Monday, August 15, 2016

Water Highs And Woes

The last three weeks have been all about water - the water situation here at home in NH and two vacations on water - one at Flathead Lake in Montana and the other in the Caribbean.   That picture above is my step daughter's (Krista) backyard at their vacation home.  A family reunion was held there over a period of 12 days and we were only able to be there four full days.  She and her husband and five children live in Dallas TX, but leave the heat behind for the summer and live at their lake house.   Every single family member at the reunion with a camera took that same picture and posted it on IG or FB.  It's a pretty sweet view and location.  I took very few pictures however because I was sick the whole time - some kind of GI bug that started the morning we were preparing to fly out and continued and worsened each day, so I didn't spend much time in the water - I mostly played with, fed and held their sweet, new baby girl or cleaned up messes made from the many little people running around.  Dan, who is recovering from knee replacements as you know, didn't get in to the water either.  He rested, exercised, read or joined me in my activities.   It was great to see his kids and their spouses and delightful children; we did miss one of his daughters and her family since they arrived after we had already departed.  It couldn't be helped.  We'll see them in November though, which is good.  Here are the pictures I did take.
 Krista has had her builder create many sleeping areas all over the house as you will see in a couple pics and her decorating is really inviting.
 The loaded cherries trees growing right on forest plots in this little banana belt pocket of perfect growing conditions just blew me away.  In spite of my tummy troubles, I ate dozens and dozens of these.
 More cozy sleeping areas for kids.
 The kid's bathroom sink area - and I love that floor tile.  
 Wine grapes growing down to the lake in a neighbor's yard
 Cherry orchard on a forested road around the lake
 The driveway in to Krista and Dallas's lake house.
Huge picture window in the living room.  Now, sadly, due to my feeling under the weather, those were all the Montana pics I took!!  

Below are some things that have been happening on the home front.  We are experiencing a severe drought here in New England - no real measurable rain since April and not much snow last winter so in my town we have been placed under a lawn watering ban and our grass is crispy and dry and crunchy to walk on.  I hand water my flower borders, small trees and shrubs daily - I feel that is all I do most days!

 I took this pic of our dying front lawn as I set out for an evening walk - so pathetic to look at!  
Sad face here.
 I've got dahlias all over the place now - loads and loads!
 We're going to have our house painted yellow this fall!  The test paint on this building is called Benjamin Moore "Dijon".  It's a compromise color - Dan liked our current golden tan but I was hoping for more yellow so we found one we both like.  Yellow houses are so cheery and cheer!  

 Two kinds of nicotiana I started from seed - Peace Pipe is the white and the pink ones are called "pink marshmallows".

  The Long Border at Dusk
 Pool area flowers above and below

 Now for veggies:
 Wee Be Little pumpkins growing in the outer stock tank garden - the size of soft balls.
 Above and below - single serving pale fleshed watermelons.

Stock tank garden outside the pool area 

 Dan caught me spying on the baby bird in the porch hanging plant nest with my binoculars.  I was worried the mother had abandoned the one nestling left because I never saw her around after we had a couple carpenters come over and install a new door right where the nest is hanging and they made a ton of noise.  The parents seemed to have left for good.   I was so stressed about that baby that I started stalking it with binoculars and fretting about how I might save it.  Finally the mother started coming around after a couple days (by then I thought the baby was dead) and now I see her several times a day and hear her baby cry when she arrives with food.  I can't tell you how relieved I am (well Dan can tell you - he had to listen to my fretting).  By the way, of the three porch hanging plants, two are totally dead because nests were built in them and couldn't be watered and as soon as that baby learns to fly and leaves, I'll replace both (I hope he/she learns quickly).  
 Above is a gladioli border I started in May - I planted 100 bulbs and then added in some tall verbena and zinnia starts.  Here it is as it looks now in the pics below.  They are just coming on and will keep blooming in waves as the four different groups of 25 are meant to bloom at different times.  

  A bouquet of the first round in the kitchen.
 We're eating green beans from the garden as well as broccolini, cherry tomatoes, tons of basil, herbs, and salad greens.  
My Pie Social is happening this weekend - here is a group of pie dough chubbies in the freezer.  I have to make 42 pies, platters of brownies and cookies etc this week, so when I do my Pie Social post, I will answer someone's recent question and describe how I schedule the work so I am not doing it all in one crazy 20 hour long day like I used to.  And I need to report on our absolutely fabulous trip we just returned from in the British Virgin Islands!  A lot to tell in the next couple of posts.  My sister Dede (aka PigNose), arrives this week from Washington state to assist me in pie making and experience this wonderful event.  A few BVI teaser pics below - much more to come!
Looking in clear water at a huge school of small fish from my paddle board. 
 Dan Man!
  Our home for the week parked there in the little cove while some of us hiked.

Taking off for home - what a view!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Of Weeds and Chipmunks

And other wild life.   I found this nest in a hanging planter on our front porch.  Keeping this planter alive is going to be tricky for a while.

First, my thoughts on weeds:  I've always had a yard full of flowers and vegetables on the three properties I've owned in my life.  Sometimes, way more than I could handle when I had small children or worked full time.  No matter how busy I was though (or am), weeding was something I really tried to make time for, even if it meant putting off more pleasurable activities.  There were times though that I  got behind because of the reasons stated above and during those times I probably had too much garden for my circumstances.  The best way to stay on top of weeds is to do it a few minutes every day; if you let it go a while, it becomes a dreadful job and pretty soon you can't keep up and you just throw up your hands and let them go.  I have done that.  Too many of us do that and it's too bad.  I became a super diligent weeder about a decade or more ago when my dear friend Lillian gave me one of the best birthday gifts of my life - a tour of Tasha Tudor's Vermont gardens.  Do you know who Tasha Tudor is?  She is a pretty famous children's book illustrator and her gardens and homestead in Vermont were widely photographed in many magazines and books.  I have four of her books and many winter days have found me perusing them over and over.  She made her own clothes and dressed exclusively in the styles from the mid 1800s while living in the present 20th century, she raised corgis and goats, her son built her home with his own hands to duplicate one from the 1800s as well and her gardens were lush and extremely floriferous and old fashioned. And she became a bit of a recluse.  She began to allow tours of her property the final decade of her life and tickets were very limited, so when Lillian called me (from Elko Nevada) to say she had a surprise for me and was coming to NH to share it with me, I almost died when she revealed where we were going together.  The garden tour was glorious and I was pinching myself the whole time and we even got to meet Tasha, who, pretty fragile in her late 90s, came out and allowed herself to be photographed with the tour group.  She didn't talked to us, she just smiled, posed, and went back in to her house.  She died not long after our trip to her home.  There was only one disappointment in the whole event; the gardens, though beautiful and so much like the pictures I had been devouring for years, were weed ridden and even unkempt in areas.  She doesn't hire full time gardeners and pretty much ran her farm on her own with a bit of help from her son who lived close by and a man who planted things for her now and then.  We had paid (or Lillian had and all the other folks in our group) a pretty steep price for the tickets and I think I expected the gardens to be as well manicured as they were in her books.  It goes along with sage advice I was given by my former mother-in-law who said to me' "no matter what, always make sure you make the beds and wash your dishes (no dirty dishes piled in the sink) - because no matter how nice or pretty your things are, a room will look messy".  She added that if the beds are made and dishes done, even messy rooms look tidier.  True words and advice I have always followed.  The same goes for weeds.  You can have lovely flowers and well designed borders and a bountiful vegetable garden, but if they are full of weeds, they look messy and unpleasant and the loveliness is diminished.   I went home that day from Vermont and as Lillian and I sat on my back patio looking out over my lush, flower stuffed garden beds, I noticed too many weeds here and there and errant bittersweet vines coming up in my rose beds.  I remember telling her how Tasha's weeds had affected me and I even ran over to my roses and ripped a bittersweet vine out as we discussed this.  That day turned me in to a consistent, disciplined weeder and tidy gardener and I don't  have to apologize for my weeds like I used to (or beds or dishes).   So, stay on top of your weeds!  Don't start out with good intentions in the spring and then lose them and end up frustrated and overwhelmed - a few minutes every day is all it takes - I weed as I tour the yard each day and greet all of my "children".  Ok, preaching done.
I have a big chipmunk problem though and I don't know the solution to it.  We have noticed an increased population of chipmunks on our property this year.  We have places where they love to hang out - stone walls, cut wood stacks and flower gardens and that is not going to change.  Having so many running around, even seeing all the holes in the ground didn't bother me too much until Dan noticed a chipmunk at the very tip of a tall Casablanca lily that had been poised to bloom and he/she ate the top clean off.   I went outside and noticed that all the Casablancas had been stripped of their buds as well as every dang lily in the yard - dozens of them!!!!  My blood boiled and I immediately went online to investigate chipmunk extermination.  I can't go the drowning route yet but I did buy two "havahart" traps and now I spend my days catching and releasing them down the road a couple miles on a wooded lane we call "Chipmunk Lane".
As soon as one is trapped, I cover the cage with an old towel to calm the creature down and stick it in the boot of the car and off we go to Chipmunk Lane where hopefully it drowns on its own in the beaver pond there.  Probably not.  I know this isn't the solution but I'm doing more research.

Now to happier things.  Flowers, ice cream, painted porches and Newburyport MA.
 Lauren's Grape poppies
 Lady Alexander - smells like grapes

 Sweet peas!

 Dahlias bigger than my hand!  I've got dozens busting out in the long border.
More dahlias!
 Glorious Helenium
Two kinds of coneflower
 This middle porch comes off of our living room and over looks the pool yard.  The floor hasn't been touched since we moved here and as you can see it was a mess.  We rarely used this porch because it was so dirty and scratched up.  Last week I scrubbed and scraped it and put on a paint stain, we found three wonderful tall chairs for it and now we can't stay off of it.  I took the pic below right after I painted it but hadn't removed the paint tape.
 What a difference huh?

I also painted this front porch floor too the day before the other.  It just needed a good washing and a fresh coat.

 A second hammock was added to the back corner.

Four gallons of absolutely fabulous vanilla ice cream was made for a mid week pool party along with a grand assortment of toppings.

Last Monday I went to Newburyport MA, one of my all time favorite towns, to go through a Designer House show.  Dan had a bunch of appointments so he didn't go along.  The house is situated across the street from Joppa Park and the mouth of the Merrimack river that flows right out to the ocean and it was built in 1820 and had been scheduled for demolition due to its poor condition.  Instead it was purchased by a group who restored it and asked local designers to pick a room to decorate to showcase their wares and talents.  The house (and garden) is now in turn key condition, so lovely, and for sale ($2.4 million).   I adore old houses but it was a bit too modernly done for my taste.  However, I loved what I thought was wall paper in the front hallway but to my surprise and delight was all hand painted by a local artist.  I loved it so much I took a ton of pictures and then wondered if I should try this technique in the bottom floor powder room off the family room at our house.  Take a look:
 Here's the view out the front door across the street from the house on Water St.
 This is when I first spied the "wall paper" from the dining room.
 Here it is on closer inspection.

 One last shot of it.  So cheery and cheer!!

After the tour, I sat at Joppa Park for a while and enjoyed the view.
I really, really love where I live.