LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 59

One year ago, at the time of Summer Solstice, I took some photos of our gardens. Here are two views of the irises in bloom.


The only new daylily Spring 2020. A gift from a treasured friend, in honor of my Dad.
The only new daylily Spring 2020. A gift from a treasured friend, in honor of my Dad.

Last year, I divided hostas and other perennials to increase my plants without buying more, a frugal gardener. I give away plants and friends give me plants. We grub raspberries and give the plants away, and Jim and his pals exchange hand-grown tomato seedlings each year. Gardening is in our blood.

Here’s a thumbnail update: A tiny fraction of those irises bloomed this year. The hostas are flourishing and our long-term vision of a woodland habitat under the North Dakota Champion Red Oak Tree has been met. The perennial gardens are heavily mulched to preserve water. We have a bare minimum of grass (we use the clippings for mulch).

This has been the driest year on record to date in North Dakota we learned last night while watching the local weather report. The tending I did to the perennials is essentially the same as in 2019, so the explanation for the lack of blooms is the difference between snow and rain versus treated city water. We are always grateful that we live on the Missouri River and do not take for granted our access to water. But we are conscious of its use.

Two hostas become six in 2020.
Two hostas become six in 2020.

Don’t get me wrong about the importance of flowers versus food and clean water. I grew up on a family ranch, raised by parents and aunts and uncles who had grown up in the Dirty Thirties and the Great Depression. Jim and I completed a manuscript this winter, a biography of a North Dakotan in that time period, and in our research learned even more about hard times and drought.

Jim and I have lived in North Dakota for decades, including through the Drought of 1988. For starters. We know that the current drought is having a bigger impact than on our flowers. We rely on our vegetables (in fact, the last carrots from 2019) and fresh lettuce on our table tonight. We donated the radish crop to our church soup kitchen, and Jim is nurturing what he hopes to be a big potato, tomato and garlic crop. We’ve accepted that we will not be traveling in the near future and are trying our darndest to be good citizens.

Last week we got the news that Mother has breast cancer. She just lost her last sister and our father’s funeral is July 10. She has been locked down in a Mandan, N.D., nursing home, and we’ve scrambled in that situation just as every other family worldwide has tried to cope. She is now a patient at the Bismarck Cancer Center, and my younger sister and I were able to take turns accompanying her to medical appointments. She snagged a beautiful handmade mask (she’s a wizard with the needle herself) and, at her request, we sat in the warm summer sunshine making a plan before transport whisked her back.

Listen to the stories your elders tell of their lives. You will never regret it. It is their truth. And yours. And ours.

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