Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year’s End

Today is the last day of 2009. It is time to reflect on the year gone by and to dream and make plans for the year ahead.

Last year, I looked backward at a year full of illness for my husband. I looked back at a severe drought that had threatened to starve every living thing of life giving water.

This year, I can see the trials and tribulations we've had with the pets being ill; but nothing as wrenching as 2008 and Jim's illness and many close-calls. Looking back at 2009, I see an end to the drought and an almost overabundance of rainfall. We had so much rain that I seldom even had to water the container plants.

Since everyone likes to make lists at this time of the year, I'll try my hand at it.

Ten Worst Things of 2009 at Shady Hollow (in no particular order):

  1. Slugs, they will eat through a garden overnight, and are an animal I truly hate
  2. Sick pets and worry over their recovery (Jay-Jay and then Tigger)
  3. Damping-off disease killing some of my spring seedlings
  4. Not having the big freezer until after the gardening season was over
  5. Did I say slugs?
  6. Over-winter loss of my hibiscus plants (only 1 out of about 6 made it through the winter)
  7. Over-winter loss of my orange cannas (my fault)
  8. My failure to get the cottage de-cluttered, again
  9. Not having friends over more often
  10. Oh, and slugs


 

Ten Best Things of 2009 at Shady Hollow (again, in no particular order):


 

  1. Two artichoke plants have survived the slugs and may produce next year
  2. I finally reclaimed the lower yard/meadow from encroaching undergrowth
  3. The vegetable garden was the best I had ever grown
  4. The cannas gifted to the Hollow by our friend Bill L. did wonderful
  5. I was gifted a crape myrtle by a work friend (once again the Universe came through)
  6. The Rose of Sharon's are all transplanted and doing well
  7. Our wonderful neighbors have been there to help, without being asked, at just the right times
  8. Visits from family and friends
  9. Jim's health has remained stable
  10. I started this blog to share my adventures with the rest of the world


 

I have never tried this exercise before and am happy to report that the best list was much easier to fill than the worst list. That's a good thing, right?


 

Whatever items you have on your worst and best lists of 2009, we at Shady Hollow wish you a happy and prosperous 2010. May each and every one of you be blessed.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It is Christmas morning at Shady Hollow. The cats have been fed and the coffee made. Rain is falling from the gray skies, attempting to wash away last week's snow. So far it hasn't had much luck. There are areas where the good earth is peeking through the snow pack, but it will take much more rain to finally wash the snow away.

While they gleefully rode the snowflakes to earth last week, methinks the Fairies are all safe and snug in their cottages this morning. In my mind's eye I can see them in their tiny abodes, gathered around their tiny Christmas trees. I'm sure some are even in our cottage, hiding among the branches of our tree, waiting to play with the cats or hide items I may need today.

While we at Shady Hollow keep to the Old Ways, we still celebrate Christmas. To be a true Pagan, one must honor ALL the Gods. Our myths and legends hold many Gods and Goddesses who intermingled with humans and produced mighty offspring who then aided mankind. Why then would we not also believe the Christmas story which is also of the union of a god and human whose offspring has and will continue to offer hope and solace to so many?

We honor Him this morning, that babe born in the most terrible of conditions, whose life was an example of love and sacrifice, and Who gave His life for all.

Merry Christmas!

Blessed Be!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yule (Winter Solstice)

I stood at the window; it was just too cold outside, and waited for the rebirth of the Sun. The Eastern sky gradually lightened and turned a pale blue. Slowly it brightened as I waited. Finally the first ray of sunlight shot across the land. Bright and full of promise the ray sped by me and onward across Shady Hollow and toward the western sky.

There was no sound as the Silver Wheel clicked a notch. There was silence as the world stood poised to gradually ascend toward the light part of the year. Even the birds were still and quiet. The Sun is reborn and light and warmth will return to the land.

All my weather lore foretold the current cold and snowy weather. It has shown me the conditions are right for a winter with more of the same. Yet, even while the North Winds blow snow across the land the days will grow longer and at last the sun and warmth will defeat the winds of winter.

My blessings to all on this Solstice morning. May the Sun always shine on you wherever you are on your journey through life.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Storm

It snowed at Shady Hollow on Friday. Serious snow. We knew it was on the way and had stocked up on supplies. Tigger was brought home from the vet's the day before with prayers that he didn't take a turn for the worse after getting home (prayers are answered so far on that one).


I told my boss the night before, "Remember, I don't do snow." He nodded affirmative and said that was OK because he had heard this one was going to be bad.


Friday morning we had received a dusting, but it had started to mist rain with a little sleet mixed in. I kept watching the Weather Channel and they kept assuring me it was on its way. They were correct. By mid-day it had begun to snow heavily and continue snowing until after 10 p.m.


I kept taking pictures all day and again this morning. These white squirrels were in a feeding frenzy below the bird feeder before the snow had accumulated more than an inch or two. I never saw any squirrels today. I suppose they were staying curled in their beds, snug and warm.
I haven't seen the chipmunk, but did toss him some food over near the opening of his den. I know he is the warmest, as is den is next to the cottage and he gets some warmth through the wall.
My adventures have been few. My enjoyment has been great. I don't think I have gotten as much pleasure from a snow storm since I was a child.
Tomorrow I will dig us out and get ready for Monday and the real world again. But for now, locked in the Ice Crone's embrace, Shady Hollow and her inhabitants are all at peace.
Be Blessed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Strangers in the Night

I don't know who she is.

We meet every night on the same stretch of road traveling in opposite directions. On the afternoons I take that route to work, we meet again, headed in different directions to different destinations.

I am sure we both work second shift, I know from meeting her in daylight that we are close in age. But, I don't know who she is.

Sitting at the red light one night I saw which way she turns when she leaves our rendezvous road. She saw the direction I come from as well. You see, after a year of these meetings, I'm sure she recognizes my car, too.

On the nights I am home or work over, I wonder if she misses me. I miss her and wonder if all is well in her world on the nights she doesn't pass me by.

Those of us who travel the darkened streets after the rest of the world is home and safe take comfort in small things, I guess. It is comforting to meet her every night as we travel to our homes and who or what awaits us there.

Whoever you are, my dear, may good fortune smile on you and keep you safe on your nightly journey.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Brrrrrrrr

It is 10:00 a.m. as I write and the temperature is hovering at 22°F. Brrrr!

I haven't gone out to get the newspaper. I haven't forced myself to believe the latest news is worth the effort. It's a long way up the hill when it's this cold. I can read most of what I want to know on my computer anyway. The cats have even avoided sitting in the windows this morning.

I guess winter has finally arrived.

Be Blessed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unexpected Visitors


It is cold at Shady Hollow. After getting to see a few snowflakes on Saturday morning our weather took a definite turn toward winter. Serious winter, with temperatures in the low 20's Sunday and at 29°F as I write early Monday morning.

We had all wanted a little more snow. It was the weekend after all, and we wouldn't have to travel anywhere. It worked out alright though, for with the snow came some new visitors to the Hollow.

Jim saw them first and called me to look. He was not ready to believe his eyes. I looked for a moment and grabbed the camera.

Neither of us had seen a bluebird in years. I remember them as a child in South Carolina, but had never seen any here. There was a small flock of them, four at least, but we think maybe five total. They had settled into the limbs of the Survivor Tree, and occasionally one would visit the deck railing. They were feeding below the deck, presumably on herb seeds.

We feel blessed that these little beauties rode in on the snow. We saw one again on Sunday and are hoping they will hang around for awhile.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Snow = Milk & Bread

If the weather forecasts are to be believed, we may get some rain/snow showers here Saturday. I'm getting the cameras ready in anticipation. I'll do my shopping tomorrow: milk and bread. It's a Southern Thing.

I've had people who aren't from around here ask me many times why we southerners run out for milk and bread whenever the forecasters say the word 'snow'. I don't know about anyone else, but the area of South Carolina where I grew up was prone to power outages during any type of inclement weather. So long as you had some milk and bread, you were good to go whether the power was on or not. Just my observation, if anyone has a differing opinion, please let me know.

When I moved to North Carolina I soon found that the milk and bread thing was in effect here, too. Milk and bread alone, however, will limit one to "jam" sandwiches. You know, two pieces of bread "jammed" together. So, I will probably pick up some peanut butter, pimento cheese, spam, and Dukes Mayonnaise as well. Oh, and some vanilla flavoring. Vanilla flavoring, along with milk and snow make snow-cream.

We won't get enough snow to make snow-cream or even make the milk and bread run a necessity, but it's still fun to do.

Right now, I think I'll check the forecast, one more time.

Be Blessed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December’s Chill

The flowers were not killed the other day as I expected. Judging from the outside temperature as I write (in the wee hours of the morning again) they will probably succumb tonight to winter's chill. If not, I will have salvia, impatiens and begonias blooming outside on December 1st.

In two weeks I will be starting my begonia seed for next summer. In the months after I'll be busy in the plant room getting other seedlings underway. Winter is not necessarily a time for rest at Shady Hollow. At least not under my grow lights!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Verification

M5XSUERAYKS2

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is Winter Here Yet?

Temperatures at Shady Hollow dropped below freezing last night. I haven't checked, but I'm sure the impatiens, begonia, salvias and cannas that have been hanging in there all fall finally took a death blow. I can't remember a time in the twenty years I've lived here that the summer blooms have lasted so long. Of course the poor plants were bedraggled and far from lush, but they were still alive and had a few flowers. There were even some petunias that were actually thriving in the mild weather, blooming happily.

Here in the Western North Carolina Mountains the weather is fickle and does not usually follow the norms you might find anywhere else. The mild fall weather has been a prime example of this. All my weather lore (learned from my father) tells me that we will have a cold winter, with the possibility of several substantial snows. I could be wrong however, as I learned to read the weather at lower elevations. I often am wrong here. The mountains follow their own rules.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Blessings

We have much to be thankful for today at Shady Hollow. To name a few:

Jim has made an entire year without a hospital stay. During 2008 I was on a first name basis with the staff of 2-West at Pardee Hospital. Wonderful people, each and every one, but I don't mind not seeing them.

We made an entire year without losing a beloved pet, although our little dog Jay-Jay and Tigger the cat gave us and our vet a run for our money. Last year at this time we were still mourning the loss of Lucy, one of the sweetest calico's that ever lived on the planet.

The children, grandchildren and great-grand children are healthy. We don't see them often, but they stay in touch. Each email, call and visit is a special occasion for us.

Our dear neighbor has, by all indications, beaten his cancer. He endured a summer of chemo and radiation with a smile and kept all the rest of us from worrying. Even during the worst of his chemo he would walk down to check on Jim.

Other neighbors are doing well. We are blessed to have people nearby who will make sure we are alright and offer assistance when they see we have a need without waiting to be asked.

I still have a job, although I was sure I would be one of the unlucky ones who were let go.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life it is easy to let these blessings be taken for granted. We all are guilty of that. It is part of the human condition. It is good that we have a national day of thanksgiving. A national feast-day to stop, enjoy family and friends, do something for the less fortunate, and thank the Gods for all that we have.

As Shady Hollow rests from the summer of gardening and harvesting we stop to take stock of our blessings. They are many, too many to name or count.

I thank the Goddess and God for my life, my family, my friends and my pets. They make my journey a wonderful thing to behold.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Venison and Flat Tires

Got your attention, didn't I? It has been a crazy week and most of the crazies are due to venison and flat tires. Stay with me and I'll explain this unlikely combination.

A young man I know is an avid deer hunter. He and his cousins spent every possible moment hunting deer and other wild game. Deer, however, is their favorite prey. What these young men do with the deer and wild game they harvest is heartwarming. Once they have provided for their families, the game they kill is given to elderly or handicapped folks and poor families. They will accept no money for their gifts of fresh meat. A thank you is enough. Nor do they want publicity, a wish I gladly honor.

Earlier this week my husband and I received a call telling us one of them would be bringing a cooler of venison to us on Thursday. In early afternoon, near time for me to go to work, he arrived. The cooler was set in my kitchen and after a brief chat, he was gone to make another delivery. I promptly called my boss and took a vacation day so as to process and freeze the meat. I did not get finished until nine that evening.

Hunters are often belittled and criticized by many for "killing Bambi". Where these men hunt, the deer population has grown so numerous that if hunting did not take place the deer would soon starve to death or become pests. Instead, the herds are thinned and many families are fed. There are hunters out there who are trophy hunters and kill just for the antlers and actually leave the animal to rot in the forest. This type hunting I, and everyone else, should condemn. Real hunters do as these young men and make sure the animals do not lose their lives in vain.

As it turns out, staying home to process and freeze our venison saved me from a situation. The next day when I went to leave for work, I discovered I had a flat tire. If not for staying home the day before, the tire would have deflated in the parking lot where I work, stranding me some miles from home.

Jim being in a wheelchair and myself being not the strongest woman on earth, we faced a dilemma. A few phone calls revealed that no one in the neighborhood was home to help remove the tire and take it to be repaired. The plant manager where I work offered to come put the little "donut" spare on, IF I would then drive to work on the donut and home again at midnight last night. I said no, with a spicy adjective thrown in for good measure. I would not drive with a donut tire on my front drive axle unless it was to the tire store for repair. He never showed up. Hmmmm. I will not reveal my innermost thoughts on that.

After that phone call, Jim said he thought the two of us could manage it. Away we went to see what we could do. It took him some time, but my wheelchair bound husband removed the flat, got my donut tire from underneath the car and put it on. I was mainly a spectator during the whole project. I am so proud of him. He is very pleased with himself, and rightly so. He is an amazing man. I thank the Gods everyday for sending him to me. It was too late in the evening to get the tire repaired so I missed work again. I'm sure that cost me a few brownie points, but will worry about that later.

This morning I carefully drove my crippled car to the tire store. My flat was caused by dry rot. Even though the tires looked "good" with plenty of tread, they were six years old. Age had taken its toll. All were near the point of no longer holding air. I had them all replaced and am rolling again.

Thus ends the unlikely story of venison and flat tires. One more instance of the many strange combinations of events that unfold at Shady Hollow.

Be Blessed!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wishing for a Strong Wind

Almost all the leaves have fallen. I had intended to get out the big leaf blower and do some yard clean-up this weekend. It didn't happen, so now I'm wishing for a strong wind to blow them away for me. The Great Mother takes care of many things for me. I am grateful to Her for that. I don't think she will do the leaves for me. Some things we have to do for ourselves.

I took my husband for an outing to the mall Saturday. An afternoon of the mall tired us both out so the leaves were put off until today. This morning a couple of dear friends stopped by and paid us a visit. We talked about everything under the sun and got all caught up on what we've been up too since we saw each other last. Leaves can wait. Some things are just more important.

As much as I love to be outside and doing garden chores I have some things that are much more important to me. Spending time with my husband is one. Spending time with good friends is another. The gardens will always be here, even after we are long gone from the scene. Loved ones are with us for a limited amount of time. It's best to enjoy every moment with them while you can.

Soon the North Winds will blow and most of the leaves will be moved to the upper hillside without intervention from me. I pray these same North Winds choose to leave the souls of those I love here with me for one more season, at the least.

Be Blessed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Long Haired Woman vs. Leaf Blower

Sometime ago I wrote about how trilled I was with my battery powered edger and leaf blower. I'm still thrilled with them. I admit I've used the leaf blower the most. It is a necessity here. It takes almost daily effort to keep Jim's ramp and the deck free of leaves.

I have not cut my hair since early 2004, and it reaches my waist. I always wanted really long hair and decided it was now or never to grow it out. I love it, my husband loves it, but it is sometimes hazardous to my health.

Did you know that if you are using a leaf blower (no matter what fuel type) long hair can be a problem?

It was early afternoon a few weeks ago and I decided to clear off Jim's ramp before heading to work. I hadn't tied my hair back that morning. In a hurry, as it was time to get ready for work, I grabbed the blower and started the task. All went well for a while. Then I leaned over to get the blower nozzle into a tight spot.

I felt a strong tug, and a stronger tug. Realization hit me in a split second and I turned off the blower. A sizable amount of my long hair had been sucked into the blower's intake. Hmmm. I tugged on my hair. Nothing happened. With a sigh of resignation, I sat in one of the porch rockers and began the slow task of gently removing my hair from the blower's intake.

It took awhile, but I disentangled myself without much damage to my hair. I just kept praying Jim wouldn't come to the door or one of the neighbors wouldn't stop by. It would be easier to tell about this than to be caught in the middle of the hair rescue.

Now this was bad enough and embarrassing enough. What is even worse is that I did the same thing again last weekend. I wasn't as severely entangled, but it had my hair again.

So the score stands at Leaf Blower 2, Long-haired Woman 0.

I'll keep you posted if the score changes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good Neighbors

Saturday afternoon I was attempting to turn leaves into mulch with the lawn mower when my next door neighbor and his son came walking down the drive with a ladder. John said, "Hi Joyce, we've come to clean your gutters." He and his son walked past me and set to work. Before they were finished, John's son-in-law was also in on the act. They cleaned out the gutters and even took a leaf blower up to the roof and removed fallen leaves that would have surely reclogged the gutters later. The cottage is small and the roof isn't steep, so it only took them a short while.

It wasn't a big job for three men in good health. I cannot express my thanks to them enough. It would have been a big and scary job for me. I doubt very much I would have even attempted it; a) I am afraid of heights, b) Jim wouldn't have let me, and c) my children would have been furious at me if they found out I got up there, especially my oldest son (he has forbidden me to get on the roof).

Over the years I have been blessed with good neighbors. Nine years ago, another neighbor, upon learning Jim had had major back surgery, started mowing our lawn whenever he mowed his own. He would take no payment. He passed away suddenly from a heart attack one winter. The next spring I was shocked to hear his mower in my back yard. I looked and saw his son, mowing our yard. When I asked why, he told me his mom had told him his dad would have wanted him to do it. He has since gone off on his own, and I cut the portion of their yard adjacent to mine when I mow. It just feels right.

When Jim had 3 amputations within as many months last year, these wonderful neighbors were here to help out by checking on him while I was at work. They brought him meals, walked our dog, and kept me informed on his condition on days I had to work but was worried about leaving him. Two families came and made sure he was ok and had candles and flashlights when there was a power outage during my absence.

They did all these things without my ever asking. They just came and helped. I love Shady Hollow; but part of that love is for the wonderful people who live next to me. We are indeed blessed by the Gods to be here, in this place, surrounded by these people.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Killing and Fear of Things to Come

Friday's news stories about the massacre in Fort Hood were interrupted by news of more shots fired, death, and injuries in Florida. I have been telling my closest friends for months that I foresee more and more violence. I tell them to be ready to protect themselves and their loved ones from dangers they cannot imagine. I stand by my vision. I have seen this thing that comes for many years in visions and dreams.

About midmorning Friday, our cats began acting as though they had been spooked by something outside. Upon checking, I found two young men, in their late teens to early twenties in the street in front of Shady Hollow. One was absent mindedly bouncing a basketball while he carefully looked over the front entrance to the cottage. A quick glance from him up the street led my gaze in that direction where I saw the second young man, staring toward the basement entry to the cottage.

I was hidden for a few moments but once they spotted my watchfulness the second young man walked toward the first. I looked long and hard at them and know I can identify them if I see them again.

I came inside to tell my husband to be sure he locked the door after I left for work. Turning back to the door to again look at the two men, I saw they had disappeared. I do not know which direction they went, I assume it was up the street. No vehicle was in sight. They were on foot and were not residents of the neighborhood.

I feel certain they were "casing" Shady Hollow. If not, then my neighbor's home (she is a widow and lives alone). But their actions and location makes me believe it was my home they were checking out. My husband's wheelchair ramp probably made it look ripe for the picking. Woe unto them should they try. He is a crack shot and Vietnam taught him to shoot first and let God sort them out. I'm not so bad a shot either, and will protect my own.

Early last spring some young thugs broke in on a couple not much older than us and beat the man to death in a robbery attempt. Hs wife was gravely injured as well, but survived. We decided then that we would be ready to protect ourselves.

Incidents like what happened here Friday, the massacre at Fort Hood and the violence in Florida all tie together into a bigger web of violence and discontent that is rising up in our land and the world. Be ready, be watchful, and don't be caught unaware.

As I stood outside with my cigarette tonight I looked up at the waning moon and the glorious night sky and prayed for all of us. We are but small creatures in the grand scheme of the Universe and yet our Goddess' and God's have taken us under their wings and have tried to nudge us along our paths. They look out for us to a point. At that point they trust we know enough to look out for ourselves inasmuch as we are able.

May They All continue to watch over us, and protect us; for we are still young and create hazards for ourselves which, without them, we cannot overcome.

Be Blessed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good to be Home

I frequently check FaceBook and Twitter on my cell phone while I'm at work. I also have my email forwarded to my phone, like so many people do these days. I hadn't been at work long yesterday when I got an update saying a massacre had taken place at Fort Hood, Texas. I immediately texted my husband and he turned to Fox News for information.

Text messages flew fast and furious. As a retired Master Sergeant, my husband wanted to know how such a thing could happen. I wanted to know who did it and why. He watched the news and kept me up-to-date. I checked Twitter and other sites to see what I could learn whenever I had a chance. We passed information between ourselves and to my co-workers, who were also concerned. I'm sure everyone else in the country was doing something similar.

It was good to get home tonight. Good to give my husband a hug and pet the critters.

When I turn down the drive into Shady Hollow each night and drive between the Guardian Oaks much of the world's trials and tribulations fade away. That feeling was not quite the same tonight. Somewhere, twelve families are grieving due to a senseless act of violence that robbed them of their loved ones. Thirty-one other families are praying for the recovery of their family members gunned down by an extremist. Somewhere, the gunman's family is also praying for his recovery and for understanding of how he came to commit this act of violence.

Its good be back in the safety of my little world at Shady Hollow.

Tonight we pray to all the Gods and Goddesses', known and unknown; remembered and forgotten. We pray that the families will find a way through their sorrow and loss, and that those wounded will heal, and that such acts of violence will never happen again.

Blessed Be.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rain On the Way and Other Ramblings

It isn't raining yet, but the clouds moved in last night. They are low and heavy with moisture. The forecasted rain is expected to be torrential and flood watches and warnings are already posted. One thing I've noticed about the Mother: When she breaks a drought, she does so in a big way.

Shady Hollow is high enough on the hillside as to be safe from flooding. We may have water in the lower gardens where the Fairies live. If so I'll take some pictures and post here. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Fairy as I take the pictures.

I'm taking life easy this morning as I wait for the rain. The hours I've been putting in at work give me a "reason" to take it easy in my view. That's my excuse anyway.

In the weekly meeting at my work yesterday the emphasis was on H1N1 prevention and what to do if we or a member of our household comes down with it. In a nutshell: Stay Home. Even if it is a family member who is sick; stay home and do not come back until they are better. I was glad to hear that. I had worried, for if my husband became ill I was afraid I would have to face down angry bosses in order to stay home with him. With his health as precarious as it is, I would not dare leave him home alone if he were sick.

Now I have to convince my husband to forego some of our outings and stay away from the possibility of catching the virus. Not as easy a task as facing down those bosses would have been. He lives for his "get out of the house" days.

A gentle rain has started falling. My coffee cup is empty. With that I'll move from this comfy chair and see what has to be done this morning. Then I'm going to take it easy some more.

Be Blessed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Days Are Running Together

It is Monday, right?

I'm having an issue with days starting to run together. I just worked a 7-day week for my employer and now its Monday morning, but it feels like. . . I don't know. I'm a little foggy.

Early this year about half our workforce was permanently laid off. Now that work has picked up we are all having to hustle and make sacrifices to get the work out on time. I'm eternally grateful that I was not laid off last winter. The extra pay will come in handy. But, I'm tired.

 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Frosty Monday

It's a frosty morning at Shady Hollow. A few plants were nipped yesterday, but with the temperature hovering at 30 degrees I expect more to succumb this morning.

The garden spot is bare; a light covering of poplar leaves lies where the zucchini, green beans and tomatoes flourished only a short time ago.

Yesterday I spent time uploading and sorting through pictures taken this summer and summers past. Earlier this year I bought Photoshop Elements 7 to use in working with my photos. Gardening and sick cats took up so much of my time that I have done little toward learning the program. After creating the little movie I posted yesterday, I found more photos still on the cameras that didn't get included. My mistake, but my little movie is a good reminder of how things looked this summer.

As soon as we have a cold enough night to kill back to foliage, I'll be taking up the cannas and putting them in winter storage. Eventually I'll get the leaves mowed and put in the compost pile. Then we'll batten down the hatches and wait out winter while dreaming of spring.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shady Hollow Flowers 2009 Video

Enjoy.

Cold and Windy

It's a cold and windy October morning. The temperature is hovering in the high 30's and the wind has knife blades that cut through your clothing and chill you to the bone. We have a frost warning out for tonight with temperatures expected to be at the freezing mark or below.

Between the rain and wind our poplar trees are almost bare. We can now see across the creek into the bottom land beyond to the pond. That view is completely hidden during summer by thick foliage.

The house plants are all safely inside, and are being nibbled and trimmed by the cats, who then promptly get sick from their efforts. I need to buy stock in a paper towel company.

However cold and windy it gets, the little cottage is warm and cozy. The cats are racing around being encouraged by the sound of the wind.

Besides my daily chores I think I will spend some time today organizing the flower photos I took this year. Such a short time ago all were in full bloom. Now they are dying back, waiting for that first freeze and resting time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Gardening Toys

I've been using electrically powered gardening tools for several years. My tool shed sports two electric chain saws, an electric trimmer/edger and leaf blower. All these tools have made my hillside much easier to maintain as I've grown older. Their limitation is the length of power cord and the hassle of dragging the cord around.

After the untimely demise of my electric trimmer I decided to replace it with a battery powered unit made by Black & Decker. The battery powered trimmer is actually lighter in weight than the electric powered one was and I have much more freedom of movement. It is a joy to not be dragging many feet of electrical cord around and constantly pulling it unplugged as I work.

I was so impressed by the battery powered trimmer that I went today and bought a Black & Decker battery powered leaf blower. The one I chose uses the same type battery as my trimmer, giving me an extra battery for each. I used it this afternoon to blow off the front patio, driveway and parking area, and back deck. By the time I finished the battery was growing noticeably weak. It didn't matter, as I had managed to clear off all the areas I was concerned about.


I really like the battery powered trimmer and leaf blower. Both are extremely easy to use. The batteries are easy to change and lock securely in place. I am very pleased with being freed from the dragging power cord. As much as I like these products, there are drawbacks. The batteries run low long before I am through working. I take that as an opportunity to take a short break while I change the battery, but if I was in a hurry to complete the job I might become more annoyed.

The length of use before the batteries die is sufficient for a smaller property. Most homeowners would have no problem getting their chores finished before giving out of power.

I will probably invest in a light weight gas or another electric trimmer next year as some of the areas I trim are beyond the capabilities of the battery powered unit. I am not sorry I bought either of these products though; they are welcomed additions to my gardening arsenal.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Confessions of an Avid Seed Collector

My husband used to get embarrassed at my passion for seed collecting. We could be walking along Hendersonville's main street and instead of window shopping, I would be checking out the huge planter boxes that line the streets. Oh sure, the flowers were beautiful. I enjoyed them each summer when we would go uptown. During fall I would be scanning for seed pods.

My neighborhood walks, trips to the bank and other establishments are also prime seed collecting opportunities. A few baggies in my purse are all that's needed.

The end result of all this covert seed collecting is growing all around Shady Hollow. Red Barberry, Rose of Sharon, Purple Coneflower, Lambs Ear, Hosta, Daylilies', the list goes on. I also save seed from annuals and perennials growing at Shady Hollow for use the next year.

I started seed collecting when I had little cash to spare for buying seeds or plants. It is now part of who I am as a gardener. I am always on the lookout for seed pods wherever I go. It is a fun and potentially beautiful scavenger hunt.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn

As I have grown older time seems to fly past at warp speed. I was checking back over previous entries to this blog and realized it had been 8 months since I started writing about the gardens, cottage, and myself.

The summer of vegetables and flowers has moved into the season of leaves to rake and mulch to put down. My instincts tell me that we will have more snow this year than last. I foresee some cold and blustery days ahead. Days when the wind sings its song of movement; moving the air across the land as time moves toward the next spring. I do not like cold weather. I do know it is a necessary thing. In a gardening sense, some seeds will not sprout if they have not been subjected to the days of winter cold. There could be a lesson for us there.

When we lived a simpler life, closer to the land and nature, winter meant time to rest from farming. It was time to live off the food stored from that farming with the addition of meat from livestock and hunting. Growing up on a farm, I knew it would not be until the first very cold days that the hogs and chickens would be slaughtered and meat processed and stored. The remainder of the time was spent staying warm and doing necessary chores.

Times have changed and we spend all year enjoying the ability to travel. We eat most anything we want (if we can afford it). Heating does not involve the hard work of cutting and gathering in wood for the fire as it once did. We have, in this country at least, a soft lifestyle. The season's passing does not hold the significance it once did.

The first day of autumn slid past last month and from that day until the winter equinox the hours of daylight will grow shorter. Shorter days and the position of the sun signal birds and animals that migrate that it's time to move on. The days grow shorter as the powers of the night take hold.

We are only weeks from Samhain, or Halloween to non-pagan folk. Samhain is our highest Holy day, our Pagan New Year. It is a time when the Veil is thin and spirits walk the Earth, or at least peek across the Veil to see how we are doing. It is the time to honor our dead and especially to remember those who have crossed the Veil in the last year. It is both a solemn and happy time.

The autumn colors are as beautiful as the first green of spring. The snow and ice covered trees have their own special beauty as winter wraps them in her icy garb. Soon the heat of summer will be a faint memory as we rush to get out of the cold. We must always remember that beneath the snow and ice, safe from the cold winds, next year's life awaits the coming of spring.

And the Silver Wheel turns.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This-N-That

Plants & Gardening

It's about time to bring the houseplants inside for the winter. I dread it. First of all there's the 'where in the world will I put them all' issue. Secondly, there's the "will the cats totally destroy them within the first half-hour' issue. Thirdly since I'm bringing in the houseplants, winter must be near and that is depressing.

I brought the African violets inside and put them in my cat-free plant room last weekend. I've had those violets for over 20 years, so they are part of the family. They have been delegated to the plant room because of the cats. In times past, before the cat population grew to such large proportions (thank you, Precious), the violets spent all year in the kitchen and living room windows. Nibbling African violets is not good for kitties, and these kitties nibble every green thing they see. So, down to the plant room the violets went.

Kitties

The kitties are disappointed that the hummingbirds are gone. They lost their primary entertainment when the flock left to fly south. They still have the squirrels and chipmunks to watch, and are still in the aforementioned windows much of the day.

Tigger is feeling poorly the last few days. If you read the cat's blog you know he has had health issues all summer. I have accepted the fact he may not stay on this side of the veil for many years. That makes me sad, for he has a wonderful personality and is very loving. Looking into my crystal ball, I see another trip to the vet in my future.

Friends and Family

My brother-in-law passed away Sunday, his funeral is tomorrow. He was 92 years old. My sister passed away three years ago at age 86. My nephew took care of them both and is alone now. He has been caring for his parents for so many years that I'm sure he is feeling lost right now. My heartfelt prayers go out to him. I know from my own experience that caring for a sick or disabled loved one becomes the biggest part of your life. Everything else comes in second. I dread the day when I walk in the shoes my nephew wears today.

My best friend's husband is very ill with sepsis of the blood. He is in intensive care and on life support for nearly a week now. He has suffered severe rheumatoid arthritis since his 20's and the years of fighting RA and the toxic waste medications taken for it have taken their toll on his body. He is only 58 years old.

Shady Hollow

Standing firm and solid, the little cottage awaits the winter chill. She welcomes me home each night with a sense of peace. To drive between her guardian oaks and down into the hollow brings a sense of safety that makes my heart sing. Home! Home again and away from the spiraling craziness of the outside world.

I pause sometimes to read again the welcome plaque by the front door, "Welcome to Shady Hollow, my friend; a place not a place; no beginning, no end. . ." I "borrowed" the poem from Dorothy Morrison. I removed the name of her home and replaced it with mine. It just seemed to fit. Shady Hollow is a magical place, hidden from view for most of the year. Protected by the Unseen and loved by many. The bond I have with this place cannot be described or explained. It is a spiritual connection between me and the Spirits-of-the Land.

This-N-That

So ends the post containing and little of this and a bit of that. Be blessed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Getting Stuff Done

Today I set out to get some things done in the gardens. I had great plans that soon went awry. First order of the day was to finally weed eat around the back door and veggie garden. After all those wonderful veggies were harvested and either eaten, frozen, or given away I sort of neglected that area. It showed! The grass and weeds had a field day while I was occupied with other projects (read that blogging and work).

First chore, dig that weed eater out of the garden shed; second, string the electric cord from the deck to back yard; third, weed eat. It all went well, to a point. That point being when the weed eater stopped working. Since I am prone to get it unplugged while working, I checked my connection. Nope, it was plugged in. Ah Ha, there were vines wrapped around the shaft. I got out my trusty pocket knife and cut the tightly wrapped vines from the weed eater. "Now!," I thought as I hit the 'on' switch. Nothing happened. Hmmm, "Well maybe it came unplugged up at the house", I thought to myself, as I headed up the hill.

There was nothing wrong with the deck connection. Jim dismantled the weed eater and did some tinkering with the engine and wiring. After all that it still didn't work. We've had it for awhile, so time for another one I guess. When Jim apologized for not getting it fixed, I told him not to worry, I had shrubbery to plant. Of course I had to decide just where the shrubs were going to be planted. (I've only had all summer to figure all that out.)

I enlisted Jim's help in deciding where the babies should be planted. It is easier to please a spouse before you dig the hole than after. I learned that one the hard way.

After the 'where to plant' decision was mutually agreed on, I had to find my shovel. I couldn't. I did find the other shovel, the flat edge one, which was okay, because I had a chore to do that required the flat edge shovel. I did that chore while trying to remember where I had put the pointed shovel. (Senior Moment)

Upon remembering where the preferred shovel was (the compost pile), I set about planting the shrubbery. All were grown from seed and raised in nursery pots for the last two years. By late afternoon I had transplanted a red barberry bush, four Rose-of-Sharon bushes, and about six hosta.

I also found time to cut some wild grapevines and honey suckle from my forsythia bushes; and I pulled that pesky English Ivy from places I do not want it to grow.

It may be rainy tomorrow, but I got most of the pressing chores done today. If it doesn't rain, I have seed to collect from begonia, cleome, impatiens, and other flowering plants. If it does rain, we may just go on over to Home Depot and look at weed eaters.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

I would like to thank Michel at Pumpkins and Toadstools awarding Shady Hollow the Kreativ Blogger Award. I appreciate it very much. The 'rules' for the award are listed below:

  1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
  2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
  3. Link the person who nominated you.
  4. Name 7 things about yourself that no one would really know.
  5. Nominate seven 'Kreativ Bloggers'
  6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate
  7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.


Seven things about me that aren't known to most people are:


  1. I learned to shoot a rifle at age 3
  2. I was adopted twice, giving me 3 mothers & fathers
  3. My favorite comfort food is peanut butter
  4. I can 'smell' snow before it arrives
  5. I don't like the dark
  6. I over-salt my food
  7. I rode motorcycles when I was younger


My seven nominations are some wonderfully creative people with blogs I enjoy reading and draw inspiration from.


  1. Wyld Chyld's World
  2. Paucis Verbis
  3. Divinely Designed
  4. All God's Creatures
  5. Instant grits and ukulele's
  6. House of the (Mostly) Black Cats
  7. Eclectic Catladyland


This has been fun and I am very pleased to have been given the award.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Waterlogged

Shady Hollow is waterlogged. The ground makes a squishing sound when stepped on. A year ago we were in a deep drought. Our water was under restrictions. I was watering plants with bath water and rinse water from my washing machine. The grass was dry and brown and made a crunching sound with every step. Red flag alerts were out, the tiniest spark could set the mountains ablaze.

Last week we were under flood watches and warnings as seven days of rain filled our creeks and rivers to the brim. Some rivers set new records, cresting feet above past floods. There were a few days of sunny weather before clouds moved back in yesterday. It is raining this morning.

During my time on this planet I've seen this cycle play out many times: drought, broken by an extremely wet period, followed by several 'normal' years. It is a never ending cycle for the earth. This is part of the larger cycle of wet, dry, cold, and hot that makes the planet a living entity, a celestial being with a life cycle of its own.

While the rain falls, the woodland creatures are storing up a bountiful supply of nuts and berries for winter. In this part of the cycle, I would not be surprised to see more snow than we've had over the past years. The squirrels and chipmunks feel the same way; they are working overtime to get ready.

I watch out the windows as the small creatures work the oaks and hickory trees. It's much too wet for me to venture out. Pruning and mowing and other chores can wait. I'll be content to watch from the windows as the slow rain falls.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Family Reunion and More Rain

My husband and I attended the first Steadman Family Reunion yesterday. The turnout was good, especially on a day of rain, rain and more rain. The river next to the building we occupied was rushing with all the run-off, not at flood stage, but near it. The sound of the rushing water sounded like a waterfall.

Those in attendance were faced with more food than we could possibly eat. I noted in my last post that my daughters were doing most of the cooking. Wrong! Everyone brought multiple dishes of some of the best food that ever met a fork. We have a variety of meat, vegetables, casseroles, breads, cakes, and other goodies to numerous to mention. One thing this family can do is cook!

The younger of Nellie and Andrew's sons, Joe, is a pastor and led us in prayer before we attacked the food. Later, my daughter, Mandi, who had organized the reunion and made it happen single-handedly, addressed the group in a general meeting and planning session for next year. I even put my two-cents in. No surprise there, I've always voiced my opinion without hesitation.

The rain actually stopped long enough for the children to enjoy the playground. Their parents had had the foresight to bring dry clothing for a quick change after playtime. The playground equipment was soaking wet and soon the children were as well.

After several hours, we left and headed back up the mountain to Shady Hollow. The drive up was as wet and foggy as the drive down had been. The road from Shady Hollow to the mountain's base can be an ordeal in bad weather.

Upon arriving home we saw that the creek behind Shady Hollow was out of its banks. We had "lake front property" for the first time in several years. The water never came as close as it has before, but it was easily visible from the back door and deck.

My husband and I had a great time and are proud of the effort put forth by Mandi to make the reunion happen. In this day and age of moves and financial hardship it is a very good thing for families to come together for a day of love and fellowship.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rainy Weekend For A Family Reunion

It's raining at Shady Hollow. The rain is a slow, gentle rain and is soaking into the soil as it falls. It has been raining for several days with short breaks between showers.

The cats are sleeping. They know how to handle inclement weather. Even Thomas, who would normally be outside, is inside sleeping. I have to venture out to put in a few hours at work and then make a quick trip by the grocery store on the way home. I'm not looking forward to either. The cats, I believe, have the right idea.

My youngest daughter has been planning a family reunion for months. It will be tomorrow. Part of my shopping will be for ingredients to make some of my children's favorite dishes. Tonight the cottage will smell of cooking as I prepare potato salad and deviled eggs. My daughters and daughter-in-law are making the majority of the food. It will be a feast to remember.

This will be a first reunion for this family. Over the past few years the only time the family has gotten together has been for funerals as the older generation passed from the scene. It is strange to realize that I am part of the older generation now. In fact, I'm second in line age wise.

I married into the family at 14 years old and divorced out of it at 38. I'm still 'part of the family' though and am proud that family love did not die when I divorced the eldest son. That was 19 years ago. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the couple we honor tomorrow are adults with babes of their own. The family has grown from 3 boys when I entered it to around 30 or more individuals. Those 3 boys and their wives are in middle-age and approaching their senior years. Where oh where did the time go?

So, it rains at Shady Hollow and I think melancholy thoughts of my younger days and remember Nellie and Andrew Steadman and the family they created. I think of their never ending love for all their children and our families. I remember their unselfishness and tolerance of our short-comings.

I know they will be looking through the rain and wishing us all well as we gather to honor them and remember them through our stories and memories. I hope they will be proud of who we are and what we have all become. I believe they will.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dancing Hummingbirds

Around the middle of April each year the hummingbirds come back to Shady Hollow. We try to have the feeders out and ready before the scouts arrive.

The hummingbirds are fueling up now for their migration back to warmer locations. They are in a feeding frenzy and are forming flocks for the trip south.

If you sit patiently on the front porch for only a few minutes, you will hear the hum of their wings and their high pitched chirping as they discuss the merit's of this feeder versus that one or which flowers have the sweetest nectar this morning. They are not afraid of us. On several occasions we have had indignant birds hover in front of us, mere inches from our faces, chirping loudly about an empty feeder. All the Shady Hollow animals seem to realize how willing we are to be of assistance.

We sit on the front porch and watch the hummingbirds dance in the air. Their maneuvers are astounding. Higher and higher they fly until almost out of sight, only to turn and plunge back toward the earth.

We watch their dance, knowing all too soon we will go out one morning and they will all be gone. We leave the feeders out for passers-by who are traveling from further north. But "our" birds will be gone, until next April.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Moonflowers



The moonflowers are blooming nightly as we move on into fall. The blossoms are 8 inches or more across and glow in the moonlight. A relative of morning glories, their blossoms slowly spiral open as evening approaches. I love to watch them.

Like morning glories the blossoms are only open for a few hours. By mid-morning they are closed and a fresh group will open the next evening. I grow them on a trellis or on the deck and let their vines twine around the lattice.

Most of the flowers at Shady Hollow are nearing their demise. I pulled up most of my trusty balsam Sunday afternoon. The impatiens and begonias are losing some foliage. The cannas are still blooming, but their flowers are few.

The vegetable patch is a memory. I had picked the last beans when a small rabbit found the vines. I watched from the window for three days as she returned to feast on the vines. I told my husband that while I had been going to pull the vines, this worked out better.

Two artichoke plants survived being flooded and then crowded by squash plants. I bought the packet of seeds as an experiment. Jim loves artichokes, so I thought I would try growing them. A perennial, they won't actually produce until next year. Soon I'll mulch them, and wait to see if they survive the winter.

It has been a good year in the garden and there are still things to be done. But for now, I'm enjoying spending my evenings with the moonflowers.


Friday, September 11, 2009

A Moment Of Silence

All the creatures at Shady Hollow pause today to remember and pray for those lost on September 11, 2001.

May their souls find peace and their loved ones find comfort.

May ALL the Gods and Goddesses, by whatever names they are called, Bless and Protect the United States and Her People.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shady Hollow Critters

We have white squirrels at Shady Hollow. No, not albino squirrels, white squirrels. They are not "special" other than the coat color. Just plain old everyday gray squirrels with white coats and maybe a stripe down their backs or a black spot between their ears.

They sure are cute though! Destructive too, just like the regular ones, but for some reason we tolerate their mischief more before we try to chase them away from bird feeders and flower beds. People on the roads around here will try to miss the white squirrels on occasions when the grays would be toast.

The trees around Shady Hollow are full of squirrel nests, thanks to the plentiful supply of food and water our bird feeding efforts supply. Currently, bits and pieces of acorn peels and hickory nut hulls fall like rain from the trees as the little 'limb rats' (gray and white) enjoy the feast. They are storing food for winter, even getting on the back deck to bury acorns in my flower pots.

We also have a few families of chipmunks. They are also busy, eating nuts the squirrels drop and hiding acorns in my flower pots. Every year I have oak, hickory, and other tree seedlings to pull from pots and flower beds before I can start my seeds.

The last two days, Jim and I have watched a hungry rabbit eating the bean plants in the garden. He/she ate the plants to the ground, but left the mature bean pods. We marveled at that. It was an example of nature knowing that by leaving the seed pods, a crop of new plants would be available next year. Of course, this makes a rabbit fence a guaranteed item on my to-do gardening list next spring.

Grand Babies!!

The gardens at Shady Hollow echoed with the sound of children's laughter yesterday. My granddaughter came to visit, bringing with her our two great-granddaughters, ages 5 and 18 months.

Lauren, the oldest, loves Grandma's flowers and really fell in love with the Sweet Annie once she learned it smelled nice. She was full of energy and enticed me into several games of "chase Lauren" up and down the hillside. After the downhill run, she would take my hand and 'help' grandma back to the top of the hill. Her squeals of laughter rang across the woodlot and across the meadow, waking the fairies, I'm sure; for not long after we started several butterflies showed up to join in.

Lauren picked leaves and flowers to share with Grandpa, me and her parents. She got to know some of the cats, but most were shy and would hide whenever we came inside. They have lived with just us old folks for too long. Children are strange, exotic creatures to the Shady Hollow Cats.

Haley, a bright and happy child if ever one existed, spent most of her play time running and dancing on Grandpa's wheelchair ramp. I had never considered what a wonderful play place it could be for a small child. Haley took her own turn at running down the hill, but her baby legs lost their grip and she took a tumble. It turned into a laughter filled roll down the hill. No crying for her!

Brandi,my granddaughter, watched the girls and talked about remembering when she was that age, and ran up and down Shady Hollow's slopes. Hard to imagine that much time had passed. She marveled at how small the cottage is now, when it seemed so big when she was a child.

It had been many years indeed since the sound of a child's laughter rang across the gardens. A beautiful sound. The echo of that laughter will forever fill my heart.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Where Oh Where Did The Gardener Go?

This morning Jay Jay and I took a walk through the gardens. Fall is in the air and autumn wildflowers are in bloom. There is a patch of goldenrod blooming next to the Fairy Tree. I mowed around them all summer. The volunteer Sweet Annie are blooming, maybe I'll try to save some of their tiny seeds this year.

I surveyed the garden spot I gave over to herbs several years ago. I am thinking of returning it to vegetable production next year. It, along with the new veggie patch, should give us a bumper crop.

The flowers are still blooming. Some are looking a little sad though. Our cannas are doing well and still producing beautiful blooms. I'll post some a little later. The moon-flower vines are beautiful, their big snow white flowers slowly unfurling each evening and glowing under the light of the full moon.

The gardener has been reading, studying, and writing. Mostly on political matters. (I'm sure much to the dismay of her friends.) Those comments are on a different blog (http://walksalone.wordpress.com/). Shady Hollow is about this place, this little corner of the great big world that means so much to me.

The hummingbirds are readying for their trip south. The land is getting ready for rest.

All is good at Shady Hollow, even when the gardener is preoccupied with other things. Shady Hollow will sit quietly and wait

Sunday, August 23, 2009

End of Season Chores

I spent some time pulling weeds this morning. Pulling weeds is good for the soul. It can get rid of a lot of frustration. After the weed pulling, I started a not-so-enjoyable pulling chore. I had to pull up and throw away the blight stricken tomato plants.


It was a sad chore. They were loaded with blight stricken tomatoes in various stages of growth, cut short by disease. Yesterday I picked ripe and green tomatoes that were not affected by blight. We had a big pan of fried green tomatoes for supper, yummy to be sure, but not what I had intended.


I also pulled up the white and zucchini squash vines this morning. They were no longer producing and it was time for them to go into the compost pile. The tomato plants were not compost bound, they went on the brush pile. There is no use spreading the disease by using the sick plants for compost. The early cucumber vines are also composting.

I love to make compost. Made from the discarded portions of plants; peelings, dead leaves, grass clippings, rotting vegetables and fruits, it turns into something necessary for the life of plants. Rich compost added to the soil is nature's fertilizer. It is full of nutrients and useful bacteria the plants need to grow up healthy and strong.

I think it just goes to show that even the awful, rotten things that happen to us can be recycled into positive, useful things. We just have to put them in our personal compost pile and let them provide the fertilizer (knowledge and wisdom) for future growth.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blight!

It is apparently inevitable that blight will get my tomatoes before the end of the season. It must be on every grain of soil at Shady Hollow, for no matter where I grow tomatoes it always strikes just as they start ripening.

I noticed the signs of a blight attack earlier this week. Leaves and fruit turning black. Leaves wilting and fruit rotting on the vine. The attack is in full swing now. I'm saving what I can. Tomorrow I will probably make fried green tomatoes from what's left of the fruit.

The tomatoes are in a location where I've never grown them before. I had held out hope they would remain blight free. Next year, I will begin spraying them with anti-fungal spray when I first set them out. I'll keep you posted as to how that works. but for this year, they are gonners.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Bottle Tree

I made a bottle tree this summer. The idea is not original, apparently it is something that has been done all over this country for years. I had never seen one until I stumbled across one on http://www.gardenweb.com/. They have a forum called Garden Junk which allows readers to showcase junk items they have recycled into garden ornaments. That same forum is where I came up with the idea for turning an old grill we had into a planter.


The bottle trees I looked at made me think of the wine bottles we had saved because they were so pretty and because for a time Jim made incense burners from them. He would sandblast an image on the bottle and a small hole near the base for air circulation. They are beautiful and make a nice way to burn incense without getting the ash everywhere.
He can no longer get to his shop (downstairs) and the bottles were just sitting there.

I found some long nails and a hammer and set to work on my stump. I hadn't been at it for very long when someone asked me what was I doing. I looked up from my work to see my neighbor, Rodney, and his dog. He had the strangest look on his face.

I thought that I must indeed look strange. My hair was down instead of in its usual ponytail (it is waist length) and in disarray from my bottle and nail gathering expedition in the basement. I was hammering nails into a rotting stump and had a basket of wine bottles sitting nearby. Yep, Rodney was probably thinking I had stopped taking my medication.


"I heard you hammering and wanted to see what you were up too," Rodney said. He had an even stranger look when I told him I was making a bottle tree. "OK", he started backing away. "Is Jim around?" Jim had just came out onto his ramp and Rodney went off to talk to him. I figured to ask if I was OK.

Due to the poor condition of the stump, I had some trouble with my bottle placement. The end result is fairly decent though. I have another stump at the bottom of the garden and the fairies have assured me that it is OK to make them a bottle tree. I just have to find more colored wine bottles.

And, my status as the neighborhood eccentric has been assured for at least one more year.
Add Image

Monday, August 3, 2009

Harvest Update

The little veggie patch I planted has surpassed my wildest dreams. We have given away vegetables and I am now freezing some for our future use. I planted in the pottager style and included vegetable plants in among my flowers this year. The result has been fantastic as far as yield, but has had some unexpected results as well.

For instance, the tomato plants next to my garden shed have outgrown their cages and spilled into the path leading up to the shed. It is going to be nearly impossible to get the lawnmower out without damaging the tomato plants. This last weekend it made a perfect excuse not to cut grass, but sooner or later I will have to get that mower out.

The yellow squash I planted in the front bed are completely surrounded by flowers, making it difficult to find the little squash. Its like an adult Easter Egg hunt among the flowers when I go harvesting.

The only real "failure" I've had so far is with okra. A few plants came up, but they have never done well. I'll try again next year, but will have to visit our local farmers for okra this year.

The flowers are fantastic. The cannas on the deck and by the shed are healthy and happy. At this point about half are blooming with the rest to bloom within the week. These are all new to me, some purchased, others given to be by a dear friend, after mine failed to survive the winter. This picture is of one called "Princess Di." I'll take better measures to protect them this winter.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lost

I have continued to harvest squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and enjoy the flowers blooming in the gardens. However, the past few weeks I've been guilty of benign neglect for the garden, yard, and home in general. I've been depressed. The overpowering nature of depression is such that all that normally brings great joy suddenly becomes unimportant.

Like an untended garden, in depression the mind becomes overgrown with weeds, vines, and vermin that eat away at the plants and flowers one desires to flourish. The depression shades out optimism, hope, joy, and laughter. It is easy to become lost in this jungle of runaway negativity. The deep foliage covers the path out, making one wander aimlessly. In the jungle of depression everything is suspect. Like a person lost in an earthly jungle, danger is sensed in everything.

I was taught as a child that when lost in the woods the first thing to do was stop, be still, and get my sense of direction back. (I played often in 32 acres of woodland on my father's farm). Next I was to look for familiar landmarks and use them to find my way back to the path that would ultimately lead home. I was taught that an animal or human being chased or lost will go in circles.

I have been running in circles. I am back where I started. So, on this morning I am standing still, listening to a gentle rain fall outside. I'm looking for landmarks to guide me from this depression and back to the path home.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This Week In The Garden


Harvesting has begun for my vegetable patch. I have been picking beans for awhile now and have harvested the potatoes and planted okra in their place. The zucchini and yellow squash are now providing us some delicious country meals while the white patty-pan squash are not far behind. I have harvested a few salad tomatoes and cucumbers and more are almost ready.


This weekend the grass needs cut (more compost material), and the container plants need watered. We could use some rain, but the forecasters don't seem to give much hope, at least for a few days.


This morning has dawned into a beautiful day and I should have been out taking care of things hours ago. Instead I have been on the computer, writing blogs, working on my blog sites, and enjoying some quiet time. Later today Jim and I are going to check out the new Tractor Supply store that just opened in our town. Lucky us, it is less than a mile away!


Anytime Jim and I go on an outing it is an adventure. He doesn't get out much as he has to depend on me to take him. We look forward to our weekend trips for that reason. He gets a change of scenery and I have company.


Some of the old flower seeds I planted July 4th weekend are actually sprouting. They were 2003-2006 seeds, and I decided to give them a chance instead of just tossing them. I'm glad I did. Just goes to show that something you think will never make anything, will, if you give it a chance.


Thinking about it makes me thankful for all the people who have given me "one more chance" over the years. I hope I haven't disappointed them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shade Plants Part Two

When I began gardening at Shady Hollow I suffered failure after failure trying to grow the annual plants I grew up with in my mother's garden. I had grown them in various locations over the years with mixed results, but never the failure I had here. It seemed that when something did grow it was immediately eaten by slugs.

I have mentioned in another post the trusty balsam that was here when I came. It is my number one best annual plant for growing in shade or just about anywhere else. I have seen them sprout and grow in a few grains of sand in the driveway. Balsam will re-seed themselves profusely. They come in many colors; white, shades of pink, red, lavender, purple. I have not seen a yellow or orange one…yet. Balsam flowers are next to the stem and sometimes become hidden by the foliage.

Impatiens are my next favorite annual for shade. A relative of balsam, they also come in many different colors and varieties. All garden centers have flats of impatiens each spring and summer. Once started impatiens will re-seed but not as prolifically as balsam. I have impatiens in containers on my front patio and on the deck. I love their flowers better than balsam flowers as they are easier to see and enjoy.

It is easy to save seed from both these annuals. The seed pods look like little footballs, and when ripe will explode when touched, scattering seeds everywhere. I love to watch small children when they help gather seeds and have a seed pod burst open. I think it's as much fun for me as it is for the child.

Coleus is another of my shade favorites. I have bought them (I bought the cultivar Black Dragon before it became available as seed), but usually grow from seed I've saved from my own plants. Over the years I have grown so many that I now have volunteer plants come up all over the planting areas. The flowers are not spectacular; the foliage is the star with these tough beauties. I keep the flower spikes clipped off until late in the season to encourage the plant to be bushy. In late summer I allow them to flower and set seed for my next year's plants.

Wax begonia is yet another favorite for flower beds and containers. I grow them from seed, occasionally buying a flat if I want a particular color. The seeds of begonia have to be started 6 months before you want blooms. My plant room (subject for another post) is busy with baby begonias starting around Christmas each year. There are several different types of begonia, I happen to be very fond of the wax begonia and limit myself to them, at least for now. They perform great in sun or shade as long as you give them some plant food and plenty of water. In their native habitat, in zones 9 and 10 they are perennial, and can be a tender perennial at Shady Hollow. I heavily mulched a bed of begonias last fall and almost every one came back out this spring.

Moonflowers are a tradition at Shady Hollow. These white night blooming plants are in the morning glory family. The blooms open at sunset and open fast enough to watch. They love full sun, so are grown on the deck. A vine, they twist and curl around the lattice and are pretty during the day. When night comes the blossoms, mostly 4 inches or more across, unfurl and are beautiful.

Four O'clocks are a sun loving plant that do well in part shade. Their trumpet shaped blossoms open in the evening and stay open until mid-morning the next day. They come in shades of red, pink, and yellow and have become a favorite. They are proving to me that they need less sun than the seed packets lead you to believe. Seeds are easy to come by each spring and they will reseed readily.

Another sun loving plant that does well for me in part shade is Cleome, or spider flower. They are upright, tall plants that look best planted in groups. The blossoms are light and airy and here at Shady Hollow are usually pink or lavender. They also reseed readily or you can harvest the seed for next year's planting very easily.

For anyone gardening in the shade, these are the plants that have worked best for me so far. There are many other plants that are recommended for use in shady areas that I have not experimented with. When I do I will let you know how they work out for me here. I'm neither a plant expert nor a Master Gardener. I am just a crazy older woman who loves her plants and her gardens. I grow almost all my plants from seed that I've saved, collected, or bought. I find there is great hope and optimism in the act of planting a seed. You never really know what will happen or how the garden will turn out. That's true of all life when you think about it.

Our lives and our gardens are always and forever a work in progress. May your gardens and your lives grow with beauty and abundance.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shade Plants Part One


I was asked recently to share some of my tips about growing plants in the shade. This first tip I’ll give is to get the soil in shape as best you can no matter what kind of light conditions you have. Amend it with compost and use mulch to add nutrients, keep down weeds and retain moisture. The discussion of soil can fill several more posts, so I won’t go any further with it here, except to say my soil is far from ideal and is a work in progress.

Second, learn just exactly what light conditions you have in your beds. Watch the areas all during the day throughout the season. I have beds that get little to no sun in early spring, but almost full sun for most of the day during the summer months. Those are the areas I use for vegetables and flowers that demand the most sun for best performance.

If you are planning on growing perennials learn what planting zone you live in. This will help you in purchasing plants that will survive the winter in your area and return for you next spring. I live on the border of zones 6 and 7 here in the mountains. This means I can be pretty confident with plants rated zone 7 and lower. A zone 8 or higher will have to be overwintered inside as a house plant or grown as an annual.

Now for the plants I have the best luck with. In this post I’ll cover the perennials.

Hosta: These plants are very hardy and I have learned they can grow where nothing else will. Some gardeners only grow hosta and there are many varieties to choose from. Hostas are mainly grown as foliage plants, but they do bloom with tall spikes of lavender to purple flowers in mid-summer. They can be grown from seed, but it is difficult and all my seedlings have had plain solid green leaves. Your best bet is to purchase hosta or find someone who will share a few with you. Tip: If you buy a lush container of hosta at the nursery, you can divide the plants inside to get more bang for your buck. They will look pitiful and scrawny the first year, but after that will fill in beautifully. In my experience hosta can stand poor soil, drought, hot sun and deep shade. To me they are an all around winner for problem areas.


Day Lily: These plants are another winner for hard to deal with areas. They care not about soil conditions, survive drought and wet weather equally well and come in a great variety of colors. Now there are cultivars that bloom all summer. I have day lilies on a previously un-cultivatable bank behind my garden shed. I have them at the entrance to Shady Hollow where they get the run-off and car pollution and still thrive. They are considered a sun loving plant but here they get varying amounts of sun and in all areas less than the optimum, but yet they thrive. They can be grown from seed, but your plants will take at least three years to bloom. I collect and plant seed from mine each year and eagerly await their blooming to see what I’ve got. Daylilies can be divided and transplanted after they bloom. Many gardeners will be happy to share with you if you only ask. One or two roots will multiply into a nice patch in only a few years.

Bearded Iris: These are favorites here at Shady Hollow. They are an old fashioned plant, a staple at every old southern home-place. They bloom in spring and are available in a huge selection of colors. When planting iris, be sure to leave the top of the corm uncovered. It needs light in order for the plant to bloom. Iris need partial sun, so don’t plant in deep shade. Mine get a few hours of morning sun and do great.

Purple Cone Flower: These are blooming now in my gardens and are one of my favorites. A prairie plant originally, they love full sun, but do well in part sun as well. A few plants will multiply into a beautiful colony in a short time. Seeds are readily available for purple coneflower and related species. Colors, other than purple, include white and yellow varieties.

Perennial Hibiscus: Flowers the size of dinner plates grace these beauties. I grow them from seed and prefer the Dixie Bell Hybrid variety available from Park Seeds. Started early in spring they will often bloom the first year, growing fuller and with more blooms in each additional year. I will caution that these do need the best soil you can provide and as much sun as possible. They are one of my borderline shade plants. I usually grow them in big (I mean big) pots on my deck and overwinter the pots on the south side of the house for protection. My deck is my sunniest spot and I get much better results from the deck grown hibiscus than those in the ground in shadier locations.

Cannas: I love the tropical look of these plants; even without the blooms they are gorgeous. Like the hibiscus, they really don’t do as well in shade. I grow them in pots so I can place them in the sunniest locations. A warning though, in pots you have to overwinter inside (I use my basement) or the tubers will freeze if you are in zone 7 or lower. Here in North Carolina many folks leave them in the ground all winter with good results. I’ve never been lucky over-wintering mine in the ground. I left them out last year and lost them all. Those that didn’t freeze became squirrel food. This year I am starting fresh with new plants and will definitely overwinter inside.

Foxglove: Warning, if you have small children or nibbling pets, these plants contain digitalis in all parts of the plant and can be fatal if eaten. If you handle them bare-handed, wash your hands afterwards. A biennial instead of perennial they are also one of my favorites. They like moist, partly shaded conditions and are hurt more by heat than anything. They are a favorite of fairies; so of course, I keep some growing at Shady Hollow.

Lilly-of-the valley: Warning . . . another poisonous plant! This plant grows in spring from tuberous runners that grow underground. Their small white bell-shaped blooms smell delightful. They are expensive and once started invasive. They were here when I arrived and I keep them around, it is almost impossible to get rid of them. They do not care about soil, sun, or shade; they grow and spread everywhere.

Ivy: Don’t. I have and it was a mistake.

Virginia creeper: It grows wild here and I’ve let it climb a few trees, but am not crazy about it.

Wisteria: I grew one from seed. I trained it to grow on my old deck. It took a seed grown wisteria 15 years to be mature enough to bloom. It pulled the deck off my house. So, if you must, buy a nursery plant or you may not live long enough to see the flowers. Build a trellis for it from 4” x 4” timbers set in concrete. Then prune it unmercifully.

My wisteria still lives. It sent runners underground into my neighbor’s back yard and climbed her pine trees. It is beautiful over there. I still have the mother vine, but I keep her small and do not let her even get close to the deck supports.

Part two of this will be the shade annuals I grow at Shady Hollow. If you stayed with me this long, may the Goddess bless you for your patience!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Excuses, Excuses

Have you ever been so busy that you suddenly stopped mid-stride and wondered what exactly it was you were headed out to do next? That’s how it has been at Shady Hollow this spring and summer. Add to that the fact I have become addicted to the social networking sites, and oh well….

As a result, I find that I have been neglecting my blogs. When I learned about blogging, I felt joy. I could finally indulge in my love of writing. I set a goal of taking time at least once a week to write something, even if I invoked a dose of criticism from my writer friends and children along of the line of…. “Oh come on, you can do better than that.”

I have a full-time job in a factory. I work the dreaded “second shift” (the hours from mid-afternoon till almost midnight). It is hard to get people to work those hours, but with my children long out of the nest and my love of early mornings watching the sunrise, it works perfectly for me.

With job responsibilities, taking care of the house whole chores (neglected most of time), pets, and the gardens I have let my blogging slip. Not that I haven’t been writing. I keep a detailed journal of my gardening activities. What I plant, where and when, how it performs, etc. I write my plans on how and what to do differently next year. It has been an adventure, gardening in the shade and on a steep hillside where before I had full sun and a gentle slope terraced from years of my daddy’s farming.

I mentioned to a dear friend the other day that I’ve lived here 19 years now and love it more each day. When I first arrived the flower beds were full of useless plants, with the exception of the balsam which reseeds itself each year. I assume the elderly lady who built the cottage planted it all those long years ago, and I consider it her legacy.

When I first gardened here, 19 years ago and for several years thereafter, everything I planted failed. I gave up in disgust, only keeping weeds pulled from those trusty balsams. Their cheery blossoms were the only color in a mass of green. I resigned myself to the balsam. Jim took care of the grass in those days and I concerned myself with the house, work, and other pastimes.

Then we had some trees topped and a few cut down. Yes, it used to be even shadier than it is today! I decided to give it another try. I’d been watching gardening shows on HGTV and had gained a bit more knowledge about how to grow in the shade. About that time I found a website that had all kinds of gardening information, www.gardenweb.com. With these two sources of information and inspiration, I decided to give it another shot.

I had taken over the yard work by then due to Jim’s many back problems and resulting surgeries. He just couldn’t do it anymore. I decided to make as many flower beds as I could and cut down on the mowing. I’d much rather dig in the dirt and pull weeds than mow. I started the master plan in 2003. I have accomplished much and learned more about plants that I ever thought possible along the way.

During 2007 and 2008 I let a lot go. We had the 2 year drought that began in 2007 and continued until this spring. Last year Jim lost a leg to peripheral artery disease (PAD). Last summer was a constant round of surgeries and hospitalizations as Jim fought to keep as much of his leg as possible and before it was over, his life.

While I was in the sick room the gardening was mostly abandoned. Jim asked me to keep our container gardens on the deck and front patio going. He loves to sit on the patio and enjoy the flowers. I limited my time and efforts to those.

As I have written before, nature took advantage of my neglect and the wildness all around us crept back into my space. Much of my effort this year has been reclaiming that territory. Also, I have planted more veggies this year than I have in a long time. Jim asked me too, and I wanted to, we both love garden grown produce. The veggie patch is in a newly created bed and has performed well past my expectations. To date we have harvested beans, zucchini squash, yellow squash, and potatoes. We have 3 types of tomato, cucumber, and eggplant growing as we watch; I from ground level and Jim from the window and deck.

Thus, I have neglected my blog. If you have read my excuse for this long, I sincerely thank you. I hope you enjoy my ramblings, I promise to not be so long in adding another. But, right now the beans need picked, the beds need made, and Jim would probably appreciate my making him some breakfast.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Survivor Tree


The Survivor Tree is a Tulip Poplar (which is actually not a poplar, but a member of the magnolia family). She is old and she is tall. In 1992, she was hit by lightening. The bolt took out the top 20 to 30 feet of the tree and deposited in the back yard (it was not yet a garden). We expected her to die, for not many trees can survive a direct lightening strike and live to tell the tale. But the next spring, her jagged top sprouted new branches and she lived on.

Years passed, and she regained her height, now with two trunks that had sprouted from just below where Thor did his not so gentle pruning. Looking from afar, one could not see the scars left that fateful day. She was beautiful again.

In 2004, during a hurricane, one of the twin trunks that had grown above the lightening strike was ripped from her and thrown to the ground by the twisting winds. Other limbs that were ripped away are still lodged in a neighboring poplar about 30 feet away from her, having become "widow-makers". The next spring she began the process of growing more new limbs to reach toward the sky. We watched in awe as she refused to give up her quest.

In 2007, a windstorm took outmost of the new top growth from the lightening strike upward and several more limbs, flinging them to the four directions. Part of the original trunk was ripped away. It still carried the charring from the lightening strike of fifteen years before. Once again the back garden was littered with limbs, some driven so far into the earth that we could not remove them, instead we cut them off at ground level with a chainsaw.

Even this set-back did not defeat the Survivor Tree. She lives on and still produces her beautiful tulip shaped blooms each year. Her jagged profile can be seen from the road across the way, for even with all the damage, the Survivor Tree still stands tall and proud.

We all have endured the storms of this life. We have been struck down when we least expected it with a mortal blow. We have been blown and tossed about by the four winds. The lesson of the Survivor Tree is to bend in the winds of adversity, to stand with our roots deep in our faith, staying strong in our beliefs. To always reach for the sky, and to never, ever give up.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

After days of wet weather I finally got to spend most of today in the garden. I transplanted some flowers into pots for their summer on the patio. Then I transplanted more tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant into the garden beds.

Once the "babies" were safe in their new homes I was finally able to prune the forsythia so as to have an unobstructed pathway down the steps to the back yard. It is amazing how quickly it can send branches out and completely hide the steps, making passage to the back yard look like an impossibility. The forsythia shades the steps to the extent that ferns have begun to establish themselves between and alongside them.


On the other side of the steps is a flower bed that we struggled with for years. Made of excavated dirt from when the cottage was build, it had no nutrients and nothing we tried to grow there could live, or so it seemed. About 5 years ago we put down a thick layer of cypress mulch, thinking it would look better than the bare ground. Later that year I put in some hosta. The hosta thrived and in years since the bed has become a home for volunteer ferns, some sedum, and Japanese Spurge. It is now a lush area, where once was hopeless bare ground.

After my path clearing session I rested for a bit on the deck. It can be a bit overwhelming sometimes to see how the lower gardens became so overgrown last year while I let them sit idle. They were not really idle during that period at all! All the undesirables have gained back the foothold I had spent several years taking away from them. Wild honeysuckle, poison ivy, wild violets have been having a party in my absence.

Deciding enough was enough, I took my spade and went to break up their little party. Let the weed pulling begin! I managed to clean the beds and reclaim my mums and yarrow. I gently broke up the soil so their roots could get some air. Our clay soil tends to pack down and smother tiny root systems.

I made a lot of progress, and I made some discoveries. Some Sweet Annie plants have begun to grow where their mother was two years ago. I found a St. John's Wort that had decided Shady Hollow was a good home. I found about 25 or more tomato plants that have to be Thailand Pinks, for they have come up where the pinks were growing last year. That was a wonderful find, as I had not yet started any of that variety of tomato. It is a heirloom grape-type tomato that is absolutely fantastic in salads.

Left to its own devices, the land will return to its wild state. I see that ever so clearly in my back garden. As I cleaned around my plantings today I removed many young tree seedlings whos goal was to return Shady Hollow to forest. I asked their forgiveness as I tugged them from the earth and told them "not yet". Maybe when I'm gone you can reclaim this place, but not yet.