I was unsuccessfully trying to get settled and get something done and then Reliable Street popped into my head. Instead of driving home to the west side of Ames, I headed toward North Dakota (Avenue not state). Almost out of town you will see an old feed mill, a remnant of the former small town of Ontario, and nestled under an outside awning, Lockwood Cafe. Last summer I’d learned their basil jalapeno lemonade was to die for, and recently I’d heard they had added an interesting variety of crepes to their menu.
It was hot, but there were large fans blowing, and under the awning I found a table and relief. Behind me was a large table of lunching Iowa Staters, but their talk slowly faded out of my consciousness as I turned my chair to face east. I was in the countryside. But I was still in Ames. I was in Ames AND the countryside. I could have my crepe and eat it too!
The old Doboy (Doughboy) feed mill and warehouse sits next to the railroad tracks, which dictates at least some surrounding green space. The visionaries who bought and are renovating this space have added a community garden. I enjoyed watching bunnies stick their noses through the chicken wire fence, offering to help with the harvesting. I could feel the country breeze on my face and luxuriate in a view of wild grasses (yes, I know some people call them weeds!) and crops and trees beyond. I didn’t get much writing done, but I felt rested and very green when I left.
In less than an hour I am planning to go to Reliable Street. This is such an enchanting place in Ames, Iowa, home to Iowa State University. My last blog visit was during the summer, but today we are hovering on the arrival of spring and the winds are a blowin’. It’s going to be quite a different experience! Last time I wrote about being here, I wanted to be alone and have some solitude, but I also wanted to have people near by. I work best that way. Sometimes I like to think of it as parallel solitude.
Today I am going to be social and catch up on what’s been happening, and you know, it’s gardening season, even if the temp is only 37 degrees this morning. I have seedlings started and have been gardening in my mind for about a month. I am anxious to learn what plans are brewing for the Reliable Street garden.
It’s finally HERE! Spring break! YES, but also the opening of Ames’ new locally owned book store. Making my first visit there was on the top of my spring break TO DO list.
These first days of break have been gray and cloudy and just begged for a book store visit. The store’s windows had been covered with paper since the end of 2020, and several times I drove downtown just to try to get a look inside. I must have gotten one peak early on in their remodel and didn’t really see that much that looked exciting. But boy, was I in for a surprise!
It kind of took my breath away actually. Oh yah……THIS is a book store! I had planned on a quick sample of their coffee and a browse of expensive, newly released books, because the main reason I was going there was the dog, but wow (that’s the only word I can come up with).
Once I got inside I said to myself, “Forget the coffee, and even the dog for the time being.” I just let myself get drawn in and started to drool. The wood! I love wood. The book cases, the bar, and other wooden touches throughout the store made me feel like I was inside You’ve Got Mail in NYC. I saw interesting books I wanted to browse, but needed to keep going for the overall first inspection. (By the way, they have The Queen’s Gambit!)
I don’t look at children’s books much these days, but this and other sections were bubbling with young readers, doing their own inspection. There was a nice background hum of small voices and exclamations. And then there was this.
I really wanted to slip in there and sit for a moment, just to pretend I was a kid again, but some girls were waiting behind me to get in, so I moved on.
There was some mention of a loft and the possibility of renting it after hours, and maybe even having a wedding there. At the back of the store there was a little area with restrooms, some interesting decor, and the stairs to the loft.
There was more beautiful wood upstairs, the fireplace AND some wonderful old books for browsing (not for sale). You have got to check them out if you are a lover of old classic books. The loft is open to all below. If you are a parent, you could comfortably get your coffee, take your book upstairs to read and still keep an eye on avid little readers downstairs.
All over the store there were bouquets of flowers. It was beautiful visual evidence of the love and support of the Ames community. I stopped to see that one bouquet was from Everts https://evertsflowers.com/ , our downtown flower shop where you can also sometimes visit with the cat there who roams among the eucalyptus, and probably back among the roses where the flower arrangements are being made.
I walked slowly back down the stairs from the loft, still breathing in the bookiness of it all and then oh, oh, oh…the DOG! Can you believe I almost forgot about Lovie? As I first walked in she(?) was lying quietly on the floor so the kids could pet her. I had given her one scratch behind the ears but had been drawn on into bookstore heaven. Finally now I had wandered to my heart’s content and snapped a lot of pictures and decided I really needed to sit for a little while to get the complete bookstore experience. I went straight to the book that had called my name when I first got inside, James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, because, you know, when you get a great bookstore like this in a small city, you should buy a book, right?! (It was a beautiful book reasonably priced.) I ordered a cup of drip coffee and chatted with co-owner Amanda Lepper as I checked out, then curled up in a chair and spent some time reading and petting the sweet dog next to me.
Different people see different things when they look at a garden. Some might see a mess or chaos or laziness or weeds. But when you fall in love with plants, you can see a garden the way you see someone you love. Continue reading “What do you see?”
I came home from work, pulled into the carport and intended to go straight indoors to crash. As I got out of the car though, I thought “Maybe I’ll just peak at the garden first”. There are three steps that lead down into the back yard. The ground felt soft from the recent rains, and then it hit me, an intoxicating fragrance, but what? I have a small backcyard garden with mostly dadelions and violets right now, and we have no flowering trees. What could it be, some flowering vine or strange tree flowers up above me? I closed my eyes to focus on the scent and then I knew. It had to be lilac! Over the fence, in the neighbor’s front yard, there was an old motherly lilac bush, reaching out to touch my mind. Do flowers ever do that to you too?
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time sitting behind our garage, because just over the back fence was Frank Atwell’s most amazing garden. It filled his whole back yard and inspired garden lust in me the rest of my life. Fast forward to 2013, and I now have my own back yard garden. Yes, I live in a rental, but the landlord said as long as we take the fence down when I leave, I could have free reign over the lawn! The summer of 2012, I participated in a community garden on Maple Street. There, I was introduced to John Jeavons’ Grow biointensive gardening and I wanted to continue to experiment with this. Over the next few days, I’ll show you how I turned a 20 X 20 foot piece of lawn into a little piece of paradise with just my spade, some newspaper and straw.
Sometimes, when you have a passion for something, you are tempted to want more and more of it. A passion for flowers can lead to….well….too much money spent at the gardening center…for one thing! In this past summer’s garden, I tried to exercise some restraint. I planted only a couple different kinds of flowers and I didn’t bring large bouquets into the house. In fact, sometimes….I only brought in one. This is one of my pink zinnias, floated in a little Chinese sauce dish. One is nice, don’t you think? I can learn to be happy with one. 🙂
In cleaning out some of my old posts, I realized I deleted this rather popular photo of my brick and board shelves at the old apartment. My brother and sister made versions of these in their first apartments back in the 60’s. I decided to replace some of the bricks with storage. The bottom plastic boxes obviously don’t get opened very often since you have to remove the upper shelves to get to them, but the middle plastic drawers worked nicely. My rattan boxes were slightly shorter so could be slid off the shelves when needed. The red “bricks” were concrete blocks that came from the lumber yard which I painted with two coats of red. Since making the transition to apartment life in 2001, my motto has been “keep it small, easy to move and light enough for me to carry myself”!