This quilt is just my favorite thing. Here’s why. I fell in love with Spring Bird even before I lived here. This place, this piece of land has made me more like me. If that makes sense, and having made all sorts of art throughout my life and loving all the media, making appliqued, story quilts feels more like me than anything else that I have made. So, heart place plus heart medium equals my heart ready to explode with love and delight for this life. Don’t worry, I am not going to float away just yet, because keeping me anchored to this place is the critical nature of our environment.
We are at a crossroads, and we at Spring Bird are here to do what we can to make sure there is a place for future inhabitants be them human, creature, or plant. So, this quilt is also my prayer, a textile document, to the future.
Anyway, the foundational fabrics are dyed linen, altar cloth. They are dyed with zinnias and goldenrod. The story elements were made with various fabric scraps and embroidery thread. I chose to do rough edge applique. Finally, the hand quilting is done with cotton thread and bamboo thread.
This is the story of the 14 acres that I call home. It begins with glaciers that long ago receded leaving their melted waters, which supply the spring water that I drink. Then the mastodon and other mammals stomped on the earth making the soil rich and nutritious. Eventually modern humans, the Potawatomi People, transformed this natural space into a place, a home. The old oaks that still stand would have been young trees then. Their acorns would have been food for the Potawatomi people who may have washed the tannins away in the cool, creek water. Unfortunately white European settlers pushed the Potawatomi People from their land and cleared forests for farms. This 14 acres, too hilly to cultivate, became grazing land for the cattle, their cans of milk kept cool in the creek. Then in 1947, an artist, Torkel Korling, envisioned a forest on these muddy slopes. His love of the natural world led him to cultivate an arboretum, to restore the native plants and animals to this place. When he left, the Bartholomews took on his mantel. Mimicking the generosity of the woods, they invited guests to learn, to retreat, and to just be in nature. Now here I am, in a place we call Spring Bird, to tell your story, to help others recognize themselves in you so that they may make the choice to save you - to save themselves - to save future inhabitants and potential woodlands. I am here with you now and love you dearly.
With all my heart,
We are in the 3rd year of cultivating our Forest Garden. A forest garden is an old method of agriculture based on the ecosystems of forests that utilizes fruit and nut trees, berry shrubs, and other perennial useful plants and fungi. The whole entity should work to sustain itself so that there is low maintenance - meaning no tilling and little watering.
Pat began the Forest Garden by defining its perimeter. It’s important to have strong defenses against hungry deer. He built a thick wall from the cutting down of honeysuckles, an invasive weed shrub. If the deer can’t see where they can land, they won’t jump. So far, it’s been pretty effective at keeping away our dear, deer friends.
In his first round of planting which included pawpaws, strawberries, raspberries, perennial onions, herbs and flowers, he planted a couple of rows of willow. The intention for the willow was to develop living hedges. Now after a couple of years getting established, our little shoots have grown into beautiful, long branches.
And after getting inspired from the likes of Mary Reynolds and Monty Don, we really want our gardens to embody a sense of magic and wonder. Our gardens have the potential to give us so much more than their fruits. We want our forest garden, in particular, to be a place for Spring Bird guests to experience and connect with the cultivation of food and beauty.
So, getting back to the willow, springtime is the best season to work with willow because the plants are still dormant and cuttings will have the whole growing season to become established. Over Spring Break, as a family, we decided to harvest some of the willow to make living willow arches.
First, Abe prepared the ground by clearing away the grasses.
Then, Penelope bore a hole in the ground as Pat cut the longest willow he could find.
We planted the willow in the hole - firmly pushing it into the ground.
After planting three willow branches on each side, I twisted the willow together and secured them with cotton string.
We did the same thing for a second arch that leads to a different path.
It’s my intention that these two arches will be a focal point and add a level of sacredness to the garden. I hope the birds will enjoy them, as well. Now all I need is a bird bath to complement them!
As Spring seems more mythical than inevitable, I decided to focus on the indoor potential of making a shrine to green - to life!
I even planted some old oat seeds in an empty tea tin to witness sprouting. (This is great to do with kids, by the way. I poked some holes in the bottom with a nail for drainage). It’s sort of your own DIY chia pet. You could even turn your container into a head and the oats would become the hair.
Also, I filled an Ikea greenhouse with favorite collections of stones, sticks, seeds, and shells with some potted succulents, a couple treasured kidmade ceramics, and a stack of cherished books to create a sacred green space.
It feels intentional and devotional and a place to focus my restless energy as the seasons are changing!
Try making a shrine to green at home! It could be a small terrarium or a potted plant. Hopefully, the real deal will be budding soon!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.