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Hearts Alike

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I have decided that friends are the best thing in the world. I know, I sound like one of those sappy email forwards with all the hearts and flowers, but it's true. When you find real friends, there's nothing better.

Little did we know, when Bill and I signed on to come speak and lead field trips at the first Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival in 2001, that we'd make a pair of amazing friends in the person of Ann and Ernie Hoffert. Ann and Ernie are on the back of the golf cart. That's Al Batt scratching a mosquito bite, and Cayman getting love from Ann. Phoebe drove. Their farm's windbreak is right behind us.

Ernie farms seed, continuing the business of Ann's family farm, on a big tract outside Carrington, North Dakota. And Ann figured out how to use the acreage to farm a uniquely home-made product:  in 1990 she created Pipestem Creek, a business which blossomed, and ended up supplying natural North Dakota grown wreaths, bird feeders and other ornamental items to such outlets as Martha Stewart and Smith and Hawken. She employed local workers and together they created amazing works of art from all-natural, homegrown materials.

 Here's Lucille with some fabulous multi-colored corn.

 Bringing in the cockscomb! That's a LOT of cockscomb!

 Just one of the myriad amazing wreaths that Ann created. We've got several in places of honor in our house. They last for years. The floral materials were all hung to dry in granaries and outbuildings which dot the farm. Ann and Ernie brought many of the buildings in before they were to be demolished elsewhere. I get severe outbuilding envy whenever we visit. Severe. Safflower and peonies drying...

These photos I've lifted from Pipestem Creek's web site.

Now that Ann has moved on from making floral creations, she's in the bed and breakfast business, catering especially to birdwatchers. 

photo by Bill Thompson III

How would you like to awaken to the song of a Western meadowlark in this converted granary Ann calls The Bird's Nest? Hey, me too. This is me and Ernie. We are not just awakening, by the way. We are having an afternoon brewski.

While I just appreciate the composition and golden afternoon sunlight, Bill thinks this picture he took is hilarious. I think it has something to do with my cowboy hat and a recent film about a couple of lovelorn cowboys, and Bill's particular sense of humor. The boy ain't right.

The furnishings and light and peace are magical. Imagine staying here and then going out to spend a day birding on the Coteau, drinking in the ducks and phalaropes and godwits...oh yes. You can see more photos and learn about rates right here.

So that's all about Pipestem Creek, what it was and what it has become. The people behind it are what makes it magical. 

Ann's gardens absolutely fluoresce with color in June. Anemones:

tulips, and two redheads...

Simply beautiful tableaux everywhere you turn...

memories of the business, still hanging all around (these are peonies)

lilacs in full, redolent bloom

Phoebe and Liam adore the Hofferts and they love to visit there, not least for the chance to drive golf carts as if they were fully licensed drivers. This is a thrill for both of them, but as you might imagine a special delight for Liam. Toonces at the wheel, look out!! Al Batt's cool with it. I like how Liam looks like he has a giant leg in this picture. That awkward moment...

We just love the Hofferts and the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival Ann has created and nurtured for ten years. There's boundless energy, creativity and raw power for good in her. And so much love! We can't wait to see our friends each June when we go out to the festival.

But the best times are the times we have together, just exploring, meandering across the North Dakota landscape. We found an old house trailer, last licensed in 1966.

 It was full of treasures, the best: a Say's phoebe nest, perched precariously atop a door.

Gingerly, I felt inside...

to find warm eggs belonging to the annoyed and chipping mother phoebe just outside.

We quickly looked where the mice had hidden their bounty

and I turned around to see the greatest treasure of all: a friend who loves poking about in old house trailers just as much as I do.

 See you in June, Ann!!


Love the Hofferts, love all you. Thanks for writing, Julie. I miss being on the prairie in June, that's for sure!

Lucky Thompsons,luck Hofferts.

What a beautiful happy place and all the people there. You always look so full of life, energy, love and enthusiasm. I really enjoy reading about your adventures and meeting your friends -- human, birds and critters.

A wonderful post--friendship, flowers, redheads, kids growing up too fast...just love it all.

Great post Julie. You're correct, friends are the best. We met a wonderful couple, 14 yrs ago, in Key West during breakfast as they gushed over my year old twin boys. They are now in their early 80's and for the past 14 years we have been invited to their wonderful camp tucked in the woods and on the shore of Lake Megunticook in Camden Maine. Our friendship is very special so I totally get your "sappy" feelings !!!

I'm sure you've got good friends everywhere you go!!! I see lots of watercolor paitings in these pictures, too! Lovely post....

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