Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fall Project

This remarkable fall has been wonderful!  Yesterday it was 77 degrees [normal is 55-ish] and just the latest in more than a week of warmer than average days.  Today and tomorrow should be the same and then it will drop all the way down into the mid-60's for a few more lovely days.  We may be back to "normal" by Christmas weekend.

I have not wasted this wonderful weather miracle.  Everything [no, really, everything] has been deadheaded.   You know it's done, when you wander from bed to bed looking for something to cut back!  Bed are now mulched that have not been mulched in years; all the root suckers removed from the shrubs; the cutting garden top-dressed, and a fall project completed.

A "Kitchen Garden" has been on my radar for several years.  I collected pictures and plans; i thought and thought about what might work; i drew several sets of plans.  And, finally, a class assignment in one of my horticulture classes pushed me over the edge and i finally did the work. 

This was my "old" veggie garden - a raised bed (36 sq. ft.) set in the middle of the flattest, sunniest part of the yard.  The shed is to the left and the edge of the carport to the right. [All the other photos are taken from the other end.] It was the only viable place to grow veggies.

Staked out and grass killed - we lived with the stakes for a couple of weeks - adjusting them until we were comfortable walking around it, and then i killed the grass.  

There will be two layers of fencing - first a wire mesh (above) to keep the critters out.  It is buried three inches into the ground.

This may be my favorite part.  There will be a six-inch planted border all the way around the garden.  In the "front" it will be annual flowers - some are already seeded in.  In the back it will be okra, and down the sides it will be lettuces and other greens.  It will give me an additional 26 sq. ft. of growing space. 

The master builder in the family made two new raised boxes for me - a total of 72 sq. ft. - and i put down a bale of pine straw for walkways.

The nearly done garden - with the pots it's slightly more than 100 sq. ft.  White picket fencing all around and in each corner will be a big blue pot - you can already see one with herbs on the right and one with blueberries on the left.  I think peas on a tuteur in the right far corner and more herbs in the left far corner.

All that's really left to do is to finish mixing the soil and start planting!  I can hardly wait. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Secret Life

Since Labor Day I have been living a secret life ... and hiding it from you.  Hiding my secret life as a coed.  Well, maybe not quite a "coed", but i am back in school. 

The Virginia Community College System has a strong emphasis on one- and two-year professional training in a zillion specialties.  This is not the traditional college-transfer stuff, but rather preparation to go into the work force in just one or two years.  

[Full disclosure:  my first two jobs out of grad school were in the VCCS system, so I am a fan!]
Entrance to campus
Fortunately for me the local CC specializes in Horticulture, among many other things.  The Hort program is centered on their western campus, which is about 30 minutes west of me, but their central campus is only 5 minutes away and some of my classes are held there, too.

In September I started in "Principals of Horticulture" - a survey course - and "Landscaping Plants I" - woody plants.  For this semester we have studied trees and shrubs that bloom in the fall and winter, as well as the conifers.  I've learned something nearly every week, and, I have loved every minute of it. 
Four greenhouses for propagation and winter storage
Once a week I volunteer a few hours working in the greenhouses and demonstration gardens.  I've been doing things like weeding, planting pansies, digging out dead annuals, deadheading perennials and cleaning up inside the greenhouses .... in other words, exactly the same things that I have been doing at home ...  well, except for the greenhouse part!

A demonstration space with conifer garden behind it

Cleaned-up perennials in demonstration beds
Winter beds ready for covers

and, covered

My favorite view of the demo spaces
Exams are the next two weeks and then I can register for Landscaping Plants II.  Once I have finished that, I will move into the landscape design classes, and maybe a bit of flower arrangement.
I can hardly wait!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Let's Not Forget .... either Paris

My plan for today was to tell you about school, but then life intervened in the form of bombings in Paris and the "Paris of the Middle East" ... Beirut. 

While we have been focused on the awful events and tragedy of Friday night in Paris, if you live in the U.S. you may not even know that on Thursday [yes, the afternoon before] there was a bombing in the main marketplace of Beirut.  Forty-five were killed and nearly 240 injured.  In a country with a population of 6 million, that's a big number.  [France has 67 million population.]

We need to broaden our focus and mourn all of our lost brothers and sisters - and not just the Europeans.  Yes, the French have been long time allies and friends, but so have the Lebanese.  In recent years we have not been as close, but i well remember the stream of students in my dad's engineering classes in the 50's and 60's.  Within the past ten years Mitchell sponsored the immigration of a Lebanese family.  Their sons are like our adopted sons.  So, it saddens me that we tend to forget that part of the world. 

I'll just say that we need to find ways to get along; to live together in peace; to allow others to disagree without resorting to killing them.  We need to honor the dead and support their families in these terrible days.

You might want to join the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, chorus and principals of "Tosca" in singing "La Marseillaises" and if you know it, the national anthem of Lebanon.  
[Ok, so i couldn't figure out how to imbed the video.  You're smart and the Google will help you find it.]


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Trimming the Tree

Normally, tree trimming is one of my favorite activities of December - just around the corner!  It involves lights and ornaments and the magic of the season!

Every few years, however, it means something completely different.  The power company sends crews - sometimes goons - to clear vegetation back from various lines.  Unfortunately for us, the rules changed several years after we purchased the house and are now much stricter, so it is often a battle with the crew chief.  [If they keep good notes, then i am surely on their "watch list" because i have zealously guarded our trees - even when that means getting in the face of some young guy with a chain saw and no knowledge of trees!]

This neighborhood was originally farm land and there are many heritage trees - trees that are much more than 50 years old,  like the 80-foot tall water oak that I can see from the desk as i write this - and many of them are now in the way of the lines.  Methinks that the trees were there first!  We are lucky that none of ours spread into the protected area, but if one is not vigilant the crews will cut everything in sight.

I was lucky this year that there was an arborist on the crew, and he and i were able to come to an agreement on what would be trimmed and what left alone.  It seems strange to me that they routinely take out branches that are lower than the lines.  Do they really believe that limbs will fall up?  Nonetheless, my elm only had two small branches shortened a couple of feet. 
I hope to be able to trim a little and make the top of this crepe myrtle more rounded without pollarding too much.  There was no reason to touch this tree.

My next door neighbor was not so lucky.  They cut five feet off her crepe myrtle and left it with a flat top!  We all know how dangerous falling branches are from crepe myrtles ... not!

They did give me a gift, tho.  They cut back the boundary hedge behind me.
Before - You can barely see part of the roof of the house and some of a lovely oak above the hedge.

The ligustrum hedge that separates us from the rear neighbor has been a mess for years.  It is on their property, but I keep our side sheared as best i can.  They have not touched it in years, so it was about 16 feet high and at least 8 feet thick, with honeysuckle and creeping euonymous all thru it.  
It took three "passes" to cut down the top from about 16 feet to about 8 feet.  And, then they sheared the other side, too.

It was rather fun to watch them work, and it will be great once if flushes in the spring.  

I'll shear it back once in February before it starts its new growth and then a second time after it blooms and then it should be set for a year .... well, on this side.
After - what an improvement!
I love it that now I can see the oak behind it, and that my Emerald Arborvitae stands taller.  [It's nearly invisible in the "before" photo.] Still a great green backdrop to my garden, but things no longer 'get lost' in the hedge.  Now, if Santa would just give them someone to do it annually ....

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Life on the Other Side of Retirement

It's been months since I last posted, and I really don't know why.  I do notice that many of my blog-friends are similarly posting less often.  Some are more involved with growing children ... I don't have that excuse.  Some are involved in new relationships .... nope.  Can't use that reason either.  Life just seems to intervene.

Dahlias and  hydrangeas still going strong the first week of October.
Like so many retirees i have known, i just find that my time is even more filled than it was when i was working.  The difference is that now i'm doing what i want, and when i want to do it. 

I have been reading your posts - nearly every day - and commenting a lot, and what i have missed is the "companionship" of the blog world.  Talking with you all makes me feel connected to a group, just as i enjoy knowing what's going on with you.  Am not sure what I have to say these days, now that i no longer have the angst of getting ready to retire, but hope to find more to tell you about both the old and new things in my life.    

The early morning sun makes this the perfect place for breakfast - just enjoying the birds and flowers. 
You know that the garden goes on.  I worked a few hours nearly every day all summer and now into the fall.  You already saw me fill in the pond and make a new sitting area.  That's settled in now and i often carry my breakfast out there and spend a few minutes with the birds.

The heat and drought of August pretty much finished off the herbs, so I pulled them out early and moved the iris to this raised bed.

In early September i pulled out the herbs and moved all the iris to that spot.  It has full-day sun and excellent drainage, so should be a great place for the iris.  Don't really have any plans for the space vacated by the iris, but am sure that something will strike my fancy by spring. 

Now I have two projects.  The small one is half done already.  We moved a large frame that was designed to hold a swinging chair [chair long since dry-rotted!] to the end of the walk that leads to the rear of the property, ["the rear of the property" - sounds like we have acres, in stead of square feet!.  so pretentious.  sorry. ] and in the spring i will attempt to train clematis to climb it.  I plan to wrap it in mesh to provide support, and have already planted a clematis on each side.  [One is already proving tasty to the rabbits, so may have some problems there.]

The "old" veggie patch.  The new one will incorporate nearly off of this space.  More to come on this later. 
The big project is putting in a "formal" kitchen garden.  The above mentioned rabbits wreaked havoc on my veggies this summer, so i am taking decisive action and fencing in a large - by my standards - plot in the last remaining sunny and mostly flat spot in the yard.  It will give me about 20% more growing space for veggies and will provide a little bit of additional space for annual flowers. 

The dahlias have been pretty and plentiful - still blooming on November 1st.  The first frost will be soon and they will be gone.

I'll get the prep work done this fall and then plant new stuff in the spring.  This is a two-fer.  
Obviously, i'll end up with a new garden plot, but also... i am taking a couple of horticulture classes and can use this for a class assignment.  The need to finish "on time" will keep me focused.  I'll save telling you about "school" for another post.

The 'Strawberries and Cream' hydrangea is pretty, but it flops!
The product information did not include that!

So, i'm going to try to post weekly again and hope to hear from you.  Hope your summers went well, and the first half of your fall.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Quiet Sunday Morning ... You Know Where

After 10 days of blistering mid-90's with high humidity (good weather to stay inside and curl up with a book), it was in the 60's this morning and the garden was the perfect place to be. 

I love to get out there before the first direct rays of the sun hit the garden.

I'm lucky that a line of very tall trees two yards over give me an extra 20 minutes of shade before the sun crests them. 

In the shady parts of the garden, there was still lots of dew on leaves and flowers. 

Blueberries were ready for harvesting.  This is actually my second harvest, and I think I will get a third.  It was enough to put on my cereal. They are tiny but quite flavorful.  Hope that future crops will be both greater in quantity and larger berries.

Some of the clematis are reblooming.  My favorite is this one that climbs the mailbox post.

Tomatoes are growing like Topsy.  We are almost at the point of breaking into neighbors' homes and leaving them on the counters ... but not quite.   Soon the Romas will be ripening enough to start the roasting process for winter sauce. 

Apparently the critters - we think this was the ground hog - are liking them, too.   I'm leaving it out there for a couple of days in the hope that he will continue to dine on this one and not help himself to others.   It's starting to get dry, so he may be looking for water. 

The first dahlias bloomed this week ... not the colors I remember planting, but lovely none the less. 

And, I painted my nails. 

Hope you have a great week!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Retirement - Month One

I had a bit of trepidation on June 1st when i got up with absolutely nothing to do .... well, at least nothing that was dictated by someone else. 

It's taken some time to stop planning every night for what needed to be done the next day.  But, going with the flow has turned out to be ok. 


Thirty days and i have a new music/sitting room, new floors, a much "cleaner" garden, a cutting garden that's ready to plant, a "new" deck, and the June bounty of flowers all over the garden. 

Life Retirement is good.  Bring on July!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The To Do List for Inside

In April, my office looked like this:

My desk:
OK.  It was a mess, but i could run a small corporation without getting up except to file. 
Mitchell's desk:
There's nothing I can say.  Mitchell never met a horizontal surface that he didn't love.
As a double office it has served us well - first, just a place for each of us to settle to surf the Web, or pay bills, or write letters (ok, email).  You know, just stuff, 

Then my job changed and for the past 7 years, I have worked from home and it became the "corporate office" for my employer.  I added more filing cabinets and filled the closet and every other available space with office supplies and records. 

In May, it all changed.  My replacement at work took the furniture, and we started cleaning out Mitchell's desk and hutch in order to downsize. 
For a couple of months i used a folding table.
The carpeting was replaced with wood flooring to match the rest of the house, and i found a nice pale green paint for the walls (and the filing cabinet when now lives in the closet).

Early morning painting produced a great result.

Then new flooring.
Today, we have a music room with space for Mitchell's harp and keyboard, along with a smaller desk, a futon for extra company or just a place to relax and watch a different TV show.  Suddenly the house is so much bigger!
Where my desk used to be is now glass shelving and storage for supplies, plus room for the harp and the keyboard.

A futon instead of a big desk and hutch.  I need pictures!

And a new desk at the window.  I can see the cutting garden, too!

It's amazing what a bit of paint, new floor and new furniture will do for a girl.  Now, i just need to figure out what to put on the walls.