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Reader Rendezvous at Our House

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I'd been preparing for them all summer, the Bird Watcher's Digest Reader Rendezvous' that would take place on two consecutive weekends only ten days after the American Birding Expo, also hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest.  Why, you ask, were there two in a row? Because more people wanted to come than they could accomodate in one. 

There's something about knowing that 75 subscribers are going to be walking through your yard and house and using your bathrooms that ignites a special sort of...preparedness... in a houseproud person. After the ACKing, I got busy. Coughed up a few grand to renovate that crumbling ca. 1978 upstairs bathroom this summer. The one I'd tried and failed to dress up with sponge painting. Not that it was time...

Bill bought deadly chemicals to try to take the lime scale off the glass in the downstairs bath. I threw out approximately 2.5 tons of unneeded paper in my studio.  Again, wasn't really necessary, but a good thing to have an excuse to do. 

Bill replaced some boards, and painted the rest of the skeezy deck boards with a rubbery brown paint that made them look like new-ish. 

He fixed this and that and got all the cobwebs out of the corners, mowed paths in the meadow...
We finally made a crop netting cover for the deadly kitchen window, and the day before the second Rendezvous, Liam and I put a ladder up and climbed on the roof to apply American Bird Conservancy reflective tape to the little clerestory windows that the cardinals loved to kill themselves on. All those things that we'd been trying to get to, and now had a deadline for. It was good.

I weeded the gardens as if 75 subscribers were going to be tut-tutting over my slothfulness should they spot crabgrass. Which they wouldn't, but still.

I planted flowers that would still, I prayed, be colorful in October. Lots in large planters so I could keep them out of the rabbits' jaws.

Got bold and planted some Trandshen Bonstedt fuchsias in the ground, and the bunnies left them alone! Amazing! I had gone a little crazy propagating them in the greenhouse over the winter, and had some to spare.

I know they made it because the rabbits don't like them, as they mowed my geraniums and lobelias planted right beside the fuchsias down to stubs. Filing that away for future reference...Trandshen Bonstedt fuchsia works! and it makes a 4' tower of pendant pink blossoms all summer long. Hummingbirds like it. They prefer Fuchsia Gartenmeister Bonstedt, however.  (see top photo).

I watered the gardens with slow hoses every few days through the terrible drought of September. 
Imagine if someone said, "We're going to have a garden tour at your house in the second week of October!" Yeah. That. Whose garden looks fantastic in October? 

OK.  Let's do some late-blooming annuals... zinnias and salvia and my fabulous fuchsias...begonias and Achimenes and calendulas and morning glories...we can do this. We got this! It was fun, planning for October bloom. I got to grow a bunch of colorful tropical annuals, and the hummingbirds loved it. 

Oh, and I forgot the main ingredient: three Subaru loads of rotted cow manure. Hee hee hee!

The bonsais were beginning to color up and looked very beautiful.  This one is loving its new planter; it finally grew out of the shallow pot.

They are getting so big (waist high to me) that they're a real challenge to keep watered. I think I'll bump the two in the foreground up to planters for next spring. They're telling me they're feeling crowded and stressed. Mmmhmm. I hear you, dear maples. You look awesome in your little flat pots, but if you're unhappy, it's time to make a change.

So thrilled to have Callicarpa (Beautyberry) fruiting in the yard, thanks to my friend Jen! This native shrub makes the most fabulous purple bluebird bait.

The birches lost almost all their leaves in the drought, so we won't have golden birchlight this year. Nothing I can do about that. Hibiscus "The Path" tries to make up for it.

Geraniums "Happy Thought Red" and "Vesuvius" doin' their thing. These are e-nor-mous plants, and I'm afraid they're not going to be coming in the greenhouse again. 

Nope. I have made understudies. Though I did adore having this huge Happy Thought inside all last winter.  Who doesn't need a huge happy thought? 

Durn Salvia guaranitica "Black and Blue" waited until now to bloom. Why. Why. 

The light this time of year...oh my. See that tent in the front yard? That reminds me that I was writing about Reader Rendezvous'.

Our dear friend Ann from North Dakota came to participate, and to help. As she and I were working in the kitchen, I asked her what percentage of her came to participate, and what percentage came to help. And in my head, I'd come up with 60% help, 40% participate. 

"Oh, about 60% help," she answered, and I gave her a giant hug.

Because that's what dear friends do. They help. We are modeling our Heart and Hand pendants from Scattered Light Jewelry. It is not a coinkydink that we both have one. :) They're really cool. The little heart swings with the hand just above it, moving in concert. Intelligent jewelry. Click the link, check it out.

I would need my sweet friend near this weekend. This is the Saturday night crowd. I provided entertainment in the form of a Keynote talk, and Bill and I played some Rain Crows songs too. Wonderful people!! so warm and engaged. An honor to know them.

 I got up to take this photo of everyone enjoying a delicious catered meal, because I was inwardly freaking out that I would be serving lunch to them the very next day. 

It's probably just as well that I went through the summer cleaning the house, throwing stuff out, and preening and watering the gardens, all the while gaily assuming that a caterer had been engaged for the 59 people gathering at our house on October 2, and 32 coming for lunch on October 9. Five days before the first event, I asked who was catering the midday meal on Sunday, and found out otherwise. By then, it was too late to hire anyone in. The BWD staff was completely tied up with field trips and guiding. I was reeling, fresh off showing my art at the American Birding Expo, which I did fresh off returning from South Africa, but at the same time I couldn't bear the thought that anyone would leave our place hungry on the last day of the four day event. It was time to get to work. 

I picked the garden absolutely clean of Sungold tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet peppers and herbs. Sauteed them up with onions, and made the summer-soaked flavor stuffings for ten Summer Quiches. Made two vats of curried butternut/acorn squash soup. Made four enormous vats of chili, with a total of 15 pounds of ground hamburger and Italian sausage in 'em. I was still worried I wouldn't have enough. I'd never cooked for 59 at once before. As it turned out, the food simply vanished as soon as we put it out, but everyone got enough.  And I was very proud to know it had been wholesome and good.

Something my staunch Iowa aunts wouldn't think twice of doing turned out to be an enormously big deal for me. As I cooked, while scrounging up every piece of silverware and glassware in the house and basement, I thought about them, my aunts Melba and Donna and Marjorie and my grandmothers Frieda and Elnora. I thought about the fact that such gatherings turn out to be almost all about the food for them, and for everyone else, too. Food is life. Food is love, food is necessary and it is front and center. It is the table on which everything else is set. I was filled with gratitude for all the meals they'd served when the Zickefooses and Ruighs would get together in the summers, often in honor of we outliers, we East Coasters coming out to Iowa for our yearly visit, and I felt very small and insignificant as I finally, viscerally understood the service they'd provided. And all without batting an eye. 

 My beautiful friend Harma from Sarasota reconnects with little Chet Baker.

Sofia remembers my necklace from the Expo, and pops it into her little gob again.

I get a much-needed squeeze from my friend Dick from Colorado, in my studio. Imagine that! We're both delighted he's here. He's been to the New River Birding and Nature Festival a couple times; to the Reader Rendezvous ("Birding Valhalla with JZ") at North Bend. We go back.

A couple walks through our meadow, glowing with goldenrod, the sumac just kindling.

Hugs in front of the tent (which is full of happy grazers)

Relaxing in the sunshine.

A big HALOO to the photographers in the tower!

And Zick homecooking in every belly. I'm proud of that. I have never aspired to be a caterer, but it's nice to know what can be done when push comes to shove.

And the frost held off, and the flowers bloomed on

and the next weekend, we'd do it all over again.


Wow. That struck fear in me like nobody's business! And, you DID it! What a lovely time for everyone there to soak in the love of Indigo Hill.... some day.... XO

We were soooo happy to be with you at your home - we loved every minute of it. Thank you Thompson family for hosting our event and showing us such a wonderful time!

Dan and I always say we should have company over more often, as it makes us get our sh$t together and tie up loose ends around the house. Your flowers and food and happy friends look amazing. What a way to honor the Bird Watcher Digest family.

This is why we invite folks over for dinner. It's the only way we keep the plCe tidy. I wouldn't try cooking for more than four, though. Yikes mama!

This is why we invite folks over for dinner. It's the only way we keep the plCe tidy. I wouldn't try cooking for more than four, though. Yikes mama!

My mom is a dietitian; I remember seeing the book "Food for Fifty" in her cookbook collection. I get stressed out if I have more than four extra people over!


Ah, my darling whirling energy queen.
Congrats on another miracle.
All the love comes at you...xom

Posted by Anonymous October 13, 2016 at 11:57 AM

Wow! Do you guys ever stop?
I went on a lovely autum walk today and found ?Zick moments all over the place, scrub oak leaves that looked like tapestry ferns, the smell of damp and then dry works, leaf crunches. Thanks for helping me be more aware and LOOKING! Caroline from Colorado

October is my favorite month & that is so cool you had all those Bird Watcher family members over to visit your beautiful piece of earth. Love all the photos of the harvest, the fall colors, of Chet getting loved, and the one from the tower! Fun. And you definitely are a whirlwind. As someone wrote above, you ARE a Whirling Energy Queen! Maybe someone will make a custom-made t-shirt for you with that title on it!

It was all perfect...we knew it would be! Thanks for all you did to make us feel welcome, to make us feel special.

I love your place and it was such fun being the first RR'r in the tower! Gunna have to build me one of those!

Posted by Judy Uhl Siddle October 18, 2016 at 12:37 PM

Whew! I'm tired just reading about this. Looks like everyone had a blast. Wish I could have been there.

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