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Faith in a Seed Part 2

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I couldn't believe my eyes in late June when, searching Geepop's grave for the dozenth time, I found a dozen good-looking plants of Sabatia angularis in bud. Where in the Sam hill had they come from? Heaven?

It would be almost another month before they would bloom. But bloom they have.

They're the smaller pink flowers to the left, beneath Bill. He put a bench out there, and it's one of his favorite places to sit and think and talk to his dad.

A mighty nice big bunch at Geepop's feet.

A dozen of them!

You  may be sure that I will keep sowing that dust-fine seed, to try to have Sabatia in bloom every summer out there. It's the least I can do. How I wish I could do the same to remember my dad, but he wanted to be buried in Thornton, Iowa, and that's where he is.

I miss my dad something fierce, and we sure miss GeePop, his music, his humor, his genuine warmth and his wisdom. It is a comfort to have a place to go in the orchard to feel all that coming through.

Bill and I sat for awhile out with Geepop on Sunday evening, present in the moment for once, waiting for a thunderstorm, listening to the thunder, savoring the long-awaited success of my little Sabatia ranch. 

Chet listened to the thunder, too. He didn't much like it. 

We got up and walked a little farther in the orchard, and we found a beautiful male box turtle, very old, but unscarred by cars. Unscarred box turtles only occur well away from roads. It seems like every one I help across a road has some dreadful scar from a car encounter. It's nice to find a traffic naif like this one, especially an old one.

Did you hear that? Was that thunder again?

Yes, Chet Baker. But I am here. You don't need to tremble. 

Sometimes, if you keep trying and you don't give up, you can make magic happen. It surely seems like magic when these amazing, fragrant pink flowers sneak right past you, then suddenly spring into bloom. But it's not. It's work and hope and care and most of all love. 

It's faith in a seed. 

Faith in a Seed

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I have a favorite wildflower. Sabatia angularis, Rosepink, or Rose Gentian, or Bitterbloom, or Pure Heaven (my name for its scent).

It's a big blustery showgirl of a wildflower when it's happy, each plant making a great big perfect bouquet of spectacularly fragrant pink five-petaled flowers. 

It blooms every year on my birthday. True. 

It grows on dry roadside banks and meadows in poor soil, companion of Queen Anne's lace and black-eyed Susans.
What is not to love? 

I've had my struggles protecting favorite stands from mowing, and I've seen rosepink come and go, mostly go. I decided I had to try growing it from seed so I could spread its rare and precious joy around. Little did I know what I was getting into. 

I first planted its dust-fine seeds in a long planter in the fall of 2010. They came up the following April in my Garden Pod, and the seedlings looked like this. Essentially invisible. 

By the next spring, the ones that lived all that summer and through the winter on the floor of my Garden Pod looked like this.

Lest you get excited, here is a year-old Sabatia with my fingertip for scale.

In the spring of 2011, I steeled myself and planted the precious surviving seedlings out on Bill Jr.'s grave in our orchard. I carried watering cans out there (more than a quarter mile away) all summer long, trying not to wash the minuscule plants away with the flow. I mulched them lightly with straw and prayed for rain that never came. As far as I know, all but one withered away despite my care. It grew to about three inches and made a tiny miniature bloom in July 2012, and that was that. It wasn't meant to be.

I did not give up. In the fall of 2011, having roped off the plants so they wouldn't get mowed, I gathered a honkin' bunch of seedpods in my favorite roadside patch.

The darn things don't even come ripe and dry enough to split open until November!

 Split pods, dust-fine seeds.

Yes. Those are seeds on my thumbnail.

I decided that something in my soil, water, light regime, or general karma was amiss. I couldn't grow decent Sabatia seedlings. So I'd let Mother Nature do it herself. I'd just sow those dust-fine seeds where I wanted them and see what happened. It'd be two more years before I'd know...Sabatia is a biennial, blooming in its second year of life, spreading seeds, then dying that winter. The seeds sown in the fall would make those tiny rosettes the following spring, and the plants would just sit there, growing roots and getting bigger, until they were ready to burst into bloom in their second summer of life.

 Let's see...that would mean that I wouldn't know if it worked until sometime in the summer of 2014.

In the spring and summer of 2013, I got down on my hands and knees and weeded Geepop's grave, peering intently at the soil for the tiny rosettes of Sabatia. I found nothing. I didn't understand how I could sow thousands of dust-fine seeds on suitable soil in full sun and get nothing. But again, it appeared that it wasn't to be.

I didn't give up. If I had to sow a million seeds there, I would see rosepink raise its beautiful blossoms. I gathered more seed in the fall of 2013.

I planted purple coneflower there, and it flourished and bloomed beautifully. I could only hope that someday there might be an understory of rosepink.

In my next post, come walk out to the orchard with me and see what happened.

Chet Baker and Wally the Kooikerhondje: Trick Time

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


We kept a Dutch Kooikerhondje named Wally for a little over a week while his owners (Oona's family, for those who've been reading this blog since dinosaurs walked the earth) were at the beach. This dog was bred to play in the water and attract ducks so the ducks could be shot. A Kooikerhondje is different in build and coloration from a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, which is a better-known breed. But both were bred to lure in wild ducks by fooling around at the water's edge.  Now, knowing a little bit about wild ducks, I find this little breed purpose fable hard to believe. But that's the story and they're sticking to it. And Boston terriers were bred to sit by their owners in the stands while the owners watched dogfights. Uh-huh. Chet Baker would definitely want to help with the dogfight. He'd be the last person I'd take to a dogfight, a giant pain in the *** at a dogfight. If I were the kind of person who went to dogfights. As if anyone who owned a Boston terrier would be into dogfights. Honestly. You see the problem. It simply can't be.

Wally is one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen, with a kind, sweet demeanor and the most luxuriant silky fur imaginable. Note the little black "earrings" of hair adorning his ears. A breed trait. The function of the earrings is...oh, never mind.   Wally is a little timid compared to Chet, and his bag of stupid pet tricks perhaps not stuffed quite so full as Chet Baker's. They get along terrifically well, with only one big snarling bout when Wally tried to horn in on Chet's chicken livers. In order for any dog to get along with Bacon, he must acquiesce dominance entirely. Then things will go just fine. Wally was awesome on our runs, forging out well ahead of me and Chet, but always coming right back when called, and dropping to lie down on the shoulder when a car passed. Ol' Silverchops and I ran that dog's pretty little feet off. We did two 6.8 milers, several 4.8's...he loved it all.


So Phoebe thought she might send Wally home with a new trick for his family to enjoy, and tried to teach him to shake hands. Watch what happens when she settles in for a little training session. Please do not miss the very beginning of the video, when Chet Baker is just finishing an impressive Roll Over in an attempt to gain Phoebe's attention. Gack. I grabbed my phone and made this amateur vid. I did remember to turn the phone on its side this time. But forgot not to cackle into the mic. Sorry. Again.

I'm old enough to remember Jack Benny. If you are, and I bet you are, see if Chet's withering stares at me remind you of anyone...

Nobody puts Baker in a corner!
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