Boomers: Jodie Lassig at home in the Northwoods
There’s no place like home for Jodie Lassig of Rhinelander. It’s a home she’s worked hard to create, carved out of a tree-filled property just off Cty. G south of town that she shares with her husband, Chuck Corr, two cats and two large Irish Wolfhounds named Liam and Ava.
At the recent Garden Walk fundraising event for hospice, Jodie and her family hosted more than 50 visitors who came to look at her beautiful gardens and grounds. “It’s a lot of fun to share gardening ideas,” says Jodie. “I learn as much from them as they do from me.”
The gardens have evolved over the past 23 years, according to Jodie, and she’s learned a lot along the way. Her advice for Northwoods gardeners: “Plant late, spray the bugs and shoot the deer,” she says with a hearty laugh.
In all seriousness, she says, it takes a lot of work and a few tricks to enjoy a successful garden. “Deer are grazers and will take a bite of this and a bite of that,” she says, “If they see something new, they can’t resist getting their teeth on it.”
When you find something the deer don’t like, she points out, you can use that to surround something they do like and protect it. “Catmint is something they don’t seem to touch, and when I planted it in front of some hydrangeas, those survived….so far, anyway.”
There are some plants she just won’t bother with. “Tulips are like deer candy,” she says. “So many of the fall bulbs just don’t stand a chance. Some things that come up, like day lilies, I’ll cover with a cage to stop the deer.”
One would think two big dogs would keep the local deer at bay, but not so, Jodie finds. “If I see deer, I tell the dogs to get ’em,” she says. “But the deer will just run to the edge of the woods and turn around and look at the dogs. Liam won’t go into the woods and Ava has an electronic collar to keep her close.”
Mostly, the deer come in the dead of night, and Jodie and Chuck have learned to keep the bedroom curtains closed so the dogs don’t see and raise the alarm. A good night’s sleep is more important, for sure.
Work in the yard starts early. “Chuck and I get out there about five o’clock, usually,” Jodie says, “and sometimes we’re at it until three in the afternoon.” They tackle the grass with his and hers riding lawn mowers, which takes two and half hours for the three-acre plot of landscaped yard.
Watering takes about a half-hour each morning and evening. It is done with the help of rain barrels set up in several different locations to collect run-off from the garage and house roofs. “We don’t use our well water for the gardens,” says Jodie. “It would just be too much. We save that for drinking.”
Jodie considers herself very fortunate to have a greenhouse in the yard, which comes in handy for cold spring weather. “I like to buy plants early in the spring when the selection is good,” she says. “But I’ve learned not to plant too soon. They stay in the greenhouse until it’s time. There’s nothing worse than dragging every blanket and sheet outside for every frost warning.”
She also takes advantage of plant sales at the end of the season. “You can get some great deals on perennials in the fall,” she points out. “Just make sure they’re in good shape, and they’ll do just fine.”
Perennials have become the mainstay of her gardens, for their versatility and hardy nature. “I used to do a lot of annuals, but over time that’s changed. Perennials fill in so nicely, and it’s nice to have very full gardens,” she says. “That cuts down on weeds and is less work in the long run.”
A vegetable garden (fenced from the deer) is included at Jodie’s house, surrounded by grape vines. “I don’t expect very much fruit,” she explains, “but I’m happy to get enough for some jam and I’ll find a winemaker to take the rest.”
Gardening is in Jodie’s blood, something passed down through the generations. “My father, whose name was Erwin-though everyone called him John-always had a huge garden of corn and another of potatoes,” she recalls. “He gave away a lot of vegetables; that was kind of his ‘thing.'”
“He was ‘The Gardener,'” she says. “If he didn’t know the answer to a gardening problem, it wasn’t worth talking about. Of course, he learned everything he knew from his father, Julias Lassig.”
Having two older sisters, Kathy and Lynn, Jodie says she always felt her father looked to her as the son he didn’t have. “I was his helper,” she says. “We did so much together, including gardening. I felt very close to him.”
Jodie’s mother, Margaret, is 95 and still lives in her own home not far from Jodie. “My sisters and I spend a lot of time with her, helping out.”
When her father passed away, hospice helped the family, which is one of the reasons Jodie has been happy to help out at the Garden Walk event. “Hospice was so good to us; it’s an exceedingly worthwhile organization.”
It’s not just gardening that keeps Jodie busy and enjoying her home. In her basement is a fully equipped studio where she’s turned her artistic eye to framing art work and photographs.
Framing grew naturally out of her love of photography, for which she also credits her green thumb. “Flowers are my favorite subject,” she says. “I love to print my photos in sepia tones. I think it lends a lot of character to flowers and to people.”
For 12 years, Jodie worked at Trig’s Portrait Studio in downtown Rhinelander, until it closed last winter. “I’ve been doing wedding photography and senior portraits since the 1970s,” she says.
Even her love of Irish Wolfhounds has found an outlet in an artistic sense. Since catching the adoring eye of a puppy at Klondike Days years ago, Jodie’s life has been filled with a big companion or two. She began collecting old photos and prints of the breed from around the world.
With so much going on, Jodie is happy to stay close to her home-sweet-home. “Sometimes we talk about spending time somewhere else, but I just can’t imagine that,” she admits. “There isn’t one time that I drive into the yard and don’t sigh with contentment. Home is home.”
For information about Jodie’s prints, visit irishwolfhoundprints.com.
Sue Schneider is a freelance writer living in Rhinelander. Her articles have also appeared in Northwoods Commerce and Living on the Lake magazines.