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.


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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.


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.


Today I Get Pummeled

I have a body work guy who comes once a month to my house. He brings his massage table and works on my shoulders, frozen thoracic spine and hips. His name is Billy and sometimes he makes me cry. Billy has magic hands, but this is not a feel good massage; it’s deep tissue work getting my body ready for chiropractic adjustments by Dr. John Mitchie in Annapolis. I try to schedule Billy in the morning and Dr. Mitchie the same afternoon. I feel pummeled by the end of the day, but my spine is getting better.

If I was rich, I’d have Billy twice a week. Maybe then, I could have a feel-good massage occasionally tucked in between the body work.

I went to chiropracher Dr. Mitche originally for mid-thoracic issues. I think I may have hauled too many 40 pound bags of chicken feed or tuck-pointing cement. I actually think this all started the week we hand carried 20 thousand board feet of lumber from the pasture and stickered it up to dry in the barn. That was many, many years ago, but I’ve had back issues ever since.

My four mornings a week 7 a.m. yoga helps. Sitting at my desk writing for hours most certainly does not. I’m thinking about a standing desk. But it’s standing for a long period that really makes my mid-back hurt. Like the days I can tomato sauce or make jam. A conundrum… But all of this therapeutic work means I can work in the garden and not be crippled the next day. And I rarely take ibuprophen any more. A GI bleed (three years ago) that landed me in the hospital needing three pints of blood stopped that. Tumeric also helps.

Two weeks ago at the Farmers market I got some fresh lima beans. I shelled them and put them in the fridge not sure what I would do with them. Then, twice that week, guys who came to do appliance repairs at the house talked lima beans. These were shore boys who knew a thing or two about cooking fresh limas. Both told me to soak them overnight before cooking them. Fresh limas? Yes, overnight soak. That keeps them from being too starchy, I was told. The next day I cooked mine with a smoked ham hock and the result was creamy, delectable limas in a succulent broth.

The week after that I found cranberry beans at the Farmers Market. I’d never had them before and they were so beautiful, I just had to buy them. And Charlene, the vendor I bought them from, told me I’d never again use kidney beans in chili once I’d tried Cranberry beans. I also asked Charlene, from whom I’d bought the lima beans the previous week, about soaking fresh limas overnight. She’d never heard of that, but my results were so delicious I’d do it again. Fresh limas and cranberry beans are hard to find except for a very limited time at Farmers Markets.

I shelled mine, blanched them and now have four one cup bags in the freezer for winter soup. I found six pods that were quite dry. I set them aside to get totally dry and will save the seeds to plant next spring. This is a link to a Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli recipe. It sounds really good. First cold day, it’s going on the stove.

In the garden things are winding down. The huge pot of red geraniums that comes inside to bloom all winter has been cut back and the pot is sitting on the deck. I just have to wash the outside of the pot before my husband helps me bring it in. I can’t lift it on my own. A rootbound clivia has been divided and two repotted plants given to friends. The one I divided will come back inside for the winter, but I’m told by the gardener who gave me the original that it probably won’t bloom this winter. I also divided a huge agapanthus. I’ll bring a smaller pot of it inside, but haven’t quite decided what to do with the leftovers. Some people tell me they can winter over in our area, but I don’t have a sheltered place to plant them. They may go on the compost heap.

My bed at the community garden is full of winter greens. I should have radishes in two weeks.  I’ll put a row cover on it next week to keep out the falling leaves from a nearby maple.

A raised bed at home has bok choy that needs to be thinned. I’ll take the thinnings and plant them in another bed. That’s on the schedule for this weekend.

Soon I’ll be inside most days, with even more time spent at my desk. I really need to think about ordering that standing desk.



Tonight is a Harvest moon. We go to bed early, so I’m going to try and stay up for moonrise.

This year I bought some small yellow, Dutch potatoes at Harris Teeter. I thought they were so good I went in search of seed potatoes. The closest variety I could find was Yellow Finn so I ordered them and planted on St. Patrick’s day. I can’t remember the last time I planted potatoes. The harvest in late July wasn’t very big, but they were tasty. The plants had died back so I thought it must be time to dig them. It was probably a draw between what I paid for the seed potatoes and what the Dutch potatoes at Harris Teeter would have cost.

The volunteer eggplants produced but I can’t find the picture I took. My beds at the Community Garden are finished except for the purple sweet potatoes. They will be harvested after we have a frost. But the last of the tomatoes, carrots, beets and a couple of cukes were welcome.

I’m still making tomato sauce from the “not quite ripe” tomatoes I harvested. That is an attempt to outwit the squirrels. When I get to October, and am still making sauce, I wish the squirrels would have been more industrious. However, the last quarts of sauce went into the fridge instead of the canner. I can pull some out for soup and quick spaghetti sauce.

This is what you get if you don’t thin your carrots!

I’ve planted fall crops in one of my Community Garden beds and have planted some things in one bed at home. The others will be covered to sleep for the winter. The leaves are beginning to fall and a row cover makes spring clean-up easier. I saw a couple of Harlequin beetles the other day. I’m trying to hand pick them. What we really need is some cold weather. And, of course, rain. It’s very dry in the mid-Atlantic right now.

In between cooking and gardening, the writing continues. I spent the morning assigning new ISBNs to the three books. There is an ISBN for a print book and a different ISBN for an e-book. I can’t use the already assigned ISBNs as changing the author’s name or cover is too big a shift.


Take a Walk Through My Garden

Take an early morning walk through my garden with me. I often take photos then because the light is so lovely. Here are some of my favorites from last week. After my walk, I am ready to sit at my desk and write.

Take a walk through your yard, no matter the size, or down the street of your neighborhood and look closely. There is beauty to be found.



Fall Has Arrived

The new furnace has a thermostat that shows the outside temperature. 59 the other morning – that required a sweater. I love fall weather. Crisp mornings and evenings and mid 70’s during the day. Flowers are still blooming including one confused azalea. The flowers are beautiful so I’m going to pin down some low branches to make new plants. I think this plant came from my mother’s azalea garden and I have no idea what the name is. The only one I remember is Martha Hitchcock which has a very similar flower but in shades of purple.

Seeds for fall crops are going in a couple of the raised beds. On Saturday my husband helped me take the tomatoes down in my Community Garden bed and cut them up for the compost bin. Then we added some amendments (LeafGro) and dug the bed. I’ll seed it today. Two kinds of kale, some radishes, turnips and a couple of rows of leftover seeds just to see if they germinate.

My parsnip seeds never germinated. They came from Johnny’s Seeds and that was surprising and disappointing. I paid extra for pelleted seeds as parsnip seed is tiny. But not one parsnip seed germinated when I planted mid-summer. I think I’ll plant a row now  and see if I have better luck. You can do fall parsnips for spring harvests but I might be a bit late.

I had the last “student” at my leaf casting station.

Those concrete leaves will go to yoga class this morning to be delivered. Most of the sand I used for forms has been scattered around. It will eventually help my clay soil. The  I’ve been wanting to do some hypertufa planters and at Lowe’s yesterday found smaller bags of perlite and sphagnum moss so I think I will have to do that before it really gets cold. Then that flat door I’ve been using as a work station can go back into the garage as a colder weather project table.

My first book is at the proofreaders. The second in the series is on the dining room table. I have another plot thread I want to add, and then it will go to the proofer. I am quite impressed so far with her work. She’s asking all the right questions and is only occasionally confounded by some patois slang I use in dialogue.

When work on the second book is completed I will go back to working on book 3. I need to get up and move after working on the books and sitting for hours. These outside projects give me that opportunity. I supposed I could pull out furniture and clean behind, but being outside is always the option I’d rather choose.