Saturday, August 15, 2009

Food Movies, The Garden And Life In General ...

Not writing here much these days. It's been a busy, very intense summer. I've been hard at work cleaning out my studio, getting rid of "stuff" I've been hanging onto for far too many years. It feels really good to be doing this and I've much more to do before I can consider the job done. There are also the closets throughout the house that seem to overflow and spill out every time I open a door. I will continue slowly but surely.

Weatherwise it's been gorgeous with very few 90 degree days. Rain is lacking at the moment, but I notice the tropics are heating up with hurricane energy and perhaps the remnants of one will swing this way. Here in Virginia the most beneficial late summer rains often come from these truly destructive storms so it's not that I'm wishing for one. I'd prefer the late-day summer thunder shower variety of storm without tornadic twists and turns. Just a lovely rainfall that makes the earth smell fresh and helps the plants to grow.

The garden grows more slowly now and the
tomatoes ripen slowly though the plants are loaded with them. I worry they will all be ready for picking at once but if they do I shall still be grateful. I'll make gallons of tomato sauce and freeze or can it for those winter days when I want to remember the sun ripened flavor of real tomatoes. It's been a terrible tomato year all over the east coast and I hear the same about other regions of the country.

This has been "Foodie Movie Month" for us, beginning with
Food. Inc, a must see for anyone who cares about what we consume and actually should be required viewing for every American. Wonder why we all are getting chunky and are dying of cancer?? There are some important answers in this film as well as in Fresh, which basically covers the same territory but seems a bit more hopeful. Both films feature local hero, Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms. Though we eat very little meat these days, when we do, it comes from Polyface.

On the lighter side and oh so much fun, is
Julie and Julia. We saw it in a theatre packed with other "seniors" who like my husband and I watched Julia Child religiously every week and learned to prepare heavenly French dishes. Though we knew how to cook before Julia, after watching her shows, we REALLY knew how to cook! Meryl Streep is wonderful and though she doesn't have the physical heft of the real Julia, she has the "voice" down pat.

And finally, surfing channels one evening this past week, we came across the animated film, Ratatouille, which I consider the dessert course of these viewings. I didn't see it when it was in the movie theatres, but happily watched this fun flick about a rat who is a master chef in Paris.

Just writing about these films is making me hungry ... off I go to cook something!!
Hope you're enjoying August!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Time ...

Summer time and the living is lovely. We've had an abundance of rain and cool weather ... the coolest July in 100 years with an average of 6 degrees below normal. We've used little air conditioning in comparison to past years and the windows get thrown open most nights. Sometime during the wee hours I'm apt to grab the blanket ready and waiting at the foot of the bed. Summer has been my least loved season in this location because of the heat and humidity, so this year is a true gift.

The garden has done well, though the tomatoes rebel against the chill and too much rain for their liking. I've harvested well over 25 pounds of potatoes. Not bad for the meager 2 pounds of seed potatoes I planted. The weeping cherry tree is beginning to brown a bit and drop her leaves as is her habit in August. Other plants, lovely early in the season, are beginning to show some wear as we enter a month when gardens in this part of the world generally aren't at their best.

The "Scarecrow" mentioned in my last post is keeping the deer out of the vegetable garden, though not before they polished off the cucumbers and bean plants. We've seen spotted fawn twins in the early morning several times and know they've been told of that horrible water monster that blasts the vegetables when approached. Peter and his cousin rabbits abound. They seem to sneak in under the radar and get a tasty treat now and then. I've gotten over my greed and feel happy to share a little bit with them. After all it is this human who has invaded the space diminishing what used to be just their place.

I've been inspired to work on some projects that have been gathering dust and so this French beaded Poppy was birthed and placed in the peyote stitch covered bottle I created several years ago with no particular purpose in mind. As I was finishing the poppy, the bottle caught my eye and I knew immediately what its purpose was.

I've been away from my creative life for far too long and I've every intention to pick up where I left off, leaving piles of junk and half baked ideas sitting on every visible surface. I'm now in the process of cleaning it out and beginning to reconnect with my muse once again.

Hope you are having a great summer too!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Of Deer And Scare Crows ...

Swiss Chard


Sweet Potatoes

The ScareCrow

There has been much gnashing of teeth, tears, saying REALLY bad words and cynicism here of late. Two nights ago the "night raiders" struck, then had the nerve to continue in broad daylight, not moving much at the sight of a hysterical woman, shrieking and waving a broom. Gone altogether are the beets, the carrots and several string bean plants. Maybe these defoliated plants pictured above will come back if they are given a chance.

I knew the honeymoon had to end. The nasty scents of whatever they put in those deer repellent products always gives way and even on reapplication don't mean much to those who seek to undermine all of the hard, tireless work I've done throughout the spring!! %&+@#?*! No, they can't be hungry!! Look at all the stuff growing in the meadow!! I leave it there just for them!!!

So, yesterday I set up the ScareCrow, which I'd heard about last year. I was told about it by several acquaintances who said, "Yes, it works!!" It's a motion detector/sprinkler that releases "a short but startling burst of water when it detects an animal," according to the literature. And it's an expensive sucker!!

The jury is still out as to whether it works here, for me, with these particular deer! Bill, suffering from insomnia last night, heard it go off several times in the wee hours while he was rummaging about. Nothing more seemed to be missing during this morning's garden check, so we'll see.

I will tell you one thing ...
if you decide to try one ... when you are setting it up ... wear a bathing suit :)!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

City Market ...

7:30 AM at the City Market


My friend Maggie Stultz and her magical pottery.
I love all of her work but I especially covet that platter on the left with the eggplant on it.

I found black raspberries and candy cane beets here.

What else do I need?

The Haul

black raspberries
candy cane beets
swiss chard
summer squash
raspberry/rhubarb and native cherry
Jams according to Daniel

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tomatoes and Flowers ...

Grape Tomatoes

Potato Blossoms

Fever Few

Butterfly Bush

It's a rainy day today and chilly. We're going on well over 3 inches of rain so far for June. Some people are tired of it. Some gardens are getting too much water, not enough sunshine and growth is slow ... stunted.

I'm happy though. I picked my first grape tomato of the season a few days ago and it wasn't quite ripe enough but still full of sunshine. I harvested cabbage and cauliflower the day before yesterday and continue to enjoy sweet carrots. I pickled beets in balsamic vinegar and good olive oil ... WOW!!

The more of my own food I grow the more disenchanted I get with having to go to the Supermarket ... even Wholefoods. The big news of the week is that Trader Joe's is coming to Charlottesville in a new huge shopping center which I'm not sure we really need or even can afford as a community right now. I wish we had a year round farmer's market so that we could be getting fresher vegetables from surrounding states rather than the ones we see in the grocery stores from Mexico or Europe.

The price of gas is rising again after falling over the winter and people still don't understand we have to use less and get out from under the gas and oil giants big feet. And a new government report out yesterday suggests again that global warming will be much worse, much sooner that we thought. The North Koreans are nuke nuts as are a whole lot of other countries and the people of Iran want a recount and are demanding fair elections.

Still the flowers bloom, the bees buzz and birds sing outside my window. The sun will return. Nothing stays the same ... ever. There is good news. There is bad news.
I'm grateful for what I have and am able to do for myself.

Monday, June 08, 2009

How The Garden Grows ...

Herb Robert

Oak Leaf Hydrangea


Elderberry Flowers


This is what is in bloom right now!

See more here!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hello Again ...

It's been a while, hasn't it. This is a busy season and there seems to be more to do than I can fit in any given day or days. This week I finished getting most of the herbs and veggie plants in except for a few things that I'll tuck in here and there as the summer progresses. For instance today I picked up a few more eggplants to replace the spinach which is now bolting and will no longer grow as the heat increases. Spinach will be replanted in the fall once cool days and nights are upon us.

Since the first of May we've had an astounding 6 1/4 inches of rain and local meteorologists say that though we still have a 3 inch deficit for the year, we are no longer considered to be in drought conditions and that the ground water levels are doing well. It's also been amazingly cool and though we may have a day or two near 90 degrees at the beginning of the week, it will cool down again into the 70s as the week progresses. I shall not complain about that or the abundance of moisture we've had this month. I hope we'll continue to have enough rain through the summer to keep the gardens as lush and productive as they are right now.

I'm no longer putting out hummingbird feeders. I found it difficult to keep up with changing the syrup every day or so and having cats I no longer want to tempt fate. Since I only put seed feeders out in the middle of the winter, our bird loss, I'm very happy to say, has really diminished. But still we have lots of humming birds about. They love these trumpet vines and I've also found them feeding on bronze fennel and basil when they are in bloom.

I'm trying to figure out if I will keep this blog going. I haven't been posting much and I find I really just want to be outside in the garden at this time of year. Still there are many things I'd like to write about and a blog seems to be a great way to keep the words flowing ... if I'd only do it. I'll let you know what I decide.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Still In The Garden ...

Oh yes, I'm still here. Still have very dirty fingernails and a tired body at the end of the day. We've had an amazing wet season with 2 3/4 " of rain between May 1st and yesterday. More is on the way as the big storms from the Midwest head our way overnight and into tomorrow. The garden is greener and lusher than I've seen it since we moved here in 2001 and for the first time I can see how all the work is paying off. I can really see the vision that I've had and it just keeps getting better.

The above photo is of a blue columbine that was here when we moved in. It moves about the garden freely, showing up in new places every year and I love it. I have never seen this variety in any of the nurseries or garden shops so don't really know what its name is.

The garden theme this year is certainly about medicine and edibles. Though I do and will tuck in something that catches my eye that is not medicinal or edible, I'm really interested in mainly putting in veggies and herbs.

I spent last weekend in North Carolina visiting with the grandlings. They were both on stage in their school's production of Fiddler On The Roof, which just blew me away. Every student in grades K thru 8th grade in this school of some 75 kids were on stage. I was in tears at the end as they sang, To Life, which shall forever be my anthem. I have spent far too many hours worrying about the future of our planet and our children and will now put my energy into celebrating the lives we do have and find ways to make them better. Here was a stage filled with children singing to their parents and grandparents about how to keep going even if the circumstances aren't always the best. Who says we can't learn from these little ones??
Sorry I didn't get pictures but it is etched in my mind and imagination for good!!

While there I was surprised to find that the Western North Carolina Herb Festival was on in Asheville and on Sunday morning I spent an hour or so wandering through the aisles of herbs, medicinals, seeds and plain ole interesting people. I got opinions about vermiculture, learned about keyhole gardens and yes, brought more plants home to put in the garden ... Angelica, meadowsweet, Clary Sage and Lobelia among them.

Hope you are enjoying the spring as much as I am!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weather Patterns ...

I rather like the weather pattern we're in ... a couple of days of cool, rain ... then a couple of days of warm sunshine. But you can't please everyone! People who are growing veggie plants to sell are saying the cool, damp times are slowing the growth of their seedlings and it will take a bit longer than expected before they are ready for my garden. Well, I'm not in a hurry. We're still below average in rainfall for the year. I've started a few plants of my own and they seem to be doing fine. I harvested some baby arugula the other day to top off my avocado/egg salad sandwich. Very yummy and a taste of what is to come.

For me, this weather is a back saver. After a few days of bending, stooping and being on my feet in the garden, I can rest up, do inside chores, like bake bread, do laundry. But I can also do some reading, write in my journal and listen to the rain on the roof. Then, just about the time, a hint of cabin fever kicks in and my back is feeling fine again, I'm back out in the garden. It's great!!

Everything is growing beautifully and it's redbud season here with the dog woods blooming simultaneously. It doesn't necessarily happen every year, but when it does it is really lovely. Besides being a decorative tree and a native of the area, the blossoms are nice added to a green salad with a bit of a sweet taste.

I know it's been snowing in Colorado, there are twisty tornadoes about in the south and out in the Los Angeles area they are having a heat wave. Our turn will come, I'm afraid, for some nastiness. But in the meantime, I love what we've got!!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Garden Time ...

I've had several readers asking about my whereabouts!
Well, I'm here, just busy and tired at the end of the day. I have dirt under my finger nails, muddy shoes and an on and off back ache. I've been shoveling, carting, planting, trimming, weeding and sleeping like a baby. I've planted potatoes, fingerlings and two kinds of red. Carrots and another round of spinach are showing themselves and yesterday, I went with a friend to one of our heavenly garden places, Edible Landscapes, where I bought lemon grass, rosemary, passion flower, elderberry, sweet bay laurel, June berry and a rose that promises to have huge hips in the fall for treating colds and flu over the winter.

I will be back to writing on a more regular schedule as soon as everything is in and growing well!
In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying spring as much as I am!

You might find a post now and then over at Rivanna River Herbal, where I'm hopefully going to post more about the garden!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Global Weirding ...

It's snowing ... last weekend it was in the upper 80's. I don't know whether to get some lighter spring clothes out or keep the heavy winter togs in the closet. The crocus popped this week ... so did one of the apple trees in the old orchard as well as a cherry tree. Blossoms are bursting forth all over town. My sinuses are stuffed up and it's time to pull the goldenrod tincture out and take some for my spring allergies! It's way to early for all of this. I'm just not ready. Between the time change and heat last weekend, my body was freaking out! I think strange weather is and will be happening all over the globe. I'm grateful that we haven't had any severe weather so far.

Remember the family I told you about a while back whose house slid down the side of a mountain? They received good news this week. Their cat, Joey, is safe and getting sound as I write. He was found about a mile away from his former home and is healing after 2 months of living in the wild!! The local newspaper dubbed him the "miracle cat."

Monday, March 09, 2009

Yellow ...

With temperatures in the 70's on Friday and Saturday and in the 80's yesterday, some of the forsythia popped overnight. There was a bit of a hint yesterday but during the dark of night these gorgeous little blossoms decided to make their debut.

These daffodils have been blooming for several days now and as the weeks march on more and more will show their faces as the ground warms up. I have a number of different varieties that bloom early, a bit later and a lot later, keeping my spring world yellow for quite a long time.

I love the yellows of spring. The weeping willow down by the river is just beginning to turn that rich spring yellow/green ... the first tree of the season to leaf out in this garden.

Throw in some purple crocuses and I'm in spring heaven. They're being a bit poky this year, but they will appear before the daffodils finish their yearly bloom.

I spent lots of time outdoors this weekend ... started some lettuces, mustard greens and swiss chard in peat pots, hacked away at more kudzu and began cleaning out my potting shed and making an inventory of supplies I'll be needing for my veggie garden. With the economy in this terrible slump, I'm determined to grow more of my own food. With only small traces of rain so far, I'm worried about the watering situation. Even after last weeks snow, the ground is bone dry. I have 2 self watering planters that I'll be experimenting with. They have a reservoir at the bottom which holds several gallons of water. If I keep the reservoirs full, the plants are happy and I don't waste water with a hose and sprinkler. And I may not have to fill the reservoirs on a daily basis, saving a bit of toil.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Flurry ...

The "snow storm" turned into a flurry compared to what I used to experience in Vermont where I spent 20 of my younger years. We ended up with about 4 inches of snow, nothing to sneeze at if you want some moisture, but not the longed for 12 inches or so. The driveway is completely melted and the roads are fine though all of the schools in the area are closed for the day.

The wonderful surprise of the day is this gorgeous Baltimore Oriole who has been at the feeder most of the day. I think he is a bit early for the spring tea party, but he is feeding well and will be fine until the end of the week when temperatures are supposed to rise into the mid 60's again.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Too Little, Too Much ...

The birds were busy today cleaning out the feeders in preparation for what could be an uncomfortable night ahead for them.

We're having a snow storm!! The first in several years that promises to blanket us with some much needed precipitation that will hopefully melt slowly and add some much needed wetness to our groundwater coffers. When snow falls in March it's often called "White Gold" by those who depend on the weather for their livelihood, like farmers. We have been so thirsty for rain, already down almost 4 inches just since January 1st. Local climatologists are calling the problem "abnormal dryness." Why don't they want to use the word "drought?" I suppose it means we have to be down 6 or 7 inches of rain! Oh, but I shouldn't complain. This snow could really help!

On the other extreme end of rainfall, a month or so ago, friends of my daughter who live in the mountains of North Carolina, were home safe and sound asleep, when torrential rains and inadequate slope protection above their home caused a mudslide to sweep the house down the side of the mountain into a roadway below. They both survived but not without the trauma that something like this can bring on. They had recently moved from Florida where they had lost their home to the housing disaster going on all over this country, moving into a new mountain home to be near their daughter. They have lost everything in this terrible tragedy including their cat, and are now living with their daughter, Nikki, in Black Mountain, North Carolina. This is a perfect example of what too much rain can do along with inadequate laws with which to protect homes built in areas like this.

The heart warming part of this story is that the community is pulling together to help these people in need. Urged on by Nikki and my daughter, there will be a "Live to Tell," benefit concert on March 29th, at a new music venue in Black Mountain called the White Horse. This concert will "honor the strength, courage and tenacity of this family and so many others who have been touched by landslide tragedy. Proceeds from the concert will help the Donans get back on their feet and will ensure that the need for safe slope laws and education are brought to the awareness of the people of Western North Carolina."

For the whole story go to If you happen to be in the area, stop in at the White Horse in Black Mountain on March 29th for great music, delicious food and to see a community come together to help one another!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Priorities ...

This good looking fellow and his wife have been hanging out at our bird feeder all winter along with several other cardinal pairs, blue jays, titmice, chickadees and woodpeckers. In the past years I've kept the feeders up all year, but sadly this year I'm not going to do that. I quit midstream last summer when I realized the feeders were bringing the deer into the yard. Besides eating birdseed they love hostas, lilies and my veggies. I will miss the bird families bringing their young to the feeder just outside my kitchen window in June and July, but hopefully I'll be able to harvest more food from the garden for my table.

I'm really getting excited about the coming spring and summer and fresh vine ripened tomatoes, juicy melons, peaches, strawberries and corn. I must be getting tired of winter squash and the like. I do try to eat with the seasons and locally as well. Yesterday I found fresh local swiss chard and romaine lettuce at one of our health food stores ... green house grown but still local!

This past Sunday we attended a pot luck supper at which the hostess served a wonderful angel food cake with whipped cream, fresh blueberries, raspberries, melons, grapes, etc. It was heavenly and I realized how much I miss those fruits during the winter. Sure they are out there but what is available now is flown in from South America and Mexico and of course are very pricey, both dollar wise and jet fuel wise. What's a fresh fruit lover to do???

Today at Whole Foods besides the berries from our southern hemisphere, there was rhubarb from Holland. And I overheard a brief conversation about which European butter is the best. The woman asking admitted that she is a "butter snob." Tempted as I was to grab some of the rhubarb, I passed it up, remembering that it won't be too long now before rhubarb will be coming in to the markets from a closer source.

I think about our planet and the damage we're doing and just wish we could all muster the grace to try and make this global warming thing a top priority. According to recent polls, since the financial meltdown in this country and President Obama's inauguration, global warming has dropped off the charts of what is important to most Americans. We are all of course really stressed and concerned about "right now" and how to keep our jobs and put food on our tables. Who can blame us? But isn't it time to consider that without a healthy planet all of us will suffer, especially all those cute 1st and 2nd graders who visit Whole Foods on field trips every week so that they can learn about food and nutrition?? What about some good old nutrition for the planet and getting away from our addiction to gas and oil??

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Beautiful World ...

It isn't as warm as it a was a week or so ago, but it isn't too bad, either ... in the mid 40's and lovely. I watched the yard filled with robins hunting and pecking for earth worms while I ate my lunch. I started dreaming ... about building a cold frame. I found great directions for all sorts through google. I'll be able to grow greens and lettuces most of the year if I do it right. Also I want to make a worm bin. My compost pile slows way down over the winter so I'm planning a small worm farm in a cool, dark corner of my basement where I'll be able to feed them my kitchen scraps all winter long and throughout the year. In return they will provide me with rich worm castings which is heavenly for the garden. Makes everything grow wonderfully. I had one out doors a long time ago and it was great fun.

The daffodils are up and some even have fat buds that look like they might pop open in the next few weeks. The pussy willows are beginning to show their little furry buds and the forsythia seems to be coming back to life.

I've already found ticks on the dogs. It seems that though it has been very cold at times this winter, those times haven't been long enough to keep tick numbers down. As soon as a warm day arrives they come out. This is the earliest I've ever found them. Usually I start finding them in April and they can last through November and even into December.

Even with things like a bad economy, war, ticks and poison ivy, we sure do live in a beautiful world! Hope you are enjoying it as much as I do!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February ...

Two days ago it was 72 degrees and just glorious! Yesterday, 10 degrees cooler and still glorious! Today a tad cooler and still gorgeous! If this is February what are June, July and August going to be like?

This lovely bloom is the flower of our common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). We planted this tree 3 years ago and despite the heat and the drought of summer it is doing beautifully. As a native of this area it is very adaptable and will grow in wet soil or very dry soil. This is the time of year it blooms for us and seems to fill this month before the arrival of spring
with wild anticipation!

The bark and leaves of this shrub are used medicinally as an astringent in the treatment of bruises, hemorrhoids and other skin conditions by reducing swelling and relieving pain. It is said that in tincture or tea form it can be used with myrrh and cloves for sore throats and laryngitis; a tea with goldenseal and calendula when applied to the outer ear will treat swimmer's ear.

More about herbs and herbal remedies can be found on my other blog:
Rivanna River Herbal

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Weather Change ...

You know what they say: If you don't like the weather just wait a minute!

This is Molly enjoying her daily bake in the sun last Monday when it was warm and very spring like with a temperature near 60 degrees. In just three hours later, the sun was gone and the temperature dropped 22 degrees. Dressed in light clothing I had to quickly put on a heavy sweater and wool socks! Hot tea and a cozy read in front of the gas fire was just the ticket!
By 10 PM when it was time to put the dogs out for their last potty break, it was snowing!
Our first snow of the winter! Sure maybe a few flakes fell last week but it quickly turned to freezing rain. These days snow in this neighborhood is a big event.

When I woke up on Tuesday the sun was again shining but the world had been transformed by about 3/4 of an inch of fluffy snow. I rushed outside to take it all in and felt like a child again, ready to build a snowman and make snow angels. However, it was melting quickly and
there was only enough time to snap a few photos to remind me in the heat of August that winter will come and it will be cold again!

It's all just a memory now. There are still patches of the white stuff here and there and it has been bitterly cold since. Despite the wind, Molly still insists upon her daily bake. The snow melts quickly in her favorite spot and she seems to be as comfy as can be. This weekend it's supposed to be near 60 degrees again!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Frozen River ...

Big Blue Fishing In The Shallows, 2/1/09

The river has been frozen for about 10 days.
Today with a temperature of 59 degrees at noon, it began to melt along the edges.
Because it is such a glorious day, I spent several hours this morning beginning my annual attack on the kudzu that proliferates along the shores. I am told that when this very small subdivision
I live in was first divided, all of the lots were a tangle of kudzu and honey suckle.
Most of it is gone now except for right along the river bank where when we first arrived on this shore, elderberry shrubs were in abundance. Over the years the kudzu has killed
these medicine rich shrubs and so I decided several years ago that I would try my best to keep the kudzu at bay. Some think I am crazy, but I enjoy the work and find great satisfaction in seeing the results that 2 hours of cutting and hacking away at this stubborn plant can do. Last spring after a similar attack on my part, the elderberries began to reappear.
So I keep at it.

As I worked, the river spoke
in burps and belches
as the ice began to warm in the sun.
Later, Big Blue arrived to fish in the shallows.
About a week ago I watched him as he sat on the dock,
the river frozen solid all around him. I tried to imagine his hunger
and wondered what he fed on during a time like this. He looked quite disgruntled
and flew off without hanging around long enough for me to take his picture.
Today he stayed put for quite a while and I hope he got to fill his belly.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let It Go ...

Leaves, Copyright 2007, Joan Z. Rough

I'm rereading May Sarton's, Journal of a Solitude. I first read this very special book many years ago and found so much wisdom within its pages that I decided that it was time for me to read it again. I'm not sure what brought it to mind again, but I wondered if there might be something it could say to help during these difficult days, when people are losing their jobs, their homes and our world seems to be in shambles. The following is what I found.

"I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep ...

Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, in a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go."

May Sarton
Journal of a Solitude

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Miracles All ...

We have had frigid weather here for several days, but today the cold spell broke and it is beginning to feel like Virginia again instead of the Arctic. We have frozen pipes in the garage but it isn't a big deal. We're able to isolate them from the rest of the system and hopefully we'll have little or no damage.

It seems miraculous to me that blooming plants can survive such chill, but they do and here is a Hellebore to prove it, looking none the worse for wear.

It is a miracle that some of the daffodils have popped up out of the ground and the Camellias are heavy with buds. Spring in itself is a miracle ... the beginning of new life. Though it isn't here yet, it is on its way for sure.

That 155 people survived a plane crash in the Hudson River last week is a miracle ... The Miracle on the Hudson, it's been called. So is the story of a couple who recently moved to North Carolina from Florida after the real estate collapse. A week and half ago in the midst of torrential rains, their new home slid down the side of a mountain to the road below. They lost all of their possessions, had bumps, bruises and are suffering from PTSD, but they are alive ... to see the sun come up again, to capture snowflakes in their hands, to see a grandchild grow. I cannot imagine their pain yet it is a miracle.

And so too is the inauguration of our 44th President this coming Tuesday ... the first African American President of the United States ... Barak Obama. Despite the wars in the Middle East and the financial condition of the entire world ... despite the threat of global climate change, I'm feeling hopeful for the future and feel certain that though we have difficult days ahead, that there are many more miracles yet to come as well. I am very grateful to be alive during this time of incredible change and wish for all of us peaceful and prosperous years ahead. Tuesday will be the first day of the rest of our lives and we must all stand up and help it to happen!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Buds and Birds ...

I swear that if you look carefully you can see spring in this photo! The buds need to swell more, but there is definitely some promise there. It won't happen tomorrow for sure, but sometime in the next month or two, the signs will begin to be more obvious. Yesterday I saw the first robin of the year and today I noticed blue birds perched here and there, then swooping down into the freshly mowed meadow finding a juicy seed or two ... or was that an earthworm come to the surface to check on the progress of winter?

Of course I do live in one of those areas of the country that is quite blessed with its weather. There is a down side though ... we'll be in serious drought again this summer as there has been little rain in the past months. Our ground water is very low and needs to be replenished so that our gardens will grow. Each winter brings fewer and fewer snow flakes as the climate warms. We can occasionally be hit in late summer with the remains of a tropical storm or hurricane. These actually are always considered a blessing by almost everyone because it can save crops at the very last minute.

While the rest of the country reels from constant blows from snow, rain and freezing rain, we patiently wait for some of it to head this way. By the end of next week it's supposed to get bitterly cold here and if any clouds roll through just maybe we'll see a few flakes reminding us that it is still winter after all!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

New Years Walk ...

On New Years morning I took a lovely walk in the woods at the Ivy Creek Natural Area. It was cold and crisp with an Arctic blue sky.

There were enough other humans about to keep the wild creatures at bay except for the squirrels, foraging for acorns which are extremely scarce this year, if the oaks produced them at all. The squirrels that I did see looked well fed so I imagine they are finding something to keep their bellies full. At my home, we have a few squirrels but not the numbers we've had in past years. They feed on the fallen seeds beneath my bird feeder which they cannot get into.

I love the neutral shades of winter, especially the bronze of the beech trees which hold their leaves all winter until the warmth of spring rouses their green buds. The oaks also refuse to give up their leaves til spring. Could it be they want no part of this long winter sleep we often compare to death?

At this time of year the greens of cedars, pines, along with our native hollies shine in the sunlight, reminding us of why they are favored for yule celebrations when the days are dark
and short.


I have started clearing away the piles on my desk and amongst the many lost and interesting things, I found the following quote which might serve all of us well in the days to come:

"To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich;
to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages
with open heart;
to study hard;
to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently,
await occasions, hurry never;
in a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common-
this is my symphony."

William Henry Channing