Sunday, November 23, 2014

Meet Frank, the Urn

Last summer in the rush of all the garden walks here followed by the magazine article hoopla, we met a whole bunch of very nice people.  I'm ashamed to admit I can't remember all of their names, but it was a treat talking gardening with other enthusiasts.  Last summer was the busiest tour season we've ever had (which is also our excuse for not working on ol' Aaargh at all.)

Anyway, one day in late July a dear lady called me to see if it would be ok to bring her garden club friends over.  She lives out of state now and when she comes back to Wisconsin to visit her family, she usually makes a stop here with her pals (and brings the most delicious box of chocolates for you know who).  I was delighted to see her again and when two carloads of happy ladies pulled in the driveway, I greeted them cheerfully.  What seemed a little odd at the time was the two groups didn't mingle at first, but I didn't give it much thought as I dragged them around the garden for the Official Tour.

We had a wonderful visit, strolling the gardens as a large group with me answering questions and talking smart.  Although the smart part is starting to wear a little thin with me; I swear I lose my train of thought when someone calls me on the spot to name a particular cultivar of hosta or tree or what have you.  I fumble around in my brain and nope, the answer isn't there until a few hours later when there's no one around to impress, and then, out it pops, "Hosta 'Sagae' was also known as fluctuans variegata." 

Carl will look at me quizzically and I'll say, "Never mind.  Couldn't think of the answer until now."

Ok, back to my rambling here; as I said the two car loads of ladies weren't mingling much, though they were polite with each other.  Finally, the group bearing the delicious chocolate gift took their leave. 

As they drove away, the other group asked me who they were.  I said, "I thought you were all together."  Ok, turns out they weren't, it was just a coincidence the two groups arrived at the same time. 

One of the ladies, introduced to me as Mrs. P, took me aside.  After seeing the pan fountain and the dome and gates, etc. she was impressed with Carl's ability to repair and reuse items for the garden.

"I have something I think you'd like," she said.  "It's a big old urn my late husband and I had for over fifty years.  We used to have it in our restaurant as a fountain, but then we took it home and put it in our garden. As time went by,  it rusted and fell into disrepair.  It's been sitting in several pieces out by my barn for a very long time.  I've had a few antique dealers come around and offer me money, but I always turned them down.  I want you to have it.  Please come over to my house and take a look, ok?"

I didn't know what to say; but did ask her what she wanted for payment.

"Nothing!  I would be so happy to see it restored and put to good use in your garden," Mrs. P said.

I told her I still felt guilty about accepting the urn as a gift, but she would hear none of it.  "Here's my address and phone number, and when your husband gets home from work, please tell him about the urn.  I look forward to seeing you!"

When Carl came home we talked about the visitors and the urn, but neither of us felt comfortable descending on the lady immediately.  A few days later I called Mrs. P and told her we'd be coming that evening if it was alright with her.  Despite the fact she'd said the urn was big, I felt that arriving with a trailer in tow would look rather presumptuous.  What if she changed her mind about giving it to us?   So we took the Pontiac.

When we arrived at her home, we were amazed by everything.  What a beautiful place she has!  Her driveway was all done in bricks which were reclaimed from a street in Appleton and laid one by one by her late husband in a glorious pattern.  Her home had been completely remodeled and was perfection personified, when she showed us pictures of the old farmhouse it had been, it was unbelievable.  These two people had worked tirelessly on their home and garden for decades and it showed.  Though her husband had passed away several years earlier, it was clear she loved and missed him very deeply. 

The first thing Mrs. P said to us when we arrived was, "Where is your trailer?  Remember I told you the urn is BIG?"

I mumbled,  "Well, we weren't sure if we'd need a trailer and if you'd changed your mind or not," but before I could finish the sentence, she was off across the yard.

"Let's go look at it.  But I don't think it's going to fit in your car."

Wow.  She was almost right about that. The urn was Big.  As in Very.

 I don't have anything to show comparison sizes here, but the base alone is 2' x 2' and there are only two pieces shown here.  The upper piece was missing a corner and the top part where the rest of the urn would fit into is rusted away.

Close up of the broken top
Carl backed our car up to the barn and opened the trunk.  We all scratched our heads.  Was this going to truly fit in our car?
This part would need reconstructing if the urn were to stand again.

The pedestal part was the least of our problems loading.  The biggest parts were to come.

This is the lower part of the urn's bowl, shown with the piece of steel Carl fabricated to repair the damage.  This bowl is 36" in diameter.  And heavy.  We didn't weigh it, but between the two of us, we needed all of our strength to cram it halfway into the trunk of our car.

Though I don't have a picture here, there is another identical bowl that fits inside of the decorative one above, good grief where are we going to put it?  But we managed, much to all of our surprise.

We had the bowls in the trunk, part of the pedestal in the back seat and I straddled the other half in the passenger seat on the ride home.  By the time we left her home, it was nearly midnight because we'd stayed to visit.  Luckily the roads were fairly quiet, but every car we met flipped their high beams at us.   Our car was hanging down so far, with the weight in the trunk our headlights were up in the sky.

When we arrived home, we both risked hernias getting the bowls out of the trunk and went to bed.  Carl set to work the next day to make new parts for the urn.  Total repair time was over forty hours, spread over two weeks, but it was well worth it.  

Carl had to make a tapered plate and a half round section of steel to fit and then weld in place.

Before we left her house, Mrs. P recalled  she had some faces for the  urn in her machine shed and we were very glad she remembered where they were.   

Shown after they were painted, these were the faces that needed to be bolted back on.

It would have been very hard to replicate these faces.
After Carl was done fixing the pedestal parts and the urn received a coat of bronze paint, it was nearly impossible to see where the repairs were made.

There are a few pieces of decorative trim missing, but that's ok. 

Joel added to the project by bringing home two pieces of concrete left over from a job at a friend's house for a base.  And my friend Brenda had given me the sweet potato vines and dragonwing begonias which fit just perfectly.

We had just the site for Mrs. P's urn, right in front of the house. This is the first urn you see when you drive in the driveway.  (After Ernie, that is.)

Not to be left out, Ernie now has company.

Carl, looking very tired and dirty here after a long day's work, poses with his job well done.

And dear Mrs. P did come to see the urn after it was completed and was tickled pink.  She once again refused payment and took pictures with us and the urn.

I told her we'd have to do something to honor her as a thank you, like a plaque.

 Mrs. P said, "If you do make a plaque, put it in memory of my husband, Frank." 

We will be having a plaque made.

Welcome to Quarry Garden, Frank.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Oh dear Karen ~ What a great post which brought tears to my eyes at the end.

Bless Mrs. P's heart to give you this wonderful urn.

Once again, Carl did a fantastic restoration job.

Happy Thanksgiving to the both of you ~ FlowerLady

Donna said...

Karen what a beautiful story and a most amazing urn even before it was repaired....Your husband is quite talented and you can see the love he put into it. A beautiful garden spot to let everyone see this amazing piece of art!

Junebug said...

Oh my goodness, Frank is beautiful! What a great gift from Mrs P. and then the talent of Carl. Just WOW!!

Alison said...

Oh, what a sweet story! Mrs. P is a very nice woman. Frank is fabulous, and of course, once again I am in awe of Carl's talent as a metal worker.

Charade said...

You tell the best stories. Without the generosity of MrsP, the ability of Carl, and the gardening talents of the two of you, that urn would have wasted away to the elements. Now it stands in honor again.

Pamela Gordon said...

That is such a wonderful story. What a beautiful urn that Mrs. P. gave to you and Carl did a fabulous job repairing it. It certainly looks beautiful in your garden and I'm sure Frank would be very pleased.

Bonnie K said...

You and Carl are so talented. Too bad we have to go from summer projects to winter ones.

Missy said...

It's an amazing urn and the story that goes with it, but I can't help but feel a wee bit sorry for Ernie - no longer Urn el Supremo.

Karen said...

Rainey, Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

Donna, thank you!

Junebug, yes Frank is very handsome. :-)

Alison, Carl has decades of experience with metal working. I always tease him that he will never suffer from an iron deficiency.

Charade, Mrs. P was so glad to see Frank restored. The base had sunk into the soil over the years of sitting outside and she worried if it could even be repaired. Every time I look at the urn, I smile.

Pamela, thank you! Mrs. P is a wonderful lady, we are blessed to know her. :-)

Bonnie, Yes, winter is surely here now! I guess we'll have to go back to the stained glass.

Missy, I know, I thought the same thing. Urn Rivalry? LOL

Zoey said...

Carl, you do great work! Frank is wonderful!!

Garden Fancy said...

What a lovely story! It's wonderful that there are such great backstories behind objects and plants in your garden. It really adds a whole other dimension to the meaning of your gardens. Thanks so much for sharing this story with us! -Beth

Jennifer said...

What a touching story Karen. I am sure Mrs. P. knew a good home when she saw one. It means a lot to know that a gift of this kind will be appreciated by the recipients. The repaired urn is just gorgeous and makes a lovely focal point for your garden.

Karen said...

Zoey, Thank you!

Beth, Thank you, too!

Jennifer, yes, Mrs. P is a special, special lady. :-)

Karen said...

Zoey, Thank you!

Beth, Thank you, too!

Jennifer, yes, Mrs. P is a special, special lady. :-)

myomyohi said...

Frank is very handsome and is perfect for that spot, and as always Carl is amazingly talented.

Pam's English Garden said...

I have urn envy, Karen. And I'm envious of Frank's talent, too, (with apologies to my hubby who has his own strengths.) Lovely story! P. x

Pam's English Garden said...

Oops, sorry Carl. I'm good at messing up compliments.