Category Archives: gardening


birdhouse pole in trees


Our family home, built in 1954 ~ no trees, but lots of space, and opportunity for planning and hard work.

Our family home, built in 1954 ~ no trees, but lots of space, and opportunity for planning and hard work.


In my own home now, this is my favorite tree wall art of semi-precious stones.

In my own home now, this is my favorite tree wall art of semi-precious stones.

My brother and I, posed in front of the shell that would be our family home.

My brother and I, posed in front of the shell that would be our family home.






When our family moved from a wooded rural area in Missouri to southeastern Kansas, my parents built a house on a double lot that had no trees. My mother planted everything herself. Three gardens, two of them raised above ground; grape vines, flowering bushes, spring bulbs and perennials that blossomed until autumn flowers took over; a long border of regular, lemon and chocolate mint plants, and a total of twenty-seven trees. Four were fruit trees, and the rest were an amazing assortment of pines, blue spruce, maples, ash, oak, and elm trees. They provided shade and beauty, plus a sense of deep roots around the house my parents made their home for more than fifty years, until Alzheimer’s and dementia forced them to move.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Trees are the poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” The trees around our house were also my mother’s lasting signature on a barren piece of land.

I inherited my mother’s love of planting trees, signing my signature on Colorado soil that has a much shorter growing season. After Molly was born, one of her special birthday gifts each year was an aspen tree, rose bush or evergreen planted in the yard. Then when she became a wife and mother, a tornado ripped through their Kansas town. Insurance rebuilt and repaired their home, but did not replace the trees that had been destroyed, so our special gift to them was six red maple trees. Our family has a long tradition of investing in trees, and it began with my mother.

The stories she told us at home and shared with the children in the church nursery were often about trees, about planting and caring for them, appreciating their shade, thanking them for the branches that held nests for birds. And her lessons of trees always wove their way back to lessons about life. My mother chose her words as carefully as she chose what she planted in her yard. She knew she was investing in long term growth.

Our daughter, Molly, age 3, in front of one of her birthday aspen trees, with her dog Paige.

Our daughter, Molly, age 3, in front of one of her birthday aspen trees, with her dog Paige.

Our granddaughter, Grace, with our dog Maggie.

Our granddaughter, Grace, with our dog Maggie.


Grace and Maggie are both older now; how can you read a book to a dog unless you have the shade of a tree?

Grace and Maggie are both older now; how can you read a book to a dog unless you have the shade of a tree?


Filed under birthday traditions, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, gardening, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, special quotations


Excellent dandelions to fry, without the

Excellent dandelions to fry, without the “violet” weeds.

More good dandelions for frying, but not with the bee.

More good dandelions for frying, but not with the bee.

When I was growing up and looked forward to something in the future, my dad would remind me not to wish my life away, but enjoy today and make the most of it.

He was right, bless his heart, but today I can’t resist telling you to look forward to—and also prepare for—three special days. Stay with me here; there will also be a recipe for you gourmets with a hankering for an unusual yellow delicacy.

Here are the special days at the beginning of May that you might want to circle on your calendars: May 1st and 2nd are Dandelion Days; May 3rd is Garden Meditation Day; and (drum roll, please) the first Saturday in May is World Naked Gardening Day.  If you want to combine celebrations and spend May 2nd and 3rd meditating in your garden while also contemplating your navel, go for it. I’ll focus on Dandelion Days. Classis cover: Dandelion Wine

Many years ago, Ray Bradbury wrote a novel titled DANDELION WINE. In this story about the simple joys of small town life, the main character, Douglas Spaulding, has a grandfather who makes dandelion wine. He packs the joys of summer into every bottle. (There’s more to the plot, but I don’t want to have to give a Spoiler Alert.)

My mother has never been much of a wine drinker…and never a wine maker. But she knew that, for me, dandelions were the happiest sign of spring. I was the child who picked lots of dandelions, arranged them in jelly glasses, and left them on window ledges and tables around the house. I was also known to rub the blossoms on my hands and face to make “beautiful” yellow circles. (I was just a child, okay?)

She and I didn’t make Dandelion Wine, but we did concoct a recipe for Fried Dandelions.

~ Gather a lot of fresh (never sprayed for weeds) dandelions with firm yellow blossoms.

~ Remove stems, wash blossoms and set aside in cold water.

~ In a saucepan, combine chopped scallions (or leeks), and a handful of chopped walnuts or pecans with enough olive oil or melted butter to coat the bottom of the pan. Saute on medium-high heat while you shake the excess cold water off the dandelion flowers and then roll them in flour or corn meal.

~ Toss them into the pan. Add pinches of sea salt,  shakes of pepper and dill weed, and sprinkles of sugar and paprika. My mom added a little garlic to almost everything, but it’s optional if you’re not big on garlic. Add other spices you like. Stir the concoction in the olive oil or butter on higher heat until the blossoms look crispy and/or your mouth is watering.

~ Serve hot. Preferably with cold iced tea. If someone won’t try your fried dandelions, even if you offer Ranch Dressing on the side, say, “Yea! More for me,” or ignore them. They probably will also stick up their noses at other spring delights, including Garden Meditation Day and Naked Gardening Day. You can’t please everyone.

This delightful recipe is a springtime gift to you from Mary Ibbeth and her daughter Mayno. We both wish you a very happy, gourmet May Day…and entire month.

Stars of Bethlehem, another underappreciated

Stars of Bethlehem, another underappreciated “weed” ~ the flowers are supposedly medicinal, but the bulb bases are poisonous. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)


Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, gardening, memories for great-grandchildren


Fire-destroyed landmark building  Round Wall Clock Baby Headstone IMG_2806

In Marvin Williams’ devotional about the price of getting what we think we want, he begins by giving examples of some unbelievable things.  Here are two: ~ for $90 a night, a person can buy a cell upgrade in some prisons; ~ or for $250,000.00, if you know the people to pay, you can buy the right to shoot an endangered black rhino.

There is a flip side to every coin, however. If money CAN buy those things, what things CAN’T money buy? Here are a few things I thought of:   respect, common sense, world peace, true love, lost memories, and the cure for Alzheimer’s, though this is one place where additional funding would help the research…and it would also be a much better investment than bagging an endangered black rhino.

Look at the pictures above for three more things money can’t buy: extra hours in the day; the ability to turn back time and prevent a fire or other tragedy; and this one, especially ~ ask any woman who has lost a baby how much money it would take to fill the void in her heart.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Money often costs too much.” Fill in the “prices” you’ve paid to have money and see if you agree.

On a lighter note, February 8 begins “Love Makes the World Go Round, But Laughter Keeps Us From Getting Dizzy” week. To jump-start the week, the day of February 8 is “Laugh and Get Rich” day. Interpret this as you will, but poet E.E. Cummings can get you started: “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

On February 8, find something that makes you so happy that you laugh out loud, from deep in your belly. Better yet, find someone to laugh with. Not AT, but WITH. This is just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure it will make you happier than shooting an endangered rhino, or paying $90 a night to upgrade your prison cell when you get caught.

And if you do get caught shooting a rhino or doing anything illegal, look on the bright side; you can always make the most of February 13’s “Blame It On Someone Else” day.

"Earth laughs in flowers." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson   My mother carried Lillies of the Valley at her wedding to celebrate the happiness of the day.

“Earth laughs in flowers.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.       My mother carried Lillies of the Valley at her wedding to celebrate the happiness of the day.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are every where."  ~Dr. Seuss

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.” ~Dr. Seuss


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, life questions, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual connections


The FARMER'S ALMANAC is full of interesting information. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

The FARMER’S ALMANAC is full of interesting information. (All photographs by Marylin Warner)

Colorado weather makes it a good idea to wait until after Mother's Day to plant.

Colorado weather makes it a good idea to wait until after Mother’s Day to plant.


If you get impatient for color, you can hand baskets of artificial flowers in your trees.

If you get impatient for color, you can hang baskets of artificial flowers in your trees.

When you spend several days sitting in a hospital room, you look for interesting reading material. I found the 2014 OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC. Talk about an education!

If you’re interested in the weather forecasts for 16 regions of the United States (with apologies to our non-American friends), or information about the sun, moon, stars, and planets, or articles on beeswax candles and natural pest control, The Almanac is your go-to publication.

Here’s some quaint gardening advice reprinted from 1892 folklore.

1)    To make a plant grow, spit into the hole you have dug for it.

2)    Never plant anything on the 31st of any month.

3)    Plant corn after the first woodpecker appears.

4)    Flax will grow tall if you show it your buttocks.

5)    It’s time to plant corn when your wife comes to bed naked.

At our Colorado Springs altitude of 6,100 feet, it’s risky to plant anything before Mother’s Day…even if you show the crop your buttocks or come to bed naked. If you decide you’d rather go fishing, here’s how to know if it’s a good time: watch cows. If they’re up feeding, fishing is good. If they’re down resting, don’t bother.

If the folklore printed in the Almanac isn’t strange enough for you, maybe this writing contest will do the trick. THE WRITER MAGAZINE and Gotham Writers Workshops are sponsoring a “Tell It Strange” Essay & Story Contest.

Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize for THE SHIPPING NEWS, and wrote other highly successful novels, including CLOSE RANGE and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Writers should respond to one of Proulx’s quotes, using it as a prompt to get you motivated.

“We’re all strange inside. We learn how to disguise our differences as we grow up.” ~ this is from THE SHIPPING NEWS.   “There’s something wrong with everybody and it’s up to you to know what you can handle.” is from CLOSE RANGE.

If either of these prompts inspires a strange story or essay idea, the contest deadline is May 31, 2014. Prizes are $1,000, $500, $250. You can submit online, and WRITERS FROM EVERYWHERE are invited to submit, as long as you’re not affiliates of THE WRITER or GOTHAM WRITERS. 1,000 words max.   For full details go to

Spitting in holes might be great planting practice. Writing contests are definitely great writing practice. You can enter the contest; you can write for the contest but instead of entering it, submit it to an anthology, a magazine, an online publication. Making yourself think, plan, write, edit and meet the deadline is excellent writing discipline. Can’t think of a “strange” writing idea? Really? Go back and read #4 and #5 above. Or just pay attention to what’s going on around you. The world is strange enough to give you plenty of writing ideas.

Cover of my favorite writing journal.

Cover of my favorite writing journal.

Write on a computer, on a tablet, on a typewriter...but write!

Write on a computer, on a tablet, on a typewriter…but write!


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, writing, writing contest with cash prizes



Choose your size, S-XL, and use only once.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Choose your size, S-XL, and use only once. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

On February 1st, I wrote a post—“What We Learn While We Wait”—about the things I learn when I visit my mother each month and spend much of my time just sitting with her while she naps. This is Part 2 of that lesson. Now I sit with Mom in her hospital room. This is our new journey together; there are new lessons…and decisions to make. This emergency will pass, but there will be others, and I need to be prepared.

At Mom’s apartment, I’m surrounded by pictures, books and keepsakes, all of them familiar because I chose them to bring from their house to make the move here for my parents easier and more comfortable. Here in Mom’s hospital room there are no pictures on the wall, and though I’m not unfamiliar with computers and IV lines and bags and procedures, they are unfamiliar in the context of connecting them to my mother.

I look around and choose one thing to observe, to focus on and learn about, and I choose the wall opposite me, with the small, medium, large and extra large nitrile exam gloves.

All sizes, to fit all the hands of those who help my mother, the confused 95-year-old lady who has already pulled one IV line out of her arm, and whose “rolling” veins made a new line very difficult. To take blood for the most recent test, the experienced phlebotomist finally had to take it from her foot, and I had to hold Mom’s leg still and have her count aloud with me to calm her cries while the vials filled.

This is a difficult time, so as I study the blue latex-free, single-use medical gloves, I begin to think of other gloves. White cotton gloves, some with little pearl side buttons, the kind of go-to-church-or-weddings-or funerals-white gloves ladies used to wear, back in the time when they also wore hats and high heels and hose with seams.

When the styles relaxed, my mother didn’t throw her gloves away—actually, she rarely threw anything away—but found a new use for them.  When she went out to her garden to pick fresh tomatoes, beans, zucchini, carrots and lettuce for dinner, she put on a pair of her gloves to keep grass stains off her hands. On Saturday nights, when she polished her nails for church the next day, she washed and dried her hands carefully and then applied Vaseline or—get this—Crisco, coating her fingers and hands, and then she slept wearing a clean pair of cotton gloves to protect the skin-softening concoction. She’d come out in her robe, wearing rollers in her hair and gloves on her hands, and my dad would just grin and shake his head.  Remembering that makes me miss those good old days with both of them, my dad whistling and my mom blinking her eyes at us and laughing.

Now I sit with my mother in her hospital room, and she naps as I study the wall of medical DOP/DEHP-free, powder-free, ambidextrous gloves.  I watch people with their own styles of putting on and removing and disposing the gloves, and memories of my mother’s glove-wearing styles help me connect the dots and make these days in the hospital feel more normal.  Or at least the next step in what will become the next “normal” for us.

At night Mom is safe in her caregiver’s additional care, and I go back to my mother’s assisted living and sleep alone in her apartment. Downstairs in the main room, “Art Is Ageless” voting continues for the many amazing quilts, paintings, sculptures, whittled wood knife sheathes and crocheted dresses, all created by seniors in their 70s, 80s, 90s…and one 103-year old lady.

I’m so inspired that I use the only materials I have available, a pair of blue nitrile exam gloves. I blow them up like balloons, tie the tops and arrange them on the living room floor of my mother’s apartment. I title my creation “Helping Hands,” but it’s not for any contest.  It’s just for me, a way to create something and distract myself after another day at the hospital.

"Art Is Ageless" BEST OF SHOW 2014 quilt by Berniece Buell

“Art Is Ageless” BEST OF SHOW 2014 quilt by Berniece Buell


My disposable creation: "Hands That Help"

My disposable creation:
“Helping Hands”



Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, Things to be thankful for


Tree-trimming time. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Tree-trimming time. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Lady Bugs IMG_2817


Dear Mom,

When I was growing up, there were many times when I came into the kitchen for a drink of water on a summer day, and you would say, “Oh, you brought along a friend.”  You taught me to gently cup my hand over the Lady Bug on my arm or my neck or my shirt, walk back outside and free it near a rose bush or on the branch of a tree.  “Lady Bug, Lady Bug, fly away home…”

Last week, Jim and I hired a tree service to do some major work around our house in Colorado. They removed infected trees, trimmed others, planted a slow-growing pine in place of a diseased tree they’d removed. The arborist pointed out aphids in our two huge maple trees in front of the house. You would like him, Mom; instead of spraying the trees to treat the problem, he sent us to a nursery for two bags of Lady Bugs.  4,000 hungry little red friends who were starving for aphids.

That night after sunset, Jim and I opened the mesh bags in the cross sections of the maples. They swarmed out and immediately trailed up the branches like soldiers marching into battle. Some fell on us, crawling on our arms, flying around our faces.  I loved it, and just as you taught me, I carefully released each one on the tree branch. It was a magical evening, reminding me of my childhood, and I  decided I could be very happy being a part-time Lady Bug releaser!

In Dostoevsky’s novel, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, the main character says this in the final chapter: “There is nothing nobler, stronger, healthier and more helpful in life than a good remembrance, particularly a remembrance from childhood. A beautiful, holy memory preserved from childhood can be the single most important thing in our development.”

Dostoevsky never knew Lady Bugs in Kansas, never saw you smile as you helped me carefully transport them back outside, and he never knew of the hundreds of good memories I have of growing up with you and Dad as my parents. But I remember, and yes, those memories have made a profound difference in my life.   Thank you, Mom.

Love, Marylin

Young Gannon and Grace, receiving the portrait of their great-great-grandmother Grace, so they'll know about her life.

Young Gannon and Grace, receiving the portrait of their great-great-grandmother Grace, so they’ll know about her life.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, spending time with kids


When I was growing up, Mom, you always had plants started in jars, lining window ledges, peeking around books and knick-knacks on shelves. You grew basil, oregano, dill, and rosemary on the kitchen window ledges, and you grew African Violets from teeny-tiny seeds under grow lights. When someone was in the hospital or in need a thinking-of-you visit—and you had an uncanny way of knowing who needed some TLC–you tied a ribbon around pink or purple or white violets and delivered them with a hug.

Recently I discovered a wonderful new plant. The mouthful name is Kalanchoe daigremontiana, but it’s the nickname that captured my imagination: Mother of Thousands Plant. Originally from Madagascar, the succulent produces thousands of “baby” plants along the edges of its leaves (click on the plant pictures below for close ups). When the baby buds drop off the leaves, wherever they land they start new plants.  Very mature plants with tall stems will occasionally produce exotic red and purple blossoms.

Even though you never had Mother of Thousands plants around the house, this is the plant that makes me think of you. Everything you’ve done throughout your life, Mom—however private or public—made a difference in the lives of others. Neighbors, employees, children, teens and adults, all blossomed because of your kindness, your compassion, your listening ear, and mugs of herbal tea served with snickerdoodle cookies. I’ve seen the smiling, relaxed people who left your kitchen table, Mom, and I like to think that they each went on to share that with others. Paying it forward is the current expression for what they did; indirectly, that made you the Mother of Thousands of better moments in others’ lives.

Before David and I were born, you suffered four miscarriages. Maybe that’s why children have always been infinitely precious to you, Mom, but you were equally kind and supportive of all ages.  Each good deed dropped seeds that took hold, and from there more goodness was spread. In your 94 years, I imagine you improving much of the world.

You really are a Mother of Thousands, and I’m grateful that you’re my mom.

Love, Marylin                                                                 


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, friends, gardening, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren