Published by

Lillian Crook

A retired librarian, Lillian Crook is an Army child but completed her junior high and high school education while living in North Dakota’s Slope County, where her parents retired to her mother's family farm and ranch. She completed a bachelor's degree in English from Dickinson (N.D.) State University and a master’s of library science from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and was an academic librarian at DSU for 26 years. She later worked for Theodore Roosevelt National Park as a museum technician and volunteered for TRNP in many capacities. She is married to Jim Fuglie, is an avid reader, gardener and birder and enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, photography and writing, is the mother of twin daughters and loves yoga. She and Jim run Red Oak House Books and Publishers from their home. Lillian is the founder of Badlands Conservation Alliance, a grass-roots voice for wild places in western North Dakota. Bullion Butte is the center of her universe, and she is happiest when floating the Little Missouri River. Her blog, WildDakotaWoman.blogspot.com, consists of random thoughts on wild places and musings on life in Red Oak House of Bismarck. She can also be followed on Twitter @WildDakotaWoman. She takes heart from one of her favorite writers, Terry Tempest Williams, who wrote, "If you know wilderness like you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate."

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Got That Darned Garage Sale Out Of The Way!

Finally, that darned garage sale is finished! My sister, Beckie, and I pulled it off Saturday, in my driveway.

Since we both had perennials for sale, I figured why not? Just when I figured the whole exercise was a waste, someone would drive up and buy stuff. We did best selling our plants. Had I charged for garden tours, I would have cleaned up!

People were very kind in their admiration for the front yard. Late this summer, we will have a perennial-only sale in her driveway. Watch for notices on that.

After assisting with setup, both Jim and Beckie went back to their chores (well, Jim went fishing, so I’m not sure that counts as a “chore”). I managed to multitask, and while I kept an eye on the driveway, I got my impatiens planted.

I put in a small handful of bone meal with each plant and they thrive. \It is so nice to have the bright pops of color here and there in the midst of the hosta/rock garden.

My garden has 114 varieties of hosta. Between Beckie and I, we have 220 varieties of daylily. We belong to the Central Dakota Daylily Society and have built our collection over many years of gardening.

Today, life gets back to normal. I can hang out in the backyard, planting the last of the annuals there. Well, that is, until I make another run at an area plant store.  I have a little jingle in my pocket after the garage sale, and I will reward myself with more beauty for the yard.  Then, to the bank with the balance.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Gardening In North Dakota In May

So here we are. Gardening in North Dakota. Not for sissies.

The weather has changed. Again. Frost warnings. I’ve taken in some of the patio pots.

It’s a drag, but it is what we must do. Too much invested in these plants, after all. It’ll just be a couple of days, and we’ll be back to normal.

The columbine have begun to bloom. There will be more.

And I just love the tiny lime green shoots that the globe blue spruce send out this time of year.

This cold snap will pass in a couple of days, and then it’ll be time for me to put out my annual seedlings. Remember, I’m the more cautious gardener of this household. Then, besides the constant pulling of weeds and dead-heading, it will be time to enjoy the beauty and wait for the vegetables.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Busy Times At Red Oak House

It is such a busy time at Red Oak House. So much is happening in the garden.  More on that later.

But first, this past weekend was filled with the gift of family. My sister, Sarah, brought my daughter, Rachel, from Dickinson, N.D., for the weekend. Sunday, my day started with brunch with my daughters and husband. They presented me with perhaps the nicest Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever received, a print of one of my daughter’s standout photographs of a wild stallion taken in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Then we had my mother and my sisters over for a picnic of fried chicken and the fixings on the patio and sat and visited, honoring the tradition much like so many across the U.S. Our good-natured husbands and my nephew, Ryan Walby, joined in on the fun, but dodged the picture-taking.

There are new blossoms in the garden daily. After company left, I completed the hard labor of dividing and moving daylilies as per my notes of last summer. There is already so much new growth on the daylilies that it is difficult to cut them back and dig them up, but this is what must be done. I make a mental note and confer with my sister, and we hope to confine our future dividing to fall instead. (Last fall, we were too busy settling our mother into her new apartment to get to it).

I brought a huge vase of lilacs into our bedroom and sent home a vaseful with my mother as this is perhaps her favorite flower.

New birds in the yard this weekend were the yellow warbler and a least flycatcher. This evening, I captured this charming one-minute video of the house wren adding material to the wren house. In this case, he is placing a blossom from the crabapple tree to pad his nest. I would have liked to have captured his song, but oh well …

Now it is time to turn attention to pulling off the rummage sale this weekend I’ve been planning for months. I’ve not held one for about 12 years, and the last time I said I’d never do it again, and this time I’m saying I’ll never do it again. It is nice to have the basement clean and tidy.  Wish me luck!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — An Homage To The Late Sheila Schafer

In honor of what would have been Sheila Schafer’s birthday, today I want to share my personal memories of her, a bright spirit of this world who departed a little over a year ago.

That said, it is so very challenging to capture Sheila’s essence. She exuded joy. I’ll share some of my memories and, to that, add some links to stories written by others about her.

Like any good North Dakotan, I heard about Harold and Sheila when I was growing up. Much later in life I came to know her personally through my husband, Jim Fuglie, who’d been friends with her for decades and who’d worked for Harold.

Me, Sheila, and Jim in front of the Rough Riders Hotel in Medora.
Me, Sheila, and Jim in front of the Rough Riders Hotel in Medora.

Sheila loved Medora like no other and this time of the year, she’d be happily packing up her car for her move from her Bismarck condo to her Medora house, where she would spend the summer attending the musical as often as she could manage, hosting an endless line of company and walking around town greeting visitors with her cheerful, “Hi nice people!” There is good reason she was known by all as the First Lady of Medora.

She threw the most wonderful parties and was always eager to learn new things. Very late in life, she made up her mind to finish the college degree she had started 60 years or more ago, and she was the oldest graduate of Bismarck State College. Many of us attended commencement that year in the Civic Center and were so proud of her.

One day she called me and asked me to come over to her condo. I did, and when I got there, she asked me to teach her how to text with her phone. She was a quick study and so very grateful. Another time, when she was a BSC student, she asked me to come over and help her do some research for a term paper she was writing on bison.  Books were always scattered about her houses, and one winter, she set her mind to reading all of William Shakespeare’s works — and she did it!

Sheila made the most delicious homemade buns and generously shared her recipe. She also wrote beautiful notes, thousands and thousands of these. Although she lived with many serious health issues, she had perhaps the most joie de vivre of anyone I’ve ever known. She told everyone that she would wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and clap for herself that she was alive another day.

She loved our mutual friend, Clay Jenkinson, and always made sure she invited all of her friends to his events. At the book launch for his newly published “For the Love of North Dakota,” she arrived looking, as always, stunning, in a print dress that was covered with impressions of New York Times headlines and stories. A woman chatting with her expressed her admiration for the dress.  Sheila disappeared and we were all looking around for her. Out she came from the women’s restroom with wearing just her winter coat and, with great drama, handed that dress to that woman! This was the essence of her, and good friends learned to be careful when admiring her possessions.

She was a widow for a very long time, and we would tease her that many men would be delighted to be her new mate. Her response was to cackle and tell us, “I was married to Santa Claus (Harold), so why on earth would I want to remarry Never!”

Jim and Sheila at the annual meeting of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, held in Medora. She worked tirelessly on this event, created a N.D. Chapter of TRA and was, at an earlier meeting, a recipient of the TRA's prestigious Rose Award.
Jim and Sheila at the annual meeting of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, held in Medora. She worked tirelessly on this event, created a N.D. Chapter of TRA and was, at an earlier meeting, a recipient of the TRA’s prestigious Rose Award.

My husband and Sheila had a very special relationship. Once I teased her that he had more pictures of her on his dresser than of me. She just laughed and gave him a big hug.

When Jim’s mother died, Sheila called and said that she wanted to give us some trees for our yard in his mother’s honor, and she came over the day these were delivered, so excited to watch the planting.  ur aspen and crabapple trees thrive to this day, and when I look at these trees, I smile and think of Sheila and, of course, my mother-in-law.

Today, she would be driving into Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and, as had been her tradition for many a year, climbing Buck Hill to survey the Bad Lands she loved so much.

Here is a video of Sheila on the Friends of Theodore Roosevelt web page, talking about the Park.

http://friendsoftr.com/videos.html#schafer

And here are some more articles about her, as well as a blog that my husband wrote about her.

Happy birthday Sheila Schafer

First Lady of Medora passes away

North Dakota loses a legend

Sheila Schafer exit stage right

Guest post Clay Jenkinson pays tribute to Sheila

 

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — 1 Corinthians 13 and Birdsong

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13

Speaking for myself, I cannot fathom all “mysteries.” I can only give thanks for the blessings I’ve been given.

I think of this as I savor the quietness of my backyard. Last week, I heard the season’s first brown thrasher on my block, with his lusty and complicated song. Wednesday, the first house wren heralded his arrival, and Jim came home from fishing with stories of a mystery bird call they’d heard and a request that I try to solve that puzzle. I deduced black-billed cuckoo and played the call for him on Audubon Pro app on my Google Pixel phone.

This time of year, we do not play the stereo nor listen to much music. Instead we listen to the birdsong or just … nothing.  Sometimes, we have the flyover of an jet, the occasional National Guard helicopter, our cell phone’s insistent jangle, the neighbor’s yapping daschund (the poor beast hooked up on a leash ALL DAY LONG).

Mostly it is instead the mourning dove, the chipping sparrow and my favorite, the house wren. The wrens are busily adding twigs to the wren house on our back patio.  As I write this, I’m listening to his complicated and joyful song, over and over and over, which he will sing without ceasing all the daylight hours for the next couple of months.

Gentle reader, it is my hope for you that you enjoyed some sunshine in your day. I’ve poured a glass of wine and I’m now going to enjoy it on my patio, and listen to the birds.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Blossoms Are Popping

Here in the Red Oak House gardens, blossoms are popping out every day. It feels to me much like when I had babies and I needed to be watchful, to pay attention, because each day was different, and once certain stages were gone, they were GONE.

Wednesday, Jim noticed that the bleeding hearts had opened. This particular plant was first in the front of our house but was doing so poorly that I moved it to the back gardens, where it is thriving.

Bleeding Hearts.
Bleeding Hearts.

I know, how perfect is it that we of all people would have a plant called “bleeding heart”?

Other than in Jeff’s boat on the Missouri River or on a Bad Lands trail, there are not many other places we want to be this time of year than our yard.  There is just so much happening, and so much work to be done.

On Thursday, I worked to fix and replace the plant labels that this past winter’s exceptionally deep snow had flattened.

The labeling operation.
The labeling operation.

It is exceedingly tedious work, but I did tedious work all through my career so this is nothing new to me. What I do relish that is very different is that I’m outside all of the time I work on this chore, where I can listen to the birds in the quiet of my neighborhood and savor the fragrant crabapple blossom’s scent. Lizzie, our springer spaniel, likes to follow me from place to place, and she is of no help whatsoever. My sister (she of the famous margarita’s) and I share the labeler and also share the passion for gardening. Wouldn’t you know it, the label cartridge ran out before I was finished, so I grudgingly made a trip to the office supply store this morning.

Winter Glow Bergenia, a gift from my sister-in-law Jill Power.
Winter Glow Bergenia, a gift from my sister-in-law Jill Power.

Not only do I have labels for the perennials, but I also have Excel files with all of the details on said plants, including the year I purchased and where I acquired the plant. I do realize that it may be considered a little over the top to label the plants, but remember, gentle reader, I’m a retired librarian! I’ve visited more than a few arboretums and gardens and always linger to read the labels and take notes about plants I’d like to try in my garden. When you have hundreds of daylilies and hostas like I do, it just makes some sense, or at least it does to me, and it is, after all, my garden.

Last fall, Jim confiscated another area of grass for our new garlic bed and the vine vegetables (we are no fans of grass here and have a bare minimum needed by Lizzie for her … well, you get the idea). Another chore today for me was to dig a trench and put down new edging to add to all that I’d edged several years ago.  I had a stash of leftovers, and I declared to Jim when I was finished that this was likely the last edging I’d ever do as there is simply no place left!

The new piece of edging left side of picture, midway.
The new piece of edging left side of picture, midway.

When I go about my digging in the yard, I often think of archeologists and how someday the next people who own this house and dig in the yard might find some very interesting things that reveal more about our lives here. One example: I put down pennies in the hosta beds to combat the slugs. Someone will scratch their head someday trying to figure out why the front yard is littered with pennies. This amuses me. Today, while digging, I found this metal tag and said “hmmmm …”

The tag says "Tournament of Roses (Jaciento) Coral Pink. AARS" (which Google tells me is for "All-American Rose Selections") Patent 6725.
The tag says “Tournament of Roses (Jaciento) Coral Pink. AARS” (which Google tells me is for “All-American Rose Selections”) Patent 6725.

I took it in the house, washed it, and examined it more closely. I knew immediately that it was a remnant from the rose that was in that location when we bought the house, a rose that for several years looked so straggly I finally dug it out and pitched it!  Here’s what it should have looked like had it survived.  Tournament of Roses

Also on Thursday, upon his return from his fishing fun, Jim started planting our precious tomato seedlings. Today, he finished, and there are now 24 tomatoes growing in our garden.

As he plants, into each hole he places egg shells we’ve saved all year long in a container in the garage (we eat a LOT of eggs at this house). I sure hope we don’t get a late May cold snap. Jim says he always plants these May 15, and since it is so warm and the forecast is for good weather, he got a jump on it. Oh, and he has backup seedlings if disaster does strike. I can almost taste these now!

The very first iris made an appearance, with much more to come. Friday, I started fertilizing the iris as the experts at Schreiner’s Iris Garden, where I purchase my irises (except for when my sister gives me some of hers), tell me that I’m to fertilize when the lilacs are blooming and the lilacs are showing the first hint of bloom here in Bismarck.

This is very precious to me as it is my favorite prairie wild flower, Prairie Smoke. Last spring, Jim and I climbed Square Butte, west of Medora, and dug up some of these to transplant to our yard. I'm over the moon that it survived and is even blooming this first year.
This is very precious to me as it is my favorite prairie wild flower, Prairie Smoke. Last spring, Jim and I climbed Square Butte, west of Medora, and dug up some of these to transplant to our yard. I’m over the moon that it survived and is even blooming this first year.

Over this morning’s coffee on the back patio, I spied the house wren going in and out of the house we have mounted on the fence. I know he is checking out all of the potential nesting sites in the area, but I’m so very hopeful because they have nested in this box all the years since we put it up except last year.

Then, I turned to my long list of daylily chores. Last summer I made notations about daylilies that I needed to move for various reasons. Twenty-eight need attention this spring. I got about a half-dozen finished before I ran out of steam and time and will return to this chore tomorrow.

Time to quit, get supper prepared, have a glass of wine on the patio and get downtown for Bismarck’s annual Band Night Parade!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — One Of My Favorite Desert Mystics, Ed Abbey

It had long been my intention, should I ever get to Tucson again, to visit the Special Collections Library on the University of Arizona campus. This past April, I spent a perfectly blissful week in the southern Arizona city, with good friends, and had a few days for solo exploring. One day I took a Lyft cab to the campus and headed straight for the libraries.

The dedicated librarians at the Special Collections Library led me to the computer to search for my topic, a longtime favorite author of mine, Edward Abbey, who upon his death had instructed that his papers be deposited in this safe place. The staff brought me my requested gray archival boxes, one at a time, jammed packed with treasures, and I spent a rapt couple of hours looking through these, making notes, and taking photographs.

The iconoclastic Abbey was known as a “desert mystic” and published a number of books, the most well-known being “Desert Solitaire” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang.”

His biography is well-known.Born and raised in Pennsylvania, he was basically a hobo on a westward train, got out, after which was never the same because he became enraptured with the American West and thus wrote passionately about the West and other topics until he died.

He studied philosophy at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and he tramped around the American West, in various odd jobs, including stints in fire lookouts in national forests; perhaps the most famous time spent living in a trailer in Arches National Park as a seasonal employee for the National Park Service.

 In his “Journal: a Lookout’s Logbook Glacier National Park,” he wrote: “the secret log” and “forest fires: Smokey the Bore is full of shit” and “whose rights take priority? How about wilderness areas banned to all humans?”

He scribbled many thousands of words in his notebooks and drew pictures, keeping track of his wanderings of his deeply insightful observations. He published beloved books that galvanized a generation of Americans hungry for his words about his wildlife, inspired by his writings and his activism.

He also gave a number of memorable speeches, including one time when he walked to the podium, took out his pistol, placed it in plain sight of the audience and proceeded to hold forth on his thoughts about wild places and the need to protect them.

One of the most famous speeches he gave was captured on film and is known as “The Cracking of Glen Canyon Dam.”

He spoke to a gathering of people who were outraged that the dam had flooded gorgeous places along the Colorado that no one would ever see again. The reason it is called “The Cracking of Glen Canyon Dam” is because this merry band of environmentalist gathered on the dam and let out a roll of black plastic across the front of the dam symbolizing their hopes and dreams for the Colorado to flow wild once again.

The Cracking of Glen Canyon Dam” was brought to you by the Sacred Land Film Project. A friend of mine, Bart Koehler, was at this event, and was like the vast majority of the people in attendance, not interested in violent opposition but rather in passionate engagement and resistance to out-of-control development in some of the country’s last wild lands. Bart was singing and playing his guitar at this event and went by the moniker “Johnny Sagebrush.”  I’m proud of him and can report that he is still, all these years later, working hard to protect wild places, no matter what life has thrown him in his pathway. Here are a couple of newspaper articles describing Bart and the magic he makes with his guitar.

But back to Abbey.  A thrill went through me as I held in my hands his notebooks and manuscripts.

In his journal notes from a hike in the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness, he writes that it will be a “self-imposed ordeal” … “Why? The need, I guess, for authentic experience, as opposed to the synthetic (books, movies, TV).

This is going to be a long fucking march.

Abbey gave his old friends very specific instructions to follow upon his untimely death. They wrapped up his corpse in an old sleeping bag, put him in the back of a pickup and drove the body to the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness, where they stashed it in an undisclosed location for the vultures to pick. To this day, many make the pilgrimage convinced they might just be the one to find the remains.

In “Desert Solitaire” he wrote:

In these hours and days of dual solitude on the river we hope to discover something quite different, to renew our affection for ourselves and the human kind in general by a temporary, legal separation from the mass. And in what other way is it possible for those not saints? And who wants to be a saint? Are saints human?

 “Cutting the bloody cord, that’s what we feel, the delirious exhiliration of independence, a rebirth backward in time and into primeval liberty, into freedom in the most simple, literal, primitive meaning of the word, the only meaning that really counts.” (page 137, c1988 edition)

If necessary, we agree, a man could live out his life in this place, once he had adjusted his nervous system to the awful quietude, the fearful tranquility. The silence–meaning here not the total absence of sound, for the river and its canyon are bright with a native music, but rather the total absence of confusion and clamour — that would be the problem. What Churchill spoke of as “bloody peace” — could we bear it for very long? Yet having known this, how could we ever return to the other?” (page 141, c1988 edition)

No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” (page 148, c 1988 edition)

In “The Journey Home,” he wrote:

One wishes to go on. On this great river one could glide forever–and here we discover the definition of bliss, salvation, Heaven, all the old Mediterranean dreams: a journey from wonder to wonder, drifting through eternity into ever-deeper, always changing grandeur, through beauty continually surpassing itself: the ultimate Homeric voyage.”  (page 201 Dutton edition, c 1977)

He continues:

The boundary around a wilderness area may well be an artificial, self-imposed, sophisticated construction, but once inside that line you discover the artificiality beginning to drop away; and the deeper you go, the longer you stay, the more interesting things get — sometimes fatally interesting.” (page 230 Dutton edition, c1977)

In his chapter from “The Journey Home” titled “Freedom and Wilderness,” he writes perhaps some of his most profound words:

What has all this fantasizing to do with wilderness and freedom? we can have wilderness without freedom; we can have wilderness without wilderness, we cannot have freedom without wilderness, we cannot have freedom without leagues of open space beyond the cities, where boys and girls, men and women, can live at least part of their lives under no control but their own desires and abilities, free from any and all direct administration by their fellow men. ‘A world without wilderness is a cage,’ as Dave Brower says.” (page 235 Dutton edition, c 1977)

My story would not be complete without the telling of this odd tale. Once shortly after 9/11, I flew to Davis, Calif., to see a friend. I changed my return flight, something that immediately “red-flags” a flier for the TSA. I got to the airport for the flight and realized that the book I had in hand was “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” Perhaps this was not the best choice for airplane reading. With this combination of coincidences, I got pulled aside for additional screening.

You can see from this photo of our Red Oak House bookshelves that Abbey is a household favorite as his works take an entire shelf. If you’ve not read his works, sit down with one, and I promise you it will be an escape to a hot and quiet place somewhere in the American West, to some of Abbey’s favorite wild places.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — The Fragrance Of The Day

Tuesday my yard was filled with the intoxicating fragrance of our blooming crabapple trees. Sunday there was a hint of blossom in the fat buds, and with Monday’s sunshine, these fully opened.

Bismarck is filled with crabapple and other blossoming trees, and the pollinators are quite busy.

Although we don’t have one, the fragrance of the plum trees takes me back to my childhood. When we would get off the school bus at the mailbox located on the main road, the air would be filled with the sweet smell of the blossoms of the plums growing next to the farmhouse, welcoming children happy to be home from the cares of the school day. In our pastures grew the wild plum bushes and one time, in the late summer, while baling hale, my father ate so many plums from the nearby bushes he came back to the house with a stomachache.

We have no room left in our yard for trees but I'm fortunate that my neighbors have plum trees and the fragrance wafts over to Red Oak House.
We have no room left in our yard for trees but I’m fortunate that my neighbors have plum trees and the fragrance wafts over to Red Oak House.

When my father retired from the U.S. Army, we moved home to the maternal farm in Slope County, N.D., in June. I was enamoured with the ritual of loading up what was called “lunch,” really a midafternoon snack for the men working the fields. Coffee in jars and cookies or cake were carefully packed into a cardboard by Grandma Lilly and my Mom. This was also a break for us from our chores in the house and the farmyard.

One of my fond memories is helping my mother and grandma feed the wet clothes from the washing into the electric wringer and watching these come out flattened, ready to take out to the clothesline (near the chicken coop) for hanging from the wire with wooden clothespins. The wringer washer was fascinating to little ole me, and I know I accidentally put my fingers into it for a time or two before I learned that painful lesson.

In my yard Tuesday, I mowed and then planted some flowers, marveling at the miracle of the tiny seeds that will hopefully sprout and bring us beauty and food.

The dandelion digger my mother gave to me
The dandelion digger my mother gave to me

My other tool of the day was the dandelion digger.  lthough I have a laptop, wifi, a Zen notepad, a big screen TV, an Apple TV device and a Google Pixel phone, the tool of choice for digging dandelions and other weeds is 16th-century technology that gets the job done. Yes, I do know the critical role that dandelions play for pollinators, but I assure you my neighbors provide them with plenty — and then there are the aforementioned blooming trees.

Leonardo da Vinci said the average human being “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”

Strive to be above average.

My husband was a the best fisherman on the river Tuesday. His lucky green bucket helps, too.
My husband was a the best fisherman on the river Tuesday. His lucky green bucket helps, too.

My husband has called to alert me that he is feeding us walleye freshly caught in the Missouri River this morning.  What an amazing world we live in!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Wild Violets

It was a blustery spring day Monday at Red Oak House with the front passing through that brought thunder and rain to the northern Plains and a stiff breeze to rustle the new leaves everywhere. I could hear the chipping sparrows in the backyard. Any day, now the white-crowned sparrows will pass through.

We are mostly done with the cleanup from Sunday evening’s backyard party that brought together some of the finest friends and family that anyone could ever hope for — kind, interesting, smart and witty folks — and I’m basking in the afterglow of their good company.

In the garden, the wild violets that the Smeenks planted are fully in bloom (the original owners of the house — we are the third owners — I shall write about them more on another day).

Birch tree, still bedecked with this season's catkins.
Birch tree, still bedecked with this season’s catkins.

The new leaves are unfurling on the birch tree, but it is still bedecked with this season’s catkins. Soon this tree will fully shade Jim’s office.

With the ground saturated, it is time for a brief pause from gardening chores to catch up with indoor tasks and reading and such.

I hope, gentle reader, that the sky is as blue where you are as it is here.

P.S. I am rejoicing in the news that Macron was elected. Viva la France!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Update

Here at Red Oak House, it was a sunny 84-degree Saturday, and so many things in the garden are popping it is worthy of a photo update.

It was a very busy day here. Jim did some cultivating and got some vegetables planted.

It is pine pollen season, and everything is coated with the fine chartreuse pollen dust, including the furniture inside I just cleaned this morning.

Oh, and for the record, we did drink coffee and eat breakfast on the back patio.

Bliss.