Refocusing for 2020

Sometimes, I get wrapped up in sharing so much about my garden,  that I forget some of my other plans for this project.  Beautiful flowers and plants are just so dang distracting! I’ve shared a lot of my garden already, but I have more plans for the other side of my “Grow Your Roots” project, family history.

Last year was quite a reality check for the complexity of my project. There are so many factors that go into growing and writing about a heritage garden that it easily overwhelmed me. I also felt I spent so much time working on weeds, at my real life job, and strict genealogy, that I missed out on some of the more fun and probably more interesting aspects of this project (the  journey and experience).

I want to share the excitement of finding new information about my ancestors and finding their homesteads (or whatever is there now). I also want to embrace the travel aspect of it. While visiting my grand-father’s likely birth place was amazing, I missed the chance to experience more of the area and culture. While it is obviously different from the culture of 1915, spending time in the area can teach me about the landscape, people, and history of that place.

One of my core beliefs about history in general is that if you can find a way to personally connect to a historical figure, event, or place, history becomes much more important to you. While I have a degree in US History, I will admit much of it just went in one ear and out the other, aside for some cool bits of trivia. It wasn’t until I started researching my genealogy that history really became important to me.

Two examples of this are inspired by one ancestor. John Finley. Oh, is he a thorn in my side. But I have to give him credit for sparking my interest in the War of 1812 and the pioneer history of Illinois. I had really never given much thought to either topic, until researching him. Through that one ancestor so much history has come to life and I gained deeper appreciation for a state I previously only grumbled about.

So this year, in my quest to find ancestral homes and plants. I want to stop, take in everything about the place, and really dive into that moment and all the history that has lead up to it.

Plus,  tracking down the actual plants and flowers, is much more difficult than I originally expected.  Even if I don’t come home with a cool plant, an experience is worth it. And I can find an appropriate plant to honor my ancestors that will live in Zone 4!

A Facebook Page: Test

I have created a Facebook page for Grow Your Roots! Currently, I am just playing around with settings, trying to decide if I want to commit to the upkeep of a page.

Pros: I would be able to automatically share my posts, and allow others to share their stories of heritage gardening and family history.

Cons: It’s Facebook. It can be horrible and overly complicated. I already struggle keeping up on this!

Anyway…link below to the new page.

Grow Your Roots Facebook Page

Don’t be surprised if suddenly it’s gone.  I’m still working out some ideas.

 

A Look Back on 2019’s Big Garden Plans

Now that I am wiping away the failures of 2019 and looking towards the opportunities of 2020, I’m ready to start planning.

Do you remember my big plans for the garden last year? I wrote about them in 2019 Garden Plans. Here’s the list of plans and notes about what was accomplished:

  • Create a “holding bed” with good soil and good drainage while better permanent beds are made (this actually turned into my herb garden while my iris just hung out in buckets for while. oops)

     

  • Paint my existing shed, add better shelves inside (HURRAY! I DID THIS! And I organized it!)
  • Move plants from the “Big Bed” to holding bed, and dismantle “Big Bed” (We kept the Big Bed. I like it. It’s there. It would be a lot to move it. We did amend the soil though and I replanted my iris collection there)
  • Replace the Big Bed with space/pad for new shed (coming in 2020?) and two new 8×8 square beds flanking each side (Hahahaha. None of this happened, but I do have hopes for a new shed…some day)
  • Replace existing raised beds with better quality materials, refreshed soil, and good drainage (I did take out the beds, and removed a lot of the rubble at the bottom, but we never got around to rebuilding them)
  • Add two large 8×15 spaces with landscape timbers and mulch as pads for my grow bags (Nope. didn’t happen. I marked them out. Put landscape fabric down in one area. This is still on the list)
  • Add large row for cut flowers in front of the garden (HEY! I did this too. It definitely still needs some work…and to be widened a bit.)
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    Left to right: the new flower row, grow bags on weed barrier, dismantled raised beds, and the Big Bed before it’s makeover!

  • The most expensive but the most important addition will be the privacy fence. It will probably the big project of the year (We got an estimate which was so far out of our budget that we had to rethink the whole thing. I’m thinking hedges.)
  • Pour cement for new patio slab (this is all Todd) (The ground is sort of prepped, aka we have a huge section of cut out yard making walking out the back really interesting)
  • Extend and clean up the rock area along the backside of the house (I don’t even remember this plan. But we do still need to work on cleaning up this area)

What Now? I’m making a new list. For sure.

Here are few extra pictures from the 2019 season including our house’s new paint!:

Falling off the Map

Hello? So much for my posting goals of 2019. What happened? Well, I never did hear back from the current owners of the Hall Homestead (or if they emailed me it was lost in the infinite, junk mail folder). We had a huge storm in July that dropped branches over most of our yard, including my iris bed. The bed was mostly cleared out except for some special iris I didn’t want out of the ground for long. The tree, of course, fell right over that section. Thankfully, everything made it and by the end of the summer I had over 20 wheel barrows full of sandy soil added to the notoriously winter-flood prone bed. All the iris were replanted by the end of August. Hopefully, they’ll make it. This turned out to be the BIG project of the year. 

My grow-bags were, once again, a success. This year in general wasn’t the greatest garden year. Lots of rain and cool weather kept most of my veggies from producing at the top of their game. It also kept my motivation at bay. It seemed every day I had off was raining. My flowers did pretty well though, as well as the new space created this spring.

The summer and fall turned out much different than I expected. I ended up putting in many more hours at work than originally planned (I work in soul-sucking retail). In January, I hope things slow down, so I have a chance to reevaluate what was accomplished in 2019, what was successful, and what I want to attempt next.

I already have big plans for 2020, of course. 2019 was overall, more successful than 2018. Moving forward, no matter how slow, is all that matters. Did I accomplish everything I planned? Not even 10%. My goal for 2020? I hope to accomplish 15% of my plans. Small steps.

I do have many ideas and plans. I hope some of them come to fruition. I also hope I can keep motivation to share the journey!

Good Bye, 2019. Hello, 2020.

A Home with a History: The Hall Homestead

It’s been a while since I’ve done a family history post, now that I am in gardening mode. This one also took a while to research!

I have done some research on Todd’s side of the family and he has some deep roots in Wisconsin. Lucky for us! I’ve also been researching his ancestral homes. Many are no longer standing, including one in Madison (where the iris his great-aunt gave me originally came from).

Before we moved to Wisconsin, Todd and I would come to stay with Janet, his great-aunt, for a weekend or even longer (she also helped Todd plan his marriage proposal to me!). She lives just a block off one of Wisconsin’s largest lakes. And it wasn’t like visiting some old stuffy lady. Janet is a character and a well-loved, well-known local. On occasion, she would pull out old family albums and tell us all the stories. I loved it.

She told me many stories of her grandparents farm in Viroqua, and that the farmhouse was moved into town many years ago. I’ve tried to figure out which one it may be and even where the Leonard farm was. I have yet to find that house. In the process of searching for that farm, names started popping up in old maps that were familiar and I started discovering even more family ties in Vernon Co, but never pursued them.

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Aunt Janet, Todd, and myself at one of our favorite lunch spots!

A couple years ago, we were visiting and looking through some stacks of albums and photos and an old faded family portrait jumped out at me. Behind an old frame, the faded picture showed a family standing in front of a house. Not exciting. Unless, you’re me and you’re trying to track down ancestral homes.

The Hall House

The old photo in the old frame

I immediately started interrogating Janet about the photo. She wasn’t sure who was in it or where it was, but I wasn’t about to give up. She ruled out it being the storied Leonard farm, but not the other side of her family, the Halls.

I took several photos of the photo and worked on enhancing the features on the computer when I got home. Soon, the figures became somewhat familiar. They looked like people I had seen before. Not in person, but in many other old family photos. Their features were too small and blurred to make out, but other things like height and statures gave me clues.

Hall Home Enhanced

I determined it was members of the Hall family and based on the age and my own recognition from other photos. I believe the photo may be of John R. Hall, his wife, Effie (Osvald) Hall, and three of their children. The children should be Clarence, Elda Mae, and Elmer Eugene. Elmer Eugene would be the youngest, born in 1894. Their youngest brother, Harold, was born in 1897.  I think that should place the photo right around 1896? Below are some photos of John, Effie, and a portrait of the family.

I did some searching, as always, through some historic maps and found J.R. Hall owning land just south of Viroqua in the late 1890s. Sure enough, when I overlaid the maps, I found a house that looks suspiciously similar to the one in the photo. At least from what I can tell on Google Maps!

After some more sleuthing, I am certain this is the Hall farm just south of Viroqua. The farm itself has a long history from what I’ve been able to pull out of various maps and a great excerpt from History of Vernon County, Wisconsin, together with sketches of its towns, villages and townships, educational, civil, military and political history; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens; history of Wisconsin, published in 1884. You can see the entire book here

Mrs. Martha A. (Sabin) Hall is the relict of Ralph Hall, who with his family came to Vernon county in October, 1856, and settled on section 5, town 12 north, of range 4 west, where Mrs. Hall with her family still resides. Mr. Hall purchased the farm of Oscar Henry. He was born in England in 1830, and came to the United States in July, 1843, with his parents, who settled in Cook Co., Il. He was married in Illinois in 1851, to his present widow, Martha A. Sabin. Mr. Hall died July 6, 1872. His father, George Hall, died in Illinois. His mother came to Viroqua in the fall of 1865, where she still resides. Mr. Hall was a highly respected and industrious citizen; was a charter member of the Vernon County Agricultural Society, and was also for some time treasurer of that organization, and was also at one time chairman of the town board of Viroqua. Mrs. Hall was born near Cleveland, Ohio, in October, 1830. Her parents, Sylvester and Phebe Hall, settled in Cook Co., Il., in 1841, where they lived till their decease. Mrs. Hall has three children — Phebe A., wife of Henry McDermott, was born in Cook Co., Il.; Ananias, born in the town of Viroqua, in December, 1858, and John, born in 1868. She still resides on the homestead farm, which contains 140 acres.

I completely lucked out finding this bit of information. It is super rich not only in genealogical information, but for tracking down the ancestral home. I had seen this biography before, but used it only for the genealogy. When I reread it, I was excited about it all over again.  All the bits and pieces are adding up. And to have a photograph of the home from so long ago is even more special.

Martha and Ralph Hall

Ralph Hall and Martha (Sabin) Hall

In the decades after this biography, based on a few historical maps, the farm went to John Ralph before 1896 then on to his brother Ananias some time before 1915. I have yet to do much research after that. I am just too excited to see what’s still there knowing that the land hasn’t been turned into a neighborhood yet, and there still seems to be an old farm house on it.

My next plan of action is to contact the current owner of the house and send a copy of the photo to them. Hopefully, as with all attempts to visit ancestral homes, they current owners will respond positively!

Last year, I visited my paternal grandfather’s birth site, and the year before we collected my maternal grandmother’s flowers. This year, I think this is the farm to see!

A little side note for genealogy nuts: Ralph Hall, is my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather on his paternal grandmother’s side.