A LEGACY OF LOVE…AND A WHOLE LOTTA NUTS!

My father loved pecans

And pecan trees

And my mother’s pecan pie.

I remember in college

Coming home for Thanksgiving

Going to the creek to pick up pecans.

There was always a bowl

To crack and pick

As we sat by the fire

In the winter.

Pecans even found their way

Into campaign brochures.

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Daddy planted a pecan grove

Rather late in life

We celebrated that fact

On his 85th birthday

With family

And former staff members.

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Now if you don’t know

You don’t just plant a pecan tree

And reap the harvest.

It takes at least 7 years

To produce.

So daddy must have known

That he would not live to see

The trees grow to maturity.

That someone would have to take up the mantle

And love it like he did.

And he did love it.

He loved, nurtured and respected

The land

And the life of a farmer.

But passing that to the next generation

Can be tricky…at best.

Thankfully, when the farms were divided

Among the three of us

My little sister Ann

Got the pecan grove.

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She has worked hard over the last nine year

To improve the pecan grove

To prune, mow and fertilize it.

Like daddy she has loved, nurtured and respected

The land.

She has gotten a good crop

About every other year.

Then came the rains last spring.

I mean RAIN.

Over 30 inches in a month.

Resulting in a bumper crop.

Over 7,000 pounds of pecans!

She’s been harvesting and processing pecans

Continuously for over a month.

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This week she’s coming to town to spread the love around.

Friends have pre-ordered hundreds of pounds

Of pecans

That will be turned into all kinds of treats

Over the holidays

And beyond.

Daddy & Mother would love what she has done.

And so do I.

Gail

PS

When Daddy was in office pecans were the standard gift for visiting dignitaries and Mother’s pecan pie was served at more dinners than I can count.  She would make a dozen or so at a time.  She was amazing.IMG_4132

This recipe was first printed in “Recipes from the Campaign Trail” .  A little campaign brochure with recipes from Mother’s kitchen and Daddy’s “recipe for good government”.  My how campaigns have changed over the years!

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SHIRLEY BELLMON’S PECAN PIE

3 Eggs    1 C. white corn syrup   1C. brown sugar   1 C pecans

1 unbaked pie shell

Beat eggs.  Add corn syrup and brown sugar to eggs and mix well.  Add this mixture to the pie shell.  Sprinkle pecans on top.  Bake at 350 for one hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO WORDS

Most weeks

As I sit down to write

The words just flow.

This week

I seem to have no words.

At least not about gardening.

This week I want to tell you my story.

It’s an old story

Over 30 years ago.

But it’s an important one to me

And my life.

And it’s timely

With the devastating news

Of last week’s suicides.

I am among the millions of people

Who have suffered from clinical depression.

Most of my friends will be surprised by that.

I’ve never kept it a secret

But neither have I advertised it.

And frankly it was so long ago

Some of you may have simply forgotten.

I have not.

It was a very tough time.

I had had a miscarriage

The year before Elliott was born

So suffice it to say that I was a prime candidate

For depression.

Mine would likely be categorized

As postpartum depression

It’s depression

All the same.

I fought it for a long time.

By the time Elliott turned two

It became obvious

That I had to deal with it.

I distinctly remember where I was

When I told John I had to get help.

He was supportive from the beginning.

It wasn’t easy for either of us,

But he was there.

Fortunately for me a local therapist

Had recently spoken to the Stephen’s Ministry class

I was taking at church

And I liked her.

I knew where I could go for help.

I spent 6 months in one on one therapy

Took the anti-depressants the doctors prescribed.

And was involved with a therapy group for another 6 months.

Bit by bit

I got better.

She saved my life.

I have long felt

That therapy is the best gift

I’ve ever given myself.

Over the ensuing decades

I’ve gone back to therapy

For a tune up

As life has thrown me a few curve balls.

Why am I telling you this?

Most of the people who read this are friends.

But it’s going out there into cyber space

And that means people who don’t know me

Now know something very personal.

But that’s the point.

Those of us who have been there.

Have to tell our stories

Openly and honestly.

We are the very people

Who can make a huge difference in people’s lives.

We know the pain

And we know how help changed,

Really saved our lives.

If you can

Tell your story.

It may help someone

To get help.

And listen to people.

Really listen to them.

Encourage them.

Ask them if they need help.

Then help them find it

If they need it.

Without help

Think of all of the life

I and so many more

Would have missed.

Gail

 

 

 

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WIND

Last week my new friend Amy came for dinner.

Once we realized we both like gardening

A quick trip to the garden house

Was a must.

Some of you may know that once someone asks me a gardening question

I’m off

Giving them a gardening encyclopedia

When all the really want is a cliff note version.

Normally, several minutes in I finally look at the glazed eyes of my innocent victim

And dial it back a little.

But Amy kept asking questions

And I kept going.

There was one question I’ve been asked before

But I heard it differenly this time.

“Why do you have a fan running on the baby plants” she asked.

To strengthen the stems

My usual reply.

Then it hit me.

Stress….

I’m putting stress on these tiny plants

To make them stronger.

Oh my, maybe it’s just living my life

“Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains”

Is actually a line from our state song,

Or maybe it’s having lived so much life,

Or maybe it’s these past two years

But suddenly I knew.

We are like those baby plants.

Standing in the winds of life.

I know so many people

Who have struggled and stood strong

Against those winds.

And though the stresses of those lives

Would never have been our choice

They have strengthened us

And helped us to grow.

We are all just creatures

In God’s great creation.

What a gift.

Gail

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FINALLY…THE BEGINNING

After a March of fits and starts

This weekend feels like the beginning of gardening season.

The 10 day forcast shows no freezing temperatures

And it is the 13th of the month.

Put those two things together

And I spent several hours

In my garden

Doing “spring things”.

I pruned the last of the roses

Planted lettuce, arugula & strawberries.

All Star Gourmet Lettuce mix edging the flower bed May 2021

Cut back the Annabelle hydrangea a bit

For the first time in their lives.

I was chicken so I just cut back every other one

And not by more than a third.

Finished planting sweet peas

The blooming kind this time.

And cut the old crispy leaves off of Hellebore

To expose those glorious blooms.

Who doesn’t love a late winter blooming flower.

Hellebore

But mostly I reveled in the miracle that is a garden

When the negative wind chills of just a few weeks ago

Nipped the baby buds on my rose bushes

They simply made more.

They did not pout or throw a tantrum

They just got on with the business of living

Bringing beauty into the world.

And hope.

A gift for a world in great need.

Gail

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”

– Lady Bird Johnson

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HOPE IN THE SMALL PLACES

This morning’s sermon was about hope.

Looking for it in times that seem hopeless.

Now for instance.

And finding it in the small spaces.

The cracks of life.

So this afternoon

When I headed to the garden house

To plant even more seeds

It seemed like a natural way

To spend the afternoon.

Planting hope.

I’ve gotten rather obbsessed with seeds this year.

Trying a few new varieties

And methods.

I keep reading about starting Dahlias from seed.

Really?

How can that be.

Convincing that little dried up

Kind of seed looking thing

To sprout

And become this

Photo Credit Debra Mitchell

Is well

More than even the most Pollyanna among us

Could hope for.

But why not at least try.

So I got out the Dahlia breeding book I bought.

And read through the incredibly detailed instructions.

Then I realized

I’ve seen this done before.

Damp paper towels, seeds a plate….

My father did this every year

Before he planted his wheat.

He tested the seed he had saved

For germination.

I distinctly remember a saucer

Sprouting in the kitchen window.

So there it was

A sermon on hope

Followed by a fond memory

Of a man who thrived on it.

What a day.

Gail

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

Desmund Tutu

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Christmas Joy

I revel in being a grandmother.

And because my grandchildren

Live several hours away

A visit to my house

Lasts for a few days.

So I do all the usual preparations.

Freezer stocked with easy meals.

Craft drawer resupplied.

And at Christmas a little decorating

Left for capable helpers.

This year it was the tree in the den left undecorated.

The ornaments were placed in baskets under the tree.

Each day a few more were added to the tree.

H & H took the icicles outside

And hung from low tree branches.

That really makes sense when you think about it

Because icicles can’t survive long inside!

Then, of course, the garden house was raided

And why not add the butterflies

And dragonfly stakes

That decorate the garden at Easter.

As long as we are all decorated

Let’s have a “Rainbow Butterfly Christmas Party”

Complete with crafts, treats and party favors.

Next came our annual gingerbread house construction

And this year “reconstruction”

After the visiting poodle ate 4 of the 5 houses!!!

But that’s a story in and of itself.

On a sunny Christmas Eve morning

Our neighbors joined in a continuing tradition

As we decorated houses outside on the patio.

A very COVID conscious event.

I love decorating tables

But this year I decided to turn it over

To Harper and Henry.

Harper agreed

As long as it was “sparkly”.

So we opened cabinets they didn’t even know existed

And pulled from generations of treasures.

John’s grandmother’s crystal wedding candleholders.

My mother’s copper charger plates.

Silver trees I purchased years ago.

That come apart to add tea lights

And fascinate Henry.

Hopefully, this weeklong flutter of activities

Created new memories and stories for the next generation.

It took me a week just to find everything

And get it back in place.

A way of extending the joy.

Likely there is still an icicle

Somewhere in the cedar tree.

Someday it will catch the light

Making it sparkle

And catch my eye.

Bringing a rush of memories

Of Christmas week.

Memories indeed.

Gail

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A FAMILY TRADITION

Family traditions can be tricky.

They can bring us comfort

And peace

And smiles.

But if we allow them

They can take up so much of our lives

That we can lose track

Of who’s life it is.

So, though I love traditions

I really try to re-examine

Them when they come

Swinging back into my day.

Holidays are especially ripe

For this.

Last week a tradition

In my family

Entered it’s 5th generation

When Elliott and Kristina

Took their kids

Into the mountains

To cut their own Christmas tree

With a permit from the forest service,

Of course.

A plains tradition

Transplanted to the mountains.

When I was a kid

My father would gather us together

And take us out into the field

To a cluster of red cedar trees

Where we would select

Our Christmas tree.

He would cut it down

Always leaving

A lower branch

So the tree could regrow.

(This was before red cedar trees

Became the nuisance

They are today.)

More often than not

It would be much bigger

Than we realized

Until we got it home

And it engulfed

The entire living room.

When Daddy took his young

Grandsons into the field

To cut a tree

The tree was so huge

It didn’t even fit into the room

And was placed outside the big glass door

On the patio

With presents placed

Just on the inside of the glass!

The adventure of cutting our own tree

Seemed like a quaint ritual

But I didn’t get the deep meaning

For my father

Until I almost messed it up.

You see we figured out over time

That my mother was allergic

To cedar

Which meant she was

Almost always sick

By Christmas.

So I pushed and pushed

Her to buy an artificial tree

Or as my father called it

The “plastic thing”!

Thankfully Daddy was a letter writer

So I have a record

In his own words

Of just how heinous

This crime was.

I read it at his funeral

And have included it

As a post script.

I am thankful for Elliott & Kristina

Picking up this meaningful tradition

And passing it along

Creating ” new old” memories

For yet another generation.

It’s hard to know

What to hold onto

And what to let go of

Since both are equally important.

I hope you enjoy

your traditions

of the season.

Looking back

While moving forward.

Gail

Nov 26, 1993

Dear Gail,

As my “sensitive” daughter you may be interested in knowing some of the thoughts that were going through my mind last evening as you all struggled to erect the “plastic thing” in our living room.

Real live red cedar trees have long held a special place in the Bellmon household.  It all started when my Dad dug up five small cedars as he and his family forded the Arkansas River at Ark City and brought them to the dug out on his new claim in the Cherokee Strip where they were planted.  Three years later they were moved to the “home place” where three have survived the heat and drought of summer, the cold and winds of winter as well as the good times of spring and fall.  They are now over 100 years old.

During my early youth in the depression years, when there was barely enough money for necessities, my mother would saw off a carefully selected lower branch from one of the trees.  By placing it carefully against a wall and by decorating it laboriously with strings of white pop corn and red cranberries interlaced with paper people cut from red and green paper folded so each emerged holding hands with its neighbor, she managed to brighten up what would otherwise have been a bleak Christmas season.

After your mother and I were married I accidentally came across a patch of wild cedars growing near the creek south of the “big hill”.  By cutting above a low limb – which later grew upright into a respectable new tree).   I was able to harvest our Christmas trees from the patch during the years you girls were growing up.  Some of my fondest memories are of Christmas seasons highlighted (for me at least) by my annual sojourn, ax in hand, to the cedar patch followed by three small girls having trouble – and needing help from their father – getting past weeds and brambles.

After some time spent artfully selecting the best tree for our purpose I would fell the candidate with the ax and we would drag it, butt first back to the pick-up for the ride to the house.  The decorating was done by your mother helped by you and your sisters.  The trees were far from perfect but they were” our trees” in every sense of the word.  They briefly added a clean outdoor scent to the whole house which was –is-their undoing since cedar oil is a villain so far as your mother’s allergies are concerned. 

Also, after a few days the branches dry out and become a fire hazard.  When taken down and pulled out the door after Christmas is over they leave behind a trail of brittle, sticky, dead needles like leaves which adhere to carpets and drapes into the next spring and summer – a reminder of Christmas past.

There is even one memory of taking the grandsons on a – hopefully – annual Christmas tree search.  Our joint efforts produced a tree too large for the living room of our “new” house.

And now we have our “Made in Taiwan” “plastic thing” – what memories can it hope to breed?  Of dust accumulated during the months it will be stored in some dark and deserted place, of cobwebs, perhaps of a nest of mice?  Clearly there will be no allergy for there is no scent, not hint of life, no danger, no challenge.  The “plastic thing” is thoroughly safe, sensibly sterile – decidedly dead, forever.

Is the “plastic thing” symbolic of what life in the waning days of the 20th century is coming to – safe – comfortable – secure – complacent?  What will follow – monotony – boredom – frustration?  Life as I have known it needs it imperfections, its disappointments as well as its successes.  Without challenge there can be no victory.

Maybe the above is too strong.  Your mother’s allergies are a real and important fact of life.  If the “plastic thing” solves that problem I reluctantly and with a real sense of loss accept the inevitable.  I greatly appreciate your concern for your mother but I wanted you to see another side of the Christmas tree controversy.

                                    Love,

                                           Your Dad

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STORIES

Last summer I read an interesting book

“The Art of Gathering”

By Priya Parker.

Reading it has made me think

About the kinds of gatherings I host.

I have always loved the idea

Of bringing people together.

And I like to “decorate”

For the occassion.

But this book has me thinking

More about what happens

Once we are gathered.

Last weekend is a good example.

I hosted a sort of birthday lunch.

It would have been my friend’s 70th birthday.

Had she lived to see the day.

Instead, her three daughters came

Along with some of her friends

From decades ago.

We sat around my dining room table

Telling stories of her life.

It wasn’t a gathering to “catch up”.

In true Priya fashion.

I even sent a text to that effect

Before we gathered.

Telling my guests it was not a day

To talk about grandchildren

But rather a day to share our stories and memories

So that her grandchildren could know her

A little better.

We laughed.

We cried.

We re-connected.

Memories buryied deeply

Began to surface.

Bringing more laughter

And tears.

Stories have the power

To bring us back to a different time

And place.

The power to learn new things

And answer questions

We didn’t even know we had.

The power to reunite with someone

We have lost

Or get to know someone

We never knew.

I hope as you gather

Around your holiday tables.

You will set aside the news of the day

And the game

And ask questions

That draw out stories

Of the lifetimes

You have gathered together.

Gail

“Share your story with someone. You never know how one sentence of your life story could inspire someone to rewrite their own.”

Demi Lovato

P.S. Think about recording interviews of your families and submitting them to The Great Thanksgiving Listen at https://storycorps.org/participate/the-great-thanksgiving-listen/ With permission, interviews become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. More than 650,000 people have participated in StoryCorps to date, making it the largest single collection of voices ever gathered.

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A JOB WELL DONE

Last week’s predicted freeze

Did not materialize.

But we didn’t know that

Last Monday

When a full crew of Master Gardeners

And friends

Gathered at Faith Farm

To pick everthing on the vine.

And pick we did.

341 pounds of peppers and green tomatoes

And eggplant and turnips and radishes

And green beans and cucumbers.

Bringing us to an all time record

Of 4,027 pounds of fresh organic produce.

That’s a ton…well 2 tons actually

All going to provide our hungry neighbors

With the freshest possible produce.

It’s a mission that is easy to wrap our hands

And hearts around.

Over time it has become more than a mission

To those of us who come.

We have become a sort of gardening family.

Moving through the garden twice a week

Catching up on family news

Sharing stories of our own gardens

And ideas of how to grow even more

At Faith Farm.

Spending a few hours each week

In a garden

With fellow gardeners

On glorious spring days

And the dog days of summer

Growing vegetables

For hungry neighbors

Is a joy.

Thanks everyone.

Gail

“The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Cesar Chavez

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END OF THE SEASON…OR IS IT?

When I think of fall

I think of the garden slowing down.

And it does.

The plants and blooms

Are going to sleep.

But my “to do” list

Seems endless.

I’ve brought much of this

On myself.

I think I have a fear

Of clean fingernails.

So I create gardening tasks.

For instance.

Pick green tomatoes.

Cut and dry Hydrangea blooms.

Pull the last of the Cockscomb and Zinnias.

When I was in Denver last week

I found close out vinca minor.

We are reworking a shady end of the garden

So I was in the market for vinca minor.

I found 20 tiny plants.

Today I planted 16 of them

In the ground

And potted up the other 4.

The plan is to take cuttings

From these 4 all winter.

Increasing the inventory

Enough to fill the space

By winter’s end.

Since we are expecting

Our first freeze this week

The giant and prickly Sego Palms

Had to be hauled into the garden house.

Bouganvilla, Asparagus Fern and Kimberly Fern

Found their way into the breakfast room

With John’s help.

Dusty Miller was rescued from the big pots

And cozied into the ground

Since it will often survive our winters.

And the Plumbago was dug and potted

In the garden house

Where again I’ll take winter cuttings

To have ready for next spring.

I keep talking about taking cuttings

Like I actually know how to do it.

I do know how to do it.

I just can’t keep them alive.

So that is my challenge

For the winter

Cuttings.

If I succeed at this.

The garden house will be

Even more of a jungled mess

Than it is today.

And that will make

For a very happy winter!

Gail

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THE POWER OF A SEED

My mother loved to garden.

Her only problem was

That for much of her life

She lived in two different towns

At the same time.

Sometimes even two different states!

That made tending a garden

A bit of a challenge for her.

When Daddy finally retired

They added a greenhouse

To the house on the farm.

She would putter there for days.

I watched her tenderly

Prick out baby lettuce plants

And give them their own home.

Knowing that since they lived in the country

Chances were pretty good

That a mouse

Would likely enjoy more lettuce

Than she would.

But she kept at it

Year after year.

She died suddenly one summer

While we were all on vacation together

Leaving everything in her life

And her greenhouse

As something of a still life.

One glorious fall day

I walked into

Her untended playpen

To find it full of vines

Covering floor to ceiling

And loaded with dozens of

Baby Boo Pumpkins.

She had been gone

For over a year.

Yet the power of a seed

Brought her right back

To me and my memories

Of her in this place.

Perhaps that’s why

I have an endlessly

Growing collection

Of seeds.

They connect me to the past

And show me

The hope of the future.

Gail

“A seed neither fears light nor darkness, but uses both to grow.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

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STALEMATE

There are times

When even the patient gardener

Get’s really frustrated.

This month has been

One of those times for me.

This summer

My garden turned 17.

And like any teenager

It’s morphing

Into it’s adult stage of life.

At least I think

That’s what’s going on.

All summer long

I’ve been making notes

About the changes

I want to make.

Move the dahlias

To more sunlight.

Move some hydrangeas

To more shade.

Make room

For new rose varieties.

Or simply

Make room.

Things have gotten

Just a little crowded.

So I couldn’t wait

For Labor Day

To begin digging.

But summer has been

RELENTLESS !

Not the 100 degree

Kind of relentless

But days and days

In the 90’s.

Not the best

For plant relocating.

We are finally moving

Toward fall.

So watch out

And check my driveway

For plants needing

A more spacious home.

Gail

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than she seeks.”

John Muir

(Actually he used he but you know, the seasons are changing.)

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