Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Hi Friends!

As our busy Summer slips away, it feels like the perfect time to share one of our very favorite Summer days. Visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden is always a treat for all of the senses! On this delightful, late August day, the gardens welcomed us… as my heart overflowed with a sweet song of Summer.

Strolling together along quiet lakes with my husband has always been a beautiful part of “our story.” In fact, we will always cherish one of our very early dates here, at the Chicago Botanic Garden,  as we walked hand-in-hand while getting to know one another! ♥♥

The early morning stillness felt like a walking meditation. The pollinators were already busy at work while we had the garden paths to ourselves.

I always find so much inspiration here that it quickly turns into an Artist’s Date! I’m drawn to nature’s color combinations that would be so lovely in my cottage perennial gardens and the delicate petal forms that I long to capture with watercolors in my new sketchbook. My camera roll quickly fills with all of the beauty… along with a ‘wish list’ of perennials that would feel right at home in my garden!

 

This has been my Summer to learn more about Mason bees because we were gifted with a beautiful Mason bee house for our garden. Each morning, I check on their progress as these hardworking pollinators fill the tiny, hollow tubes with eggs. Little-by-little, they seal each full tube with wet, clay soil.

In nature, Mason bees often lay their eggs in tiny cracks, in pine cones, in bundles of sticks, and other protected spaces, then seal the opening with wet soil. We really enjoyed this large display about Mason bees.

Isn’t this a truly charming Mason bee house? Nestled in among the Hydrangea blossoms, the house rests on a tree trunk. Bee-still my heart… even more inspiration! 🙂

My heart was all a-flutter as I glanced at my watch.

It was time!

The main reason for today’s visit was to enjoy the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. From late May through early September, visitors have a rare opportunity to spend time with live butterflies native to South America, North America, Asia, Africa, and some Illinois natives, as well. Just six people at a time entered the vestibule for our introduction and instructions. We were reminded to look down at the ground often, especially after standing in one place to observe or photograph. Butterflies often rest on the ground and care must be taken to preserve their safety.

As we carefully stepped inside,

such a peaceful, easy feeling washed over me…

A beautiful garden of host plants in full bloom welcomed us inside the large screened-in exhibition space. Hundreds of butterflies fluttered about landing on the colorful blooms. (To learn the name and country of origin of each butterfly, just click here.)

I enjoyed seeing so many of the same flowers that grow in my perennial garden beds. 🙂 (To learn about the flowers from the exhibition, just click here.) It was so interesting to observe the how blossom colors and forms attracted the butterflies.

We headed toward the Pupa Room to peek through the window into the Emergence Chamber. Every Friday throughout the exhibition, 300 to 500 new chrysalises arrive here. All of them are raised on butterfly farms for  educational purposes. The butterflies and moths for this exhibition are never caught in the wild.

The chrysalises hang inside the hot, humid Emergence Chamber (80 degrees F, 80% humidity) until they are ready to hatch. Butterflies usually emerge in the morning as the sun shines down on the Emergence Chamber. It only takes a few seconds to emerge! The new butterfly hangs onto the chrysalis until it is ready to unfurl its wings. As soon as its wings are dry, it begins to fly around. Then it is carefully lifted out for release. What an amazing Morning Science lesson!

We were delighted to observe several brand new butterflies being released into the exhibition. I just love new beginnings! 🙂 The new butterflies immediately flew over to a nearby feeding dish.

Four feeding dishes are scattered throughout the exhibition space. The dishes are filled with rotting fruit and a sponge filled with blue Gatorade. Butterflies like to eat bananas, watermelon, mangoes and pineapple (the more rotten the better). They sip sugar water from the sponge and flower nectar through their proboscis, a straw-like structure. Butterflies do not have chewing mouth parts.

Enjoy the delicate beauty of a few of these “flying flowers”…

We also had a fascinating opportunity to view a large atlas moth (native to Southeast Asia) up close. It is one of the largest insects on the planet. The atlas moth does not feed after emerging from its cocoon. During the day, it doesn’t move from its resting place. It uses all of its energy while looking for a mate at night. This beautiful moth only lives for one or two weeks.

This close up shows the intricate, detailed wing of the atlas moth.

Awe inspiring!

 

When a butterfly landed on my wrist, it was a perfect time for an impromptu Science lesson with some young visitors. (Once a teacher, always a teacher!) 🙂 Another visitor walked by wearing a straw hat adorned with visiting butterflies.

  A short Butterflies & Blooms video (courtesy of The Chicago Botanic Garden)

As visitors came and left, we lingered in this peaceful oasis for 1.5 hours. There was so much beauty to savor and enjoy! My sweet husband has been a Lepidoptera enthusiast since childhood. So, he was truly in seventh heaven! Spending time among hundreds of colorful butterflies gave me the most wonderful, peaceful, easy feeling!

As we left the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, special Butterfly TSA volunteers carefully checked us for any butterfly ‘hitchhikers’ that might ride out with us. In the outer vestibule, each visitor spun around at a mirror to check for possible butterfly escapees. We must be very careful to avoid introducing non-native species to our environment.

We had such a lovely morning! It was simply delightful to watch the young children interacting with the butterflies. Photographers focused their long lenses as butterflies sipped nectar from blossoms. Gardeners dreamed of new perennials to attract butterflies to their gardens. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for this peaceful, enchanting experience!

Heartfelt thanks, dear blog friends, for continuing to visit

over the past several weeks.

I am truly grateful for your friendship! ♥♥

Special family time is keeping me extra busy.

I still have SO many stories to share…

♥♥♥

Sending crisp, cozy Autumn blessings,

from my heart to yours!

 

With gratitude,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  When did you experience a peaceful, easy feeling this Summer?  Hope you will share with us!

 

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Chatting by the Garden Gate ~ July 2019

Hi Friends!

Shall we chat… as we walk through the garden?

A tall glass of iced tea is just what we’ll need

on this hot, sticky, July afternoon.

Our Summertime weather arrived much later than expected this year. After a very cool, rainy Spring, Midwestern gardeners are playing catch up. In late June, our temperatures suddenly rose to ‘hot and sticky.’ Now whenever the sun appears, I run outside to do a bit of gardenkeeping. Heavy rainstorms often drench our gardens as the afternoon heat builds.

My perennial gardens are thriving with all the rain.

I just love watching the color palette change

with each passing week.

The Clematis is climbing so quickly that I haven’t been able to help weave its long, graceful stems through the arbor. It’s putting on a spectacular show completely on its own!

The Asiatic Lilies add a bright pop of orange to our History Garden bed. These plants have been ‘at home’ in my garden for so many years.

The Annabelle Hydrangeas are spilling over the picket fence of my Herb & Tea Garden. Two years ago, I transplanted a tiny root from the huge Annabelle near the deck, and it is really happy in its new home.

This week, I began cutting big Annabelle bouquets to fill crocks and pitchers for the front porch. It’s my very favorite way to begin my mornings! 🙂

The first of the ‘He Loves Me’ Daisies mixed so sweetly with the last of the Anemones to fill another pitcher. Mother Nature’s timing is wonderful!

Just yesterday, the orange Daylilies blossomed. Every year, my Daylilies bloom in mid-June, just in time for Father’s Day. Our cooler weather really slowed them down this year. All of the rain made their slender stems grow longer than I can ever remember. Some of the blossoms are at shoulder height this year! The Daylilies will be bobbing in the breeze for the Fourth of July. Mother Nature’s fireworks!

We have welcome guests in the Herb & Tea Garden birdhouse. There is a new nest inside and a mother robin can often be seen sitting on the peak of her roof and peeking into her doorway. The birdsong is extra sweet as I tend to the herbs in the Summer stillness.

Photo Source: Gardener’s Supply

We have a brand new addition to our garden this year! This bamboo Mason Bee House, a gift from a dear friend, should attract more non-stinging pollinators to our garden. There are over 140 species of native mason bees in North America. In the Spring, the females collect pollen and nectar and pack it into a tube cavity. When there is enough food stored, the mason bee lays an egg in the tube. Then she seals the end of the tube with wet mud and begins to fill another tube. Although I haven’t actually seen the female mason bees at work, I have noticed a few tubes have been sealed closed already. (Read about these fascinating bees here.) As always, I have several homemade bee baths scattered throughout my perennial beds. We want to encourage these vital pollinators to stay in our garden, rather than leave in search of fresh water. Large sweeps of colorful blossoms also keep our bees busy and happy! It will be fascinating to see what lessons the mason bees teach us this Summer! 🙂

An abundance of rain can only mean an over-abundance of WEEDS (and mosquitoes, too)!! I hereby declare that this will be the ‘Summer of Weeds’ in every garden bed. 😦  My time in the garden is quite limited and and the weeds are unlimited. Whenever time allows, you will find me hard at work, in one perennial bed or another, pulling weeds for composting.

Several years ago, I tested out a ‘friendly’ way to prevent weeds on our small patio. It works beautifully! First, I pull all the weeds growing between the flagstones. Then I generously sprinkle baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) into all of the cracks. I water it in… and enjoy the magic! For several months, no weeds grow on our patio. Now I buy large, inexpensive boxes of baking soda to use as a natural weed preventer on cracks on our driveway and sidewalk, too. Have you tried baking soda as a natural weed preventer? Do you use any other natural solutions for weed prevention?

Our rain helped our Peonies bloom with great abundance in June. The palest pink, brightest pink, deepest maroon, and the purest white blossoms all bloomed at once a several weeks ago. I recalled reading a tip a few years ago in Garden Gate magazine about delaying the bloom time of Peonies. This was the perfect year to test it…

On June 15th, I cut a few, small Peony blossoms at various stages of bloom. I shook off the ants and brought the Peonies inside. Right away, I placed them into a large, clear plastic bag and tightly sealed it with a twist tie. (I also taped the bag closed, just in case any ants were hiding in the blossoms.) Then I placed the bag of Peonies on a shelf in the fridge. I waited and watched… and waited and watched… for almost three weeks.

The Peonies in our garden have long since bloomed and have been deadheaded. Wouldn’t it be fun to have just a few more Peonies to enjoy? So, just this afternoon, I cut open the bag. I wasn’t prepared for the amazing fragrance that rushed out as I cut the bag. Oh my! It was glorious! I admired the Peonies as I placed them in a small vase. We’ve never had Peonies from our garden for the Fourth of July! It’s amazing how one appreciates just a few small, delayed blossoms! They will have a special place on our kitchen windowsill. I’m sure that I will try this again next year. Next time, I will gently flip the bag over every few days to help preserve their round shape. This weekend, I will truly savor these blossoms… and my husband will enjoy having more room in our fridge! 🙂

We also have a BIG garden mystery this Summer…

A very hungry critter, with a special fondness for Coreopsis and Coral Bells, has been enjoying our garden, too. In years past, groundhogs could be seen gobbling up their favorite flowers. However, this Summer we haven’t seen any groundhogs at all. I’ve seen lots of bunnies nibbling our clover blossoms. (I just LOVE them! I really hope they aren’t doing all of this damage!) Yesterday, for the first time ever in our garden, I saw a cute, little chipmunk scurry across our deck stairs. Could chipmunks be our very hungry critters?

Hope you will share your garden wisdom and tips with us! ♥

Thirty-two years ago this week, I bought this cozy, little home with its big garden. Many of those same plants are still a special part of my beloved perennial gardens. My sweet mom taught me all about gardening and still shares her garden wisdom with me. My garden is one of my favorite blessings! I cherish the plants and the stories they hold ~ stories of the people who shared them with me and the places these old-fashioned plants came from. My garden continues to fascinate me, reward me, and teach me important lessons every day!

Enjoy the sweet blessings of home and of freedom!

Happy Independence Day!

Garden blessings,

♡ Dawn

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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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Sunshine in My Soul

Hi Friends!

Happy Eclipse Day! There is excitement in the air across America today as a total solar eclipse travels across our country. After a lovely morning in the garden, I am currently watching the progression of the eclipse in a live tv broadcast. Although I won’t be looking skyward during the eclipse, I will spend time on the front porch listening to the changes in the birdsong and the cicadas, as the sky darkens and the temperature quickly drops. Our area will experience 87% totality. Several of our friends and family have made the five hour drive to experience 100% totality over southern Illinois. Are you watching the eclipse today?

My garden is all abuzz with pollinators hard at work. I have also been working hard, week after week, to ‘right-size’ my perennial garden beds. There is sunshine in my soul today as I reflect back on all of the big changes that I made in the garden throughout the Spring and Summer. My big garden projects are now complete for 2017. 🙂  There will be a bit more time to enjoy my perennial favorites…  all abloom in in mid August.

‘Blue Mist’ Bluebeard,  ‘Royal Standard’ Hosta, ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea, and ‘Early Blue’ Hydrangea

I have been enjoying documenting my garden memories, too. Bright, yellow perennials always have a starring role in my cottage gardens in August. So, of course, I doodled a few yellow coneflowers in my ‘Garden Joys’ journal this month. It’s lovely to look back over all that has happened in the garden so far in 2017.

Pleasant, cool mornings were a delight as I finished the last of the big garden projects that I planned for this summer.  🙂

There will still be lots of gardenkeeping tasks in the coming weeks, but my thoughts will now turn to a few indoor projects.

Best of all, there will be more creative time in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs! I have been longing to practice more Chlorophyll Printing using the herbs from my garden. My first experience with this technique was last December. At that time, my garden was already asleep for the Winter. I couldn’t wait to try this interesting technique again during the Summertime!

So, the other day I walked along the garden path to my Herb & Tea Garden and happily snipped a few of my favorite herbs.

Using my Big Shot tool (Tab 2), I pressed herb leaves on different types of paper to create prints. (See Lydia Fiedler’s full tutorial here. She is my Chlorophyll Printing inspiration!) Instead of ink, Nature’s colors were pressed onto the paper. Heavenly herbal scents filled my little studio as I worked! 

I was most successful using Recollections 110 lb Ivory cardstock. Although I really thought that watercolor paper would work well, it didn’t turn out that way for me. I also tried different types of kraft cardstock without too much success. I will definitely continue to experiment with Chlorophyll Printing!

I think it would be lovely to make prints using ferns, too. It will still take more practice to create better prints. Wouldn’t it be fun to create vintage-looking botanical prints of ferns on a kraft background, with the botanical names hand lettered? Oh yes! I  can envision a series of framed prints as yet another way of preserving and displaying garden memories! 🙂

Printed with with Candy Cane mint from my herb garden

I used the best of my Chlorophyll Prints to create a few notecards.

Chlorophyll Print using Chocolate mint from my herb garden

 

Chlorophyll Prints created with Sage from my herb garden.

Sending ‘happy mail’ while sharing the bounty of my garden with family and friends is one of my favorite ways to ‘give love.’ Finding new ways to combine my passions for gardening and card making truly puts sunshine in my soul!

Lately, I have been very intentional about finding ways to bring sunshine into my soul. Writing ‘Morning Pages‘ continues to help nourish my creative heart and soul. Taking a break from watching the news helps, too. Recently, I lit a candle as I wrote, in remembrance of the terrible events in Charlottesville and Barcelona that have touched all of our lives. 

This weekend will be a big opportunity to bring sunshine into my soul. I will be joining with papercrafters from across the globe for the Papertrey Ink Stamp-a-Faire 2017. Although we will be working in our own creative spaces, we will all be working on the same Challenges and sharing our projects with one another online. Video tutorials by the amazing Papertrey Ink design team will present a new Challenge every two hours. (I am a little bit worried because I am a very slow cardmaker!) It’s sure to be three days of learning incredible new techniques and watching our skills grow! If you are interested, take a peek at the Stamp-a-Faire details and the weekend schedule. There will certainly be plenty of sunshine in my soul this weekend!

May your soul be filled with much sunshine, too!

 

Perennially yours,

♡ 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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Hello Summer!

Hi Friends!

Early mornings in our Midwest garden fill my heart with both comfort and joy! Those relaxing busy hours spent garden-keeping have been the perfect time to watch my garden dreams materialize. It’s so exciting to see all of the changes in the garden!

Throughout last Summer and Fall, I worked diligently to ‘right-size’ my large perennial gardens. Early this Spring, we removed two more perennial beds and two bushes from the front yard, replacing them with grass. We just love our new, simplified front yard!

We are not finished making changes yet. The large Magnolia bed, Front Porch bed, and Side Porch bed continue to keep me very busy. This Summer I am pondering ways to ‘right-size’ these garden beds next. The guidance (and courage!) offered by garden author Kerry Ann Mendez, in her book The Right-Size Flower Garden, continue to inspire me to make changes throughout my garden.

Last Fall, I removed a large Cutting Garden near the deck, ‘rescuing’ and transplanting several of my favorite, old-fashioned perennials to the white, picket fence border of my Herb & Tea garden. Creating garden ‘maps’ last Fall proved to be one of my most useful garden ‘tools.’  Several times this Spring, I carried the ‘map’ out to my Herb & Tea garden as the plants emerged. It has been such a joy to watch all of the changes come to life! I will continue to edit my garden ‘maps’ as I move plants around and make new additions. Recently, I added Lime Basil and Cinnamon Basil to the herb bed. 🙂

Last Summer I also worked extremely hard digging up a huge bed of Daylilies, providing space along our garage to create a new History Garden bed. In the Fall, I transplanted several old-fashioned perennials that were already growing here thirty years ago, when I moved here and learned to garden. To me, these plants are true treasures! Again the garden ‘map’ has been so helpful. As the plants bloom, I will fill in the missing colors on the ‘map’ using watercolors. I’m still saving a spot for one new perennial from my ‘Wish List.’  🙂

This year, my new Garden Joys’ journal has also become a very helpful tool as I document the changes in our garden. I’m noting the bloom times of the perennials in their new beds, hoping to provide continuous color throughout the garden.

Just looking back over all of the changes so far has been a joy!

It makes the time spent on this bullet-style garden journal feel so worthwhile.

I’m never alone in the garden…

The robins, cardinals, wrens, bees, butterflies,

squirrels, and bunnies are welcome guests.

It’s such a joy to watch the mother wren flying into the Herb & Tea Garden birdhouse

to care for the eggs in her nest!

I am always happiest when I am working in my Herb & Tea Garden.

Just stepping through the garden gate fills me with sweet memories.

It truly is the ‘heart’ of my garden ~ built with love!

We have our garden challenges this year, as well.

There is a very hungry groundhog in residence who has devoured

all of the Mums and the patches of Black-eyed Susans throughout the garden!

He (oops!) She now has five young groundhogs who are nibbling everything.

They have been climbing through the Herb & Tea Garden fence

and helping themselves to Oregano, too.

Although they really are cute…

 I do wish our groundhogs would develop a healthy appetite for weeds, instead.

(We have more than enough weeds to share!)

The first two weeks of June were extremely dry, but recently we have had lots of rain.

So, garden-keeping has kept me extra-busy this week.

The wet soil has made weeding so much easier.

I just keep weeding, weeding, weeding…

and picking pretty bouquets

of Summer blossoms. 🙂

 

What’s happening in your garden?

What challenges do you have in the garden?

What kind of blossoms have you been cutting for bouquets?

Hope you will share…

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

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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 Inspiration…

herbteagarden

 

Hi Friends!

One thing leads to another!
Has this ever happened to you?

Over the past few weeks,

I’ve often thought of the charming, children’s book,

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. (Take a moment to enjoy the read-aloud here!)

Today’s post, inspired by Laura Numeroff’s sweet, children’s book,

offers a peek into the unexpected activity in my garden over the past few weeks…

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If you give a gardener…

a wonderfully written and illustrated book,

Homegrown Tea ~ An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes

by Cassie Liversidge,

it will quickly become one of her very favorite books about growing herbs and teas.

As she reads, she will decide…

to move the Monarda (also called Bergamot or Bee Balm) from her Butterfly Garden

back to her Herb & Tea Garden, where it grew many years earlier.

She will realize that she doesn’t really need a small Butterfly Garden bed,

when her entire yard is a butterfly garden!

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After she transplants the Monarda to the ‘heart of her garden,’

she will decide…

to move her favorite, old-fashioned flowers from her Cutting Garden,

to the inside of her Herb & Tea Garden,

along the white picket fence

(built with love).

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How sweet it will be to tend the fragrant herbs,

surrounded by Bleeding Hearts, Hydrangea, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susans, Coral Bells,

Speedwell, Obedient Plant, and Phlox!

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As she moves these perennials,

she will realize…

 that she really doesn’t need a Cutting Garden bed,

next to the deck, near the towering pine trees,

because over the years

her entire garden has grown into a cutting garden!

Each morning, she happily fills vases of flowers to bring the beauty of the garden inside.

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On those hot, humid days that aren’t suitable for digging in the garden,

she will dream her garden dreams…

with paper, ink, stamps, and watercolors

in her little Paper Garden studio.

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What fun to design tiny gardens, using Art Impressions Watercolor stamps! (Bee skep is from a vintage Stampin’ Up set.)

While she creates little gardens on paper,

she will decide…

that it would be fun to grow tall, colorful blossoms

along both sides of her white, garden arbor,

where the pink and purple Clematis bloom.

So…

when the days are a bit more comfortable,

she will spend hours and hours…

digging out patches of Daylilies,

day after day,

to make her garden dreams come true.

She will move beautiful Phlox that were already growing in the yard

when she bought her little bungalow 29 years ago.

They were such a lovely gift

left by those who gardened here

long before her

and are a very special part of the history of

her beloved, 94-year-old cottage garden.

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Patches of pink, white, and purple Phlox,

spiky purple Obedient Plant,

and delicate, pink Coral Bells

will welcome visitors who step through the arbor,

and follow the flagstone path to the Herb & Tea Garden.

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So, the happy gardener will…

stay busy as a bee

in her cottage garden

digging, transplanting, mulching,

and

‘watercoloring’ with perennials

as the late Summer days

turn to early Autumn.

What a joy it will be to watch her ‘new’ old-fashioned garden emerge in the Springtime!

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If you give a gardener…

a wonderful book to read,

the seeds of inspiration will grow!

♥♥♥

It has been a true joy to find so much inspiration

in my summer reading…

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and I have lots more to share!

⚛⚛⚛

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

What books have inspired you most this summer?

Hope you will leave a comment to share with us…

Wishing you lots of happy!

♡ Dawn

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A Fascinating Walk!

VoloBogIL

Hi Friends!

It’s a wonderful tradition that began early on, when my husband and I were just getting to know one another! Very often, we found ourselves walking near water, with moments of peaceful silence and interesting conversations about anything and everything. Oh the beautiful places we have walked together! Not the types to sit on a beach, we have strolled along Lake Michigan beaches, the beaches of Waikiki, and along the North Shore of Kauai. Walks along the River Seine, the River Rhein, the Lower Salt River in the Sonoran desert, and the Illinois River hold so many dear memories. Over the years, we have enjoyed walking along rushing waterfalls, meandering creeks, and a quiet marsh. Yet, there has always been another watery destination on our long list of places to walk ~  a bog!

So, Sunday morning, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north quite a distance to the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Our walk was filled with unexpected surprises, lovely views, and new learning. We both agreed that it was one of our more fascinating walks… and I couldn’t wait to share our walk with you!

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With our first glimpse of the Volo Bog, we were very curious about the large patches of pink in the distance. It was time to explore!

This bog originated about 12,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glacier crept into northeastern Illinois. As the climate warmed, the ice melted and glacial lakes formed. The trees (in the photo above) mark the edges of the old glacial lake. 

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Volo Bog has a floating boardwalk, allowing visitors to view various parts of the bog while walking just above the bog’s surface.

This was our chance to walk just inches above the surface of a bog! We could feel the floating walkway moving gently underfoot with each step. We walked very slowly, as dragonflies and butterflies floated overhead and a chorus of nearby crickets and frogs sang for us. Below the boardwalk, the 50-foot deep bog was filled with plants growing in this unique wetland.

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From time to time as we walked, there were views of peaceful, open water, surrounded by cattails and sedges. However, most of the bog is now lush with plant growth.

A bog is a very unique type of wetland. It forms in a glacial lake that has very poor drainage and no inflow of water from streams. Rain water and melting snow fill the bog. A floating mat of peat, which is partially decayed plant matter, began to form long ago at the Volo Bog.  The roots of living plants support this thickening peat layer.

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Volo Bog is the only ‘Quaking Bog’ with an open water center in Illinois. Its floating mat of sphagnum moss and other plants is so thick in some places that a person could actually stand on it. However, this would not only damage the bog, but would be incredibly dangerous. The floating boardwalk allows visitors to safely explore the bog.

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Cattails turn to seed in mid-August at Volo Bog.

As early as 10,000 years ago, the Native Americans settled in northeastern Illinois. The Volo Bog, a distance from large waterways, would have provided good hunting grounds and places to gather arrowhead roots, cattails, blueberries, and other edible plants.

BogFloraColorful wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the bog and the pollinators were very active on this mid-August day.

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The wooden boardwalk leads visitors through four different plant communities at Volo Bog. As we made our way, the changing plant species seemed to take us back through time. Winterberry Holly, Dogwood, and Poison Sumac were among the tall shrubs in this part of the bog. During times of high water from rain and melting snow, some of the Tamarack trees in this area drowned. Ancient ferns also grow in this shady area of the bog.

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This diagram shows the different plant zones we observed as we followed the boardwalk (yellow dotted trail) to the ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog.

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The ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog is not an ordinary pond. It is 50 feet deep and everything you see is floating… even the Tamarack pine trees in the distance! As the plant layers in the bog continue to grow and decay, scientists predict the open water at the ‘eye’ will be overgrown with vegetation in the next 100-150 years.

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Tamarack pine trees grow in this part of the plant community. These unusual pines are deciduous! In Autumn, their needles turn golden yellow and fall onto the peat soil below. The Tamarack trees, with their shallow, spreading roots, float up and down as the water levels change in the bog.

Sphagnum moss carpets the ground in this area of the bog. Native American mothers gathered and dried this moss to line their cradle boards, as a sort of diaper. Early soldiers used dried sphagnum to cover their wounds in the battlefields, since this moss produces acids with antibacterial properties.

BogFaunaThe bog is a wetland habitat for so many animal species.

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This circa 1900 dairy barn was renovated to create a wonderful, educational Visitor Center at the Volo Bog.

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As a result of our rainy summer, water levels seemed high in this open water area of the bog.

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Waterbirds searched for food in the moss-covered water, while a family of turtles took turns sunning on a floating log.

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The bog is a beautiful, fragile ecosystem that we must carefully preserve.

As we walked along the boardwalk, observing the variety of plants and animals that make their homes in this habitat, my thoughts turned to my own garden. Years ago, as I added new flower beds, I would occasionally buy a large bag of peat moss to mix into the soil. Never again!!

Most of our commercially harvested (actually, it is ‘mined’) peat in North America comes from Canadian sphagnum moss. Our walk reminded me once again that bogs are fragile wetlands that must be preserved! There are much better (and cheaper) alternatives to amend the soil in our gardens ~ local leaf mold compost, wood chips, composted garden waste, and green kitchen compost. Continued use of these plant materials will keep my garden a healthier, more responsible little patch of nature for years to come!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

This is my 100th post at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes… 

and your visits and thoughtful comments are always such a treat for me!

♡♡♡♡♡♡

Enjoy your week!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you enjoy walking near water, too?  Please tell us about your favorite places to walk…

 

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