With the graduation of my youngest two children from high school last year, I made a rather adventurous decision to move from Indiana to my grandfather’s farmhouse in Illinois. And now that we are here, and I’m wondering if I might have been a little nuts.

The house is a civil-war era structure, with the additions of kitchen, bath and laundry/front porch made at various times along the way. It’s not cute, nor is it remotely picturesque. What we are using as a garage (aka, “the shed”) has an attached hen house and a feeding trough once used for horses. I’m surprised that the corn crib, unused for decades, survived the harsh, harsh winter winds of the past year.


My father has owned and rented out this house — and the farmland — for the past thirty years. It’s structurally sound, but frankly pretty beat up, inside and out. I had the romantic notion that I could live here, garden, and finish writing a novel I’ve been working on for a couple of years. Ha! I think the joke is on me. The yard is a tangle of weeds, every corner of the house needs work, and I miss my grandkids. I spend most of my time bouncing from project to project, painting one room, stripping the finish on the wood floor in another, mowing back the lawn, digging up the weeds in the flower beds, tilling the garden, mowing again, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

I found strawberries planted and hiding underneath the overgrowth behind the shed. I want to move them up closer to the house where they can spread out and thrive. There is a beautiful apple tree, planted — my dad says — by my grandfather years before he died. There are grapevines too, and I am waiting to see what they produce this summer. I have no clue how to tend them.

A month ago the winter backed away enough for us to till the garden, and the thick growth of some unidentified species of tough plantain weed made us give up after a thin strip was plowed on the west side of the house. My plans for an organic garden need some fresh assistance. Help me, readers. What will kill this stuff? Currently, I’m simply trying to suffocate it underneath anything I can find. A previous renter left behind several rolls of roofing paper, which I have spread out next to the strip that we tilled and held down by rocks and cement blocks. I may not have my great garden this year, but maybe there’s hope for next year.

In the meantime, I’m concentrating on zucchini, which allows me to stagger my planting some. And the late planting helps me avoid those nasty zucchini bugs, so it’s actually a good thing. Plus, those grandkids I mentioned will be mightily disappointed if I am not sending my famous zucchini cookies back to them in Indiana by summer’s end.

An abandoned pen out by the cedar tree once kept goats.

An abandoned pen out by the cedar tree once kept goats.