The rural homestead near Riverton that’s been home for William and Judy Keenan for 40 years has miniature horses, pygmy goats and bantam chickens that were incorporated for the sake of the grandchildren. But even though the grandkids are nonchalant about the scene, it hasn’t affected how William views their yard full of trees, perennials and several water fountains
The rural homestead near Riverton that’s been home for William and Judy Keenan for 40 years has miniature horses, pygmy goats and bantam chickens that were incorporated for the sake of the grandchildren.
“They do care, but they’re not like they used to be.”
That nonchalance, to Judy’s surprise, apparently hasn’t affected how William views their yard full of trees, perennials and several water fountains. He nominated it as worthy of being considered a Gorgeous Garden because of plantings that include hydrangeas, snow-on-the-mountain, roses, rose of Sharon, snowball and lilies.
The yard also includes several trees, including tree of heaven, red oak, apple, empress and kiwi; elephant ear plants; cannas; knock-out roses; and a “sculpture” of driftwood Judy dragged up from a creek.
Sitting in the backyard of the home (which has an official address of Riverton), William has gazed toward the expanse between him and the back of their ranch-style house.
“He looks, and he said, ‘That is the most beautiful scene.’ And I thought, ‘What happened to him?’” Judy said.
Judy gets credit for transforming what was once a field with no trees into what it is today. Born in a house not far from where the Keenans now live, Judy gained a love of animals and flowers from living on a farm.
The mother of two grown sons, Judy is a former entertainer who sang around the Mason City Opera and other places. She retired from entertaining some 20 years ago.
“Well, my husband wanted to travel. We didn’t do that. So, I started doing all this other stuff to keep myself busy,” Judy said.
Judy’s talent for reclaiming things for indoor and outdoor use has turned her home into something that reflects the feel of the bed-and-breakfast she’s always wanted to open.
A self-described “scavenger,” Judy constructed the floor of the home’s sunroom with reclaimed bricks.
Bedrooms are outfitted with vintage furniture from garage sales. Water fountains, most purchased from garage sales, dot the yard. A fence made of wood from reclaimed pallets surrounds a dog run. An outdoor fish pond includes stones that her late father, Donovan Davis, collected from throughout the United States. The bowls of birdbaths were made of forms she modeled from elephant ear leaves out of her yard.
“I’ve always wanted to have a bed-and-breakfast. So, I scavenged and build and do all these things, collecting all this stuff for a bed-and-breakfast,” said Judy, whose home has a sign by the front door that says “Bed and Breakfast.”
“Well, I’m getting too old for that. So, I’m trying to make a ranch home into that type of thing.”
Although her dream may have died, Judy seems to be able to breathe new life into plants that look lifeless. People who have dying plants present them to her for revival. She has befriended gardening businesses, buying plantings that look “really bad” for 25 or 50 cents in order to get some of them to live.
Most of Judy’s flowers initially came from elderly women who are now deceased. A neighbor got her started in flowers, and a grandmother also chipped in.
“They would really love to see this place … I feel they’re here anyway … . I think my yard, it’s a total spiritual thing, it really is, because anybody that can dig seven, eight hours a day and do this, you really have to be nuts or really love it. And I do. I really do love it.”
Some mornings Judy may still be in her pajamas with a cup of coffee in hand when she goes outside “to check to see what’s blooming or whatever.”
“I find myself at 2 o’clock saying, ‘I’d better go eat breakfast,’ not knowing it is 2 o’clock, ‘cause I’ll pull a weed here … ” Judy said.
Although the Keenans haven’t had destructive beetles to contend with yet this summer, Judy said that when confronted, they usually spray an insecticide on them.
“I won’t let my husband just go out and start spraying because … I have a lot of my indoor plants out here. If you spray on some of my plants, it’ll kill them,” Judy said.
“He’s learned that he just mows. He doesn’t touch a flower.” Tamara Browning can be reached at (217) 788-1534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.