Six on Saturday: Feb 24, 2018

Six on Saturday is the idea of a garden blogger. The idea is for people to take photos of things in and around gardens and post six photos on Saturday. These are mine.

I was at the St. Michaels Woman’s Club yesterday. A friend and I have been tending the grounds for a number of years and are passing the torch. We were at the club to meet with a local landscaper so we could get a bid on ongoing maintenance. We are just getting too creaky to do all we’ve been doing (like putting down 14 cubic yards of mulch). We have enough to do in our own gardens. In one corner of the back yard I found an early camellia dewed by a gentle rain.

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We’ve had a wet spring, but warmer than normal temps which is pushing things to bloom a couple of weeks before they should. I found daffodils blooming today in a corner of my yard. Our town, St. Michaels, MD is having a Daffodil Festival April 14-15. I wonder if all those thousands of bulbs that were planted last fall will have come and gone by then.

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There is yard clean-up to do, but it’s been too wet. The grasses need to be cut back along with many other shrubs. You can see the standing water, but day lilies don’t seem to mind wet feet. The red twig dogwood needs to be cut back soon, but I’llenjoy looking at it for a little while longer. I took alot of things out of this bed last fall and am waiting to see what’s still there before I replant. I just noticed that in the back left of this photo is the bright blue kneeling pad I couldn’t find.

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Last fall I ordered 50 allium schubertii. They make a huge head that I dry and use in flower arrangements. That was definitely one of those what-was-I-thinking purchases. I planted those bulbs everywhere, including plastic pots that I grow vegetables in. I noticed that some in the ground have been munched so I started spraying with Deer-Off which should help with deer and rabbits unless the rain washes it off. Or, come to think of it,  these might be tulips. I also bought too many of those and was frantic to get them in the ground.

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Bok choy wintered over without a row cover. It is so sweet and tender. We are enjoying it in salads.

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At home I have a small bed of garlic that I planted last fall. At our local community garden I have a number of beds and half of one of those is also planted with garlic. 4′ x 7′ more of garlic there.

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That’s my six this rainy Saturday. I’m heading back out to pick some bok choy for dinner.

 

 

 

Relentless Spring

Between the weather and doctor’s appointments (routine but time consuming) and writing there hasn’t been time to blog.  Or perhaps too many disjointed things to blog about.

Last fall a friend who was down sizing asked me if I wanted his plant/seed starting outfit. This was the real deal. Forty-nine inches across, 58″ high and two feet wide. Two shelves, two  feet wide.  Both shelves have heat mats and an array of four grow lights over each plant shelf. He also had vegetable plant supports and some gorgeous large ceramic pots. I took everything! What I can’t use this summer will go to another grateful gardener.

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We put the mini greenhouse in our storage shed behind the house. My idea was to put it in the garage when it was time to start seeds. Our garage has some heat, but it stays cool.  I wasn’t sure about the temperature once I got seeds started. It certainly is not greenhouse warm and putting the outfit in the garage entailed cleaning and reorganizing a space for it. At least a morning’s worth of work.

I knew I wasn’t going to get this project going if I didn’t bring all the parts into the house and start cleaning them up. We’d had a huge amount of rain and getting to our shed required knee high boots, but last weekend we brought everything inside.  And once there, I realized I had a corner where it could possibly live permanently. I could grow  greens all year long! The only problem (not yet resolved) was what to do with the wingback chair and ottoman from that corner. It has been relegated to our bedroom, but that’s not a permanent solution.  I love that chair so I’m not ready to send it to the thrift store.

My friend also gave me two bio-domes and plugs for seed starting. So yesterday I actually planted some seeds. They are on the top shelf of the mini-greenhouse on a heat mat. It’s still too early to plant most vegetable seeds, but there were some annual flowers that could go out in 6-8 weeks. I plugged in one heat mat but have to figure out how to set up the grow light timer that came with the outfit. That won’t be needed until I have germination so a few days of grace. I’ve never used bio-domes before and will be reporting on how I like them.

We’ve had so much rain it’s going to take a while for things to dry out enough to allow to begin spring clean-up. But daffodil bulbs aren’t bothered. They are right on schedule.

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Bok Choy in a raised bed survived the extreme winter cold we had and is looking perky. I never got around to putting a floating row cover on them.

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Every week I’m cutting back Knock-out roses along the drive and filling the trash can. I know it’s early, but these roses are incredibly hardy. I can see buds on the stems. Spring clean-up is easier if I can do a little at a time and the back yard is totally water logged.

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Spring will come whether I’m ready or not. I’m working on it.

 

Why Nova Makes Me Feel Like a Cockroach

We’ve been watching a Nova episode titled Black Hole Apocalypse. Here’s the log line from the PBS website: “Black holes are the most enigmatic and exotic objects in the universe. They’re also the most powerful, with gravity so strong it can trap light. And they’re destructive, swallowing entire planets, even giant stars. Anything that falls into them vanishes…gone forever.”

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I love Nova programs, but sometimes I feel like a dog listening to a human. Blah, blah, blah, Ginger. Blah, Fetch, blah. Especially the programs that are based on higher math. Math was never my strong suit. At Goucher College I was allowed to take an astronomy class instead of college algebra to fulfill the math requirement. Enough said! Note: I’ve never quite forgiven Goucher for taking away 27 art credits when I transferred there.

But this Nova program really made me aware of how many galaxies and stars and planets there are in the universe. Billions, trillions, way too many to count if we could see far enough. Our planet is an insignificant speck of dust among millions/billions of others. And it occurred to me that we are pretty much the cockroaches of the universe.  Somewhere out there another Mala Burt is writing the same book I’m working on. We think we’re special, but almost certainly are not. Note that I have enough ego to hold out some hope.

Alexander Pope said it best in his poem An Essay on Man.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Pope probably wouldn’t have written that poem if he’d been able to watch Black Hole Apocalypse. Despite Nova, I have enough hope to be thinking about  starting seeds for my always optimistic and hopeful garden. But that’s another post.

 

 

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

I rarely venture into political territory in my posts, but I asked my friend, Helen Delaney, for permission to repost her recent blog.  Her family history is exactly the immigrant diversity we want and need in our country. I, too, thought there was a sea change when Obama was elected. I also wept with joy at what we thought was a healing in out country. Our current president has given permission for hate and bigotry and I am saddened that  there are still many who embrace those darker angels of our nature.

This is Helen’s post. She titled it Unfriend Me, Unfollow Me.

“Just three days ago, a friend asked me why I stopped writing my blog. One of the reasons, I told him, was that I just didn’t believe in talking unless I had something to say. I told him that I had run out of things to say, and that I just couldn’t bore my friends for the sake of maintaining a blog. Besides, I wanted to turn my energy toward my second book. That was three days ago. That was before my ancestors came into my consciousness and nudged me in their ever-so-gentle way. The way spirits do.

I have never expressed my personal political views on this blog or any public media outlet because I saw no value in it. My position was that people will believe what they want to believe, and that my political views, no matter what they were, would attract anonymous, angry people with nothing better to do than to sling mud from behind the safety of their darkened rooms and backlit computer screens.  I don’t enjoy conflict, online or off, and so I kept my views to myself. But now, I’m done. I’m done, because I am here, alive in my body, in this country, on this tortured night, representing my ancestors.

Let me introduce them: My maternal grandmother: Her name was Sarah. Her father was German, her mother African American. Her husband’s mother, my great grandmother: Her name was Elizabeth, and she came to this country from Syria. I’m sure that wasn’t her name when she stepped up to the immigration official to be registered. Then, there is my paternal grandfather. His name was Edward and he was all or part Native American. Cherokee. His wife, Helen, came from a family of Irish indentured slaves. My parents were the “mixed blood” children of those I have named. They lived in South Carolina before and at the turn of the last century. In this country, they were all either indentured whites (in our case dis-owned by their families), or Negroes. I’ve seen the census reports.

I cannot imagine the bravery, courage, or the depth and breadth of love it must have taken for them to raise families of seven, eight children. Or just to stay alive. I also represent their children, uncles who fought in both World Wars, my father, who wore a policeman’s badge in Philadelphia for 35 years, a man of color who could not rise in the ranks but who nevertheless served and protected all the citizens of that city, my mother, who broke ranks with her family to come North with my father so that I and my brothers could live a life that was free of harassment, degradation, fear, and sorrow. Or so they thought.

When a black man was elected President of the United States, my husband and I sat before the television set and watched Barack Obama and his family write a chapter in history unlike any before it, except, perhaps, the one written by Abraham Lincoln.  At last, I told my husband, the tears running down my face, our country has become what it said it would. It has marched steadily toward its own ideals. It has kept its promise. My husband, who was Irish American, nodded, tears blinding his own eyes. We were proud of our country. We were proud that the idea of freedom, that the experiment in equality, the stumbling, difficult climb into a true democracy, and the repudiation of all things indecent, had made us the most powerful, important nation on the planet. We were not to know, on that night, that it was only a moment in time.

We have taken a step backward to a place my ancestors would recognize. My tears tonight are ones of grief. I am not proud. I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I must accept sympathy from my friends around the world. I am ashamed that our doors are slamming shut against people like my ancestors, and that all sense of generosity, compassion, and conscience seem to be absent from the hearts of those who could make it different. I am ashamed that once again, my ancestors are the subjects of hate and derision. No wonder they won’t let me alone.

And now, I’m done. I can no longer be quiet. I speak for those who came before me, those who gave me life, and for my children and my grandchildren. Today and ever after, I disavow the indecent, hateful bigotry that is despoiling my country and the man who is the face and the voice of it.

And I say to you, whoever may be reading this blog – if, after what has happened in the past two days, indeed in the past year, you can still support the man in the White House, his ideas, his language, and behavior, you support everything I, as an American, as an African American, as an Irish American, as a German American, as the great granddaughter of a Syrian woman, and the granddaughter of a Native American man, abhor, and I ask you to unfollow me. If you are a “friend” on Facebook, I ask you to unfriend me now.

This is the time to take a stand. It is time to speak clearly. No more excuses, no more mealy-mouthed explanations. No more burying heads in the sand. It’s over. The President of the United States is a racist. I repudiate that hateful concept, and I repudiate him.

Matthew said it: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Choose your camp.”

When It’s Too Cold to Go Outside

We’ve had some really cold weather lately. Much colder than normal for the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The kind of cold that required dripping the pipes at night. The kind of cold that makes going outside for any reason painful. The temperatures are supposed to moderate for the next few days and some predicted precipitation will be rain instead of snow.

My husband builds a fire in the fireplace every night.  On these very cold days we light it around 3:30 in the afternoon. By that point I’m ready to leave my office and sit and knit and watch something mindless on TV. Thank you Amazon (The White Queen) and Netflix (Hart of Dixie).

I’ve blogged before that I knit sweaters for kids using the Guideposts Knit for Kids pattern. I love the mindless knitting but hate sewing the front and back together. So my friend Mary Ann Hillier volunteered to sew up five sweaters that had been in a bag for a year. Only a good friend would do that for you. Once before I had a friend who got a bag of sweaters to sew for me. Soon after they moved away and I never heard from her again. That won’t happen with Mary Ann. She’s a member of our What-we-just-finished -reading Book Club and will be a beta reader for my third novel.

Mary Ann is a generous soul. She started a non-profit to supply backpacks full of school supplies to underfunded schools in Mississippi. Their mission: Paper and Pencils, Inc. is a non-profit organization providing school supplies to children in the Mississippi Delta because we believe education is the one true way out of poverty. Learn more about Paper and Pencils.  You might be motivated to make a donation.

A couple of times my husband and I have helped Mary Ann fill the backpacks and prepare them for shipping. When I think of the advantages our four children had, it just doesn’t seem fair.  These Mississippi kids don’t have the basics, so Mary Ann’s non-profit gets a check every year. I wish it could be more.

But, back to knitting. It seems I never have quite enough yarn for one of these Knit for Kids sweaters (they can be knit in various sizes), so many are often striped or color blocked, using leftover bits of yarn. Yarn that people give me or I find at thrift stores. Because I had bags of yarn in various places in the house, I had to pull everything out to try to find what I needed every time I wanted to start a new sweater. It took time away from mindless television watching.

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That led me to think about organizing my yarn stash by color families which led to a trip to Lowe’s for plastic bins. In one of the closets I found a box of art supplies that had been put there when we moved into this house eleven years ago. The art supplies belonged to my mother. Bottles of Acrylic Polymer Medium. Does that stuff go bad? I emailed an artist friend to see if she could use it. An upright vacuum cleaner that I never use will go to the thrift shop. And three slender black metal poles that have threaded ends. I have no idea what they could possibly be. I suppose since they have been at the back of that closet for eleven years, they can go in the trash. Or, perhaps I will move them to the garage. They might be good garden poles.

My yarn goal is to use up what I have before I buy more. If you’re interested in knitting sweaters to keep children warm, here’s the link to more information.and patterns.

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If it had been warmer this week I might have spent some time in the garage inventorying leftover seeds. Maybe next week. The seed catalogues are arriving daily.

 

In the Rearview Mirror

We had a postponed Christmas dinner last night with Laura and her family.

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It was lovely. We toasted with blue champagne, had oysters and shrimp from the grill, country ham on country biscuits and my excellent curried cheese ball while we stood and chatted in Laura’s kitchen.

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I don’t know where Laura was in this photo. On the far right hand side, I think, behind her husband in the Santa hat. Then we made room for tenderloin, potatoes and fresh asparagus sitting at the beautiful dining room table. Laura loves to make a festive table.

I made the desserts. Two Key lime pies at Laura’s request and an apple pie. And because I had eight egg whites left from making the Key lime pies, I made chocolate espresso meringues. I don’t have a pastry bag so dropped the whipped mixture from spoons. They were beautiful and delicious.

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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I suppose I used to and they always seemed to be about losing weight. But 2017 was a year when I made a concious decision to step away from many volunteer activities. 2018 is going to be a significant birthday for me and I have a third novel to finish. It’s been marinating in my brain for ten years. That’s long enough. I’m getting close to the end of the first draft, but some of my characters seem intent on following roads I didn’t see, and I have to take the time to see what they want to do. They usually turn out to be right.

I suppose part of my decision in 2017 was because of volunteer fatigue. People come to assume that you will keep doing what you’ve always done. But I knew I was putting my own projects on hold and I didn’t want to do that anymore. The other thing is that I am making enjoyment a priority. If I raise my hand to volunteer, is it something I’ll enjoy doing? There are a lot of things in life that just have to be done, but I want to enjoy the things I choose to do.

Writing is one of those things. I find writing to often be an unconcious process. I get centered at my computer, sometimes using a dowsing crystal to help open my brain to the “movie” of my book. Then I write what I see. My friend, Helen, says I’m channeling and I won’t go quite that far. But I do enjoy the process!

In March of 2018 the Bay to Ocean Writing Conference will happen without me being part of the planning. For the past ten years I’ve been on the planning committee doing a variety of year-long tasks. By the time we’d get to conference day I was too tired to attend sessions. In 2018 I will enjoy attending.

Eastern Shore Writers Association is also going on without me. I’ll just be a paid member. Those almost daily hours spent keeping track of membership are now spent writing. I found some membership software to take over for me and the board agreed to the change. It was time that the organization moved in that direction and I gave them a push.

I stepped aside from my role as co-chair of Green Thumb, the St. Michaels Woman’s Club gardening interest group. It was time for new ideas, and there have been some splendid ones.

I did raise my hand to help at the St. Michaels Farmers Market last summer but it was just for an hour or so on Saturdays and an hour to send out a weekly market update. The market is undergoing a restructuring. I don’t know if I’ll raise my hand in 2018. I want to see what’s going to happen to the market before I volunteer.

And last year I was still involved in the organization of the St. Michaels Community Garden. A friend and I have been sharing the responsibilities for about five years. It’s time to pass the torch. We sent out an email asking for volunteers and got radio silence. The next step is to itemize what we do and send that out. Maybe if people see the discrete chunks, some will raise their hands. If people want a community garden it will survive.

I’ll stay connected with my Working Writers Forum. They’ve been reading what I’m working on for eleven years, and they always give me good advice.

Laura and I are hard at work for the Christmas play we’ve been commissioned to write for The Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota.  Collaborating with Laura is a priority for me. We both enjoy the process. It’s FUN!

It is now a little after 8 o’clock in the morning on the first day of 2018 and I’ve been up for several hours. I am at my desk and have just pulled up the file of my novel. I can’t wait to see where the story goes this morning.

I’m going to enjoy 2018. #enjoymylife

 

 

 

Working My Way toward Christmas

On Sunday Carpe Diem Arts* (in conjuction with the St. Michaels Community Center) presented A Winter’s Eve of Revelry at the St. Michaels High School auditorium and my younger brother, Ross, and his wife, Linda, performed a Scandinavian dance.

I’d made Ross and Linda a batch of Mala’s Crack Pecans and Walnuts but forgot to take them to the school. My husband went back to get them while Ross told me this story when I asked him about the vest he was wearing.

The Stewart tartan made it’s way into Norwegian history this way. Apparently some Scots were hired as mercenaries to attack the Norwegians — probably by those dastardly Swedes. The wiley Norwegians caught them in a valley and rolled huge logs down the hills mowing them as flat as scythed wheat. The local women collected the fabric from the fallen and the Stewart tartan made it’s way into Norwegian history. Sounds like a plot line from The Vikings! (Ross, this is quite possibly a totally wrong version of what you told me. If so, correct the tale in a comment.)

Family lore on our mother’s side is that we are descended from Harald Fairhair, the king who unified Norway. He was also a total badass. He’s the one who brought his enemies to a peace confab, locked them in a log long house and set it on fire. The Fairhair dynasty includes Eric Bloodaxe, Halfdan the Black (father of Harald Fairhair) and Haakon the Good.  I’d like to think that I have more genes from Haakon the Good. The tv show, The Vikings mashes different historical events into the same time period. There is now a Harald in the cast of characters. I wonder when he will lock up his enemies and set them on fire.

Also performing at Sunday’s event were Grammy nominated Andrea Hoag who played the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle and Meliss Running, one of a very few masters of the incredible nyckelharpa from Sweden. I had never seen this instrument before. There were Ukrainian and Balkan singers and dancers, all in traditional costume. People who keep these traditions alive are saving history in a very personal way. It was another step on our way toward Christmas.

We are staying home this year. It was our year to go to Montana, but our granddaughters are young adults with complicated lives. We decided to see them last May and not in December. Last year I sent them kransekakke form pans so they can carry on the tradition even if I’m not there.

The local shops and our small-town main street are festive with decorations. Attending Sunday’s concert got me humming the Carol of the Bells which originated as a Ukranian carol. My only attempt at decorating this year was putting lights on a potted tree on the deck and redoing arrangements on the mantelpiece. The photo was taken when we had snow the day of the St. Michaels Christmas parade. The tree is small, but we can see it outside while we sit by a warming fire.

Merry Christmas to all. May you connect with friends and family and be grateful for all your blessings. God Jul.

 

*Carpe Diem Arts is a non-profit organization founded by an Eastern Shore treasure, Busy Graham who lives just down the road in Royal Oak.Here’s what their website says about their mission.  “Carpe Diem Arts presents multi-generational and multi-cultural community events, concerts, summer arts camps, after-school programs, workshops and residencies, creating opportunities for all ages to participate in the visual, literary and performing arts, while also partnering with other arts and social service organizations to facilitate outreach to under-served audiences, positive youth development programs, and arts integration in education.  In addition to benefiting thousands of children and teachers, at-risk youth, special needs populations, families and seniors, Carpe Diem Arts supports the livelihood of master teaching and performing artists by providing meaningful and impactful work in our schools and communities.”