Thursday, August 27, 2015

Prairie Pinks

Prairie wetland area, mostly green and brown

When I think of Illinois prairies, I picture mostly yellows and browns, especially in the late summer -- the goldenrods, black-eyed Susans, various types of sunflowers, grass seed heads, Monarch and Sulphur butterflies -- but there are also many touches of pink and purple, especially if you look closely.

Obedient Plant (?)

Alfie and I had a long ramble in the prairie today.  First we tramped around the wetland area.  Despite the lack of rain the last couple of months, the wetland was full and wet. Enormous frogs hopped further into the water as we passed by.  I would have taken some pictures, but I didn't have my long lens, and I do NOT get close to frogs.  I am creeped out by frogs and toads ever since as a young teenager I accidentally squashed a toad while wearing thin-soled house shoes.  Ugh, even thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies.

Near the wetland, we saw something nicer than frogs: fun little flowers called Blue (or Swamp) Vervain and Pink Lady's Thumb.
Blue Vervain on left and Pink Lady's Thumb on right
After getting our fill of the wetland area, Alfie and I crossed over to the dog portion of the prairie where he could run off leash and sniff and explore to his heart's content.  While he nosed into holes, the creek, and a neighboring cornfield, I found additional pink and purple flowers.

Bees hard at work on Joe Pye Weed (or maybe it's Queen of the Prairie?)
Thistle and Coneflower
The bluish-purple wild bee balm was beginning to fade, but there were still enough blossoms to feed a hungry Monarch butterfly.

Finally, Alfie and I were both getting tired.  We stopped by a sunflower-framed bridge for a short rest and a drink of water for Alfie, then headed home.  Thanks for coming along!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Louise's Basket

I really don't buy much in the way of home goods these days, honest. But this weekend, we passed by a group of three little antique shops in Starks, Illinois, a crossroads near Huntley. The husband has a particular fondness for a couple of these shops because in the past he has found vintage hand tools there, notably several hand drills which he cleaned up, oiled, and gave to our kids. He's currently on the lookout for some kind of tool thing, I can't remember what, so we stopped. My favorite of the three shops is called Rose and Rooster or Rooster and Rose, some such name that sounds like a British pub. It is a tiny little shop that is packed and stacked to the point that I always walk carefully through, clutching my purse to my side to prevent knocking something off. I think I always buy something there, so it's lucky I don't go very often. My latest find: a small picnic basket.

At thirteen inches wide by eight inches deep, it's not too small, not too big -- just right.
The shape and style first caught my eye; it's so much like the baskets my mother-in-law used to buy. Then, the surprise inside: it still has its grid which provides a protected space for a pie or other delicate item to fit on the bottom.

What clinched the sale, however, was the handwritten name on the front and inside of the basket.

Louise Gerhardt had written her name and the name of her small Illinois town on the basket. While I have no connection to this family or even the name Louise, the personal touch of the hand printed name just grabbed me. Baskets like this date from the 1940s according to an article I saw online.  I imagine Mrs.Gerhardt taking this to a church supper and making dead sure she got her basket back. She lived in a town not too far from us. I Googled her name and town (the husband said he knew I would), and found that she was born in 1899 and died in 1978. She and her husband are buried in a town in the southern part of the county.

I found some very similar baskets for sale online -- one for $58 and one for $72.  Want to know how much I paid? $12.76 including tax. I call that a deal. It needs some cleaning up, but I love my new/old picnic basket. Thanks, Mrs. Gerhardt, I'll treasure your basket, and if I take it anywhere, I'll make dead sure I get it back.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Yikes! Where Did Summer Go?

I know it's still summer, still warm and humid here in northern Illinois, but I'm feeling like summer is beginning to wind down and fall will be here before I know it. One indication of a looming autumn is my garden. The last daylily bloomed this week. The late summer surprise lilies are still in bloom, but already beginning to fade.
My garden gets bedraggled in August. Asters: I think asters might be an answer. There used to be an older lady, Eve, in our neighborhood who grew gorgeous purple and pink asters along her parkway. Her yard was a cheery sight as the dog days of summer faded away. Once her husband caught someone picking the flowers! I guess the woman thought the parkway was public property. Sadly, Eve is gone and so are her asters.

My summer has been busy; I've been
working, visiting family, and crocheting.
Right now I'm making some retro-y pillow
covers that I'll show you when I've finished
the second one.

In the meantime, I can show you a Queen Ann's
Lace scarf I completed recently. My daughter
had given me some luscious alpaca yarn for
Christmas (Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca
Chunky Paints), which worked up beautifully.
Maybe the fall colors of the yarn are what make
me think summer is over.

These autumn colors and the fallen leaves I've
been finding in the birdbath need to be a spur to
me to finish all the projects I had planned for the
summer. I have another pathway to dig, shrubs
to prune, birdhouse to clean out, etc., etc.

Hope you're enjoying whatever season you're in!