My house is over a hundred years old. It was once the childhood home home of a noted concert pianist. Her mother taught piano lessons to what seems like an entire generation of local children. At one time there were three pianos in what is now my living room. I can usually ball park the age of someone when I mention where I live and they call it the old Keillor place. We didn’t buy the house from the Keillor family as the Nicholsons lived here for 17 years but to many people this will always be the Keillor house.
There is a grave marker in my backyard that recalls the names of two small ones, brothers I think, that passed away too soon. There’s a room in the basement that isn’t completely dug out and there is some very interesting wiring and handyman fixes. We didn’t get a chance to ask about those things when we were buying the house. One of the former owners had passed away during the purchase process and his widow was so upset that she seemed to cry whenever we spoke to her. In September she left and we came here. I think it must have been very hard to leave. This house was their life and they did everything they could to make it a beautiful home. Even as she was leaving she went out of her way to make sure that we would feel comfortable and welcome. She left hand towels, mats, houseplants, and cleaning supplies. She even left ice cubes in the freezer. We’re settling in and figuring things out. The dog refuses to travel up the back stairs but has no problem with the front stairs. She won’t enter the bathroom at the top of the backstairs but I don’t really blame her. It can be really cold in there and the light shuts itself off all the time. The switch is sort of loose but it only happens sometimes…usually when you’ve settled yourself into the tub (unfortunately). The cats, by the way, love the back stairs.
September and October passed. Even though the gardens hadn’t had much attention for the past year and a half, as the prior home owners had more pressing issues, they were still beautiful. With November the snow came and covered it all. We’d been told that this area did not usually see much snow but this year was to be an exception. The winter was incredible. Cold but beautiful. Our husky-malamute-shepherd cross would spend hours at a time out in the snow. When she came in the long fur on her webbed paws would be crusted with hard packed snow.
Spring finally came and with it whatever surprises that were lurking in the reborn garden. There is no way to know what’s been planted until the passage of time has made it plain. It is now the end of May and I feel a little more comfortable making a start in the beds. It is a heritage garden so I’m trying to be careful. There are some plants that even my mother (who has the green thumb in our family) does not recognize. There are hostas galore, tulips, daffodils, oyster ferns, trillium, chicks and hens, wild pansies, imperials, and too many more to mention.
Today I was out near the shed clearing away weeds so that the hollyhocks could breath a little when I came upon a trio of toads. They were lovely and perfect. They’re probably Foster’s toads which are common to this area. I felt horrible because I was taking their home apart by removing all these weeds. I decided that I would make them a little home from broken pavement but they didn’t care for it. Tomorrow I’m going to make two little houses from old upside down flower pots that I’ve made little doors in. Then I’m going to plant more hollyhocks along that wall. There’s already asparagus and strawberries growing there so there is still ground cover.
Toads are absolutely lovely in the garden. They take care of all sorts of obnoxious garden pests. They are the little sentries in the garden. I don’t feel like it’s a proper garden without them. They’re so solid and a little bit mysterious as they hold so still waiting for you to pass by. As I start to shape this land and care for those things that have grown wild, these little soldiers lift up my spirits. They are a tangible symbol of the importance of this place and its role as a home for more than just our family.
I really hope they’re still there tomorrow and I hope they’ll like their new houses.