Hummingbirds and Elephant Ears

Early this summer I bought two hummingbird feeders. I mixed up the sugar water, filled the feeders and waited. I put fresh sugar water in them weekly and waited…and waited…and waited. No hummingbirds found my feeders. Perhaps I had too many flowers in my yard.

 

Yesterday I saw a hummer visiting the bee balm. So I mixed up a new batch of nectar and moved the pole. I am hoping for visitors.

Those large elephant ear plants behind the feeder now have big enough leaves that I am having a rolling leaf casting workshop. When I made them last year several people said they’d like to learn how to do it. I have everything set up in the driveway, but one person at a time is all I can handle. This is my friend, Diane, who made two castings last week.

Here are her finished castings. I don’t know if she’ll want to paint them. That will be another project. You can see that one has a hole in it where the stem of the leaf was. She wants that one for a birdbath, so I will plug the hole with cement tomorrow morning when I have another friend coming.

It’s fun to do projects with friends on these cool mornings. That leaves the afternoon for working on my novel. The castings have to stay on the table for a day before they can lifted off the sand support. The sand can then be reshaped for my next student. And while we are working, I can keep my eyes open for visiting hummers.

Squash – the Triumph of Hope over Experience

It feels like I’ve written this blog post before. Why can’t I outwit squash borers? I grow my squash from seed under grow lights. Tending them religiously, hardening them off before planting in my raised beds. I even rotate the beds. This year I had a couple of new beds at the community garden. They aren’t the best beds. Right under an old silver maple, they needed deep digging and now constant watering. But, I thought, there was no squash in this bed last year so I might have a fighting chance.

I did suffer something of a setback when I dropped the tray that held all the squash seeds I’d planted. I was working in the garage in preparation for bringing the tray inside to put it on a heating pad for plants to encourage germination.

I put the seeds back in the peat pots trying to match what I’d written on the craft sticks. Was this a Blue Hubbard or a zuchinni seed? In some ways it didn’t matter. I’d know soon enough once the plants were outside and began blooming and setting fruit.

Two zuchinni plants at the community garden were doing well. I got at least four small zuchinni, but today I began to see some yellowing on the leaves, a sure sign of borers at work. The other squash in that bed aren’t thriving. I do see a very small spaghetti squash coming along. Those vines should be covering that bed by now. Maybe that’s why that bed went unclaimed this year. But I didn’t give up. I planted more squash seeds. There’s still time for a squash harvest as we have late frosts.

The squash plants at home were doing extremely well. In fact, I have two blue hubbards and one naguri. Both the blue hubbards were doing well. I used some tomato cages I’d made from concrete reinforcing wire for the vines to climb on before I realized the blue hubbards can get huge. In my mind I was figuring out solutions to that problem. Then one of the blue hubbards didn’t seem to be growing. This morning this is what I saw.

The other blue hubbard is much larger and that vine okay. This is so disappointing. Commercial farmers are able to grow squash. What do they do to keep squash borers at bay? Everything on line is something I’ve tried except noxious chemicals – although I might consider… Once the leaves start to yellow, it’s too late to do anything. I wonder what immature blue hubbard squash tastes like?

But the real question is why do I keep trying? When every year the outcome is the same.

I suppose it’s partly because it’s a challenge and I want to figure out how to solve this problem. That may be some of my Viking heritage at play. Those men and women got on their ships and sailed out of the fiords and didn’t know what they’d find. It was a challenge. Of course, it was too cold to grow squash in northern Norway and they were looking for plunder and slaves, not a lovely blue hubbard squash to turn into the best “pumpkin” pie ever to grace a Thanksgiving table.

When the seed catalogs arrive next winter, will I be able to resist ordering squash seeds? Somehow I doubt it.

 

A Busy, Busy Week

There’s always one week in June that’s packed. It was last week. It started on Monday with a trip to my husband’s hearing aid guy. It’s just a trip to Easton, but the appointment is thorough and long and I like to go along so I can tell Mike Canary MY experience of my husband’s state of the art (and very expensive) hearing aids. It seemed to me I was again having to repeat things two or three times so some adjustments were needed. We are finding out that hearing loss is very complicated and the aids, even with all the bells and whistles, don’t make it easier for my husband to hear in situations with more than a couple of people. Restaurants are a nightmare.

On Tuesday I helped a friend make 17 small arrangements for the annual Woman’s Club of St. Michaels luncheon that was on Wednesday. These were gifts for the incoming officers and board of directors. I always learn something about flower arranging when I work with Barb Colledge. This time it was how you determine the height of an arrangement that will go on a dining table. No higher than your fist when you place your elbow on the table.

Wednesday was the luncheon at which the club of presents its annual scholarship. This year the $6000 award was split between two deserving students from St. Michaels High School.

I did a press release and sent this photo and one of the incoming board to our local paper, The Star Democrat.

On Thursday I drove to Annapolis for a chiropractic visit and then to Costco in Glen Burnie to pick up my new glasses. Traffic over the Bay Bridge was fine both ways. This time of year that’s always a concern. It’s an hour drive (on good days) to Annapolis, so I try to fit in a visit to Trader Joe’s if I can.

On Friday was a Hats in the Garden Party at the Woman’s Club. This year I have been the co-chair of Green Thumb (the gardening group at the club ) with Carol Meholic and we made a fantastic team. We divided tasks and every monthly event went smoothly. At this party, guests were asked to wear hats they already owned or created and people voted for their favorites. These were the two winners, Joanne Buritsch and Barbara Rose.

We had lovely weather for the party in the garden behind the Woman’s Club – a garden where I spend a lot of time weeding. Almost fifty club members attended.

Saturday my husband and I helped at the Farmer’s Market in the morning and that evening there was a pot luck supper for our neighborhood association. I made a rice salad, and forgot to take pictures.

And on Sunday Laura and I and two other friends went to Center Stage to see Jazz and then out to dinner. The show was an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s book and it was too confusing to be enjoyable. But dinner after was, as always, wonderful.

This week has been much less busy. There has been time to write every day and get some yard work done early in the morning. We had a couple of very hot days and we could really use some rain, so I’m hauling the hose around. While I do that I think about the next scene I’m writing.  I’m past the middle of the book and am making steady progress.

 

My Garden and Writing Process Evolves

Last Sunday was a beautiful day. Saturday’s rains had blown through and my gardens are lush and blooming. I took my iPhone with its wonderful camera out to take some photos. The back yard looks like a park. Although we live in a neighborhood and have houses on three sides of us, the garden I have created over the last ten years now gives us a sense of restful privacy.

None of this was here eleven years ago this August when we moved in. I found a photo I took of the back of the house when we bought it. We had a double lot (almost 2/3 of an acre0, seven wonderful old maple trees and a little landscaping in the front that had been planted through landscaping cloth. I spent many hours removing that.

And this was the shed.

To my gardener’s eye the property was a blank canvas, but it needed some definition and I knew that we needed some place to put compost heaps, unused pots, garden stuff that you don’t need right now, but might in the future. Things you don’t want to see. I installed sheets of wood lattice attached to 4×4 pressure treated posts across the back of the property about 10 feet from the property line. Eight of them. I staggered them to create the beginnings of paths. Along the property line between us and the neighbors I installed three more. One property line has a privacy fence as the next door house was fairly close to our property line and it looked like their backyard was a big chunk of our back yard.

By the shed I installed white plastic lattice to make the shed took more important. We put window boxes on the shed and painted them yellow. This is what it looked like four years later. Unfortunately that gorgeous Golden Shower pillar rose never looked this good again. I’m now trying some alternatives.

A year after we bought the house we did renovations and added a deck out the back of where we had installed french doors flanking the fireplace. Now I could think about some landscaping.

The next year we added benches around the deck, and two years ago some railings by the steps. This is what the back of the house looks like now.

I’m thinking that my gardening process is not unlike my writing process. I spend time in the garden looking at it and thinking, visualizing. Then I plant and sometimes it’s successful and sometimes not. I move things around. A small decorative maple now happily located near the deck was moved three times. It will stay where it is.

I continue to work on book three in the Caribbean series. I spend a lot of time thinking about the characters and the story which is FINALLY revealing itself to me. I had to make a time line because I knew scenes were out of sequence. The story takes place in the summer of 2004 and thanks to the internet I could print out a calendar of those months and even find out when the moon was full. That full moon is important in making one of the bush medicine potions that is part of the plot. What the heck did writers do before Google?

At any rate, my garden evolves as does the story I am writing. The garden will never be finished. I am hopeful the novel will.

 

 

A Busy Weekend

Next year will be the 20th year of the St. Michaels Farmers Market. It was started by a couple of women who then helped start other farmers markets in the area. They called them Fresh Farm Markets and the parent organization provided insurance, organizational help, etc. Fresh Farm Markets are now primarily on the Western Shore (Annapolis, DC, etc.) and this is the last year they will be the umbrella organization for the St. Michaels market. We are in transition this year but have wonderful vendors with terrific products. It’s fun getting to know the farmers.

I volunteered to help get out the weekly market reminders on MailChimp. It was something I knew how to do and enjoy. And my husband and I have been volunteering some Saturdays to help with market set-up. We are scheduled to do that again this weekend. Last Saturday was rainy and I woke up this morning at 3:30 to the sound of rain. It seems to have moved off for now, but even if it rains, people come prepared.

By the time we got to the market at 7:30 it was 65 degrees and not raining. The market was bustling by the time I left at 10. I’d walked over to the Community Garden to take a look at a bed nobody wanted. I’ll weed it this weekend and plant some blue hubbard squash I raised from seed. The beds at the Community Garden are 14 feet long so the plants will have plenty of room to run.

Last week at the Farmers Market I bought a loaf of low gluten bread. What a treat. We don’t keep bread in the house because my husband has gluten sensitivity. We had the last few pieces last night – toasted and topped with homemade guacamole – while we played rummy.

The town will be chockablock this morning. Besides the Farmers Market, it’s the weekend of the St. Michaels Wine Festival. People who live in town have to put up with more than the usual weekend foot traffic – and some drunken shenanigans. We helped one of the first years of the Wine Festival when it was held at the Maritime Museum grounds. Now it is spread all over town at inside venues and tented spaces.We usually don’t go into town on Wine Festival Weekend unless we need to.

This afternoon we are helping with an event to be held at the Avalon Theatre in Easton. It is a fund raiser for the Talbot Interfaith Shelter. People will gather to sing together, raising positive vibrations in our community for this very good cause. Here’s the link to the inspiration. It gives me chills every time I watch it.

I’ll let you know how it turns out. When I get home I’m working in the garden. I have Amish paste tomato plants to get in the ground and my husband is going to mow at the Community Garden. This is the time of year when sometimes the grass needs to be mowed twice a week.

 

Juggling Writing and the Garden

Being outside is where I want and need to be, but my characters are tugging at me. I still don’t know how this third book in the Caribbean series ends, but I am writing small chapters about things I think need to happen. The flow isn’t there yet, but it seems to be helping me move forward.

Yesterday I printed out all the scenes separately. That will allow me to rearrange them and insert new scenes where I think they should go. I have a board with post-it notes of the scenes on it, but that doesn’t seem to do it for me. I’ll try this and see what happens. It reminds me of my wonderful daughter-in-law who is, among other things, a talented quilter. She puts the pieces of a quilt on her wall and is able to look at it to see if the pieces need to be moved around.

I am 200 pages into this book and it may be 300 or 350 before I get it all down. It won’t be that long when it’s finished because this is a first draft. Then the revision work begins.

Revision in the garden is ongoing. A small maple has grown to the point that things I had planted around it needed to come out. There were two Limelight hydrangeas near the deck that always got taller than a wanted and blocked the view to other parts of the garden. One of them was destroyed when we dug it, but the other one was moved to another spot where it is leafing out nicely. My spring and fall blooming iris have made their spring appearance.

I am also potting up volunteers and divisions for the plant sale at a Green Thumb meeting at the St. Michaels Woman’s Club the second week in May. I noticed a small Shademaster locust near the mother tree in the back. It is about the size as the one I brought home from that same plant sale eight years ago. It is now 20 feet tall. A fast grower.

Helicopter Wars

We have beautiful old silver maples on our property – seven of them spaced around the house. Many people consider them junk trees, but I am quite fond on them. We had an old silver maple in Harford Country. It was the tree our children’s tree swing was in and it shaded our 200 year old stone house. That tree was probably 100 years old when it was felled in a storm. We replaced it with another large caliper silver maple. We hoped the family who bought our house would install a swing for their children.

That’s the romantic side of the silver maple story. The downside is that they have a gazillion helicoptered seeds (called samaras) in the spring.

As I look out my office window, the trees look as though they are leafing out. There are tiny leaves coming, but those cursed helicopters are getting ready to be blown into the quarter inch spaces between the boards on my deck. They float down gracefully, spinning one way and then become sidewinder missiles on a mission.

It takes weeks for all the helicopters to come off the trees. Once we think they’re down, it takes us days to dig them out of the deck. Usually on our hands and knees with lots of cursing. So this year we decided to try and get ahead in the war on helicopters so we covered the deck with tarps!

Then the wind began to blow and we scurried to find more bricks. The deck always has to be cleaned with deck cleaner once the helicopters are removed, so we are hopeful that the tarp solution will work. I am a little concerned, however, that we may grow an impressive crop of mold underneath the tarps. Enough air seems to be getting under the tarps that maybe that won’t be a problem.

The helicopters are also a problem in my garden. I am amazed that the whole East Coast has not been covered in silver maples. I blow them out of the garden and into drifts on the driveway. I pull them out as they sprout. Those seeds are tenacious. I am already finding tiny maple trees in my garden beds and the helicopters have barely begun to spin. They must be from last year’s seeds.  I can’t cover my garden beds with tarps, but I’m hoping they help on the deck.

On Google I learned that you can eat maple seeds. Not the wings, but the seed is apparently quite good roasted. Who knew? Sounds like a lot of work to me (I buy my pistachio nuts and peanuts shelled), but if I’m in a survival situation I’m all set.