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October 15, 2005

The Greatest Generation

In my work as the volunteer coordinator at the Minnesota Historical Society, I help to plan a recognition event for our volunteers each year. This year we chose the theme of “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation” as a kick off for the Society’s new project by the same name.

My coworkers and I like to dress up for the party to add a bit of fun for the volunteers. Last year we were lumberjacks; this year we dressed for the occasion by borrowing our fathers’ World War II uniforms and coming as Rosie the Riveter.

Dad was drafted in April 1945 at age 18 and spent a year in Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima. He was discharged in December 1946. He’s the guy in the bottom left hand portion of this photo.

As I wore his jacket during the event, everyone asked me about the different medals and patches along the sleeves and front. I knew that the rifle pin was for completing artillery training and that he had held the rank of staff sergeant in the Corps of Engineers.

Some of the volunteers who had also served during the war filled me in on the other patches, including a brief but heated debate over whether my dad deserved to wear two particular stripes down by the left wrist since he had not actually served for four years. That argument was cleared up when someone recognized that the patches were each for six months spent overseas. I can tell you I was pretty angry that someone was insinuating that my dad was a liar!

The whole thrust of the Society’s Greatest Generations project is to gather the stories of those who were born during the Depression, came of age during WWII and went on to prosper during the boom afterward.

For me that night came the recognition that while I had some information about my parents’ lives during that time, I had better get going to gather more. This particularly came home for my supervisor as well.

Jean’s father was in the Navy, which he chose over the Army because he didn’t want to sleep in a tent! Jean knew that he had served in the South Pacific but had little other information. At some point in recent weeks, she told him about an exhibit of Pulitzer Prinze-wining photographs that was going to be on view at the History Center, including the famous image of the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

“I saw that happen, you know,” he told her. Actually, she didn’t know it and it floored her. Her father had never thought it worth mentioning that he had been aboard a supply ship off the shore of Iwo Jima and that he had cheered when he saw the flag go up.

So get out there and start asking your elderly family members questions about their lives. Write it all down or videotape it so future generations can know about the great events that shaped their lives.

You will be glad you did. Who knows what you could learn?

If you need help to get started, visit the Society’s website for helpful tips at http://www.mnhs.org/people/mngg/stories/index.htm

A Few of My Favorite Tools

While Julie Andrews had long woolen mittens, snowflakes on eyelashes and schnitzel with noodles, I have my favorite spade, secateurs and gloves. View the videocast below as I dramatize my favorite tools for you!

A Through the Garden Gate Web Cam Moment:
:: Tools, Tools, Tools! :: View the videocast below as I dramatize my favorite tools for you.
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Click photo or HERE to view the video

You can also view me in the following videocast as I walk you through my prairie garden:

Get Off your Asters

I tried something new this year by cutting back my asters in two successive efforts. At the end of June, I cut some of them back by a half to a third. Two weeks later, I cut back the others. This was to prevent them from getting so leggy, produce a fuller shape and get more blooms.

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While the plants were certainly less leggy, I don’t think the blooms were increased, particularly not on the hot pink “Alma Pottschke” asters to the left of this photo.

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While the results are mixed, I will probably do this again next year, if only to avoid staking the plants.

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: “A String in the Harp” by Nancy Bond, a teen novel set in Wales.

Next in the queue: “Pardonable Lies” by Jacqueline Winspear. The latest in the Maisie Dobbs series about a young female British detective following WWI.

Listening to: “The Serpent’s Tale” by Sue Henry about a middle aged woman solving her friend’s murder.

Graham’s current favorite: Any “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoon book. Graham has found his new anti-hero!

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Calendula
“My Favorite” mum – lavender, red and coral
Rose
Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Nasturtium “Peach Melba” and others
Asters
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Sedum

Garden Chores for the Week

Repot the amaryllis.

Start cutting back the dead stuff.

Vegetable Garden

Tomatoes are still trying to ripen on the vine.

Today’s Grahamism

“Do you think I will ever die?” What makes you ask that, Graham? “Well, what if a bad man shot me in the arm?” Then we’d take you to the doctor.

Which was immediately followed by, “Do you know what my favorite number is? It’s 15 because if you take away the 1, you have 5 and I’m 5.”

“All leaves are green because they have chlorophyll, you know.”

“I had a bad dream last night. A meteor landed on earth and it was filled with dinosaurs. They came into our house and wanted to sleep in our beds. George Washington came and he was really mad at them. All of a sudden, the dinosaurs did something that made them go back into the meteor, and they returned to the asteroid belt. What did you dream about last night?”

Posted by maasx003 at 6:29 PM

October 9, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy

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We have been running like crazy the last few weeks, and there’s been no time to write. Any free time has been spent in the garden planting bulbs.

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Saturday evening, however, we enjoyed one of our last bonfires of the season. We toasted some marshmallows, listened to tunes and watched for the first stars of the evening. When Graham had had his fill of outside time, the two guys went inside to watch a Transformer movie while I stayed out to watch the fire die down.

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I grabbed a book and curled up on the willow couch in front of the fire, relishing a bit of time to myself. It was a lovely night – brisk with the hint of the cold to come. Finally, around 9 p.m., I went in myself, knowing that Graham would be ready for bed soon.

I fell asleep on Graham’s bed and woke up around 5:30 a.m., still in my jeans and fleece pull over and still smelling like smoke. If it didn’t bother him, it didn’t bother me either, and I went back to sleep.

It was a quiet evening, but just what we all needed. Somehow, amidst our busy schedules of work, obligations, play dates and lessons, quiet moments can happen, if we let them.

Big on Bulbs

Between this weekend and last, I have dug in nearly 500 bulbs, and I have more than 100 left. When we look at the bulb catalogs each summer, we are bedazzled by what we see and forget how much work it is to put the bulbs in.

We think, “Oh, let’s put 200 daffodils in that bed to add spring color,” forgetting that means digging 200 holes to put each bulbs into. But come spring we’ll have forgotten the repetitive stress injuries in our wrists, the sore spots in the palms of our hands from the pressure of the trowel and the cold and tired knees as we behold a sea of cheerful yellow faces.

And it will all be worth it.

Videocast Two: Watch My Tips on Planting Bulbs

Other Tips to Consider When Planting/Purchasing Bulbs

Plant in masses. Make a statement by planting at least 100 or 200 bulbs in a bed.

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If you are planting daffodils, clump them in groups of 3, 5, 7 or 9 randomly around your bed to make them look natural. Tulips are more formal so they can be planted out in rows.

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Buy bulbs from a reputable firm. We purchase most of our bulbs from White Flower Farm.

Daffodils give you more for your money as they come back year after year and form large clumps. And deer leave them alone. Tulips make a lovely show the first year or two and then they peter out. That works, too, if you’re willing to consider them as annuals and dig them up and replace them every year.

Don’t forget less common bulbs such as snowdrops, fritallaria, allium or even smaller, species tulips which naturalize. My snowdrops typically begin blooming in mid-March, long before anything else is blooming.

Say it Ain’t So

This weekend I received my first seed catalog from Thompson & Morgan. This is like receiving a Christmas catalog in mid-July. I haven’t even put this garden put to bed yet, and somebody wants me to plan my garden for next year? Sheesh!

Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov!

A few weeks ago, I attended the wedding of my friend Dvora. She had started as a student volunteer with the Minnesota Historical Society when she was 14, went off to study in England after high school graduation and stayed in touch as she pursued her college education.

This summer, a matchmaker found her a partner in a young man named Mendel from Brooklyn, and the wedding was set for a few months following.

This was my first Jewish wedding, let alone a Hasidic one, and I was fascinated by the ceremony and celebrations that are so different from a traditional Christian one.

When my co-worker Wendy and I arrived at Landmark Center in St. Paul, we paid our respects to Dvora and her mother Chana. The bridal couple is treated as a king and queen on their wedding day, and Dvora was, indeed, seated on dais above everyone who approached her. She looked so lovely and happy.

Only the women were in attendance but soon Mendel and the men arrived. The women were asked to move to the left side of the room as the men took over the right-hand side. Mendel veiled Dvora, and then everyone left her and her parents alone for some time together.

The guests trickled down to Rice Park where the chuppa was waiting. Eventually, Dvora was led to the area by her parents, and she circled Mendel seven times underneath the chuppa. Then began the ceremony with blessings from many rabbis.

Following the service, Dvora and Mendel went off to have their first meal together as a married couple and to break the fast they had maintained all day. Wendy and I returned to Landmark Center to find our dinner table, seated with the other women. The tables for the men and women were separated by a large fabric wall.

Soon after we finished our salads, Mendel and Dvora appeared, and Mendel was spirited to his side of the room. The dancing began, lead by an amazing pianist on an electric keyboard who kept the room rocking.

Dvora was quickly encircled by concentric rings of women of all ages. As she would choose someone to dance with individually, the rings would break and reform with the movement never stopping. I thought, “This is how women have been dancing and celebrating for thousands of years.”

Because of the dividing curtain, we couldn’t see how the men were dancing, but at one point, the curtain parted somehow. I saw men on each others’ shoulders, dancing as we were.

Eventually the dancing stopped, and dinner was served. Our table was filled with interesting women who provided me with explanations for some of the rituals I didn’t understand.

And then the dancing began again and seemed determined to go on all night. Wendy and I managed another dance with Dvora before we made our good byes and headed home. It was well past 10 p.m. on a Monday night, and we had to go to work the next morning.

Attending this wedding was an event I am unlikely to experience again. It gave me insight into Dvora’s world and allowed me to experience her values and beliefs in way I hadn’t imagined.

The overall feeling I came away with was the joy that was felt by everyone dancing, and the modesty and dignity of those around me. I’ve been to some wedding receptions that have left me feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed by the behavior of the wedding party and guests.

At Dvora’s reception, there was no silly chicken dance, no raunchy garter fling or demeaning groping of the bride and her attendants by a blind folded groom. And there certainly wasn’t the impending feeling of doom in wondering who the drunken bridesmaid would go home with that night.

There was none of that icky stuff that night – just dignity and joy.

May Dvora and Mendel have a long and joyful life together.

Mazel Tov!

What I’m Reading

Just finished: “Locked Rooms” by Laurie R. King. The long-awaited sequel in the Mary Russell series. A pleasure, as always.

In the middle of: a shlocky romance I’m too embarrassed to even mention. Everybody needs a little brain candy now and then, right?

Next in the queue: “Pardonable Lies” by Jacqueline Winspear. The latest in the Maisie Dobbs series about a young female British detective following WWI.

Listening to: “Cuba,” an anthology of spicy Latin music.

Graham’s current favorite: “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog” by Mo Willems. If you are lucky, some day maybe you can hear him read it to you, acting out all the parts. It’s a stitch.

The Mystery Plant

Last week’s plant was an “Alaska” Nasturtium blossom. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

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Calendula
Sunflowers
“My Favorite” mum – lavender, red and coral
Rose

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Comfrey
Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Nasturtium “Peach Melba” and others
Asters
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Sedum
Zinnia

Garden Chores for the Week

Finish planting bulbs.

Repot the amaryllis.

Vegetable Garden

We missed the big frost so even though I brought in any reddish tomatoes, there are still more on the vine.

Today’s Grahamism

Following Pont’s return home from the vet following his “snip snip”, “I’m going to give Pont a kiss to help him feel better.”

Sunday Dance Practice

Each Sunday my husband (when he is free) transports Graham to St. Paul for dance practice. This gives me a bit of peace and time to work in the garden. Here is what it looks like at Graham's practice:

Note: You can see all my videocasts at my Moblog site.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:42 PM