Sunday, May 20, 2018

Slow Sunday and Garden Photos

The continued humidity and unsettled weather is wearing us down, I think. Every day for the past week it has looked and acted like a storm is on the way, but generally we end up with some light showers. Which is fine, because with the garden just settling in I don't want a gullywasher right now.

I know that in some areas to the east of us there has been very heavy rain and storms, and flooding as a result. We've been spared that, and yet the heaviness of the air is so oppressive--and a short walk will have us pouring sweat in a just a few minutes. Yesterday I worked outside, potting flowers, planting, weeding, etc and was completely washed out after a few hours. Larry mowed a little and tinkered with his mower which has been acting up. He has been good about resting his knee and icing it, along with doing the required exercises.

We're moving slow today, both of us having slept in much later than usual, until almost 9 am. A late breakfast, housecleaning and clutter clearing took my morning, and now I am tired again, so decided to take a break and share the photos I took of the gardens yesterday morning.

This first plot is still a work in progress. Larry built the stone wall over a five-year period and we love it, but I struggled with what to do with the space after it was enclosed. Now it holds asparagus, blueberries, currants, red raspberry vines, a grapevine, and garlic and daylilies that self-planted. There is also a small lettuce bed for early planting, and I put in a small patch of onions for green onions, and planted my yellow squash and zucchini in here. I am in the process of mulching the whole thing. There are some pernicious weeds that got in when we had strawberries in here--dock and bindweed, two notoriously bad actors. So I am zapping them with the flamethrower now and will continue to pull, cut, burn and whatever else I can do to keep them to a minimum.

This is usually our early garden, where we grew peas, lettuce, onions, cabbages, etc. This year with the uncertainty over Larry's knee replacement and its impact on our lives, we held off planting--but I could not stand it, so right before he went into the hospital we planted some tomatoes, cabbage and peppers. We put down cardboard and then mulch on top of that because I was worried I would not be able to keep up with weeding. The early plants are doing great, and we have since planted onions, carrots, beets, red cabbage, more peppers and tomatoes, cucumbers, a couple rows of corn, a row of beans and one of potatoes. It won't be like our usual garden but I'm hopeful it will keep us in eating veggies this summer.

Larry built this stone column years ago, intending to make it a fountain. We never did that, but I like it just as it is. The painted planter was made by some of my granddaughters at least 15 years ago. It's the last remaining part of a column of clay pots glued together and painted by the girls. It's cracked now but still holding together. This year I planted herbs in these pots--rosemary, dill and sage. Normally I plant them in a garden but decided to try having them in pots.

I've had these white boots as planters for about 4 years. Drilled holes in the bottom for drainage. They work great.

One corner that I really like, all crooked and rusty. The pot has no bottom but works as a planter anyway. We found it under one of the cabins we moved.

Peonies are in full bloom now, and the scent is just heavenly.

Years ago I dug a small start from a rosebush on an old farm my brother was renting in Virginia. I didn't know where to plant it, so I stuck in this corner "for the time being." That was 30 years ago, or more. I don't know the variety, but it is a lovely full flower with the sweetest scent.

More herbs in planters.

And more roses. When my boys were little I planted these to keep them from pounding a path in the grass instead of walking on the sidewalk. It worked. And 35 years later the roses are still here.

Yet another planter of herbs. I love the varied greens and shapes of herb plants. I plant mostly culinary herbs, and none of them anything fancy--thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, the usual suspects. I once had some extensive herb gardens, and who knows, maybe one day I will do so again.

This chimney stone came out of an old log cabin we tore down to add the second log room to our house. There was a black snake curled up in the hole, and I wish you could have seen Larry flying off that roof--and the snake moving just as fast in the opposite direction!

Oregano and hens-and-chicks. I plan to sell the small planters at the street fair next week.

A story in how when one thing ends, another begins. These iris have not bloomed for years because the spot was too shady for them. They are under an ash tree and as you might have heard, the ash trees are succumbing to the emerald ash borer. This tree is slowly dying--and the light coming through its thinning branches is enough for the iris to bloom. The tree is my bottle tree, and I am going to miss it very much. It was quite a beauty.

Another view of the walled garden.

The weigela has been incredible this year. The spirea bushes beside it were also stunning, now past their bloom. They need to be trimmed but there seem to be some birds nesting in them so we'll wait til next year.

This garden is now home to my strawberries. I think they will do well here. Last week the iris were in full glorious bloom, but the heat has done them in. The little pink poppies are beginning to bloom though.

Another view of this garden. The wagon wheels are only temporary-they'll go to a booth one day.

Larry put this wheelbarrow together from pieces. I think it's pretty cool. That's the lilies of the valley behind it. If you've noticed wire around my gardens that's to keep the dogs out. They think it's electrified (it isn't) and won't go near it! Three years ago they almost destroyed many of my flowerbeds, but now thank goodness that problem has been solved.

My oldest son gave me this sundial about 20 years ago. This year when I was getting out the garden things I noticed that it would fit perfectly into this wrought iron stand.

Waiting to be planted! I got all of these into the ground or into pots yesterday afternoon after taking these photos.

Our neighbor tilled the bigger garden space yesterday morning. What would we do without neighbors?

We will plant this garden later so there will be, I hope, some late garden for canning. Which is good because my June and July will be chock full of storytelling travel, with little time to do more than just maintain here at home. I'm not complaining! It's good to have the work, most of which is for repeat customers for whom I am very grateful.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Three Stories

Story #1:

Larry's first trip to the store after his knee replacement was also his first time using a motorized shopping cart.

"How do you work this thing?" Asking me? I'd never driven one either, but between us we figured out how to start it. Immediately Larry backed it into a row of carts, then banged forward and almost hit me. "Whoa!" he shouted. Then, having figured out the basics, he took off, happy as a kid with a new toy.

An older lady sitting on one of the carts nearby was watching. She grinned and said, "I give lessons."

I stopped and spoke with her a minute. We talked about how useful the carts were to people with disabilities. Her cart was full of bagged-up groceries, but she surprised me when she said she'd been at the store for five hours.

"Five hours!" I wasn't sure I'd heard right.

"Yes. I had to come into town to get my dialysis. My husband drops me at the dialysis center, then picks me up when he gets off work for lunch. We eat lunch, then he drops me off here and picks me up after 5, when he gets off work."

"My goodness! What do you do in here for five hours?"

"I do my weekly shopping. I take my time, Ask me where anything is in this store, I can tell you." Her eyes twinkled. "It's not too bad. Usually I wait for him before I check out, but today I'm tired so I am ready to go as soon as he gets here."

Story #2:
The physical therapist was new to us, his first visit to our house. We talked about living out here and told him the story of the time our grandchildren decided to ride the hogs. Talk about some stinky kids! He said he'd always liked going to his grandparents' farm in the country.

"When I was a kid, we used to go visit my grandparents. They had a farm, had milk cows. I remember one time I was there and I got this idea.

"I'd seen on this on TV, and decided I'd give it a try. I got up into the hayloft, and when the cows came in I planned to jump down on them and ride them."

He paused. I had that feeling you get when you know something isn't going to end well.

"I got right to the edge of the loft, picked a cow to land on and jumped. Scared the heck out of that cow, and she jumped all around, bellowing. Scared all the other ones too, and they were all running and bellowing and bucking around. It's a wonder I wasn't trampled to death. I couldn't figure why it didn't work, the cows on TV didn't act like that. I never told m grandma what I'd done."

Story #3, from a neighbor:

"My wife's Dad came in after that derecho we had a few years ago, remember that? Knocked down a lot of trees, so he came with his chain saw to cut them up. He decided to cut this other one that was still standing, because he thought it was too close to the road or something. He told me to hook the winch on my four-wheeler to the tree--he was going to drop the tree so it would fall in a certain place, and then we could just drag it off with the four-wheeler. It sounded like a bad idea to me, but he seemed pretty sure it would work.

"So I hitched up the winch and stood back while he cut the tree. Only it didn't fall where he thought it would--it went the other way, and I saw my four-wheeler go sailing through the air and out of sight over the hill. Just stood there with my mouth hanging open."

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


There is something quieting about sitting on the porch and watching the morning creep in. The grays and blacks slowly turn to green, the birds wake and begin sharing their news with each other. My camera wants me to open the flash but I like the way the pictures I take are indistinct and fuzzy, very like how I see the world myself at 5:30 am. There is a light fog that adds to the mysteriousness of this early morning view.

After last night's storm the air feels soft and clean, and even a little chilly--a welcome change from the heat and humidity of yesterday. I am glad of that rain. We needed it. The ground was so dry it was cracking. Thankfully the rain did not come in a gullywasher, but in a good steady downfall that soaked in rather than ran off. The garden is well soaked, a blessing since we spent some hot and sweaty time out there getting more plants and seeds in the ground. We will not have the gardens we usually have this year; it's getting planted in a more haphazard way, and there might only be one instead of 3 or 4 plots. But there will be a garden and for that I am grateful.

The heat has brought on the green quickly. Dogwood didn't have much time to shine before it was hidden by the lush green of the larger trees, The garden flowers have been spectacular too; iris are just past their peak and the roses are beginning to open, as are the peonies and lilies. Sweet scents are everywhere, from my gardens to the heady locust and honeysuckle blooms.

My teacup is empty and it's time to make Larry's coffee. I hope your morning has started as gently and sweetly as mine.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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