Six on Saturday – March 17, 2018

1. I took this photo in the parking lot of the Harris Teeter grocery store where I was shopping for the weekend. It was really windy, but a woman from my yoga class pulled up and held the branch for me. Her gloves, which matched the unfurled buds, were a serendipitous addition to the photo.


Continue reading

Write on Wednesday

I’m going to do a short post each Wednesday with a writing tip or link to a writing subject I’ve found helpful. I’m inviting all writers to join me on Wednesdays with a post or link in the comment section of my blog.


Last Saturday was the 21st annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. The first one in ten years in which I was not involved in the planning. I am thrilled to say it the new coordinators planned a terrific conference. In the past I was too whacked by conference day to attend anything. This year I actually attended sessions.

My Write on Wednesday tip is from a session led by Robert Bidinotto titled “Target Your Readers for Maximize Sales.”  Those of us who publish would really like to sell our books, but it’s the part that most of us hate, drag our heels or (like me) just ignore. Bidinotto had lots of good things to say, but the thing that made my head explode was about finding your niche of core readers by letting them know WHY you write what you write. It’s the WHY that will sell books.

He gave us a link to a Ted talk by Simon Sinek which talks about why people buy things. Sinek used examples of computers and cars, but it all applies to books. Here is the link if the video doesn’t show up.


Bidinotto invited us to think about the category we write and why we write that. Usually it’s because it’s what we believe. That knowledge should inform your marketing. The look of your book covers, the tag lines, your author website and bio. Market to the WHY not the WHAT.

I have a lot of work to do.



Six on Saturday – March 10, 2018

It’s a never ending miracle that things in the garden that should, by all rights, be dead, come to life in the Spring.

Usually the forsythia blooms before anything else in mid February. This year it is popping at the same time as the daffodils.


Below is fennel that I grew last year from seed. When mature it has beautiful bronze foliage. In the fall it finally succumbed (I thought) to killing frosts and then weeks of bitter cold. But it is coming back. It creates something of a problem in terms of my being able to dig that raised bed.  The nearby trees send roots into the beds and if I don’t dig them every spring they become rootbound. The fennel will get set aside while I dig and then replanted.


I have no idea how this hyacinth got into this particular bed near the hellebores. But it is blooming. You can see chrysanthemums sprouting below the flower.


A bed of irises. These are a dark blue variety that a friend gave me. I mow my iris beds in the fall with the lawn mower and they don’t seem to mind at all. I do the same thing in the spring with lariope. I occasionally see signs of borers in my iris, but I only keep the ones that don’t seem too bothered. I am a lazy gardener.


The pink metal birds below mark one edge of two septic tanks that I found when I was putting in garden beds. You can see the little pieces of rebar next to the bird stakes. I used those at first but kept tripping on them. Then I put acid green tennis balls on them. I kind of liked them, but they eventually faded in the sun. Having a stake in the middle of a path is something of a problem. Eventually I’ll get around to moving the stones. I need to know where the septic tank is because there’s not much soil on top of it which is how I found it in the first place when I tried to plant that flowering cherry tree.

Now that I see this photo I realize I need to move the start of the path between the birds. Duh! The sedums are easy to move.


Another spring miracle. I was repotting agapanthas last fall and had leftovers. A friend had told me that hers were planted outside and usually made it through the winter, so I stuck some in the ground. And they are putting out new growth. The pot I brought inside didn’t bloom this winter. If these bloom this summer, all the agapanthas will get moved outside.


That’s my six this week. We had more rain so the back garden is still flooded and I can’t work there yet. But this week the rest of the roses in the front of the house were cut back. I’m making progress.

On the Writing Front

The first draft of the play was emailed to the director.  Now I have to get back to my novel which was put on hold for a little while. I couldn’t manage to keep two sets of characters separate. Characters have a way of popping up where you least expect them.  A Hot Dish lady from a Christmas themed play doesn’t belong in a novel set in the Caribbean. Sort of like that pink hyacinth, except it is much more welcome.


A Nor’easter Blows Through

High winds early Friday morning woke me up several times. Was that a freight train coming at the house? Nope. A Nor’easter.

Laura Ambler, my writing partner, and I had worked on our play Thursday and she had warned me what was coming. Her day job is in aviation so she’s acutely aware of the weather. And the Nor’easter arrived just as predicted.


We watched the old silver maples on our property give up some limbs. Nothing very big, but a pick-up-sticks job to be handled. Although we are near the water we didn’t have any flooding like other parts of the east coast. However the rotation of the storm pulled water out of the local rivers and there were some really low tides. We never lost power although we do have a generator back-up. The winds were still roaring Sunday night and another storm is predicted for Wednesday.

Dancing Santa

The weather didn’t keep Laura and me from writing. Our play, commissioned by The Merlin Players in Faribault, Minnesota, is almost finished. We will be able to send it to Artistic Director,  Julianna Skluzacek, by the end of next week. We sent our ideas to Julianna in early October 2017 and began work in earnest on January 6, 2018. We have worked two to four days a week since then. Sometimes with our cell phones on speaker when Laura was in Florida on business. Usually we worked for two hours or a little more before our brains went on strike. Much of the time at the beginning is asking questions. What is the play about? What would happen if this character did x, y or z? What conflict would that generate? Does a scene further the arc of the story?

Since the play is about the same characters in The Santa Diaries (five years later), we had the luxury of knowing who would be playing some of the parts as actors who had played characters several years ago wanted to have those parts again. That meant we could write to an actor’s strengths. I’m very visual. It helped to know what a character looked like.

In the Rest of My Life

We’ve had a worrisome two weeks as my beloved daughter-in-law was in the hospital with post-flu viral pneumonia. She spent a week on a ventilator. Most of the time I’m just fine with my kids living on the other side of the country, but when something like this happens I sure wish we were closer. Janet is now home and recuperating. I spent alot of time knitting to keep my anxiety under control.

The weather has kept me from the gardens but I went out yesterday while dinner was heating on the stove and took some photos. The Hellebores are blooming, but I haven’t had time to get the winter damaged leaves pulled out yet. And it’s still too wet and a little early to do an all in clean-up. I like leaving leaf mulch around the perennials until the evening temps moderate.

IMG_5243   IMG_5242

Columbines and tiny lamb’s ears are emerging through the leaf mulch.

IMG_5234     IMG_5240

My agenda for today, Sunday, March 4, 2018.

  1. Plant some seeds using the soil blocking method. My efforts to start some seeds inside in a bio-dome are not going so well.
  2. Read the 90 page play script to see what tweaks are needed. Laura and I are scheduled to work early tomorrow morning before she has to go to her office.
  3. Help my husband pick up sticks on the lawn.
  4. Poach a chicken so there will be protein in the fridge for the coming week.
  5. Make red onion refrigerator pickles.
  6. Do laundry. We are out of socks.

Wow. That’s a long list. I’m thinking some of these items may get pushed to tomorrow afternoon. But the play work will get done…and the laundry. We need those socks.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.