Hello friends, I've been away a long time. The fairies have tended my
gardens all season without me, and only with some minimal interferences
and lots of observations and digital recordings of who's
appearing,blooming, and finishing......I've been wandering around at a
loss for motivational writings- could you even tell I was here. The
moods I've experienced this year have been distracting.
The fairies have done everything in their powers to get my attentions.
First with unexpected appearances of things I didn't remember putting in
a spot or location. Other ways of getting my attention grabbed my eyes
and mind in furious waves of words and descriptions, then when I
attempted to put these thoughts and amazements onto computer and send
them ya'll's way, I'd be ripped from my musings and the word demons
would erase the vivid images in my mind until they resembled piles of
debris and letters.
One day I actually took a pad of paper and noticed that the day was
absolutely perfect for Spring. And as I quickly wrote typical
"madgardener" descriptions and short hand of sorts, I was pleased that
the drought of ramblings might be over. I was blind sided. As soon as I
got home and attempted to write and spin wondrous tales of what was
truly a perfect Spring day, I was snatched up and before I knew it,
weeks had slipped by in a whirlwind, like leaves in a pre-storm gusting.
The season's have quietly switched with each other. First, Spring
resembled a too early summer. Temperatures forced bulbs and perennials
and shrubs into over growth. The whacked and pruned fig tree sprouted
supple limbs so flexible, that instead of being straight, they flopped
about like Gumby... Tulips and daffs appeared like magic
shows, then were done. The only evidence was pictures I managed to snap
on the digital camera. Shrubs struggled in the fast pace of above
normal temperatures, even for here. I'm used to SOME very warm
temperatures, but to resemble the summer when it was spring time was
unsettling, especially when they held for longer than a front of a few
Then sweet reprieve. Mom's Nature was over her hot flash, her cruel
sense of humor or her anger at the weather goddess, whatever her
reasons, I didn't argue. You'll always lose with Mom's N. She slipped
a sweet ending to Spring. Cool nights, just right warmth to caress the
stressed out plants and foliages out of their shock of trying to cope
with all that warmth that lied and said it was high summer. I got
totally distracted. With exceptions to my snatching up the camera, all
attempts for writing down my brain droppings on the computer were
thwarted so badly, I simply gave up.
Then I got e-mails inquiring as to the mistaken rumors of my death....or
illness causing my fingers to fall off.....or some such maladies.
Serious concerns that I had befallen some horrible illness. and not
wanting their concerns to fall on deaf ears, I assured each inquiry that
I was indeed alive, no limbs or appendages misplaced or fallen under the
computer desk. And I tried to catch each individual who knocked on the
cyber gate up on snatches of Fairy Holler.
It got even more insane.
Where as last year I WAS ill with various assorted disasters to my body,
this year it was all life and what happens if you try to cross the busy
interstate of reality. I'd try to get to that island of writing bliss,
and a piggy-back semi would come barreling down at me blowing it's horn,
scaring the hell outa me and I'd discover more time lost, more flowers
bloomed and gone, more moments not captured. I wrote titles down and
sent them to the drafts folder. I took more pictures. And I ran amok
in between all of it.
Before I knew it, it was time to pack for the week up in Michigan with
Squire to do more work on the house before fall, (not to live, no
worries there, ok?) hopeful of some peace and rest with two dogs who
had never swam in water before, or played in sand, a two story cottage
that gave me peace enough to look forward to going. No t.v. laid out and
furnished with enough comforts to fool me into thinking I'd not MIND
living in Grand Haven.....sand and all.........zone 5...yep, even cooler
temperatures and lots of snows in winter. Late springs.... I packed ALL
of my music cd books. All 13......that's well over 1800 cd's. I've not
counted lately. I needed music. It would be the last week of June,peek
time in Fairy Holler for a lot of things, but the promise of some quiet
time was enticing. And Squire and his sister needed me.
The van was loaded as tight as a tick on a summer day. Squire had
packed the van just exactly to where the dogs had one huge bed to lie
around on top of tubs of foodstuffs, clothes, books of cd's, tools, his
truck refrigerator for the perishable foods, the smaller cooler that
plugged into the other outlet. I forgot my shovel.....and there was no
room for the large nursery pot I had intended on putting the Japanese
maple into, but when we got there and I saw the growth on the Japanese
maple, I decided another plan was in order for later on.
Once packed, and we tried to leave, things began to unravel. No matter
how hard we worked at departure, things were forgotten. Important
things. So the last time we turned back to retrieve the apnea machine,
we almost decided to leave the next morning. But instead decided a power
nap was in order, and leave when we woke up and drive all night. It got
up into the low 90's and that's what we left in. We had some good books
on tape to listen to on the trip up, the Xm to listen to music, and I
started observational passenger eyeballing up the north interstate.
The heat was such that an overcast sky promised teasings of possible
rains. Desperately needed rains. I now didn't want to leave, because I
wanted to be in the gardens doing stuff in the warm rains, but you can't
stop in mid-trip. We kept going. I held my tongue and looked out the
window, while Smeagol took middle position on the van sized bed that
Squire had made for him and his "mama dawg" Sugar who stayed on the
bench seat almost the whole trip. He was just able to lie with his head
between the two seats and huff the cold air from the vents and snooze.
As we took I-75 northwards and started climbing the steep hills of
Jellico, I started searching for flower signs. Not easy, despite it was
the last week of June, the heat had done in the wild flowers as well as
most end of Spring bloomers. Hot dots of flame orange in seas of green
roadside grasses was all that flashed past my searching eyes of the
butterfly weeds. Everywhere. I loved seeing them. Sometimes great
colonies of them, screaming their colors out at the careening vehicles.
Mimosa's that reached out towards the edges of the young woods as close
to the edge of the interstate as they possibly could, all decked out in
soft pink puffs. If I concentrated and stared at an up and coming ferny
pink puff tree, I could almost smell their musky sweet fragrances and
wish to see frantic hummers flitting about.
Alternating along the roadside was columns of rising eager kudzu intent
on strangling everything in it's vined path. Covering so many trees and
bushes and rocks they made the sides of hills and small mountains seem
like fantastic enchanted castles rising from the edges of the roadsides.
Before me, layered hills, covered in dark green trees, folded against
each other, the mists and stray dirty gray clouds that were forming and
gathering like forgotten children clung to the tree tops. Tall, young
pines, like skinny, gaunt teenagers crowded the interstate gullies that
rose along the interstate. Higher up, the mists were thicker, like
tired clouds casting off extra clothes in the heat of the day. Or some
crazed menopausal woman in the throes of a serious hot flash <g>.
As we cut thru the miles, all of a sudden, dense fog on the parental
clouds high up on Jellico mountain, north of Knoxville, started showing
up. You could taste the difference in the air. Encouraged, I let my
window down and tasted the air. The humidity was heavy and thick on my
tongue, and I hung my arm out to capture moisture on my skin. Every now
and then, opening in surreal drippings was the familiar kudzu, like
The fogs thickened, and some of the clouds released some precious
moisture, enough to cause the more reckless of drivers to slow down
because the wet was just enough to cause a more defined sense of caution
as the oils struggled to release from the pavements.
Anthracite coal tailings spilling like wet, soft black sand rose above
the edges of the road, although I know were I to have examined the
"sand" up closer to the spilling rocks, the size would be more rocks
than actual sand grains. The terrain was rising and shifting, the dark
greens of summer were muted by the smoke like tendrils of moisture. We
kept hitting great swaths of clouds, not fog at this point of the early
trip. Enough that you had to turn on your headlights to give a sense of
illumination and recognition as cars passed each other in indifferent
speeds. Not much colors. Just muted and dark. Pines, oaks, ferny
mimosa's, a lot of their pink puffs. Queen Anne's lace, hot butterfly
weeds, a few cheerful faces of black-eyed Susan's for diversity. The
landscape lulled me to sleep, as the images repeated themselves without
much break in diversity.
When I woke to the sounds of music, and the audible rumble strips, we
were pulling off for Squire to get some more coffee, let the dogs out
for a quick squat, and back into the van. Only now the temperature was
about 15 degrees cooler and it was still overcast. We had gone into
Kentucky, and heading for Ohio. We had the largest part of the leg of
the trip to go still.
Familiar sights were now being replaced by obvious buildings and
renovations. I started seeing repetitious exit towns. A Wal-fart, Ruby
Toosdaze,KFC,Micky D's, large truck stops with Subway signs, some
Outbacks, or now Bob Evan's. I started watching for Meijers to indicate
we were approaching the Midwest or at least the skirts of it. The
scenery was alright, I scanned the yards for blooms and was surprised to
see day lilies were just budding out. Lilies were in full force here as
mine were winding down in the heat. It seemed like I had slipped back
two weeks in bloom season. Pawlonia trees were bursting with purple
foxglove blossoms in weedy patches of grit and rocky tailings. I
imagined their grapey smells wafting thru the window.
Most rest stops were planted in half decent plantings. Some thought
given to hardiness and climate. A few serious snafu's.....like those
oak leaf hydrangea's that were on the eastern side of one building
getting too much southern indirect light and were browning nicely along
the edges of all the leaves. But I couldn't complain. My own oak leaf
hydrangea this year had strange, stunted and odd shaped outer petals.
Instead of looking like fat, flowers, they were divided and almost
looked like five sectioned stars or bizarre white clover leaves.
Nothing like the pannacles of beauty from last year. I suspect the
weather had a LOT to do with their shapes this year..
The dogs had settled down into submissive postures, sleeping and
snoozing the majority of the ride, with only the neediness of Smeagol
who sometimes just needed reassurance that I was close by to pet his
pointed little head and tell him he was a good dawg...<g> Sugar sulked
on the whole back bench seat, with only occasional visitations for a
quick nose to the arm and an inquiring "helllooooo" from her sober and
penetrating brown eyes. Smeagol hogged the middle sufficiently that
just getting to me and Squire was a maneuver that took too much thought.
So she hung in the back and sprawled out over the whole back seat.
Despite that I had left the shovel behind, I was intent in my mind on
things to dig once we were up to the sandy soils of Grand Haven, and as
I once again was hypnotized in road sleep, I started dreaming what I was
going to do once I got to the cottage that sat back in the sand dunes
and bird sanctuary where the ferns grew to almost four foot in height.
Somewhere I woke briefly to discover that Squire had pulled off at a
quiet little convenient store with large trees along the side and we
idled quietly and slept and dreamed strange dreams. Mine strange
because Squire didn't have his apnea machine and he snored like Oregon
timber cutters in earnest harvesting. I had some weird dreams until I
finally woke up kinda freaked out from dreaming someone was knocking on
the window and only because the dawgs were almost snoring along with
Squire did I realize it was just a nightmare. I thought to myself that
I was getting too old to sleep like this anymore.
Eventually we got to the cottage, in the early hours of morning, opened
up the van and released the hounds to run and pee and sniff and check
things out. That impressive patch of poison ivy on the eastern side of
my sister in law's yard of the cottage was a concern. I spotted it
immediately in it's luxuriant vigor and deep green. Not as much for me
as much as for Squire and his sister......I watched the dogs carefully
after that and started making them avoid the area immediately. At least
Smeagol minds very well and once Sugar saw him avoiding the huge patch,
it wasn't so hard to get her to reciprocate as well. They were just
happy to be out and stretching and romping and checking out totally new
I was more intent on getting all my music and stuff unloaded, and
hitting the beaches and seeing how wide it was this year. It's always
different and it never ceases to amaze me as how powerful Lake Michigan
truly is. On the drive into Grand Haven I immediately knew I've not
been up there for six years. Houses were where there had never been any
at all. And not little, cute houses, HUGE houses. High dollar babies.
With absolutely incredible plantings though. And more shopping centers
and shopping islands than there ever was. I felt strangely unsettled at
this despite that it wasn't my home. But I also knew Squire had seen
this and wasn't as distressed as I was, or if he was, he kept it to
himself as he organized the unloading.
Everywhere I kept seeing these awesome hanging baskets that were
colorful and huge. I was itching to get out on my own and do some
snooping around and hit the little nursery just down from my MIL's house
in town. And there was also a farmer's market and nursery on the corner
of the road that leads to Squire's sister's cottage just off Lake Shore
Drive that I was going to check out for anything perennial and
interesting. I was a woman on a mission this time. Intent on replacing
a beloved lost pink buddelea whose flowers were almost as long as my
forearm the last year it bloomed and was alive, and seeing what I could
find that I never see in Tennessee as there are LOTS of nurseries up in
The dogs were beside themselves. This was their first visit to Michigan,
to the cottage, and would be the first time either of them had ever had
the opportunity to swim. There was also an outlet where Pigeon Creek
empties into Lake Michigan just up from the cottages and sand dunes and
the flow ALWAYS changed. Sometimes every day, and the water was always
no more than knee high and 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the lake's water
I also wanted to see if the dunes had moved any and revealed the
beautiful steps and railings that were built 10-12 years ago that you
could walk down to the beach by. Six years ago I was up there and the
dunes had almost completely covered the railings, and the steps were
gone completely. It continues to amaze me.
I helped unload all the groceries and supplies and stuff while Squire
started putting things away. It really was like coming to a second home.
I've known this cottage now for 28 years, even if I haven't visited it
as many times. It's an odd thing. Two stories, the upper story has
grooved chimney tiles that are filled with cement and laid sideways that
gives the whole upper story a log house look. And the way they laid them
and the ends, it DOES look like a log house on the top floor.
The upstairs is where the bedrooms and sitting room is, but we always
take the bed on the screened porch. Always. I took the bed clothes
upstairs and made the bed for us, noticed the white pine outside the
window had grown some more. Well, duh! Six years is a lot of time to
grow.... That's another thing that always impresses me as a gardener.
Despite that it's pure SAND and humus sand, the trees grow absolutely
gigantic! I remember when that pine was a little sapling and I was
impressed at the rate it had grown just in the last six years since I'd
seen it. You can barely see the lake at the top of the main dune, and I
could see that the lake's waves were barely visible. So that possibly
meant the lake was extremely calm. I snapped out of my daydreaming,
noticed the dogs were lying on the floor where I was just standing at
the many windows on the porch and decided I wanted to get down to the
water with them. "Everyone into the lake! Let's go, come on puppers!"
the dogs were eager to follow wherever mama wanted to go and almost
knocked me over as they jumped up and scrambled mad toenails on the
The steep stairwell was a bit of a challenge for Smeagol but once he got
used to it, I had to laugh at his toenails tapping on the thick boards.
Squire was puttering around and I asked if he'd go to the lake with
me, but he had things he wanted to do, and family business was the main
reason for the whole visit up there anyway, so I told him, "me and the
hairy kids are going to the beach for the first time". He was dryly
sarcastic and told me to not fall in.....and we were off.
Out the door, I stopped at the concrete stoop and noticed sedums were
growing quite fat and nicely at all the edges,and in front of the bitter
root that was everywhere. Hmmmmm, hafta ask my sister in law about
taking a clump of these back with me. They seemed to be a common
variety that resembled little toes, and they were starting to bloom
white blossoms on thin stems about six inches above the sedums. They
were in huge clumps all over the place.
The dogs had run thru the tangle of sand grass and wild grapevine that
apparently the locals were encouraging to hold the shifting sands (they
call these sands up there the "singing sands" as they squeak when you
walk through it) and I lost sight of their tails as they bounced thru
the tall grass. I did my hup hup thing that I'm teaching them to come
when they hear it, and they bounced thru the foliage and sand and came
to me with tongues hanging out the side all smiling and panting and
excited. Sugar had that "I've already spotted and chased 56 rabbits,
mama!" glaze to her eyes, and they were both grinning at me as I told
them to follow me, stay with me. Sure, they were too excited and ran
off ahead of me anyway. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at their
excitement. It reminded me of the first time I took the boys to that
same beach below. And the red haired fairy child of mine just a few
As we crested the top of the dune where the steps USED to be, the dogs
took off and kinda slid, and walked down the shifting sands that were
quite warm to almost hot and headed right for the water. I slipped off
my sandals and realized by the end of the week my leg muscles would
resemble frog legs when I climbed back UP that steep sandy shifting dune
to the cottage above. Oh well, the exercise would do me
I kept noticing the foliage and looking for things that were familiar to
me. The cottage on the opposite side of where the steps used to be had
beautiful container boxes in varieties of annuals I wasn't completely
sure of. I spotted Gaillardia's in a bright clump in an odd box on the
corner of their patio that faced the lake and noticed they'd build a
landing just a few feet below the house and wondered out loud how long
it would take Mom's Nature to make it fall down the rest of the many
feet to the beach. But people here know the power of this shifting sand
and build accordingly.
The dogs had long left me, running along the beach and startling
hundreds of sea gulls that were on the shores that later on I discovered
were munching on shad that had washed upon the shores by the thousands.
I was laughing out loud at their antics. Most of it was pent up energy
from being in the car for 12-14 hours with no more than piddle breaks.
But I knew the sand would whip them and they'd soon be ready to go back
to the cottage and flop down and snooze. Or so I thought. I forget
sometimes that Smeagol isn't two yet and Sugar is barely 4.
As I thought these things and put my shoes near a beautiful piece of
driftwood that was perfect for my butt, I saw Smeagol hauling ass
towards me, his curled tail bent backwards and tucked as under his ass
as he could get it. Behind him, running with silly dog grins on their
face was two beautiful and thick coated collies, one younger and the
other maybe 7 years of age, and Sugar was running and playing with them
with this ecstatic look on her face. She'd already made dog friends!
(Sugar is a dog person, Smeagol, however has this attitude that a
stranger is a friend not yet met, he LOVES people and is a people dawg).
The boy was beside himself with fright at these huge dogs that only
wanted to play. I tried to console him, but his fright was enough that
he had decided in that little pointy head he wanted no part of these two
hairy beasts who weren't vicious in the least but Smeag didn't know
that. He only knew that mama dawg wasn't backing him up, so he did what
I never expected him to do.
As he passed me and I hollered back at him to come back, he tore up the
sand dune's steep sides, sand pouring and shifting like an hour
glass,flying behind him in little puffs and sprays and he hauled ass..
and he crested the top where we'd come down and disappeared completely
from sight. Oh well, I wasn't about to cut my first visit short just
because he's Craven the cowardly dawg....... I was impressed at his
cowardice though. Most impressive. I made mental note to check to see
if I'd brought the Benadryl for possible storms coming across the huge lake.
I petted the two collies and Sugar proceeded to continue her game with
them, running thru the water, teasing them. It was hilarious and I made
my first mistake. I had my digital camera of course, and the memory
chip was just a 256. I had also brought the memory card that had come
with the Canon and a small 4 m. card as back up for more pictures. I
took a short 20 second video of Sugar as she ran thru the water, teased
and tortured the collies and got me so stirred up and tickled I had to
record it. I had no idea that this would eat up the small memory I
had....I'd find this out later on when I wanted to make more pictures.
Soon the older collie lost interest and went to a rather impressive
beach house that sat on the side facing the Pigeon Creek outlet and the
Lake sorta looking towards Grand Haven were it not partially obscurred
by another inlet and dune, and took up an obviously favored spot on
point from the screened huge porch. Sugar kept playing with the younger
one, running thru the chest high water of the creek with the collie. I
couldn't quit laughing.
I kept encouraging her to run thru Pigeon Creek and get wet, and at one
point I noticed an older gentleman coming down the beach towards us with
a rather large cream colored Lab. Oh boy.....more dog friends for Sugar
to meet and play with! And about the time he got to us and Sugar got
all happy with herself, I heard Squire behind me and saw he'd left the
cottage and had Smeag with him. Who was rather reluctant, but kept
close to him for obvious protection. Once Sugar saw "daddy" was on the
beach, she flipped her head back towards me flopping her tongue out the
side of her mouth and grinning her lunatic dawg face and tore up the
beach towards Squire to show off for him.
Eventually we parted with the older gentleman whose dog apparently
wasn't his, it was a very young pure bred Lab who got a little too
excited and he broke off the visit because he apparently was
uncomfortable with the games and sniffings that dogs naturally do when
Squire wanted me to go into town and get cackleberries and maybe some
ham loaf at Meijers, and told me to take my time, he'd make a pot of
Irish creme coffee and finish putting things away while I went to the
store. I left the dogs with him and loaded up. I had no idea what I
was about to encounter..........
All I can say is my FIRST mistake was not entering the middle of the
HUGE supermarket/clothing/nursery/etc store. No, I went in thru the
nursery doors. BIG mistake. HUGE mistake. I snagged a cart and
immediately lost all concept of time. And started looking at all the
amazing and wonderful pots of perennials and ornamental grasses and
hosta's and blooming shrubs and hollyhocks in colors I'd not seen
offered. I reached into my pocket and got out the calculator and
started picking out a few things. HA! A few things?? The double red
hollyhock and the double yellow one were the FIRST to go into my basket.
Then I found the Mexican hare grass in 6 inch and deep pots for cheap
and got Ethyll one. She'd been longing for some ever since seeing them
in pre-made containers back home at Lowes and Despot. Then hosta's.
One each for each of us. As I carefully chose what I was getting,
customers started attracting towards me like they always do. Asking me
where such and such plant was at. I'd turn and point, then if they
looked confused, walk them back to where the perennial was at. They
assumed I worked there until I opened my mouth and the accent was
A dark and silver Persicaria, Chocolate Eupatoria, a HUGE Red Foxx
veronica for cheap cheap cheap......Sunset Echinacea, three kinds of
hosta's and those two hollyhocks. As I stopped where I was at, and went
through the double doors into the main building, towards the grocery
section, I was stopped by customers inquiring about the hollyhocks. I'd
tell them where they were on the end cap and one man loved them so much
he said he was buying his old mama two of each kind! wow.......I was
highly amused at this point and aimed towards the grocery part. Which
was always mind blowing.
I got lost in the grocery for another hour and eventually remembered
Squire was back at the cottage waiting brunch on me and flushing red, I
checked out. Then making my way back thru the nursery, I noticed at the
last minute the largest pot of purple leafed Oxalis I've ever seen and
was glad I'd not spotted it going into the nursery gates. About the
time I packed the plants in the back of the van, my cell phone rang and
it was Squire who had zoned out and was worried about me. I assured him
I was leaving and had had some fun, and made my way back. The fun
I had spent quite a bit of my mad nursery money already, but knew I
wanted to go to the nursery in town where I'd gotten the pink butterfly
bush. More than anything I was determined to replace it while I was
there. I kept having to pay attention as everywhere I looked massive
plantings of colorful annuals and perennials were popping up and
I decided to take the easier route to the cottage and noticed there was
a new light at the corner of the market where I turn, and decided to
stop just to see what they had. My big mistake. There was the pink
butterfly bush I was looking for, in a three gallon pot for less than
what I'd gotten the first one for that was in a one gallon pot! And
there was huge pots of towering pink lilies I had to ignore. And oh
crap, enormous pots of the green Stachys in full blossom loaded with
butterflies and bees enraptured by their flowerings. I grabbed two pots
of the Stachys, and the pot of Pink Delight butterfly bush.
Once again customers started asking me questions as I picked out
perennials, put a few back, decided on others and counted my remaining
mad money. I'd be broke the rest of the visit, but I was too happy with
my found booty to worry at that moment. As I was overwhelmed by the
most incredible baskets and hanging planters I've ever seen, I decided
I'd have to return and try and take pictures to take back and show
Ethyll who loves and adores a good planted basket. These could inspire a
blind person almost. They were that good.
I saw colors of pelargoniums (geraniums) that I've never seen before.
Recognized familiars but they were so lush and full I was humbled. Even
those silly planter socks were lush and full of impatiens and New Guinea
varieties to hang in the sun. Yep, I'd have to return later to just
browse and snap quiet pictures. I resisted the urge to get that pint
jar of Gooseberry jam that I've never tasted yet but long to, and headed
to the car to load up the last load in the crowded back of the van.
Squire would kill me later on. We had to repack that same van to return
in six days............LOL
The drive back to the cottage was spent reflecting on the new streets
and small subdivisions and manicured yards that were bursting with color
of annuals and perennials. And the nursery was just getting sweet
strawberries in, and our crops were finally over and done down in
Tennessee. The largest and sweetest crop that we'd had in awhile, but
still, to see strawberries just coming into season up here was another
I came to the cross-roads and saw the huge blueness of Lake Michigan
just beyond the dune that fooled you into thinking it wasn't so far, and
turned towards the area where the cottage was at. No one was behind me
for a change and I tooled along like a true tourist. I looked at the
growth and noticed ornamental grasses all lush already and looking
downright perfect. Shady perennials at long driveway entrances of
houses that weren't here six years ago, only dunes and huge trees and
woods and ferns before.
The bog and marsh that sits above the entrance of Pigeon Creek was
covered in water lilies and some were already blooming white and yellow
and I noticed that Pickerell weed was also starting to bloom, and
someone had foolishly tossed in some water lettuce. It wouldn't get out
of control, the harsh winter would off it come true winter.
The drive became slower as I searched for the wooded entrance driveway
that led through the bird sanctuary and towards our cottage and the one
beyond that was always named The Cookie Jar. The sign was gone and I
almost missed the turn, and I slowed to a stop and just looked at the
shaded lushness of what lay just past the narrow driveway. The ferns
were growing literally up to the edges and were two feet tall. But past
these, dipping down the drop off and out into the boggy marsh and woods,
the ferns were over four foot tall, and I cursed myself that I'd left my
shovel......rats.....I'd have to come back down the driveway later with
the dogs and see about lifting a few of the smaller ones along the
driveway that were going to be run over or plowed up to regrade the
I was greeted by two hysterical dogs who chastised me for leaving them
at the cottage and they booked off into the beach grass beside the
cottage to chase chipmunks and rabbits and I quickly unloaded the
perennials next to the side of the cottage. I'd take the heat from
Squire once he saw the plants. He was amused and blown away. And I got
that LOOK from him as he got the groceries and took them inside to the
kitchen. He said I was hopeless and hoped I was through with purchases.
Because WHERE WERE WE GOING TO PUT EVERYTHING WHEN WE WENT BACK TO
TENNESSEE??????? He clucked and tsked and gave me grief, and I appeased
him by making a brunch that almost took the wind out of him. The fresh
air off the lake more than made up for my misadventures and he
temporarily forgave me. He had a lot on his mind, and he'd deal with me
when we were ready to return....
The time slipped by way too soon, and I only got one moment to get into
Lake Michigan with the dogs but had some good brisk walking to retrieve
them and make them come back to me. They were so caught up in running
the sea gulls that they just paid me no mind. That and the lake's waves
obscured the sound of my voice quite well, even if they did have dog
ears. (And Smeagol has hound ears and nose!)
I caught myself slipping into a routine that was a bit startling to me,
and I didn't miss the mountains or green hillsides because I was so busy
looking at the surrounding neighborhoods and scenery with gardener's
Now let me tell you about the unexpected bounty at my mother in law's
house. On the second day I went into town with Squire to help him and
his sister by running for some things they needed to do more sorting and
trashing in preparation for sales in the fall. The dogs were entranced
by the new smells of the two story ancient house in town. I was
saddened that mom had never met Sugar or Smeagol. She'd have loved them
both. I slipped the dogs and ran the errands for them, but once I got
back and took the dogs out to the little side yard with the picket fence
that mom had always used to potty her dogs, I almost dropped over.
I knew about the little Japanese maple in the corner, and I also knew
about a great nephew who worked for Zelinka's Nursery who had planted
some blooming shrubs and such in the little postage stamp yard. He had
also re-landscaped the front and despite her passing, it looked quite
nice. My first shock was the tens and tens of volunteer Campanula's
growing in the cracks of the driveway, along the edges of the driveway,
against the house in cracks. Everywhere. Pull one and intact root came
out ready to be planted. wow.
Then there were the hosta's that had been sleeping in November when we'd
come up after Mom passed away. The variegated one beside the gate was
neat, but those HUGE BLUE ONES that were over three foot tall and lush
knocked me over. With a feather. I immediately plotted some way to
procure a shovel somehow. I wasn't going to leave those behind. No
way. The Japanese maple floored me the worst and best. It was just the
last week of June and this maple was begging to be dug up and planted in
a raised tub so it could cascade and be admired. The limbs had grown
two foot and were trailing along the asphalt driveway and thru the
picket fence. I knew there would be no way I could safely transport it
back, despite that I really wanted to, and made vows I'd return and
bring it home and give it a worthy huge pot to reside in in a shady spot
behind the house in Fairy Holler. High enough that she could cascade
and be admired and thrive for years to come. All I could do was stand
and admire and be amazed at how much growth had occurred in such a few
My plots were quick and decisive, I'd return before the fall and bring
two sheets to gently lay the tree and root ball into and carefully wrap
around the tree like a cocoon. I had been tempted to put the tree on
top of the van and take it back, but I knew the drying winds would be
the instant death of it, and knew the heat of the lower states would
prove me out. The temperatures were so cool up here that I actually
wished I'd brought a light jacket with me. And there were no jeans
either, just a long skirt that I kept wearing because my legs and toes
were cold at night with those winds blowing incessantly thru the many
open windows of the cottage.
And like I said, the dogs slept like dead things once settled down. All
the sand and running and playing and the one day they swam in the lake
wore them out enough they slept like babies. Sugar's coat got silky and
shiny and Smeagol leaned up even more. People would think I starved
him. And he discovered he had a new love in his life. My sister in law.
He immediately bonded to her and even tried to get into her car, which
he never does every time she left to return to her motel room.
My wanderings were so fun, observing and checking out corners and yards,
I regretted that we had to leave so suddenly. Seeing all the bike
trails everywhere and the levelness of the town made me almost wish I
lived up there, and rode a bicycle like I used to. Were it not so
expensive to live, it was VERY tempting. And mom's house has no yard to
speak of. I'd go insane for lack of space for all the perennials I
wanted to grow. It's amazing how differently we look at things when we
The visit to the corner market and nursery proved to be fortuitous. I
got there while the main female boss was on lunch and the men were
minding the large nursery and produce market. I asked if I might take
pictures of the many incredible baskets and hanging gardens to take back
to my friend who so loved them. The older gentleman said that ordinarily
his boss wouldn't allow it, but since she was gone, he didn't really
mind. Besides, he remembered me from the first day and how I'd sold a
few pots of perennials. LOL I wound using all my memory taking pictures
of every incredible hanging basket and container garden in the whole
place. MOST impressive plantings and inspirational as well. How I
longed to have just ONE of those deep wine geraniums to take home with
me. Maybe next year. Maybe.
The week slipped past way too quickly for me, and before I knew it, we
were starting to have to think about repacking the van. Now I had to
deal with Squire as we started packing up the things that needed loading
first. I was proud that during this visit, my sister in law discovered
for the first time in 28 years that I am an incredible cook. And that
she liked my whacky sense of humor too. We even ganged up on her
brother once or twice. That was fun. It's been a long time since I've
been able to tease Squire mercilessly and get away with it.
The last day would be a huge brunch with sis coming to the cottage, us
leaving a bit early for the other renters who had the cottage for the
4th of July week. As I cooked up a feast and Squire loaded the van with
things we wouldn't need anymore in the cottage, I actually felt sad
leaving this time. I've always said I'd love to live in that cottage.
But I know it's not heated and only a summer cottage. But with the
many, many new houses, the past problem of being snowed in and stranded
during winter was now no longer a consideration. There were bike trails
on every street. And I also knew the city limits had stretched further
in those six years. I knew this because I heard Squire waxing nostalgic
about how he and his friends used to bike to Holland by themselves which
was quite a ways.
Brunch was a hit. My Southern buttermilk biscuits and sausage and
perfect eggs with hash browns and a Tennessee ripe tomato sliced for
each plate with sweet sweet black cherries which were also starting to
come in at the local nurseries there were on the plates and my sister
started talking about I should have a little Southern cafe to feed
people good Southern foods. LOL Thirty nine years of professional food
service and cooking has taught me that there are those who don't know
how hard and complicated the food industry really can be. It's fun to
cook good hearty food for people who like it, but the problems, and
sheer work and headaches are enough to make you think twice unless
you're really committed and seriously love doing it. I love it, not
enough to consider my own place. Not without help, that is. Now if I
could have the assistance of my youngest son who is an awesome chef and
gourmet/and Cajun cook beside me, then that's another story altogether!
The meal went well, and before we knew it, sis was starting to leave
with Smeagol desperately trying to go with her. He'd broken her heart
too, as she hung back and loved on him and Sugar, and she spotted the
lush first blossoms of the deep pink of the Pink Delight butterfly bush
sitting next to the side of the cottage. I offered to take her back and
help pick out two of them for her yard in Illinois and she jumped at my
offer and as we drove off towards the market and nursery up the road,
dogs hanging out the windows because it was cool enough and sunny that
they were happy to be riding along.
The nursery people greeted me and this amazed my sister in law as it was
apparent that I have this way about me. I never think about it, it's
just who I am. And I've never thought it was anything special, just
part of the character and make up of the ol' madgardener. As we walked
across the parking lot, I used my last picture on a perfect Blue Spruce
that they'd planted only five years ago that were already impressive
sizes. I caught myself thinking how neat it would be to grow impressive
evergreens as bones in my gardens and dismissed it.
Sis wanted the Black Knight and a Pink Delight for her front yard. I
picked out the two best they had and she paid for them. Were it not for
the fact that she had to return to take care of her business, I know
we'd had some great times together. And she threatened to kidnap me
sometime to help plant and landscape her yard in Illinois. I told her
anytime, all she had to do was provide me a couch and a place for the
dogs as I've never seen or visited her house yet in all these years.
These regrets were evident the week we spent together as she expressed
her feelings that time seemed to slip past and before you knew it, it
was over and done. I took that moment to give her my own philosophy of
"life is too short to be in a rush, you gotta slow down and just enjoy
the flowers while you can".
We gave each other some of those great hugs that leave you feeling
happy, I saw a look of sadness that told me the visit was more
successful than I'd thought, and knew she'd visit us in Tennessee now
before time slipped away any further. We made our apologies for having
to part, I knew she had a long drive alone back home and to her business
and clients and we had an even further trip to make with a seriously
packed van and two dogs that were reluctant to leave. It was like having
children. The only thing missing were the wails and pleads to not go
yet, to let them play and swim one more time like my boys had always
done those rare times we were up here. Poignant moments and memories
for me, and regrets that we'd not visited more and made more memories.
And regrets that I'd not dragged the sons up to the cottage to see the
house one last time before it is sold and it's part of a faded memory.
The week had proven more emotional for me than I think Squire and his
sister would have expected. I am like that. I had wandered freely thru
rooms and upstairs where I'd always been denied those years Squire's
Uncle Doug had lived his whole life out. He had been a bachelor and
recluse to some, including me. I'd never had the pleasure ever to meet
him face to face, but had just greeted him once and he fled into the
basement where he and mom used to finish antiques.
The upstairs was a complete two bedroom apartment, with huge rooms
and windows everywhere. He had lived there with his mom until she
passed and then the rest of his life above his sister running his own
construction company. A great stairway and separate entrance as well as
a door with a curtain that obscured the fact that there was a door
leading to the downstairs part of the house. Mom always hated that my
parents had raised me to be curious and poking into things. My parents
taught me to look and touch but always return exactly where it was when
I picked it up, never break it and ask questions if I didn't know. My
mother in law didn't like that I was a "Nosy Nellie" and had told me so
the last time I had visited her up in her house.
It was a good story to relate to my sister in law while we were up
there, and despite her embarrassment and discomfort of how insensitive
her mother had seemed, that wasn't the reason I shared the memory. It
was to make her laugh at mom being so serious with me. And to let her
know that we'd had closure about that very thing before she'd passed
away just weeks before.
The hugs were emotional for me and she waved at me as I climbed back
into the van with the dogs waiting and looking at her as she drove away,
and I went back to the cottage to help John finish packing and to wash
up the dishes and put things back the way they should be for the renters
who would be there Saturday morning. I'd gotten permission from sis to
dig up sedums, and I'd located a short handled shovel in the tool room
off the shower room and had dug up ferns, dug up those awesome three
foot blue hosta's and other smaller hosta's, and decided to resist the
urge to dig up the Japanese maple. The hosta's were so huge they filled
a Force Flex bag and poked out the top. The dogs were going to be
crowded this time. But somehow, John figured out how to tuck ALL the
perennials including the hosta's that were spilling out of the tied top
of the garbage bag. The ferns were the only ones we were brutal to. I
only wanted the rhizomes, and I knew I'd be back in the fall and would
attempt to dig up a huge one to grow again. It would take my mattock to
get it to release it's death grip this time.
Make the bed, close windows, sweep the sand out the door, we sat the
picnic table outside for sister's renters, and the Adirondack chairs,
then check windows again and I asked for one last walk to the top of the
dune above the lake. So dogs and I went back up the driveway and I slid
down the quick sands and sat on the warmth midway and watch as the dogs
took off and ran the gulls and noticed the waves were more noticeable
now, and I longed for a dip into the waters. No time, we had to return
and Squire had to go back to work.
Now I wish I had convinced sons to come with us, but maybe another time.
The cottage DOES have six beds and four bedrooms. And once Labor day
and the Coast Guard Festival is over with, the town rolls up it's
sidewalks and the lake is actually warmer and beaches less crowded,
although my sister in law's beach is a private one and not crowded at
all. With Squire's two best childhood friends just miles away to visit,
we'd have more reasons to return anyway, as well as a great place to
drag unsuspecting grand daughters (well, the oldest one had been, but
she'd only been six) to cavort and have a rousing time.
I called the dogs, and wished I'd had a larger memory chip in the camera
and they came immediately, somehow sensing that they had to really mind
this time and I ran my fingers thru Sugar's coat and got all the sand
out and played with Smeag as I noticed his shorter fur had no problems
with sand and we headed down the driveway to the loaded van. One last
check of everything, leave a light on and lock the main entrance door
and we reluctantly climbed in and drove slowly down the shady and long
driveway and entrance to the back of this dune and woods to the main
road. Listen for approaching cars that come around the sharp curve just
before the driveway, and we were off, back to Tennessee.
Somehow the trip back was quicker than the trip up, and this time there
was no stopping to rest, only to let the dogs squat and fills of coffee.
I'd talked John into letting me snag some stuff from Meijers before we
left. He adore's ham loaf and I also had gotten my favorite spinach and
cheese dip that is out of this world. Sweet cherries from the nurseries
nearby were so cheap I'd gotten enough to last me the whole trip, I only
regretted that blueberry season was a long way off. I can eat my weight
in blueberries! Maybe when we return in the early fall.........if there
are still some left.
We made our way down thru the flatlands and into familar roads and I
didn't sleep this time but once, as the scenery passed by and reminded
me of many trips years past, but without as many stores and buildings as
now. The hills began to appear and the terrain started showing how the
land still dominates no matter how hard we try and build and change it.
We went over the Ohio River and I was once again impressed by Nature at
her best. The hills were beginning to be more noticeable as we went
thru the piece of Kentucky and more sharp sides of hills were returning
and soon I knew by the smells that we were once again in Tennessee.
Although I know that there are many wild flowers along the roadsides
that are the same in Tennessee as there are in Michigan and along the way.
The miles slipped past quickly as we listened to a really good book on
tape and only when we had to stop completely for a huge traffic jam and
accident that had traffic at a complete standstill for over an hour did
we completely stop. Somewhere between here and there, it had been bad
enough that people got out and wandered around and talked to each other
and even relaxed. It had clouded over and a few times the sky had
opened up to rain warm large drops of wonderful smelling rains on
everyone, with only a few who ran for cover to their cars and trucks.
Most everyone laughed or stood enjoying the rains, they weren't pouring
rains, just perfect for a quick and refreshing rinse on the skin.
The familiar mimosa's reminded me we were in warmer climates (no
mimosa's in Michigan) and before I knew it we were close enough that the
dogs actually started acting like they recognized the smells. And once
we got to within 15 miles of home, they DID know and acted like antsy
The heat was back, and the rains were behind us on our heels. I wanted
to get home before the rains did and unload the van. I had also wanted
to get home to check on the condition of my gardens and containers. See
if there were dead fish in the BBQ frog fountain, see if son had killed
off the inside fish, and if he'd cleaned the house like he'd promised
while we were gone for the week. He'd been stranded with no
transportation and had taken his last week of vacation to stay and care
for the felines and my gardens and the fish.
Next time I'll do as I'd always done and take the cats with us. They
hate traveling but adore the cottage and all that sand at their
disposal. The two story cottage is a riot for them, with stairs and
windows to sit in and enough beds for each to claim and snooze on, even
one bed sits in a corner with a window and I remember one of my past
cats who loved that cot against the corner window and always found her
upstairs in HER bed. So taking the cats wouldn't be a problem next time .
I was glad to be coming up the long dead end road and going to the top
of the ridge and seeing those mountains south of us, and we stopped to
get the day's mail from the huge box, let the dogs out in their game
I've taught them of "release the HOUNDS!!!!" where they leap out of the
side van door, tear down the driveway thru Miz Mary's yard nipping at
each other's heels and then stopping only long enough to have a quick
pee. Then chase each other, nipping at hams and back legs and necks and
race around the end of Miz Mary's house past the junk and clutter to the
driveway and down the driveway thru the gates to beat the van in it's
journey to the house. Sugar always runs past, Smeagol loves to walk just
in front of the van (I drive backwards all the way to the house,when I
come home) as I back down to the house, but Squire was driving, so he
walked alongside the van on the edge of the grass and as we came thru
the gate, I noticed the vinca had finally murdered a whole clump of
Zebra grass.........woah! well, we were back in Fairy Holler. Back to
reality. And Southern Summer. And my fairy gardens were exploding
A mad gardener with a mission, I went immediately into the house and
plugged in the camera to unload the pictures onto the computer and then
back out to unload the perennials and plants and call Ethyll. It was a
good trip. I can't wait to have another adventure. Wait until Ethyll
see's what I brought her back from Michigan! I can't wait to see her
Thanks for allowing me to share those precious memories from almost two
months ago. It's been waiting to get out thru my fingertips all this time.
madgardener, up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English
Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36