Prospect Gardens Summer Time

Prospect Gardens Summer Time
Summer Scene

Friday, March 30, 2018

Early Signs of Spring and Memories

March is ending with April just on the horizon.  The snow once covering Prospect Gardens has almost all disappeared except for a few patches in shaded areas.  I surveyed the Gardens and planned the first project. Last season we never fully conquered the Bishop's Weed with their roots burrowing down underneath the rocks.  Plans call for removing the rocks, filling in the space with dirt and planting grasses and prairie plants. The plants are on order through a Dane County program that provides prairies plants for public spaces at $2.25 a plant, which is quite a saving.  Pickup is scheduled for Saturday, May 19th.

Our first work session of the new season will be April 21st from 9 to noon.  Come join us if you are in the Madison area. In the meantime, spring is emerging. This week during my daily walks, I looked  for signs of spring and especially plants as I meandered through my neighborhood.  I now recall a similar class assignment when I was a youngster attending Polandi, the one room schoolhouse located about a mile across the fields from our family farm.  As instructed by our teacher, we documented early signs of spring, along with a few sentences. Robins and Red Wing Blackbirds were one of the first birds to arrive followed later by the  piercing calls of the Killdear.  These were on my list. The Red Wing Blackbirds darted at our heads as we walked through the swamp bordering the mile long dead-end dirt road leading to the farm. The Killdear zipped across the dirt road as it crossed higher sections of land.

By this time of spring, the road was often impassable because the disappearing frost in the frozen earth turned what was once solid ground into mud. Some seasons the road was so bad that we parked the car at the end of  the road and walked home. One time my sister Barbara mistakenly thought she could  drive through the ruts. We pulled our car out with a tractor.

Before I share my 2018 list of early signs of spring, here are two poems about the season.  My list has no examples from Prospect Gardens.  There are tiny green shoots close to the soil and I could not clearly capture these with my IPhone camera.

Early Spring: Rainer Maria Rilke

Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses, 

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.

Spring: Archie Greenidge
Spring is life 
Spring is hope 
So is love and 
Spring renews. 
Without spring, 
life is forlorn. 
Spring is nostalgia 
after bitter storm. 
Put spring in your heart 

Here are my eight examples of early spring.  May they put spring in your heart. 

 Tulips poking through the dark earth with a few brown leaves of fall waiting for their demise. These are from a neighbor's front yard.
 A neighbor's colorful laundry on a warm sunny day.  My mother did the same and sometimes in the middle of winter  when the sun was warm.  She used a wringer washer and during the summer would wash clothes on the front porch.  Occasionally and before I was assigned field work, I helped; fishing out the clothes from the galvanized steal tubs with a well worn wooden stick and directing the clothes into the wringer. 

My older sister Jenny recalled my mother's first gas motor driven wash machine.  After seeing the machine in the hardware store in nearby Pulaski, the store's owner came with the machine to our farm and demonstrated how to use the machine. Impressed my Mother, and my Father purchased it.
 Oh! Exquisite crocuses making their entrance against the remnants of fall.  These were spotted along the bike path west of Prospect Gardens.
 A patch of delicate lavender crocuses welcoming the early spring. These were on a protected side of a  neighbor's house.
 Here's a patch of snowdrops accompanied by a few crocuses from a neighbor's yard. Snowdrops are one of the first spring flowers. In past years, I have seen snowdrops poking through a thin sheet of snow.
 The waters of nearby Lake Wingra, just across the street from our apartment building, are free of ice. The piers and docks are still in storage.
 Pictured here are two staff of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum doing a prescribed burn.  Each year, mimicking Mother Nature's wild fires, prairie burns are done to help control disease and weeds.
Here is Mother Buffalo from the adjoining neighborhood of Midvale, a short bike ride from our apartment. This year she is disguised as the Easter Bunny while last Easter season she wore a fancy bonnet.  

This concludes my list of early signs of spring. More signs of spring are sure to arise. May this season of renewal surround you with loving kindness and fill you with life and hope. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Miles To Go Before I Sleep"

The title of this entry is the title of a favorite Robert Frost poem.  Many of you will recognize it.  I first read the poem as a college sophomore in an American Literature course. Following the poem are four pictures of Prospect Gardens with the long awaited protective  snow cover.  Snow of significant depth finally arrived. Today's 40 degree temperatures will result in substantial snow melt.  This Saturday Ann and  I will be hosting the annual dinner for the Garden's core volunteers. Ann is preparing a Hungarian meal with beef goulash as the main dish and her popular kiflis (butterhorns) for dessert.  We will enjoy the meal and our company, and briefly talk about the upcoming gardening season.

Another set of pictures are from my neighborhood.  These were taken as I enjoyed this last week of beautiful snow.  On Monday, I visited and skied through woods in the nearby University of Wisconsin Arboretum.  Yesterday, I skied the trails in the Odana Golf Course, also nearby.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

 One of the birdhouses with a mantle of snow on the roof. Last season, a wren investigated but did not choose this colorful abode. Perhaps this season a less picky wren will decide otherwise. However, there are several other nearby attractive birdhouses. The Gardens and the nearby homes offer many options.
 Tall grasses, such as this one, provide texture to the winter  Gardens. Come spring we will cut back this one and other grasses throughout the Gardens. Other gardens along the path are maintained through controlled burning which also helps control weeds. We don't burn because of the close proximity to homes.  Plus I am unsure about the effectiveness of burning because of all the small rocks spread throughout most of the Gardens. Supposedly these rocks (referred to as "rip rap") prevent erosion. 
 A section of the mural now nearly nine years old. I am surprised how well the mural has weathered as the years keep slipping by.
 Remnants of Purple Cone flowers left to provide seeds for birds. Hopefully some seeds have survived, now dormant  and waiting to germinate and become part of the next life cycle.  I will be on the look out for any new seedling as spring inevitably arrives.  Cycles of life continue even in the dead of Wisconsin winter.
Ann and  I live in an awesome neighborhood. Lake Wingra and portions of the Arboretum are just a half block across the street from our apartment. Now that the trees are bare I can see the lake from my window.  Our  apartment building is on one of  the busiest streets of Madison  surrounded by well maintained neighborhoods.  To the north and up to the bike path are smaller houses built during the 1920s and 1930s.  Just to the west of us is the Nakoma neighborhood, an affluent enclave with winding streets and with large homes. Nakoma was platted in 1915 as a picturesque suburb in the country with winding roads, its own water system, its own private bus service and substantial lands set aside for parks, tennis courts and a golf course. To make this new suburb more appealing to families, the developers even replaced the old schoolhouse with a new grade school in 1917 and built the Nakoma Country Club in 1921. It was one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of its time as it is today. 

I often walk through Nakoma enjoying examples of Colonial, Greek, Tudor Revival, French Provincial, and Prairie style homes.  During summer, once a week, I enjoy doing Tai Chi on the deck of a Nakoma Colonial, along with others from our church. 

Here are nine winter pictures taken from my recent walks, and two while cross country skiing.  

Here's one of many smaller homes that make up our nearest neighborhood, about a half block to the north of our apartment building. The man who lives in the house with his family loves to build mega snow forts or should we call them edifices.  Last winter, his creation rose above the windows and the roof of the front stoop. The structure was so tall that he installed wooden supports, creating a two story fort.
 This tree, in nearby Wingra Park, is dated as being planted during the year our US Constitution was written.  Going east, it's located just off the bike path and on the north side, just past the playground.

I  visit the tree during all seasons of  the year.  Leaning up against its rough bark gives me great comfort.  May it outlive me.
 In the picture to the right, frozen Lake Wingra is in the background. A comfortable setting, along the shore, for a summer picnic or just to rest one's weary soul.
 I took this picture near Edgewood College and near  where Emily and I went sledding when Emily was a young child.  There was a hill on the Edgewood campus perfect for sledding.  Now a science building and other improvements make sledding impossible.  We had an orange plastic sled similar to the  one in the picture.  She would climb into the sled and I would pull her from our home to the hill.
 Here are two pink Flamingos covered with snow. These are in front of a Nakoma home.  Flamingos have a special place in UW Madison traditions starting in 1979.  On the first day of classes, September 4th, students were treated to the sight of 1,008 plastic pink flamingos placed on Bascom Hill by student government pranksters from the Pail and Shovel Party. The party won that year's student government election.

The Pail and Shovel party President, Leon Varjian, and his friends did other pranks.  On a cold winter day, a sinking plywood replica of the Statue of Liberty appeared on frozen Lake Mendota.  Leon led a rollicking  boom box parade down State State celebrating the return of warm spring days.

Periodically these lawn ornaments reappear on Bascom Hill.  For example, during October 2017, Homecoming the flock returned as a part of a fund raising activity.  Alumni and others could purchase the iconic birds. 

We have many "Little Libraries" in the surrounding neighborhoods. This one is in front of a Nakoma home and depicts the splendor of the large home located behind  it.

Here's another Little Library near Edgewood College and at the entrance to the "Pleasure Drive" bordering Lake Wingra. The design is quite pleasant and does not resemble nearby homes.
I skied past this majestic building constructed by men from the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) when they were developing the UW Arboretum,. The CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men. Originally for young men ages 18–25, it was eventually expanded to ages 17–28.
Here's a trail I followed through that borders an area of the Arboretum called the "Lost City."  In the early 1900s the developer Chandler B. Chapman, began building Lake Forest. He envisioned an expansive suburban utopia, covering 800-acre, complete with street-car service, playgrounds, schools, gas and electric lines and a water supply rivaling that of Madison itself.  The upraised placard explains the doomed city. Adventuresome hikers willing to go off the trails will find remnants of roads and home foundations.  Sometimes, as I walk the trails, I feel the urge to search for traces of the city. 

For several reasons, including problems building in a flood plain and financial challenges, Lake Forest never became a reality. Developers declared bankruptcy. In the late 1940s, UW Madison purchased the land and the 800 acres became part of the Arboretum.  For more information, see

As I traveled down the trail, the woods were not quite as "deep and dark" as the woods in the Robert Frost's poem.  Yet they were lovely and the solitude fed my soul.  With gratitude in my heart for a beautiful Wisconsin winter day, I made my way through the remnants of  Lake Forest and back to my car in the parking lot. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Resting and Waiting for Snow

Last week Ann and I finished preparing Prospect Gardens for the winter. The Gardens are now resting and waiting for a blanket of snow. Here is Sara Teasdate's poem about rest and the coming winter, followed by nine pictures.


There will be rest, and sure stars shining
 Over the roof-tops crowned with snow,
A reign of rest, serene forgetting,
The music of stillness holy and low.
I will make this world of my devising
 Out of a dream in my lonely mind.
I shall find the crystal of peace, – above me
Stars I shall find.

 Several years ago, I received this ornament from a nephew's wife .  In the background are hostas, covered by a carpet of fallen leaves. Recent frosts have changed the golden -green colors to light brown.

The sun was bright and the sky was blue while Ann and I worked with temperatures in the low 40s. A near perfect day for tending the gardens.

Here's a sunny corner with blue stem grasses. We left them intact, anticipating that seeds will disperse to other areas of the Gardens and we will have more of this purple-tinted grass.  
The butterfly house, a gift from our daughter, Emily, now is in the open. Rudbeckia that once hid the house are gone. The house's vibrant yellows have faded after years of being exposed to the elements. Another marker of time passing.

I considered putting the house, for the winter, in the old storage shed near the Gardens where the tools are stored. I gave up after the pole didn't yield after several tugs.  
One of two cherry trees now bare and patiently waiting for the snows of winter. We lost one cherry tree earlier this season. I am learning that cherry trees require more attention and care than I realized when we planted them. So far I have not heeded those lessons. Maybe next spring I will. Yet, I am reluctant to use chemicals.
The rocks are now exposed in this section of the Garden. We left some of the Purple Cone flowers, hoping they would spread. Birds like the seeds.
Here's a good shot of the dried Purple Cones. Notice the dark section of the newly resurfaced commuter path, laid a few weeks ago. Oh... another indicator of time passing and to be exact, sixteen years since the path opened in 2001.

Another picture of the hosta garden. If you look closely on the left side of the picture you will find a mobile. I intend to create another mobile for the left side of the double hook. The parts for the mobile lay on my desk.  Perhaps sometime this winter I will assemble a new mobile, if the spirits so move me. Although the priority is culling years of slides tugged away in the closet. I am not looking forward to that project.
I like to think that this old blue bowling ball represents Earth as seen from space. In June, NASA reported that "we are not alone" as it revealed 10 new Earth-like planets which could sustain life. Now we face challenges of sustaining life here on Earth as we experience climate change.
Once again the orange plastic snow fences are in place. These should prevent the city snow plowing crews from pushing snow into the Gardens. So far it has worked.

Another gardening season ends. A special thank you to those who volunteered. May they and you find rest and peace.