Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall in the Alleghenies

(...taken from 9-16-12 journal entry...)  

It has been quite too long dear diary that I take pen to hand and jot words of thought.  

Today we decided to come to the mountains to winterize. It seems as though it was not too long ago that we were dusting webs of spiders and opening the doors after a long winters stillness. Spring flowers showing glistens of sunlight off their pedals...pinks, purples, blue hugging close to the ground amist soft blotches of green moss.  

After walking across the rivers edge, taking note of the century old maple that has shown its age countless times with worn sponged branches falling in each wind has finally snapped off falling into younger trees along the waters edge, snapping them as well...part laying in the shallows of the river edge. 

Thoughts pass through me of planting flowers in the hollows now of this massive trunk to cascade over its bark through the summer. Made a mental note of that for next spring. A bit of color draping over its sides with whispers of new life in that deadened tree. 

I am sitting at this summers ashes at the fire heaped with weathered ashes and bits of marshmallow sticks...there is a fuzzy worm crawling next to me on a stump, thoughts of mooshing it cross my mind as it now has taken new direction and is crawling a bit too close to me...instead I flicked it quite a distance away with a nearby branch. They don't creep me out until they are on me. Wooly worms don't bother me, it's all the other fuzzy species. 

The Allegheny River is very low and the island shows up more distinctly, high with grass. 

The chipmunks and squirrels are rooting through the moss looking for grubs and already storing the hickory, walnuts and acorns. I have been waiting all afternoon to either hear or see the eagles and as if right on cue, there they are...calling out for feeding time. We were privileged this summer to watch a young fledgling in the water at the edge of the island across from the yards edge. How mighty and awesome. 

This is a short visit here to flush out the water pipes and add winterizing fluids. I've already packed up items to take home to keep from freezing, so as to have "free time" to just wander around the yard exploring fall posies, new seedlings to carry through fall and winter for spring surprises. The walnut trees were hit hard this year with numerous tent worms. 

Moms grape vine that has been growing umpteen years up the ash tree is now towering over the top of the limbs, blushing with color as fall brushes by. A chipmunk just ran by me chirping as he passes, perhaps this is his stump I am sitting on. 

The Pileated Woodpecker continues to peck huge holes in the cherry tree at the edge of the yard. As I retreat up the bank, I see some humongous wooly worms, fattened for the onset of winter? What does it mean when they are solid black?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sunflower Power

I have been sorting seeds these last weeks, getting several planted in small containers under fluorescent lamps. Today as I sorted through sunflower seeds, I was surprised and delighted as to how many I have collected through the years. Thinking this summer it will be awesome to have various colors and sizes throughout the property.

I plan to plant Russian, Mammoth Edible Pod, Mammoth Gray, Bicolored Mix Evening Sun, Magic Roundabout(the pedals are bright orange near the center and yellow tips), Goldfinger, Italian White, Velvet Queen (a chestnut red blossom), Summertime Mix (a wonderful mix, some with bicolors, reds, rust, orange, some with mixed colors).

As I was going through old photos recently, I happened upon a picture of my grandfather, Napoleon LaBonte. A very proud man, with an awesome garden everyday of his life. Here he is about 84 years old. He had the greenest thumb in all of Spalding, MI. In his younger days he grew acres of berries to sell to the local grocers and to the towns people to can.

This is me with a volunteer Mammoth from my bird feeder, I nurtured it all through the summer. The seed head measured out about 18 inches across. I used the dead stalk through the winter months to hang homemade suet cakes on for the birds. I finally worked it out of the ground a couple weeks ago. It was still pretty solid in the ground, pretty heavy as well. I felt like a pole vaulter carrying it while Ed snapped my picture holding it. I tried to load a picture here, somehow there was a glitch that kept it from loading.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winter Behind The Barn


February is soon to come to a close. The weather temps this year have been like a roller coaster. Highs nearing 50 and lows in the 20's. Sunshine one day, snow and bleakness the next. Warm enough for rains, cold enough to freeze.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where's That Purple Russian...

Several summers ago I started making a garden chart. Though our thoughts were, as we planted, that we surely would remember what was in each roll and where. Wouldn't we?

I marked all the plants individually with each, their own popsicle stick, dated, named. Tucked nicely near each plant. We marked each roll end with different sized sticks..painted some with permanent markered stakes. Each pepper, each tomato roll.. marked..good to go..not!!

Little did we anticipate rain...wind...sun...would slowly cause well meaning marked sticks to fade.. hmm, "was that the Black Crimson or the Black Krim? is this where we put the Purple Russian? Oh is that the Abe Lincoln or the Stupice?"

"I don't know"..were three over-used words that summer.

I take paper, pencil or pen, ruler out with me each time I transplant my plants in the garden, or spread seeds. This paper gets pretty dirty by the time I get done each time. I have one good plotted garden chart indoors, so each time I plant even if just one thing, it gets charted to the good paper that day. When I go out again, I take another scrap of paper and repeat as before.

As the garden grows, I make notes, what did well, what didn't. What I may leave off next growing season, etc.

Our biggest mystery in the garden last season began with Ed running lines for me at the far end of the garden. I couldn't plant my squash or pickling cucumbers early on, as we were having lots of rain, at in-opertune times. He thought we should try something different and not make our usual hills, he had seen where you could squeeze more in without hilling, perhaps we would get a bigger yield. I wasn't so sure I wanted to do it that way, I liked making the mounds especially for pickles. So it was no hills this time.

Ed had my lines nice and taunt, with seeds in hand, I was out to finish up plantings for that area. I kept a watchful eye anxious to see the seeds sprout. We had had quite a monsoon pour down not long after I pushed seed into the ground. Days passed...weeks....He'd ask, "are you sure you planted those seeds or just thought you planted them" .... well with all this rain...I thought maybe they got misplaced with all the water that ran through the garden..

As we lingered one evening where plants should be, I said, "I just don't understand it..I planted them here, to the right of the string, like I always do".. I think Ed's face turned a few shades at that moment.... he had tilled the rolls not long after I planted, because there were no hills to be seen, he rototilled my seeded areas...the rains washed away all evidence of his footprints... we both agreed..hills from then on!!

you can do it...

journal entry: 2011

I transferred all my plants from the inside grow lights to my little portable greenhouse outside. It was a tough go for several weeks, as when I started my seeds I was at the end of my seed starting soil from a local greenhouse. Being March when I began I was unaware that I could of just called and they would of gladly sold me the soil I needed. Instead I picked up a random bag at a nearby store. How careless of me. I nurtured my heirloom seeds for so many years, and chose a random soil to start their journey in this time?

I had 18 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and 12 heirloom varieties of peppers...several varieties of basil, fennell, cabbage, cilantro, stevia, parsley, borage... they struggled to grow, with transplanting it was total shock to their already tender roots.

I called finally first part of June for my favorite soil mix from Hoffman's Greenhouse. Instead of adding more shock I just mounded the perfect mix around the tops of the pots, so the nutrients could soak into the soil with each watering. I had gotten restless and impatient, so out of character for me, and had pulled quite a few of both tomatoes and pepper plants out as they looked like they were dying off...leaves were turning limp and color change..they just needed more time.

Each time I'd walk by my little house of struggling plants, I'd say "you can do it...".. soon, with the warmth of the sun smiling down on and embracing all my greens, they started growing all over inside the greenhouse..up into the eve, hanging out reaching for the sun rays..soon it looked like a little jungle in there.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

F o R t Y y E a R s

Saying 40 years out loud sounds like forever.

It has been 40 years that I was in high school. Through the years by chance I might of run into an occasional classmate, a quick hello, how are you... a quick catch up. Then days would continue as usual, routines come and go.

This year was my fortieth class reunion. Felt like such a milestone! We started out our week with girlfriends coming in from out of state. Gathering for some good doses of laughter as we reminisced with our yearbooks from days gone by. Hopping from one house for breakfast, back for lunch, another house for dinner. P.J. parties. Never too old!

The weekend before we attended an all alumni. The youngest gal there was class of 1938. What was expected a measly crowd of 600 to 700 ended with nearly 3000 Berea High School alumni. Though a few streets were closed off for the event, did they not realize the whole neighborhood were alumni. We all look forward to attending again this year. Good music, good food, good times.

The night before we gathered at a local pub for snacks and catching up with old buddies from days gone by. Just over 90 wandered in. The following eve was the biggie. Over 140 plus showed this year from as far away as Hawaii. Totally awesome.

I have since reconnected with nearly a dozen old classmates. We meet up every few weeks for lunch or dinner. We want to keep it going, a few add on each time. Such fun!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Many People Does It Take To Open A Bottle Of Wine?

True determination and team work! It took quite a bit of effort to get that cork out!

Irish Soda Bread

Most people only make Irish Soda Bread in the month of March. We love eating this lovely bread year round. Sometimes I make it with organic dried currents when I don't have raisins on hand.

4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup raisins
1 egg
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
(if you don't have buttermilk, you can sour the milk by placing 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 3/4 cups in a 2-cup measuring cup. Stir. Let stand 5 minutes before using.)

Oven preheated 350. Grease a large baking sheet or use your baking stone. Set aside.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins.

Beat egg in a medium bowl using a fork. Add buttermilk. Beat until well combined. Add buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until mixture forms a soft dough that clings together and forms a ball.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface. Knead dough gently 10 to 12 times. Place dough on the prepared baking sheet. Pat dough into a 7 inch round. Score the top of the dough with tip of a sharp knife, making an X about 4 inches long and 1/4 inch deep.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Immediately remove from the baking sheet, cool completely on a metal rack or I use a cotton dishtowel.

Bread is best eaten the day it is made.

Painting Day...

11, June 18
journal page

Today was a day of I rolled and brushed new life to the worn faded
scraped wood, of the back mountain porch...
thoughts of days spent in the mountains with mom and dad filled my thoughts.

At times it was laughter that filled me with joy as I brushed,
with all the memories of our many projects we did together...
when I would come to stay here for weeks and months at a time.

At times tears of sadness as I miss those times and miss them both so much...
with each stroke a story...
with each stroke a fond memory...
with each stroke a treasured memory ... always.

Arctic Snowy Owls

11, June 14
journal page

As the sun was nearing its days end...
and dark was settling in, Ed came rushing into the house to gather me,
grab the binoculars... come... quickly!
Out of breath we scurried back to the big barn, he had just noticed a small flock of blackbirds chasing a rather large bird...
it looked like a Snowy Owl he exclaimed!
As we slipped underneath the outside cross boards of the barn door,
we stood still barely breathing as our eyes scanned the darkness...
searching the beams high up.
There he was...standing tall and very still...every bit of 16 inches in height!
As we stood in awe for some time, the Snowy Owl took flight right above our heads right through the side window of the barn.
A few months later, there was quite a write up in our local paper about the Arctic Snowy Owl traveling south, far away from their tundra homes in search of prey. That many are showing up in increasing numbers in Ohio, mostly along the lake. They had mentioned there were 15 reported sitings. I guess we should have reported our siting. There is always next time. What a privilege to have stood just below this beautiful breathtaking species.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

the Allegheny mountains

11, June 10
journal page

What do porcupines and pileated woodpeckers have in common?
Well, they both are seldom seen in the Allegheny....

As we drove to fetch water at the spring in Endeavor this eve, we came upon a strange looking creature near the middle of the road. From far away, we knew it wasn't an opossum, nor a raccoon. What was this mystical creature waddling in the center of the road? Nearing long quills were evident ... very long quills ... very long raised quills! Looked like a porcupine on steroids...

Our thoughts crossed as we came to a stop, could this creature of the night shoot those quills into our tires.. surely wouldn't want to find out.

Early on, peering out the sliding back porch windows, whilst looking out towards the swift rivers current, we saw the pileated woodpecker, quite the site to behold! It was sizing up yet another wild cherry tree. Earlier we found a damaged cherry tree along the river bank at the edge of the property. Quite a bit of damage, its pecking left holes as big as our hands and as deep.
They are pretty birds...sadly pretty destructive as well...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

two thousand eleven where did you go

as minutes tick into hours
... hours pass into days
as days slip off into weeks
... and weeks flow into months

2011 passed by quickly...
or so it seemed...

In December 2010 I worked hard to shed my walker for a cane. Coming into 2011, though having so many limitations, it definitely slowed me down. I had to learn new ways for the old. I started my new year out full of determination and had many goals set for myself. With insurance changes I was on my own to better my health, to work to get stronger. I found quickly that I was not just on this new journey to build physical strength within, but to remain positive even when I didn't think I could achieve the next step. I must admit, the thought of giving up never occured to me, but there were many times I wanted to give to the numbness, in to the pain, in to the hurdles that were before me..for there were many times I felt hopeless and helpless.

Ed was my hero through and through. By May I was excited that I could start cooking and do laundry again. Crazy huh? My biggest accomplishment in May, was that I was learning to climb stairs again.

It was always a boost when the spring gardening catalogs arrived in the mailbox. It gave me hope and filled me with ambitions to plan my garden. I had quite an assorted mixture of family heirloom seeds started under lights near the south window.