Tag Archives: garden

First frost tonite!

"Almost Lost" dishclothsDirk cutting brush
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October 17, 2015

It’s been a long time and a lot of yard work since last I wrote in this blog. Now that the big rush to beat the cold has walked right up to the line, I think—I HOPE—I’m ready to let go of my garden, inherited from Sue, the wife of the previous owner, now in Heaven, and let the garden sleep. Sometimes I talk with her about her plants, which I’m now nurturing, and I hope she approves of my moving things to areas with more sun, since the trees keep growing taller. I haven’t seen any butterflies for quite a while, although honey bees and bumble bees are around daily. Japanese Dogwood has dropped its bumpy pink nickel-sized fruit, and the bees are all over it. My buttefly/honey bee garden has thrived, even in limited sun, and I hope it will come up in spring. The bees are enjoying the hummingbird feeders, so I’ve left them up until the bees go to bed for the winter, too. I know Dick, our neighbor who sells lovely honey from his hives, won’t mind if they have a little extra sugar. I did as I had planned:  when walking the dogs, when they did “no. 2,” I buried it and planted clover seed over and around the area, so I hope in spring, to see little surprise clover patches all around, beside the roads. I saved that clover seed for that express purpose, when I gave away all the left-over rye grass and vetch seed I’d use twice a year to enhance the sheep pasture, to my shepherd-friends!

I miss the security of having an endless supply of manure for my gardens, to mulch things over winter, as well as to keep weeds down in summer. Weeds aren’t such a problem here, since the soil is so poor—sand and rocks, mostly. We’ve been composting all summer, kitchen scraps go right into the flower beds, and Dirk has a small mountain of grass clippings that he keeps turning. I’m actually finding the occasional earthworm, a sign of progress. Yesterday, walking along the Town Beach, I kicked the seaweed, and realized with a shock that I now had all the mulch I wanted! If it was good enough for my Irish ancestors, to fertilize their fields, it’s good enough for me! I had a bucket in the car, so filled that one and brought it home. Today, running right up to the frost threat, I filled three more buckets with seaweed from the beach, where the high tide leaves a line of it. Dirk kindly carried most of it to the car for me—it was pretty light, since it hasn’t rained the past couple days, and it was four hours after high tide. Now when I walk around my bee garden, rose bushes, and Beauty Berry, I smell the tang of the sea 🙂  I hope the cozy blanket will shelter things that haven’t had much time to establish a good root system yet. As a final touch, I swept and raked up several buckets of leaves and dumped those over the most vulnerable plants, inside their small fenced-enclosures. Now I can only hope. Who knew I’d be trading sheep manure for seaweed!

I dug up the iris in two beds over the past month and re-planted it in new beds, with lots of space for it to spread out. I’ve moved my small piece of my great-grandmother Jordan’s peony, which my Dad had moved to Robert Jordan’s yard for safe keeping at least 30 years ago, to a sunny spot. Two of Sue’s peonies, which are competing with shade and tree roots, have also moved to that more sunny flower bed. Today I planted the last plant waiting for me to figure out where to put it—a red rose bush. I needed to move some lilies to do that, so about half of those are in a new garden, also, and mulched with sea weed. After two cold nights, it will get warmer for a week, and I can add a layer of leaves for winter. I’ve covered my flower garden, hoping for that extra week of color. Today I bought some crocus, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs for the spring garden, as well as paper whites to force inside.

I have lots of pots to tend over winter. We picked up some shelves today to stand in a sunny west window. Rosemary, lavender, catnip as well as some flowers are in pots to enjoy. I planted basil seeds around the edge of the rosemary, so maybe I’ll have basil sprouts, along with the pot of oregano which is inside now. I have a bowl of meadow mint tea, trimmed from the plant after dark, while I balanced a spotlight between my knees, to wash and store in the freezer for pitchers of delicious tea over winter. After I picked it, I covered the bed in seaweed, and a bucket of leaves. I’ll put the frozen mint tea leaves beside the bag of frozen basil, to brighten up dreary winter days to come.Since I picked some of the catnip and let the cats all share it, I’m now hearing yowling and scuffling of cats drugged on their favorite herb. I have a catnip plant in a pot, alongside some sprouted corn (they eat the leaves like it was grass) but I doubt it’ll last until Christmas, the way the cats are enjoying it!

Yesterday and today were the Senior Center Bazaar, where a great many people strolled through buying gifts for their family and friends. Our knitting group’s one large area had taken in over $700 the first day, double last year’s earnings! The more knitters there are donating items, the more variety there is, and this is a group of around 30 women, so they had a great many neat creations. My dozen pairs of mittens were all gone but two pairs when I left yesterday! I had also done eight of the “Almost Forgotten Dishcloths,” (thanks, Katie Verna for the pattern!) and some of those went, also. Since I was gardening today, racing to beat the frost, I don’t know the final tally yet.

Our organist/choir director had shoulder surgery recently, and is on the mend, while we sing with a sub. director, who is very skillful, also. Dirk and I miss our a cappella congregational singing of some rousing hymns in the Mennonite tradition. The choir director said she’d like to see our hymnal sometime, and now that she’s mostly resting, we’re bringing her one of her own next week. I’m looking forward to a small hymn-sing as we sing her some of our favorite hymns, and leave her a list of more, along with her own book. I’ve had the sort of sad process of paging through the hymnal making a list of our favorite hymns. I do miss our old church, although we’re very much enjoying our new one, as well.

We celebrated the birthday of one of our neighbors last week, and got to know neighbors all around us. It’s humbling to realize that they all live in homes built in the 1920’s by their grandparents! We’re definitely the new guys on the block. Having my mother’s family’s roots here helps me feel at home, however. I hope, as time goes by, to meet more of my distant cousins. One of the women at church is one of those, having an ancestor who married my ancestor in the late 1700’s. Small world! Our house was also built in the late 1920’s, so the age of the house is the same, but the family line is not.

Now the weather’s getting chilly, my warm-weather hand-spun, hand-knitted items are coming out. People keep petting my cria-alpaca shawl (thanks, Punky, for that windfall of unwanted alpaca!). I wore my purple sweater, last year’s NC State Fair first-prize, with wide cuffs of Elaina’s wool/mohair/angora roving which I spun—and people are petting that, too! There’s something special about spinning my own fiber. People who have only bought wool really don’t know there is such a difference between commercial yarn and the special long-staple, soft, hand-spun. It’s so soft, I can well understand people stroking it, smiling. They tell me about the wool they can’t wear because it’s itchy, and I wouldn’t wear that, either. Feels like steel wool. Sad that there’s not a different name for “wool” to indicate the soft kind. Well—I guess there is: “handspun,” as long as the fiber is evaluated before buying for fine and soft, long-staple wool.

I’ve been bringing my spinning wheel to the town dock in the late afternoons. Some women I know from the knitting group routinely go there to feed the ducks and visit until it starts getting dark. Amazing how early that suddenly has become! They used to sit there and relax until nine in the evening. I think as much about spinning with that group as I would about knitting, but the amazed look on peoples’ faces still tickles me. I’m getting some spinning done in good company, watching sail boats come and go, people sailing by on paddle boards and kayaks, and occasionally a visit by the harbormaster’s police boat. The tide comes and goes, boats rise and fall, water sparkles in the sun, wind blows my roving around, people come, sit and visit, and go again, and the world seems to spin just as it did before we moved to RI, except for the bonus of the salt air—oh, and seaweed!

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Almost Heaven, Wickford, RI…

Michaela, assis. gardener Emily & Maeve by deck garden July 4 LaFayette Band concert on the beach Lafayette Concert Band; Dirk over crutches

July 30, 2015

Two and one-half months in Wickford, RI! Finally this 90 yr. old house with a rather grown-up yard, is becoming an orderly place.

I’m just inside after two hours of digging to plant only two perennials! Purgatory Road is nearby, as is a village called “Hardscrapple.” These names now have great significance to me. In this two hours I collected over a gallon of rocks, and another gallon of sod, some of which is now in the bottom of the garden. I have a bright spot of golden black-eyed Susans (never could get those to grow in NC) and scarlet bee balm. I’ve selected perennials to entice my neighbors’ bees over here to fertilize my cucumbers, tomatoes, sugar peas and peppers.

The temperature here today was 84, and in NC, a steamy 91. Locals here think this weather is intolerably humid, but not to a new transplant from two days’ drive south of here. We haven’t needed A/C. Fans do the trick, plus strategically opening windows in the eve., keeping all fans going. It’s wonderful, waking to a cool house. When the temperature is the same in and out, I close the windows, and this old house stays cool. I hope it will do equally well come winter.

Dirk walks the dogs while I trim, cultivate, water, and plan what trees to delete, or how many branches that grow over the garage or shade the gardens. A magnificent maple tree reigns over the east side of the lawn. Turkeys (four large, seven small) graze bugs from the back yard and I gather long fluffy, striped feathers in the morning. Maeve, the Aussie, plops down on the deck, leaning over he top step, just watching them. Emily, the Great Pyrenees and guardian, eventually allows her curiosity to get the best of her, and creeps across the lawn, quiet and hesitant, to see what these odd intruders are. Ma Turkey fluffs and fans her tail, doubling her size, and Emily stops, uncertain. The turkeys vaporize into the woods. She then tentatively examines their trail, walking where they walked, sniffing. Then, satisfied they pose no threat, pops up her head and trots back up to the deck as if to tell Maeve and me, “See, maybe I have no sheep to protect, but I can still protect you!”

She’s less certain about the scrappy sea gulls that hang out in the evening at Duffy’s Grille, near-by. They have to check out our yard for food, of course. The dogs prefer to duck, rather than fight. Emily once chased a gull that had grabbed her bone, but when the gull fought back, Emily thought better of it and backed off, her bone sailing into the trees. I wonder what the gull did with it—drop it on a breakwater?

My pot garden is giving us vegetables, and next year will be in the ground, instead. All the kitchen compost goes into the gardens, and we’re now finding the occasional earthworm. I do miss the sheep manure—a much faster way to enrich a garden.

Through our church, I found two teens who want to work for a little extra money helping us around the yard. They have been a great help, and I now have two small gardens, one with perennials, and one with plants I brought from NC. I have three kinds of tea, a “beauty bush,” and a holly there, and will add more in time. The tea I planted here last fall is still there, but not doing well, since it’s in the shade. Soon I’ll move it, but I still have things in pots to plant first. One of the teens took the hedge trimmer to the front privet hedge, and it looks much better. When the trimmer hit the extension cord, it shorted out the circuit, and ended their two hours of work here in any case. Dirk worked on it today, too, so now it’s nearly done. “More to go,” as always. I guess if we were going to name our new house, it would be something like that. There’s no end to poison ivy, although there’s much less, “weed-maples” that have shot up everywhere and are smothering themselves, and other interesting weeds that are obviously invasive, whatever they are, among them bittersweet, which is pulling down a tree in the back yard. It responds well to pruning, plus Round-Up on the cut stump, as I learned in a NC Forestry workshop.

The RI Spinners’ Guild went to Foster, RI,’s Old Home Week, and I had the privilege of sitting down with Earl Hopkins and hearing family stories about my Jordan and Boswell cousins, while his granddaughter (part-owner of Shady Acres Restaurant, where my father ate for many years) served up strawberry shortcake for the benefit of the Baptist Church. That was such a treat! Finally I’m back in home country. Dirk and I wandered the Town Green, checked out the 4-H sheep of many different breeds, the many food stands from a variety of local churches, grange, Masons, and others. It was a fine two days! Oh, and we ate clam cakes and “chow-dah!”

Dirk is playing French Horn in both the LaFayette Community Band in Wickford, and in the South County Band in Wakefield. As a result, we have two concerts a week to attend, sitting by the water in both places, and I visit with friends whose spouses are also in band. I’ve been bringing Emily, the Pyr’s, brushed fur and a drop spindle from a lapis bead along, and have now one large ball of washed, plied yarn completed, and am working on the next. The concert season ends in a couple weeks, so I’d better keep spinning, since her fur production is ahead of my ability to spin it all so far! She’s getting combed regularly, as is Maeve, so even though we need to vacuum daily, most of it is captured in bags awaiting spinning. There are also Tues. eve. concerts on the Wickford Town Wharf, which are eclectic—I much prefer Dirk’s bands! But the spinning comes along in any case. It’s delightful to be comfortable sitting outside at a concert in the early evening. A NC friend said it sounds like Heaven—and, you know, it’s close!

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Winter surprises, frozen dyed wool, and kitty entertainment

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I’m working on a curtain for our new home, and needed some bright green yarn. I went looking through my dye pot-stash with various colors of dye, late last evening. After I’d plied the mohair I intended to dye it spring green. But I had none 😦  I measured enough of the color green I did have into the hot water, dipped in the Bombyx silk I’ll use to wrap some of the yellow yarn as the green begins, but the color appeared to be too dark for my design. Plan B: I picked up about 1/4 lb. of white Shetland from Vanity Fair’s shearing last spring, put that in the dye pot, added some vinegar and let it simmer, almost, for about a half-hour. Since it was 11 p.m., so I just turned off the heat and the vent fan, left the pot covered, and this morning, continued the process, rinsing out the soapy, dirty water, since I washed the fleece in the same operation, and put cream rinse in the last rinse, when the water was clear. Then, on auto-pilot, I took the wet wool outside and spread it out flat on an old window screen where it could dry, where the sun will hit it pretty soon. As I rinsed my equipment and cleaned up the sink, I found a little more green wool, so brought it out to dry with the rest. When it touched the screen it immediately froze to it!! I forgot–it’s 20 degrees out there! This is one of the delightful winter days when it is brisk and snappy. Note the ice on the screen where the wool had been before I picked up the end and rolled it up. Maybe it will dry faster open to the air in a large donut… It’s wet, so even in the wind it won’t blow away. My pretty green wool is a big ice cube! The ice is still on the deck from our freezing rain of two nights ago, the birdbath has to be tipped over and the ice knocked free to put water in it again at least twice a day. The pansies have shriveled up to little dark-green humps, the lovely kale which I should have harvested at Christmas, is in about the same shape. The onions are visible, but only about two inches is peeking up straight–the rest of the leaves are flat on the garden dirt, partly covered by autumn leaves. Spring onion omelets will just have to wait. However, in NC, when it gets warmer again, in a week or two, the crocuses will bloom as will the pansies, and my garden will come back to life.

Time to shift gears–that wool won’t be available to spin for some time, and I’m still searching for the right dye color.

The next task today is to warp my loom to start a throw rug in the log cabin pattern. I haven’t done this pattern before, but a good friend, also a weaver, assures me it’s not difficult. I looked it up in two of my books last evening, and it looks possible. I turned on the little robo-vacuum to pick up the fluff from the spinning I’d been doing the past two days, preparing the mohair to dye. In the meantime, the robot-vacuum buzzed around tidying, while I pulled out the card table, loom, shuttles, and other necessary bits of equipment to warp my rigid heddle loom. While I was setting up my work space, Boots, our charming two year-old rescued stray cat, was entertaining himself chasing the robo-vac around, cuffing at it, leaping in the air when it came to his toes, crawling under the cedar chest to see what the machine was finding under there that he might have missed. I appreciate the little machine picking up some of the fuzzies for me while I do other things, but it had not occurred to me what a very entertaining bit of hardware it would be for my cats!

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