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FINALLY, it’s time to plant. I have spring fever. I want to dig in the dirt. And fill baskets with color and fragrance. But, I need to do research. I’ve used the same arrangements too long.

Baskets and beds are serious business.

In my neck of the woods, women aren’t judged by the size of their diamonds. Dresses don’t come off of racks, let alone from a designer. But, that doesn’t mean women here lead lives that are stark and without creative expression. 

Take a drive down Indiana country roads. You’ll see.

You can’t miss the pure joy expressed by chubby hand-raised calves and lambs romping together in fields. Or that of  the smiling, sparkley eyed, rosy-cheeked children outside trying to catch their pony. Or through their mother’s arrangement of pink tulips, purple phlox and blue silva intemingled with silver rocks.

It is a life I am privileged to be a part of.

I’ve been reading about new flower varieties too. Imagine petunias that don’t need deadheading or water. Or petunias that will trail for 3 feet and not be bothered by wind. I want to incorporate them in every basket.

Fortunately,  Country Garden Greenhouse’s Mennonite design team has been helpfully coming up with ideas for my arrangements.

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One of my favorite places to hang out.

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Hanging basket 1 is a spike, white lanai verbena, red calibrachoa superbells, lanai blue verbena, yellow calibrachoa (million bells).

Lanai Verbena: Lanai verbena is simply the best trailing verbena on the market today. This improved series exhibits dark green, large broad leaves with a trailing habit of up to 3 feet! Lanai verbena is drought and heat tolerant, and thrives in full, hot sun. Plants in baskets and containers also hold up very well in windy conditions.

Superbells: This new line of hybrid Calibrachoa takes an old favorite to a new level. Developed and selected for their large flowers, their resistance to Thielaviopsis, and their strong summer performance, these Calibrachoa are truly Superbells. Deadheading is not necessary. The plants are heat tolerant. They attract hummingbirds.

Millon Bells: A Calibrachoa, these plants are prolific bloomers that produce hundreds of 1” wide flowers from spring to frost. Flower colors include shades of violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, yellow, bronze, and white.

dsc02107.JPG Hanging basket 2: has a double rose begonia, a tri colored sweet potato vine, a geranium and opal innocence nemesia.

Opal Innocence Nemesia:  Abundant opalescent tri-colored flowers with a strong scent! (They smell heavenly…think lily-of-the-valley or lilac) Nemesia, the mauve pink plant shown, requires no deadheading and thrives in full sun or partial shade. It will bloom all season if fed and watered regularly.

Double Rose Begonia: Take care not to overwater. Water early in the day, water deep and water less frequently. 

Tri colored sweet potato vine: This ornamental plant provides color and interest like no other plant. They are grown for their distinctive foliage and vigorous growth habit.

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Ornamental container 3 has failproof plants, a spike, pink geraniums, asparagus fern, and vinca vines. These are perfect for my climate and will survive the care of someone like me, who waits for wilting to watering.

Vinca: Vinca or Periwinkle is a prolific heat and drought tolerant annual, perfect for hot, dry areas. It’s easy to grow, and requires little or no attention. A grower once reported that he has grown Vinca in the same location for 30 years. (I can vouch for vinca’s ability to come back on it’s own. I have some that came up unwanted and it prolifically reproduces and reproduces. It’s like a weed it is so prolific and sturdy.)

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Purple fountain grass are in the center. Around the edge are white and purple velvet nemesias. The red flowers in front are red lanai verbena.

Purple Fountain Grass: The flower heads progress from dark ruby red, through shades of pink, to buff as they mature. They are produced in constant succession so all stages are present throughout the flowering season. It makes a great center piece in a container. It is a vigorous grower that will quickly fill in any bed or container. The foxtail like plumes will appear mid summer and last until first frost.

Red Lanai Verbena:  The Verbena Lanai series is free flowering from tip to crown with flowers that are clustered in a ball providing a carpet of color. Lanai verbena is simply the best trailing verbena on the market today. This improved series exhibits dark green, large broad leaves, with a trailing habit of up to 3 feet! Lanai verbena is drought and heat tolerant, and thrives in full, hot sun.

White and Purple Velvet Nemesias have an appealing fragrance and make an excellent choice for early spring color and sales. Ideal for small pots and color accents.Upright and compact. Use in 4-6” pots and combos.

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One of many greenhouses.

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Waiting for mom.

Sigh….I’m only getting started. There is so much more to do… But the work is such a pleasure. To be continued…

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Spring plowing.

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We have wild ducks living in our woods. I hope that means baby ducks!!!

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We’re going to have to take our walks in other directions. I want the ducks to stay.

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Why did the ducks cross the road?

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To get to the pond on the other side.

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Tadpoles. I hope they eat EVERY single mosquito larvae.

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Mama, baby and LOTS of spring grass.

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Spring violets.

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I am not sure what kind of flower this is. We have a lot of them.

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There is a possum has living in the old graundhog hole. Buster and Abby are thrilled.

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Kitty is as happy for sunshine as I am.

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The owl is waiting. He has his prey in sight.

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The raccoon dares not move.

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He cowers…motionless between the branches.

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There’s a life and death drama going on in our treetops. Do you see it?

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I’ve circled the owl and raccoon to make them easier to find.

I know owls eat mice. I didn’t know they hunted raccoons. But, there’s no mistaking the owl’s intentions.

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His eyes are glued on the raccoon.

I’m hoping this owl has overreached and that his eyes are bigger than his hunting ability.

He’s a Barred Owl. Only, I probably should have said she. According to this Barred Owl site, the females are larger. Of all of the North American owls, the Barred Owl is the species most likely to be active during the day, especially when raising chicks. The chicks leave their nests at 4 weeks, before they are able to fly. They crawl out of the nest using their beak and talons to sit on branches. These owls are called branchers.

Parents care for the young for at least 4 months, much longer than most other owls. Young tend to disperse very short distances, usually less than 6 miles, before settling. Pairs mate for life and territories and nest sites are maintained for many years.

UPDATE: Today we walked the trails and looked everywhere. NO RACCOON FUR.

 More about Barred Owls:Barred Owls (Strix Varia)

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From: <beras@streamyx.com>
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 12:52 PM
 Subject: CONTACT TEL+44 70457 90420
 

 Dear Winner

 We are delighted to inform you that your EMAIL account has won you 
£900,000.00 GBP from the Free Lotto program held in
London.You are to contact the claims agent with the following:

Contact: MR.LEE JOSE
Email:mr.leejose009@yahoo.co.uk

 TEL+44 70457 90420

 Ref No: MELI-T/ 17-F044262312
 Batch No:901/00319/HLP
 Zonal Draw No: GMLA2-003
 Grand Draw No: 12099

 1. Full Names: 2. Address: 3. Age: 4. Sex:
 5. Marital Status: 6. Occupation: 7. Phone numbers:
 8. Fax number: 9. Country:
 

 Yours Faithfully,
 Mr.Brian Hunt.

To: <mr.leejose009@yahoo.co.uk>
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 1:56 PM
Subject: Re: CONTACT TEL+44 70457 90420

I am so excited that I have won your lottery AGAIN!!!!  This makes over $22,000,000.00 that I’ve won just this month alone. I am currently building a house (23,700 sq. ft.) in the Bahamas right on my own private beach with some of my newest winnings from the U.K. Lottery, and it doesn’t have a specific address yet as I have bought almost all of the smiall island that it’s on.

As soon as I can get a good address assigned to my property, I will be contacting you as to where my new bank accounts are located. I bought into a small Bank in Luxembourg with some of my previous winnings, but the Directors there won’t let me transfer any of my funds into it,
until the various Lottery accounts that I have won are cleared through Interpol for some obscure reason.

Please forward all of your pertinent information so that I might be able to start this process and claim my winnings!!!   Thank you so much, and I am looking forward to hearing from you.  God Bless.

Sincerely,

D.H.

Gosh, think we’ll hear from them soon?

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Tornado Warning Siren

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On vacation
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On vacation 2
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Marathon Gas Station and Convenience Store Sign
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1″ thick steel on bottom of Marathon sign bent from the tornado.
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Marathon Service Station
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Marathon Service Station 2
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Closeup of all that is left of the Marathon Station’s convenience store.
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House and bulldozer
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Rubble
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Taco Bell
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Taco Bell 2

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Lawn and Garden store with Wizard of Oz truck over former Nappanee citizen. (Actually, it’s a man changing his tire.)

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Rubble

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Utility workers haven’t had a day off since the tornado.

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Human Resource Services

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The petunias in front of the Lawn and Garden Store in the “Lawn Boy Flower Box” not only survived the storm but sprang back up.

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Fairmont Homes

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Fairmont Homes 2

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Fairmont Homes 3

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Fairmont Homes 4

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Fairmont Homes 5

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Fairmont Homes 6

From Tuesday, October 23, 2007 headlines:

Kevin Yoder is one of many who lost his home. He also lost his business, barn, and many of his animals in the tornado. Monday morning, about 75 people showed up to start the rebuilding process.

Church’s insurance company says the building is not salvageable, and will have to be torn down

Nappanee seeks Federal Aid after 199 homes and 53 businesses either damaged or destroyed

From Wednesday, October 24, 2007 headlines:

Amish-Mennonite Community pulls together to help storm victims rebuild.

Volunteers turned away in Nappanee.

Nappanee residents get help finding employment.

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Sour dough pancakes with sausage and hot real maple syrup.

It is cold today…40 degrees, with wind and rain.

But, I’m ready. My  sour dough starter has been upstairs by the radiator for 48 hours. It’s yeasty and bubbling and fermenting and smells pleasantly alchoholic. It is a family tradition too. I got the starter that is starting my starter from my mother who has been making the recipe since 1988.

This morning I used some of it and surprised my husband with sour dough pancakes. He loved them. They were light and tasted as good as I had hoped. Which inspired me to dig through my recipe drawer to find recipes for sour dough biscuits, cakes and bread.

The weather is miserable. But, I’m happily inside, wallowing in domesticity. I’m encasing my favorite recipes and some I want to try in plastic and organizing them in a 3-ring binder. I’ve made up menus. I’ve done a grocery list.

Meanwhile, my sour dough ferments and gets better. It will last for as long as I keep feeding it.

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When your starter is ready it should be bubbly and have a pleasant yet slightly sour aroma.

MOM’ SIMPLE SOUR DOUGH STARTER
(Can be left unattended for 3 weeks, no problem.)

1 pkg. dry yeast

2 cups warm water

2 cups flour.

Mix flour and yeast in 1 1/2 qt. container (glass or earthenware). Use wooden spoon. Add water. Cover with cheesecloth or towel. Leave in warm room for 48 hours. Stir 2 to 3 times. It will ferment, bubble and accquire a slightly sour smell. Makes 3 cups. Refrigerate. To use, stir then pour off as much as the recipe requires. Then add equal parts of flour and water to the remaining starter in the pot. Stir & let stand a few hrs. until it bubbles again before covering and refrigerating.

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Part of the batter is mixed and set out the night before you want to have sour dough pancakes.

MOM’S OLD-TIME SOUR DOUGH PANCAKES

1 cup starter

2 cups flour

enough warm water to make batter

Make batter using the starter, flour and warm water. Set in warm place until morning. In the morning, stir up the batter a little. Not too much.

While the griddle is heating add:

1/4 cup dry skim milk

1 to 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. sugar

1/3 cup melted shortening

2 eggs beaten

Dissolve 1 tsp. baking soda in a little warm water and add just before spooning batter onto griddle.

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Turn your pancake over when the top is covered with bubbles. This pancake is just starting to bubble.

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The bottom of the pancake browns quickly. Keep a close eye.

MOM’S QUICK SOURDOUGH BREAD

1 tsp dry yeast

3 tbsp. warm water

2 cups starter

3 tbsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. non-fat milk powder

2 tbsp. shortening or vegetable oil

3-4 cups flour

Generously grease a 9×5 loaf pan, set aside. In small bowl sprinkle yeast over warm water. Set aside to soften – 5 minutes.

In large bowl combine yeast mixture, starter, sugar, salt, milk powder & shortening or oil. Beat until blended. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a medium stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough for 8 – 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if needed. Shape into loaf and place in prepared pan. Cover with cloth and set in a warm place free from drafts. Let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until double in size.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake 50 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped with your fingers. If after 30 minutes loaf is golden brown, cover with a tent of foil to prevent further browning. Turn out of pan. Cool on a rack.

MOM’S SOURDOUGH BISCUITS

1 1/2 cups flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. shortening

1 cup starter

Mix dry ingredients – cut in shortening. Stir in starter & knead 20 times on floured board. Roll 1/2″ thick and cut with biscuit cutter. Place on floured cookie sheet and let rise until double. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

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I made these this morning. Most of them are gone already.

MY BLUEBERRY SOURDOUGH MUFFINS

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 oil

1 cup sourdough starter

1 cup white or whole-wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 425.

 Combine dry ingredients in small bowl. Stir in blueberries. Combine wet ingredients in a larger bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ones. (I sprinkled a little sugar and cinnamon on top of my muffins)

Mix quickly and spoon into greased and floured muffin tin.

Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes.  

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I couldn’t believe what DH was asking me to do.

We were touring 38-room Oliver Mansion, Copshalom, (http://www.memoriesinmotion.net/south_bend.htm).  And, as we were being shown the gardens, DH had picked seeds from a tree. Then he wanted me to stuff them in my purse. Right in front of everyone.

“Nooooo…..they aren’t going to grow, anyway. You can’t start trees from seeds,” I whispered, giving DH “the look“.

Only one of them did.autumns-visit-006.jpg
These days, Quince trees are few and far between. Before touring the Oliver mansion, I had never heard of a Quince tree.

However, the seed that I had grudgingly put in my purse, the same seed DH carefully planted and nurtured, is thriving.

As it ages our Quince tree will develop a bark similar to that of some crepe myrtle trees. Its fruit will be knobby, mottled, hard and bitter, but so fragrant that in ancient times the fruit was used to perfume rooms, much as we use air fresheners today. It is easily transformed into excellent jams, jellies and preserves.

More about Quince trees: http://msucares.com/lawn/garden/msgardens/02/021202.html