Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bringing In The New ...

Morning Over The River, 12/08

Just had a phone call from my daughter. We talked about her intentions for the New Year. I had to admit that I really hadn't thought much about it, but then on second thought I realized that isn't quite true. I have never been a New Years kind of person, making resolutions and coming up with a list of intentions for the next 12 months. Instead, I seem to do it as the days unfold.

I remember one November about 30 years ago, when I realized that I was smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day and that if I didn't quit, it would kill me. So I told myself I'd quit for the New Year. I set about enjoying every last inhalation of acrid smoke that then made me cough like crazy. I had quit many times before only to start again when some stressful situation made me go out and buy another pack or beg one from a friend.

But this time something different happened. An argument started in my head about why wait till January 1st. If I was really going to quit, it had to be today, right now, no excuses, just shut up and do it. It went on for 2 or 3 days and then I started one of longest, most difficult times in my life. I threw a whole carton of cigarettes in the trash and dove in, never to look back. My husband and kids will tell you to this day, that I was not a pleasant person to be around for a long time. But I did it, they were supportive and from that day forward, I haven't made resolutions for the New Year. I make resolutions when I make them and that's that. It seems to be the only way it works for me.

So my intentions for the next couple of months are to file the stacks of papers that are gathering dust all over my studio/office. I will also clean out the store room and get rid of all of the things I always thought I needed but haven't ever used. I will try to live a much more simplified life, be more frugal, not buy as many books and go to the library instead. And I will continue my herb studies as I have been. Not a bad start I guess. There is so much more to do but then these are the big items.

Hope you all have a wonderful celebration over the next day and may your intentions be abundant and successful!!

If you want to know about my herb studies go here!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice ...

The River Hidden By A Blanket Of Fog

Winter begins today and the hours of daylight will grow longer and the nights shorter as the days pass on into the New Year and the summer solstice, when it all reverses again. I feel extremely fortunate to be living where I do in Virginia. Here the weather has not been bad in the last weeks. We've had temperatures bounce up and down from warm to cold and warm again, mostly cloudy skies, some rain and a fine mist that keeps everything outdoors wet. There was the possibility of freezing rain last night but it never materialized.

Up north in New England where most of my family lives they have been through the mill with a terrible ice storm,a heavy snowfall and more heavy snow expected today. Many people are still without power from the ice storm over a week ago. I heard on the news that power company linemen trying to fix the situation are under attack from very angry customers who have no heat, running water or light ... in that climate, an unlivable situation. Most of the the northern tier of the country has been suffering through this weather and I'm sure it's making what is supposed to be a happy holiday season, one of misery.

With the money crunch we are all staying home, snug in our own little corners of the world this year. Fortunately we spent a lovely week with our grand kids in early November and then a quick trip to New Hampshire to see my brothers and families just before Thanksgiving. But we will not be at a loss. Our son and his wife who live very nearby will come for Christmas morning brunch and we will spend Christmas eve and New Years Eve with friends.

On Friday, I sent off the last of goody boxes to the rest of the family and now I'm just enjoying the peaceful quiet. I wouldn't mind a little bit of snow but I won't complain if we get none.

I wish each and every one of you Happy Holidays and a New Year filled with peace, light, warmth and justice for all!! Excluding no one, especially the creatures who live with us and around us on this beautiful planet ... the sleek red fox who passes through our yard in the morning ... Big Blue the heron who fishes off our dock ... the skunk who leaves his scent about the garden and even the stray cat who lurks in the shadows!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Running Away To The Circus ...

When you're having one of those days
there is nothing like adding a little zip to your life.
So today I headed out to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
show, Boom A Ring, for its last performance here in Charlottesville.

When I was a child my most favorite book
in the whole world was
Toby Tyler, by James Otis, about a little boy
who runs off to join the circus.

When I wasn't dreaming about being a world champion figure skater
I dreamed of being a trapeze artist
flying through the air high above a cheering crowd.
I tried to get my dad to exchange the handmade swing
he made for me for a trapeze but he never got around to it.

I tried training my dog to do wonderful tricks but that never worked out either.

As an adult I love the animal acts the best.
However, I do believe the they should use only domestic animals
like dogs, cats or horses. I adore elephants but they belong in the wild
not in the circus ring. One of these was trained to sit on the head of
one of the other elephants while it was lying down.
That didn't help my funk much! And it wasn't terribly dignified
for the elephants either.

The other day I heard a piece on NPR's, Science Friday,
discussing a study that showed that elephants
live longer in the wild than they do in zoos.
I don't doubt it.

I imagine it might be the same for white Bengal tigers such as these.

Like anything else there was good and there was bad
all mixed up together in this show. But I loved watching
all the children and was reminded of the first time
I saw the circus at Madison Square Garden in New York City some
60 odd years ago. I remembered reading Toby Tyler, and on those days
when nothing was going right, planning on running away
to join the circus.

Today for a few brief hours I did!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Winterberry ...

It's December! Where has all the time gone?
Pretty soon we'll be dating our checks with the year 2009.

Meanwhile the economic outlook grows more grim every day.
We have a Sitting President who is packing boxes, making brief comments
about all those who have lost their jobs and does nothing. We have a President-Elect who is priming the pump with a team of fine men and women who will help him to bring the country back to its feet ... we hope. His hands are tied and he cannot take any action until he takes the oath of office in January. For now the pump is not working.

I like to think that somewhere within this dark cloud we are abiding in
there is a silver lining of some kind. Perhaps we will learn to live comfortably with less.
Perhaps we will begin to look out for one another and lend a hand when it's needed.
Perhaps we'll learn to grow some vegetables to feed ourselves and a neighbor or two.
Perhaps bike lanes will become a regular part of the roadways.
Perhaps we'll start to conserve water, quit polluting the air and our water sources.

Perhaps ...

I do think it's really possible!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving In New Hampshire ...

Last week we celebrated an early Thanksgiving in New Hampshire with my brothers, Reid, on the left and Zed next to him. Also there was Reid's significant other, Lee, Reid's son, Jesse, his wife, Amanda, and their little Anya, one of the cutest little creatures in this world. Lance, Lee's son and his love, Jan, were also there.

Anya and I played peek-a-boo while I worked the camera!

Lot's of fun...

while Lee and her son, Lance, put the final touches on a delicious feast of roast turkey with all the fixings. We pressed the last apples of the season for cider, watched snow flakes come down in windy, frigid squalls and cozied up around the wood stove! It was in the teens outside with a good windchill factor to boot!

It was a fun trip and we promised we'd do it again next year, only earlier! The weather in New Hampshire at this time of year is daunting for an ex New
Englander like myself who moved away 30 years ago. I've lived in Virginia for too long I guess!!

Today Bill and I celebrated our own quiet holiday and it was a pleasure to not have to fuss. I worked out in the yard a bit, putting the garden to bed. With temperatures in the mid 50's, it was perfect.

We're thankful for our friends and family,
all of the joys that life brings us
and hope that all of you have had a peaceful day filled with grace and joy!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sea Change ...

I'm on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Have been here for well over a week and head home on Friday. We've had beautiful weather and a mostly calm sea until yesterday when a storm formed just south of us. This morning I woke to a shaking house, windows rattling, driving rain seeping beneath a not well insulated door. The sights and sounds are absolutely magnificent as is our presidential victory last night. I feel like I've been holding my breath for months now, unable to concentrate on much of anything but the election and being driven by strong emotions and worries about the world I'll be leaving to my grandchildren. But now the storm within has broken, I'm breathing just fine and I'm hopeful that our world will begin to change for the better. I do think it will be a difficult time ahead but we've come through difficult times before and we will do it again.

This beach and the house we rent each year ( I call it, "somebody
else's headache"), is a magical place ... especially in election years. This is the 3rd presidential election year that we have been here on election day. We vote by absentee ballot way ahead of time then come here to relax and heal from a year's worth of battering and in the case of the first two elections to piss and moan about what just happened. But just being here with the sound of surf and the wind whistling through the screens and windows in calming and we've always returned to the real world in much better shape than when we arrived.

Our daughter Lisa, her partner, Deena, and the two
grandlings come for the first week. Then we chase them out and have the second week just to ourselves to read, write, watch the sea, observe the milky way. With Halloween on Friday just before they left we had fun seeing Zoe and Noah in there costumes as they went out for some trick or treating.

Zoe as a duck!

Noah as Ozone Man!

Hope you all had a happy Halloween and a wondrous election day!!!


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Maxed Out ...

Autumn Joy Sedum is now in full bloom in the garden. I'm quite amazed at how well the garden did even in drought this summer. I did water lots from my rainwater cistern. Colorful blooms are about done for the year and even the wild flowers are browning and shriveling. Leaves fall when the wind picks up, gathering to decompose in sheltered places. It is getting chilly at night and I am reminded that the cold, dark, sleepy season will soon be upon us.

On Sunday night we watched the documentary film, Maxed Out. Released 3 or 4 years ago, it is about credit card debt ... how the banks try to maneuver us into paying those astronomical interest fees and our own use of the credit card to keep us in clothes, food, jewelry, cars ... whatever our hungry little hearts desire, when we have little or no money to pay for it all. It is a sad and tragic look at the greed in the banking industry that has recently brought us to our knees.

If you are interested in how we got to where we are today, with banks folding, the market tanking and our government falling into pieces, see this film. Although it is not the about the events of the last couple of weeks, it surely shows how the problems we have today came about. Yes, there has been greed and criminal activity in the higher ranks of our banking industry, but as consumers, we have played a big part in the collapse of our economy as well. The film is available to rent at Netflix or at most neighborhood movie rental shops.

There is also a book, Maxed Out: Hard Times in the Age of Easy Credit, by James D. Scurlock. Although I have not read it, I intend to. My husband has read it and gave it as a gift to our daughter a few years ago. She immediately stopped using her credit card. Both the book and the movie will make you angry at the way business is done in this country and around the world.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tending The Heart ...

Where have I been, you ask? I've been tending to myself ... my heart has been heavy with the vibrations of the exterior world ... it's trying to hold its own ... feeling grateful for all that I have ... the wonderful people I know ... saddened for the state of this country ... the violence in the world ... the hungry ... the homeless ... and most of all for those who don't see or feel the consequences for what they do.

It's been hard for me to write anywhere about anything, including my journal that I normally jot in every day. I've been saying a lot of prayers ... asking lots of questions and trying to stay as positive as I can.

I know I'm not alone. there are many people feeling the same way. I remind myself on a daily, sometimes hourly basis that I cannot control what is happening in this world and that this too shall pass.

I take solace in meditation, the garden, simply living and the gifts each day brings.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

September Garden ...

Jerusalem Artichokes

Last week Tropical Storm Fay brought us over 4 inches of rain and things are looking healthy again, though I am noticing today that a few things are once again getting droopy. I'll water them from my full rainwater cistern this evening and look forward to a visit over the weekend by Tropical Storm Hanna, who should slide by to the east of us and leave us with some moderate rainfall. The coast is supposed to get the worst of it, though one really never knows with these storms. The river is fully restored to its normal level and soon the water fowl migration will begin and I'll be on the lookout for interesting sitings.

The heirloom tomatoes are beginning to slow down now and once it cools off I'll replace them with brussel sprouts and broccoli ... two of my favorite cool weather crops. With winters growing warmer here in Virginia I'll hopefully have a bountiful harvest of those.

This computer is going to the shop for about a week to have it's contents moved to another new one, so I'll be off line until I get the new one back and begin to understand its operation. I am such a dinosaur that this is giving me lots of anxiety. I've been putting this move off far too long. I'm getting a lap top this time that I can take with me when I'm off visiting. I don't need this big clunker that takes up so much room.

The other thing causing much anxiety in the household is the political climate. I am so tired off listening to negative attacks and untruths. Double speak abounds this week and we're once again teasing about leaving the country should a certain party remain in power. The problem is that we love this country and in truth we can't escape the stuff that drives us crazy no matter where we go. So it seems best at the moment to not watch or listen to the rhetoric and pray that things will soon be changing.

There are still lots of things to be grateful for, especially that Hurricane Gustov didn't cause the damage and destruction that was possible. It seems great lessons were learned through the Katrina experience and more were learned this time as well.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Portrait Of A Drought ....

This is Molly and Sam exploring on the dock about 2 weeks ago. At the time I was going to write a post about how bad the "drought" is getting, but never got to it. We've actually been in a drought for a number of years now though certain officials seem to be in denial about it. Last year the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir, the same body of water in the photo above never got this low. Water restrictions were put in place in midsummer last year and were lifted later on when rain became more abundant. Over the course of the winter there seemed to be abundant rain and when monthly totals were added up in the spring, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority declared the drought over. What they forgot about is that the ground water has run very low since the worst summer of drought in 2002. Their logic seems to be if the rain fall totals add up to normal amounts for the year, then we are not in drought. It doesn't seem to matter that trees and shrubs all over the county are dying. It doesn't seem to matter that the water level in this reservoir that supplies water to the city of Charlottesville is well on it's way to the level it was in 2002 when we were in severe drought and water restrictions were in place.

This is what the dock area looks like today. The water is now 10 to 12 feet away from the dock. Scattered showers are in the forecast for the rest of week, but so far there has been not one drop of rain.

The trees you see across the river are turning brown. They are not orange or red. These trees are shutting down their systems because they can not pull up any water from the ground. Leaves are falling at an alarming rate. The Garden is dying back very early this year. I still have a bit of water left in the rain water tank but it will soon be gone. We save water from washing dishes to water as many plants as possible. We don't flush every time we use the bathroom, going by the rule: If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down." The grass has not been mowed for almost a month now and is brown and crackly when you walk on it.

I took this photo on August 26th, 2006. Not much has changed has it?

This is what the river looks like when the water levels are normal, taken in November of 2006. So tell me, do you think this might be a drought or is it not a drought as claimed by the RWSA? There are currently no water restrictions in place. I am lucky. I have a well that is quite deep and hasn't failed me yet. I'm thankful I do not live in the city and have to pay for the water I use. I would have to depend upon the "authorities" to keep my water running and they don't seem to see a need to conserve water at this point.

We are entering a new age of global climate change. We can no longer depend on the seasonal weather patterns we have in the past. I believe we need to be conserving water every day, no matter how abundant rainfall is.

This is what the beginning of a real problem looks like. Why can't the authorities see it??

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Abandoned Pets ...

kittens waiting for a forever home at the SPCA

Last week my husband and I rescued 4 cats that were left to fend for themselves on our street. There were 2 lovely gray kittens about 3 months old and 2 young females of the same coloring ... both had recently given birth to kittens ... presumably the kittens that were with them, as we could find no others. They were not feral. I could pick them up easily they came when I called them with bowls of food. They were starving and mewed for their lives ... for someone to pick up where they'd been dropped off, so to speak.

Having 3 cats of my own and two dogs as well we took them to our local award winning SPCA which also happens to be a no-kill shelter. Because these kitties have personality I'm confident that they will eventually find good homes once they are spayed and neutered, which this wonderful shelter does before any rescues are put up for adoption.

Today I received an email from a friend who put out the word that someone had found 5 Labrador retriever puppies abandoned in another part of town. I know the economy sucks right at the moment and we are all having to cut back on expenses, but it seems to me there are kinder and more responsible ways to do that. The SPCA as well as other rescue groups will help anyone who can no longer take care of their pets because of illness or money woes. The folks who work with these animals are not out to judge anyone; they just want to help loving creatures who can longer be cared for.

PLEASE, be a responsible pet owner. Have your dogs and cats spayed or neutered and PLEASE don't leave them on the side of the road when you can longer take care of them. Be a caring and courageous pet owner and take them to a shelter. They depend on you.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

August ...

This is the time I normally head north on some exotic vacation. Last year it was Arctic Canada and Greenland. But this year finds me here at home in sun-seared Virginia, baking away. Even the best watered flowers wilt on days like today when the mercury rises well into the 90's and the humidity makes it feel around 100 degrees.
Friends ask me where I'll be going, then gasp when I say nowhere. Can't a body just stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet of summer in her own home??

The price of fuel and the energy it takes to go anywhere of interest is a huge problem and like others, I'm taking a "staycation" this year to ease the wallet and my carbon footprint. Plus I've lost interest in flying. It's just not as fun as it used to be and the horror stories of unexpected layovers, canceled flights and lost luggage get worse daily.
Who needs it?

But the travel brochures keep arriving and as the summer moves on, that bug that keeps me wanting to see another wonder of the world is back.
It's like a flea, biting and making me scratch the red bumps it raises. Unfortunately, the only thing that makes it go away is to move ... pack a suitcase ... make plans. And what has always made home the most important place in the world to me is being away from it. "There is no place like home," as Dorothy said, in the Wizard of Oz, even if it's plain old flat, tornado riddled Kansas. Who can resist one's own bed when they've been sleeping in others?

So I'm making a few plans and hoping the spread of itchy bumps will ease a bit. No big deal here, just a short 3 hour drivable distance to central North Carolina to join my daughter and the grandkids for a few days at the North Carolina Zoo in Ashboro in early September. Hopefully the heat of summer will be on it's way out and other tourists will be getting their kids settled in back-to-school mode. In October, I'll take Amtrack up to New York City for a few days to see a show and a few movies that might not make it to a theatre near here. It may not be Iceland or the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont, but it will be fun and a welcome break from too much Virginia summer. In the meantime, I still do salivate over a cruise around Newfoundland with a quick stop in Labrador.
A body can dream, can't they??

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My July Garden ...

Here we are at the end of July and the garden is at it's best! Purple Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susans are the mainstay and make it pop! There is also the deep purple of several Japanese Maples, orange lilies, a host of herbs and other plants tucked in here and there.

We've been very dry again and I continue to use stored rain water to keep things looking fresh and happy. As August approaches this garden and most others in the region will begin to look a little worse for wear. Continuing heat sears the flowers and leaves and lack of rainfall makes for pitiful wilting, especially during long afternoons. But soon the sedums will bloom and there will be some semblance of color once again as their pale pink blossoms turn darker until they are a shade of deep red-mahogany.

Having tucked a few veggies in a corner of the fenced in yard next to where the dogs roam free, the deer and groundhogs have decided not to bother with the battle this year. The smell of dog seems to leave them cold. We're enjoying 4 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, green peppers and lots of culinary herbs. I've heard great things about a new water spritzer on the market that is activated by a motion detector that comes on when an animal approaches. It comes on suddenly and scares the you-know-what out of them. After a couple of attempts they decide it's not worth it and stay away. So I'm already hatching big plans for next summer. I'm planning a new bed, where I can add some eggplant, squash and cukes. Who knows what else I'll find in those seed catalogues that start arriving in the dead of winter when I'm dreaming of getting my hands in the soil.

As I write a surprise thunder storm has opened up overhead and its raining hard. Time to shut down this machine and tuck myself in a cozy chair with a good book.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Alive And Well ...

Oh yes, I'm still here! Been tangled in a web of days that are far too short for all that I want to do. Time has a habit of running away with me. It seems I roll out of bed in the morning and the next thing I know, it's time for shut-eye again.

I'm in transition ... trying to reinvent myself to fit into a world that seems to be changing by the nanosecond. Mostly I've been working in the garden. There is no sweat like garden sweat ... it pours off my head, from my arm pits, my back, my feet and after an hour or two I'm completely soaking wet. With it seem to go the burdens of a lifetime. Yes, it wears me out, but somehow it also makes me feel younger ... and lighter ... and more connected. Weeding, pruning, replanting have given me time to think, to rediscover, to imagine where it is that I'm going and what I might be doing in the days to come.

We also did a bit of traveling to North Carolina over the 4th of July to be with our precious little family who don't live close enough to us. This month marked Noah's 5th birthday and Lisa and Deena's 10th year of living happily together as life partners and parents to Noah and Zoe. They held a a small birthday party for Noah and a "10 Year Recommitment Ceremony," at an exquisite spot in the mountains. Noah danced, Zoe read a poem she wrote just for the occasion. Promises were made by both Lisa and Deena to continue their ties of love and to try to be better and more patient with each other. This old lady shed a few tears and my husband took the photos!

Zoe, Lisa, Noah and Deena

I suppose all of this, along with my youngest brother's struggle with cancer and heart disease plus the inevitable passage of time since my mother's death over a year ago, bring me to a place of recommitment to my own life and how I want to live it. I want to ponder the big questions ... like Noah's asking his mom, "Which is higher, Mom, Heaven or Outer Space?" And "Are God and Santa Claus the same person?"

So I may or may not revisit this spot as often as I did before. I have promises to keep and a long road to travel before I find answers to those big questions. And the garden still needs tending.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Morning Hike ...

The weather was so wonderfully cool last week I decided to go to one of my favorite places for a hike. This is Ivy Creek which feeds into the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir on whose banks I live. The Ivy Creek Natural Area which borders on the creek, is about two minutes from my doorstep. Many years ago, in another lifetime, I was a naturalist/guide here and spent many glorious mornings guiding elementary school kids, teens and adults through the more than 200 acres of woodlands and fields.

This is a special place. Long ago the farm belonged to freed slave, Hugh Carr, who turned it into a show place for the Virginia Extension Service. Much later, after he died and his children and grandchildren moved on, the property was put on the market. When a developer seemed to be interested in the land, local environmentalists banded together getting the Nature Conservancy interested in buying the property. The Conservancy turned around and deeded it to the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle to be used as an undisturbed natural area where people from the region could hike and become aware of the value of wild green spaces. It is managed by the Ivy Creek Foundation, which keeps up this wonderful outdoor classroom.

Today, Ivy Creek Natural Area sits in the middle of a booming population intent on building huge homes and having all of life's commercial assets at their finger tips. I've lived in the area for well over 20 years and the changes are phenomenal. The South Fork Rivanna River is silting in at an incredible rate and the future of the drinking water supply is in jeopardy. Government approved plans for rebuilding and expanding another area reservoir puts the future of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir in question. Neighbors and friends often find themselves with differing views as to whether the the river should be dredged to save it as the sole drinking water supply and as the pleasurable recreational facility that it is.

During the 1950s, the South Fork Rivanna River was dammed, drowning the village of Hydraulic, where a mill ground grains from local farms into flour. It became "the reservoir" from which water was treated and piped in to the city of Charlottesville. Beyond the city's supplier of drinking water, it serves daily as a special fishing spot for many area residents as well as the place where the University of Virginia rowing teams practice and race.

The reservoir has never been dredged to maintain its flow and like the arteries of many human bodies walking the planet today, is at risk of clogging up ... becoming unusable as a water supply or a recreational playground. I believe that it should be dredged and maintained as both. It does not need to be the only source of water to fill the needs of the people who may live here in 50 years, but it was built at the expense of those people who lost their land and livelihoods to it. Like the Ivy Creek Natural Area, it is an important and special place,
reminding every one that beyond the asphalt and concrete cityscape around us, there is a quiet undisturbed place where people can find the peace and the quiet of the natural world.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thoughts On Family And Home ...

I'm back home after a eight day trip up to New England to visit with my brother who is recovering well from surgery. He has another health issue discovered after the surgery ... a damaged heart and the eventual need to implant a defibrillator that will shock his heart if the rhythm goes wrong. But he is now at home and eating on his own. Hopefully he will begin putting on some weight.

He seems to be in good hands both medically and at home where Lee, his significant other, dotes on him, cooks lovely foods and tries to keep him interested in at least tasting things. Because the tumor in his esophagus was so close to his stomach, part of it was removed in surgery. Now, because his stomach is smaller, he has to eat many "little" meals during the day instead of the large three that most of us are used to consuming. Many morbidly obese individuals are successfully having a similar surgery done these days to help them lose weight. He has always been as thin as a rail so this was not exactly what he needs. However, in order to live healthily this is what he is gifted with.

While there we also had a chance to visit with my other brother and his significant other, Iris, who is just the sweetest person imaginable. We had lunch together along with my nephew, Jesse and his wife, Amanda. Little Anya was with her great grandparents, allowing her mom and dad to have a peaceful meal. But we did get to spend time with Anya the next day when she and mom, Amanda, came to our hotel to visit.

Anya just turned one a few weeks ago and is a wonderful bundle of loveliness. But she can also be a handful if she doesn't want to do what you want her to do. It seems she's inherited a bunch of family "stubborn" genes. She seems to be as slippery as an eel and if she doesn't want to be held, there is not much you can do to hold on to her.

They say that home is where the heart is and I'm home right now in Virginia where a large part of heart lives, while all these family members are about 750 miles away. I also have other family members in North Carolina. Since parts of my heart are with all of them, I suppose you might say, I have a number of homes. fortunately, my son and his wife live about 15 minutes away. We spent a lovely time with them yesterday on Father's Day. Mark had baked a delicious bread pudding for the occasion and we simply relaxed as family.

I do wish that the others, so far away, were a bit closer so that we could see them more often. But I do feel grateful for all of my family members and my many homes!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Things To Be Grateful For ...

I'm slipping off to New England to see my brother for a few days. Things are looking up. His breathing tube has been removed, his lungs are clear and the incisions are healing well. The biopsy news is good and hopefully the cancer will not return. He passed a "swallow" test today with flying colors indicating that there is no leakage from the esophagus when liquids are taken. So he'll soon be on a liquid and soft foods diet. Hopefully he'll be out of the ICU tomorrow. The problem with his heart remains and to my understanding there is no plan as yet to deal with it ... but I'm sure something will be recommended in the coming days.

I am so glad that the primary season is over and at last we have a presumptive candidate. And I'm grateful it's Obama. My husband predicts that now the real down and dirty stuff will begin. I'm going to try to keep myself away from the television as much as I can. I find these battles to be very disturbing and hopefully Obama will continue to be able to wage his campaign in the dignified, presidential way that he has so far. I do not want to wish time away, but it certainly will feel good in November when we know we will have him in the White House come January.

I'm also grateful for the rain in the last two days ... not a lot, but things are wet and still growing. I have tiny tomatoes on the vine and wee green peppers beginning to appear. I've come up with a new location for these goodies this year and so far ... knock on wood ... the deer and rabbits haven't found a way to get to them.

More and more wonderfully delicious produce is beginning to appear at the farmer's market. Last week I found tiny baby beets, sugary carrots, spring onions, broccoli and the first of the local strawberries ... small red jewels. These fabulous vegetables and fruit grown in good old Virginia soil are so much better than the very best grocery store produce shipped in from California or further. More and more people in the area are beginning to grow there own and to buy what they can't grow, within the region. Sweet summer is here and for me it's a festival of favorite foods!!

See you next week!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Summer Storms ...

It's been hot and humid the last few days. It will cool down tomorrow and then it looks like summer will be upon us with more summer-like temperatures and humidity levels. The rain teases as it has in past summers ... a 2 minute downpour then nothing more. It seems we're back in the same weather patterns we were in before the drenching rains of April and May. Everything that is growing so well now will slow down again and we will begin to take seriously the new patterns that are emerging as the climate changes.

The last two days have brought worrisome news of my brother, even after his successful surgery. Yesterday he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Today it seems his heart was causing trouble. He's apparently had some chest pains in the past 6 months but never mentioned them to his doctors. After extensive tests, they believe he's had several small heart attacks. One part of his heart shows permanent damage with one artery completely clogged. Two of his life support systems are being compromised and we don't know what will happen next. He is currently in stable condition and we pray that both problems will be fully addressed and taken care of so that he can lead a normal life.

Please ... if you ever have or have been having physical symptoms that could be a sign of serious illness, see a doctor at once and have it checked out. The earlier that problems are addressed, the greater the chances of recovery.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Busy Days!

No, I haven't abandoned ship .... yet! It's been a busy time and I've wondered from time to time over the last weeks whether I can keep up with my blogs. I decided to just let this one go for a bit and to do my weekly posts at Rivanna River Herbal because it is my class project after all.

I've been feeling quite overwhelmed by lots of things this past month, with the garden taking most of my attention. I'm trying to thin, prune, plant and help it all to look beautiful while nursing a back injury that was doing great until this past weekend when I went on a hike and shouldn't have. Then on Monday, I worked in the garden for almost 4 hours. Since then I've been hurting and feeling very frustrated. For me, the garden is where I want to be ... and not just sitting. I always see something that needs doing and the weather for working outside has been unbelievable ... warm, not hot days, very little humidity and chilly nights. Perfect! Too soon the hot, hazy and humid days of summer will be upon us. Then I'll take to the shady corners of the garden or the indoors. Early morning and late evening are the only times I can handle the great outdoors in July and August, unless we have a cool spell and then I'm out and about.

This morning I managed a bit of pruning and planting but quit after an hour. Now I'm just trying to stay still and let my back recover a bit ... not easy for an antsy person like myself who sees so many things that need attention. Do I sound like a obessive type? Hopefully, this too shall pass. I mean the backache ... though it would be good to get rid of some of my craziness as well.

I am very much wanting to simplify my life and to begin weeding out those things that don't really interest me that much any more. But it's difficult and every time I let something go the space fills up with some other obsessive activity. I can't seem to let empty moments just be empty, though I am trying and one of these days, maybe, I'll get it.

Good news came yesterday! My brother's surgery to remove his esophageal cancer went well and they believe they got it all. Now we await the results of a biopsy to let us know if the cancer was still alive. I pray the chemo and radiation killed it so that he can start with a clean, healthy body. In the meantime, they say he is in lots of pain and I realize my backache is really nothing to complain about, especially if I take care of it better!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Lushness Of Spring ...

Oh, how lush the garden is!! To date this month we've had 6 inches of rain. Shrubs and trees I've planted have grown more in the last two months than they have in the last two years. The life force of water is truly amazing. We cannot live without it. Without it, the land would become bare, crack and crumble. Everything would shrivel and die.

The birds seem more active these days. Yesterday, I discovered the nest of a pair of cardinals in the climbing roses by the garage and watched a pair of mockingbirds do their hop, hop mating dance in the driveway. Pairs of bluebirds have nested in the boxes we've set out for them and one group of babies should be fledging any day now. This morning two families of Canada geese strolled along the water's edge ... one family with 3 gawky children, just beginning to sport real feathers, the other with only one baby, still tiny and golden in color.

I cannot get enough of the outside ... the garden, the flowers, the pulse of the planet, the new life all around me. Unfortunately it is not so for everyone. The tragedies unfolding in Burma and China are heartbreaking. There is no way I will ever be able to comprehend the loss those people in that part of the world are enduring ... unless of course I were to experience what they are going through. I do not wish for that. What I do wish for is that my prayers and those of all of the other people who are concerned be heard and that they will bring some measure of peace to those in need of caring for.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Muddy River ...

There were big weather doings in the area last night. We had thunder, lightning, torrential rain and some hail. But the biggest deal was that we were under a tornado warning for several hours. My husband is away, so the dogs and I spent the night in what used to be my mom's apartment on the the bottom floor of our home. The dogs shivered when the thunder boomed and looked to me for safety. If they knew I couldn't change anything or protect them from that horrible noise, they'd probably leave home.

We woke to a gray, cool morning and 4 1/2 " of rain in the rain gauge. The dock is swamped. I haven't seen it as an island in a number of years now because of the drought. But it's beginning to feel like we may be on our way into some "normal" weather patterns for a change ... whatever "normal" might be. When I first moved to Virginia in 1979, torandoes were a rarity. Just a week or so ago there were devastating twisters in the southeastern corner of the state.

You can see in this photo the "stuff" that comes down the river when we have a heavy rain. There is garbage of all kinds, dead tree limbs, stumps and what remains of last year's leaves. The silt is visable in several tones with the currents bringing in just a bit at first, then later the full monte of good old, Virginia red clay. That is beginning to be a problem for this reservoir as it is silting in at a pretty good clip. I've noticed big differences in the the shore line since we moved here 8 years ago. There is big controversy over what to do to keep the area in water for the next 50 years. Once I understand a bit better what exactly is going on, I'll be writing some about it. Water is a big issue every where and it's getting bigger by the day, around here.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bees ...

My son, Mark, arrived a week or so ago with a hive box and about 10,000 bees. He has 2 hives at his home but wanted to spread out a bit so here we are with our own hive, carefully being tended by him. They are Mark's bees and he does all the work, but I cannot help but refer to them as "my bees."

Mark came by a few days ago to release the Queen, who was encapsulated in a tiny, sugary box which the workers are chewing through. The bees were calmed by the smoke. A few did try to sting him but his protective gear kept him from feeling it.

The bees are already building comb in the box and pollinating plants in my garden. When they first arrive bees need to be fed, so yesterday Mark came by with a gallon of sugar water (5 lbs. of sugar to 1 Gallon of water) to refill their reservoir so they can eat while they begin bringing their new home together and producing honey. They will be fed again in the fall before winter comes to help hold them over. We will not harvest any honey this year, letting them spend their first winter living on the honey they themselves produce and the extra sugar syrup Mark feeds them.

Honey is a very magical food and an antimicrobial healing agent. My dog, Molly, recently had surgery to remove a nasty cyste on her tail. After the cyste was removed the veterinarian dressed the wound with honey and then bandaged it. I had no idea that honey could be used in this way. The site has healed on Molly's tail and she is as good as new. I will use honey next time I cut myself to help the healing along.

Besides providing us with honey, bees are critically important because they pollinate the plants we use for food. Without them and other pollinators, the growing food crisis around the world will become more than a crisis. Starvation will not only effect the poor, it will effect the richest of the rich. Food growers as well as the world's bee keepers will be without work.

Bees have been mysteriously dissapearing. Called "Colony Collapse Disorder," hives around the world are found abandoned with no sign of the bees. It is believed that a mite and/or a virus are involved and scientists are at work trying to discover what else could be to blame. Other pollinators such as bumble bees are at risk as well. I often wonder about the tons of pesticides that are being used to grow our food crops. Could that be part of the problem??

We'll see what happens with this hive. I'll keep you posted on this latest adventure!

Monday, April 28, 2008


Pinks, © Joan Z. Rough 2008

It's raining! And it's been raining on and off for the last couple of days! We've had an excess of wonderful drops of moisture for the month of April ... and it isn't over yet. Might it be possible that the weather patterns are changing and we may get over our droughty situation?? Anything is possible, but my prayers are asking for a summer of normal rainfall.

The rain gauge is measuring just over an inch of rain since 10 PM last night. I drifted off to sleep to the sound of rain on the roof. Today, it's been lovely to be inside planning more garden projects and catching up on chores after a weekend of studying herbs. After I finish this post, I'll curl up with a good book, look out the window once in a while to watch the trees and plants grow greener and taller!

I hope that whatever you're doing, where ever you are, that you're enjoying the day as much as I am.