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It was in the silence.

I drove slowly along the river. There were pools of water close to the road; overflow from the early March rains. A portal for bikers, this inlet is also a favored fishing hole for humans – and migratory birds. This was slight detour on my way home from errands; an activity I frequently participate in, especially this time of year when nature begins its slow journey into Spring.

So it was, driving along in the slow silence of the riverbank, that I sensed that which I could not hear and did not see. I stopped and I waited. I needed to be still and patient and respectful.

Can you find it?  You might need to click on the photos.

It took me a few minutes to see what I sensed, then, a slight movement. A barely discernible ripple in the water. There it was. A heron.

He waited then slowly slipped along the shallow water, barely causing a ripple, almost hidden, a slight turn of his head, waiting . . .

. . . then dipping into the water, swiftly and successfully capturing his prey.

Down by the river.

“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”  e.e. cummings

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Like a Lion

img_2807March arrived full of fury and growling thunder, with flashes of lightning and strong, gusty winds. He brought with him hail and havoc and fast rising rivers. March’s bravado –  the fiercest of  lions if ever there was.

As March exhibited the height of madness, the daily mail arrived. There were the usual bills and advertisements, a save-the-date announcement as well as a lovely invitation to a spring luncheon, which I set aside in a prominent place, a visual reminder to respond.

It was not, however, these usual postal suspects that caught my attention on this damp, dark day. It was the splash of color with petals and leaves on the covers of much-anticipated garden catalogues that brought the hope of Spring on an otherwise blustery day.

White Flower Farm continues to publish one of the finest catalogues with trusty perennials, plants, even gardening tools. It is, in fact, such a well crafted publication that it calls itself a garden book.

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One long ago and equally blustery day, though not a March day, I ordered a passel of spring bulbs from White Flower Farm. Tete-a-Tete and Thalia, King Alfred and other daffodillian royalty were purchased in bulk, planted in Fall, and filled the garden of our first house with delight the next spring and many springs thereafter.

The catalogue is exceptional, as is the staff at White Flower Farm. While ordering some plants on the phone, the helpful employee I spoke to patiently took my order. It was a bit lengthy. There was one plant, I no longer remember which one, but as I named the plant she advised me against purchasing it, stating it did not do well in my zone.  She then suggested a few similar plants that were suited for my area.

It has been several years now since I have ordered anything from White Flower Farm, but, this periodical “garden book” continues to arrive and it is something I always look forward to; not only for its beautiful photography and offerings, but, for the descriptions of plants and suggestions for where and how to settle them into a garden.

Then, there was this . . .

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. . . a new and welcome discovery!

Prairie Nursery’s publication is touted as an ecological gardening guide – and it is. Not only is it a worthy source of native and prairie plants, it is a welcome resource for those of us establishing prairie gardens, or just interested in learning more about the midwest prairie.

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The Table of Contents is amazing.

Most gardeners in the Midwest deal with some of these soil types listed. Here on the Cutoff, we actually contend with all of these soils – medium, clay, dry and sandy, moist, shade! I look forward to digging deeper into these pages and hope to establish some of the plants offered.

I was appreciative of sections of this guide that cover planting issues that include Protecting Water Quality, Hometown Habitat, Planting Guides, Land Restoration – and, of course, Deer Resistance.

These two gardening catalogues came just when I needed encouragement to tamp down the madness of the March lion – and think about a No Mow Lawn.

http://www.prairienursery.com

http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com

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img_2732Stuck in between the wonderment of December and the madness of March, February is my least favorite month of the year!

Come February, I am traditionally posting photos of a winter-white landscape, complaining about frigid temperatures, and longing for the color green. I am apt to reread Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” or pull on my boots and trudge to the “way back” to see what havoc the resident herd of deer have bestowed upon our little acreage. I ceremoniously don my very old, very long, black wool coat with massive hood and scurry out to the mailbox to see what is inside. I keep the coat for just such times for it is as warm as it is voluminous – and it cushions my tush against any tumbles I may take while slipping and sliding here along the Cutoff.

This year has presented itself as a rather mild February; record-breaking, if fact be told. Hereabouts, we love to tout our weather records. We recognize weather-versaries, such as the renowned Valentine’s Day Blizzard, and mark in time the largest snowfall, the most sub-zero days, the most snowfall on sub-zero days, the windchill, the chilblains. (okay, I made the chilblains up).

 A February phenomenon.

We have had this year a string of record-breaking February temperatures. We have had temperatures well over 60 degrees (F) for several days in a row, surpassing temperatures   of 130 some years ago.

We find ourselves wandering about in light jackets – or no jackets at all. People are smiling, lawns are greening, trees are budding and folks are out-and-about picnicking, golfing, and otherwise enjoying the welcome sunshine and warmer air.

So it was that the Antler Man and I took a pleasant Saturday stroll around Lake Katherine. It was so crowded that we had to park the car in the parking lot of a nearby office complex. While parking was a challenge, walking around the lake was not, even with families and strollers, dog walkers and couples both young and not-so enjoying the gifts of nature unusual for a mid-February day.

As we walked about, we heard a flock of Sandhill Cranes, deep in the deep-blue sky, with their distinctive calls amid their great migration. A pair of swans preened in the Lake as a family of turtles sat upon logs sunning close to the shore. Further along the winding path, a single turtle positioned himself out on a fallen branch, balancing his protective shell as a gaggle of geese honked away as if in a traffic jam during rush hour.

So it is that this phenomenal February has risen in rank to one of my favorite months – at least so far this year. I say this knowing that many of you are experiencing much different weather, threatening and disastrous, in fact. Please know that my thoughts and my prayers are with you.

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“We walked in so pure and bright a light… I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of elysium,and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman, driving us home at evening.”
-From “Walking” by Henry Thoreau; 1862

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Half Past Late

img_2390Dawn had already broken as I padded down the long, narrow staircase to the first floor of our little homestead. Reluctant to climb out of bed, I had fallen asleep long after half past late. I awakened sluggishly, yet, there they were, slipping in through the kitchen door, past the kitchen counter then down the hall, splashing radiant rays of sunshine around our home!

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As I stepped too the last of the steps, the sun kissed the recessed bookcase and danced into the living room,  landing on a candle and setting in aflame.

After eight days void of sunshine in a month of unending gray and gloomy skies, the sun was a most welcome visitor and seemed to lighten the heavy load of January in our cold and fickle northern climate.

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In the kitchen, I happily discovered  that the blooms on the Amaryllis I wrote about in the last post had opened up and greeted the sunshine streaming in.

Today’s sunshine was a ray of happiness here on the Cutoff. How i the weather in your neck of the woods?

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img_2225The first Amaryllis bulb came home with me in early December. It was just a bulb with instructions to place it in a container (a pot, a bowl, a plate) and to let it be. No water – or just a small amount if I really felt it was needed.  I placed the bulb in a shallow dish, added a few tablespoons worth of water, and proceeded to let it be.

The very next day I could see the emergence of a bud. It was small, looked different from the thick leaves and I was armed with just enough gardensense to know it was the start of a flower.

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A week or so later, I brought home another bulb. By now the first bulb was pushing up at least a half-inch worth of stem each day, the bud was holding on tight and reaching strongly for daylight coming through the window. I turned it daily with care so it would not become top-heavy.

Both Amaryllis bulbs came from grocery store, a local chain, that I frequent. Bulb #2 found another dish and proceeded to try to follow to the first bulb in growth.

Yet another week and another Amaryllis bulb followed me home. I felt the need (OK, the urge) to buy it. It was one of the last bulbs in the store’s barrel. How could I leave it behind? Each bulb was $8.00 and the first two were so rapid in their growth, that, well . . .  you know me and flowers.

These exotic bulbs put on a spectacular performance throughout the month of December and well into January, showing off with amazing blossoms that seemed to be perfectly timed so that new blooms opened up as old ones faded away.

img_2227As the flowers died back, I gently snipped them off, amazed at the amount of liquid that secreted out of the stems, especially since I had not watered them! I eventually cut them all back, with just one bloom left on one of the stems. She did not disappoint. This  weekend, now mid-January, there was this amazing blossom (above).

I have displayed these bulbs along my center countertop, right behind the kitchen sink. They have been a bright spot in what has been a predominately gloomy winter. They have performed quite spectacularly. At the moment, there is the one last bloom, but, much to my delight, the other two Amaryllis bulbs, which I thought were dormant, have sent up new shoots which look like they will be opening by week’s end.

How wondrous our world is and what a joy these small little pleasures in life can be. It looks like there will be enough Amaryllis blossoms to take me through at least the month of January, and now I am wondering if I can facilitate dormancy for next December.

Have you had any experiences with Amaryllis bulbs?

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when the bee stings,

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when I’m feeling sad

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I simply remember my favorite things

 

and then I don’t feel so bad.

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Just a few of my favorite things.

img_2151What things make you happy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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