Saturday, July 20, 2013


I should have walked the farmers market downtown with my daughter, but, I'd fallen behind with my reading and so I decided, after breakfast...

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... to stay on the porch and concentrate on work: I read, I take notes.  Hour after hour, I read, I take notes.

(...and I throw admiring glances at the flowers before me.)

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The humidity levels have gone down and I want so much to tend to the flowers (and veggies) in the yard! The mosquitoes are a real disincentive, but after a few hours, I shrug and go out into the beds anyway. For the most stubborn bugs, I have the zapper. Wave, wave, bang! Got'ya!

And I am assisted by the swallows. Surely this summer belongs to them -- they torpedo the bugs all day long and we forgive them their decision to build nests inside the storage garage -- their work on behalf of a mosquito free world needs our support! (We lay down sheets of plastic to catch all the bird poop we get for opening up this swallow hotel. When I scrunch my face and say things like "gross" Ed reminds me that every bird dropping here is a gravestone to digested bugs.

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(How many of you know that I have an eight year old tatoo of a swallow on my lower back? When I have doubts about the wisdom of that whole venture, I think -- at least it's an image of a swallow. I had insisted on that. Yay swallows.)

In trimming spent stems and in weeding around my pots, I finally decide that it's time to replace the bedraggled pansies.

Ed, want to go to Johannsen's with me? 
It's been my go to place for gardening needs for maybe 30 years. Ed likes to go along, just so he can rib me about how addicted I am to buying starter flowers.

I'm thinking a few geraniums, maybe some alyssum  and that's it. I'm past my big planting spurt. Now it's just a question of keeping my pots brimming with blooms until, say, November.

As we drive up to Johannsen's, I see that their outside tables are nearly empty. I roll my eyes. The seasons change quickly in these nurseries. Spring explodes, summer retreats. The supply of good flowers dwindles.

But as I go inside, I'm a little puzzled. The greenhouse is nearly empty inside as well.

Ed points to a sign on the door: going out of business.

Say what?

The owners are frank: the next door car dealership made them an offer they could not refuse.
Why?? I ask. The place had been superbly packed with shoppers every time I'd come this spring.
One of the family members, a woman just shy of my age tells me -- our mom needs at home care now. That's $95,000 per year. Selling this will help.

I cried then. Really truly, I cried.

...For all the decades I'd watched Johannsen's evolve (in ways that few nurseries did). For the terrible expense of caring for the elderly. And really, for the endless times I'd side-stepped here, just to pick up a perennial, or an brilliant annual for a pot. All those years! Where do I go now?  -- I ask.
The daughter of the aging owner says  the obvious -- you'll go where we'll go. To the family run places that are still at it. And she lists names of familiar nurseries. I'll be looking for work now, but I'll tell you, I'll never work as hard as I worked here. Our father would have been proud of what we made of this place.

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Yes, I agree.

We spend the rest of the afternoon chasing down chores we've been avoiding since our return: Woodman's -- the cheap grocery store,  Farm & Fleet, Menards, all that -- and then home. Past fields where the wheat has already been harvested -- that's how far into the summer we are...

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...and past these two cranes. Hey, do you eat bugs too?


At the farmette, we spray the beds that line the path with our magic solution of diluted lemon ammonia and baby shampoo. And for supper, I reheat the chili and I pour glasses of sangria -- something we haven't had since Sorede.

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Sorede. Was that truly so recent? Last month? Honestly?

Time is an odd thing. Expansive, generous on the one had -- but so tight and stingy when you just want to move quietly through a period of calm.

Funny how that works.