Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring, Glorious Spring

Yesterday was as close to a perfect spring day as you can get. Bright sunshine, temperatures in the upper 70's, and a strong breeze, not the gusty winds of the previous day.

I took advantage of the weather to get more work done outside--housework can always wait till a rainy day! My mother had dug up some hollyhock plants she didn't want, so, of course, I said I'd love to have them. I take any extra free plants anyone wants to offer me. I expected a few, maybe half a dozen, but she brought over sixteen plants, so what I thought would be a quick job turned into a much longer one. One thing I do have is lots of space, so finding a place to put all of them was no problem. I planted them all in the "back" back yard where the old farmhouse once stood, placing them around an old well pit and an old cistern.

When I was a girl, I loved hollyhocks, but I thought of them as something more like a weed--they just popped up in strange places all over our farm. I had no idea people actually bought seed to grow them. These hollyhocks could probably be labelled heirlooms, because, according to my Dad, they have been growing on their farm as long as he can remember, which means they are from 80-year-old stock. Perhaps my grandmother planted them, which makes them very special to me. As I planted them, I thought of my grandmother, one of the kindest people anyone could have ever met. And I realized another tie: my mother had dug up lots of soil with the hollyhocks, so I was actually transplanting some of the soil from the farm that my great-grandparents settled and has been in my family for over 130 years. I garden because I enjoy it, and I plant what pleases me, but I felt a special connection that afternoon, thinking of the bond with my ancestors who had tilled and planted the fields for generations long before me.

Once I had finished planting, I took care of a few other little chores. I set out my seedlings on the porch to get acclimated to the outside. My first experiment with seedlings didn't go so well--I now understand the meaning of the word "damp rot." But the seed packets weren't that expensive, and it was a learning experience. We'll see if this batch does better.

I also put up my hummingbird feeder. It's probably far too early here yet for hummingbirds, but I want them to know they're welcome when they do make it to this part of Illinois.

While we may not have hummingbirds yet, we do have lots of robins, cardinals, and red-winged blackbirds. They serenaded me while I worked yesterday, but they were very busy, too, gathering materials for their nests. I tried so hard to get a picture of one of the fat robins, but they were too wary of me and flew away each time I got close. Finally, one of them flew into the tree just above my head.

Do you see him here? No? Well, trust me, he was there one second before I snapped the shutter.

While I was trying to coax a robin into a photo, I suddenly noticed this tree in the back yard. I have never noticed this blooming before, and I have no idea what it is. It's hard to see the puffy white blosssoms on it, because the wind had picked up. Walking around it, trying to get the right angle for a picture,

I noticed this shoot coming straight out of its trunk. Now this looks like a pussywillow, doesn't it? Is there such a thing as a pussywillow tree? This is in the very back of the yard where the original farmhouse stood, so is it possible the shrub grew into a tree? Or perhaps it's some strange mutation. Any ideas?

By the end of the day, I was exhausted and my muscles ached. But I slept more soundly than I have for a long time, even sleeping straight through an earthquake! (See my early morning post below.)

Interesting note: I was listening to a local talk radio show this morning to hear news about the earthquake. Several callers mentioned that they were awakened by the birds who were unusually active before the earthquake. I thought all of you bird lovers would appreciate that. Sometimes it seems the animals are more intelligent than humans.


  1. Hi Rose - thanks so much for visiting my blog today :)

    Those hollyhocks are special indeed! Are they single flowering? My mother is always lamenting the fact that she can never find seeds for single flowering hollyhocks.

    I would be one to sleep through an earthquake too. I once slept through two drunk men banging on my bedroom window and yelling, "Let us in the house!" It woke up and terrified my parents who called the police :) The men had come to the wrong house. I was told the entire story when I woke in the morning, well rested and totally clueless!

  2. How wonderful the connection between the hollyhocks and your grandparents, they are indeed special Rose. I wonder if your grandparents came to you in spirit, I have always believed we never lose people completely.
    How many times have I snapped a bird and like you ended up with just the tree. I was actually looking for it in your photograph, silly me!
    The tree looks like a pussy willow. I have several here and it looks very similar. Not sure how the America....England thing goes with willows.

    Lovely post Rose, lovely to read about the history of your family and the old farmhouse. Could see it in my minds eye. Thank you.

  3. Amy, Thanks for dropping by! Funny story about the two drunks, especially since no harm was done.
    Yes, the hollyhocks are single-flowered. Hopefully, they will all bloom and I'll show them in a post this summer.

    Cheryl, I often think of family when I am cooking--Grandma made the best homemade bread or I'll make certain recipes for a holiday that my mother-in-law always made. Family and family traditions have always been very important to me. And actually I didn't mention that the farm we now live on was originally my husband's grandfather's, so we have traditions on both sides.

    Thanks for the info on the pussy willow. I had never heard of such a tree before, but it sure looks like one.

  4. Oh rose that was such a lovely post. So interesting to hear all about the past connections.
    And humming birds, wow how amazing to get those!
    We have pussy willow trees, thats what it looks like to me but I'm no expert!
    I like your 'new blue'!
    I have solved the gaps between sentences that blogger keeps imposing! Have you? Let me know if not and you can try my method!!(I think I've written enough here don't you?!)

  5. Suburbia,
    Glad you like the blue. I've been wanting to change my layout, but afraid to tinker with it too much. The blue is what I wanted in the first place and I just discovered how to change it.
    Please, please tell me the secret for eliminating those unwanted spaces! It would keep me from swearing at Blogger every time I post.

  6. Hi Rose...How wonderful to live on your husbands grandfathers site. The farmer who lives nearby has been on that land for four generations. I love that sort of history and of family continuing what one generation started. I would be so interested to hear about the area you live in, perhaps another post one day.
    I to follow recipes of my mothers, isn't it wonderful that they will stay with us.
    My father has done some research on his family tree and has gone back nearly two hundred years. If fascinates me. Lot of policemen on Dads side!! My great grandfather was a detective inspector and worked on the Jack the Ripper case. In case you don't know that is very very famous.
    But tks again Rose, lovely to talk to you.

  7. Hi Rose
    Thanks for commenting at my place. I am sad this morning because I pressed the wrong button and deleted my new comments instead of putting them on my blog!!!

    With the spaces, what I was doing before was putting the cursor at the begining of the sentence I wanted to move up (into the space that blogger had made by itself!) and pressing the backspace button. The sentence would move up but when I previewed or published the spaces would reappear. I have discovered that if you put the cursor at the end of the sentence (above the space that you want to get rid of) and then press the delete button. The lower sentence rises to fill the gap and STAYS THERE!!even when published. I hope it works for you. I hope even more that you understand my explanation! Let me know if not and I'll try again.
    Suburbia (still sad!)

  8. Rose , what a delightful story of the family hollyhocks ! .. that connection is very special and I know you must feel so good about it ..
    I used to have hollyhocks .. the black one was very dramatic. Alas .. the problem of powdery mildew in my small gardens got a bit out of hand .. thus no more hollyhocks .. but some Malvas are a mini version and not so much of the mildew problem !
    Heirloom ones are beautiful .. and having the history behind it is an amazing touch to them.
    The tremors ? ... it must be a bit "unsettling?" LOL especially with the activity from the birds .. now you might think if they are extra noisy something may be going on ? LOL
    Thank you for stopping by my blog !
    Joy : )

  9. I was especially touched by the fact that the hollyhocks had dirt clinging to them that could have been in your family for 130 years. It raised goosebumps on my arms. I have been doing geneology for 30 years and never once gave the dirt a thought.

  10. Rose, I remember the hollyhocks at your Mom's- usually along the fences. So glad you are going to continue with the growing of them. Sounds like you are getting a lot done in your gardens. I want to see that tree! I had no idea pussy willows were trees.

  11. Rose,

    I'm glad you didn't feel more than a small tremor! I'm interested in knowing the the birds can forecast an event like that.

    You made me laugh out loud as I looked for the Robin in that tree!


  12. Hi rose, I think it is wonderful when we have a living connection to our grandparents in a plant or flower. Mine are daylillies and amarylis(spelled wrong I'm sure). Just found your blog on blotanical today. Very nice.


  13. Cheryl, Thanks for the idea on a future post. My parents have done a lot of research on our family, too. How interesting to have a connection to the Jack the Ripper case, but not so pleasant for your great-grandfather, I'm sure.

    Suburbia, I knew there had to be a simple way to get rid of those spaces--thank you! Your description is very clear (you must be a teacher); I'll try it out.

    Gardenjoy4me, As I said, these hollyhocks are more than 80 years old. So if they die on me, we'll know I didn't get the green thumb gene!

    Jane Marie, I wouldn't normally think of the dirt either, but apparently I inherited some of that farming gene. When you come from generations of farmers, the soil is in your blood.

    Beckie, I'd never heard of a pussy willow tree either, but you'll notice Cheryl says she has some. And I checked it out online--they do exist here, too.

    Mary, I'm glad I made you chuckle, because I've laughed a lot over many of your posts. Thanks for dropping by!

    Aunt Debbi, I agree that plants passed down are special. What I really want to do is get a start from a climbing rose that my grandmother had, but I'm not sure how to go about that. Thanks for visiting!

  14. That is a lovely story about the hollyhocks. How wonderful to be able to carry a piece of your own history with you.

    I have a photo of a butterfly on a tree - minus the butterfly.

  15. Rose,

    Hello, what a lovely I was reading about your family hollyhocks I remembered they were my mom's favorite flower, thank you for helping me remember!

    I was in a hotel in St Louis during the earthquake...I thought someone had come into the room and was jumping on the bed.

    Your kind words about my mom were very much appreciated, thank you...



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