Monday, August 24, 2015


"WOMAN READING" by Ivan Kraniskoy
It's been a long one, but I think the drought is finally over. I don't mean lack of rain here in North Dakota (however the downpour we had Saturday evening was the first time that we'd had a real soaker since the middle of July).
No, I mean my reading drought. I basically quit reading about the time that Dan was the sickest - the winter of 2013. I remember trying one dreary evening to get into a book after I had gotten him settled for the night, maybe a week before he died. I poured myself a drink and sat down in the living room. using his hospital table as my side table.
"You look tired," Dan said to me, the last sentence he ever uttered that was personally directed at me. I never did finish that book, and to this day I can't even stand to look at its cover without feeling sick.

From that moment on I quit reading, cold turkey. I think I equated reading with his illness and death.

Until this summer, I had picked up a book here or there but never gotten into any. I had not purchased a single book of fiction, except "American Boy" by Bismarck native, Larry Watson, and this only because my friend had encouraged me to attend a reading by him at Bismarck State College. I felt guilty about not supporting him when copies were being sold after the reading, so I bought one. That book also went unread.
All this, from a person who has devoured books since the time she learned to read. A person who at one time belonged to about eight book clubs at one time.
I majored in English literature in college, for Heaven's sake. And afterward, through the years I kept track of the bestsellers and the best-reviewed books. Although I didn't always follow recommendations, I read a lot of books from those groups.
I belonged to a book club for 17 and a half years. And in 2010, a year in which I was mostly unemployed, I read over 200 books.
And then came the drought. I never looked at a bestseller list once. I didn't know the names of any of the "good" books, the ones  lauded by critics.
My sister-in-law, herself a prolific reader, knew about the drought and would ask me from time to time if I was reading again. She told me she had gone through similar sad times and had also stopped reading for a while. I thought I would begin to read again in a matter of weeks or months. I could not have imagined or fathomed the depth of this disconnect from the world of books.

But as I said, I think the drought is over now. I have read about six books this summer, sitting out on the deck during the long, light-filled evenings. One of the books I finally got around to reading was "American Boy",  which I highly recommend.

Otherwise, I just scrounged around the house for unread books. And Sunday, I went to Barnes and Noble and actually purchase a book! I also spotted another one, but considering it too spendy,  I went home and ordered a gently-used copy from

Now let the reading begin! 

Friday, March 6, 2015



During this long, long winter, I have been addicted to two kinds of TV programs - true crime and DIY. Regarding the latter, I have seen programs where homes were built of freshly-cut logs, ones re-constructed from old barns, houses where contractors come in and "crash" a specific room (in a good way) and apartments re-decorated with a mind to eventually moving the fixings and trappings on to another home.

I've seen houses that have been flipped (including Vanilla Ice's million-dollar but slightly-tacky Florida homes) and houses that have been rehabbed - the difference being that rehabbers are purists who bring homes back to as close to original as possible while the flippers bring in all new materials and design. ("Rehab Addict" Nicole Curtis of  Minneapolis, MN, being the best of the rehabbers. What that cute, petite little blonde won't do to rehab a house! She is first and last on the site with all of the tools, and I mean all tools - she can drive a payloader with the best of them!)

Therefore, it was with great interest that I noticed that my cousin Kevin from Minneapolis had e-mailed me a link to a house listed for sale in Mankato, MN.

The ad reads, in part: "Classy, brick and stone 2 story with Craftsman style flare in the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood. Charming features include high coved ceilings, bay windows, oak flooring, open staircase and 2 enclosed porches. Main floor: Over 1400 sq. ft., entry with open stairs, formal living room with bay window and oak floors, archway to spacious formal dining room also with oak flooring.  Front bedroom with bay window."

Living room: I love the bay window with its leaded glass insert, and the hardwood floors.

Living room and dining room: Although my home is a one-story stucco cottage, I have archways in my living/dining areas very much like these, and red oak hardwood floors. The ceiling fixtures are ones I might pick out myself.

So good, so far. But then we get to the kitchen with its explosion of knotty pine. Oh, how I hate knotty pine. In my opinion the only place for knotty pine is in a rustic cabin deep in the Minnesota or Wisconsin woods.

And dear lord what is this room, with the sick green carpet/laminate (?) floor, a strange-sized and strangely-located window, and that brick wall and stove set into the corner by a patio door. What were they thinking?
These latter rooms, at least, add weight to Kevin's description of the house as being "re-muddled". I've never heard the term before, and I don't know if Kevin invented it or not, but what a great description.
But anyway, why would I devote so much space on my blog to a house for sale in Mankato, MN? The simple answer is that this was my Great-Great-Grandmother Jorgine Wangen's home, where she lived with her family from about 1900 to 1930.
How I wish I could see what the home looked like when Jorgine lived there. What kinds of furniture and draperies did they have? Did they own fine china and linens? Did she entertain a lot? Did they have servants? They must have had some sort of economic and financial status to afford a home like this. What kinds of bric-a-brac finds were unearthed during the re-muddle?
I only found out about Jorgine a few years ago, thanks to Kevin's genealogical sleuthing. What is most surprising to me is that my Grandmother, Julia Wangen, from Crosby, ND, never mentioned her. Did she not know that her grandmother lived just one state away? Did she know but had the family somehow disowned Jorgine?
Jorgine was Grandma's paternal grandmother. While Jorgine emigrated from Norway to the U.S., her son, Ole,  and his family stayed in Norway. He and his wife, Margrete, lived on a farm surrounded by mountains in the Gudbrandsdal valley.
Why did they choose to stay behind in Norway? Both Ole and Margrete died at relatively young ages, one shortly after the other. It fell to their four teenage children to sell the farm and bravely immigrate  to Canada (where Julia met my grandfather and eventually moved to Crosby with him).
Oh, such family mysteries and house mysteries. As much as I enjoy the DYI shows, I have let contractors do my work for me on my house. So far it has been mostly utilitarian - a new roof, new gutters, new front door, garage totally re-built. I did design my own deck to replace the rotted-out one but admittedly I did not stray too far from the original except in size.
As far as the interior of the house it only requires cosmetic changes which I will make if I can afford them. The basement has had water damage but I'm not touching it. I can't afford the major reno it would take to bring it up to par so it will fall to the next owners. I only use it for storage and laundry anyway. (And if I only could I would have the laundry on the main floor.)
No, there will be no flipping or rehabbing of my little house. But I can dream. What if I could get my hands on my OWN Great-Great-Grandma's house for a mere $139,900 and rehab it (for a gazillionmore dollars)? That would be a dream-come-true for this DIY-show addict. I could research the newspapers and see if the house was shown in any photos, see if Jorgine threw any grand fetes (hey, this is MY dream), and do research on the styles of Craftsmen homes.
Most of the hard work is done already. Although I didn't show their photos in this post, I could definitely live with the bathrooms and bedrooms. I would only need to tackle a few nightmares like the two rooms above and the enclosed porches. (Do not get me started on enclosing porches! What a way to ruin a great house!)
Anyway, as I said, I can always dream. "Hmm, let's get rid of that dreadful brick wall and stove and put in a real fireplace in another location with an oak mantel and an oak and Craftsman tile surround..."


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Holly, the new addition
In honor of my new dog, I'm wishing you "Happy Holly-Days".

Holly and I ...
And Gracie and I ...
Hope you  had a "Holly Jolly Christmas".
I love my new puppy....
My puppies love each other...
They love Kristen (Gracie
sez, "Lemme gibs u a kiss, Kristen")
And they love treats: "Kristen,
I'll gladly share your lunch!"

I had meant to write a pre-Christmas post, but time just got away from me. I worked through Monday Dec. 22 and then rushed to clean, decorate and generally get the house ready before Kristen came home the next day.
A long time ago I read "Hollyhocks, Lambs and Other Pleasures" by a lovely woman named Dee Hardie. Dee loved Christmas, but always made a point never to go to the marketplace the week before Christmas. Try as I might over the years, I have never succeeded in doing this. But at least this year, I finished my Christmas gift shopping a week before Christmas, and the only markets I went to afterward were the supermarket, the hardware store and the pharmacy to get my meds. I feel I met the spirit, if not the actual letter, of this goal.
Every year, too, I try to find the peace, serenity, joy and familial love amid the noise and haste of Christmas, and every year I only partially succeed. This year, Kristen was sick for three days beginning Christmas Day, my sister was grouchy from working three 12-hour nursing shifts in a row including Christmas Eve/Day, and I was frazzled. It had been about 20 years since I cooked a giant holiday meal all by myself. Dan was the head chef and I was his helper. I must admit to some swearing and banging of pots and pans in the kitchen.
As usual the fine times outweighed the stressful times. Kristen and I had good visits after she got better, we went to a couple of movies, and ate out a lot with family and friends. (After my marathon cooking/dishwashing session I was done with cooking for a while.) We exchanged nice presents and invoked the memory of Dan. I did have tears in my eyes all through breakfast this morning before I dropped Kristen off at the airport, but now she is safely landed in Washington, DC and about to arrive home to her beloved kitties.
Holly looking toward 2015.
Meanwhile, the dogs and I look forward in general to 2015 and in particular to tomorrow evening when I have the family over for a king crab and shrimp New Year's Eve dinner (which Kristen will not miss at all, not liking crab and shrimp).
Holly, especially, will love seeing her former owners, those being my niece Kelsey, her boyfriend Marcus, my sister Glori and my nephew Mike (joined for dinner by my great nephew Nicholas who has come from Idaho to live with his GG (Grandma Glori) and family.
Marcus found Holly wandering as a stray this summer. After trying in vain to find her owner, he and Kelsey adopted her and named her Molly. However, she harassed my sister's kitties, ate the cat food, got into the cat litter, and irritated Marcus' dog. So I adopted her the weekend of Thanksgiving.
Because I got her at the beginning of the Christmas season, and because I like Holly better, I re-named her. My family remains steadfast at calling her Molly but that's okay because she answers to both names. We don't know what kind of dog she is or how old, but we do know she is a sweetie pie and a cuddle bug.
Here's wishing you a wonderful 2015.
PS - Here's a picture of my beautiful  daughter when she's well and not being kissed by a dog:


Monday, September 22, 2014


Happy Autumnal Equinox. Fall is arriving on a day that is decidedly un-fall-like. It promises to be into the 80s F today, so I will be able to sit outdoors and greet autumn when it arrives at 9:29 PM Central Time.
I don't know the title or the artist of the painting above, but it does speak to me at this time of year. Not just the colors, but the melancholy feeling it conveys. Summer is over. Some planned projects are unfinished, leaves are beginning to collect everywhere, there's a crisper tinge to the air and a general shabbiness to the foliage.
A couple of weeks ago, already, we had freeze warnings. I put my car in my "new" garage.  I moved all my houseplants indoors and grouped together and covered as many of my potted annuals as I could. After all that, it did not freeze.
Then, about a week ago, we had a light freeze without warning. I did not put my car in the garage. I did not cover plants. I found myself scraping car windows the next morning, having thought I was done with that chore forever.
Fortunately, only my morning glories and sweet potato vines seem to have suffered. However, the march toward autumn is inexorable. One of my three luxuriant planters of impatiens has half yellow and half green leaves. The ivy that covers the fence between my neighbor to the north and myself has turned red. And while the trees are mostly still green, the tips of some have caught fire.
I have so many annuals that I cannot possibly cover them all. And while global warming has changed Bismarck's last average frost date from Sept. 21 to Sept. 30, there is a point beyond which I just have to stop trying to save my plants and accept the fact that autumn has descended.
So what did I and my helpers accomplish this year? An astounding amount, as it turns out. In the front yard, they installed my new cedar arbor, trimmed my hardy roses and added peat moss and manure to my existing garden beds so I could sow seeds. With the exception of the larkspur and cleome seeds, the marigold, bachelor button, cosmos and zinnia seeds just exploded.
Contractors totally re-built my old garage and seeded the lawn in my backyard. I created a new hydrangea border on the shady north side, featuring my re-located white archway, together with a new statue under the arch.

"Windblown" by Design Toscano

I transplanted my daylilies from the front yard to the back. I added a natural-wood-colored mulch to the areas previously covered by dirt. This alone changed the character of my backyard a thousand fold. We installed pavers to create a checkerboard courtyard garden, and planted the back half of it in shady perennials and the front half in sunny annuals.
We installed outdoor lights to match the Arts and Crafts/Mission style of my house.

But as I mentioned, there are still some small projects left unfinished - a new bed to be turned over on the sunny south side of the backyard, a gutter to be installed on the garage and a re-arrangement of fence panels and gates to make the yard escape proof against Gracie.
But as usual I am twisting in the wind, waiting for three contractors to get back to me. Unlike the seasons, some things never change.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


"HELLO, NEIGHBOR" by Harry Anderson

Gracie and I are finally able to go into our backyard after a month staying off the newly-seeded grass. It was a pain for both of us, having her tied up in the front yard to do her business. There was one advantage though, and that was seeing a lot more of my neighbors.

As I worked on my flowers or hung out with Gracie, many people stopped by to chat about flowers and dogs and stucco cottages. Sometimes they caught me from the back view with my butt sticking up in the air as I pulled weeds. Gracie's rope was long enough for her to pass through the arbor and go just onto the sidewalk, so she sometimes surprised walkers and - more to the point - dog walkers. Fortunately, all was peaceful.

Americans used to see a lot more of their neighbors, when house had front porches and people sat out on them. Now, everyone has retreated to their decks and backyards. But summer after summer, as Dan and I enjoyed long evening after long evening on our deck, we wondered, where are our backyard neighbors? No one was enjoying their yards!


"OVER THE WALL", Helen Allingham

We moved into this house in August 1982 with infant Kristen. Now, 32 years later,  I'm alone, and I still wonder where the neighbors are.

The way our house is situated, I can see five backyards well from my deck, plus two more mostly obscured by trees. I can see another if I walk to the back of the yard. Only Jim and Mary have been here longer than we have. Their teenage daughters babysat Kristen, and their youngest was pals with my nephew Nick, who lived with us when he was 5. Over the years their five kids grew up and moved away, and they have become grandparents. We are over-the-fence neighbors, Mary and Jim and I. Mary and I chat about kids and flowers, and Jim has cleared my sidewalks and driveways since Dan died and has generally been a vigilant, watchful guy looking out for possible trouble or waiting to see if I need help with anything.


The neighbors on the corner used to spend their summer weekends at their lake cabin in Minnesota. When they sold that and started staying home, they build a tall privacy fence around the backyard.  Of the other neighbors, I have seen many come and go. Each house has had at least two owners, and one has had five different owners. Of them, most of them seemed to have been allergic to fresh air.

Back in 1982, Grace, one of my across-the-driveway neighbors, was an elderly lady who couldn't venture out. I've never seen Lynn, the new owner, use the large backyard except to walk the short path from the garage to the house. I know she likes flowers because of the red and yellow tulips she planted for spring, and the red and yellow day lilies for summer, but they are all in the front. Just think of how many tulips and lilies she could plant in the back!

"TIGER LILY GARDEN" Original oil signed Eschmann

On the north side of me, Neighbor Nancy hated bugs and only came outdoors to hang her clothes on the line. Not liking bugs didn't make her an oddity, but she was certainly the only one in the neighborhood who still hung her clothes outside to dry.

In the house directly behind me, I never saw or met one of the home's owners, a single woman with a lot of kids. Only Brady and Evan, her two youngest, would venture through the line of  pine trees and come into my yard to visit with me.

Most of my neighbors have been good, thank goodness. But when above-mentioned Nancy divorced Tim, she moved out and he stayed. A former good neighbor, he began having loud, wild parties that began after the bars closed at 1 a.m. As much as Dan and I liked Tim, we had to call the police on him several times so we could get some sleep.

(Not my photo - LOL - taken from the web)

When we first moved here, the lady who owned the house behind us had a yippy little white dog.  One day that nasty thing unexpectedly came tearing under the pine trees and into my backyard, where it promptly latched onto and bit a little boy I was babysitting. Of course, the dog was quarantined. The lady had the NERVE to come to my house and bawl me out about temporarily losing her precious little Pookie  - when I had witnessed her dog bite a child on MY property!!

I loved seeing the most recent homeowners in that house. A fairly-young couple, they had about eight kids - I never could keep the count straight - something like four kids of their own and four children they had adopted from Africa.

In summers, they would have parties and bonfires, and the kids would play on their trampoline, hammock, jungle gym and swing set. Happy kid noises and adult laughter filled the evenings.

Early this summer, it dawned on me - these neighbors haven't been around in a while. The house was so dark, the yard so silent and so sad. But their hot tub and lawn furniture and kids' equipment were still there - what in the world was going on?


Artist Unknown

Finally, on Friday I saw the mom (also named Kristen) working in her yard. Over the back fence, I asked, "Do you no longer live here?" She explained that she and Casey and the kids had been in Africa all summer. They had expected to there be a year or longer but had to come back because they could not get the kids enrolled in school. So at least they are here for now. Happy peals of laughter again spill across into my yard, the wood smoke wafts over too, and I don't feel so alone anymore.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Happy Lughnasadh/Lammas everyone.

Lughnasadh, August 1, was the first harvest celebration of the season for the ancient Celts. The Christian church, on the other hand, called it Lammas, or Lammastide. The Celts held a big celebration with lots of food and drink, no doubt in the great outdoors. Christians brought loaves of bread to church to be blessed, and the church was decorated with sheaves of wheat and corn (wheat) dollies. And Hobbits, whatever they are, love Lammas bread (except for Sam who got kind of sick of eating only Lammas bread).

In any event, I can't believe it is August 1 already. I still have so much yard work to do. Sunday, Marcus and Kelsey dug up a bunch of daylilies that I am moving to the back yard. I gave four - each a different color - to a friend but still have plenty left for myself.

However, they are sitting in pots for now, because I can't move them to the back unless I weed back there. Someday, I will have all the blank spaces filled with plants, but for now, I am on weed patrol. It seems like as soon as I get the front done, the back is all weedy again. I will pretty much need a scythe this weekend; it has gotten that bad.

I still also have purple prairie coneflowers, vinca, lamium, Siberian and regular iris and hydrangeas to plant. But before I can plant the hydrangeas, I first have to put my white arbor in its (hopefully) permanent resting spot. But first (!) I have to wait until the grass is fully grown in.
The lawn was hydro seeded a week ago yesterday and yes, the grass is growing. It can't grow quickly enough. Gracie, who is used to having the run of the backyard, has to go potty in the front yard, where I have her on a rope. I hate doing this, but I am not going to ruin my new lawn after spending all that money on it.
The one nice thing about having Gracie going out the front door is that I am spending time with her out there, and I am seeing more of my neighbors. I have gotten many compliments on my flowers, which of course thrills me no end.
I only have a couple of eyesore areas left, the one being the dog run, which Gracie basically demolished, dog house and wooden flooring both, and dug big holes in the ground.
And of course, there's the Kingdom of Weeds in the way back.
My garage is looking good now, being totally refurbished and only in want of the door, which has to be installed by another company. It is so nice to be able to store my garden tools and miscellaneous other stuff in there, instead of having them scattered around the yard.

One of these Lughnasadhs I swear I am finally going to rent the movie shown above. It stars Meryl Streep and is about five Irish sisters and the happenings at the Lughnasa (alternate spelling) celebration in their town.

Because I work all day, I have no time to dance in the sun in celebration of Lughnasadh. I could do it tomorrow, but not on my newly-seeded lawn. What to do - I must find a meadow somewhere, put some wildflowers in my hair and dance, dance, dance. Anyone want to join me?

Saturday, July 12, 2014



Supermoon by Elizabeth Warner

There'll be a Supermoon Rising tonight. A supermoon appears much larger than a normal moon. Here's the scoop on supermoons from MSN News:

"The full moon on Saturday will appear to be unusually big. In fact, it will be a "supermoon."
That's the nickname for full moons that happen when our celestial neighbor is relatively close to Earth. That distance varies because the moon follows an elliptical orbit. When it's close and full, it appears bigger and brighter than normal, although in fact the difference can be hard to detect.
If you see Saturday's moon close to the horizon it may seem huge, but that's just an illusion caused by its position in the sky."

Two other full moons this summer, on Aug. 10 and Sept. 9, are also supermoons.

Here's a video on the subject from Science at NASA (Thanks for the link, Leanne):

I hope I get to see the supermoon rising tonight. We promise to have clear skies, but the video warned that haze may obscure the view. We've had haze in Bismarck for days now, from forest fires burning in way northern Canada.

On the home front:

All the grass in the backyard is dead but the fill dirt hasn't been brought in yet so the hydro seeding hasn't been done. There's been a delay due to the wrong part being delivered for my contractor's tiller.

However, on the plus side, my other contractors are working on my garage at long, long last! They finished getting rid of the small amount of debris left over after my niece's fiancĂ© and cousin cleaned out the garage this spring. They then proceeded to rip out as much of the rotted out stuff as they could. They tell me that the garage is in such bad condition that the only thing holding the walls up is the stucco! They have to work very slowly and carefully. I have been having visions of coming home to find the garage all collapsed. However, when I got home from work last evening they had 1/3 of the garage framed out (if that's what you call that procedure).

They are re-building the garage from the inside out when it would be easier to demo it and build a new one. However, they are committed to saving old stucco buildings from the 1920s-30s when possible, and, more importantly, the city building codes won't allow us to build a new garage in the same place as the old one. I would have to put the garage in my back yard, which is not going to happen. If some future owner wants to cut up the backyard and install a two-stall or more monstrosity, fine. I want my little cottage, plus garage and yard to look like they did when the house was built in 1929.

On the negative side, the garage is costing me $4,000 more than I had expected, so I am feeling extremely broke right now.

Most of the early summer's gardening work has been done, except for the usual watering, fertilizing and weeding. Of course, there are always plants to move around to a better place in the garden! The bare squares in the new checker board courtyard are almost completely filled in. I will try to get some pictures this weekend.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Happy Fourth of July, everyone. It's a welcome day off for me. It was an extremely busy week with many people being on vacation. My department was only half staffed, meaning those few of us who were there had to work furiously to keep up.
Tonight I'm going to a BBQ at my sister's house in Lincoln, which is a bedroom community about five miles from Bismarck. Unlike Bismarck, Lincoln has no ban on the sale and purchase of fireworks, so it will be a cacophony of noise from all quarters. Mandan, our sister city across the river, also has no ban on fireworks. The amount of fireworks set off in that city prompted one of our local radio announcers to compare it to the Gulf War's "Shock and Awe".  As I sat on my deck last evening, I could hear that the barrage had started one night early.
You'll note that I called this post "I HATE - SUMMER VERSION" and that the first picture I posted is of fireworks. While I love the colors and shapes of fireworks, I do hate the artillery-like boom from the huge displays.
I can vividly remember my mom and aunt taking me to the fireworks display at the Divide County Fair in Crosby, ND. When the booming started, I ran. I can remember crouching down behind a car, my knees in the gravel and my fingers stuck firmly in my ears. I still can't get used to the sound.
Therefore, I'm glad I won't be in Mandan tonight for another evening of "Shock and Awe", or in Bismarck for the stupendous fireworks display at the Capitol.
Other things I hate in the summer:
Rabbits. The damn things are eating my flowers down to the dirt. I have discovered they have a penchant for petunias, annual dianthus, and lilies, which they start chewing the minute they emerged from the ground this spring. They have never been this bad before. Last winter I often saw rabbits in the yard and I thought, "Oh, poor bunnies, I hope you are surviving the winter okay." Now it's Poor Bunny, my ass. I want to get a gun like Elmer Fudd's and shoot them all.

I also have murderous thoughts about campanula rapunculoides. This is actually a gorgeous wildflower also known as creeping bell flower or purple bell flower. If it would only behave itself, I would gladly welcome it into my garden, but it spreads like wildfire and becomes a noxious weed. It has even gotten into my lawn. I did some research and found a herbicide that supposedly kills it and ordered a special fertilizer/weed killer from the Internet. It did nothing. Further research indicates that it is almost impossible to eradicate, because it spreads runners deep underground.

To make matters worse, I had been blaming the almost identical adenophora, or lady bells, as being the culprit. I learned that while campanula r.  is rampant, lady bells behave themselves like their namesakes and stay put where they are planted.

Earlier this spring I was enraged at the billions of elm tree seeds that wafted down upon everything in my yard. No matter how often I swept my deck or my niece swept the sidewalks, more fell. When the wind blows them into corners they look like drifts of light green snow. I don't know if I hate them more when they end up as a sodden clump of seeds or when they sprout in the ground and in all my potted plants.
I love my huge American elm that shades the deck, but over the years it has caused problems, not only with seeds, but also with sticky black juice from aphids or little green worms that suddenly descend on you from a gossamer string. At least the elm seeds are almost conquered for the year. On to the evil campanula and the wascally wabbits.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Midsummer's Day

Sheree and Kevin Wagner
It was a beautiful Midsummer Day here in Bismarck, capped off by a lovely evening wedding at The Post pioneer village south of Mandan. My best co-worker buddy and her long-time boyfriend were together nine years and engaged since Thanksgiving 2012. Not wanting to get married in a year with "13" in it, she chose June of 2014.
Believe me, she had planned this wedding thoroughly. There wasn't one detail she could have possibly missed. But there's always one thing you can't count on with North Dakota weddings like hers and mine - the weather. My own wedding day 40 years ago this month dawned windy, cloudy and cool, but cleared up and warmed up by 5:00 p.m.
It's days like these that make me glad that I live in North Dakota. The first feelings came to me as I crossed the Missouri from Bismarck to Mandan. Many boats were on the river, their occupants enjoying a fine evening on the water after a hot day. It made me wish I was on one of the speeding motorboats with spray in my face, or just tooling along on a pontoon, but no, I was on my way to a wedding.
Having driven mere blocks south of the Stage Stop Saloon corner in Mandan, then past the hill where I used to live, I was out in the countryside in mere minutes. The crops are all coming along nicely row up on row in the fields along the highway. Even virgin prairie was lush and green due to the recent rains, and the sweet clover was in bloom. There is nothing better than the scent of sweet clover wafting along the air on a summer's eve. The meadowlarks and bobolinks were singing their hearts out, and the wild roses were in bloom.
Behind the wedding arbor, the lowering sun sent shafts of light through a band of evergreens. A light breeze was just enough to waft any insects away. The bride, her maid of honor and her bridesmaids, which included her 12-year old daughter and 16-year-old stepdaughter, were all beautiful and perfectly simple with their wildflower bouquets. All the groomsmen, including Kevin's 19-year old son, were the picture of casual in their blue jeans, leather vests, and ivory western shirts.
We retired indoors for the reception, but another co-worker and I, the only other person I knew besides the bride and groom, left quite soon after the luncheon and toasts. I wanted to be outdoors again. I knew that most of the group would retire outside to the grounds again, and there was to be a bonfire and much partying into the night, but I don't drink and drive, so I headed home again in the still bright evening.
When I got to back to Bismarck I made a mad decision and stopped to buy a 4-pack of Seagram's Escapes Strawberry Daiquiris. I took my drink and sat outside on the deck. It was as peaceful in my backyard as it had been out on the prairie, but with different birdsong. Even though I was very tired, I was determined to stay out until it got dark. Since the sun set last night at 9:41 p.m., it was after 10:00 when I went in. I'd had a whopping two bottles of the flavored malt beverage. I poured myself into bed, thinking that was party enough for this gal on Midsummer's Day.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


As of 5:00 Friday, I have been on vacation. It's a vacation of the very best kind - a staycation.  I have nine days in a row to work on garden projects. Yesterday got off to a great start with the placement of 25 pavers in my "Celtic Courtyard". Last year my niece's fiancĂ©, Marcus, installed the white lattice screen, moved my fountain and laid the brown pavers so I could place my Lutyen's bench. The other four brown pavers were placed here and there in the courtyard, along with the round "Tudor Rose" stepping stones.

When the "torrential" rains came last fall, the mud splashed up everywhere, and I knew I needed to have way more pavers and way less dirt. I only "guesstimated" the amount of pavers I would need, so Marcus will be picking up nine more to complete the checkerboard. He moved the four brown pavers so the old ones are all together. I thought the new ones were the same color, but I think they will work. All of the Tudor rose circles will be placed next to the walkway, and I'll be squaring off the courtyard at the far right end.

The few plants that are coming up by the bench and the fountain are day lilies. Someday I will have all of the dirt areas filled up with plants. This is a shady area, canopied by my huge elm tree. To the left is a grapevine fence that is only starting to green up. It fills in very lushly by the middle of the summer.

I will be moving the white arbor on the right, since it has been in the "wrong place" since my deck was built last fall and the lattice screen installed. (The deck is just to the right of the walkway.) I will also have to relocate the Dropmore honeysuckle, which has never grown well in the shade anyway.

One never realizes what will show up in a photo. Had I known, I would have removed the ugly hanging Off dispenser and moved the hose!

Here is another view of the courtyard, which also shows part of my backyard. The plants are starting to come up in my Unicorn Garden, which I showed you last summer. (Fragile Mr. Unicorn spent the winter in my bedroom for safekeeping. He will go outside today.)

I'm afraid I have lost a few of the perennials. I never did mulch last fall, first having a painful hernia and then recovering from surgery for a month. At the very far right end of the yard you will see my French bistro table and two chairs placed inside my "Welcome to The Fairy Bower" arbor under the lilac. (Personalized Arbor Plaque ordered from Plow and Hearth.)

I have a guy coming in to hydro seed this lawn, so hopefully future photos will show a lush greensward instead of dirt!

That's not the only project that was accomplished yesterday. Marcus and his cousin, Dustin, installed my new cedar arbor over the front sidewalk. Dustin proved to be somewhat of a rose expert, and cut back and trained my beautiful William Baffin climbing rose over the arbor. If you look closely at the top of the picture, you will be able to distinguish the rose foliage from the foliage of the elms across the street. Later this summer, we will tighten the strings on the climbing canes.
My mailman will love this change. He will no longer have to hack his way through the rose thorns to walk up my sidewalk! Dustin also trimmed back all of my rose shrubs, which will be blooming later this month, as will the William Baffin. He also trimmed the climbing Henry Kelsey rose and trained it up the left side of the arbor. Henry has never performed as well as William but I always relent and give him yet another summer to produce well.
I chose the Henry Kelsey rose because of my niece, Kelsey, and I have to give her kudos for actually working the longest yesterday. Hours before the guys even showed up, she was weeding my flower beds on both sides of the driveway, in and among the rose bushes and the flower bed to the left of my front step. I think she weeded for about five hours straight! Now my peonies and irises (currently in bud) will not have to compete with weeds when they show off their glorious blooms.
My three peonies are all Sarah Bernhardts:
I have a lovely unnamed lavender "heirloom" iris that a friend gave me, which is the linchpin of the driveway flower bed. I also planted some new irises last fall, and they are all growing vigorously:

This is Mariposa Autumn

Here is Gay Parasol

This one is Dakota Skies. I had to have
an iris with Dakota in the name!

This is Jurassic Park


I am so happy to have time off that does not involve surgery, infusions, bone marrow biopsies, and so forth. I am also so happy to be blessed with such great garden helpers.