Six on Saturday – No Flo – September 22, 2018

Tuesday, the day the remnants of Hurricane Florence hit our part of the mid-Atlantic region I spent the morning on Poplar Island. Clouds in the photos below were all we got. Some rain was predicted but we didn’t get any until the afternoon and it was minimal. We are all so grateful we were not in Florence’s direct path.

My Six on Saturday starts with Poplar Island. Here’s the backstory.

Poplar Island was a 1140 acre, crescent shaped island in the Chesapeake Bay in 1847. It had a town called Valliant which included a school, a post office, a church, a sawmill, a general store and about 100 residents.  Erosion ate away at the island and by 1920 the last permanent resident had gone. By 1990 the island had been reduced to 5 acres.  In a joint project of the U.S. Army Corps and Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the island has been recreatedt using dredged materials from the Chesapeake Bay’s approach channels to Baltimore where there is a thriving port. Dredged materials from Baltimore harbor are not used because they are contaminated.  Poplar Island is now back to 1140 acres with an additional 575 acres planned. This is the Wikipedia link if you want more information.

  1. Our group from the St. Michaels Woman’s Club boarded a boat on Tilghman Island for the twenty minute ride to Poplar Island. We started the tour with a guide who gave us an introduction and then boarded the bus for an informational trip around the island. The garden pictured is maintained by Maryland Master Gardeners. The mosquitos were ferocious.

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2. Tours are free and this was my fifth trip over the last ten years. The island has changed dramatically since my original visit when the island was comprised of “cells” waiting to receive dredged materials. Now the island is lush with native plant material. One hundred and seventy-five species of birds use the island, but the biggest wildlife success is the terrapin hatchlings which have a 99% survival rate because there are no foxes or racoons on the island – yet. Typical terrapin hatchling survival rate is 10%. Some baby terrapins are fostered by selected school classes and the kids return to Poplar island for an emotional release of the turtle they named and raised. Eventually the island will be a wildlife refuge of half wetlands and half uplands and will be closed to the public.

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3. This view shows work on the projected additional 575 acres. Most of the island looked like this when I first visited.

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My final three photos are from my garden.

4. Hyacinth bean vines are still blooming but are also creating beautiful, glossy purple pods.

5. The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) plant’s airborne seeds are flying.

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6. Six feet tall (even after a fourth of July cutting back to half), this aster is just coming into bloom. Another plant that someone gave me. I don’t know the name and when I googled tall asters none of those listed grew this tall. Another shorter aster hasn’t started blooming yet. It needs to hurry up.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write on Wednesday – July 4, 2018 – Finding a Voice

If you write fiction, finding your voice can be an ongoing search. My talented writing friend, Brent Lewis, has a unique voice that comes from growing up and hanging out with Eastern Shore folk. He eloquently writes about the Eastern Shore on his blog EasternShoreBrent.com and graciously gave me permission to repost Summer Marsh. It seemed appropriate for these hot summer days and the Fourth of July. Thank you, Brent.

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SUMMER MARSH

by easternshorebrent

Muggy drops of humidity hang suspended midair and almost visible.

The pungency of the marsh is pervasive, strong. It sticks to the skin. Rich with the cycles of life and death, the marsh is a sensory reminder of the changes wrought by time’s tides.

A blue heron flies low and with grace across a dish-calm creek.

Something else drifts by on the slow, saturated breeze. Something wistful. Something that smells like bulkhead creosote, tastes like warm beer from 10 oz. cans, and looks like cutoff denim shorts and bright cotton tank tops that provide free advertising to bars, beverages, and billionaire rock bands.

Feels like a dock splinter, like nostalgia.

Sounds like a summer squall. Electricity cracks the sky. The downriver horizon darkens with much more threat than warning. Regret storms in through unbattened hatches. A few minutes of intense natural fury and the tempest blows north, up the Chesapeake Bay.

Local tomatoes: heirloom red and sweetheart firm. Pale yellow sweet corn, cooked in the husk, swathed in butter. Blue crabs caught on trotlines, steamed and spiced to perfection, giving the best of themselves only to those who know their secrets.

Soft crabs fried. Served on white bread or Saltines as God intended.

Watermelon.

Carnivals, county fairs, and the ghost-march of long extinguished firemen’s parades.

Lightning bugs announce the dusk.

Grand explosions of red, and white, and blue, and gold, and silver thunder in the night sky while the marsh lies silent below the blasts of rockets, solid looking in the dark distance and surrounded by shallow, murky waterways and paved-over wetlands.

From the intended solemnity of Memorial Day, through the patriotic celebration of the Fourth of July, to Labor Day, when we honor those who work to make this country work, there’s nothing like summer to remind an Eastern Shoreman how the marsh permeates his soul.

Follow Brent at https://easternshorebrent.com/author/easternshorebrent/

Brent’s first novel, Bloody Point, is a page turner with a quirky cast of characters involved in  a mystery set on the the Eastern Shore in 1976. Available on Amazon.

This is Brent and me at his book launch signing party. Where else but at a crab house on Kent Island.

Brent Lewis book signing

The fantastic cover of Brent’s book was designed by my multi-talented writing partner, Laura Ambler. Brent is also a long-time member of our Working Writers Forum which meets monthy.