Inside the Gate – Garden Notes

As work on the new house proceeds, occasional breaks are called for. Our yard is in two parts, gatea large stretch on the outside of the white picket fence, and the other, smaller part inside. The inside part with the flowers is my new sanctuary. I sat there the other night thinking how much work the previous owner, an older lady who passed away, had gone to to make such a beautiful place. It gives me pleasure to think I will take good care of it for her.

Emily and I were sitting on the patio in late afternoon when a little chipmunk came running under the fence with something in his mouth. He stopped and looked around sharply and seemed satisfied that all was well in his garden. He went under some low hanging leaves in the border and was scurrying around there for a while. He peeped out at us several times, his cheeks still bulging. We sat quietly and just watched him. We had invaded his space, but we wanted him to know we were friends.

A robin flew down from the towering pine tree in the neighbor’s yard and landed on the fence. There are baby birds in the birdhouse on the outside of the fence. Yellow finches dart around the flowers and back out again, a bright flash of color.

The beds are getting choked with weeds, and thistles are springing up all over. Outside in the front part of the yard there is a large mound with roses and peony bushes, and the thistles are taking over. I’m leaving shortly to get a start on the weeds. They have a way of taking over if not addressed promptly.Just like in human souls and minds, it occurs to me.

So many thoughts run through my mind walking around and looking at the new yard. Tom is taking a tree down in the front that effectively hides the front of the house. He has plans. Last night we were looking at things at the garden center, and he told me what he wants to do. It is going to look lovely when he’s done.

Tom bought me a fat little cherub for my new garden. Emily was concerned that the baby angel might be lonely after dark outside all by herself. I assured her that the little chipmunks and other small creatures would make sure the cherub would have company.


I hope to get a bird bath this week for the birds seem to want one as they fly over and stop on the top of my fence. They’ll hopefully soon have one, so they know that friends, big and small, are welcome in our little sanctuary.

Gardens are a lot of work. Tom is mildly amused at my zeal, but pleased at my new interest. He bought me garden gloves and a wide-brimmed hat for the sun. I’ll be the goofy garden lady with the straw hat in our new neighborhood.

One other blessing occurred yesterday that I am hugging to myself this morning. Emmy was zooming around our driveway on her pink scooter at the new house, and I was emptying our van out with some boxes, when I heard a voice. A neighbor couple on bikes were at the end of the driveway. With them was a little girl the very same age as Emily on her bike. We had a really nice introduction and conversation. They have already invited Emily over to play and to go raspberry picking with them. There are no words to describe what this means to me, as Emily has had a shortage (as in none) of neighborhood friends, siblings or cousins her age that she can play with on a regular basis. She is always alone. The mom explained that her daughter is in the same situation with only older siblings and no sisters. It sounds promising.

I’m headed off shortly to do battle with the thistles. The ornery things think they’re boss or something. My birds and the little cherub await, just beyond the fence, inside the gate.


Walk On!

Last Valentine’s Day, Tom gave me a gift in a box. I opened it to find a pair of walking shoes that were incredibly light. They were so light that I doubted they would hold up very well. I decided to try them out.

This summer, I have made good use of my gift. I’ve been walking quite a bit. After our long, cold winter, I vowed last spring to make the summer count. So far, so good on my goal! The shoes are fantastic. You don’t need socks – they don’t have laces, GoWalkand they feel like nothing on your feet. In case anyone is interested they are called Skechers GoWalk or GoWalk2. I bought another pair I liked them so much. (This is not a paid ad!)

I walk a course in our neighborhood as many days a week as I can. Initially, I thought I was walking about a mile and a half, but after Tom checked it, it turns out that is was nearly a total of four miles I was walking. I was surprised and pleased at my efforts and after five pounds dropped off, I was even more pleased.

Walking outside has to be one of the biggest helps there is. Mental clarity, a positive mood and the better eating that follows (who wants to squander the effort by eating junk after walking?) make it a winning situation all around.

Emily has accompanied me almost every mile. She runs on ahead and then falls back to talk about everything she sees. She can identify oak trees, maples and birch trees, hydrangeas, roses, black-eyed susans and petunias, and Queen Anne’s Lace, etc. It makes the walk go faster with her commentary.

Doctors used to prescribe nature as a treatment for those who were ill or stressed. It’s coming back into fashion again according to this article at, as well it should be. The more advanced technology we get, the more isolated and unnatural our lives become. Worse, technology can invade even walks in nature, undoing many of the advantages. I see people with ear buds in while running or walking. They’re missing an entire symphony of sounds. They are distracting their minds from appreciating even the smells and sights and fresh air which does us all good.

walkingMy only challenge is the long cold winter in this state. There’s no choice in Wisconsin about walking outside a lot of times when the temperature plummets and there is snow and ice. Mall walking or a gym membership is the only solution to keep walking. I hate walking in gyms. The laps around the track seem endless. That’s when it doesn’t hurt to have music or something in your ears as you walk along, at least when you don’t need some quiet for praying or thinking.

One way or another, I hope to keep moving. I’ve written on this before, but I once again have enjoyed the benefits of committed walking, and think that a lot of our ailments in this country could be helped or reduced if we all got out and walked it away!


(Making sure a walking plan is OK for your health is worth a check with the doctor if you have health issues.)



When Morning Gilds the Skies

I was somewhat groggily moving at 6am to take Will 20 miles in for a ride to the state forensics meet with his team members. As I returned home and closed the door on the car in the driveway, I stood very still suddenly. The singing of the birds was so  beautiful, and the rising sun was sending its rays onto the flowered trees in our yard. It took my breath away. Had I not been up at 6 on a Saturday morning, I would have missed that beautiful moment. The words of this hymn sprang to mind.

When morning gilds the skies,
my heart awakening cries,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Here’s the lovely hymn if you’d like to listen. As I was standing there, our son Jon pulled in, returning home after a night of work on the third shift. He enjoyed the moment with me and got his camera to take a shot of this golden spring morning.

Country Roads

Our friend Francis in Nova Scotia keeps us supplied with photos of his favorite places on Cape Breton Island. That’s where the photos in this post were taken. I’m a city girl, born and bred, and I grew up to the usual urban din having lived and attended school in the heart of a large metro area.

But my parents both grew up in rural areas, and as a result, we saw plenty of country growing up each summer both in Southwest Missouri and also up in northern Minnesota. I think somewhere inside, I have a bit of country girl waiting to get out.

Our family once took a bouncing, jolting car journey across a field where a road used to be. We were driving to see the old abandoned house where my great-grandmother used to live when my mom and her siblings were growing up. They spent some war years there while their parents worked in a plant making airplanes to fight Hitler.

The house was in an advanced state of decay. In a shed, we found an old textbook from my uncle with his nickname written in the cover. We walked a bit in the fields near the house that late afternoon. Mom shed a few tears over the many memories there in those Missouri hills. She was raised a country girl, and she still is one.

The country road in the photo on this post draws me in. The thought of walking down that road brings peace just thinking about it. Add Tom and a picnic basket, and that would be about as good as it gets.

I was driving on a very isolated country road in Wisconsin once when we passed a horse and her young offspring quietly standing by a wire fence. I pulled over to let the children watch them for a while. (They had never seen a horse close up except for a depressed looking pony giving rides at a fair.) There is nothing so restful in this world as to watch animals like that in their own element. The horses stared at us with their big dark eyes, chewing solemnly and thinking their horse thoughts. I wanted to touch their soft noses, but decided as a city slicker that watching was probably a better idea.

I’ll never forget that day gazing at those beautiful creatures and experiencing the quiet of the country. No sirens, no obnoxious motorcycles filling the air with their nerve-shattering noise, no interstate with the eternal roar in the distance. Just the fields shimmering in the summer sunlight and the occasional song of a bird.

In our suburban world nature is paved over, restrained, poisoned with toxic chemicals to keep unsightly weeds at bay, and allowed only in small little orderly patches. It has to be that way, I guess. But country roads beckon me where you can hear the crunch of a dirt road under your feet, where animals and insects go about their business unhindered, and you get to see the whole panorama of God’s creative genius.

The whole earth is full of God’s glory. Humans build towering complexes and buildings that seem to defy gravity, and the architects should have their due, but nothing can come close to the world of nature created by the word of our Creator’s mouth. All it takes to see it is a walk down a country road.

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

~Psalm 104:24