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Archive for the tag “Grinnell College”

planting buckeyes


When we were at Grinnell College a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I collected buckeyes from a huge tree on campus (you can read about it here). After reading as much as we could find online about planting buckeyes, we decided to give it a try. The most important advice was an admonition: do not let the buckeyes dry out before planting them–we hope we didn’t wait too long. Because buckeye trees have long tap roots, we used the deepest pots we could find in the shed. They need well-drained soil, so I mixed about 3 parts topsoil and 1 part sand. Their germination rate is only about 50%–kind of long odds for this gardener!–and the guidelines regarding planting depth were inconsistent. We decided to plant three buckeyes per pot at about 2 to 3 inches depth.


Several websites mentioned how rodents like to dig up buckeyes. Since the squirrels are fond of doing their own landscape designs in my pots, we cut chicken wire and put it over the top–that ought to do the trick.


I am unsure now where to keep the pots: by the back door, which faces northeast and is in shade most of the day? Or by the front door, which faces south and gets several hours of sun? I plan to throw some leaf mulch on top to protect them. In the spring we will see if our efforts were fruitful.

good-luck buckeyes in Grinnell

While in Iowa last weekend for meetings at Grinnell College, my husband and I took a walk on the east side of campus. When we attended Grinnell in the 1980s, this part of campus was undeveloped; the only building east of the railroad tracks on this block was the health center, a nondescript, low-slung brick building. Now a new row of dorms lines East Street.

We admired the way the architect oriented these dorms in relation to those on North Campus: when you stand in the arch between Rawson and Gates Halls and look east, you can see clear through the arch in Rose Hall down 9th Street to the park on Penrose. The sightline seems endless.


For a moment we puzzled about this bend in the loggia–when everything else is so linear, why the curve here? We looked to the east and realized why.


A giant yellow buckeye tree (Aesculus flava) stands between Lazier Hall and Kershaw Hall. My husband was delighted at the find. Compared to the Ohio buckeye, the yellow buckeye tree is much taller and the leathery husk on the fruit is smooth versus the Ohio buckeye’s spiny, warty husk. The name “buckeye” describes the nut’s appearance, which is said to resemble a male deer’s eye. I checked the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website, and I found this particular tree on their Big Trees of Iowa list. At last measure, it was 74 feet tall, with a 9-foot, 3-inch trunk circumference.


Buckeyes littered the ground and we gathered up as many as we could carry. As my father-in-law and our friend Mary Kate have told us, buckeyes are good-luck charms. When they were kids, they would carry them in their pockets for good luck and rub them on their noses to shine them up. My husband remembers there being another buckeye tree outside the college bookstore. During the fall, he would pocket buckeyes on his way to class. Sadly, that tree is gone.


We brought the buckeyes home, intending only to display them. However, when we showed our find to Daughter #2, she asked, “Why don’t you try to grow a tree?” I am always up for a gardening challenge! The germination rate is only 50%, so I think I will plant several in pots and leave the pots outdoors for the winter, watering occasionally. We’ll see if anything emerges in the spring.

the tale of a t-shirt quilt

IMG_1049For Daughter #1, this Christmas gift was a long time coming.

Grinnell reunion206I took a t-shirt quilt class at Jackman’s a few years ago. Immediately afterward, I made my first t-shirt quilt for a college reunion fundraiser using both my husband’s and my college t-shirts plus a few that fellow alums donated. I quilted it myself on my machine–uff da!–and a classmate generously bought it.

Both daughters liked the idea of having a t-shirt quilt, and building a stash of quilt-potential t-shirts became a way of getting them to cull their drawers: those t-shirts they just could not part with but that no longer fit went down to the sewing room in a bin. In addition, we saved fabric from special sources: their first sewing projects, pj pants and favorite purses I had made them, and handmade Halloween and school-play costumes.

IMG_0788When Daughter #1 was a high school senior, I got to work. The t-shirt blocks are 12-inch finished squares, and I pieced the remnant fabric blocks and the smaller pieced t-shirt logo blocks to the same finished dimensions. To stabilize the t-shirt stretchiness, I used lightweight fusible interface on the t-shirt backs and framed them with 2-inch borders with 2-inch square cornerstones.

I had the top pieced and was ready to put together a backing when my daughter handed me two more t-shirts that simply had to be included. In dealing with this design challenge, my math-addled brain made a mistake: rather than adding 4 inches per side to the width and length of the backing, I added 4 inches total to the width and length. And of course, I didn’t notice this mistake until the backing was complete–argh! According to what I had read, that meant it could not be quilted on a long-arm machine because there wasn’t enough extra to mount the backing properly on the frame. I called one local quilter and left a message, asking if quilting this blunder on a long-arm machine was possible–I never heard back and I took this to mean that the answer was no.

I felt doomed to quilting it myself on my machine, and I didn’t want to re-make the backing, so I did what I usually do: I put it aside. The unfinished quilt sat on a top shelf, looming over me every time I sat down at my sewing machine.

Then two things happened. I read this blog entry, which stuck in my brain, and then I finally decided to clean my sewing room.

I love the Creative Chicks At Play blog–it is written by three sisters who sew, cook, and create. Their blog has a family-rooted, independent vibe, which I appreciate and enjoy. After having read their blog and admiring their handiwork for a while, I knew I could trust their recommendations. I contacted their quilter, Lynn Peterson, who is featured in the above-mentioned blog entry, told her my sorry tale, and asked if she thought she could take on this quilt. Lynn said yes–hallelujah!–and I bundled it off to her before she could change her mind. A short time later, it was beautifully quilted and back in my grateful hands. I will be sending my quilts her way from now on.

IMG_1046I put the binding on and embroidered a quilt label in time for Christmas. Here’s a view of the back that gave me so much grief but that in the end I am so glad worked out. The finished dimensions are 58″ x 72″.

IMG_1079Daughter #1, now a college sophomore, is very happy to have finally received this quilt!

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