Spotlight: Marsha (MyFrontYard)

By Brenda Essig (Zanymuse) on January 2, 2012

If you haven't met Marsha you have been missing out! She is quite an avid gardener and enjoys life, both at home and on the back of a Harley Davidson. I'll let her tell you all about herself as I put her into this week's Who's Who Spotlight.

Marsha, would you start by telling us about yourself?

2011-12-30/Zanymuse/2c800fJob description : Me, wife, Mom, grandmom.
Flower Farmer. Advanced Master Gardener. HIPS Display Garden. Knitter. Avid hockey fan (Northern Mich. University and Detroit Red Wings.) Willing passenger on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

 Let's explore the first item, "Me." Can you tell us, in your own words, about your early life and family. Who were the people who influenced your youth? When you think of the home of your childhood, what and who come to your mind?

Interesting question. We grew up in the best of times. The whole town was our playground. Grandma lived next door. One uncle was Chief of Police; another was the Junior High Principal. We were out the door after breakfast and back before the street lights came on. There were cousins to play with, friends to play with, everyone watching out for each other. Misbehaving got back to Mom & Dad darn quick. We went ice skating in winter, swimming in summer, Girl Scout camp, arts & crafts. My poor mother wanted (or thought she did) a sweet little girl. I grew up helping with the vegetables, and my Dad loved his Iris.

Boy, oh boy, I have cousins!! Mother had 12 siblings and Dad had 7. One of the many reasons that I enjoy Facebook is that I can stay in touch with family.

Growing up with cousins as friends was a great way to live. There was always someone to hang out with and someone to watch your back. We lived in Algonac, which sits on the west edge of the St. Clair River. It forms the boundary between the U.S. and Canada. We would scrounge up 15 cents for the car ferry ride and go across the border to buy ice cream. The big deal was that Canadian ice cream was required by law to have a higher cream content. Want to go ice skating? Phone a cousin. Want to go swimming? Phone a cousin. Need a dress for prom? Phone a cousin. Want to go fishing or catch a snapping turtle? Phone a cousin. When we fell into mischief, Mom and Dad knew about it before we got home.

The same Doctor delivered all of us. We lived next door to my paternal Gramma; good for the kids but not always so pleasant for my Mom. LOL. Fried cakes (doughnuts) and orange juice could cure any cold, heartache or algebra problem.  We're scattered all over the globe now, but thanks to computers and Facebook, we are gradually making our way back to one another.

I moved away from my hometown, waaaay back in 1978.

Because of the urban renewal mistake of the 70's, "tear everything down and build new," American/Michigan history is gone, gone, gone. The entire business district, gone. Trading Post turned Mercantile, rooming houses, saloons, gone. Hundred plus year old trees, gone. Tragedy sponsored by tax dollars. It is about an 8-10 hour drive south to Algonac and I seldom go there.  The family has all dispersed to other places.

 It is hockey Season!!! and knitting season. Plus I had about 200 dahlia plants to dig up, divide and share. I shared several hundred tubers with a group that is raising funds to restore the "Pickle Barrel" house. They will sell them at the plant sale next spring.

There are two HIPS display gardens in Michigan, I have one and the other is at the Pickle Barrel House.(Both of these HIPS gardens are listed HERE if you would like to find out more about them)


LOL Hockey and knitting while digging tubers. You are one very busy lady! Please tell me more.

Northern Michigan University Wildcats and the Detroit Red Wings. NMU competes with the big boys; Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, etc. NCAA division 1. Not bad for a small university with only about 10,000 students. We have season tickets.  It's great fun watching the games and the students.

The Pickle Barrel is a really fun looking project and its restoration appears to be progressing beautifully.
What is a HIPS garden?

HIPS = Historical Iris Preservation Society, an affiliate of the American Iris Society. I have about 500 different cultivars of bearded iris, with about 20% classified as historical. The last couple years, we have had an open house for viewing the iris and buying rhizomes. I have been pollen dabbing with the dream of creating a new cultivar or two. This spring should reward me with the first blooms, so we'll see.... With the short summers and long winters, it takes awhile for the seedlings to get-a-going.

The dahlias are part of my business; I grow/sell cut flowers to local florists and a couple wedding planners. (Dahlias, zinnias, branches, etc.) It takes long hours  and sometimes my muscles and back bark at night. But I would rather be outside than inside. It's also fun to try new plants for the trade.

500 cultivars! I knew you are an active gardener but I didn't realize it was also a business.
Are they all named cultivars?

2011-12-30/Zanymuse/2af940Five hundred are named cultivars plus gobs more are not. Most didn't start out being NOIDS, but in the Spring it seems like there are always a few name tags strewn about, so one has to wait until they bloom and then get out the invoices. Cloven-footed spawn of Satan, aka deer.

We also grow a few vegetables along with some 2011-12-30/Zanymuse/63b6e0apple trees and berries. It is usually a matter of where to squeeze in the 'maters' and 'taters.' The flowers are the priority, pushy things..... My most favorite birthday present this year was rabbit fencing, yea baby !!!!! And manure. That was a gift to myself.

How many children/grandchildren do you have?

Mike and I have 5 children and 10 grands between us. They range in age from 17 to 7 months, evenly divided at 5 and 5. We've been married 15 years.

Do Mike and your children share your interest in the plants and gardening?

DH has progressed to the point that he knows a weed vs a plant. And if he doesn't know, he will ask or leave it alone. While that may seem funny, it is true. He will pull weeds when he sees them and/or when I need him. He pushes a wheelbarrow and wields a chainsaw, never questioning me when I say "Whack it off!!" He is always on the lookout for a toy that will make my life easier. He appreciates the dahlias and iris. And the tomatoes and beans. And the asparagus and pea pods.

Daughters one, two and four enjoy gardening. Not to the extent I do, but they have full time jobs and children to chase around.

Our children are all hard working, respectable and interesting adults. The grands are well loved and disciplined. They're involved with sports and clubs such as Scouts and 4H. Thank heaven, they all have a spark of mischief, so they're not dull.

2011-12-30/Zanymuse/f5b1cfThe girls were nervous when we told them we were going to make the trek to 2011-12-30/Zanymuse/9a0cebSturgis for Bike Week, soooo sure we were going to get murdered. HA!! The wildest thing I saw was a middle-aged man smoking on a bong made from a soda can. Of course, we didn't hang in the bars, a concession to age I guess. Sturgis is a pretty little town, very clean with friendly folks. Loads of history. From the campground we (and ten thousand other bikers) made day rides north, south, east and west. Seeing the country from the passenger end of a Harley Softail is unique. It's more up close and personal. Mount Rushmore, Rapid City, the Black Hills, Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon, Custer State Park....amazing, amazing, amazing. We saw muledeer, bison, pronghorns, eagles, pelicans, pheasants, wild horses.

We wear helmets with microphones so that we can talk to each other. (Think: I gotta pee.) One can smell the wheat, the water, the mountain air. We traveled out with a group of 6 bikes. It's safer. Motorists don't look for motorcycles. Think about this: When you pull up to an 2011-12-30/Zanymuse/4c359aintersection, you look right and left to see if there are cars coming or pedestrians, but do you also look for motorcycles ?? Probably not. The reason bikes are noisy is to call attention to themselves.

We do day trips from home also. A friend will phone and say "let's go to ...... for lunch," and awaaaaaay we go.

Was the Sturgis run the longest you have made?

2011-12-30/Zanymuse/646801Yup, the longest trip, two thousand four hundred miles. I bought both of us an Airhawk seat cushion and it saved my bum. Mike only had a week's vacation and we rode hard on the way out. Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota the first day, South Dakota and Sturgis the second. When we hit western Minnesota it rained HARD for hours and hours and hours. Nasty sleet. We poured water out of our boots. We took our time on the way home. Mike is one of those unusual husbands who will stop and look when I see something interesting. We want to do a big ride again next Summer.  We can't decide where yet. Maybe the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin, or up into Canada.

I enjoy trading plants and seeds.  And scrapbooking. I belong to a garden club. They helped me celebrate my last day of being 59. History intrigues me. My friends are wonderfully diverse; their stories range from a retired cashier to a professor of anthropology. A quickie nap in the afternoon is a delicious luxury. Bob Seger is DA MAN !! I've been reading 'Anna Karinina' for 3 years, with no end in sight. (*sigh*) It's tough.

My favorite knitting projects are socks. I wearied of trying to fit a size 9 1/2 foot into a one-size fits all sock. My toes really didn't like it and complained nightly. The yarn on the market now is amazing and beautiful, soft & colorful, with wool, alpaca, soy and silk blends. It ain't your gramma's yarn anymore. They're also great projects to work on while traveling.  It fits into one's purse for on the plane or in the car, sitting in the Doctor's office, etc. I've probably made 30 pairs in the last few years. Mittens for the grands, thick wool socks for the hunting sons-in-laws, scarves, preemie booties and hats for the pediatric ICU at the hospital. Sweaters are made mostly for me. My dearest friend brought me back some yarn from County Kerry, Ireland. That warrants a special project, eh? The gal who cuts my hair asked me to make hats for the wig salon at MQT General Hospital. (She is the co-chair) The wig salon provides them free of charge for cancer patients and others who have lost their hair for various reasons. My last count was 60 hats.  They're crocheted and I can make two a night, IF I sit still that long.

We also have a travel trailer, though we didn't get to use it much this past season. It's fun meeting up with old friends and making new ones. We try to stay at parks within a 3 hour circle of home on weekends. After Mike retires we will go further and longer.

Thank you Marsha. It has been a pleasure getting to know you better.

The next time you see a Motorcycle on the road, give it some room, and if you can see through the helmets, you just may get a glimpse of Marsha and Mike out on a ride. 

Related articles:

About Brenda Essig
I believe that everyone has a story worth telling and a uniqueness that sets them apart from the crowd. We are like snow flakes. We look similar at a glance but no two are identical.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Overwhelming CajuninKy Jan 20, 2012 12:53 PM 0
Nice meeting you! skellogg Jan 5, 2012 2:17 PM 1
Nice to get to know you! bsavage Jan 4, 2012 10:54 PM 2

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