Timing

Milkweed flowers begin to open

When to prune and when to let go

Mowing for Monarchs 101
7/27/2019
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Gardens, lawns, fields, roadsides, right-of-ways all provide vital habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. How we manage this habitat must be done with care to help protect our monarchs!

by Rebecca Chandler
Garden Educator, Naturalist and Ethnobotanist

So many things depend on timing. I am reminded of this by the radio in my sewing room that reliably turns itself on at 8:00 am every day, runs for a few minutes, then shuts off. I’ve tried to re-program it without result. I’m writing this from my office, a floor above the sewing room, where sound carries surprisingly well. I could turn down the sound, unplug the radio, or, gasp, read the radio’s directions, but I’m leaving it alone because the alarm has a role to play in my day.

As the author of the Mowing for Monarch 101 article states so well, we can manage our green spaces to promote butterfly life. I believe we can manage our time to create a more peaceful life, and we can support each other during good times and bad.

This year there’s some monarchs, a few yellow swallowtails, and a flamboyance of painted ladies in my yard. They draw nectar from lilies, phlox, swamp weed butterfly plant, and asters that are just coming into bloom. When I stand still in the garden, they light on my shoulder and in my hair.

Swamp weed butterfly plant loaded with butterflies

There have been multiple articles published recently recounting the benefits of gardening where we get our hands dirty. This one is a good example, https://gardeninggonewild.com/13-reasons-why-gardening-is-good-for-your-health/. Another example is my poem, Garden Therapy, published in Nebraska Life Magazine this month http://www.nebraskalife.com/July-2019/July-August-2019/

Time spent outside away from social media is good for young and old alike. Ordinarily, I’d be outside taking care of pruning, harvesting, or mowing on a sunny August day, rather than writing this blog. However, it’s one of those 90 degree days with high humidity that makes it feel close to 100 degrees. It’s as if Mother Nature is having a hot flash and just wants to be left alone. I’m happy to oblige her and let go.

City Travel

Welcome, new visitors to my blog. I typically write about country life, and as the readers who follow my posts are aware, I live on a ranch in a rural area, remote from most urban settings. 

Last weekend I ventured into Minneapolis with a friend.  We saw the musical, Guys and Dolls, at the Guthrie Theatre, spent a day at the Minneapolis Art Institute’s special exhibit of Native Women’s Art, and attended the air show, Wings of the North, among other urban adventures.

It’s tough to get used to so much traffic, Minneapolis’ complex interstate system, and limited or expensive parking when my daily drive is usually over gravel roads and parking is never an issue. The only obstacles in my area are slow-moving tractors conveying large equipment from one place to another.

Guthrie Theatre: https://www.guthrietheater.org/

Guthrie Theatre Sign under a full moon above & stage set for Guys and Dolls below

A windowless hotel room, conspired with my touch of vertigo, to disrupt my sense of direction in the city.  Thanks to GPS, we got to our destinations, even though I believed west was east the entire time.  My internal direction-finder began to function again, as we drove toward home, in bright sunshine.

Minneapolis Art Institute: Hearts of our People Native Women Artists exhibit https://new.artsmia.org/

Blanket Totem Pole above and Egyptian Horse below

  Wings of the North: https://www.wotn.org/airexpo/  

 Biplane pictured first. One of the two B-52’s still flying, from WWII, flew over the airshow, pictured second.

The special events were wonderful and I’m glad I was there, but my favorite stops were to the Next Chapter Booksellers https://www.nextchapterbooksellers.com/ and Dunn Bros coffee shop http://www.dunnbrosgrand.com/.  I prefer to spend my book dollars in an indie bookstore, rather than online at a commercial giant, like Amazon.  There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee and a treat, like this delicious tiramisu, after book shopping.

Both establishments are located across the street from Macalester College https://www.macalester.edu/. The campus is tree-covered, and no doubt storied, for the undergraduates of this liberal arts college.  I love walking around college and university campuses when visiting college towns or neighborhoods.  It’s fun to imaging having attended there.  It’s probably not a surprise that I feel “warm and fuzzy” about higher education.  After all, I graduated from two universities and worked for a college in a third town, for nearly forty years.

We stopped at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Shop in La Mars for a final treat of chocolate cones before heading home.  Terrific ice cream and fun little blue bunnies are all over the shop. https://www.bluebunny.com/  

Gardening

I started my vegetable garden later than usual this spring due to the unusually cool, wet, spring in Nebraska. It’s taking off just fine now and is producing many veggies as well as inspiration for writing and therapy.

Garden 2019

My poem Garden Therapy was published by Nebraska Life in the July/August 2019 issue. http://www.nebraskalife.com/

 I try to spend some time in the garden every day, but especially when there’s a knotty problem to solve, or to help with loss of a loved one. A dear friend recently died after a tough bout with cancer. I wrote about her death in my last blog. I’m thinking about her again today as her family gathers in her home state for a second memorial service.

An article that offers some science behind my supposition that gardening is therapeutic, can be found at https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm?fbclid=IwAR3LjWhkRiADzn9Nk4x6Bqm

Gardening Sestina, another gardening-related poem, was just published in Fine Lines, summer 2019, Volume 28, Issue 2, Edited by David Martin and available at http://finelines.org/

I’m very fond of flower gardens. My rural place has many perennial beds. Something is always blooming in the garden from the season’s first tulips in April (occasionally as early as March), to the last of the October blooms. I have house plants that bloom inside during winter months to cheer those cold days.

Tulips
Daisies

And some poems depict imaginary gardens such as Cherimoya Vine, and Corpse Flower published online in Poppy Road Review. https://poppyroadreview.blogspot.com/search?q=lin+brummels

Puttering

I’ve been retired from full-time work since Christmas.  Another retired colleague and I  started a private-practice counseling center in our small town.  We each allocate a couple days a week to the practice. This schedule leaves me a lot of time for spur-of-the-moment and random activities collectively called puttering for the purpose of this essay.

My colleague and I both experienced a steep learning curve in the transition from working at a state college where we had the privilege of not needing to ask students receiving counseling for money, to private practice where are trying to earn some.

We spent a lot of extra hours on our “off” days on the computer taking care of obtaining the correct licenses, insurance, legal status, taxes, etc. As most of that has now been accomplished, we are closer to our plan for this business which is to each work two days a week. I enjoy spending time in our sunny office.  It’s great to set my hours, and not work within an institution’s expectations.

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I’ve puttered with a bit more indoor gardening this year.  My house plants are thriving.

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I admire folks who can work full time and read a lot, but as much as I tried, rarely found time to finish a book when employed full time.  In the past, when my book club moved to a new selection, I used to insert a bookmark in the unfinished book and move on to the next one. In the past few months, I’ve finished four of those set-aside books, and am now keeping pace with my fellow readers.

Reading, gardening and even a bit of quilting all feel like puttering.  I’ve also been writing more and sending poems and essays to journals for publication consideration. I’ve used some of this puttering time to organize my writing submissions.  As soon as one editor rejects my work, I sent it out to another.  There are occasional successes.

Initially, there was a bit of anxiety that I wasn’t accomplishing much, but I’ve decided that puttering, as described in this blog, is an OK use of my time.  It’s refreshing to have time to watch sunrises and sunsets like this one. Peace to all of you who find your way to this blog!

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Nature is steering a rocky path this year

I started this post nearly a year ago.  Volatile spring weather is a constant each year and has caused havoc from coast to coast in the past year.  After an extremely cold February and early March, we are indeed marching toward the end of April. A sunny, windy, warm Easter weekend had turned into a cool wet Earth Day.  See my blogs between May 2018 and now in 2019 to follow my decision-making process.

May 2018 remained sweatshirt-chilly for the first two weeks, then catapulted to temperatures near or exceeding 100 degrees over Memorial weekend.  The month wrapped up with a week in the nineties that ushered in wind-wrapped rain and tornado warnings.  High winds earlier this spring tore siding from my house, damaged ponderosa pines, and other trees, and downed power lines for many, although my electricity remained steady.  Trying to determine my future mirrors the weather’s ups and downs.  I think I’m all set, then have a complete change of mind every few days as I investigate options.

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Trees, bushes, and flowers experienced a similar rollercoaster.  Bare lilac branches burst from tightly-curled buds to lovely flowers, to dried flower seed-heads to full leaf in a week.  The branches were bare at the beginning of May and flowers were all gone before Memorial Day.  Many early iris did not bloom. Mid-season tall bearded iris bloomed and died in a weekend, but there were enough of them to decorate family graves.  Looking at each turn of nature teaches me that everything does not have to be perfect for one to move ahead, and many beautiful things are fleeting.

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Shete Boka National Park

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Located on the north end of the Caribbean island of Curacao, the Sheta Boka National Park is, according to their website, an “Area with more than 10 beautiful Boka’s (inlets) where three species of turtles nest. A boka is, in fact, an inlet. Shete Boka stands for ‘seven inlets’. Years ago, the environmental group Amigu di Tera arranged excursions in this area along seven bays. Hence, the name is taken, although in reality there are more than seven coves in this national park. The park begins at the beautiful Boka Tabla where large, unpredictable waves crush against an underground cave. An impressive experience!”  Learn more at https://www.curacao.com/en/directory/do/sights-and-sounds/shete-boka-national-park/

Prevailing northeast winds buffet the island.  Trees on the north end of the island are often bent like the featured image or dwarfed from the wind’s impact.

I visited the park on a tour of the island during February.  It was a restful vacation away from this frigid Nebraska Winter and did wonders for my mental health.  The crashing waves in the first photo were the highlight of the park.  The tour bus also visited a lovely park beach.  Our group had an hour to swim or sit in the sun.  I opted for sunshine, but many dived into the turquoise water.

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The tour bus also stopped at the salt ponds to see flamingos. We were able to walk near a series of protected pools where many flamingos dipped their elegant heads in search of food.  The flamingos have a peaceful existence eating in the still water.

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I noticed unusual water creatures at the edge of the pond.  I’m not sure of their biological identity, but they are quite beautiful.

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Curacao is a destination to consider to get away from northern winters.

Visit to an island

February is as cold this year as a home freezer that has gone too long without defrosting. Frost and ice cycles cover the northern plains.  Snow is stacked in piles around homes and buildings, roads ditches are full, and roadways blow shut again with every wind.  Fields, sky, trees are all shades of grey and white.  Roads are treacherous to drive. We stay at home if we can.  Everyone I talk with is ready for spring.

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In comparison, the colors of the Caribbean are brilliant blues, pinks, yellows, and lavender. I decided to vacation on an island this year for a change from this Nebraska winter.  A friend and I traveled to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean, that I learned about from former students.  It’s a beautiful island with wonderful eighty-five degree sunny days, balmy evenings and fabulous beaches. 20190208_122502

Although the Spanish explored this area early in the 1600s, Dutch warships pushed them out. The religiously tolerant Dutch welcomed Jewish refugees from Europe. Together these diverse groups developed the island’s natural deep-water port into a pivotal shipping mecca.

In the 1800s, the USA donated a floating bridge across the bay that opens to admit huge container ships, oil tankers, and other commercial ships.  The bridge connects two sections of the capital city, Willemstad.

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The photo above shows the floating bridge lit up at night to allow commercial boat traffic to enter the bay.  People could stay on the bridge when it opened and ride along.  We rode along several times.

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This photo shows one of the tug boats that came through the bridge. The tug is heading out to sea to escort a larger ship back to port.   The buildings were designed after those in Holland.  All the house are brightly colored and picturesque.  For example, the Postal Museum was located in a house constructed in 1690.

Cruise ships (as shown in the featured image), visit the island regularly.  There were two cruise ships docked nearly every day during the week we spent on the island.  These tourist visits are vital to the country’s economy.

More about island tours in future blogs.