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.

 

 

One Thing Leads to Another

You know how this goes. You want to get a project finished, but before you can really start there are other things that have to be done.

The project: fill the window boxes in the front of the house.

Last Thursday the Green Thumb Garden group of the St. Michaels Woman’s Club took a bus trip to London Town in Edgewater, MD. We had the first day with no rain in 20 days. After touring Londontown and its beautiful, soggy gardens we boarded the bus to Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, MD. We were there to shop! The bus had loads of room underneath and Homestead Gardens has a fabulous selection of plants for my window boxes. Oh, and llamas and alpacas.

mala and alpaca

I wanted to find a replacement Golden Showers rose. It’s a pillar rose and the one I have is ten years old and showing its age. Three years ago I ordered another one from Wayside Gardens to put in as a replacement. It has not done well. And the three Fairy roses I ordered from Wayside the same year have never bloomed! I am not ordering plants from Wayside again anytime soon.

Homestead was very low on climbing roses and did not stock Golden Showers. I bought a pink climber to try. I also was in the market for annuals to fill the window boxes on the front of the house. Homestead had Sunpatiens – a new cultivar of New Guinea impatiens that does well in the sun. So I bought 15 which is what I need for the five window boxes. I fill in with some other things – so I bought more plants.

homestead larger cropped

Before I began on the window boxes I needed to plant that rose. I started to dig a hole but the ground was so wet that I abandoned that and will try again when things have dried out. See all those maple tree helicopters. That’s another project with the blower, but requires the fliers to be dry.

Now I had the plants, but before I could plant the window boxes I had to make sure the drip irrigation system was working. That required a trip to the store for new 9V batteries. I have two drip irrigation systems. One for the window boxes and one for the raised veggie beds. The systems have timers which need to be set for day, time of irrigation and number of minutes. But before you can do that you have to set the time and day you are setting up the system. All this is done using five little buttons. Something has to be blinking before you can program it. Since I do this once a year I never can remember the sequence. Even with the instructions it’s daunting. However this year I resolved to program the darn things before I put them on the hose. Every year in the past I’ve installed them and then ended up lying on my back trying to figure it out. Result: lots of cursing and plants getting watered at strange times.

irrigation sideways tweaked

So now the gizmo is programed and ready to be attached to the hose. It’s really windy today, so I’ll wait until tomorrow. Then I need to turn it on and see if there are any leaks in the system. Then I can  plant my window boxes. The weather forecast is for cold night temps tonight. I don’t want to put the boxes out and have them blasted. Tomorrow might be a good day. Those window boxes will be in by the end of May.

I still have to program the system for the raised veggie beds and test it. I know there is a major leak in one of the big hoses. Damn squirrels chewed it last fall. But, of course, I didn’t put a piece of tape around it so have to turn on the system and be prepared to get wet while I hunt for the leak. Like I said, one thing leads to another. But I am going to get the system set up before I attach it to the hose outlet. I do occasionally learn to work smarter.

Note: The bunnies have found my raised veggie beds. The BB gun is coming out of the closet.

 

A White Christmas and a Winter Harvest

We spent Christmas in Montana with my son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters home from college. It was snowing when we were picked up at the airport and kept snowing for the next four days. About 24″ in all. I call this a Montana snow gauge. It’s a piece of plywood on a post and in the summer it’s a bird feeder. In the winter it makes a handy snow gauge.

Montana show gauge

The snow was beautiful. It’s been years since we’ve experienced a white Christmas.The house should be on a Christmas card. In Montana life doesn’t stop because of snow. We drove through snow covered roads to see the new Star Wars movie. I have to say I was a little disappointed. Maybe because I must have missed some of the intervening movies.

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Warm and cozy inside the house, we knit, baked cookies, and my granddaughters made a Kransekakke – a Norwegian wreath cake. The recipe is: 1 lb ground almonds, 1 lb confectioners sugar, 3 egg whites. The dough is rolled into snakes and put into special pans which create 18 rings – each a little smaller than the one before. This has become a tradition for the Christmases we spend in Montana. Traditionally you remove the rings from the bottom up so the tree shape remains. We took a vote and after Christmas dinner (where everything on the table with the exception of a can of cream of mushroom soup came from the homestead), and began eating the cake from the top down.

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When I posted pictures of the snow on Facebook people responded that they had the AC on on Christmas day on the Eastern Shore. We came home yesterday and today I went to my raised bed at the St. Michaels Community Garden. Here’s my harvest from December 29th, 2015. Kale, chard, spinach, hakuri turnips and carrots.

winter harvest

I was wondering when the seed catalogs would start to arrive. This is what was in the mail we picked up at the post office Tuesday morning. Spring gardening will be here before I know it. In the meantime, somebody needs to tell the daffodils NOT YET! Plants on the
Eastern Shore are very confused because of the warm temps.

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Merrily We Roll Along Toward Fall Gardening

Theater

Our area is rich in talent. On Sunday, Laura, my husband and I went to the Oxford Community Center to see Merrily We Roll Along. We went mostly because Laura’s nephew, Sam Stenecker was the lead in the show. And Tally Wilford was the director. Tally manned the light boards for the Avalon production of our play, The Santa Diaries. It’s always fun to see people you know in a show, and I don’t know why I am always stunned at the local talent.

Merrily We Roll Along is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The book is by George Furth. I have to say I’m not a huge Sondheim fan. I don’t find myself humming the melodies, but the lyrics are another matter. The songs and the play made us think about the choices we make in life and the results. The cast was terrific with some exceptional voices. It has been so interesting to watch Laura’s nephew, Sam, mature as a performer. He’s grown from a gangly adolescent into an actor with presence and leading man looks. His acting is top notch and his voice superb.

Directory Tally Wilford has had theater in his blood since he was a kid. At sixteen he founded the Underground Actors. He and his group have been producing plays ever since.

The play starts in 1976 with the characters in middle age at the peak of their careers and moves backwards in time to 1973, 1968 and 1966. We see the choices the characters make which don’t lead them to happier lives. Definitely a play to discuss at dinner after… which we did by enjoying a corner booth at Scossa in Easton. Laura got an order of veal meatballs to take home to her hubby who was getting in later that night from a flight.

Tomatoes That Won’t Quit

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I pulled out the eight Roma tomato plants out of my bed at the St. Michaels Community Garden. Enough is enough. I still have a couple of plants at home, but they are history this weekend. In the meantime I continue to can tomato sauce and gift it to friends.

 

Gardening Rolls Along

IMG_0352Fall plants go in tomorrow. Chard, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and lettuce. I’ve also planted some seeds, but am hedging my bets with nursery starts. The nights are getting cooler and seed germination gets tricky.

Tomatoes and Tunes

The Roma tomatoes at my raised bed in the St. Michaels Community Garden are going to town. That bed gets more sun than my raised beds at home, so I planted eight seedlings. I’m beginning to think that was a couple too many.  IMG_0264

This is the fourth time I’ve had a sinkful of tomatoes that needed to get cooked down into sauce and put through the hot water bath canner. I now have twenty-five pints of thick tomato sauce seasoned with Fish peppers, basil, thyme, and oregano (all from my garden) and there’s only two of us. I think tomatoes are going to start going to the food pantry. Plan B would be to keep canning tomato sauce and not plant any tomatoes next year.

Saturday night we took advantage of a free concert in Easton – Amy Black and Sarah Borges singing the music of Muscle Shoals. It was hot, but the Eastern Shore humidity was down and the sun was behind the buildings on the west side of Harrison Street.

IMG_0278It was a rockin’ concert that had people up and dancing in the street, including some wee ones who already had amazing moves. If I’d been closer I would have caught a video on my phone. Laura was slammed with logistics for the new DOD contract or she would have been there with her husband.

We are lucky to live in an area where the arts are so encouraged and appreciated. The concert was sponsored by The Avalon Foundation and the Tidewater Hotel. Harrison Street was full from Dover to Goldsborough.

This next week work begins the task of pulling together information for the speakers at for the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference website. And Eastern Shore Writers Association  member renewals are coming in. I put together the information that goes into the member directory and update the database. August and September are going to be busy. The tomatoes should be finished soon. Thank goodness!

Paris and Back

I’m back from ten days in Paris with my husband and a Montana granddaughter. We saw all the sights. The Eiffel Tower at night from a river cruise…

Eiffel tower at night

We took a cooking class. That’s Chef Constance in the red apron. We went to the markets, bought fresh ingredients, came back to cook and then ate the best meal we had in Paris. I learned I’d never cooked mushrooms properly.

Ellen cooking

We walked and walked and walked. Took the subway and rode buses. My FitBit was still on East Coast time, but clocked one day at over nine miles. The granddaughter got oriented right away and after two days I think we could have turned her loose and she would have found her way back to the hotel.

We love Paris, despite the drama two years ago when Roger’s leg was broken in the subway and he had to have emergency surgery. It was so much fun to introduce the City of Lights to our granddaughter. She’ll go back at some point and explore. We were thrilled to be able to open that door for her.

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Now that I’m home there are things to accomplish.

While I was gone both Laura and I both were elected to the board of Eastern Shore Writers Association. We had lunch last Thursday with the incoming President, Mindie Burgoyne, to plan strategy. The Association needs to revisit what it’s members want it to be. That process will begin in July. I am the new Parlimentarian. Robert’s Rules of Order is on its way from Amazon. Laura is the new Secretary.

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference plans continue. We have most of the speakers lined up but need commitments from a few more. Then work on the website begins. Registration for the early March conference begins in October. We always sell out and have a long waiting list.

I’m involved in the annual summer Membership drive for the Eastern Shore Writers Association. There are labels to make from the database for the renewal letters which go out in mid July. Then work begins on the Member Directory as the renewals come in.

Laura and I are planning to publish our screenplays (and one play) on Kindle. I was working on the formatting before this trip. We need to decide on a strategy. All of them at once? One a week? And, of course, how to let the world know they’re out there.

We’ve had lots of rain and the helicopters from our six maple trees are sprouting endlessly. If I wasn’t pulling up the baby trees, our lot would be totally overgrown in a couple of years. When I get over my jet lag and am feeling less like I barely survived the Zombie apocalypse, I’ll spend some time every day pulling weeds.

My bed at the St. Michaels Community Garden is doing well. Eight Roma tomato plants and a couple of rows of beans. That bed gets more sun than my raised beds at home, although I have tomatoes here as well. I’ve already eaten a few Sungold cherry tomatoes and have fruit on all the other tomato plants – the heirloom Nebraska Wedding plants I raised from seed and the Costoluto Fiorentino given to me by a yoga class friend. She had been in Italy and said there were only two kinds of tomatoes in the markets. Romas (paste tomatoes) and these ridged Costolutos. She tracked down seeds, started them and I was a lucky recipient. Canning tomato sauce will begin by the end of July.

For now, between ticking off the list, I’m trying to keep up the walking. Those croissants are going to take their toll if I don’t. Paris was wonderful, but it’s good to be home.

We Should Have Moved the Tree

I have a small weeping Japanese maple in my garden. I bought it as a rooted stick at the Philadelphia Flower Show twenty years ago. When we moved to St. Michaels ten years ago, the tree came with us. It liked the place I planted it and has thrived.

When I put in my raised vegetable beds there was plenty of room between the end of the bed and the small tree. Five years later the tree was encroaching on the bed and I was afraid I’d break something every time used that shortcut to get to other parts of the garden.

moving the raised bed

My husband and I looked at it and I decided we needed to move the garden bed. This required removing most of the dirt out of the bed. The drip irrigation system will have to be reworked as well. We started shoveling yesterday. It was warm and late afternoon and in the sun. We didn’t last very long.

This morning we worked again. Cooler, not in the sun, but we still had to sit down every once in a while. Sitting at the computer does not prepare you for this kind of work. I reminded myself it was that horrid cardio I’m supposed to get in every day. It had rained last night so the dirt stuck to the shovels like heavy, wet snow. We made a lot of progress and got the bed mostly emptied, levered up with bricks underneath.

Tomorrow we’ll see if we can move the wooden frame two feet away from the tree. At one point, on my knees in the mud, I said to my husband, “It would have been easier to move the tree.” He looked at me and said, “I didn’t know that was an option.”  I rocked back on my heels and wondered. Was moving the tree really an option? Probably not. But at that moment, I might have been persuaded.