heads of my perennials standing, providing seeds and nesting materials for our feathered friends throughout the Winter months. Seeing these dried souvenirs in my flower beds always fills my heart with warm, sunny memories of happy days in the garden last Summer.

Winter snowfalls also provide nice visits with our neighbors, a quick wave or a brief chat, as we shiver together. Neighbors helping neighbors has always been an important part of the quiet street where we live. As a young homeowner when I moved here thirty-one years ago, I loved being the secret “snow angel” often helping my older neighbors. Years passed, and now we have become the grateful recipients of help with our snow.  We are so thankful for our neighbor, Ralf, who loves to help out with his enormous snowblower! Ours is tiny by comparison. During this snowy stretch, we also had a “secret snowman” who cleared our sidewalks and long driveway on two different days to surprise us! Such kindness is truly heartwarming and always so appreciated! 🙂

While the snowflakes tumbled down outside, it was the perfect time for some creative hours inside. I enjoyed playing with tiny Art Impressions Watercolor stamps and watercolor markers to practice some watercolor vignettes. At first, it was fun to create snowy scenes. However, as the snowflakes fell outside day after day, my my heart yearned to create tiny, sunny gardens.

Although it is very chilly in my little Paper Garden studio during the Winter months, I still bundle up and carry hot tea downstairs to make one or two cards at a time. This week, I have been creating floral cards to warm hearts of family and friends. Doing a bit of ‘gardening’ with paper and ink definitely warms my heart, too!

A lifelong letter writer, I have also been warming my heart by putting pen to paper. In quiet celebration of International Correspondence Writing Month (#InCoWriMo2018), I am enjoying writing long letters to dear friends. What a pleasure to decide who to write to, choose some pretty stationery from my desk drawer, and to fill a page or two with the breathings of my heart! I have also chosen a few names and addresses from the long list of international letter writers on the InCoWriMo 2018 website. I’m planning to write a few surprise letters! I chose someone who lives in my favorite little town in Wisconsin, someone in Ireland (a place I dream of visiting), someone in Paris (J’adore Paris!), and someone who has been such an inspiration for my journal writing.

All of my letters sent within the United States will carry a very special postage stamp. The Alzheimer’s semipostal stamp helps to raise awareness of this heartbreaking disease. Each Alzheimer’s stamp costs 65 cents and will help raise funds for the work that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is doing to help those suffering with this disease. This cause is very near and dear to my heart and it would mean so much to me if the friends of our blog would purchase the Alzheimer’s stamps at their local post offices. This new semipostal stamp will be available for two years. All of those small donations will make a difference in so many lives!

All of the special people who gather here

to read each post

and share their thoughts

definitely warm my heart!

This little Valentine

is especially for you!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

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Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ July

Hi Friends!

The birds are singing sweetly, the cicadas are even louder,

the mosquitoes are biting,

and late afternoon rainstorms have been blowing across the plains.

It’s July in the Midwest… 

and I’ve been spending lots of time in the garden!

♥♥♥

Most days, this little sign on our front porch lets visitors know where to find me.  🙂

There have been more big changes,

as I work hard toward my goal to ‘right-size’ my cottage perennial gardens,

inspired by this wonderful book by Kerry Ann Mendez.

Throughout this busy month, I’ve also been doing a bit of garden memory-keeping,

bullet-style, in my Garden Journal.

In our area, we have had over seven inches (18 cm.) of rain so far this month.

Northern Illinois has had twice as much rainfall and rivers there are overflowing their banks.

Our thoughts are with everyone experiencing the terrible, widespread flooding.

Unfortunately, heavy thunderstorms are expected again tonight.

 

Fortunately, we have had plenty of dry, sunny days, too…

Last year, I dug out a huge bed of Daylilies to create a special History Garden

along the length of our garage.

It is filled with favorite perennials that were growing in this garden 30 years ago,

when I moved here and learned to garden.

This month, I dug again for several days

to remove another large patch of orange Daylilies. 

Of course, I waited until they were finished blooming!  🙂

After removing and composting this patch of Daylilies,

now we can fully enjoy the blossoms in the History Garden!

I reused the antique bricks that I rescued

when we removed a stone planter in the front yard this spring.

It made sense to use the oldest bricks to create a simple garden path

past the oldest perennials in our garden!

As I pondered what to plant along the path (left side in photo),

it dawned on me that the same principles

that I use in my artwork would be perfect in the garden, too.

So, I transplanted Hostas and Artemisia to create a limited color palette

and pattern repetition from nearby garden beds.

Digging and moving perennials around in the garden feels very much like

‘watercoloring’ with real flowers!

                          Finally, I planted grass seed in the bare soil in the foreground.

Just this week, it felt so wonderful to complete another big gardening goal!

Now I can enjoy a full view of the History Garden

while I spend time in my Herb & Tea Garden,

the true ‘heart of my garden,’

surrounded by the white, picket fence.  🙂

Just wondering… 

What are your favorite and least favorite garden tasks?

My very favorite:

I just love deadheading the spent blossoms,

harvesting herbs, cutting bouquets of flowers,

and brewing a cup of homegrown herbal tea!

My least favorite:

I’m constantly battling with Creeping Charlie (ground ivy),

and Bishop’s Weed as they spread through my garden.

Digging up Daylilies is just exhausting. So glad that task is finished!

 

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for chatting by the garden gate with us today.

Keep blooming and growing each day this summer!

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  We just returned from a wonderful, little adventure! ♥♥ Can’t wait to share it with you very soon!

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Inspiration… Everywhere!

Hi Friends!

Early Saturday morning we drove out into the countryside ~ passing lush, green fields, tidy, white farmhouses, and faded red barns. We were both looking forward to being outside in the morning sunshine and soaking up inspiration. As we pulled into the quiet, little town of Morris, our car knew the way to our usual out-of-the-way parking place. (The perfect spot just in case we wanted to carry some inspiration back to the car!)

It was 8 o’clock and Canalport Park was already filled with people. The friendliest people gather at the 3 French Hens French Country Market very early on the second Saturday of each month, from May through October. Everyone is seeking their favorite kind of inspiration!  Young and old, couples, singles, and families with pups on leashes wander through the park in search of antiques, upcycled art, handmade jewelry, artisan soaps, fresh-baked pies and breads, flowers of all kinds, and so much more.  Locally grown produce and a variety of tempting, hot foods and cold drinks often inspire a spur-of-the-moment picnic in the park, too.

As always, my husband and I started off together looking at the tables and displays filled with antiques. Before long, we each ventured off in search of our own favorite types of inspiration. I am drawn to antique furniture, vintage dishes, antique teacups, and interesting stoneware crocks, enamelware pitchers, and Mason jars to hold bouquets of garden flowers. He is drawn to antique books, old tools, and historic memorabilia.

Before long, he will walk across the wooden footbridge crossing the historic I & M Canal ~

to find inspiration

in a quiet walk in nature.

 

He enjoys hiking the wooded path to the Illinois River

to observe the local fauna and watch all kinds of boats on the river.

This was my Saturday morning ‘Artist’s Date’ seeking inspiration for our home and garden, as I nourished my creative heart and soul.  I have been truly smitten with Farmhouse Style decorating lately. Fresh, white beadboard, walls covered with wood slats, natural wood finishes, and pops of color and natural textures have been calling my name. Old and rustic, yet simple and fresh! What better place to soak up that Farmhouse feeling than in a lovely park in the countryside! I have always been drawn to wooden signs ~ the words, the lettering styles, the rustic textures, and the soft colors. Walking through the 3 French Hens French Country Market felt like I was walking through my favorite Pinterest boards, with inspiration everywhere!

Come on along… so I can show you a few things that caught my eye on Saturday morning!

These muted colors and different textures made my heart sing!

Everything on this table could find a place in our little ‘nest.’

Bunting makes every day feel like a little celebration!

Hand lettered signs add just the right touch of warmth and coziness to any room.

I love the brush lettered style (especially bouncy brush lettering!).

I think I’m going to need some old, rustic barnwood! 🙂

This ‘Artist’s Date’

surrounded me with inspiration… everywhere I looked!

Lettering inspiration embellished

fluffy, white pillows,

embroidered, straw hats,

and more weathered barnwood!

As I walked along the edge of Canalport Park, I came upon something that stopped me in my tracks. Right before my eyes, a Tractor Parade turned slowly onto Illinois Street. Vintage farm tractors and modern tractors of every color and size passed by very slowly. Most of the tractors displayed American flags and many had shade umbrellas, too. A local artisan told me that farmers love to parade through small towns on Summer weekends in their beloved tractors, gathering for breakfast together in a small cafe. I just had to stop and watch…  🙂

This parade brought back such wonderful childhood memories of riding in antique car parades on Summer weekends. My dad drove our Model A Ford Coupe, that he had lovingly restored, blowing the ‘ooh-gah’ horn often. Dad and Mom rode inside the car, while my brothers and I waved to the parade watchers from the rumble seat! 🙂 

It’s such a wonderful thing when people discover their ‘tribe’ of kindred spirits ~

car people, tractor people, boat people, train people,

readers, gardeners, runners, cyclists, collectors, crafters,… ! 

Inspiration is everywhere, if we just take the time to look for it.

More lettering inspiration ~

on rusty metal and rustic paper!

 

These signs were lettered on upcycled kitchen cabinet doors. What a great idea!

One of them just had to come home to our cozy, little bungalow.

Can you guess which one?

It’s a good thing our perfect, out-of-the-way, parking spot was nearby!  🙂

After two inspiring hours, my husband came to find me in the park.

We had just enough time to look for inspiration in the nearby vintage shops ~

before driving one more hour through the peaceful countryside

to spend a lovely afternoon with our dear family.

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for visiting today!

Where do you find inspiration on a Summer weekend?

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Garden ‘Surprise’ Party!

Hi Friends!

It feels just like a garden ‘party’ here in the Midwest ~ a bit of a ‘surprise’ party! These party plans seem to have been underway since February, when we had a stretch of unseasonably warm days. Shortly thereafter, gardeners began to notice foliage emerging from our sleepy, leaf-covered garden beds. I remember taking walks through my garden in late February and early March whispering, “Slow down. It’s much too early.”

Our garden party guests might be feeling confused, as well. Migratory birds and other wildlife have been caught by surprise. This week, I noticed a robin finishing her nest under the eaves, with a southern exposure. The University of Illinois Extension reports that plant growth is 15-20 days ahead of schedule in our area. By tracking growing degree days (GDD), researchers confirm that we are well ahead of normal. Insect populations are making an early appearance. Dandelions have already been in bloom for two weeks. Our usual gardenkeeping tasks seem completely off-schedule this Spring.

My Garden Joys 2017  journal has been capturing the memories of our early garden ‘surprise’ party!

Throughout April, I’ve been extra busy making changes to our front yard as I continue to ‘right-size’ our perennial gardens. A few weeks ago, I decided to eliminate an old stone planter that was a part of this garden long before I moved here. Over the past thirty years, I have enjoyed creating many different plant combinations in the old stone planter. Now it was time to carefully move many of the perennials to other garden beds and compost the rest. (It’s never easy to say goodbye, so I had to keep repeating the mantra ~ “These are not children or pets.’ ) In my heart, I knew that I was doing the right thing… and I always listen to my heart!

Fortunately, I saved many of the loose bricks to use in the backyard. I think they should have a place of honor in our ‘History Garden,’ near our 1922 garage. Using all of my strength, I just couldn’t budge the remaining bricks. So, we called our favorite Handyman, who came with his sledge hammer. What a job! He discovered three layers of stone and slate in the foundation beneath the soil. A very talented Mason had done an excellent job of building the stone planter so long ago!

Next, we hired three strong landscapers to carry the stones to their heavy duty truck and haul them to a business for recycling. We planted grass seed in its place. Now there will be a bit more to mow, but a lot less to weed. 🙂 It felt so great to cross this garden project off my l-o-n-g ‘To Do’ list early in the season!

Some of my most treasured memories are the years that our stone planter was filled with old-fashioned Hollyhocks, in the loveliest colors. They often grew taller than me! I’ll always remember collecting the Hollyhock seeds to make little packets of ‘Seeds of Friendship’ as small tokens of gratitude for our wedding shower. It was such a small way to share the abundance of my garden with special friends.  One summer, the hungry neighborhood groundhogs kept munching on the tops of each Hollyhock stem. That year, we had ‘miniature’ Hollyhocks, only 12 inches tall, in full bloom! Passersby would often stop to comment on our tiny Hollyhocks and I would always share our groundhog tales with them. Ahhh… the garden memories that filled our stone planter over the years!

This week, it was so surprising to see what was blooming in my garden each day! ⇧ We truly are weeks ahead of our typical bloom times. So, I’m scurrying to keep up with our garden ‘surprise’ party this Spring!  The Herb & Tea Garden beds no longer have their warm blanket of leaves. Along the insides of the white picket fence, my favorite, old-fashioned perennials are thriving in this Spring garden party.  The Bleeding Hearts, Cranesbill Geranium, and Anemones are in full bloom and the Coral Bells and Peonies already have buds.

I spent a recent afternoon tidying up the potting bench in the garage.  The garden tools and flower pots are ready and waiting. After I washed the window curtains above the potting bench, I made a simple bunting with flower seed packets. Doesn’t bunting make every surprise party more festive?  🙂

The past two weekends we enjoyed surprising summer-like temperatures just right for some nice, long walks. Last Saturday, we took a late afternoon walk through lovely Lilacia Park. This treasure has over 700 Lilacs and 25,000 Tulips ~ all blooming several weeks early. Instead of a quiet walk amongst the fragrant blossoms, we were surprised to find several wedding parties and crowds of Senior prom dates and their families enjoying the colorful garden party. So festive!

This weekend, however, we are staying cozy and warm inside. Mother Nature has surprised us again! This afternoon our temperatures are in the upper 30s. April showers, along with high winds, thunderstorms, and excessive rainfall totals all weekend are ending the month with more surprises

We wonder what the merry, merry month of May will bring…

What’s blooming in your garden or nearby park this week?

Have you noticed any garden surprises this month?

Enjoy the small wonders in each day!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Thank you so much for taking the time to visit today. Hope you will join in the conversation…

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