Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sprigs: Garden Webcam

peony bud

Packed inside this green marble there are petals growing at an astounding rate.  It's going to explode in fragrant white and pink petals--and I'm going to miss it.

The wisteria is prepping for its big show. The tiny  pinecone-like buds are going to swell into clusters of purple blossoms. Who will see them?

last year's blooms

I need a webcam in the garden!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Charity Begin at Home

“I think it's odd that grown-ups quarrel so easily and so often and about such petty matters. Up to now I always thought bickering was just something children did and that they outgrew it.” 
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

feeling charitable

Saturday my husband and I will fly to Colorado to visit our married children. So we are practicing our Denver manners, that is "charity".

Charity is an attitude of benevolence toward another person. It fosters the the small niceties we should be observing all of the time, but don't. Over forty years of marriage we have institutionalized bickering, minus the heat. 

He leaves open the cupboard doors. I chafe at his negligence and peevishly ask him to please close it. 

I disagree with a political analyst on the news and he launches his opinion into my air space before I've finished. 

We disagree with each other about inconsequential things, ad nauseum.

I realized how nauseating our behavior is when a close family member commented on it.  Caught in our rude ways, now we try harder to:

  1. Let it drop. Every comment does not need a rebuttal.
  2. Listen longer, interject later.
  3. Ask more questions.
  4. Show regard for each other.

It is a sad fact that we have allowed discourtesy to become a habit, fed by uncharitable attitudes. But I have a plan to counteract it.

First I've had to repeatedly admit that my self-seeking is displeasing to God, my husband and others who observe it. I further ask the Holy Spirit to enable me to change, to develop charity. Then I strive to follow St. Paul's instructions to only say what is helpful, what benefits others. 

When we catch ourselves sliding back into petty fussing, we murmur "Denver manners!" 

I hope we live long enough to see charity push bickering out of our lives. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sprigs: Earth Day in the Garden


My peonies needed support, and I had an old chair with no seat. Situated over a peony bush, it  let the flowers grow through and supported them.

It reinforces the focal point of that flower bed, too.

Reuse newspaper and grass clippings to mulch around flowers and create walkways. 

Put down 2-3 sections of newspaper, thoroughly wet to hold it down while you spread 4-5" of grass on it.  After a year the newspaper has pretty much decomposed and the worms love it!

Buy locally grown produce, or grow your own. Either option reduces the energy some commercial farm uses to grow its vegetables and fruit, and the trucks use to take them to the grocery store. Besides, we all know how much better locally grown tomatoes and peaches taste. (I am so blessed to live near the orchards in Cana, Virginia!)


I save all of my vegetable peelings and dead flowers for the compost. Household containers like this one have charcoal filters which eliminate smell in the house.  Then they get dumped into my large composter outside.

If you don't want to build a compost bin, you can use the method my French friend taught me. She had 3 shallow pits in her yard. Every year she used one for her compostables, adding a thin layer of dirt and dry grass or leaves every once in a while. The second year she used the next pit, leaving the other two to slowly compost on their own. By the time you get to the first pit at year four, the microbes and worms have produced nice soil. Empty it and refill the pit with that year's green scraps. 

Happy Earth Day. What do you do that I could add to my list? 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

For Better or for Worse: The Spousal Treasure Hoard

Being married, for better or for worse, includes your spouse's hoarding.

my husband's end table

My husband is a bibliophile. He has many, many books. Early in our marriage he thought I didn't notice the new ones. But I eventually spotted them (and calculated how much they cost. )

my craft closet

Likewise, he watched my  stash of fabric and yarn grow from modest, to significant, to indulgent.  He also noted the completion rate of projects from said collection. Some projects I finished quickly, some hung around for years!   He pretended to number them  and would say, "Is that unfinished project 492?"

projects 600 and 601

 My daughter's issue was shoes. Can anyone relate?  My son-in-law recently remodeled her bedroom closet. Of course, all of the shoes, boots, and sandals had to be moved. He categorized and counted them. She was shocked to see them in a large pile and sorted through them. She made some Goodwill shopper very happy with her contribution. 

One friend has a bigger job ahead of her. Her husband noticed that their large freezer was completely full. They haven't had to feed ravenous teenagers for years and his curiosity kicked in. His inventory showed they had more steaks, roasts and pounds of hamburger than they could eat in a year. While she defended the purchases because they were such good deals, she agreed to quit buying and start cooking.
photo by Xandert

As Americans we have the luxury of buying more than we need. (And I am not talking about TV-worthy hoarding, just too much of a good thing.) It's not a  healthy mindset however. Some of my beautiful woolens were eventually ruined by moths. Unused meat can even go bad in a freezer. And shoes are better worn than forgotten.

I'm grateful for my husband's teasing. It helped me reduce the resources I'd accumulated to use "someday."  Likewise, he gave away books. 

Do you struggle with how much is enough? What have you learned in the process? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sprigs: Pulling weeds in public

I admit it.  In public places I have pulled a weed or two. 

Most recently, I was at the NC Arboretum. Actually, there were few flowers and fewer weeds. But I spotted one flourishing weed popping out of new mulch. It had to go. 

It was worse in the botanic gardens in Bursa, Turkey. The pansies, tulips and other spring flowers were glorious. But oh my, those beds were badly in need of weeding. I pulled a few,  but there were too many for me to make a noticeable difference. Maybe their budget doesn't allow for enough gardener hours.

I'm not alone. Milling outside during a conference break,  I looked over the flower beds.  I spied a woman dressed in heels and a skirt stoop down and extricate a few offenders.  

 Is this evidence of unhealthy ocd tendencies? Is it silent criticism of another gardener's work? Perhaps I just can't get enough time with my hands in the dirt. 

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sprigs: Favorite Tools

"his" on the left, "hers" on the right

My garden fork is an indispensible tool. My first one, on the left, broke when my husband got a large rock stuck between the tines. He kept pushing and broke it. For Christmas (ah, he's such a romantic) he had it repaired, and then broke it the same way a second time. That one's sold by Smith and Hawken.

I bought myself the second one which he is NOT allowed to use. 

I use it garden fork to dig weeds (and dig, and dig, and dig), and create a sharper border in my flower beds. I can't garden without it! 

Follow the link to get information on the newer, superior fork from Clarington Forge in England.

What tool do you require for the garden?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring ants invade!

photo by billy liar on flickr
Besides trees budding and daffodils blooming, I have another sign that spring is coming--ANTS!

Since moving to the country we have had to battle these tiny invaders. One day the counter top is clear (or the window sill, or the edge of the tub) and the next, there’s a line of small, black, moving hyphens. 

We fight back! Our arsenal has included outdoor killer grains--impotent. The bug man arrives in a large truck, and covers his feet with white paper booties and chooses an appropriate indoor spray to subdue them--temporary relief. Over the counter ammo serves up bait hidden in tidy white plastic garages--they turn their noses up at it. 

One friend decided that hair spray did the trick. Just aim, shoot, and freeze them in their tracks. Once the lacquer suffocates them, she wipes them up with a paper towel.

We’ve settled on a liquid called Terro. It attracts them in huge numbers. They surround a pool of this stuff and suck it up like puppies on the mother’s teats. Once they’ve had their fill, they reverse course and take it back to the mysterious, hidden nest. Supposedly they feed it to each other and die. I think it’s more like Romeo’s sleeping draught. They look dead, but then wake up to invade another day, another place. 

A most embarrassing moment: 
We once hosted a young Mexican pastor and his deacon. It was their first visit to an American's home. Bill prepared his homemade pancakes for their breakfast. (See the recipe at end of the blog.) They ate them and he offered more. They looked at each other and the pastor picked up the bottle of syrup. “Something-something-hormigas”. Hormigas? That’s ants! 

I grabbed the syrup bottle and put on my glasses. Stuck on the inside of the bottle were dead ants. We were horrified. I threw the bottle out the back door like it was an armed grenade, and apologized fifteen ways. 

Since the first sighting this season I’ve done battle on two fronts. 

It’s a temporary victory. 

What’s your best weapon against house ants? 

Pacific Rest Pancakes, Judy Waetjen

1 cup flour (we use half whole wheat, half white)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

combine and then add to dry ingredients:
1 egg
1 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk or sour cream
1 Tablespoon oil

1 grated apple
1 tsp cinnamon

Pour onto lightly oiled hot griddle. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sprigs: Mine and Theirs



at the NC Arboretum in Asheville

Sometimes, it's just disappointing being a gardener.