Unlikely Success

Unlikely Success

If you live, or work, or have travelled in West Central Missouri much, you’ve probably seen the subject of today’s photo.  Stationed like a sentinel along the south side of Highway 50 between Sedalia and Warrensburg, a tenacious tree spreads the canopy of its branches atop an old farm silo, catching the eye with its audacity.  It seems to defy the odds by its very existence.

Since moving to this area back in October of 1992, I’ve driven across that stretch of road countless times, and marveled at this tree each one of them.  How did it get started there?  How long had the roof been off the silo when it sprouted, or was there just a little glimmer of sunlight getting through somewhere that allowed it to grow? How many seasons did it take the trunk to stretch up high enough so that we could all see the valiant efforts made by what started as one tiny seed?

Apparently, my inquiring mind is not the only one to ponder these questions.  Type the words “silo trees” into the internet search engine of your choice, and you’ll find articles galore, from all across the country.  The Missouri Department of Conservation website’s archive has an article that mentions this specimen–and several others in the state–that was published in 1995.  If you’re interested, the link is here:  http://mdc.mo.gov/conmag/1995/10/silo-tree

I like to think of it as a lesson in perseverance; sort of a “Little Engine that Could” kind of story.  Seemingly insurmountable odds may not be as bad as we think.  That snarl of a problem that has you all knotted up inside probably has a workable solution, one way or another.  Remember that old joke about how to eat an elephant?  (one bite at a time!)  If you’re struggling with something today, look again at the picture of this tree. Deep breath.  Say a prayer. And just take the Next Step.

May I Live In Your Garden, Sir?

May I Live In Your Garden, Sir?

That may sound like a rather impertinent question, but it was indeed how I felt on Friday.  Except the “sir” in question was not a person, but rather a company, and the idea of actually living there would not be practical or allowable.  But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Shelter Gardens, located in Columbia, Missouri, is just one of the ways Shelter Insurance® gives back to the community, and this month’s view is just the tip of the iceberg.  To help while away some time in between appointments, my recently retired friend J’Teena met me there, and we strolled the carefully tended grounds of the Gardens, a place I hadn’t visited in several years.  She waited patiently as I stopped repeated to take photos with my trusty iPhone, while I kept wishing I’d remembered to bring a better camera.  The redbud and dogwood trees were blooming, a few tulips and daffodils were still putting on a show, the rose bushes were leafing out with great promise, and the violet patch near the back was next to heavenly.  There were flowers blooming that I don’t know the names of (yet), but the pictures I snapped are preserving the images for later research.  It was an inspiration!

Many of the trees and plants are labeled, and we both felt amazed by the beauty of a very large bush with snowy-colored clumps of small white flowers.  “Korean Spice Viburnum” the tag read.  I immediately took a photo of that, just so I wouldn’t forget the name.  Among all the landscaping efforts I’ve made over the years, the category of bushes seems somehow to have been overlooked, but darned if I know why, and this specimen has me rethinking that approach.  The spicy-sweet scent was strong enough to attract us (and the bees, like last week’s apple blossoms!), but not overwhelming.  And whatever fertilizer they’re using over there, it’s working really well, because this bush could easily be mistaken for a small tree!

So today I’m thankful once again (or still) for all the spring things blooming around us.  Lilacs, violets, azaleas . . . I love them all.   I am thankful for a good friend who drove into town just to help me enjoy the day and catch up on what’s been going on in our lives.  I am thankful for companies who look for ways to “return the favor”, so to speak, to the customers, neighbors, and tourists who might have (or maybe will) support them.  And I’m thankful that I live in a place where all these wonders surround me.

What are you thankful for today?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!


Do You See What I See?

Do You See What I See?

Here’s a guest post from my friend Melissa Yost.  It was meant to fill in while I was gone to Scotland, but I failed to follow through on pre-loading.  Thank you, Melissa, for contributing!

“Do You See What I See?”

Please do not be alarmed. This is not a big box retail store premature ejaculation of Christmas before the end of October, let alone Thanksgiving. I am a believer that Christmas begins with    Advent. This post could have easily been titled ‘You Say To-may-to, I say To-ma-to’. I am shamelessly taking advantage of the title to make two points. Bad me. But I digress.

I direct your attention to the photos above and below:


Now, I ask you. What do you see? Fields of wild flowers or weeds. Nature in all its splendor and diversity or a blight on the face of a respectable suburban neighborhood worthy of numerous citations from local government agencies. I did not catch any photos of the Gold Finches taking advantage of the seeds nor the Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies sipping nectar. However, I think you can see where I’m going with this. I am proud to say, this is my yard.

By happy accident, I was unable to keep up with the demands of my large garden. I had no choice but to let some beds go wild. As a result, I have never had so many colors or drifts of blooms, the likes of which gardeners spend years cultivating. I did not water. I did not spray insecticides, fungicides or herbicides. I did not fertilize. The result is a pantheon of color and variety of huge proportions. My yard has never seen so many feathered or winged visitors.

As to those pesky village inspectors who have repeatedly cited and tried to fine me?  I finally put them in their place with two simple words:  Wildflowers and Nature-scaping. And as a daily reminder of nature’s bounty, and my own self-admitted contrary nature, I am rewarded with the sight of sunflowers gone wild on the sides of highways and roads, along with the thistles, chickweed and choke vine in my yard. And truth be told, even the rag weed is beautiful.



Colorful Memories

Colorful Memories

We all have a mental storage cabinet that holds memory files full of various events from our lives.  Some good, some bad, some meh.  And the older we get, the more stuffed those cranial cubicles become, often making it difficult to retrieve specific bits of information just exactly when we want them, sort of like that junk drawer or closet where you shove odds and ends that you don’t know where else to put.  (Admit it, we’ve all got one!)

But memories are odd, in that they can be triggered to float to the top of the heap in many ways:  an unusual odor, a specific sound, the sight of a certain place or thing or even a particular shade of color.  This season of the year brings the changing wardrobe of the trees, and I’ve witnessed a multitude of beautiful hues over the last few weeks.  The fact that we had decent rainfall this year had to have helped this process, as well as the rather temperate summer.  Regardless of the cause, though, I’m awed by the beauty and think–yet again–what an artist is our Creator.

Yesterday, my friend Karen and I were traveling the short distance from her house to a local restaurant for supper, and stopped along the way to take photos of the trees in the cemetery.  The sun was sinking into the western horizon just enough to make the orange leaves of one specimen absolutely glow.  Another tree had lost most of its splendor into a 30′ diameter carpet of color, which reminded me of the walks I took with my Sweetheart, not long after we began to date back in 1983.  We were still young enough then to enjoy running over to a raked-up pile of freshly-fallen leaves and jumping into them.  It’s a sweet memory, and it makes me smile.

We stood by the stone that bears his name and the date that he left us: three years ago today.  I told Karen about that time ‘way back then, and how I think of it every Fall. We talked about how many things have changed in those three years, and how it doesn’t seem like it could possibly be that long since he was here with us.  We rehashed several other memories, over dinner, of Larry, of her parents, and many other things.  I’m fortunate to have such a friend.

If summer is the time to “stop and smell the roses” as they say, then maybe Autumn ought to be the season of recollection.  Open up that vault of memories, pull out a few favorites and enjoy them once more.  I’ll close this with a quote from our daughter.

“Don’t take for granted what you have when you have it, for one day you may not.  Let stress go, let love sink in, and hold good memories forever.”  –Jennifer Martinez 




One of the first signs that Spring is on its way–sometimes even before I see the crocus buds peeking out of the dried leaves and mulch in the flower bed–is when the thin blades of the leaves of the Surprise Lily plant knife their way up through the brown of winter. An inch or so wide, and very thin, they stretch up a rich green, droop over, turn yellow, then brown, then disappear from sight. Just about the time that we’ve forgotten that they were ever there at all: Surprise!  The buds of the Lycoris Squamigera raise their heads.  The hollow round stems shoot up two-to-three feet into the air within just a couple of days, and the flowers open out to release their sweet, heady fragrance, which perfumes the air all around them.  It’s an annual event of which I never grow tired, and which never ceases to amaze me.

The Surprise Lily is known by many names:  Miracle Lily, Hurricane Lily, Resurrection Lily, Magic Lily, Pink Flamingo Flower, and even Naked Ladies, referring to the fact that the leaves are long gone before the flowers show.  One online site I read spelled it “Nekkid Ladies”, but I tend to agree with Jeff Foxworthy on that.  “Naked means you got no clothes on; Nekkid means you got no clothes on AND you up to something!”  And while these flowers are surely “up to” something spectacular, I don’t think that’s what Mr. Foxworthy meant.

Whatever you call them, though, they are a delight to see; in my own yard, in yards about town, and sometimes, just along the side of a road, where they truly are a surprise.  My sister was visiting from Texas one summer, and as Mother Nature would have it, she was just in time to see the yearly eruption of Surprise Lilies all over Missouri.

“We don’t have those in Texas,” she lamented.

“Why not?”  I asked  “They won’t grow there, or they just haven’t caught on?”  She didn’t know.

The next December I called a local garden center to ask if they sold the bulbs.  Indeed they did, saving me the trouble of digging around to locate and divide mine in the cold.  Eight of them, individually wrapped in paper towels, then tissue paper, made an interesting Christmas present to ship to Texas.  Sis and I were on the phone together when she removed the bow and the gift wrap and opened the box.  There was a long pause as she disrobed what must’ve looked like an oversized owl pellet. . . then a loud squeal . . . “SURPRISE!  Oh, you sent me SURPRISES!”  I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun out of one simple present.

Well, she planted the bulbs, and each spring she gets the leaves, but it’s been about four years now, and not a bloom to be seen.  So maybe they don’t thrive in Texas.  But maybe . . . just maybe . . . one of these summers I’ll get a call from my sister, or a text, or a photo, and it’ll begin:  “SURPRISE!”


Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise

Yesterday was eventful. Two years and nine months (almost) after the passing of her Master, a good friend assisted me in loading the Two-Wheeled Mistress onto a trailer and hauling her to the HD dealer in Sedalia, where they will sell her on consignment. Going through the saddle bags and the tool pouch and the shelf of supplies the night before was brutal, but seeing two ol’ boys drooling over her as we drove out of the parking lot helped. Here’s hoping she finds a new owner soon, and that he (or she) will enjoy the bike as much as we did.

Thankfully, Cousin G had invited me to visit with himself and Cousins K & B at the Lake Place, which is about a 45 minute drive from my house. We enjoyed dinner on the screened-in porch, meaningful conversation, and a perfectly relaxing Sunset Cruise on the pontoon boat. It was exactly what I needed.

Keifer and Ziva are Australian Shepherd mix siblings adopted by K & B last year. They’ve grown up spending many weekends at the lake, and they trot excitedly down the ramp, across the dock, and onto the deck of the pontoon with no hesitation whatsoever. The tradition of a Sunset Cruise is obviously something they relish, and watching them post themselves as lookouts at the front of the boat was fascinating. Keifer kept a sharp eye out for blue herons, ducks and geese. Ziva–for the first time ever–jumped up and sat down on the upholstered seat next to Cousin G, taking in the view from a higher vantage point, but acting as though it was something she did every day. As the sun dropped slowly toward the horizon, the temperature of the air cooled accordingly, and the evening was as perfect as it could be.

As the song says: “I get by with a little help from my friends”. And with gratitude for the loving kindness of those friends, I do more than just get by. I really live!


Lilac Time

Lilac Time

My Bradford Pear trees have finished blooming. In town today I saw several Redbuds in full color (it’s actually more of an orchid pink/purple color, but it would sound silly to say Orchid Pink/PurpleBuds, wouldn’t it?).  My apple trees have blossoms all over them, but the wind over these past two days has littered the ground with tiny white petals to the point that I wonder if they’ll get pollinated.  Another of my favorite things, however (see last week’s post for My Favorite Teacher!) is to step out the back door and smell the purple lilacs in bloom.  Ohhhhhh, my!  There’s no other scent in the world quite like it.

I have always wanted a lilac bush.  In spite of the extensive time and effort my folks have put into their very nice lawn, and the wide variety of flowers, shrubs and trees Mother has selected over the almost 59-years they’ve lived at their present location, I don’t recall them ever having a lilac.  Some people tell me they’re hard to get started, and that even after you plant a starter bush, it’s sometimes seven years before it’ll bloom.  I don’t know if this is true . . . somebody leave a comment, please, if you know for sure!  Anyway, you can imagine my delight in April of 1993 when it became apparent we’d purchased a property with not one, but two lilac bushes, one with lavender blossoms and one with white.

The white one is near the driveway, and it spreads by sending up little shoots from the root system in a two-to-three foot area next to the bush.  A honeysuckle vine snuck its way over into the branches and suffocated some of them, so the deadwood had to be pruned out, but it’s still going strong.

The purple-bloomer is on the northeast corner of the house, at the edge of a flowerbed.  A small hosta plant is leafing out under the shade of the shrub now, and later in the season I’ll put out some impatiens.  My hope is to get some starts of the fern and Lily-of-the-Valley from the area on the north side of my parents’ house, and transplant them into this bed next to the lilac.  If memory serves, Mother obtained the starts from her grandma, making them somehow more special than those I could easily get from the store.

My great-grandmother Peirrie Belle May went gradually blind from glaucoma.  But great-grandpa Stanley knew how much she loved her flowers.  The story I was told was that they’d brought starts of all their favorites from the farm when they retired and moved into town, and that during the season, Grandpa Stanley would pick a different flower each day.  He’d take it inside to grandma, take her hand and carefully close her fingers around the stem, then help her raise it to her face to smell.  “OK, Peirrie”, he’d ask, “which one is this?”  She’d inhale the scent and feel the stem, the leaves, the petals, and make her pronouncement.  What a beautiful way for him to help her keep those senses alive.  I’ve always thought it was one of the most tender tales ever.

And when–in my mind’s eye–I picture my great-grandpa coming through their door with a sprig of lilac, something tells me his sweetheart didn’t even need to touch it to decide.  The nose knows!

Happy Easter

Happy Easter

Several years ago I did something right, and not only purchased, but also planted (!) flower bulbs in the Autumn for something pretty the next Spring.  That may sound like a fairly basic and simple concept to you, but one of my many character flaws is sometimes biting off more than I can chew, so to speak.  The photos on those perennial packages are enticing, though, and it seems like my cousin Jeffrey had inspired me by describing all the bulbs he’d managed to put into the ground a year or two beforehand.  The semi-circular flower bed around my front porch was already installed when we moved in, complete with a native rock border.  Our arrival at the farm in October of 1992 was greeted with a bed full of marigolds, so it wasn’t until early the next summer that we realized there were established poppies in there too.  The idea of something coming up and blooming on its own, year after year, with no effort from me beyond the initial planting was more than I could resist.

Nearest the border I put the crocus bulbs, because those plants are the smallest of the ones I’d chosen for this location, and the first to bloom.  Granted, they sometimes get cut short by snow (and this year a little freezing rain), but even the least little dab of color at the center of those delicate strands of green is welcome by the time winter is coming to a close.  Just behind the crocus, and staggered between in case of overlap, come the hyacinths, then a row of mixed daffodils and jonquils behind them, and various tulips behind those.  As the weeks go marching into Springtime, the colors just keep coming until finally it’s warm enough to start putting in some annual bedding plants among the poppies.  The sway those flowers have over my mood is amazing.  Each and every day I see them, I marvel at what an artist our Creator must be, and what an endless imagination it took to come up with these beauties.

Easter is about resurrection.  As a Christian, tomorrow I celebrate the anniversary of the Greatest Gift of all:  Jesus Christ dying on the cross to buy redemption for our sins, and then raising from the dead and ascending to heaven to give us all the hope of life everlasting.  The flowers from those bulbs symbolize, to me, much the same sort of miracle.  They are signs of hope, rebirth, and renewal . . . the things I am so thankful to have, and the things I wish for each of you.

Happy Easter
Easter Beauty!

Bad Moon Rising?

Bad Moon Rising?

The news has been peppered lately with mentions of the “Blood Moon” that’s supposed to show in tonight’s sky. It’s also apparently the type of lunar eclipse that only happens every great once-in-a-while (we can hardly say “once in a blue moon”, here, now can we?), and that we’re supposed to see four of these events within the next year-and-a-half.  I’m still trying to decide if I can wait up late enough to view it and still be able to get up in time for work tomorrow morning.

But red, white, or blue, a full moon is a funny thing.  Personally, I think they’re lovely.  They remind me of a certain night in November 2007, when Larry and I were driving home from seeing a movie with our grandson.  Upon seeing the glowing orb in the night sky to our west, he announced to us:  “God live inna moon.”  It was a neat conversation, and memorable enough to be included in my book The Road to Kidneyville.  On the other hand, ask any cop, ambulance driver or emergency room worker, and they’ll tell you the full moon is a dangerous time.  “The natives get restless”, my cousin Bruce told me, and all kinds of weird things can happen.

Here on the farm, I don’t expect any major shakeups.  The dogs were pretty feisty this evening, running belly-to-the-ground races all over the lawn.  Rusty and Jumper, the two horses in the front pasture, had a bit of a chasing/kicking match late this afternoon, but I attribute that more to Jumper’s jealousy and bad attitude than any pull of the moon.  And in spite of the temperatures in the 70s this weekend, it dropped to 31 this morning and we saw snowflakes for a couple of hours.  But, hey . . . it’s Spring in Missouri!

So let me know if you stay up to watch the eclipse, and if anything odd happens in your part of the world.  And if we sleep through it, don’t worry.  There’ll be another chance in October.

Springing Forward

Springing Forward

Following one of the coldest winters we’ve seen around here in a long time, Spring seems to have arrived.  I say “seems to”, out of an abundance of caution, maybe because I don’t want to jinx anything.  Also, this is Missouri, and just about anything can happen.  Last year we had snow on May 1, although that is not the norm by any means.  Nevertheless, almost everyone appears hopeful that it’s real, and that Spring has officially sprung.

Jackson & Perkins catalogs arrive in the mail almost weekly now, with hybrid tea roses so luscious-looking that I’m tempted to forget all about past experiences with Black Spot disease and Red Spider Mites, and spend vast quantities of money and time replanting the entire flower bed that surrounds my covered front porch.  My saving grace came last week when–just after the storms blew through–the first daffodil bloom of the season materialized.  And nearby is a super-fragrant pink hyacinth.  Both of them are close to the concrete steps on the south side of the porch, making me wonder if the heat of the sun on the old rough concrete radiated just enough warmth out into that part of the ground to induce those particular bulbs to produce their yearly beauty show first.  Other plants are sending up shoots, too, reminding me that there’s more color to come.  Their blooms don’t last very long into the season, but at least the bulbs keep producing, year after year.

Pink Hyacinth

Providing, of course, that the moles don’t get to them.  As you may recall, my D.G. dog Albert is quite the mole digger (see Archives!) but he’s still no good on backfill.  And replanting the bulbs that get tossed along with the soil if he finds a varmint in the flower bed?  Not a chance!