Friday, August 23, 2013

A Bit Introspective

So today I took another introspective drive up to my mother's house. The sky was gray and threatening to rain on the trip up, so I took that as a good sign. I put in my CD The Two Towers once again. The ride up was unremarkable until the ride home.
The music of the Lord of The Rings has a way of slowing things down and making one aware of the passing of time. As my tires rolled off the mountain into the quiet town of Thurmont, I passed a yard with a little ornamental maple tree. Now the trees on the mountain would not change their leaves for weeks, but around the base of this little tree were tiny yellow leaves. It hit me that summer was wrapping up to a close and the Autumn would soon come quietly, in all its blaze of color. How many Autumns have I seen in my life? A few enough, but how many could I remember? Time became very slow in this moment.
I considered how things were constantly changing in life, how my children were growing, and how I was constantly rushing around. It has always bothered me that the world runs by a clock. Why must I rush about everywhere?
And as I continued my drive, pulling onto the highway, big heavy rain drops started to fall in large splatters on my windshield. It was as if the angels were weeping, sopping, fitful tears. Perhaps they were crying for the passage of time that rolls on, for I too felt it. Soon enough the large sloppy splatters turned into a gentle rainfall as if the angels were saying they were sorry for the outburst, and now these were tears of peace and tranquility.
The music brought my mind to kingdoms and battles fought. My mind lately has been on the Kingdom of Heaven and the noble and great ones that have fought in the wars of Heaven. How with the passing of time, the valiant still fight against evil. The fight for Middle Earth may be a fictional tale, but it echos the same tragic yet hopeful story of time. All ages everywhere fight for something.
The passing of time may move slowly at times or it may speed up. But we control what we do each minute and we can stand steadfast in our place in time. We can be the valiant warrior, or the humble hobbit. I find peace in knowing that everything has its purpose and its time and place. We can move through life purposefully, which has always been my desire. Days like this are needed to remember, for if we can not remember, what is it all for?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hide and Seek Green Beans!

So let me just tell you about my experience with green beans. Growing up in my family of seven, five children. My industrious father would plan eight forty foot long rows of bush beans. Each child was supposed to pick a row of green beans. As a fourteen year old let me tell you how I bulked at this idea. The bush beans were low to the ground, I had to get down on my hands and knees in the grass clippings we used as mulch and comb through the scratchy bushes. They made my arms itch and the yellow bean bugs were everywhere and they would get smashed on my fingers and hands, and the sun was blazing hot. I hated it.
Then the agony was not over. We got about six to seven pounds of green beans at one time every third day. My mother told me sometimes it would be nine pounds! So what do you think we had to do after that? Snap them and freeze them. My mother would man the processing, and the rest of us went to work. It was a long task that made your shoulders ache and your fingers hurt. I remember piles of beans on my mothers antique oak dining table and piles of the snappings, the humidity in the air from the boiling pot in the kitchen, and the sounds of the rolling water. We had a double sink in the kitchen that my mother filled with ice cold water and she would lift the batch out of the boiling pot and dump them in the first sink of cold water and then put some more beans in the pot. Then we moved the first batch to the second sink to cool even more. It was a big process and I think the memory of it is what scared me to ever try it on my own.
Well as an adult, I started buying frozen green beans in the grocery store. Let me tell you, they just don't taste the same. It was really depressing. So I decided I must plant my own green beans.
Fast forward to now, nineteen years later. I had in my seed packets a bag of pole beans that were a couple years old. I was going to use them up just to be rid of them. In prior years my green bean crop had been literally only about a hand full of green beans, because I knew from experience, in order to get enough to freeze, it takes a lot of work, work which I was not quite ready for. So I prepped my garden this spring. The north side of the bed was 10 feet long. I planted a row with the beans about every three inches apart. And I still had beans left in my bag, so I started another row only about four inches away and spaced the beans the same. I did this for a total of four rows. I put up one trellis across the whole back of the garden that was only five feet tall.
I watched as my four rows sprouted. I watched as they started to climb the trellis. Every sprout twining around the netting. The four rows massed together to make an impressive wall of beans. Never did I think this would be so successful. My green beans are now coming in. Every third day I go out and pick a pound of green beans. As I comb through the scratchy leaves and hear the mosquitoes buzzing in my ears, I think that I am on a hide and seek hunt. Every bean is hidden so perfectly and you have to part the leaves aside to find them. Just when you think you are done then you find another bean and another. I am so amazed, so excited. A pound of green beans frozen makes about one quart size baggie.
So every couple days I can blanch the single pound and freeze them and guess what? It is not so intimidating doing a small batch. It wouldn't be enough to feed us a whole year such as my parents crop did, but it is very empowering all the same.
I just did a batch this morning and picked another one. The memories of picking green beans will live on. How I am thankful of the toiling my father gifted us with when I was young. I might not ever had attempted such a thing on my own if I had not experienced and known of the blessing of tasting your own.
In the center is a pound of green beans!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What a Mess!

This summer has the most usual weather that I can remember. We get rain almost every other day. Sometimes I wake in the morning and the ground is wet from a rain during the night. I am just thankful that I have not had to do much watering this summer, except that one dreadful week. My little pine still has some brown spots, though I trimmed a lot off, it needs another trimming. I think that since I am over the shock of its injury I can get on with the final trim and she can start on the healing.
Last night we received a torrential downpour with distant thunder and lightning. I find it so refreshing to hear it pounding on the roof and the ground, drowning out the sounds of everything else in the world. Wake up to bird bathes filled and a wet drooping garden. Everything that I have in my garden seems to need staking at one point of another. It doesn't help that most of my plants are drought tolerant and all this rains makes them droop from heaviness--the plants suck up too much of the moisture. So everything is sodden and sad.
The wetness makes dark days feel like I am living in a marsh. I went out today and stepped through the soaked grass and let the mosquitoes bite my arms, they seem to think it a bog as well. If our climate is going to become more tropical I will have to change my garden scheming.
I already have plans in place to add more shrubs. I find that with my increasing health issues that is the best low maintenance way. I have this spot in my backyard that is shrouded by the branches of my neighbors mulberry tree. She drops her stinking berries in this dreaded spot where I have tried to make a lovely garden and really it is just a fermenting, bug filled mess. So I have plans to relocate many of the perennials and rake it smooth and plant grass. This will help with all the hidden craggy places the mosquitoes like to breed. Next to this garden was an old shed platform that my husband finally pulled out. He had to cut away the plywood boards and dig up the old beams. Underneath revealed an old ground hog tunnel that we had long ago sealed off. This too will become lawn--nothing does well in that forsaken corner.
So my motto has become--simplify, whereas before I was obsessed with order and every little plant in its place. Simply put, you can not control how your garden grows no matter how much you try. They plants will either grow too big, droop or die off or look lovely for a few weeks and they brown the next. I learn to take it as it comes and still find beauty as it is.
Several days ago the American Gold Finch found her way back to my yard as they do every year at this time to find the seed heads of my purple cone flowers and monarda. I leave the heads just for them. My naked ladies have come out with almost my missing them, I was hibernating several days indoors and when I peered out one morning suddenly they were there.
So my zucchini is done. The vine borers finally sucked them dry, I ripped them out and threw them in the compost. The vine borers always get the zukes first. Now just today I saw that they are moving on to my yellow squash. I am not concerned as I have gotten so many squash that I am giving them away. I have a volunteer pumpkin in my compost that I am wondering why it just does not bare fruit, as it has spread all over. Everyday I find another cantaloupe, alas the one I just cut was not very sweet. Perhaps that is because of all the rain. Well with weather what ever comes must come.
Next year I have pondered giving the veggie patch a rest and sowing a bunch of annuals. I really do not give it the attention it deserves. With my laxity I came out to find another mammoth squash, sigh.
It might be fun to consider tucking some of my veggies in the flower beds. I wonder if doing that would confuse the squash beetles.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Allegory of the Olive Tree

I just was taught something and experienced the Allegory of the Olive Tree First Hand. (Jacob 5)
I have a little Mugo Pine that I planted in my garden this spring. I nourished it and watered it, mulched it and took great care of it for several months. At some point I thought to myself, and given all the rain that we had been receiving, that my little plant was well established. Well mid-summer brought us a week of scorching hot days. I didn’t give any thought to my Mugo Pine for an entire week. In fact at the beginning of the week I noticed it and saw its beautiful shape, perfectly formed, lush green needles, it looked to be the picture of health. So beautiful with its natural shape that nature gave it.
Well at the end of the week I went out to look at my garden. I was peering here and there, walking along the paths when suddenly I came across my Mugo. I stopped abruptly and gave a gasp out loud and cried, “Oh no!” Most of the needles were brown on top, barely a green in sight. The beautiful form that I had just admired at the beginning of the week was ruined. I took off in a run, threw a bucket under the hose and filled it to the brim and lugged it to my pine. I gave it several long drinks of water, but I knew it would be no good. I would have to cut off the dead brown needles, it would probably survive if I gave it careful care from today and if the rains come again, but it would be deformed and ugly.
I went back into the house and confessed to my husband what happened and then started to unload the dishwasher. As I worked I felt more and more anger at myself, foolishness and laziness. I started to mourn the pine and thinking that this was somewhat silly. It is just a plant after all, not one of my children. A thought occurred to me, what if my children turned brown from the heat like a plant? So in my anger and annoyance at myself, I found I was starting to cry. I thought why am I crying? Any gardener knows how long it takes to grow a plant, how much patience it takes to watch something grow from a little seed or transplant, how delicate they are. I said to myself, “It grieveth me that I should lose this little tree.” And instantly I remembered the words of the Savior from the Allegory of the Olive Tree.
I started to cry even more as I realized the lesson the Savior was trying to teach me, if I learned it the sacrifice of the little Mugo Pine would be worth it. I knew how the Savior felt as he cried those words, “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree.” Over and over again he cried it as he tried to save his vineyard. Digging about and dunging his trees and pruning them. He moved them to better ground and grafted them in to healthier trees. The Master of the vineyard did all that he could to save the trees. I know from study of this allegory that he is referring to the scattering and gathering of the children of Israel. But as a mother I felt it apply to my life.
I ran to the bathroom so not to let my husband see that I was crying over a plant, but now I knew that I was crying because my Savior loves me.  I felt his love over losing even just The One. And as a mother I knew this could apply to my children, I may not see the brown burns on the outside because the damage of neglect goes unseen until it is too late. This week our darling Jillian crumpled in tears at bedtime over things that little girls need not worry about. I do recall that I went through something like that as a little girl. Perhaps with more nourishing and care it could have been avoided.

I felt humbled by this experience that the spirit taught me from the sacrifice of my little pine.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lots of Rain!

So this past month of June we have been getting little shower after shower. For a grand total of five inches! It is probably my fault because I have been praying for rain all summer long so I would not have to water my garden. Needless to say the mosquitoes are horrible! We are finally having a respite from the rain with a lovely week of 90 degrees highs! I mean seriously, it only drops down to 80 degrees at night.
Well lets see, what have I been harvesting in my veggie patch? From only two young blueberry bushes we would get about two cups of berries every other day. They are on the way out, but I have one bush that is just starting to ripen, so these guys keep me picking in the garden all summer long!
Getting plenty of summer squash with a ton on the vine waiting to get bigger. Watch out, I left them for three days and ended up with a couple of behemoths! Same with the zucchini. I picked one today that I could not lift up with one hand, the diameter was too large for my little paws. I like to use my zucchini in chocolate zucchini cake. I fry the squash in a pan with lots of butter and pepper.
I planted pole beans again this year. I only gave them a five foot trellis to climb up, well, I think they are about ten feet tall, they just climb to the top and then fall to the ground and keep growing. I am just starting to harvest the beans.
Very excited that I have three cantaloupes. One is growing in mid air. They are starting to crawl up the trellis with the green beans! Sadly, I can never get my watermelon to do anything and my pumpkin vines are dying.
The raspberries I transplanted in the spring are making their comeback. They have beautiful, new green foliage. They should make lot of berries next year.
My flower gardens seem kind of boring right now. Just Purple Coneflowers, Yellow Coneflowers and Russian Sage as the stars right now. Next year I need to add some white daisies.
We did a couple things with some random pavers I picked up from a friend. My husband made a 4 by 8 foot patio for his grill.
 I extended the paved exit off out our sun-room by three feet.

I used a bunch of cinder blocks from around my veggie patch and raised my strawberry pots off the ground,(I hate stooping to pick them). I bricked around my herbs in my herb patch with some zigzagged pavers also in the pile I received. (It was two truck loads of pavers)
So I have been busy. I thank the rain and cooler weather this June for my activity in the gardens. Usually I hit hibernation mode before now. Hopefully we can be this blessed July and August.


Hosta close up

I extended the mower strip along my front bed with bricks.

Ornamental grass and Russian Sage

Weird caterpillar on Purple coneflower

Thread-leaf coreopis

section of my herb garden

zucchini, which is twice this size now

Banana peppers, My husband harvested and made some sort of pickled thing that he canned

Squash plant just starting to produce

volunteer potato

pole beans, which look even crazier now.

Bee balm

Two types of day lilies

This one is a double day lily

Flock of goose neck loose strife

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It's Been Too Long

It has been almost a month since I posted pictures of my garden. It was in a transition from the end of May until now. Not much of interest.We have been getting sporadic showers and the weather has kept cool. I still try to get out and weed once a week or so. Strawberries have come and gone. Today I noticed the first blueberry on one of our blueberry bushes. I have said it before but the magic of things coming to life thrills me. Almost time for the mid June cut back, some plants you can cut back after they bloom and they will re-bloom. Other plants you can pinch back so in the fall they don't flop over, like asters and mums.

I see this lovely coreopsis outside my kitchen window.

I see these Astilbes outside my bedroom window.

Close up of Astilbe, the little bees love them.

Oak-leaf Hydrangea


So pretty!

Yarrow in various berry shades are blooming. I like these ones because they stand upright. I have an orange and white variety and they just flop over. But the white does look great with orange Daylilies.

These next three pictures are my Bee Balm getting ready to open up. Wait until I post the brilliant red bloom soon. But I love the anticipation.

This is a Knapweed. Pretty flowers close up but the plant really does look like an ugly floppy weed. She will probably go.

Gaillardia or blanket flower. Tons of little bees too.

Wonder where the truffala trees came from? After the pedals fall from my Clematis. I leave these crazy seed heads up because they are awesome.

Lots of things in my veggie patch. Squash, pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, pole beans...

I dusted all my crops today to keep the vine borers at bay. DE safe for food crops.

Mulberries AKA stinkberries leave a mess everywhere and attract bugs. I only have to put up with them in June.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

New Beginnings

Today is a photo journey through my yard of new beginnings. Like I have said before, you have to look really closely to find the magic.
Pole beans  





Morning Glory

Look at my wonderful blueberries!



Close up of Catmint flower

Lemon Balm


Chamomile flower

Banana pepper



Chive blossom

Columbine Meadow Rue



Carpenter Bee hole under mailbox.
 Doesn't nature make great circles?


Through the looking glass.

A wise old owl lived in an oak...

First Purple Cone flower.
You had to get down and peer under the plant to find it!

Check out the silver maple seed dancing on a gossamer thread.

New Spruce growth

Astilbe before the magic happens. But I think it is just as cool.



Found a section of my columbine that the sawfly larva have completely stripped.

My favorite iris color! Magical.
Look inside a poppy

Poppy sticking its tongue out.

Yellow Jacket drinking nectar off of peony head

Aphids on rose bud

Ants on peony head, love it!

Our first strawberry harvest!

So you can see how incredible all the little things are that one can find in the garden. I love all of it!