Paul and Sadie Wermers and family have a secret, a secret garden that you can’t see from their South Main Street address when you drive by. Hidden a quite a ways back behind an old barn and restored historic log cabin, and along the backwaters of the Turkey River, each spring-- a large patch of wild bluebells emerge from along the sandy banks in beautiful Northeast Iowa.
As I arrived at the Wermers early one evening late spring, I found Paul’s mother, Eunice, picking rhubarb from a large patch to make pies with the help of her grandchildren Shyade, Carver and Ryker. They were checking out the tulips and the abundant amount of purple and white crocuses, some were already eaten by deer. Sadie also has a row of pretty glass flowers she makes and are for sale by re-purposing old dishes. She jokes that these are the best type of flowers to have, no watering involved. Paul was putting most of the garden in sweet corn this year and he was going to have to fence around the garden because raccoons love sweet corn.
As the last of the children from Sadie’s childcare left, their three boys were up for an adventure as we strolled under perfumed blossomed trees on our way to the back of their property to see if the bluebells were in bloom. This is the second spring this young family has lived on Paul’s childhood home, as they previously were living in Minnesota, and the first time Ryker, who was born soon after the couple moved, had set his wide eyes in wonder upon the sea of blue. The boys were busy picking flowers for their mother and grandmother as soon as they set foot in the wild flower patch and we thought it would be a perfect spot to take their family photo to remember the beautiful spring day. Later we walked down along the swampy backwater as Paul recalled all the fun childhood days playing back there, one summer they even built a small boat and is happy they moved back so their sons can also spend time playing back there when they are older. One could conjure up Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn type fun back in the quiet wooded area along the Turkey River as the boys get older, like when Paul and his brother, Mark, and their friends now recall their own adventures and memories of childhood.
Eunice and her late husband, Bill, loved to garden and Paul and Sadie are continuing the tradition, though in a smaller scale. Eunice recalls, “Bill and I enjoyed planting a bit of everything, always potatoes and sweet corn. We enjoyed trying new varieties advertised in the seed catalogs. We tried almost every kind of vegetable, fruit and especially flowers. They usually canned about 100 quarts each of tomatoes and apple sauce. Sweet corn and green beans would go into the freezer.”
What could be a healthier way of living than a plot to garden in a small friendly town in Northeast Iowa? That is why Paul and Sadie Wermers decided to move away from the city in Minnesota, back to a simpler way of life to raise their children.