Thursday, July 30, 2009

Going Out on the Loveliest Limb

I did something a little gutsy this week, on a lark.

This is one of my all time favorite homes in the greater Goshen area. Every time I drive by, I risk my very life because I cannot take my eyes off of it. I passed by on Monday and got to thinking...

Long story short, I tracked the homeowner down and called her, the very next day. I am learning that sometimes you just have to ask. I'm realizing that when the worst that can happen is that you are rejected, well, that's really not that bad at all.

I eeked out my feeble request - to photograph her gardens - and without skipping a mili-beat, Mrs. N said, "Oh, sure you can!" I could tell, just by the tone of her voice, that she was a keeper. Oh, she also told a perfect stranger to come on over anytime, which didn't exactly hurt her case.

So, two days later, camera, notebook and 2 fresh-from-the-oven banana nut muffins in hand, I set out.

I was greeted by this.

Let me pause here to say that before this day, I had only seen and admired the front of the house. I had no idea what was hiding behind.

Mrs. N walked me to the back of the property and swung open her potting shed, then turned me loose.

This shed nearly made me weep. What I mean is, it is my dream to one day inhabit a shed of this general form. It had high pitched white ceilings and cozy furnishings and a back wall made entirely of repurposed, old windows. I wanted to lie down and nap for a spell on the little rest my head on the wee ticking pillow. Alas, there were gardens beckoning.

I think I've already mentioned my love for hollyhocks. According to Mrs. N, this is the first year she's had success with them.

Of course, I don't believe that...but it sure was nice of her to say.

Do you know what's even more fetching than a leggy, pink hollyhock? One encircled by a cage of grape tomatoes.

This is the back porch of the shed. Everything reminded me so much of True Blue Sarah's dad, Larry. He would have eaten this right up.

Can we talk for a moment about the raised flower beds?

1. Rusty windmill.

2. Viny pretties.

3. Zinnias a go-go.

4. Bewitching roses.

At each area of the property, I had to force myself to keep moving. This raised bed garden was probably my very favorite stop. It was magazine-worthy.

Birdhouses were sprinkled all over the property. Had I not been high on pollen, I may have thought to keep count.

This mossy, stony niche made my heart ache a little.

And then there was the barn.

I said, out loud, to myself and the honeybees, "I am in love" more than once.
I can tell from here that you believe me.

Mrs. N told me post-shoot that her very favorite flower is the daylily, in many of its varieties. She is planning to move in a year or so (I know) and plans to take some of these with her.

I was so taken by her attitude and zestiness. She has lived in this home for 20 years and I gathered that she now lives there alone. She said it's hard to think of leaving, but she knows it's time and she hopes the new owners will love the gardens, but who knows...?

At every turn, I found a wagon, wheel barrow or other rusty curiosity overflowing with blooms in the loveliest combinations.

I have an inkling that this has a story behind it.

Mrs. N's garden is entirely naturalized. She does not deadhead anything in the Fall, but allows the birds to take their fill. Come Spring, she clears out the dead growth and waits to see what will pop up, and where.

One thing in particular that I asked her about was the massive quantity of zinnias and other annuals all over the 5-acre property. She plants them each year using starts, not seeds, because her experience is that the established perennials will often overpower seed growth.

And fertilizer? In her own words, "Each March I go and buy a big bag of 6-24-24 horse manure mulch from one of the Amish guys, then I haul it around and fling handfuls of it into the beds." The end.

As intimidating as gardening may seem to a beginner such as myself, she made it seem easy and above all, fun. In fact, she specifically said that she shies away from planning her garden, since she feels that over-planning can easily turn gardening into work and diminish the fun, carefree nature of it all. (Sidenote: She has been gardening for 15 years. Something to aspire to!)

Before leaving, she thanked me for stopping by and said that she enjoyed sharing her garden with me. "I do all of this work and I'm the only one here to appreciate it." I offered to leave my blog address, so she could double-check my work, but she politely declined, saying she prefers to "live like a dinosaur" and does not have a computer.

As we were saying goodbye, a friend pulled in unexpectedly, and Mrs.N shouted out, "Hey! I've been needing to talk to you!"

And that was that.

So, today, and tomorrow and every day that follows, I will be hooked on gardening and hooked on learning from whomever is willing to share, and hooked on lunging out onto those limbs and just asking.

Now, go check out what others are hooked on and inspired by.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is it a napkin? Is it a curtain? It's both.

Several months ago I found myself in a HomeGoods store, which is never a bad thing. Upon combing the aisles, I stumbled upon the perfect set of napkins, made with a blue and white ticking-esque oxford fabric. Since I cannot walk away from anything ticking-related, I picked them up, all the while knowing that I did not need and probably wouldn't use four more cloth napkins.

Fast forward a couple of months....I'm in my kitchen, still lamenting my lack of suitable window covering options. I ordered bamboo shades from BB&B, but didn't like the way they impeded (is that a word?) my view. I'm tall, you know. I didn't like the fact that they covered some of my prime gazing territory. Plus, they looked a little...brown.

Still, the bare windows looked unfinished.

But, would cafe curtains look fussy?

And yet, I would love the opportunity to bring some fabric and pattern into the mix.

(These are the things I wrestle with late at night. I am not up late eating pizza or watching horror flicks...I'm tossing and turning about curtains! What are your thoughts about my crazy dreams, now?)

I'm not completely sure when it hit me, but thank my lucky stars, it did.

They were the perfect length. I just clipped them right up. An indesputable kitchen miracle.

No sooner was I patting myself on the back, celebrating my own utter brilliance, than I remembered that the other window is much larger. Now what?

I'll tell you what - "slipcovered" curtains.

I cut up a Lowe's drop cloth (so perfectly nubby and neutral) to size, then waited patiently for the next month, until my mama could come up for a visit and thread my sewing machine.

(That's right, I have one. My pal Lindsay gave it to me in a fit of unbridled optimism pointed right in my direction. I quickly stashed it in the train room and tried to muster the courage to make friends with it...but it took some time.)

At last, Mom arrived. She sewed the first one and I sewed the next. I sewed!
I. Sewed.

I've got the picture to prove it. Do I look excited, or what?

After stitching around the raw edges, my mom was kind enough to hand-sew these cool hooks and eyes. I cannot get enough of their metal-y goodness. Ticking + nubby beige + black metal = my new trifecta. And I'm sorta kicking around the idea of stitching up a set of "slipcovers" from an amazing white eyeletish tablecloth, also purchased the very same day at HomeGoods. Can you imagine - two amazing and distinct options at my fingertips!

The moral of the story: Never doubt a HomeGoods purchase. Tell your husbands that I said so.

To check out some more thrifty ideas, go here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Allegan - Round II a.k.a. The Goods

I was determined to get a group shot of us at some point, and just as we were hauling our wares out to the car, we got it. The sweetest lady in a Hawaiian motif mumu-ish get-up took the pic and was so perplexed by my "new-fangled" camera that required her to look at the screen rather than through a view finder.

Look at that cool thing Brooke found! Ten. Dollars. Who knows what it is, and who the heck cares? Also, the fella in the background reminds me of something worth mentioning: the lemon shake-ups are extra good in Allegan. They are the best I've ever had, and I'm a known conoisseuer of all things lemon.

Ruby's got a birthday coming up.

I bought this from our Hawaiaan-esque photog, who cut me a spectacular deal and told me that it was once her mother's. It was my first purchase of the day, and my biggest.

Then I found this adorable little quilt, but I wasn't sure that I really needed it, then the dealer offered it to me for $6 and I really had no choice. It's soaking in OxiClean as we speak.

My little game piece collection.

Here's the thing about flea marketing - it's all fine and good to go with a list, and I usually try to have one, but you just never know when divine inspiration will hit you square in mug. Next thing you know, you're on a wild goose chase for poker chips and wooden chess pieces, preferrably in reds, blues and aquas. I love it when that happens.

I also found the perfect red-lidded jar. (Do you see that "89" wooden token? Hello.)

Another random little bit that I couldn't pass up. Stay tuned, I guess.

Last, but not least, I finally found a set of proper gardening tools. They are sturdy and chippy green and were tied together with twine.

Oh! Almost forgot - I grabbed two of the botanical prints from Diane Passi's booth, but I accidentally roughed them up a little in transit, so they are currently hiding under a stack of heavy books. Trust me, they are swoon-worthy.

Not bad for a day of church skippin', huh?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Allegan - Round I

I've got a permanent itch for flea-marketing. And lately, that itch has needed some big time scratchin'. Brooke, Michelle and I loaded up Sunday a.m. for the Allegan, MI show. We all skipped church. (Don't tell Brooke's husband - he's the pastor!)

The girls arrived on time only to be greeted by Calvin, wearing nothing but his Superman underwear. Then, we were off!

I spent most of the 2 hour drive baring my soul and ridding my psyche of some especially disturbing recent dreams. I would share all of it with you, but you probably wouldn't love me anymore. (Btw - Anyone out there have a cure for crazy, vivid dreams that occur on a nightly basis? Call me!)

Before we knew it, we passed this gem, and I knew we were just about to round the final bend.

As always, Allegan did not disappoint. Some highlights were:

For inexplicable reasons, as soon as I saw this giant jar of game pieces, I told the girls to go on ahead and I would catch up with them. It drew me right in. (I'm thinking something like this may be a fantastic addition to Silas's room, no?)

White and blue with some silver metal thrown on top.
Need I say more?


The dealers at VanDaff's were so gracious, kind and fun. And holy cow, they've got great taste.

Diane Passi

This booth absolutely rocked my socks off.

Botanical and industrial with a little hint of science geek chic.

It's my dream home, stuffed into one little booth.

Rhubarb Reign
Why, oh why, did I not take any pictures? I have loved them all the way back in Springfield, OH. Their wares are so swoony and I always leave with something in hand.

I happened upon this slamming bike, somewhere along the way.
So Cath Kidston!

Oxymoron, anyone?

The prettiest little chapel with an ominous sky looming.

Wanna see what we found? Be sure to check back tomorrow.