When we moved into this house, built in 1859, we outlined obvious projects: rotting corbels, leaking roof, loose bricks.

But the garden, while not a structural disaster, made me wince. Once the three-feet-tall weeds were removed, I faced a new obstacle. A previous owner had created a path with round cement pavers from a big box store. They were stamped with invented leaf shapes. Beside a house pre-dating the Civil War, they looked ridiculous. I scouted around for their replacement immediately.

I needed rocks, but not just any rocks. I needed sandstone, a prime accessory in Milan–like tasseled drapes in Southern homes. When we first pulled up to this property in 2015, I was amazed to find our sidewalk was a series of huge sandstone slabs. A matching walk led to our front door.

So I celebrated when I found piles of sandstone salvaged from an old farmhouse that had burned down. I bought two pallets and stored them behind our garage.

My piled rocks and I bided our time, awaiting the person to tackle the project.

Lo and behold, we happened onto Jay, a skilled craftsman and blue-ribbon stone mason. He set to work on a garden walk befitting this house. I assumed he’d lay them end to end, but after the first day, I discovered him designing a classic pattern of rectangular marvels. Hours of patient tapping and cutting and piecing.

I had no idea.

Even with all the rocks we’d purchased, Jay was particular, as any artist would be. He needed the style to match the original 1859 plan, a plan that I hadn’t noticed. He stood there, flummoxed as my mother would say, scavenging through the stacks for just the right big one when our neighbor Rob came to the rescue.

IMG_20170530_193001715(1)He strolled over to admire Jay’s progress and offered up a huge stone left over from one of  his projects. It had been sitting under a tree for years. I grew up when neighbors honestly borrowed a cup of sugar or a stick of butter. But a slab of sandstone?

Generous and then some.

So the relocation began. Jay got his children Isaac and Emma involved, along with Rob, a wheelbarrow, and Cliff’s eagle eye, to drive this 700-pound rock across the wide yard. Balancing and moving that hefty weight provided a substantial group challenge, to say the least.

The end result is a wonder.

Years ago, I read a book about the power of a garden and how its harmonic vibrations enhance the literal beauty. In other words, the space is significant for more than its leaves and blossoms. The author contended a garden’s success should be measured by the other lives it attracts.

So when our North Carolina tulips welcomed six bluebirds at the same time, I deemed the space a winner. In Minnesota, a rabbit chewed a corner off the bottom of the gate to take up residence under my grandmother’s lilies. A touchdown of sorts.

And here?IMG_20170723_132817887

Yesterday I found a toad at Mary’s feet. As I posed my thumbnail to indicate its tiny size, a daddy longlegs, one of my favorite creatures, crept up her arm.

On the day before that, a wild turkey hen ambled across the grass toward our garden but hurried off when Cliff stepped onto the porch to snap a picture. Rob saw her, too, and said it was the first one he’d seen in his yard in his thirty-one years in their house.

I know Rob thinks she was drawn to his bird feeder, but those seeds were simply a first course to her real treat.

A stroll down our walkway.

In the realm of garden attractions, I’d say we’re well on our way.





4 thoughts on “A Toad, A Turkey, and A Ton of Sandstone

  1. Sandstone magic, indeed. The dividends of patience has been repaid ten fold since moving to Milan, and the way you extol the virtues of that waiting is remarkable. The sandstone is just the tip of the story that continues for those of us who wait and dream to see what comes next as a result of your Midas touch.


  2. A job well done! The turkeys, by the way, live down by Dave and Martha’s place at the end of the gravel lane beyond the Edison Birthplace. We see them up at the Birthplace throughout the summer.


    1. I love the idea of that hen strolling down Edison Drive and onto Church Street to pay us a visit. She’s right up there with the snowy owl who slept in our attic while the corbel was being repaired. And to think folks told us we’d be bored by life in a small town.


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