Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Old Man

The most faithful sports fan in our house has called it a day. Not untimely, not premature; he's spent 5 hours on the road and the rest on his feet pushing carts. Tomorrow will be both more physical and more nerve wracking, culminating in the delivery of thousands of dollars of impatiens, ferns, begonias, etc. in rented trucks with friends and family filling in and helping out. A very early morning, but no rest or respite following. Its the heat of the season and we can rest, not when it rains, not on a holiday, but when the orders stop coming.

Certainly can't rest on a birthday, not when it comes on April 21.

But your wife can steal a few moments from sleep to brag on your birthday. Heck, its the only present you're likely to see til I get farther than Casey's!

Happy birthday to the man who reads more than anyone else I know. Whose reading material comprises lots of words forgettable and frivolous, but also tomes by dead white economists and philosophers. His favorite gadget is the i phone; it tunes itself to the National Review Corner. But he's no techie; nothing electronic escapes an occasional cussing when it refuses to listen to human reasoning.

Obstinate appliances or vehicles, from electrical boxes to combine belts, from heat sensors to water pumps, on the other hand, have largely been mastered through thirty plus years of experience and intuition. Carpentry, too, has progressed from our first homemade greenhouse of untreated lumber and chipboard to the sturdy AND beautiful bookcase and wine rack inside our house and the porch railing built to "take us out" on the exterior. The first three way switch he wired blew the fuse; the toilet installed in the 1986 addition to the house filled with hot water (oooh so toasty, but not cheap!). Our newest greenhouses might not exceed code in a union urban setting, but neat and tidy conduit carries power and any plumbing job is cake if it involves plastic pipe.

This is the man who tolerated a house full of plants, indulged a hobby, had ambition and imagination enough to push it toward a business, energy to work all those nights, weekends and summer afternoons building greenhouses and, to top it all off, the confidence to say, 'I want red tuberous begonias planted in that garden.'

It wasn't just luck that launched the writing sideline. Instead it took countless sheets of yellow legal paper and more than a few unanswered cover letters. Its just not that easy for a farmer to crack the journalism scene. Good pieces disappeared into the ether, while some little pieces just off the cuff made print.

Over and above every other earthly priority is love and loyalty to family. Whether telling tales of his grandfather's life on the farm or reading Richard Scarry for the dozenth time to his own grandkids, we enjoy the blessings and proximity of lots of relatives. Work and play are inextricably intertwined; we are a couple who spend lots of time together and wouldn't have it any other way. If we are on a plane, its an adventure; if we're on our porch, its respite; if we're in the truck or the combine, its a chance to catch up on political events or listen to our teams.

Time to watch the weather; the ball game has unraveled. Tomorrow is donut day at Casey's; today Blake brought me a cherry mocha as a morale booster. But tonight its time to rest a little, put some new pictures on the digital frame and let the grandpa sleeping on the couch know he may be older, but he's still getting better.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Its Time for a Visitation

On your mark....get set.....go!
That's the third week of April at the greenhouse. Not every year, but this year's coincidental perfect weather for gardening and specific delivery dates are getting ready to cause an eruption like the Iceland volcano out at Deadman's Hollow. Before the week is out, the beautiful orderly rows of neatly marching flats and tags, the swept out office and the full benches, will yield to gaps, holes in inventory, carts willy nilly, a virtual tornado of lists, an answering machine on tilt and finally, the longest two days of the spring. In there somewhere, Blake will have a birthday. All before May Day.
We primed as best we could today. The first of several fund raiser orders is on the truck in our driveway. About 250 flats that Lee and I racked up this afternoon while Ryan was in Norfolk and Columbus and Blake made two drops in Nebraska City with Gabe and Abbie. Cool enough today that we were able to pick up an order instead of lurching from wilt to wilt. Needed another order to have a start on the morning, but no phone call and one fax and we are behind instead of ahead.
It was nice to see that big space open up in one of the boom bays..first open area for nearly a month. Just a start. Tomorrow evening we'll pick up the City of Overland Park's order; a week ahead, but the plants defied the winter's dark afternoons and grew happily ahead of schedule. Late in the day, its nice to pick up an order that requires no creativity, no decisions, and barely any counting! No "if I send this flat to these folks, I won't have this plant for someone later this week that I KNOW will want it". Nope, these flowers will be headed south and I know we planted an extra of every one of them. The challenge will be to keep low and duck under the baskets in short #14.
Tuesday is Williams Nursery day. I've lost track of how many years we've picked up one, maybe two, trailers full of plants for the Williams' of Malvern. They are good customers but its never an easy order...instead of 10 of this flower or the ever popular 100 flats assorted, their order is one per variety of several hundred flowers. It makes a beautiful patchwork on the greenhouse floor, but is highly labor intensive to put down and pick up. Compensation? A check at the end of the evening and all the help they have on hand. Like the Hursts, the Williams' have never been shy about enlisting the family when crunch time arrives. The last several years, Ryan has stopped by McDonald's on his way home and purchased a whole bag of cheeseburgers and fries. As the sun sets on Hurst Greenery, we feast on cold cheeseburgers and beer and notch one hurdle down.
Now its Monday night...............what an incredibly long day! A rare beauty meteorlogically, with high sunshine, calm winds and moderate temperatures. Thanks be, because we didn't take time to put all hands on deck with water wands in hand. For the gals, it was a day for tidying up, mopping up some partial trays, planting a short crop of 606s for mid May and sticking little 4" cuttings into bigger dirt for later May gardeners. What we always can't sell 'em if they're not planted
Picking lots of pretty baskets...we bought some 'Confetti' plugs from Dummen. These are one of the "hot new things" with several companies offering big plugs with 3 different cuttings together. Someone calls them 'multi cut' plugs. Ugh. Who thought that sounded irresistible tripping off the horticultural tongue? Dummen's 'Confetti' brand, with the fun and colorful tags has yielded rounded full baskets with clear Crayon marker colors. They aren't cheap, but I am sure there is a labor saving in planting and, thus far, no losers. They are so pretty, I can't imagine there will be any left for me to test over the course of the summer. And for those who miss out; never fear, I couldn't resist buying some for summer pots/baskets.
We had a giant elaborate itinerary for tomorrow; but, per usual, it possessed a giant flaw. So, back to my favorite...winging it. My motto for this week: Scarlet's from 'Gone with the Wind'..."I'll worry about that Tomorrow." Have to admit, coming home to my quiet house in the dark tonight, that Spruce as refuge and talisman didn't seem too farfetched.

So, where shall we go tomorrow? The answering machine's evil red eye blinked incessantly today. I filed that away under, "first things first" and we plowed forward filling the racks for Overland Park from the muddy back of #9 and the darkening muddy back of #14. Gabe poured a bottled water down his front and Lee stripped him down to skivvies. Abbie counted and we all sang "Take Me out to the BAll Game." I tried to multi task by loading an order and running the boom in the one bay of the big house where it will presumably run unsupervised. Silly me...the hose stretched too thin and the boom stalled at the south end. Never mind; time's wasting; and I chanted my mantra as I shut the thing down: "Nothing will die before tomorrow."
Our choices? Who needs to stock their racks? Customers in Olathe, Lee's Summit, St.Joseph, Red Oak, Ankeny (IA), Lincoln, Omaha, Lawrence, Shenandoah, Tarkio. Can't get there, all those theres, tomorrow. Especially not and make it back to Deadman's to be loaded for Williams'.
We come to a tentative arrangement over a 3 egg omelet and a pre emptive glass of Bordeaux. I tell Blake: 'We haven't made it yet, so here's in case we don't.'

We can make a full schedule on Wednesday, but Thursday everything changes. Except for maintenance, i.e. watering, all hands are on deck to load Visitation's red, white, pink, violet, orange impatiens, red, white pink begonias, dusty miller, portulaca, red, white, blue salvia, verbena, red, white pink vinca, geraniums, sun ,shade and fern baskets, cosmos and zinnias. Whew!! The whole process is as intricately choreographed as a ballet: guys are chaffeured to the Penske rental truck place. Gals shelve the tall carts and decipher the loading order. Lee and Ann are crosses between sergeant majors and air traffic control. I am the proverbial finder of lost things....where is that perennial for the Garden shop? Which baskets combos are sun? Which are shade? Like the animals on the Ark, the baskets line up two by two. Except for the ferns. Trimmed and tailored for going to church, they are shelved on carts, ten per shelf. The carts sit in the driveways, looking like Cousin Its.

The first year, we finished around four. Matt brought Bluffs food over and we celebrated the accomplishment. Two years ago, we were still struggling to finish the last trucks way past dark. Nightmare, literally. Last year, we put as much work into Wednesday as we could....dead heading the geraniums and putting the handles on the little carriers; racking up the perennials. We pray for dry weather; we pray for overcast; we pray for gentle breezes. We pray the Visitation ladies pray for a beautiful day for their sale!

On Friday morning, long before the cock crows, long before Lee's dogs expect company, Ryan makes the turn around the driveway and starts the rumbling diesels. Lee makes coffee and groggy drivers arrive for a cup and a doughnut about 4 a.m. We divvy the trucks; I'll ride down with Blake, I hope, and be spared the anxiety of picking a parking spot in the school's confining driveway. While the school parent's in their tailored khakis and golf caps meet us with clipboards, the burly farmers of our bunch will chaperone the top heavy sodden carts of color down the lift gates. The parking area will be transformed into a Tournament of Roses palette of bloom. With lots of hands and lots of counting, the flowers for the Garden Shop and the main sale flats will all be in place by school time. The carts will be reloaded and we truckers will head north to a well earned Starbucks....

...and the next load of plants to Omaha, Lincoln, Red Oak, Maryville, Kansas City. After all, it is still just the third week of April!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The subtitle was "think twice," but I don't think anyone did..

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The Scales of the Food Debate

Remember the Lyle Lovett song? The tag line is: " and that was her...first mistake." We're back from new York, back from debating with the audience and the other side on the subject of organic food and commercial food production. I've been mulling the events and everyone's reactions over all day as I went about my daily dirty tasks of flower production and thought I should write some of my thoughts down before they disappear into the closet of memory like Blake's suit bag will for several months.

Back to the first mistake. It wasn't underestimating the arguments or passion of the other side. We're well acquainted with the single-mindedness of those who denigrate our current food system. But we were not prepared for some of the tactics of the debate: the initial barrage of accusations without regard to accuracy or coherency or courtesy. Lesson one from the debate: if enough s*** is thrown, some of it will stick. You can't get everything answered at once; you cannot refute every clause, every charge, every fib, every out and out untruth. You can when you write, but there is no time to defend from every side during a debate. Something will stick and something will raise doubts about your position or resonate with the audience.
Lesson two is a corollary of number one: if you aren't on offense, you can't win. Once the other side brings up "poop ponds the size of a Great Lake" and accuses you and your ilk of "raping the land" and "living by subsidies" and other niceties having to do with your purportedly nasty relationship with Monsanto and willynilly application of all kinds of poisons to your biological and genetically modified monstrosities, its real difficult to get back on the audiences good side with scientific facts, figures and the truth of how you live and run your business. Trust me on that one.
But the very most disturbing impression I got from the audience and other presenters was their complete and utter disregard for their fellow humans, all preaching aside. Because their purported regard for safe and healthy and tasty food for all, but especially kids, stopped very short of a desire for the quantity of food it does and will take to feed our world. My impression of their philosophy was that "quality" was all; who cares if food becomes unaffordable for our overseas customers because of the processes involved with obtaining "organic" food. Who cares if we forego meat because livestock feed becomes too expensive; who cares if only a certain part of our well to do population has meat and vegetables and fresh fruit in their daily diet? Who cares if the Midwest washes and blows east and south because "tillage" is chem-free? Or if every ear has an earworm or the Midwestern fruit (local you know) business tanks.
Because lesson three I learned was to distinguish between the "process" of growing food, and the "product" that results. What is the environmental balance sheet on "organic" food production vs. our conventional methods? Doesn't commercial agriculture have quite an impressive record of decreasing inputs per bushel of grain? Is this not a case of less meaning more for all involved? What science decrees the superiority of an organic ear of corn? Are we talking "means" here, or should we really focus on the bottom line, the "ends". If "means" or "process" is how we determine the efficacy of organic production and all we have to do to raise religious food is follow certain rules, then the organic folks still need to prove the whole shebang isn't mumbo-jumbo with the shaman blowing smoke over the harvest to make it pure. We can measure the difference between the end results of our labor:bushels, erosion, yield per acre. And yes, the purity of our water, our skies, our meat, milk and produce.
What we didn't get across there in New York was the extent to which we "know" our land, our work, our weather. How very tied we are to all these; how we are in farming and agriculture and family and community for the longest of hauls. How we stay in our place for generations, so that we watch our babies grow to adults and then, God willing, we get to watch our grandbabies be born and grow up in that same dirt, with that same water under that same sky. We know our ruts, our mud roads, our wet spots, our rock points. With the aid of technology, those gut feelings are being translated into specific prescriptions of fertilizer and seed for each micro climate, just like I do in my garden, knowing where the drying winds sneak in and when the shade arrives to cool the garden from the parching August sun. Just because we run machines does not mean we are machines. Why are farmers the only businessfolks tarred with the brush of modernity?
I don't know when the pendulum will begin to swing back and we'll regain our appreciation of the miracles produced by science and technology in food production and consign the current Luddite inclinations to the hobby or gardening part of agriculture Let those who wish to produce for those who choose to eat that way. Blake loves his Kindle and I love trade paper.
But I do truly pray we won't impose our peculiar prejudices about the process of growing food on the products we have, do, and must continue to provide. We can afford to pick and choose. But it is not our moral duty to choose for hungry people everywhere.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

not my picture this time

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Farmer City

Tomorrow evening is a big deal, perhaps not as big as Joe Biden's deal, but important to us locals. Millie, with other former Nelson ladies, has worked hard to commemorate and memorialize some of her, and by derivation, our history: tomorrow evening is the Farmer City historical marker get-together.
She has spent untold hours on the phone, visiting with those near and far who know, remember, lived, or just have stories, all about the Farmer City community she grew up in. Like many other landmarks of wood or our local soft brick, the Farmer City store is no more. But, due to their tireless efforts, there is a marker in place and that means memories will be preserved for posterity.
This tenacity, this perseverance, in keeping hold of all those ties to the past is beyond price. What have we, as families, communities, or nations, if we lose our collective memory? Philosophy is a pretty slippery thing and not that solid to boot. But our loyalties to a ball team, a country school, a church, a far flung but extended family, keeps us grounded and gives us common cause.
We used to drive by a country school on our way to Tarkio. Just off hand, I'm thinking that one was Possum Walk, but I could check my work in the directory downstairs. If I remember correctly, Blake's great-grandpa taught there a while. But it has been bulldozed and there is no physical trace remaining. East of us, according to Charlie, stood Peckville, a shipping point for cattle. There is a steel bridge still, in a place one wouldn't expect one, and some indication of cattle lots, but these days the past activity at Peckville can only be imagined. There was once a big barn on the Macrander farm where we have our greenhouses now....when the house burned, lumber from the barn was used to construct the house. At least, that's what I've heard and there's no doubt the ceilings are shorter than an eight foot stud! The interior lumber is solid stuff though and circa some date much earlier than the 1970s.

When we married, the railroad tracks still crossed highway 59 between Tarkio and Fairfax. That lifeline, that connecting thread between all these little railroad towns, is nigh invisible now. Nothing remains but the domino effect of cascading centennials. Who knows the provenance of the formerly grand homes in Blanchard? How long before no one remembers the "college" in College Springs? While I remember the country store in the town I grew up in (Loebe's), the name of what could be its twin in Westboro, though 400 miles away, escapes me for now.
When the kids were all little, we had a family tradition of picnicking on Memorial Day, then making the rounds of the local cemeteries and visiting the graves of family members old, older, and oldest. From Hunter on the west to Blanchard and High Prairie on the east, with St. John's and the Grange and Tarkio Home in between, we'd take peonies or little cemetery boxes from the greenhouse. Each stop we'd gather around close to hear over the ubiquitous wind the stories associated with this or that family member. I'd work hard to keep track of various aunts, uncles, and generations. We haven't done this for a year or two and, with the new marker up north, its time we gathered up the next bunch of kids and caravaned again.
To a certain extent, this is why I take pictures. The beautiful views, the light on water, the architecture, the history: this is for pleasure and for effect. But the people, the gatherings, the ceremonies momentous and trivial: this is for today but also for tomorrow, for the times in the future when family gathers around the table, or the fireplace and says, " Yeah! That was the year....."
And, perhaps, some day, when some future family historian like Millie wants some tidbit about our lives, our business, our town, our relations, our weather, our buildings, our school, our celebrations, they'll have to struggle to unstack that closet, but it will all be in there...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Damn gotta have Heart!

Even after washing my hands tonight, they were still black. For supper, I had some yogurt, broiled a cinnamon bagel and poured a glass of Zinfandel. Next week I will visit New York City for the first time. I'm intimidated.

Why? I love cities. I like to fly into an airport, catch a cab, and watch the skyline emerge from the back seat. I like staying downtown, walking the streets and taking my own measure of the life and character of the place from first impressions. I like taking pictures, people watching with a glass of Starbucks unsweetened black, window shopping, visiting museums, learning the street names and their provenance.

But New York seems just that much bigger, unfamiliar, cosmopolitan. I might, on occasion, FEEL cosmopolitan while sitting at a fine restaurant but I would never claim to BE that knowledgeable. I don't read the New York Times, even if I check the headlines on my phone. I've never been to their airports. Years and years ago, we vacationed in New York, visiting Saratoga, Cooperstown, the Finger Lakes. But we studiously and deliberately avoided the metropolitan area.

What is the origin of this unease? Perhaps it has to do with the Yankees... baseball in New York is treated differently that here in the Midwest. Is it cultural? Have I bought into the notion that the newest thing, the next big thing, originates in Gotham? The best newspaper does (the Wall Street Journal) even though I know it is freshly published in Iowa and delivered to our mailbox in Tarkio. The music I love, Broadway and cabaret, originates from New York and graces the airwaves of Hurst Greenery via XM. The news we hear and watch via satellite from New York. The Met was background music for Saturday afternoon popcorn and I felt richer listening to the Texaco Opera Quiz, even if I didn't understand it. According to the movies, New York is rich, violent, historic, romantic, impoverished, unique. Tarkio doesn't have salons. Tarkio doesn't have a fashion district; Tarkio hardly has a business district; our financial district begins with the Farmers and Valley Bank and ends at the US Bank.

I love Chicago; after all these years, I am still thrilled to fly in over the Lake, to see the Magnificent Mile, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, the Wrigley Tower, the string of great museums aligned around the Lakefront. But in my mind, Chicago still has agricultural, Midwestern roots, so the mystique is approachable. Grant Park is beautiful, but I know in my heart of hearts it doesn't have the pedigree of Central Park. The El is out there where we can see the city; the subway network just seems bigger and more complex to me.

Bottom line; I just don't know if this Midwestern gal will match up to New York. I'm not sure I'm "up to snuff". (Does anyone else say that?) When we sit down to listen to the "Oxford" debate, when various intellectual and media types look Blake up, when I sit down at the banquet, will I be overwhelmed? I've always subscribed to the notion that I know more about urbanites' lives than they know about mine. But in New York, that may not be the case; as a matter of fact, my assumption is that they not only don't know, they really don't care about my life at all!

On the other hand, coming down to the earth like the Martians we might as well be makes us distinctive, odd, singular and even eccentric. We know more about our earth, our weather, our soil, the structure of our lives and enterprise than anyone in New York city. We are meeting strangers on our ground and we have nothing to be ashamed of. Farmers meeting foodies; we have generations of dirt on our side. Foodies have a philosophy and a fad.

O.K. New York, I'm willing to face up to my insecurities. I'll play the tourist; I need to see all the cliches. What's the point of being there if its like all the other places? I'm anxious to take in whatever I can in our quick overnight survey of the city. My camera is charged up; my sense of adventure is ready to go. I've been out of place before, but never in THIS place~ which New York tune do you want me to sing now? Anything but ' New York, New York''s been done. Maybe Nanci Griffith....' I guess we look like natives here; just a middle aged couple with silver hair.' That's more like it.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Eight years ago this week, we had a wedding. Lee and Ryan joined hands and hearts April 6, 2002. Lee did not want to get married in March; she doesn't like March and declined to celebrate an anniversary in that month for the next 50-60 years, God willing. It was a windy windy day and warm, too, when we tied bows to the outside decorations and hauled pots of pansies. We called in lots of reinforcements at the greenhouse; Lee may have had one set of ladies stand up with her in church, but the ladies standing with water wands at the greenhouse were just as much a part of the ceremony.
Ryan was new to the greenhouse business and Hursts in general. Lee and Ryan fixed up a rental farm house and he lived over there with new hound puppies while Lee spent the last months in her old room in her parent's home. I know from experience how it feels to try to fit oneself into an already full and happy family, but even knowing didn't guarantee that I made the right moves, said the right things, or didn't say the wrong things. Eight years later, I'm sure home is home, but it took more than the six months Ryan had before his wedding to settle in to quite so many "news".
On the other hand, April is when all the hard work comes to fruition, when we see the results of the orders, the planning, the timing, the watering, the counting. All the long hours, all the worry, all the short tempers, sore feet, headaches, sleepless nights, count down job by job, delivery by delivery, day by day until the watering winds down, the bays empty, the leftovers go home into various gardens and spring warms into summer.
Not so different than the test of marriage. Sometimes tempers flare when two don't think as one. Some days you're just too tired to take a joke. Sometimes a broken glass or a dropped flat, tips the balance just a bit too far. Sometimes its hard to find the balance between work and family when work is compressed into six vital volatile weeks. But plants really need very few things to survive: air, space, support for their roots, water and nourishment. And most are surprisingly resilient; even when a leader is mostly off, the plants in a hanging basket will eke out some growth and will respond with vigor the same day a full measure of water is restored.

Our marriages handle stress the same way. It takes time to establish a full root system and before then, we wilt without attention, we lean without support, we languish if we don't have our full complement of our loved one's sun. On the other hand, we need movement, air, space to grow strong enough to be leaned on and survive the world's storms.
When we're first married, we frizzle, we burn, we melt like alyssum, or zinnias just transplanted if we're short of moisture. But with time, like geraniums, New Guineas, vinca, we can wilt down quite a bit and show not the least wear or tear after repeated stress. No one wants to be pulled out of our pots and left beneath the bench, but we do want to hang in there til someone notices us, tucks us back and waters us in.

March is the month of wind, cold, wet and worry. April is the month of work, pick up, set down, improvisation, water and reward. In May we finish, we check off, we mow, we grill, we plant and finally, we relax. Maybe Lee's right. Who wants to be part of wind and worry? No one gets to skip straight to grill, garden and relaxation. Nope, to marry in April is to work and improvise, to meet the sun coming and going, to make allowances rather than biting each other's head off.

Happy Anniversary, Lee and Ryan!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I found an orange one!

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Having life more abundantly

Do I have a unifying theme for this post? Don't know that I has been a week since I had a chance to write and I don't have to be particularly prescient to realize the upcoming weeks will present fewer opportunities yet to post any notes, observations, or epiphanies. Like the ants that carry goodness-knows-what up the columns on my front porch and then down again, the weeks of mid April and May tend to focus one's mind in the bedding plant business. I miss the flowering crabs; I miss the water lilies sprouting; my house plants get too dry; the monthly magazines pile and the weeklies get discarded. Various foods go out of date in the fridge. Three years ago, the entire refrigerator got warmer and warmer until, on May 3, Blake stopped on a delivery to buy a new fridge at Lowe's. By then, I was buying pints of milk on a daily basis because I couldn't keep anything perishable cold enough. Matt and Annie came over that evening so Matt could help carry the old fridge. Lizzie was born the next day.
So, this weekend was so very nice on so many levels. First of all, Blake and I took the drive to St. Louis in the car for Mark's birthday party. It rained and we didn't leave soon enough to make the drive completely relaxing, but it was still pleasant to ride along together, picking up coffee and a baked good, commenting on the newspapers and listening to Blake's opening statement for his debate. During the next month, our time in vehicles together will be limited to the four miles to Hurst Greenery and time together awake will be...well, breakfast and the four mile drive to Hurst Greenery in the morning!
Secondly, going to St. Louis to see Laura and Mark is always a festive occasion, but a birthday party at the Trattoria with Mark's family and their friends was even more of a celebration. We had time for a glass of wine together before the making the short walk down to the neighborhood restaurant. The food was oh so delicious; Mark's brothers, sister, nieces, nephew, name it, the Lampe family is creative and good humored. We ate, joked, listened to stories and laughed alot. What could be more relaxing? On Saturday morning, we drove over to Clayton for a tasty breakfast at FirstWatch. That reminded us of pleasant visits to Wash. U. while Ben and Kenzie were still in town. It seemed strange to drive those avenues and not stop at Delmar or drive past Brookings. St. Louis is in no way home, but with close family there and all our trips over the years, it is a perfectly good second place.
Got home in time to spend Saturday evening with two of my favorite two year olds while their folks celebrated their...let's see now....EIGHTH anniversary! Gabe and Abbie had supper, helped their grandma make cakes for Easter (one for church, one for home, one for Gabe and Abbie), took a bubble bath, read the Three Bears, and then, after all their hard work in the greenhouse, settled in easily and effortlessly for a good night's sleep. Their mommy and daddy brought back Easter egg stuffings and Grandma and Grandpa took two dozen specially dyed eggs back for hiding at Spruce street.
Easter morning we leaped up, drank two cups of coffee and headed off for early service and communion. As I've mentioned before, the early service of Easter lifts my heart and spirits. The preacher on the radio spoke from Mark.....'Fear not!"...."Do not be afraid!" and, in one of those non-coincidental coincidences, so did Brother Glenn. Our church was full and the atmosphere joyful and reverent. Everything Easter should be.
Aaron and Lizzie ejected from their van to come hunt their eggs. Lizzie took a tumble in the ruts in the driveway, but unlike her mommy in the past, her white tights escaped damage and the dust was wiped from her flowery dress. Their plastic buckets were full before ten minutes were out and the adults had to hustle to get the speedy egg hunters photographed in focus. The strains of Johnny Cash wafted from Aaron's new cd/radio. Lizzie waved at the cars from her new princess lawn chair. We ate our brunch at the big dining table and polished off the last of the coffee before Ann and Matt loaded up the egg hunting crew and we headed back to church.
The rest of the Hursts and Harms were in second service after Ryan did some watering and Gabe and Abbie rode in with their daddy. We crowded into Lyd and Brooks' yard and driveway with our assorted SUVs and pickups to gather for Easter dinner. The little kids hunted yet more eggs while Blake and I took off to tend to the flowers that would unavoidably be drooping while the fresh sun shone even though the temperature was but 60. Ben tried to call while we were having family seemed fitting. Kenzie sent a note to let us know they were available for a webcam call because she was home from work.
Took care of the greenhouses; made notes of what was ready to sell and what we were supposed to haul this week. Made a list of the high priority watering. Took flower plugs to number eight to be transplanted and laid out vegetable plugs to be taken away from number eight for transplanting. Ryan tried to flatten out some of the massive ruts; Blake unloaded the Sunday plug order; Gabe and Abbie took a LONG nap; Lee and I hid the last Easter eggs of the day...then the kids hunted for them after we scared Mama Dog away from her interrupted snack of hard boiled eggs. Abbie ate blue peeps....Gabe ate a couple of Reese' eggs. We called Ben and Kenzie so the kids could show off. Kenzie's eggs were considerably prettier than the Schlueter/Harms eggs, some of which tended to brown tones. Gabe ate a blue Peep and his mommy shut off the candy altogether.
I've spent the evening mopping; then putting the weekend's pictures on the computer and sending notes off to family. Opening night baseball is on and the Cardinals play tomorrow noon.The house is cool and the last load of laundry is ready to be put away. Our weekend has the combined joy and regret that is the human condition, but I would be first to say, we've had more than our share of the joy portion this time around. For the weeks to come; for the uncertainties we'll all face; for the ongoing worries; I'll ask for help, fortitude, energy, skill, patience. But for this Easter, I'll say a prayer of thanks, not just for all those blessings, but for the ability to recognize and appreciate them.