It was good to hear from many of you, responding to my last newsletter. A special thank you for the notes that were sent. It warms my heart to hear from you! I appreciate those of you who shared the newsletter with friends. The icons towards the end of this newsletter make it easy to forward to friends or share on social media.
The picture above is from the arbor that leads to the East Lawn. I think it was four years ago that I undertook building it. What a fun project! I laid out the path and poured the concrete supports myself, but when it came to building the structure, I brought in the professionals. When it was completed, the scouts came and helped to stain it, as did the young women from church. I traded them a summer BBQ for staining time. (pretty clever trade don't you think? ) I planted wisteria at West facing post and this is the first year that it has blossomed! It is quite stunning.
The wisteria makes for great photos. It is well on its way to becoming the thick wild canopy that I envisioned when I started building the arbor. Wisteria has an explosion of gorgeous blossoms in the Spring and a lesser bloom late summer. My niece is getting married in August and will be celebrating with family and friends here at Willowbrook (Covid-19 allowing). Can you picture the bride walking down the blossom-laden path? I feel giddy just thinking about it!
If you have a wisteria plant that doesn't blossom it may be because you fertilize the lawn close to it. Nitrogen-rich soil will push vegetative growth at the sacrifice of blossoming. I read that root-pruning can 'shock' a wisteria into producing greater blooms. This is done simply by driving a spade or shovel into the the soil 14-18 inches away from the trunk to slice roots. Continue slicing around the perimeter of the plant to complete root-pruning.
In my last newsletter (click HERE to read) I suggested sharing time with your mothers, aunts, friends, daughters and grandmothers planting chamomile and having tea at Willowbrook. My hope was to provide a feel-good experience that kept within social distancing parameters and didn't cost any money in respect to the health crisis we are experiencing. (The fact that it helps me plant my chamomile field is an added bonus.) I was delighted to have many of you schedule time to come for a 'Chamomile Date'!
It is very peaceful planting chamomile. I host one party at a time with up to five people and I put a little flag where you work so when you return to Willowbrook, you can find the chamomile that you planted. I also provide boxed scones fresh out of the oven for you to enjoy under the wisteria arbor in the garden when planting is completed.
I read that wisteria blossoms are edible. The petals kept falling into the sugar bowl and I wanted to make sure that I didn't poison my guests. Has anyone tried to eat wisteria?
If you want to come to Willowbrook and plant chamomile and enjoy tea and scones in the garden click HERE to schedule your planting time, any day of the week except Sunday. Allow yourself a couple of hours to enjoy this unique country experience. (There is no charge.)
So how was your Mothers Day?
With the stay at home mandate and the fact that my mother is in the age group that is most vulnerable to the coronavirus, I had to cancel my flight to see her for Mothers Day. It was a hard thing to do, but I had to smile at what it precipitated. My younger sister, who lives several hours North of my folks woke up on Mothers Day morning and since she had enjoyed recreating with her family the day before, she decided to surprise her own mother with a visit. She got up early and arrived in Kanab, Utah just in time to join the folks for breakfast.
Since I couldn't join my mom and dad for a jaunt out to the Southern Utah desert in their side by side ATV to BBQ steaks, I did the next best thing and enjoyed a bike picnic to Rasar State Park! It felt good to have the park open, at least for day-use. I look forward to when we can go camping again. With the quarantine, I make it a practice to put on a dress and makeup on Sundays. If not, one day rolls into another with no business meetings to attend and no tea guests to have to be presentable for. (I don't have to be 'presentable' for guests coming to plant chamomile.) Thus the dress in the picture above.
While we were picnicking, we noticed a lovely lady gathering plants in the distance. Jim went to enquire what it was that she was gathering and she shared with us the health benefits of stinging nettle. Her name is Raina Anderson and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter @makemendgrow. Her tagline is 'Foodie - Farmer - Writer - Maker'. Make Mend Grow is also the web address for her blog. You can find it HERE
I have a negative connection with stinging nettle. Childhood memories of painful rashes make me look at the plant with disdain. Raina told me she uses stinging nettle for many things. The one I remember most is the tincture she makes and puts into vodka to treat allergies. She says her boyfriend is happy to take the allergy remedy daily.
It was a treat to meet Raina. I appreciate the good she showed me of a plant I had learned to dislike because of the pain it inflicted on me. It is nice to know it also has healing qualities. A bit of a life-lesson don't you think? I am changing my view, and seeing nettle in a new light.
But back to my yummy picnic.. The sun was out and I felt a quiet joy, absorbing the warmth of the sun and the cool of the grass. Rasar State Park is just over 10 miles from Willowbrook and an easy ride on E-bikes. I am planning on introducing a bike tour and picnic to the park next summer. The route is along the Cascade Trail, through the sleepy towns of Lyman and Hamilton and down quaint country roads. It is a ride that is good-for-the-soul, and made for a beautiful Mothers Day treat.
When my kids asked what I wanted for Mothers Day, I said that I wanted us to put up the Bike Tent together. So that is how we spent the evening. It was a great team-building project. Now the bikes are not taking up space in the garage and have a place that is accessible and protected from the elements. I am getting ready for when the governor gives me the green light to start up Tea and Tour.
So that was my Mothers Day! If you would like to share a bit about your mom or your mothers day, I would love to hear from you.
Kjaisa Paints ~
My daughter Kjaisa tells the story of her frustration as a child, when she would try to draw like her sisters and couldn't. Flowing art did not come naturally so she leaned on her analytical strength and started using lines and geometry to make art. Her fingernails were her starting ground. She would spend hours meticulously painting patterns on her nails, using pins from my sewing cupboard.
I don't know how she made the leap from fingernails to walls, but in her senior year of high school, painting geometric patterns on walls became an obsession. She would beg me to let her have another wall to paint. I was running out of walls so I suggested she start painting for other people. She did. During one of her two-week long environmental field trips she found some paint in the basement of an abandoned forrest service building and created a Kjaisa-wall there. She did learn to scale-down the size of her artwork, making patterns on ceramics. All of my plates and bowls are Kjaisa's creations, each one unique. They make a stunning table. You can see her amazing artwork HERE.
I have been readying a rental house to sell and asked Kjaisa to do some of her artwork on the walls. It was fun to watch her do her thing as each room was transformed with her custom-painted walls. The walls she did for me are fairly simple patterns, but many of her walls have multiple colors and designs. She does time-lapse photography of the walls she paints and they can be viewed on her website, Kjiasapaints.com. CLICK HERE to see her walls and videos. She just finished a two-story wall in an office building South of Olympia and is now painting custom walls in a dental office in California. If you would like to have her artwork grace your office or home, you can email here HERE.
Floral Cards by Aliece ~
Last week I received a hand-written letter from an old friend. It came in an envelope with my name and address written on it. As I walked down my long driveway, mail in hand, I relished the thought her thinking of me and taking time to write. I poured a cup of tea, opened the envelope, and began to read. There is something personal about ink on paper, and you don't realize how our digitized communication has made us lose something tangible, until you get a hand-written letter or card in the mail. So I'm inviting you to reach out to a friend or family member with thoughts put on paper. With that in mind, Aliece's summer bouquet folded greeting card is ready for your penmanship. You can order a set of 4 cards for $12 plus shipping.
The back of each card has Aliece's picture and a little bit about her. She is studying kinesiology at Western Washington University. The proceeds from these cards go into her pocket to help with school expenses. I have to applaud her efforts to stay the course of taking challenging science classes and labs online now that the campus is closed because of the coronavirus. You can order Aliece's delightful cards HERE.
Teacup Time ~
I met a woman named Mary at the Soroptimist thrift store in LaConner when I was looking for teacups a while back. She told me that she had some teacups and family china that perhaps I could use. She came to Willowbrook with a box of teacups and china pieces that were her mothers. Among them were these old cups and saucers and a matching plate. I had come across the serving dish of the same set earlier at an estate sale, and I think we discovered that it came from her mother's sale. I reunited the pieces and have them as an ensemble on display in the tea room.
When I researched the mark, I found that the china was made in England in 1891. I asked Mary for a photo of her mother and I keep it tucked behind the dinner plate. Vivian Erickson Inman was a vibrant woman even at 90 years old. I'm grateful to have a few of her teacups and these pieces of family china.
If this china set could speak of all that has transpired in this world since it was made, I wonder what kind of wisdom and perspective it would share with us as we grapple with our current pandemic...