Year of the Sunflower

One day I came home from work to find a surprise of four packets of sunflower seeds on the kitchen table – two packets of dwarf variety (‘Sunspot’ and ‘Teddy Bear’) in sunny yellows, and two of the taller-than-me sort in the autumn colors I enjoy (‘Autumn Beauty’ and a “Fun Sunny Hybrid Mix”). My thoughtful husband had picked them out for me knowing I love the charm of sunflowers.

Sorry, forgot to take a photo BEFORE I carried the seed packets around in my garden apron.

You may find it hard to believe, but I don’t have much in the way of garden space to plant sunflowers. They are heavy-drinkers, so like to be watered a lot. I get rather negligent in that department once mosquitoes begin chasing me around the garden. Consequently, other than the squirrels who steal or scatter seed from our birdfeeders, I rarely plant sunflowers in my garden.

I did grow them in 2017 to add to a wedding bouquet for my friend Wendy.

Wendy’s bridal bouquet

One other year (2009, according to Facebook) we had a fabulous, show-stopping sunflower display in what I call my “driveway garden” – the plot of land where our driveway ends.

That over-crowded flowerbed now hosts many perennials, weeds. and rabbits, but I snuck in a few sunflower seeds here and there this year. I planted a few of the taller variety in the center of that bed and a few of the shorter variety on that garden’s edge, hoping that the bunnies won’t snack on them. I am also planting some of the dwarf varieties betwixt and between my bushes in the front yard in places where tulips and daffodils have finished their spring performance. A few more have been added to the now sunny (due to tree loss) bed of languishing hostas on the SE corner of the house – maybe the sunflowers will provide at least a little shade for the poor sun-burnt hostas. Last year I grew zinnias in two of our raised beds – this year, I hope those beds will be gracious hosts to sunflowers.

We have a HUGE bunny population this year, so I won’t be surprised if my smattering of sunflower seedlings become their next snack. However, I hope they will save me at least a few to provide late summer splendor and autumnal color. I’ll keep you posted. In the meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about sunflowers, I think you’ll find this post to be amazing.

Every year, the National Garden Bureau, a non-profit organization promoting the pleasures of home gardening, selects one annual, one perennial, one …
2021: Year of the Sunflower

Barefoot Gardening

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know I love to garden barefoot. If this is news to you, I invite you to click on the “Meet Cindie” tab and read a little background on my blogger name.

It’s not just being too lazy to put on my shoes (though that factors in some days), but something about my feet feeling the soil connects me to my garden. After a few hours of tending my flowers, I hose the dirt off of my feet and any stress and worries seem to have been washed away too. I am left with a sense of calmness, joy, and a deeper love for and awe of the Creator of it all.

But barefoot gardening does have its unpleasant hazards. The time when I missed my apron pocket and dropped a pair of garden shears onto my big toe immediately comes to mind. In that moment, there was no calmness and joy; it hurt so bad I couldn’t even muster a scream. Most of the time though, the painful moments are small ones, like the ouch of stepping on a thistle that needs pulling, a sharp rock, or the thorn of a stray rose clipping. Sometimes I even step on a desirable plant and feel a heart-sickening snap—my brain warns my bare feet to watch my step and tread more carefully.

The other night I was walking around the backyard deadheading and pulling weeds when I felt a sharp stab in the heel of my foot. My brain instantly sounded the pain alarm and told my foot to recoil and not bear down with all my weight.

Can you guess what this is?

Thankfully, my tough and summer-hardened soles also helped prevent this sharp, rusty object from penetrating my foot, but it still hurt like the dickens, causing me to hobble around for the better part of the night and next day.

As far as I can figure, after years of being buried when the McKee family farmland was bulldozed to become a Fitchburg subdivision in the late 1980’s, winter’s frost finally heaved this old screen hinge to the surface of our lawn, and there it stayed until it met up with my unfortunate foot. It made me wonder about the history of the land? What kind of building once sat here? A farm house? A dairy barn?

My foot has forgotten the painful mishap. I will continue my barefoot gardening, but sincerely hope my feet do not meet up with another one of these pain-inflicting gizmos. In the meanwhile, shoes or no shoes, happy gardening my friends.

Growing Old Together

It’s a beautiful summer Saturday, so my husband and I decided to enjoy our lunch outdoors on our backyard deck. It’s a lovely place to sit and enjoy the various late spring peony and iris show and watch birds splash in our birdbaths.

Between bites, I shared with Wayne that I saw my first swallowtail butterfly today. It had fluttered about some flowers, then stopped on the edge of a birdbath to enjoy a little sip of cool water. He said that he had also seen one while fishing with a friend yesterday.

Between bites I pointed at the birdbath nearest us and proffered the thought that maybe I should put some stones in the middle of that birdbath to give visiting bees and butterflies a landing place where they can sip water more easily. The words were barely out of my mouth before my husband of nearly 45 years put his sandwich down and set about fetching a few rocks from our garden’s edge. He then carefully piled three bits of flagstone in the center of the birdbath in immediate fulfillment of my simple wish.

“Perfect!” said I with a smile, knowing just a little bit more of why I want to grow old together with this man I love.

As we finished munching our sandwiches, Wayne spied our caddy-corner backyard neighbor in her yard a few doors down. She is a long ago transplanted southern lady who enjoys spending time in her own backyard feeding the birds. Even in the bitter cold of our Wisconsin winters, we see her zipped up in her royal blue parka faithfully trekking through the snow armed with birdseed for her feeders and pails of fresh water to fill a birdbath we cannot see from our vantage point. More than 20 years have passed since we first met her and today Wayne notes out loud that she looks old. It caused us to both wonder how old she was, so my husband pulls out his phone and finds that information on the web (crazy and kinda creepy what information there is about us there).

“She’s 72,” says Wayne matter-of-factly.

With Wayne being 70 and me at the ripe old age of almost 64, funny how that suddenly didn’t seem so very old. As we watched her walk about in her backyard, there was no denying the fact she had grown older. I know that age is no respecter of person, causing me to ponder whether the neighbors who see me out and about in my yard think the same thing about me. I’ve been feeling more of the aches and pains of getting older lately – a bum shoulder, arthritis in my hands, cataracts brewing, and a general “hitch in my giddy-up,” as dad would say. My hair has definitely grown grayer, my smile lines are now better classified as wrinkles, my step is slower and less sure, and I’m no longer hoisting 40-lb bags of topsoil and composted manure around with relative ease.

My own thoughts about aging caused me to recall the “old-people humor” in Mitch Teemley’s recent blog post. While many things about aging are no picnic, thankfully, I can still see the humor associated with the aging process. I thought some of my readers might enjoy it too, so will share Mitch’s post in the link below and then get back out to working in my garden before I am totally lacking the “zippity” part of my “do dah day” and need another nap.

https://mygoodtimestories.com/2021/05/20/growing-old/


All Things Bright and Beautiful

Peonies and Iris have a way of pointing my heart to the Creator of all that beauty. Let me share a few verses of a hymn that came to mind, along with a tiny bit of my little plot in God’s Creation

“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”

“Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.”

Iris ‘Honky Tonk Blues’

“He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.”

All Things Bright and Beautiful, hymn by Cecil F. Alexander
Paeonia ‘Bartzella’ (Itoh Peony)

If you’re not familiar with this wonderful hymn, you may want to give this beautiful rendition by Julie Gaulke a listen.

Sunset Gardening

I am not by nature an early morning riser, but am told that the glow of morning’s first light is the best time to photograph a garden. The dew is still kissing petals unfurling and the light is soft enough to let each flower’s beautiful color speak for itself. A night-owl by nature, I rarely see my flower gardens in that light. My favorite time of day for barefoot gardening is in the hours after supper when the sun sets low in the sky, the heat of the day is over, and the setting sun casts it warm glow over the splendor of God’s handiwork.

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!

Psalm 113:3 ESV

Blessed to Bake

I am truly blessed by God’s gift of being able to bake for my friends. While they will likely never recover from their illnesses and memory loss (on this side of Glory), I hope that my desserts and treats will help them recover a special lost memory of a yesterday and bring a little splash of momentary joy to their day.

I am blessed to spend three mornings every week baking for my friends. Each of these dear ones lives at BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care home due to some type of memory loss.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

I am blessed to see my friends smile and wave at me as I measure my ingredients into my big mixing bowl. I love hearing the buzz as they talk amongst themselves about what I’m doing — guessing what will come out of the oven.

I am blessed to hear the ladies reminisce about how they used to bake for their families, or how their mom used to make what I am baking for them.

I am blessed when the aroma of something sweet baking in the oven wafts through the building and a dear one stops by the kitchen to ask, “What are we baking today?”

I am blessed when one gentleman scoots his wheelchair through the door and sits in the kitchen chatting in a language I cannot speak. My friend doesn’t eat sugary treats, but he likes to keep me company and watch me bake for awhile, then nods off in a little middle-of-the doorway nap. I hope his dreams are sweet.

I am blessed when one special lady-friend giggles and says (several times a day), “Since you started baking here, it’s getting hard for me to button my pants!” Just the smell of something baking in the oven has a way of making my friends smile and helps them anticipate their next meal.

I am blessed when I serve another friend her dessert before her meal – allowing her to start her meal with dessert means she will likely keep eating the rest of her meal. Her dainty little smile on her face as she savors her dessert blesses me.

I am blessed when I am able to take a little break from my baking to help one of my friends find her room (or her purse, or her keys). This friend is special to me because she shares my mom’s first name and reminds me of her in so many ways. I love it when this tiny little lady takes my hand in hers and draws it to her lips for a little kiss and says, “I will never forget your kindness.”


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday blog link-up where I join up with Kate Motaung and a community of writers and bloggers of all ages and stages who gather on Fridays around a single word prompt to free-write for five minutes. Kate’s word prompt for this week is {recover}.

Henry in the Middle

A little heartwarming story about a boy I love named Henry.

God filled my grandma cup with three incredibly sweet granddaughters – Violet, Mia, and Noelle. Life was filled with tea parties, princesses and fairies, Barbie dolls, and glitter adorned fairy wings and princess dresses. Then God took my decidedly glittery pink and purple cup of joy and filled it to overflowing by adding three grandsons – Charlie, Henry, and George. My grand-girl fun was by no means over, but my toy arsenal now included marble-eating plastic dinosaurs, toy cars and trucks, and lots of dirt and bugs.

Continue reading “Henry in the Middle”

Upcycled Firewood Ring in the Garden

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

~Margaret Atwood

Encore Tulip and Daffodil Performance

Last fall I planted some “late” season tulips and daffodils. While not all of them seem to have bloomed, many have, so I am blessed with an encore performance of mostly white or pale yellow flowers (not planned). The delicate beauty of the various shades of white and yellow stands in lovely contrast to the riot of color I had going on over the past few weeks – almost like a different garden. To add to the beauty, I have some of the flowerbeds edged in various succulents, which are looking pretty impressive filling in the front row and edges.

Continue reading “Upcycled Firewood Ring in the Garden”

Duct Tape Can’t Fix It

It was 13 years ago today that my dad was called Home to heaven. May I share his story of how God drew him to Himself?

My dad was a mechanical engineer by training, so could figure out how to fix most anything long before the advent of YouTube tutorials. If he didn’t have the right part, he’d get creative and make something else work. Our family jokes that he could fix just about anything with duct tape.

My dad learned later in life that there was one thing he definitely couldn’t fix by his own ingenuity. His own sinful heart. I was about 12 years old when my dad realized he needed to trust Jesus for salvation from sin. I was old enough to notice his dramatic spiritual transformation — a change that carried over into every aspect of his life.

Mom once shared with me that Dad would spend every lunch break at work reading the Bible he kept in his car. He read through it so many times that it fell apart. Dad repaired it with his favorite tool: duct tape. I displayed that Bible at my dad’s memorial service in 2008, but it disappeared sometime during mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s a few years later. I did find another Bible, similarly repaired (pictured).

Not long ago I sat down with my Dad’s well-worn Bible in my lap and began to page through it, stopping to read his notes in the margin. It was clear to me that he spent much time exploring this copy of God’s Word too. The Bible had a few special things tucked in the flyleaf, including two cards I had sent him — it meant a lot to me knowing that he had treasured those cards enough to save them.

My heart got all tangled up with emotion when my eyes spied two sheets of lined paper in my dad’s familiar handwriting. These were the notes from which my Dad shared this testimony of faith with the congregation at Garfield Baptist Church on March 31, 1971.

Today, dear readers, on the 13th anniversary of his homegoing to heaven, I would like to share dad’s testimony with you, just as he wrote it, with a prayerful hope that God will use it for His Glory .

March 31, 1971
My Testimony
Jerry Boyles - A Son of God
Matthew 10:32 - "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before man, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven."

It is a shock to learn at the genetic age of 39 to find that you are a spiritual babe. I have been a church member since the age of 11-12 but do not recall being asked personally, 'Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?" I could not give an affirmative answer the first time this question was posed on a Monday night visitation by Gene Klingbeil and Ed Newton, but it did start the wheels turning. I admitted to being a sinner and I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior on Monday evening November 9, 1970 with the assistance of Rev. (Edward) Fuller, Mr. (Everett) Huebner, and my family. I was baptized by immersion by Rev. Fuller on Dec. 27, 1970.

I base my salvation on John 1:11-13 "He came unto his own and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

My assurance of salvation is: John 10:28 "And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."

At this point in Dad’s testimony, he made a note to himself to “Give thanks to AWANA and Sunday School.” Those two ministries of Garfield Baptist Church were very instrumental in my coming to Christ and growing in my faith too. I love knowing that when God drew me to Christ, my family would soon come to know Him too. Dad concluded his testimony in this way:

Being a spiritual babe I have a lot of "catching up" to do. I'm going to need all the help I can get from God and this congregation. I feel that I've had much help from both. I hope, if accepted as a member, that I can be an asset to this church.

In Jesus Name,
Jerry R. Boyles

Right hand of fellowship, Thursday, April 8, 1971