Six on Saturday – August 25, 2018 –

Today’s post is a melange of photos.

One and two were taken at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. We had relatives visiting from the Portland area and this was a great way to introduce them to the history and culture of the Chesapeake.

I’ve been wanting to include some specific photos from the museum gardens. The one below was a project of a St. Michaels High School student who, several years ago, received a grant to install a butterfly garden. This photo shows just a piece of it. I saw my first Monarch butterfly of the season there this week, but it declined to be in my picture.

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2. There are two relocated dwellings at the museum which demonstrate the types of houses common on the shore in the 1700’s. It is important to remember that until the Bay Bridge was opened in July, 1952, the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake was isolated, only  accessed from the Baltimore area by boat or a long drive around the top of the bay and down through Delaware.

The house on the left in the photo below is the Mitchell House and was once the home of Eliza Bailey Mitchell, the sister of abolitionist Frederick Douglas. A former slave, Eliza and her free black husband, Peter, lived in this house and worked nearby on Perry Cabin Farm.

The log house on the right is a humble farm cabin, once common throughout rural Chesapeake. This dwelling served as the tenant farming house for Albert and Henrietta Wilson and their eight children for most of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although small, this log cabin provided the basic essentials – a hearth for cooking, a table for gathering, and a dry, warm place to sleep at night.

My friend, Roger Galvin, designed raised garden beds to illustrate the types of food crops which would have been grown around houses like this in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The paths between the beds are oyster shells.

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3. Now back to my back yard. Several crepe myrtles that were planted when small are now tall and really blooming for the first time. This is one of two that I rescued from someone’s trash. The home owner had put them out for the garbage men to take. They seemed healthy enough so I brought them home. That was probably eight years ago. (I’m a patient gardener.) It may have helped that one of the compost bins feeds the roots.

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4. One of my leaf castings sits on the deck. I keep a little water in it for the butterflies. The crepe myrtle in the bottom of that picture is growing from the roots of one I moved. Obviously I didn’t get it all. I don’t mind it there as long as I can keep it short.

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5. The garden that is going to get an overhaul this fall doesn’t look so back from this angle. Soaker hoses are connected to my four rain barrels that collect rain from the shed roof. This area is under water when we have heavy rains and dries out to concrete when we don’t have rain.

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6. A big job this fall is to remove this multiple trunked river birch. For a number of years I had it topped to keep it in scale with my house and to maintain a weeping look. I suppose I could have it trimmed to get a couple more years out of it, but I have several other small trees that will fill in when the birch is gone. The other trash rescued crepe mytle is one of those trees. You can see it blooming behind the right side of the birch. At the left side of that bed I have a flowering cherry. The area may look slightly bare for a couple of years, but, as I said, I’m patient.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my Six on Saturday. The gardens are slowing down but the asters and golden rod are still to come.

Write on Wednesday – Revisions Ahead – August 22, 2018

In a week or two I will get back the comments of a writing friend who agreed to look at my third novel in the Caribbean series. I’m anxious. Mostly that’s the way I’m wired. Just ask my patient husband. But I am anxious to get back to the book after not thinking about it for most of the summer. And I’m anxious to see what suggestions she has for improving the story.

Then I will begin revisions.  Don Roff writes, “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”

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I’m hoping I won’t need this.

 

Six on Saturday – Now I know Why… August 18, 2018

Welcome to six photos from my garden this week. Walking around to take SoS photos gets me to notice things I would otherwise miss.

  1. Now I know why I didn’t pull out (I almost did) the bronze fennel. This morning there were three black swallowtail caterpillars munching on the lacy foliage. I had been watching the parsley and almost missed them.

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2. I stuck some Joe Pye weed cuttings in a pot a month ago. Some have rooted. They are destined to an area where I took out some large old Joe Pye plants last fall. That turned out to be a mistake. Joe Pye didn’t mind being in that soggy bed by the shed. So these will get planted there. There is a cultivar that doesn’t get as tall which I need to source. I typically cut back the wild Joe Pye to half to keep it in check.

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3. The fragrant hostas are blooming. Can anyone tell me what the blue flowered plant is? It self seeds and can get aggressive in this bed, but I like the blue spikes at the same time this hosta blooms.IMG_7079

4. Monarda “Grand Marshall” has finally bloomed. I bought three plants from a catalog in the spring and when they came the plants were so pathetic I knew I couldn’t put them in the ground. They survived and thrived in the pot and will get planted out next spring. Grand Marshall is not as tall as the other monarda I have in the garden and is not supposed to be as susceptible to mildew. I love the color.

5. The load of chips arrived. What we get depends on what the crews are cutting. This time it was a huge pile of red cedar. You see the fan my husband set up to cool himself off when he was loading the wheel barrow. It wasn’t that hot, but very humid. Typical Maryland summer weather. I like the contrast of the cedar chips on other paths in the garden. It will weather, but for the moment it’s pretty and fragrant. I lifted the slate and then replaced it once the chips were down. It’s a little wobbly to start but will settle.

 

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6.  A task for next week. I had taken metal hoops from a couple of half wine barrels that rotted away. I put down some landscape cloth beneath them and filled them with driveway gravel. They are sinking into the ground and I need to get the gravel up before it gets lost. I’ll cover this path with cedar chips. To the right front in this photo is the variagated liriope that the rabbits like to snack on. I have that same liriope in other parts of the garden and they don’t bother it. Perhaps these small clumps are closer to their den which I suspect is under the shed.

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That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday: Make Me Care – August 14, 2018

I learn in small increments. If I can come away with a few new things from an hour long talk, I am happy.  This  virtual classroom Ted talk, by Andrew Stanton, is terrific. Not too long, not too short, but with some compelling suggestions for writing our stories.

Here are my take aways:

Make the Reader Care:

  1. When you tell a story, build in anticipation.
  2. Make the reader want to know what will happen next.
  3. Honest conflicts create doubt in what the outcome might be and make the reader wonder how the story will end.

The Secret Sauce:

  1. The best stories invoke wonder.
  2. A strong theme is always running through a well told story.

Use What You Know:

  1. Capture a truth from your own experience.

Storytelling has guidelines but no hard and fast rules. When you do it right, wonder happens.

 

 

Six on Saturday – Dog Days of Summer -August 11, 2018

Hot and humid  dog days here. Typical Eastern Shore summer weather. Occasional thunder storms may bring rain or just spectacular lightening in the night sky.  The garden work never ends. A load of mulching chips is now in the driveway. We will start moving it a few loads at a time in the cool of the mornings. It’s hard to believe that September is just around the corner.

Here are my six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

  1. Naked ladies (Belladonna Amaryllis) – I can never remember where this clump of bulbs is, but in August they appear and bloom. This year I found a stray one and moved it to its sisters. Google tells me that there is foliage that disappears before the flowers appear, but I don’t remember seeing that. I’ll put some flags by this clump so I can plant something low around them to hide the stems. These ladies do look undressed.

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2. I saved some seeds from zinnias in a Community Garden bed (not mine) last fall. This is my reward.

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3. The liriope (Liriope muscari) is beginning to bloom although it is becoming something of a nuisance as seedlings are appearing in the gravel drive.

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4. Tomatoes continue in my Community Garden bed. When I picked this morning I realized the strange yellow/white tomatoes were from the Shah plants I started. I tasted one and wasn’t seduced. I’ll throw them into the sauce pot but I wouldn’t can a kettle of just white tomatoes as I suspect they don’t have as much acid as the red ones. The chewed tomatoes were on a plant at home. Squirrels! The eggplant in a pot keeps producing.

5.  A fresh flush of ferns in an area where they all died back when we didn’t have any rain for six weeks. The hosta is a Francis Williams. Still no significant slug damage on the hostas this year which is miraculous considering how wet it has been in between the weeks of no rain. Might it be those fireplace ashes I spread around the hosta? The ashes have not deterred deer in another section, however.

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6. This is an early morning  photo of St. Michaels harbor, a ten minute walk from my house. On the right is the Maritime Museum, a world class facility that is keeping Chesapeake Bay history and waterman culture alive as well as rescuing and rebuilding some of the boats used by the watermen. Every time I go I am astounded that our little town has this jewel. A friend of mine is in charge of the gardens at the museum. He has recreated gardens from different time periods, including what would have been a typical garden at the small home of a freed slave. I’ll take some photos and share them.

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That’s my six for this Saturday. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I have to share in my garden on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Write on Wednesday – The Hook – August 8, 2018

Haruki Murakami, author of Blind Willow and Sleeping Woman asked, “shouldn’t there be cats in a zoo? They’re animals, too, right?” Then he continued, “Cats and dogs are your run-of-the-mill-type animals. Nobody’s going to pay money to see them. Just look around you–they’re everywhere. Same thing with people.”

I don’t know if this Murakami quote was about writing characters, but that’s what it made me ponder.
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Do all my characters need to have something totally unique about them? Is that what makes a reader turn the page? Do people who buy books want to read about ordinary people? Or is it the hook — the out-of-the-ordinary circumstances in which ordinary people find themselves?

I think it’s the hook.  For me to engage with a character I have to relate to them in some way. Age, gender, personality, vocation, avocation, relationship issues, family drama, memories of a previous time in my life. It could be lots of things, but for me to keep reading I want to know what happens to the character. That’s the hook.

J. K. Rowlings captured a whole generation of young readers with her ordinary kids who had something extraordinary in common. As a former therapist I believe those books are a model for mastery. Living is about mastering the new stuff that shows up daily. And the things kids need to master can be scary. If Harry and his friends can master wizardry and all the associated terrifying events, a reader might realize she can get through a new school year, fail a test, or talk to her parents about an embarrasing subject. Mastering a life experience prepares us for the future. And how I loved those books. I could imagine myself as Hermione. They are some of the few hard covers that remain on my bookshelf.

The Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series is about an ordinary young woman who bakes cookies for a living. She just happens to live in a small Minnesota town where other ordinary people get murdered at an alarming rate. Author Joanne Fluke has recently published book 23 in this series. By now the population of the town should be decimated and everyone remaining obese, but fans can’t get enough. Why is that? I think it’s because Hannah is ordinary and readers can relate. She always thinks she needs to lose ten pounds and compares her looks to her stunning sister. Her mother thinks Hannah can’t be happy unless she’s married. Hannah’s is a loving family with lots of family drama. Who can’t relate? And between helping the local law inforcement guys solve all those murders, she eats cookies for breakfast.

The other thing about cozy mysteries is that while people die in sometimes nasty circumstances the author doesn’t dwell on the details. These are easy reads in a time when many of us need diversion from the real world. In cozy mysteries the good guys always prevail.

Recently I put The Light of Fireflies by Paul Pen on my Kindle. I can’t remember why I bought it but I get alot of “hard to resist” offers from Amazon. I might have gotten it for $2.99. I really have a problem buying any e-book that costs more that $10.

I started the Pen book and stopped reading after thirty pages. It was way too creepy for me.  Burned people living in a sealed off basement with no access to the world.  Hints of incest. At first I thought it was a dystopian novel, but it’s personal not global dystopia. What the hell? It’s gotten thousands of four and five star reviews, but I gave it a one star. I don’t care if it was well written. Later I made myself go back to The Light of Fireflies. I couldn’t relate to these people so I didn’t care what the hook was.  Everytime there was a choice people took the wrong one. I plowed my way through it and then archived the novel on my Kindle. If this is what Paul Pen writes I won’t be buying any more of his books.

My reading habits have evolved since I was an English major at Goucher College (back in the day when it was an all women’s school). I now rarely read novels that are considered literary, rather I read for pleasure, entertainment and diversion. And sometimes to put myself back to sleep in the middle of the night. That requires a book I have read before, sometimes many times, so there are no surprises. Nothing grisly or bloody or one of those soft porn romances. I want to go back to sleep. Jan Karon novels do the trick quite nicely.

Here’s what I’ve read in the last six weeks. The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie; The Other Woman by Daniel Silva; The King Tides by James Swain; A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliott; The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry; Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly; Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder and The Betty Davis Club by Jane Lotter. The last two were re-reads. The book I am currently reading is The Key by Kathryn Hughes. Next in the queue is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

What have you read recently that you recommend?

 

Photo credit: Szoki Adams <a/ref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/68549057@N03/6242305704″>Peace on Earth</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Six on Saturday – August 4, 2018 – Successes and a Flop

It’s been raining…a lot. The lake is back in the back yard, but I’m not complaining except about the mosquitos. The second 6 cubic yards of mulch was put down before the rain started and there is no longer a blue tarp covered pile in the drive. Our neighbors must be happy. That will change in a few days, however, when I get a load of free chips from our local tree people. Most of that will go in the back of the property once it dries out back there.

Here are my six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

  1. Helenium (Sneezeweed). I didn’t really appreciate this flower until I downloaded the photos from my phone. The actual flower is small and on a very tall stem. Someone gave me one and it’s not yet a large clump. It would be easy to overlook.  It reminds me of a fantasy chapeau designed by a French milliner in the 1920’s. Or possibly an inspiration for a Kentucky Derby fantasy. It might be too overstated for the Queen. I need to save seeds and see if I can get a clump going. I can’t stop looking at this photo. IMG_6947

2.  The garden beds are producing. Tomatoes Amish Paste and Sungold cherry), green beans, carrots (purple and orange), beets, and spring onions. I found a recipe for a puff pastry tomato and cheese tart on-line. I added some ham because I had some in the fridge that needed to be used. It was a little complicated to make despite the fact that I bought frozen puff pastry, but it was delicious. I had a leftover piece for breakfast the next morning.

 

3.  Kinshi Uri or Somen Kabocha squash. Kinshi means golden threads. This is the original Japanese version of spaghetti squash. Burpee picked up this seed and began selling it as Vegetable Spaghetti in 1936. My seeds for Kinshi Uri came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I planted some seeds at the end of one of my community garden beds about six weeks ago where I had pulled up lettuces. The squash began sprawling so I put in some upright cages trying to keep them contained until I can pull out the rest of the beets. The plants have been setting fruit but I’ve had problems with borers in the past, so I’m not holding my breath that I will get mature squash. For the moment I’m enjoying the healthy plants with lots of female flowers. That great looking mulch between the raised beds is wood chips from our local tree company, Bartlett Tree Services. The fine mesh around the bed keeps the rabbits out and is tall enough to keep the deer from browsing.

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4. The verbena in two big pots had stopped blooming. I gave them a serious haircut and within a week had new blooms. I need to pay more attention to deadheading. The variagated liriope was dug from another spot in the garden. Soon there will be purple flower stalks which will look lovely with the lavendar and pink cleome and play off the bright cherry red verbena flowers.

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5. This mum is a favorite. It makes a compact plant that doesn’t need to be cut back and has come back every spring for probably eight years. It will soon be covered with bright yellow flowers but I don’t know why it is starting to bloom at the beginning of August. Isn’t this too early? I wish I knew where I had gotten this variety so I could buy more. I’ve taken pieces from the edge of this plant and put them in the ground, but they have not survived. I’ll try again by putting the starts in small pots so I have better control over watering.

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6. I am giving up on hollyhocks. I don’t buy alot of things for the garden but I bought these from a catalog last fall.  I think they were called something like Farmhouse Medley. How could I resist.

They looked fine this spring until the rust took them. I guess it’s just too humid in the Mid-Atlantic. Then the rabbits did in the rest, chomping off remaining green leaves. I remember Hollyhocks as a child in Indiana and thought they would look great against the lattice which would also provide support. Too bad.

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This was not my first attempt at hollyhocks, but it will probably be my last. (Notice the equivocation from my beginning sentence.) Of course  I say that about squash every year and I keep buying new varieties to try. Which brings to mind the saying about the triumph of hope over experience…  Either I am a slow learner, or a fast forgetter… or perhaps an eternally optimistic person. I think I’ll stick with the latter.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos of some successes and one total (but not totally unexpected) failure in my garden.  Until next week.