A Time to Sow

Over the past month, we’ve had snow, rain, wind, fog, sun, highs, and lows; in other words, a typical spring. Regardless, outdoor activity commenced in earnest. Trees and other plants are coming to life, birds have returned, and our woodland marsh is host to an enormous chorus of spring peeper frogs. The tulips I planted last fall are blooming now and we were pleasantly surprised to find a few stands of daffodils and grape hyacinths already here. I’ve even begun mowing the grass, a relentless chore … or meditation time.

Seedlings inside. Garden plants and herbs are on the top shelf and meadow plants are on the bottom.

In the past, I haven’t really enjoyed propagating my own seeds but it’s one of those things I just keep doing. This year’s results, though, have been encouraging. I do enjoy choosing particular varieties and seeing them grow from tiny motes into productive plants. The process is much more satisfying than buying whatever is on offer at the stores. A month from now, all of the seedlings I’ve been coddling will be transplanted to their garden homes.

Beet seeds.

Outside, our new blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry plants are all in the ground. The strawberries and blueberries are taking well but the raspberries still haven’t broken dormancy. They can take up to two months so I’ll be keeping an eye on them. In the small crop garden plot, the garlic I planted last fall is up, pea shoots are just peeking out from the soil, and today I sowed beets and carrots.

In a few weeks, contractors will begin tearing off and replacing the aged roof on our house. We’ll breathe a sigh of relief when that project is finished and we know the house is protected. With the warmer weather, I’ve been working on rehabilitating our remaining shed by installing new siding, sealing up the metal roof, filling holes in the concrete floor, and making the space generally more usable.

Slow but steady changes all around.

Private Signal Flag

Private signal flag of Christopher Cook and Emily Delmotte. Left, three blue stars in a vertical column. Center, International Code of Signals Charlie flag. Right, International Code of Signals Echo flag.
Private signal flag of Christopher Cook and Emily Delmotte.

Several years ago, I designed a private signal flag for Emily and me in anticipation of future boating adventures. I began work on the flag, sewing by hand with many fits and starts, over the winter of 2017-2018 but abandoned the project when the sewing got tough. After buying a sewing machine recently, I finished the flag in about two hours!

Sketches saved from the recycling bin by Emily.

The three stars echo those on the flag of the District of Columbia where Emily and I met. They are blue to represent three bodies of water from our lives: Lake St. Clair, near where Emily grew up; Lake Okoboji, in Iowa, where I learned to sail; and Lake Michigan, the great lake shared by both of our home states of Illinois and Michigan. The five bars in the middle make up the International Code of Signals (ICOS) flag for the letter “Charlie” (for Chris) and the two larger bars make up the ICOS flag for the letter “Echo” (for Emily). The flag’s colors follow the flag of the United States and the shape is a triangular swallowtail, the traditional shape for private signals.

The last step is for me to finish Blue Moon so we have a place to fly this flag!

The Shed Must Go

Before and after demolition.

One of the unfortunate parts of our property was a lean-to shed that lived up to the name. Our home inspector described the building as “leaning severely” and noted its “damaged structural components.” We used the shed for a few months to store yard equipment but stopped when it became obvious that it was a hotel for chipmunks, raccoons, voles, birds, and probably many other creatures. Over the past two weeks, I tore down the eyesore and manually loaded the debris (all 8,860 pounds of it) into a roll-off container; not a bad winter workout.

Front (east) side.

These boards formed the outside wall of a long-gone barn and are destined to become floor boards.

It was clear that this structure had been added onto a standing barn at some point but the barn has long gone. The formerly shared wall still had some of the enormous timbers with their pegged mortise and tenon joints, now rotten, and red wood siding which I managed to save and hope to re-purpose as flooring in my workshop.