Unheralded

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 66 : The Summer Of Smoke

Remember when I said, on June 13, “Guess I’ll just go camping”? Well, we did. We hitched up the travel trailer and headed west, straight into the cauldron, to the historic heatwave in the Pacific Northwest. But we got lucky, and cool weather returned by the time we made it to North Cascades National Park. Highlights were glorious Mount Rainier, where …


Unheralded

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Silent Scorched Spring

Dead perennials, spring 2021 Hosta: Autumn Glow Teenie Weenie Cracker Crumbs Hacksaw Judy Blue Eyes, most (healthy and spreading for ten years prior) Prairie Angel (one of two) Tokudama Sitting Pretty Peanut Praying Hands (most) Cherry Berry True Blue (a huge and beautiful plant) The miniatures, however established, took the biggest hit. Here’s Green Mouse Ears hosta this year: And …


LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 65

I know, I know. It has been many months since I’ve written Red Oak House Garden Notes. How many times can one write about an exceptional drought? How many times can one whine about the long dry winter? I’ve also been busy with rewrites of a manuscript Jim and I have devoted much of the past years crafting. That, and …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 64: Are You The Ants Or The Grasshopper?

I’m trying to take the time in my life to rediscover ancient wisdom, such as that found in “Aesop’s Fables” and in conversations with my elders, most importantly my mother. Perhaps during the upcoming fallow season, I will reread one fable each day. Time will tell. At the same time, I’m trying to learn new lessons, from family and friends of all …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House: A Bird-y Essay At The Height Of Tomato Harvest

At Red Oak House we are birders. And foodies. And frugal. On Monday at dawn I heard a bird strike a window just as I was stepping out to the patio to sip coffee and quietly read the morning newspaper. The signs of autumn migration are all around and we have a small birdbath that is critical water for the …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 63: Hints Of Autumn

“There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow!” — “Oklahoma,” Rodgers and Hammerstein Jim burst into song this morning — pro tip: Ask him to sing “Moon River” — when we agreed that not only are there hints of autumn at Red Oak House but also haze in the air caused by the combination of smoke from Western fires and dust …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 62

We need rain at Red Oak House. But the new ice maker in the fridge seems to work. My mother would say, maybe when we kids were asking for something that might not be reasonable, “People in hell want ice-water.” But a small celebration was held here when I scored a brand-new Margaritaville blender (our vintage blender on its last …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House: Today’s Short Story of the Trees of Arthur Drive

A short story in the life of Arthur Drive in the Highland Acres neighborhood of Bismarck today, Aug. 5, 2020. “Short” being a relative term in the eyes of the beholder. Our next-door neighbors have a lovely big tree. Some sort of boxelder, I think. Everyone in the neighborhood values their trees. (That is, of course, until a storm comes …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 60

Life has been hectic. We are harvesting vegetables and scrambling to adjust to life in a pandemic. When I get time, I will write some thank-you notes to the people who have helped us through these past months of lockdown and loss. When we get stamps or get to our nearby post office, we will mail those. “Notes” will feel …

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.   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 …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Gardening Notes No. 57

An early warm spell lured Mr. Green Jeans into planting his tomatoes May 1. Last week’s cold snap killed most of his precious hand-raised heirloom seedlings. He says it is worth the risk because of our short growing season. I’m not much of a risk-taker, but the vegetable garden is his territory, so I try to stay out of it …

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — I’m The Slow One

I think I’ll have my morning coffee on the patio. But not this morning. It’s foggy, windy and 43 degrees — conditions I would have appreciated in February, but we lose our sense of perspective each spring, don’t we? Even on the Northern Plains we feel entitled to fair weather. Can you imagine how insufferable Floridians must be? On Monday, …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Tenth Anniversary

November is our 10th anniversary at Red Oak House and the longest I’ve lived in one place in my lifetime. The explanation for my peripatetic life is, in part, that I was an Army brat. Looking back, I think that my heart was seeking the perfect match for my home and didn’t find it until we bought Red Oak House. I …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 55: Autumn Sunshine

On Friday, I worked joyously in the autumn sunshine at Red Oak House, on a rare still day, planting 92 tulip bulbs at the request of my husband. He had asked me last spring to plant more and when I received an email from a seed company mentioning bulbs, it hit me that there was still time. On Thursday night, …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — My Tomato Herb Phyllo Tart

I love to cook and I love to share food with family and friends. I’ve been cooking on my own for a crowd since I was 10 years old. The other night, I made this dish, which makes my husband very happy. Many friends requested the recipe. Here it is, a first for WildDakotaWoman. Tomato and Herb Phyllo Tart 7 …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 54: Time To Pay The Piper

You may have noticed that WildDakotaWoman has been quiet of late. I’ve been to England, Scotland and Wales for that time. Yup, a whole month. It was just as wonderful as I thought it would be and I’ll write about it when I have time. I don’t have time because I came home to at least a month worth of …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 53

I’m awake before dawn this morning at Red Oak House with a long task list that includes an overdue Garden Notes post. Between painting the house, ailing elderly parents, a trip to Yellowstone and preparations for my upcoming adventure, I have fallen behind in my writing. Yet, I write for pleasure and have no deadline, so it is “all good.” …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 52 : I Paint The House

After all of that snow and good spring rains, the gardens are lush at Red Oak House. Jim finally got the rabbit-proof fence perfected so the vegetable beds are going to produce bountifully. We are eating lettuce and radishes and the peas are just around the corner. The weeds are flourishing, too, and we barely keep up with that chore. …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 51: Digging In The Dirt Is My Therapy

Digging in the dirt is my therapy, and we have been doing plenty of digging these past few weeks at Red Oak House. Jim has planted 25 of his heirloom tomatoes he started by seed in March and given away his remaining seedlings. He reports that the peas and potatoes have sprouted with the long-awaited arrival of sunny weather, and …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 49

We finally had blue skies in North Dakota on Friday, after a long spell of gray weather. We are grateful to go into winter with the moisture, but the dreariness was beginning to wear thin. At least we didn’t get the heavy snow that hit the eastern part of the state. We got a little snow last week, and it …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 48: Wrapping Up The Summer Season

Although the growing season began with such promise, Jim is bemoaning that it has been a disappointing year in the vegetable gardens, as he harvests the meager take of vegetables. Last year at the same time, he was bringing in 30 or so tomatoes a day, and now he only finds about three or four ripe among the hundreds of …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 47: The Daylilies Are Waning

Peak daylily bloom here at Red Oak House has passed, and I can’t help but feel a bit wistful about this. The focus of this past July has been daylilies of all kinds, and not just in my garden. Late in the month, I took in an exhibit of daylily art at Bismarck Art Gallery Associates, where it was delightful …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 45: Life Is A Garden, Friends Are The Flowers

The riotous beauty of the daylilies has me feeling that I’m somewhat neglecting the glory of my hostas, so today I’m featuring the front yard. As I’ve written in the past, I’m no fan of lawns and mowing, thus we’ve converted nearly every foot of our yard to beds, including the front yard. The sight in the first few years …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 44: Daylilies, Daylilies, Dayliles … And A Bunch Of Voles

The daylilies are coming fast and furious, accompanied by a fierce outbreak of mosquitoes. I have 189 varieties of daylilies. My sister, Beckie, and I collect these and together we have 225 varieties. We also belong to the Bismarck-Mandan Daylily Club and have great fun together at the annual auction. On Sunday, my absolute favorite of all of the 189 …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 43: The Daylilies Enter The Stage With A Bang

Now is the time when all of our hard work in the gardens of Red Oak House pay us with the joy of abundant blossoms and fresh vegetables. We’ve eaten the first of our tomato crop ― all juicy and scrumptious, along with fresh peas and beans. Now are the days of meals we call “nothing from the store.” Meanwhile, …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 42 — A Mostly Cool June

Although we had a few scorcher days in June, most days it was cool and the Red Oak House windows remained wide open. Late June also brought the blessings of rain, an inch and a quarter in the last days of this week. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief that the drought is over. The vegetable garden looks terrific, …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 41 — Cutworms Get Broccoli, Grill Goes On Fritz

Every gardener experiences successes and failures and must learn to go with the flow. Here at Red Oak House, the cutworms killed the heretofore vigorous broccoli. Mr. Green Jeans has replanted broccoli and protected the plants this time with milk cartons. On the bright side, the tomatoes look terrific, as does the rest of the vegetable garden. And for now, …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 40 — It Rains!

The days continue to grow longer here in the northern latitudes as the calendar progresses toward the summer solstice, and our garden is proof of that inescapable rhythm. It finally has rained, although not much. Yet, we are extremely grateful for the precipitation, in spite of the fact that some of it fell as we were conducting our book sale. …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 39

The air is fragrant here at Red Oak House because all of the crab apple trees and lilacs are blooming. Thus, it is exceptionally pleasant to work at our gardening chores. The juneberry bush is loaded with blossoms, and our resident house wrens have returned. Their cheerful call makes our back patio an even more pleasant haven. Jim has finished …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 38

That Champion Red Oak tree drops a massive quantity of leaves and I’ve just spent much of the last week picking these up, schlepping each garbage can load to the compost pile. Phase two of spring gardening also included cutting back the few perennials I did not trim last fall and transplanting those I’d noted in need of a different …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 37

Saturday I planted the zinnia seeds, pushing each tiny seed into a peat pellet. The seedlings had already begun to emerge Monday, and I can almost watch ’em grow. In the dining room, Jim’s tomatoes are thriving. He says these are the best he’s ever had. Outside there is almost a foot of new snow and a big dump in …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 36

Winter is hanging on here, with a vengeance. We have about a foot of snow on the Red Oak House gardens. Although we are weary of winter, we do view this as critical moisture — moisture that we were lacking last summer and fall. This is what the first day of spring looked like out our windows. Tuesday, there was …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 35

March 15 is “plant the tiny tomato seeds” day at Red Oak House. When I wandered into the kitchen this morning, Jim asked me, with great delight in his voice, if I knew what the significance of this day was. I had not yet had coffee and was stumped (I’ll admit that I didn’t try very hard). This project is …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 34

Last week one night, I dreamed of the upcoming garden season, a dream filled with blossoms and bounty. The gardening season has begun here, in the basement, as Jim has planted the pepper seeds and tiny sprouts have emerged. In about a week, he will plant his tomato seeds. Many of the seeds we are using were purchased at Seed …

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Thoughts Of Spring, Tomatoes And Peppers On A Cold Winter Day

Note: I am reprinting (reposting?) below a story I first ran three years ago this week. It’s about tomatoes. I was thinking about it because today I am preparing my basement “greenhouse” for spring. I’m getting ready to plant peppers, which need to be started indoors really early because they take a long time to ripen on the bush. We …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 33

These past two days back home at Red Oak House found us back to fall chores, and Jim catching walleye on the Missouri River, supper tonight. Wednesday night, with the gorgeous tiger’s-eye beans we’d brought home from Seed Savers Exchange and grass-fed beef from the Striefels, I cooked up a huge pot of chili, making enough so that Jim and …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Thousands Of Tomatoes

Well, on Thursday I said it to Jim. That statement that comes around every year: “I don’t want to see another tomato again for quite awhile.” By this point, we’ve converted thousands of tomatoes (Jim says over 1,700, plus my sister gave us some of hers) into salsa, juice, marinara — and Thursday, I canned 14 quarts of tomato basil …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 32

Tuesday morning, I worked in the cool autumn sunshine on yard chores, getting things done before the snow flies. First, I tackled the pile of limbs we had accumulated over the summer in our trailer, breaking and sawing up the branches to add to our kindling pile. Lizzie the springer spaniel happily nosed around in the fallen leaves and disappeared …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Finding Beauty In A Broken World’

“A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken.” — “Finding Beauty in a Broken World,” a book by Terry Tempest Williams In what has been described by many as a “soul-crushing week” in the United States, I’m trying my damnest to focus on the blessings and gifts in my life. One of the finest gifts of friendship in my …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Frost Forecast

Frost is in the forecast for Red Oak House. It was inevitable and is an integral part of the life cycle.  On this chilly and breezy Tuesday morning, Jim and I harvested the last of the vegetables — that is everything but the Brussels sprouts, which are left out until they produce. We’ll see. Together we dug the parsnips, the leeks and …

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 31

Jim took a break Saturday from fishing and hunting in order to work on his garlic bed. He also cultivated an area in the vegetable garden for me. Now that we have a chicken-wire fence around the vegetable garden, I can plant tulips and the rascally rabbits won’t gnaw them down to nubs. I planted 80 bulbs — yellow and …