Saturday, September 26, 2009


Shady Hollow is waterlogged. The ground makes a squishing sound when stepped on. A year ago we were in a deep drought. Our water was under restrictions. I was watering plants with bath water and rinse water from my washing machine. The grass was dry and brown and made a crunching sound with every step. Red flag alerts were out, the tiniest spark could set the mountains ablaze.

Last week we were under flood watches and warnings as seven days of rain filled our creeks and rivers to the brim. Some rivers set new records, cresting feet above past floods. There were a few days of sunny weather before clouds moved back in yesterday. It is raining this morning.

During my time on this planet I've seen this cycle play out many times: drought, broken by an extremely wet period, followed by several 'normal' years. It is a never ending cycle for the earth. This is part of the larger cycle of wet, dry, cold, and hot that makes the planet a living entity, a celestial being with a life cycle of its own.

While the rain falls, the woodland creatures are storing up a bountiful supply of nuts and berries for winter. In this part of the cycle, I would not be surprised to see more snow than we've had over the past years. The squirrels and chipmunks feel the same way; they are working overtime to get ready.

I watch out the windows as the small creatures work the oaks and hickory trees. It's much too wet for me to venture out. Pruning and mowing and other chores can wait. I'll be content to watch from the windows as the slow rain falls.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Family Reunion and More Rain

My husband and I attended the first Steadman Family Reunion yesterday. The turnout was good, especially on a day of rain, rain and more rain. The river next to the building we occupied was rushing with all the run-off, not at flood stage, but near it. The sound of the rushing water sounded like a waterfall.

Those in attendance were faced with more food than we could possibly eat. I noted in my last post that my daughters were doing most of the cooking. Wrong! Everyone brought multiple dishes of some of the best food that ever met a fork. We have a variety of meat, vegetables, casseroles, breads, cakes, and other goodies to numerous to mention. One thing this family can do is cook!

The younger of Nellie and Andrew's sons, Joe, is a pastor and led us in prayer before we attacked the food. Later, my daughter, Mandi, who had organized the reunion and made it happen single-handedly, addressed the group in a general meeting and planning session for next year. I even put my two-cents in. No surprise there, I've always voiced my opinion without hesitation.

The rain actually stopped long enough for the children to enjoy the playground. Their parents had had the foresight to bring dry clothing for a quick change after playtime. The playground equipment was soaking wet and soon the children were as well.

After several hours, we left and headed back up the mountain to Shady Hollow. The drive up was as wet and foggy as the drive down had been. The road from Shady Hollow to the mountain's base can be an ordeal in bad weather.

Upon arriving home we saw that the creek behind Shady Hollow was out of its banks. We had "lake front property" for the first time in several years. The water never came as close as it has before, but it was easily visible from the back door and deck.

My husband and I had a great time and are proud of the effort put forth by Mandi to make the reunion happen. In this day and age of moves and financial hardship it is a very good thing for families to come together for a day of love and fellowship.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rainy Weekend For A Family Reunion

It's raining at Shady Hollow. The rain is a slow, gentle rain and is soaking into the soil as it falls. It has been raining for several days with short breaks between showers.

The cats are sleeping. They know how to handle inclement weather. Even Thomas, who would normally be outside, is inside sleeping. I have to venture out to put in a few hours at work and then make a quick trip by the grocery store on the way home. I'm not looking forward to either. The cats, I believe, have the right idea.

My youngest daughter has been planning a family reunion for months. It will be tomorrow. Part of my shopping will be for ingredients to make some of my children's favorite dishes. Tonight the cottage will smell of cooking as I prepare potato salad and deviled eggs. My daughters and daughter-in-law are making the majority of the food. It will be a feast to remember.

This will be a first reunion for this family. Over the past few years the only time the family has gotten together has been for funerals as the older generation passed from the scene. It is strange to realize that I am part of the older generation now. In fact, I'm second in line age wise.

I married into the family at 14 years old and divorced out of it at 38. I'm still 'part of the family' though and am proud that family love did not die when I divorced the eldest son. That was 19 years ago. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the couple we honor tomorrow are adults with babes of their own. The family has grown from 3 boys when I entered it to around 30 or more individuals. Those 3 boys and their wives are in middle-age and approaching their senior years. Where oh where did the time go?

So, it rains at Shady Hollow and I think melancholy thoughts of my younger days and remember Nellie and Andrew Steadman and the family they created. I think of their never ending love for all their children and our families. I remember their unselfishness and tolerance of our short-comings.

I know they will be looking through the rain and wishing us all well as we gather to honor them and remember them through our stories and memories. I hope they will be proud of who we are and what we have all become. I believe they will.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dancing Hummingbirds

Around the middle of April each year the hummingbirds come back to Shady Hollow. We try to have the feeders out and ready before the scouts arrive.

The hummingbirds are fueling up now for their migration back to warmer locations. They are in a feeding frenzy and are forming flocks for the trip south.

If you sit patiently on the front porch for only a few minutes, you will hear the hum of their wings and their high pitched chirping as they discuss the merit's of this feeder versus that one or which flowers have the sweetest nectar this morning. They are not afraid of us. On several occasions we have had indignant birds hover in front of us, mere inches from our faces, chirping loudly about an empty feeder. All the Shady Hollow animals seem to realize how willing we are to be of assistance.

We sit on the front porch and watch the hummingbirds dance in the air. Their maneuvers are astounding. Higher and higher they fly until almost out of sight, only to turn and plunge back toward the earth.

We watch their dance, knowing all too soon we will go out one morning and they will all be gone. We leave the feeders out for passers-by who are traveling from further north. But "our" birds will be gone, until next April.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The moonflowers are blooming nightly as we move on into fall. The blossoms are 8 inches or more across and glow in the moonlight. A relative of morning glories, their blossoms slowly spiral open as evening approaches. I love to watch them.

Like morning glories the blossoms are only open for a few hours. By mid-morning they are closed and a fresh group will open the next evening. I grow them on a trellis or on the deck and let their vines twine around the lattice.

Most of the flowers at Shady Hollow are nearing their demise. I pulled up most of my trusty balsam Sunday afternoon. The impatiens and begonias are losing some foliage. The cannas are still blooming, but their flowers are few.

The vegetable patch is a memory. I had picked the last beans when a small rabbit found the vines. I watched from the window for three days as she returned to feast on the vines. I told my husband that while I had been going to pull the vines, this worked out better.

Two artichoke plants survived being flooded and then crowded by squash plants. I bought the packet of seeds as an experiment. Jim loves artichokes, so I thought I would try growing them. A perennial, they won't actually produce until next year. Soon I'll mulch them, and wait to see if they survive the winter.

It has been a good year in the garden and there are still things to be done. But for now, I'm enjoying spending my evenings with the moonflowers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Moment Of Silence

All the creatures at Shady Hollow pause today to remember and pray for those lost on September 11, 2001.

May their souls find peace and their loved ones find comfort.

May ALL the Gods and Goddesses, by whatever names they are called, Bless and Protect the United States and Her People.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shady Hollow Critters

We have white squirrels at Shady Hollow. No, not albino squirrels, white squirrels. They are not "special" other than the coat color. Just plain old everyday gray squirrels with white coats and maybe a stripe down their backs or a black spot between their ears.

They sure are cute though! Destructive too, just like the regular ones, but for some reason we tolerate their mischief more before we try to chase them away from bird feeders and flower beds. People on the roads around here will try to miss the white squirrels on occasions when the grays would be toast.

The trees around Shady Hollow are full of squirrel nests, thanks to the plentiful supply of food and water our bird feeding efforts supply. Currently, bits and pieces of acorn peels and hickory nut hulls fall like rain from the trees as the little 'limb rats' (gray and white) enjoy the feast. They are storing food for winter, even getting on the back deck to bury acorns in my flower pots.

We also have a few families of chipmunks. They are also busy, eating nuts the squirrels drop and hiding acorns in my flower pots. Every year I have oak, hickory, and other tree seedlings to pull from pots and flower beds before I can start my seeds.

The last two days, Jim and I have watched a hungry rabbit eating the bean plants in the garden. He/she ate the plants to the ground, but left the mature bean pods. We marveled at that. It was an example of nature knowing that by leaving the seed pods, a crop of new plants would be available next year. Of course, this makes a rabbit fence a guaranteed item on my to-do gardening list next spring.

Grand Babies!!

The gardens at Shady Hollow echoed with the sound of children's laughter yesterday. My granddaughter came to visit, bringing with her our two great-granddaughters, ages 5 and 18 months.

Lauren, the oldest, loves Grandma's flowers and really fell in love with the Sweet Annie once she learned it smelled nice. She was full of energy and enticed me into several games of "chase Lauren" up and down the hillside. After the downhill run, she would take my hand and 'help' grandma back to the top of the hill. Her squeals of laughter rang across the woodlot and across the meadow, waking the fairies, I'm sure; for not long after we started several butterflies showed up to join in.

Lauren picked leaves and flowers to share with Grandpa, me and her parents. She got to know some of the cats, but most were shy and would hide whenever we came inside. They have lived with just us old folks for too long. Children are strange, exotic creatures to the Shady Hollow Cats.

Haley, a bright and happy child if ever one existed, spent most of her play time running and dancing on Grandpa's wheelchair ramp. I had never considered what a wonderful play place it could be for a small child. Haley took her own turn at running down the hill, but her baby legs lost their grip and she took a tumble. It turned into a laughter filled roll down the hill. No crying for her!

Brandi,my granddaughter, watched the girls and talked about remembering when she was that age, and ran up and down Shady Hollow's slopes. Hard to imagine that much time had passed. She marveled at how small the cottage is now, when it seemed so big when she was a child.

It had been many years indeed since the sound of a child's laughter rang across the gardens. A beautiful sound. The echo of that laughter will forever fill my heart.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Where Oh Where Did The Gardener Go?

This morning Jay Jay and I took a walk through the gardens. Fall is in the air and autumn wildflowers are in bloom. There is a patch of goldenrod blooming next to the Fairy Tree. I mowed around them all summer. The volunteer Sweet Annie are blooming, maybe I'll try to save some of their tiny seeds this year.

I surveyed the garden spot I gave over to herbs several years ago. I am thinking of returning it to vegetable production next year. It, along with the new veggie patch, should give us a bumper crop.

The flowers are still blooming. Some are looking a little sad though. Our cannas are doing well and still producing beautiful blooms. I'll post some a little later. The moon-flower vines are beautiful, their big snow white flowers slowly unfurling each evening and glowing under the light of the full moon.

The gardener has been reading, studying, and writing. Mostly on political matters. (I'm sure much to the dismay of her friends.) Those comments are on a different blog ( Shady Hollow is about this place, this little corner of the great big world that means so much to me.

The hummingbirds are readying for their trip south. The land is getting ready for rest.

All is good at Shady Hollow, even when the gardener is preoccupied with other things. Shady Hollow will sit quietly and wait