A most-generous newspaper reader, Carrie C., sent to me a gorgeous houseplant as a retirement gift. Not just a houseplant, but a floor plant, a Spathiphyllum. I've had her a month now, and managed to keep her not only alive, but fully content.
She rewarded me a few days ago with a special treat: Blooms! Lovely white leaves surrounding these sturdy, hobnail-type centers.
,Isn't this bloom exquisite?
The plant, (she lets me call her Phylly), seems not to be fussy about her needs: Make sure she has a nice drink, low-light, and no direct sun, a warm spot in the house. I keep wanting to ask her if she's OK, being that while she's not in direct light, and generally warm enough, there is that door next to her where Reggie goes out several times day, but she answers with tolerance and kindness as she presents me with now a bouquet's worth of these white flowers (although I don't pick them. They are perfect accessories for Phylly).
I have another location in mind in our living room. I'm hesitant to rock the boat with a move since she seems pretty comfortable where she is. Hmm, we'll see.
I also gave her a lift this week! When "grand-dog" Jax comes to visit, I have been moving Phylly to the top of the dining-room table for safe-keeping. I noticed one leaf had a "nibble" out of it, and while I'm not mentioning anyone by name, I did see a suspicious bulldog looking over the leaves the first time he met Phylly.
So now she's off the floor a ways, nestled inside the plant stand. I picked it up at my favorite hardware / home-supply store, Ace Hardware in New Castle.
When Brian and I were first married, and on for a few years, when we were too poor for many household doo-dads, I bought grocery-store houseplants. I had a beautiful corn plant that grew from a sprout to at least my height. But as time went on, I moved on to other pursuits.
I did winter-over a foxtail fern a few years ago, but that's about the full-extent of my time as an indoor-plant mama. The pressure is on, Phylly! Let's work together to not let Carrie down!
Snow has been the buzzword around these parts for a couple days. Predictions have varied widely, and one estimate predicted "between .5 and eight inches." Really? They need a meteorologist for that? Half-an-inch to eight full ones? Quite a range.
I confessed to a friend that for whatever reason, I felt excited about the pending snowfall. I also had to chuckle to myself: Isn't that what we've all had for approaching a year now, to one degree or another? A continuous snow day without end?
So what was there about an actual prediction of snow that brought out the kid hoping for a snow day in many of us? One pal posted on Facebook that she hopes "we get every flake." I think it has something to do with that primal idea of being comfortable, cozy, safe, and warm while something a little exciting and a little uncertain is happening nearby, such as out our front door.
Where I live in central Indiana, we have had only skiffs of the white stuff; and maybe only a couple of those. Ever since fall, when I started making plans for my first winter of not being gainfully employed since 1982 (and back then, fighting a rough winter driving a distance to finish my journalism degree).
This past fall, I had envisioned a January from the comfort of my writing chair, working on a personal writing project, and watching the snow fly beyond my window. It looks like January will pass without that image. The snow didn't start until dark last night, so I couldn't see it fall, but heard the slush of it hit the window during the evening hours.
This morning I awakened to a winter wonderland of maybe two inches. But the temperature is just high enough that it's melting, dripping from our porch roof.
We rural kids grew up anticipating snow days with deep excitement. In fact, the idea of sleeping in was so enticing, we couldn't do it when the call came that it was, indeed a snow day; the possibilities of sudden leisure palpable.
Even though e-learning and homeschooling during this pandemic have elements of snow days, I imagine a lot of kids are enjoying this one all the same—be it .5 or 8 inches worth of winter fun. And for the more mature former kids, even though it feels in some ways like another day of pandemic pandering, the snow is pretty, and a nap might be in order.
As a young girl in the 1960s, I was fascinated by the older girls on the school bus. I noticed everything about them. Lois had a "flip" hairdo that held in perfect place. She also went steady, as evidenced by a boy's class ring bound up in angora yarn so that it would fit on her finger.
Susan and Connie sat together wearing pantyhose and miniskirts. They carried purses, which intrigued me to no end. I am still a handbag girl over any other item of clothing or accessory. Can you believe it? I was bold enough to ask if I could go through their purses! AND THEY LET ME!
Another thing I noticed about the teenage girls is that they carried, then balanced on their laps, these massive stacks of textbooks and notebooks! Day in, and day out, they carried them to and from school. I was intrigued with the way they kept them stacked, often with other things on top of the stack, such as lunch sacks and specialty projects with their purses on the side.
Are book bags and totes that new? I do not think any teenage girl in that era carried their books and other supplies in anything other than a stack on their laps. Am I wrong?
I remember our son Ben telling me when he was a small kid that he would be happy to be an adult because adults don't have homework!
I told him that we do, indeed, it's just that our homework amounts to thinks such as cleaning the house, seeing to repairs and appointments, paying bills and cooking meals.
And while all of that is still true, I am now channeling my 1960s Wanna-Be Girl. Oh, how I wanted to be like those "big girls." I wanted a trendy flip hairdo for my limp brown mop. I wanted to wear a boy's class ring with fluffy yarn around it in different colors to match my outfits. I wanted to wear miniskirts so short that I was amazed they covered what they were supposed to. I wanted to wear hose! And heels. And have cosmetics in my handbags. I wanted to balance a big old stack of books on my lap and do it gracefully with none hitting the floor on those bumpy gravel roads.
Here's my current stack of homework.
1. On top is friend and former boss Tina West's new devotional, "Stillness." There's a beautiful devotion a day to last this whole year--or any year. She includes the days of the month, but wisely didn't limit them to a given year so the book will be fresh no matter what year you read or gift it. If you'd like to get hold of Tina for a copy, send me a message at email@example.com and I'll connect you.
2, For the pure relaxation and joy of it, I'm reading my mother's copy of "The Land, The People," by Rachel Peden. Rachel was a columnist for The Indianapolis Star and the Muncie Evening Press back in the 1940s through the '60s. Her first book was "Rural Free," which Indiana University Press reprinted a few years ago. After reading the review copy, I went to my bookshelves where Mom's copy of the sequel, "The Land, The People," has stood tall on hers or my shelves for most of my life. It was published nationally by KNOPF. A sequel to that is "Speak to the Earth: Pages from a farmwife's journal,." As soon as I finish "The Land" I will delve into this one, also from KNOPF.
Purely delightful reading of another time, but with values, sayings, and familiar moments from farm life from my youth, and before I was born. Yummy treats while nestled with a dog and an afghan on a winter's eve.
3. Also for pure fun is the new copy of Southern Living magazine, compliments of my friend Gay's mother, Betty Greenwood, who thought of me when she was offered to treat a friend to a free subscription. Thank you Betty. I don't currently subscribe to any magazines, and am treated to hand-me-downs of others from Gay.
4. Next is "Jesus in Me," by Anne Graham Lotz. Our church small group is studying this book together so I need to get my homework done for our next Zoom.
5. Then my worksheets are folded in my Bible as I have daily homework for my Bible Study Fellowship, an international, non-denominational Bible study that meets via Zoom on Monday nights. I have plenty of work to get to there.
6. And lastly, an ongoing project in the white binder that will eventually bear fruit. Details down the road...
Just as those high school girls with their homework to complete, I've got mine too. Whatever age we are at, there are things to be done, lessons to be completed, and learned.
What are you working on in the heart of winter? What are you reading, writing, planning and seeing to?
In the past year, with so much leisure time at home, I've found things that I didn't think of as missing. About 30 years ago, I started taking a newsletter, The Tightwad Gazette, an ingenious guide to techniques an average person could use to save money.
Founder, brains, practitioner, and even illustrator, writer, editor and distributor of this master's class in thrift, Amy Dacyczyn explained the drive behind her wealth of knowledge: She wanted a big family, a New England house (with attached barn), and a lifestyle with enough money and stuff to support both. Her concept and tagline were perfect: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle.
She became a media darling in the 1990s, the subject of lifestyle articles in major newspapers and magazines reaching far beyond her small town of Leeds, Maine. Her newsletters transformed into even more success with books by the same name. I imagine you can still find them, dog-eared I would guess, in libraries throughout the land, if they haven't been placed in Friends of the Library sale rooms and snapped up by now.
I found the binder filled with newsletters, including the premiere issue. I've been reading through these, and I'm here to say that her observations about building a life, not just a bank account, and enjoying one's personal choices in thrift and sacrifices to meet greater goals, hold up over time.
I've been trying to find out what Amy's up to today, in likely her grandmother years now, rather than the young-family era when she was on the country's collective radar. There is a Facebook group I've joined for fans of hers, The Tightwad Gazette Fan Club.
New to the site, I've already picked up tips about the very question I've had on a way that WORKS in cleaning the grease, smudges and collective grime from honey-oak cabinets. (Recs came for Scott's Liquid Gold, Awesome Cleaner and -- a surprise -- Goo Gone.) Disclaimer: If you try any of those, start with a SMALL area. I don't want you ruining your oak-cabinet finish with products not actually meant for the task. Just saying. I can't endorse any of them yet.
I hope to find "the rest of the story" about Amy and her life today. An update on her "grandmother wisdom" would be a must-read in lifestyle journalism.
Meanwhile, being a new retiree (I haven't gotten to try that word out in real social settings yet, just on here), I have a renewed interest in thrift. Something I've anticipated about retirement is finding a day other than Friday or the weekend to do the grocery shopping.
If you have an opinion on this, advice on the optimum day to go where the crowds are down but the inventory up, please share!
Son Ben and I recently visited the Aldi grocery store in Carmel, where he lives. I had not been in an Aldi for at least a couple years, more than that for using a quarter-cart (refundable after loading groceries in the car and returning cart to its stall). I was pleasantly surprised by the new products and fresh produce.
Wanting to see if this was just the Carmel store, I visited the Anderson version a week later and found everything as it was in Carmel. A few products particularly impressed me: the single-serve moist-canned dog food; the bottled pesto sauce and this, Root Vegetable Fries. YUM.
We also like their sliced, packaged cheese with a nifty resealable overlay -- better than the zip-style I've bought in much more expensive cheeses elsewhere, and their packaged bread.
Do tell. If you are an Aldi shopper, what are your favorite products?
I also enjoy clothing-consignment shopping. I love our Pendleton store, The Sister Exchange Consignment, as well as New Castle's Classic Collections. Soon I hope to try out a friend's favorite consignment shop, Clothes Mentor in Fishers, and her other favorite, Simply Chic, also in Fishers.
I've always found secondhand clothing and accessories that I actually like more than paying full price in the malls or online.. There's everything good about consignment shopping: recycling, easy on the budget, unique clothes, an armload of finds for the price of a single item new.
What recommendations do you have for cool consignment shops?
We're still filling our home with light, and enjoying candles. I have some tiny candles in our stash and decided to drop one into a Ball canning jar. It seems safer than a small candle, and it hides the label and adds a little country-farmhouse-Midwestern cred, if that's a style you like. I do.
I wanted to change up the centerpiece on our kitchen table with found-objects from around the house. First I looked for and found the stoneware snowman I've had for decades, then added the red pot (I have no memory of where it came from but I would say a yard sale); and some "summer" floral fakery that I wouldn't typically think to put with a snowman.
The tablecloth is courtesy of Cleo Winters! Cleo was a staple in my growing-up years. My sister-in-law Jeannie bought this tablecloth at the auction of her belongings after she died. I bet it's been 30 years, Maybe 40. I love this tablecloth and think of Cleo. She'd be 120 if she's a day. Now a resident of heaven.
Shop your own shelves first!
I got these pretty folders several years ago when there was still a Hallmark store in New Castle. Thought they'd add cheer to my desk at work. Now that I'm retired, they will get new labels and be used for new projects, new ideas, new fun. And oh yes, I have a few ideas brewing.
For now though, daily life is centered on getting Brian through his illness and doing all I can as his support staff. He's feeling so much better today, and for that my day is made. He even had some special requests for foods that sound good today.
That is big news as he's had little to no appetite for over a week now. He just polished off a Chunky Sirloin Soup (a favorite of his that he hasn't asked for in a long time). Last night he said Wendy's chicken sandwich sounded good. That worked. Coming up on the Cronk menu in the days to come will be a vegetable and cheese omelette and toast; also chicken and noodles and a chicken pot pie!
While I picked up these supplies in the grocery store, I felt my spirits dance when I spotted this display of primroses. I told the floral employee that I simply had to have a photo. They are SO cheery!
And, a quick run to CVS, which Brian and I prefer calling by its oldie name, Hooks, just because we are nerds and think we're funny. I snagged these lights for Christmas 2021. We always need replacements and I prefer the smaller count than the massive strings. They were 90 percent-off, people. That's 49 cents a box in cash-register tape!
Have you been like me on a cleaning-out binge for months now? No? If you were, you might find interesting things lurking in the back of your Seller's Cabinet too. How about a stack of 16-year-old high school open house napkins? Why do moms keep such things?
Decided we may as well use them up. Brian said Sam might want them. I doubt that, but I did save back a short stack. Just in case.
What have you been up to on this SUNNY day? In the car driving home I found myself singing "Heavenly Sunshine." Anyone remember that old hymn? It's quite lovely. Miss the old church songs. That's why I have my own Methodist Hymnal.
Did the blog title fool you? Told you I wasn't discussing politics.
But what happened yesterday sent me to clean out my cabinet. Still not being political. My kitchen cabinet. In all the years we've lived here, I've never removed everything from this lower cabinet and cleaned the cabinet floor. Until yesterday. Then I did some reorganization.
All those baking pans -- square, round, bundt, cheesecake, large and small muffin / cupcake. Three pie plates, several cooling racks, two cutting boards and several serving trays. Now, I know what I've got, realize what I never use (but there's still possibility), and it's all in order. I stood back and surveyed the scene yesterday and declared it, "a work of art."
I love to organize. If I were a dog, I'd be a border collie. You'd think after all these months of extra home time, everything would be in perfect order, cleaned out, scrubbed tight. But no. Case in point, this cabinet (which has now come to order).
Organizing soothes me. It gives me control over something in life, even when other things are beyond my reach or impact. But the cabinet? It can suit me to a T.
Betty Giboney, who would be 108 this year, and who passed at 100, spent 40 (maybe more) years at The Courier-Times, retiring at 78. This, after a career as a professional dancer in New York City (she was a Roxyette--the name later changed to Rockette. She toured the country and appeared in movie dance lines. Then she worked at a NYC magazine.
After that, amazingly enough, she spent her career in rural Indiana covering 4-H and features, obits and whatever else needed doing. She famously (and seriously) told me that "New York City paled by comparison."
She was needed. She was treasured. She did good work. If you've got all that, plus a husband she adored and who adored her back, well, case closed. Who needs The Big Apple?
Betty and her husband traveled the globe. She once told me that much as she loved travel, she wished on occasion that they could have a staycation so she could do things like clean out the closets, which she never had time for. It was something she looked forward to in retirement (along with more travels including to Russia).
For many of us, there's something in our nature that craves putting things in order. Our affairs. Our closets. Our cabinets. Our souls.
I'm two weeks into retirement and I have plenty to do. This is my view at 8 a.m. today when I normally would be pulling into work. Do I miss hustling out the door? No.
Coming to you live from my favorite morning space, my writing chair. There's my second cup of coffee, daily planner, a couple of notebooks relating to specific projects.
This time of year, there are spectacular sunrises between 7:30-8 a.m. heading east.
But I like the ones from my writing chair.
Here I can quietly study, write, plan, and organize my day and upcoming projects.
How about you? Are you an organizer? Do you find it boring or comforting?
I haven't written a blog post in some time now.
Life has been coming at me pretty fast from the start of November until, well, it still is.
If you know me personally or follow my Facebook posts, you have an idea of what I'm talking about. 2020 was hard in so many ways, which I won't rehash month by month. But things took another bad turn in November when Brian was diagnosed with bladder cancer. There is a path forward, one we are in the thick of now.
We are nurtured and loved daily by so many people from all locations of time and space in our lives who send uplifting texts, emails, cards, calls and even a pie, a DVD set of Brian's favorite movie, a care package of gifts, a book about cancer, a cancer cookbook, and most of all, we will both tell you, so many promises of prayers on our behalf.
Due to our nation's division, one would think there are two banks of people in this country, each side in bitter hatred of the other. It hurts my heart. Hate is of Satan. When I'm actually AROUND people -- I see more kindness, extra measures of polite greetings and banter than ever -- and I well know I'm talking about people with deep political differences. Hate is a liar.
When we look each other in the eye, and not lash out with hurt and sarcasm and awful stereotypes on social media, we see each other as largely wanting the same things in life: Love, acceptance, security. Peace. Happiness. A voice.
I will not fan political flames. I have my own views, make no mistake. But one spark ignites an onslaught of rhetoric and link sharing that I cannot deal with, won't deal with. Not on my social media pages. I love people. I love them even when they think differently than I do. It is their right. It is my right. Let's just be kind. Let's have a cuppa something together and talk about our views in person. With a mask. Socially distanced. But not hurl them like weapons.
Life is really hard right now on all of us as we fret over our nation and our people. And those in our own homes with challenges.
Brian and I have sought light for the past couple months in so many ways -- spiritually, physically, and emotionally. We find it. The photo above? It's of the fake ficus tree in the corner of our dining room where the lamb-decorated Christmas tree sat for six weeks. Yesterday a friend from New Castle posted that she was thinking of getting a ficus tree and stringing lights on it. I took this photo and sent it to her. We're not the only ones seeking light.
Brian asked me the other day if we have plenty of candles for this winter. Little-known fact about BC, the guy loves scented candles. We burn them liberally all winter and sometimes in the summer too. I told him we had plenty, and he said, "Good. I'll need them."
Light in the darkness. Is it any wonder, I ask my Christian friends, that Jesus is called the Light of the World?
We're wired for light. And for loving one another.
So this is just a little hello. Peace be still, everyone.
I wish you light and Light this winter.
Orginally published in the New Castle Courier-Times.
By DONNA CRONK
KNIGHTSTOWN — It’s early Tuesday evening at Christ Fellowship Church, 4833 Ind. 109, north of Knightstown. Inside the building, lively Christmas music plays. Tables brim with school supplies and shoes, clothing and toys. Children and adult helpers are busily moving from one table to the next, filling plastic shoebox-size containers.
The reusable containers are destined for under-served children around the world in more than 100 countries who will open boxes loaded with small gifts.
The project is more than a random act of kindness, it’s an operation – Operation Christmas Child, (OCC) a ministry sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse.
Late October through middle November is crunch time, as the boxes are collected from individuals and churches throughout the land, and dropped at 4,000 locations throughout the U.S. to go on to global distribution.
Leads the county
Last year, Christ Fellowship Church filled the most boxes of any Henry County church with 233. Pastor Matthew Norman said the project is led by volunteers; Hannah Cordle in particular.
“It’s Hannah’s heart do do this,” he said Tuesday night.
Cordle, a Shenandoah High School and Ball State University graduate who is a chef at Primrose Schools in Fishers, is a children’s leader at Christ Fellowship, a church that she has been a part of nearly all her life.
She’s taken part in OCC for a long time and has led the project for three years at her church. She didn’t realize that the church was the highest contributor in the county until The Courier-Times told her.
Her reason for believing in the OCC project is this. “It spreads the gospel to the countries, to the children,” says Cordle. “Gifts are fun and all that but it’s temporary. It’s about them knowing the Lord and feeling loved.”
The number of filled boxes this church provides has increased on Cordle’s watch. This year’s goal, despite the challenges provided by COVID-19, says Norman, is to fill 300 shoeboxes.
Cordle explains how each box ideally contains a wow item (a bigger toy, for example), smaller toys, school supplies and a personal note. The boxes are filled with items appropriate to a given child’s gender and age with the boxes labeled accordingly.
Christ Fellowship’s technique is to view the project as a year-round endeavor, not merely a seasonal fall project. Cordle and her friends collect quality items for the boxes year-round when they go on deep discount.
For example, she found a great buy on cute sandals at a buck a pair. She spent $35 and saved $500 on full retail for the shoes. Another example is finding a buy on nice shirts for $1 each.
Cordle says it’s important to her that the children receive quality items. That’s where buys on seasonal-clearance sales come in.
A year’s worth of finds are collected, then spread out on tables as they were Tuesday when the church’s kids and parents arrive to enjoy a packing party.
A couple of the kids there commented. Said Kristian Tompkins, “I like helping children who are in need.”
Said Jackson Smith, “I like how we get to give people gifts that can’t have gifts.”
Pastor Norman said of the project, “It’s a good cause. We’ve been to Africa. We’ve seen where these boxes go.”
He explained how he would see a child who had never seen a crayon try to eat it before being shown how to use it, for example.
There are two local drop-off sites for individuals or churches to deliver boxes.
Both churches have various hours from Monday, Nov. 16 through Monday, Nov. 23. Call the individual churches for those hours.
They are: First Baptist Church, 709 S. Memorial Drive, New Castle, phone 529-2687 and New Testament Church of Christ, 752 W. Main St. Hagerstown, phone 489-5762.
All boxes dropped off at any of the collection sites will be collected by helpers outside the facilities, as COVID precautions dictate.
...Pack another box
Area Coordinator of Operation Christmas Child is Sue Bousman, 84, of Yorktown. She’s been serving in this role for 26 years. It’s been a ministry she and her late husband, Bill, enjoyed together, and her son plans to take it over.
“It’s been a passion of mine and my husband’s, especially his,” she says. In fact, instead of flowers for his funeral, people were asked to bring shoeboxes.
Last year, in the East Central Indiana district alone, 12,000 boxes were processed. They fed into the 10.9 million boxes that were distributed to children in more than 100 countries.
Bousman family members got together this year to remember Bill a year after his passing by having a packing party for OCC. Sue said 39 family members including Bill’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren came and packed 85 boxes.
Sue told her grandchildren, “Your grandpa would not want you to cry. He would want you to pack another box.”
I anticipate this day all year long. It's my birthday. But that has nothing to do with the much-anticipated day. The birthday part is merely coincidental with the truly exciting thing that happened today. I found my paper planner-calendar for next year.
Of course, next year is no ordinary year. It's 2021! It has a lot going for it without lifting a finger. Mainly, it's not 2020!
2020 has been ... let's see, how do I put this? Memorable? And here is the good it has done inside me: It has made me tremendously grateful for the great memories, including the incredible vacations we've had in recent years to such places as Washington, D.C., Boston, Hyannis, Minneapolis, New York City, Houston, and amazing, unique experiences within them all.
It has made me treasure my family and friends as I miss and can't wait to see them.
It has made me anticipate such seemingly simple tasks as putting up a new Christmas tree this year and cleaning out our attic. My heart is grateful. But it's also doing something else. It's yearning for a fresh start called 2021.
I have several years' worth of well-thumbed calendars and no two of them are alike. Some years I choose a tiny version that will fit smartly in even the smallest of the purses I carry. Others are so large and in charge, they need to be hand-carried outside the purses as one might an Egyptian princess. When I'm good and tired of pampering the princess, the next year I'll go back to the mini.
Last year's calendar is more scribbled-out dates and appointments than it is anything. It's fairly pristine and if it weren't for all the dates being wrong, a slight problem with a calendar, I could carry it again next year.
Today while on my errands, I decided to swing into Office Depot and peruse the calendars. There was a nice selection in a variety of sizes but when I spotted this little number, it was game over. The cover is a flannel-like-texture in gray, with a leather-like brown binding and a sturdy ring binder. There are two ways to handle the dates inside; one with a quick jot, and another for more extensive notes and details. There's lots of space for contacts and in the very back, a clear plastic envelope built right in, in which to place paperwork. Oh yeah, mine all mine.
Why don't I get with the rest of humanity and use my cellphone calendar, you ask? The simple answer is that I do not travel lightly through life. I tend to carry a paper trail of scribbled notes on the fly about the person I'm to interview, flyers, coupons, you name it. I can have an event inked in and the planner put away while Brian is still asking me if that is 2 or 2:30 and, where again? -- to punch into his phone.
Here's to 2021! It will be a while before we flip the page, but when we do, I'm all set. More details to come ...
Originally published in the New Castle Courier-Times in August 2020.
by Donna Cronk
MIDDLETOWN — When DeWayne and Marta King decided to leave town life behind 20 years ago, they wanted to live in the country where Marta could create beautiful gardens.
They looked no farther than rural Middletown, next to their best friends Tom and Kathy Furnish. “They said, ‘Come and be our neighbors,’” recalls Marta.
The Kings, married nearly 41 years, purchased the 10-acre property and never looked back. Up went her dream home – a farmhouse-style house with a wrap-around porch and plenty of space outdoors to create dreamy gardens to go with it. DeWayne even crafted a walking bridge over a wooded ravine, and they have outbuildings and a greenhouse.
The couple got a bonus right away, as there were a bounty of huge, beautiful boulders to place throughout the landscaping. It had been a desire of Marta’s to have a big stone at their property’s entrance. Now one is there, displaying the property’s name – Indian Summer Hill.
For the past 20 years, Marta has operated her own business, Hand Tied Memories, creating floral designs for weddings. She loved the work, using wholesale flowers but also adding special touches from her own blossoming plants. She’s retiring in October.
Rooted in family
Marta’s love for gardening was learned from her Pendleton grandmother, the late Jewel Mercer, who had greenhouses, gardens and dairy farms. Marta lived nearby as a child, walking through the cornfield to get to Grandma’s house.
“My thing is the dirt, digging in the dirt, putting flowers together,” Marta says.
She recalls how people would pull into Grandma’s drive to see her beautiful peonies, and she in turn would give them handsful of the spring flowers to use in decorating graves.
Years later, Marta would inherit peonies. A lady she adored had beautiful peonies and following her death, Marta was gifted with the woman’s peony bushes – all 75 of them – which she dug up and moved.
In fact, if Marta could have only one flower it would be the Indiana state flower, the peony.
But there’s plenty of love to go around and other perennial favorites include iris, heliabores, butterfly bushes, lilacs, Russian sage, Trumpet flowers and more. She says while hostas are notable in gardening for their leaves, hummingbirds love dining on the small flowers the plants produce.
“I love planting anything that attracts pollinators,” Marta says. She has a patch of milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies, which it does; and she has tons of hummingbirds which she is certain return each spring. She said when they arrive, they hover around her as if to say they are back.
Not only does she love perennials, but container gardens which she uses liberally on her porch as they bloom to the overflow from their good care with good soil, fertilizer, water, sunshine and a doting gardener.
Marta’s love for container gardens results from her love for good design. She sees each container as having its own design, much like designing a vase bouquet of flowers or a bridal bouquet.
There are also hanging baskets with cascading Boston and asparagus ferns and many other kinds of flowers, and something that may be her favorite annual – red geraniums.
Marta loves the red geraniums in white boxes that are found on Michigan’s Mackinac Island and duplicates the look on her porch.
She also had three fairy gardens last summer, has a garden filled with miniature versions of plants.
In her genes
“It’s in my genes,” she says of her hobby. “It’s relaxing. I can just get lost out there.”
She recalls times when she was so happy to get home from work that she would set her purse down and get busy working in her yard until 10 or 11 p.m. and then wonder where she left her purse.
While some women want jewelry, Marta says she wants to go to the garden center. Husband DeWayne is happy for her.
“He said he loves the gardens because I love the gardens,” Marta said. “He’s very willing to run me anywhere to find a new plant. We also plan trips around botanical gardens.”
The couple has a pet dog, Madi, and overnight trips must include her. They have two grown sons and two grandchildren.
A few of the certified Master Gardener’s insider tips for gardening follow.
1. Proven Winner fertilizer is her go-to. She also recommends Espoma Organic products.
2. Marta enjoys her morning coffee while viewing her favorite YouTube gardening star on a six-day a week program called Garden Answer. She highly recommends it. Bonus: the show host’s gardens are in the same zone as Indiana’s.
3. Through the years, attending gardening seminars and hearing speakers provide a bounty of information. Marta says she is “just like a sponge” soaking up ideas and tips from the programs.
4. Along with her lavish outdoor gardens, Marta most always brings some of the bounty inside with fresh flowers on her kitchen table.
5. She recommends reading “Indiana Gardener’s Guide,” by Tom Tyler and Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, and the magazine, Indiana Gardener.
6. Marta tells how to save geraniums from year to year. Dig them up; shake off the dirt; trim back the plants, place in brown paper bags and close the bags, store in the garage.
Six weeks before planting them in the spring, add soil in pots, the plants, and fertilize and water them, placing the pots in a greenhouse.
7. She has saved asparagus ferns for over 20 years. Cut them back even with the top of the containers they are in at the end of summer. Water lightly once a month, store in the garage with no covering, just the open pots, and come spring and summer, “They just pop.”
8. Marta also composts everything and recycles.