Summer fades into fall

I see the beginning of fall not so much as a specific date, the autumn solstice, but rather a time when the days shorten, there is less humidity in the air, the yellow jackets hover over the grass like intense sentinels and the leaves (even if they don’t change color) begin to fall from the trees.

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Our Little Abby. Her first fall

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Joy and Turmoil

Gabe in snow

January 2018: Gabe at play

 

The past year has been one of both joy and turmoil.  We’ve welcomed two new members into our family.  Abby a lab puppy and Gabe a shepherd/lab mix we rescued from a kill shelter.  Abby is inquisitive; everything is new and exciting. She has let it be known that she loves to dig.  The landscaping within the chain link fence will definitely need work this spring.  She’s made a habit of digging in the perennial bed and at the base of shrubbery.  She picks up potted plants, tosses the plants aside and uses the pot as a chew toy.  Now Gabe is no innocent.  He takes great pleasure in running through the bushes and up the garden path kicking mulch into the air as he rounds the corner and sails off the retaining wall.   He’s also decided the raised bed near the garden shed we use for greens makes a wonderful perch from which to survey his domain.

Abby

January 2018: Abby’s first snow

I have come to realize that with 2 large young dogs we need to make a few changes in the landscape.  To start we need more grass, more mulch, and a secure cover over the worm bin.  Abby loves to play in the worm bin.  She will push the boards aside so she can root and pull out kitchen scraps which she uses as play toys.  There is nothing quite like seeing a pup run happily across the yard with a broccoli stalk held firmly between her teeth like a dumbbell.

Gabe water can snow

January 2018: Watering Can

The turmoil comes not from the dogs.  They are young, learning what is and isn’t acceptable, and very trainable.  The turmoil comes from our current president and the people he has put in place to run various federal agencies.  The administration has shown their intent to destroy many of our agencies (EPA, Education, HUD, Interior) by having them lead by individuals who do not believe in their mission.  Each day something which in my mind is horrible, a threat to the citizens of this nation, will be revealed and when I think it can’t get any worse, it does. I won’t go into specifics, what’s the point.  I’m preaching to the choir.  And those who support his policies, those who have drunk the Kool-Aid, won’t hear a word I say no matter how well sourced or reasoned.

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October 2018

I’ve come to the conclusion that my going slowly crazy and shouting at the moon changes nothing.  The older I get the faster time seems to go by and the more precious it becomes.   What I can do is live what I believe.  To make sure that what I do, be it training the dogs, working in the garden, or how I talk and interact with my fellow humans, is in tune with my beliefs.

Gabe at rest

A moment of rest

Some thoughts:

  1. Do not poison the soil, the water, or the air for these are needed to sustain life.
  2. There is no away, so reuse or re-purpose what you can.
  3. The spider in the corner of your window means you no harm.  He’s only trying to survive.  Let him.
  4. Don’t be quick to judge others for you do not know where they have been or the struggles they have endured.
  5.  People throughout the world want to provide a safe home for their family.  We are more alike than we are different
  6. Be gentle with all living things.  Minimize violence.
  7. Focus on the behavior you want to see.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”  Henry Miller

A time of change

As areas of the property that had been in full shade and under thick layers of pine straw are exposed to the warmth of the sun interesting plants are sprouting up everywhere.  When I first encountered this flower I had no idea what it was.  Then I learned it was called a May Apple.  It grows wild on the property and while easy to control spreads quickly.  The flowers are beautiful and it’s fun to pop open the fruit and suck the gelatinous material from the seeds on a hot summers day.

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On the other hand wild blackberries, while welcome, have proved to be quit invasive.   I’m trying to keep them on the outside of the chain link fence and on the hill.  So far I haven’t been successful despite pulling out the young canes by the wheel barrow load.

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Wild Black Berries. May 2017

Two weeks ago we got a new addition to the family.  A young dog we found at the Animal Shelter.  I don’t know who adopted who but he’s proven to be a good fit for our family and we love him dearly.  He respects the garden and while he doesn’t chase the rabbits his presence seems to act as a deterrent.  We call him Gabe.  Short for Gabriel.

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Gabriel. May 2017

A few days ago I heard knocking on the living room window and when I turned saw a finch.  It would go from one side of the window to the other and peck on the glass.  After thinking to myself how really strange this is I learned that he’s pecking at his reflection in the glass.  They are very territorial and it was nesting season.  He saw his reflection as a rival and was protecting his territory.

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Finch. May 2017

 

The 4 inch pot of lemon balm planted in the bed off the patio about 3 years ago has spread nicely.  I cut it back to about 6 inches harvesting the tops for tea.  A tub filled with water made it easy to wash the leaves.  After shaking off most of the water I brought them inside to dry on the rack in my office.  I’m still thinking about that first cup of tea and how I’m going to store the dried leaves.

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Lemon Balm. May 2017

It’s been a rainy spring and everything is lush and green.  The perennial bed is taking off and flower buds are beginning to open.

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Plants in the garden are flourishing

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Tomato (Celebrity?) May 2017

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German Butterball Potatoes. May 2017

And I’m a happy girl.

“In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.” Abram L. Urban

March, April 2017 in the garden

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Open pollinated seeds form Baker Creek. March 11, 2017

March is a time when my dreams for the garden start to take shape.  There are so many new varieties of plants I wanted to try; new varieties of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, herbs and greens.  In March my office is transformed into a nursery that slowly fills with my dreams for the garden.  They start small and with time grow to fill every inch of space under the grow lights.

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We’re trying two new (for us) varieties of tomato and pepper. March 11, 2017

Dreams like seedlings need to be nurtured.   With any luck if we nourish our dreams they will begin to grow and and with time become more than just dreams.

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Young tomato seedlings. March 26, 2017

7 years ago the gardens of my dreams were a combination of tree stumps, mud, and 40 years of pine needles.  Under thick layers of pine duff was NC red clay.  We could have mined the clay for bricks or pottery.   Digging when the soil was dry required a mattock.  When wet it was a sticky, slippery mess.

Starting to cleanup the bed by the patio. 2010

But today, the last day of April 2017, you can see that what began with a dream, a vision of what could be, has become our reality and begun to blossom.

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Dreams are important and with a lot of hard work and persistence they can come true.

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Dreams need to be nourished, cultivated…

 

 

Ohh what a mess

One of many pine stumps

There will be times when you feel overwhelmed and are filled with doubt…but don’t let it stop you.  If we continue to cultivate our dreams and aren’t afraid of hard work they can come true.

The yard you see in the image above has transformed into the one you see below.

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And the seedlings that started with a dream in March can also find a home in the garden.

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Now this rabbit and I have had many conversations.  She lives under the spirea bushes in the backyard.  We have a truce but then she also has her dreams.

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“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
Pope John XXIII

I hear stories…

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My neighbors chickens came over to visit.  March 10, 2017

I hear stories about an ever expanding population
and the fear that there will not be enough food to feed them.

I hear stories of the wonder, the saving grace of GMO crops
and how we will not be able to feed the masses without them.

I live in an area surrounded by dairy and chicken farms; fields of GMO corn, canola, and soybeans.
yet I see hunger in my community.

In a land of plenty.  In a land that lays claim to feeding the world
people go hungry every day.

You see the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough food,
but rather that it’s not accessible to those in need.

And the stories I hear… the stories being passed along are not about feeding the world
but rather stories of corporate greed, market share, and how to profit from the hunger… the desperation of others.

Corporations are making record profits
yet I see farmers who are struggling  and afraid of losing their farms.

In a land of plenty I see people without enough to eat.

And I hear stories of hunger.

 

 

As February Ends

As we near the end of another month I’m at a loss for words.  In my experience January and February are the coldest months.  Not this year. We’ve had more days above freezing then below and several days above 75 degrees F.  While I expect there will be many hard frosts and cold days ahead of us  I’m at a loss for words.  So I’ll just take you on a walk around the yard with me.

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Plum. February 26, 2017

I’m so glad I don’t make a living selling fruit.  Our plum is in full bloom and a hard freeze will destroy any hope of a crop.  While I would love to have plums the two trees are beautiful and a wonderful addition to the landscape.  When you look out the living room window they take center stage.

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Forsythia. February 26, 2017

Forsythia always makes me smile.  The bright yellow flowers cheer me.  The bed they are in has had a rough go.  First in the process of removing several massive pine trees they were crushed by falling limbs; next many were buried under a sea of wood chips; a year later their roots were assaulted when we had the stumps ground; and then they were buried under a sea of poison ivy and honeysuckle.  Over the weekend I pulled out the poison ivy and honey suckle.  I know they’ll be a price to pay.  But they look so much happier.

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Potato sprouting in worm bin.  February 26, 2017

This is our backyard worm bin.  I’m always amazed at the things that sprout in it.  I keep it filled with leaves and kitchen scraps.  Looks like a potato has taken root.

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Foggy morning.  February 23, 2017

We’ve had several foggy mornings. Can you see the cardinal in the fig tree?  We put a bird feeder right outside the dining room window and have so enjoyed watching the birds.

 

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Collard greens. February 18, 2017

This is one of the containers I had gotten to store rain water.  When it leaked I just cut it in half  and filled it with dirt and compost.  One half became a planter and the other  our worm bin.  It makes a great raised bed.  Just need to remember to water it.  Growing in raised beds and containers is a lot different than growing in the ground.  These are collard greens I planted in October.  They managed to survive the winter and gave us a wonderful dinner.

 

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The weeded strawberry bed.  February 26, 2017

The strawberry patch is looking good.  Yep, just finished weeding it and added a layer of shredded leaves.  Lots of new growth. I see a good crop of strawberries in our future.

Oh before you leave let me show you one more thing.  See these potatoes?

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Seed potatoes.  February 12, 2017

Last year we planted German Butterball potatoes.  At the end of the season we had a few that we didn’t plan on eating so I buried them under a pile of leaves.  I doubted they would survive and to be quite honest feared they would rot into a stinky mess.  But I was wrong.  They looked great.  Many were covered in sun starved shoots and long straggly roots.  I pulled most of these off.   Now I have more seed potatoes.  I planted them last week.

 

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February 23, 2017

Oh is it time to go already.  Well, thank you for coming over.  You’re always welcome here so don’t be a stranger.


“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”  Gertrude Jekyll

 

Change and valuing life…all life

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Bench in Snow. January 7, 2017

 

The start of January brought snow.  It was deep (relatively speaking), and beautiful.  Looking out across the landscape I felt like I was in a winter wonderland.  The light reflecting off the snow was so bright it hurt my eyes and I found myself squinting.  How easy it was for me to see the beauty in the snow; after all I had a warm house waiting for my return.  What if I didn’t have a home?  What if through no fault of my own the home and community I knew no longer existed?  Would I still be able to see the beauty of a snow covered landscape?

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I’m a big softy.  Hell, I worry about the worms in the bin.  To help them survive the cold I added a thick layer of leaves and topped things off with compost that was still fresh hoping it would add some warmth.  While the bin is bottomless and the worms are free to come and go I wasn’t sure they would find a space that gave them the conditions they need to survive.  This bin has been home to generations of worms.  The bin has always provided a nurturing environment.  While they may burrow deeper they are not likely to leave.  It would take a catastrophic event to force them from the bin.  It’s the only home they know.

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Garden path. January 25, 2017

 

My worries were short lived.  Within a week the snow was gone and I was outside in short sleeves.  The worms had made themselves at home in the extra leaves and all was right in my little corner of the world.  As long as I didn’t listen to the news, glance at a paper, or look at my Facebook feed.  Those who know me, really know me, will tell you I’m a little eccentric.  Come on, I feel bad for killing ants that come into the house.  I carry spiders out side.  I say a little prayer for the plants I pull out as weeds.  At heart I’m a pacifist.  But I’m not a pushover and you would be remiss to think so.

 

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Olive Oil infused with Alkanet Root. January 29, 2017

It angers me when I see people attempting to use fear and intimidation to get their way or exploit others.  It angers me when others belittle and berate those who do not agree with them or who dare stand up for themselves and their families.  I refuse to be indoctrinated into a system that wants me to fear people because they are different.  A system that will drive people, though war, form the only home they’ve known and then refuse them shelter.  I refuse to accept that this is right, or just.  It is not acceptable.

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Soap Colored with Alkanet Root. January 29, 2017

In many ways I may be more fortunate then some in this nation I call home.  I was never taught to fear or belittle those who didn’t look like me, who spoke a different language, professed a different faith or had different traditions.  If anything because differences weren’t singled out I grew up understanding that we are each worthy of respect, compassion, and to be valued.

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Olive Oil Infused with Madder Root. January 29, 2017

 

I was also taught that respecting a position, such as the presidency, is different than respecting the man who holds the title.  I will continue to welcome people of all nations, who are striving to protect and provide for their families, with an open heart. I will continue to look beyond the labels our society places on others and treat all with dignity and respect.  Exploiting the earth and those who make it their home is not a just act because it’s encouraged by the leaders of a nation. And those who are mocked, ridiculed and insulted are not the enemy.

The true enemy is a hard heart, greed, fear and a willingness to blindly follow.  I will not blindly follow.  I will not say yes and agree when I know in my heart that what is being spoken is a lie.  Not at any price.  And I cannot follow someone whose power is a result of exploiting peoples fears.

There is an alchemy at work.  Change is taking place.  Like my soap making experience it can turn out well or it can blow up in your face.  There is much I cannot change in the world. And while I worry about where my county is heading, where our current president’s policies will take us, it is not something I can control.  However, I can have a positive impact on those I come into contact with. And as I have so often heard – I can strive to be the change I want to see in the world.

And I despite it all can still laugh, I can still hope, and I can still dream…

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Sometimes you just need to laugh. January 22, 2017