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 — 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 — 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.


LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Grubbing Raspberries With Homemade Margaritas For My Reward

After my morning yoga class, I made another foray to one of our local nurseries, then it was home to the work in the garden. After I’d planted my new treasures, I had to turn to grubbing raspberries.

Until the last couple of years, I’d not had much experience with growing raspberries. When we grew them at our Dunn County place, the Gumbo Lily Ranch, I was busy with my career and raising my children, and raspberries are my husband’s favorite, so he was in charge of these. He likes to say if there would only be one fruit, it would be, in his view, raspberries.

We planted these the very first spring we were living in Red Oak House, and I had no idea that these spread by suckers (I guess I thought these spread by the billions of tiny seeds found on the fruit).

My sister, Beckie Walby, has her patch in a much more intelligent location, against her house, bordered by grass. Ours are along a side fence and, in front of these is a perennial bed. So, off I go to grub the suckers out of my perennial bed with my spade.

Ours produce fruit in late summer and early fall. My sister’s come in earlier in the summer.

This spring, we’ve added a raspberry bed on the east side of the house, and here we planted two different kinds, one a golden raspberry from our dear friends Jan and David Swenson’s patch and the other from my sisters’ patch (in the hopes that we will extend our raspberry harvest). I hope my neighbor doesn’t cuss at me when those suckers grow up in his grass as much as I cuss the ones that pop up here and there in my perennial bed.

A few days ago, I planted a shrub rose, yellow, my favorite color. I haven’t had a shrub rose for several years now and visiting my friend, Rhoda Hilden, reminded me how much I miss their beauty. Stay tuned for photos.

I think yellow is such a happy color, and many of my flowers are yellow. As I described in my blog talking about our household decor and our acquisition of one of our Navajo rugs, the yellow one, I am immensely cheered by the color yellow. Close your eyes just one moment and think of a lemon. Sunflowers are, as I’m seeing on various knick-knacks, “sunshine on a stem.” But, I assure you, gentle reader, yellow is mixed in both inside and out of the house with many other splendid colors.

Today is Cinco de Mayo, and as I worked in the warm sunshine, I kept in my mind the delicious homemade margaritas that Beckie is making us for a Mexican feast at her house. Everyone (of legal age, of course) loves these, and I know for her, they are a labor of love. If I’m going to spend Cinco de Mayo anywhere but in Mexico or the American Southwest, it should probably be at Walbys, where the food is always delicious and the margaritas are perfection.

When I was a kid living in El Paso, Texas, (my father was stationed at Fort Bliss Army Base), we would have pinatas for our birthday parties, and one of my mother’s best friend, Mercedes, was Hispanic. I loved going to her house in a beautiful part of the city (we were in a nice but ordinary suburban part of the city). In school, we all studied Spanish, as it was one of our classes along with math, science, English and social studies.

Sadly, once we moved to North Dakota, where Spanish was not taught at our local school, my Spanish skills slipped to almost nil. Now we joke that at least we know “uno cerveza,” an essential skill (look it up), however, I do wish I could speak Spanish as I did as a child. I made a stab at it this winter but failed miserably.

As my husband and I were winding down this day’s work in the garden, I announced that tomorrow morning for the first time this year, I’m having coffee and breakfast on our patio. He heartily agreed that this was an excellent plan, and so we shall.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Time For A Cold Glass Of Chardonnay

It’s time for a cold glass of Guenoc chardonnay on the patio of Red Oak House after a perfectly delightful afternoon in the garden, time to savor the goodness of life.

Late morning was spent at the local garden shops and then it was home to plant my new treasures. Is there anyplace as happy on a May day than Plant Perfect or Cashman’s Nursery or the Lowe’s garden section?

On Wednesday, I planted a new yellow shrub rose, yellow being my favorite color and the more hardy shrub roses being appropriate for North Dakota’s oftentimes severe climate.

Rubra Pasqueflower in full bloom, so beautiful it deserves another pic.
Rubra Pasqueflower in full bloom, so beautiful it deserves another pic.

I love digging in the dirt. As I mow the tiny bit of grass we have here, I think of my Slope County family — my Grandpa Andy Silbernagel, my Daddy and my brothers — spending countless hours on the tractor, summer-fallowing the fields and planting the crops. They would come into the farmhouse with their faces completely black, dog-tired. We ate the food we’d prepared and they’d collapse in the recliner to read and watch TV — and get up each morning to repeat this ritual.

My paternal granddaddy, Earl Crook, grew a small crop of peanuts in Mississippi.   I remember his wife, Lena Belle Ellis, would always have a huge vegetable and flower garden at their home near Vaiden, Miss. When I close my eyes, I can conjure up the exact picture of me following her and my mother in that multicolored wonderland.

At the Slope County farm, down near the well and windmill, we had one vegetable garden and then another just beyond the barnyard buildings, plus a huge field of potatoes about a mile from the farmstead.

As a small child, my Grandpa Andy would pay his grandchildren a penny for each potato bug we could catch and drop into a can of gasoline, as much to get us out of his hair as to control the bugs. As a teenager, I was pleased to be assigned to go and hoe the large potato field as this meant that I got to drive a pickup solo, something I couldn’t get enough of!

On days like today, we’d be eager to get off the school bus and tear outside to check on our baby calves and see if there might be new kittens. Everywhere we looked on the prairie there was new life.

Jim's fishing buddies, Red and Jeff, taking a picture of Red with his fish.
Jim’s fishing buddies, Red and Jeff, taking a picture of Red with his fish.

Today, my husband fished with his pals on the Missouri River, and he came home with a bucket full of walleye, cleaned it and had nothing but happiness in his heart. We will share that with friends. We never “ever” take for granted the clean water that flows through our city, the Missouri River.

What a blessing it was to grow up surrounded by the people who grew our nation’s food and to live in a city where everyone is busy and happy with spring work.

I toast them all today with my Chardonnay.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Going Back In Time

Today, after dealing with an internet scammer that chose my daughter as their latest victim, I just want to go back to my childhood, when the biggest problem facing us was the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The U.S. Army was preparing my mother for this by telling her where it was she should take her preschool children should the nuclear crisis strike and telling her how she would reunite with her school-age children, my older brother and sister. Where my father fits into all of this I’m not clear on, but I suspect he and his buddies were on high alert.

Meanwhile, I planted flowers in my patio pots at Red Oak House, and my husband transplanted the tomato seedlings to larger pots in their final stage until these are transferred into the garden.

Oh, and we grilled some delicious steaks from our brother-in-law, Randy Striefel (I don’t even want to think about how hard he works to raise those cows!), and there was a beautiful sunset at my house in North Dakota.

So, it is true, it is all about perspective. That, and BE SUSPICIOUS. Always be suspicious.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — A Study On A Bowl Of Eggs

“Wash every bowl, every dish, as if you are bathing the baby Buddha — breathing in, feeling joy, breathing out, smiling. Every minute can be a holy, sacred minute. Where do you seek the spiritual? You seek the spiritual in every ordinary thing that you do every day. Sweeping the floor, watering the vegetables, and washing the dishes becomes hold and sacred if mindfulness is there. With mindfulness and concentration, everything becomes spiritual.” — Thích Nhất Hạnh

On this May Day of 2017, this quote strikes me to my very core so I share with you, gentle readers.

My other meditation today has been the gift of fresh eggs from my sister, Sarah, who received these from her friend, Diane, who raises chickens at her home in the Bad Lands south of Medora. Evidently, Diane has trouble keeping up with the abundance of eggs her chickens produce. In gratitude, I brought these home and placed them in a lovely turquoise bowl made by my friend, the potter, Mary Huether.

When I was a girl growing up on the Slope County farm, we had chickens, and the care and feeding of these were delegated to the Crook children. One year, my Aunt Junette and I drove over to Hettinger to meet the train and pick up the year’s chicks. The cacophony in the car on the ride home was memorable. We put these chicks in cardboard boxes, under warming lamps, and placed these noisy holding crates on the second floor of the farmhouse, on the landing on the top of the stairs between my brothers’ bedroom and mine. How we got any sleep is beyond me.

The chicken house was about 40 feet from the farmhouse. In the morning, we would open the chicken house door so that they could scratch about in the small fenced-in yard around their house, and in the evening, we would gather the still warm eggs and shut the door so as to keep the varmints from eating our chickens. This meant that no matter how many meetings or basketball games we had going in town, someone had to get home by dark and get that door shut. Sometimes, when we knew we would be home late, we would shut the chickens in early.

Learning to gather the eggs out from under the sitting hens was a challenge as getting one’s hand pecked wasn’t much fun. Off the chicken would fly clucking and fussing so much you would have thought we’d have stabbed it. My aunt taught me how in deep winter the yolks would start to fade and if one introduced some green feed in with the regular chicken feed and scraps, the yolks would return to a luscious bright yellow. The first time I attempted to make a pie crust without the benefit of the oversight of someone more knowledgeable, I had to give up and just feed the entire mess to the chickens. Fortunately, with practice, I’ve improved on my pie dough skills and we love to eat chicken pot pie here at Red Oak House.

For a few years, I carefully gathered and washed the eggs and sold them to town folks. This was my first paying job.

We had a notoriously cranky rooster who would chase after us with his heel spurs pointing straight at us, and we all learned to never go out the farmhouse door without a rake in hand to fend him off. This rooster found himself on top of the list of chickens to be butchered.

Now, if you’ve never butchered chickens, you really haven’t worked hard.  I’ll never forget watching my father and brothers catch the chicken, take it over to the chopping block, where they would wack the head off with the axe, blood would spurt everywhere, and, it is true, the chicken would continue to “run around,” just like the old saw.

Meanwhile, in the house, my mother and aunt would be waiting with huge scalding tubs of water. They would quickly dip the now still chicken into the water, and a horrible stench would permeate the air. All of us on the crew would proceed to pluck each chicken, remove the entrails and cut the carcass up.  This went on “all day long.” In spite of the smells and blood and hard work, the fresh chicken we would fry up for supper was delicious, and we would give thanks for the abundance, finding the spiritual in the smallest thing, as described in the quote above.

Once we were teenagers, punishment for breaking curfew would be cleaning out the chicken coop. My mother was ingenious in this respect.

It is true that savoring home-grown eggs and chicken spoils you forever for the sad substitute purchased at the urban grocery store. Today, I’ve pulled out a number of my favorite egg recipes, and this week I will be ever so grateful to be eating farm fresh eggs.

And that is my study on a bowl of eggs.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Musings On Petrichor

Petrichor: The smell in the air before or as rain falls on hot, dry, stony ground (petra = stone; ichor = divine fluid. As defined by one of my favorite authors, Robert Macfarlane, on his Twitter account. Word of the Day March 18, 2017 by Robert Macfarlane

I love this word and I love the smell. My first memory of recognition of this smell was when I was driving one of the dusty, scoria roads near the Logging Camp Ranch in Slope County, North Dakota, with my maternal grandparents, in their blue Ford Galaxy, on a hot August day about 50 years ago. Although she did not use this word, my Grandma Lily explained to me what I was smelling. I would have been about 7 years old. To this day when I drive over the bridge at Deep Creek in that very spot, I have this intense memory.

My family went on these rambles on summer Sundays, ranging as far as we could manage, taking a picnic lunch. We went to the top of Bullion Butte. We went to Camp Crook, S.D.  We went to the Powder River country in southeastern Montana. We went to the top of Pretty Butte. We went exploring the western North Dakota lands where my maternal great-aunts had all homesteaded decades before, mostly just grassy quarter sections with scant evidence of their long-ago lives.

I’m quite proud of the fact that I went to the top of Bullion Butte in 1966, years before my husband, Jim Fuglie, or friends Mike Jacobs and Clay Jenkinson. In fact, I kinda like to lord it over them.

The photos were taken by my father, with his 35 mm camera he purchased in Japan in the years just before this when we were living in Okinawa.

You can see why I call this iconic butte, more mesa than butte, the center of my universe.

And why the word petrichor resonates with me to this day.

The aforementioned British writer Robert Macfarlane has published some wondrous books, including his award-winning Landmarks, travelogues, geographic meanderings, explorations of word meanings and musings on high points he has climbed. Here is a nice summation of one of his books and a splendid picture of him. Penguin also notes his biography as follows:

Robert Macfarlane was born in Nottinghamshire in 1976. He is the author of “Mountains of the Mind,” “The Wild Places,” “The Old Ways and Landmarks.” “Mountains of the Mind” won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Placeswon the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times. He is currently working on an illustrated children’s book about the natural world in collaboration with illustrator Jackie Morris.

Personally, I’m eager to see his forthcoming children’s book. His daily word on Twitter is very educational. This brief New Yorker piece on him is worth the read too:   Pen Pals Provide Linguistic Curios

You can’t go wrong whiling away the hours with one his splendid books. They’ll give you wanderlust of your own. Maybe you’ll make your own personal journey to the top of the magnificent Bullion Butte. You’ll be the better for the journey.