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December Sale – The Roses at the End of the Road

The Roses at the End of the Road


For the month of December I am selling my book, The Roses at the End of the Road for $12 with no shipping costs. All ordering information is here.  The book is filled with characters and our adventures here at the end of the road. To give you a taste, the Rachel’s Rose chapter follows below.

There is a rose in my garden named Rachel.

One summer Rachel Burrington Sumner, one of Heath’s grand dames, who knew of my interest in old roses invited me to come to her house and dig up two of the roses growing there. She didn’t know their names but thought I would love them as she did.

As I arrived I passed her two adult grandsons who were dashing off to a wedding leaving Rachel and me in the big old farmhouse that had seen so much of life, so many weddings and births – and grieving, too. She gave me a tour of the farmhouse that she had come to as a bride. She explained all the work that her husband had done over the years before he died in 1988, and proudly pointed out the photographs of her children and grandchildren.

Then she took me outside to show me the roses which were no longer in bloom because it was so late in the season. Armed with my tough leather rose gloves and a shovel I set to work while Rachel returned to her chair in the kitchen.

It took me a while to dig up those roses. They were thorny and their roots went as deep and wide into the Heath soil as Rachel’s did.

The rose growing in the front yard had spread into a large thicket and proved its indomitable hardiness. Rachel said during the excavation for a garage and workshop it had been buried under about three feet of soil. Rachel assumed the rose was lost forever, but in time it once again reached for the sun to spread and bloom.

I didn’t know Rachel well. I didn’t know her when she was a strong young woman taking her place in the community, working on the farm, raising a family and working down at the high school office. When I met her she was already becoming frail, yet still involved in the community. Whenever I had to arrange to use the church Rachel was the one I had to speak to.

Usually we only met at the Heath Fair. She’d ask about my garden and tell me about her pleasure in the season, in the new minister, in the latest town event.

After thanking Rachel I went home and planted both roses carefully. The summer and fall were very dry and even though I kept them watered as well as I could the roses took a beating. By the time winter was in sight I wondered whether those roses would survive.

Early in the spring I went out into my pasture collecting ‘meadow muffins’ and put the manure around Rachel’s roses to they would get a good start on the season. Soon I could see there was new growth. They took hold.

It strikes me that the roses Rachel gave me are very like her – beautiful and strong. They have endured crushing blows and bloomed again. They’ll flower and perfume the air no matter what, but they’ll give pleasure to the people around them, as long as those people stop long enough, and are wise enough to notice.

My rose garden started with antique roses, often named after nobility, the Queen of Denmark, the Comtesse de Murinais and the Duchesse d’Angouleme.

I’ve been fortunate to have friends give me roses as a token of friendship. Most of these were unnamed so I tend to think of them in terms of the giver. Alli’s Pink, Susan’s Rose all grow in a row. Mrs. Herzig jumped the row and now grows by the roadside.

I think of these roses as my Farm Girls, but most of us women know that whether we are royalty or farm girls, we’d better be sturdy, tenacious and determined as we face the years of summer heat and winter storms or there will be nothing left of us to name a rose after.

I watched the new growth develop on Rachel’s rose and hoped it would come along fast enough so that I could invite Rachel to see how well it had settled in and how happily it was blooming.

Rachel passed away before I had that opportunity, but I didn’t admire the roses alone. Our youngest daughter, Kate, was married in the garden at the height of rose season. Family and friends joined us for this joyous celebration. We admired the bride and groom – and looked to the rose named Rachel for inspiration as they began their new life.


When it came time to build the Cottage Ornee we carefully sited it to nestle under the branches of the old apple tree at the edge of the lawn. We moved the four large boulders, salvaged from the barn fire, into position to hold the four main cottage supports. One of those boulders need to be on the spot where we had planted Rachel’s Rose.

There was no choice. We dug up Rachel’s Rose and transplanted it to the top of the Rose Walk next to a low stone wall that grew out of what was left of the barn foundation.

Because I still wanted a rose in that spot when the Cottage was finished we planted the double pink alba Celestial next to the boulder. It thrived, and continues to bloom heavily every year. But after a couple of years I noticed deeper pink roses among the more delicate Celestial blossoms. It was clear that we must have left a bit of Rachel’s root in the soil when we moved her. Once again, as it had in Rachel Sumner’s garden, this rose persevered until it reached through all obstacles to reach for and bloom in the sun once again.

Just to let you know – Other chapters include  Kate’s Wedding,  The Cottage Ornee,  St. Fiacre Was Here, Lightning Strikes! – and others.


Happy Birthday Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrudy Jekyll (1843-1932) was one of the great British gardeners. It is her gardens and writings that

Gertrude Jekyll

essentially define the British perennial garden to this day.  This is the 169th anniversary of her birth in in London. Though she did travel throughout England, Europe and even the United States she spent most of her life in Surrey, England. There she built her final house and garden, Munstead Wood, with Edward Luytens, the well known architect.Most of the photographs show her as a plump old woman so it is hard  to imagine her as a young woman, but she was a lively member of a large family; her  nieces and nephews called her ‘Bump’.She was first a painter, but as her eyesight deteriorated she turned to gardening and garden design, which she thought of as painting with flowers.  Her ideas about using color in large drifts remains important today. Her work was a part of the great Arts and Crafts movement led by William Morris.

In all she designed over 400 gardens in England, wrote over 1000 articles and several books including the most famous Colour in the Flower Garden. Her book Roses is one of the first rose books I bought.

David Austin’s Gertrude Jekyll Rose

It is no surprise that David Austin, the famous Bristish rose hybridizer named one of his roses after this great British gardener.  These large, pink fragrant roses grow on a bush that can reach 10 feet. At least in England. One of Elsa Bakalar’s stories about how roses grow in Heath describe a visit her brother from England. He toured Elsa’s garden and stopped at the single rose bush and asked what variety it was. She bristled and replied, “Queen Elizabeth, of course!” He turned to her his eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Oh, I didn’t know there was a dwarf Queen Elizabeth.”

I Made This Christmas Wreath

My Christmas Wreath

One of the pleasures of belonging to the Greenfield Garden Club is the November meeting at Chapley Gardens where we have help and materials to make our own wreath.  This year I did pretty well. At least better than I did before.

weeds and hips in winter

Mother Nature decorates like this.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

What Comes After Thanksgiving? The First Snow

The Major and Rory

Thanksgiving Day dawned mild and sunny.  There was little left to do in the morning at daughter Betsy’s house so there was time for a stroll and for The Major and grandson Rory to have a tete a tete.

Thanksgiving crowd

Things got a lot busier at daughter Diane’s house, especially in the Thanksgiving kitchen. Cooks and kibbitzers gathered near the stove to be there when the turkey came out of the oven.

The Thanksgiving table

It is impossible to get everyone in the frame at the Thanksgiving table but all 15 of us were there. We couldn’t reach the Texas branch of the family who were in Pittsburg (?) with the Lawn family but a toast was drunk to family and friends, near and far.

Lawn Bed

Post Thanksgiving weather was cold, breezy and raw. This morning we woke to snow. The flurries are slight, the air is still, and the temeprature is up to 32 degrees, but the ground is covered.

Japanese lantern

We are poised for a peaceful moment, but time does not stand still.

Christmas wreath

The Christmas wreath is hung and the dance towards Christmas has begun. The halls must be decked, the oven fired up and beds prepared for guests.

What Does Prosperity Look Like

One beautiful day this fall I was driving around doing my errands when I passed a farmhouse shaded by trees. I was forcefully struck by the beauty of the well kept house in a peaceful shade. I was also struck by the thought that this is what prosperity looks like.

As we have traveled through the political campaign season, and the harvest season on our way to Thanksgiving I cannot help thinking about what it means to be prosperous, personally, in our community, and in our nation.

According to my American Heritage Dictionary prosperity means “the condition of having good fortune or financial success.” I was interested that the first condition is having good fortune, with financial success coming second. Certainly the United States is fortunate in the wealth of its natural resources and the vast acreage of fertile farmlands. It is fortunate in its hardworking population; a population ever revitalized by immigrants from all over the world who bring intelligence, strength, creativity and energy to benefit the nation as they build prosperity for their own families.

The dictionary does not define financial success. What does it take to feel  financially successful? I don’t think it requires great wealth, but it does require a sufficiency. It requires enough to provide a safe and warm home, enough food and clothing, access to health care and something left over for pleasures of the mind and


Fortunately it does not take great wealth to enjoy a rich life. A rich life is made up of loving family and friends, and of involvement with community enterprises. Rewarding work is a large part of a rich life, but rewarding work does not always bring great wealth as any teacher, farmer, bank manager, nurse, car mechanic, plumber or electrician will tell you.

Our region is fortunate in its rich history of prudence and prosperity. We have good farmlands, beautiful hills and rivers that attract visitors from around the world, and a multitude of small and large businesses. We are fortunate in our population of intelligent, energetic and creative people who make up a vibrant community engaging in business, agriculture, the arts, and service to their towns by volunteering for town offices and boards.

It takes intelligence and labor to build prosperity. Whether we labor in the fields, in supermarkets, in restaurants, schools, hospitals or offices, we have to think, solve problems, and build relationships. We have to plan, and plan again when circumstances change.

When I plan and work in my spring garden I spread my resources of compost, fertilizers and seeds. Yet I may have to alter plans, and possibly gather new resources as the season progresses bringing drought or flood, insects or disease, or some other concern of my own that shortens my hours of garden labor.

So as I travel to Shelburne and Greenfield, make side trips to Ashfield and Deerfield and other surrounding towns I admire the well kept farmhouses, suburban streets, and new condominiums, but I also travel past the food pantries at the Center for Self Reliance and the Survival Center. I donate money and bake bread for the Food Distribution at the Charlemont Federated Church. The Recorder joins with Wilson’s Department store to sponsor and promote Warm the Children, an effort that supplies over 1000 children with vital winter clothing. Not all of us are enjoying good fortune.

I read news of business closings on the front page of newspapers and I see the list of home foreclosures on the back pages. It is easy to see that it takes more than intelligence and energy to build prosperity. It takes good luck as well.

And so as Thanksgiving approaches and I set off to buy cranberries, pumpkin, and apples, my contributions to the Family Feast, along with my homegrown squash, I give thanks for my own good fortune. I pray for good fortune for us all. I pray that all our legislators will work together with wisdom to find a way to take us all down the road to prosperity for all.

Between the Rows  November 17, 2012

Cookies for Moonlight Magic


Cookies for Moonlight Magic

I’m still baking for the Family Feast tomorrow, but I just finished my cookies for Moonlight Magic in Shelburne Falls on Friday, November 23. Lots of  cookies for sale at the Visitors Center and lots of magic throughout the town.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.


Visitors from China Explore Heath and Environs

Lisha, Henry, Bob at Dane Glassbowing

When our friends LiSha and Chris visited us, all the way from China yesterday we spent the day celebrating. After sharing lots of family photos and stories  we took them on a whirlwind tour of the highlights of Heath and Shelburne Falls. We began with a visit to Bob Dane’s glassblowing studio to show off his artistry and shelves and shelves of beautiful glass ready for his local sale on December 8-9 and 1-16. Unfortunately, we  couldn’t take our guests off for a trip to the Dane Gallery on Nantucket.


Chris, LiSha and Henry at West End Pub

Needless to say, driving around Heath and explaining the use of all the buildings including the town offices, library, transfer station, town garage and fair grounds we built up a hunger and drove down to Shelburne Falls for a delicious dinner at the West End Pub. I highly recommend the hazelnut and chocolate torte!

Henry, LiSha and Michelle

After supper we  took a walk to show Chris and LiSha the varied elements of a small town. Michelle ran into us and couldn’t resist bringing us in to see the new bar at her restaurant, The Baker’s Oven Bistro and Bakery  and showing off the  new mosaic backed bar AND the new dinner menu. I love having  a bakery in town and getting great bread – and muffins – and now I am looking foward to dinner there.

LiSha regaled us with  tales of the way her work takes her to Italy, Hong Kong and Shenzhen. She speaks English and Italian! And Chinese. Chris works for a Swedish company and visits there on business often. The world, China and the U.S., is changing for all of us. How many of us speak two or even three languages?  We met LiSha 17 years ago in Beijing where she was  our language partner. We have hopes that we  will not have to wait another 17 years before meeting again.


Cynthia Boettner and the Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge


Cynthia Boettner


The first thing Cynthia Boettner had to explain to me about the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is that the Refuge consists of  the 7.2 million acres of the Connecticut River Watershed that runs from the far reaches of New Hampshire, through Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut before it exits in Long Island Sound. That is an enormous charge and responsibility. As Boettner explained how she works to monitor, control and eradicate invasive plant species, it was clear that no one person can even coordinate such an effort and that it takes many other groups like  the Massachusetts Nature Conservancy to enable the Refuge to carry out its mission.

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established in 1997 and named in honor of Congressman Conte who felt strongly about the importance of conservation. The purpose of the Refuge is  to conserve the abundance and diversity of native plants and animals and their habitats in the Connecticut River Watershed. Boettner joined the Refuge staff 13 years ago when her group was deciding to focus on raising awareness of the importance of eradicating invasive plants

One way they are creating  awareness is through the Invasive Plant Newsbriefs that she sends out through email which include information about workshops, training sessions and conferences as well as information about invasive plant sitings and eradication efforts.

Boettner explained that the Refuge works with many other groups. One result is an Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE) that was created in cooperation with the University of Connecticut. Over 900 trained volunteers surveyed given areas and collected information about the invasive plants they found. That information is turned over to the national database called EDDMapS (early Detection and Distribution Mapping System) which now includes access through an iPhone app. Any of us with skill in identifying invasives and an iPhone can confidently add to this Atlas and know that our information will be verified.

One eradication effort that many local people are familiar with is the removal of patches of Japanese silt grass in Conway. This plant has been identified fairly recently and the hope is that with early attempts at eradication they can really prevent further spread. Boettner has a fact sheet with colored photos of the plant at various stages. She welcomes information about sightings that include clear digital photos with full location information.

Individuals can also get in touch with Ted Elliman at the New England Wildflower Society, another one of the organizations the Refuge works with.

Once you have identified the silt grass you can pull it up by hand or cut it down with a string trimmer in mid-to late August. This is before seeds have set, and late enough in the season so that it will not have time to regrow and still set seeds. You can also watch for notice of Community Workdays in August to pull up patches. Pulled plants need to be bagged and placed in the sun to rot. Boettner explained that it is vital for landowners to survey their own land and watch for infestation of invasives.

She also reminded me that “ínvasive plant removal is just one component of trying to revive a habitat to bring the balance back and improve it for wildlife. Sometimes we get so caught up in removing the invasives that we forget the bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve. That’s something that I want to be more aware of and focus on in my work. A lot is about setting priorities. For example, one of our refuge properties in Hadley, the Fort River Division, is covered with multiflora rose and Oriental bittersweet. We will be focusing our immediate attention on controlling the bittersweet because we are managing the floodplain forest for migrating birds. As Christian Marks from The Nature Conservancy points out, the bittersweet is bringing down the large canopy trees which the birds need as stopover habitat on their journey. These vines are also overpowering the young saplings that would be the forest of tomorrow. So, it’s the migrating birds we have on our minds as we prioritize work on the forest. In the fields where we want to manage for grassland birds, the multiflora rose may be more of a threat to the establishment of that habitat.”

Education is a very important part of the Refuge’s mission. I have often taken my grandchildren to the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls without totally realizing this wonderful, fascinating and informative place was connected with the Refuge. It is one of several education centers operating in the Watershed.

I was also fascinated to learn that there is a US Youth Conservation Corps that provides an opportunity for teenagers to work (for pay) as conservationists on several sites over a four to six week summer session, the closest being at Fort River in Hadley. This program is overseen by the North Woods Stewardship Center in Vermont.

Boettner has always loved the outdoors, camping as a Girl Scout and vacationing in northern Michigan as a child. Still, she said it was a Field Biology class she took and loved while studying at the University of Michigan-Dearborn that set her on the road to the work she does at the Refuge. “I love to link people up with the information they are seeking in their quest to do good things for the environment. I find that so satisfying, especially when I ultimately get to see the resulting fruits of their labor!” she said.

Between the Rows  November 10, 2012


Mr and Mrs Vegetable – Garlic Heads?

Mr and Mrs Vegetable

When we finished the remodel of our kitchen a few months ago I took Mr and Mrs Vegetable out  of the drawer where they have been living for the past two decades. I remember these from my childhood when  they hung on the kitchen wall in  New York when I was about five (1945) and then in the farm kitchen in Charlotte, Vermont. My brothers and I found them in a big storage closet  along with our childhood Christmas ornaments after my mother died in  1990. We split up the ornaments, but neither of my brothers wanted Mr and Mrs Vegetable so there was no bickering when I happily took them away.

However I never put them up on the wall until now. Now my kitchen wall is worthy of these wonderful ‘sculptures.’  My husband and I have taken to greeting each other with open arms when he arrives home at night. Somehow, after some months, this still makes us laugh. Two silly people. What can we do?

Mrs Vegetable up close

This morning as my husband prepared his morning coffee he gazed at Mrs Vegetable and said her head, and Mr Vegetable’s head, and declard they were garlic bulbs. Garlic bulbs? I don’t know if any American housewife c. 1945 even knew what a garlic bulb looked like.

Garlic Bulb from our garden

All the other vegetables that make up their bodies are easily recognizeable: potatoes, tomato, carrots, lettuce, peas, green pepper and beans. I never gave it much thought but always assumed the heads were some kind of turnip. We disagreed, but by the time he left for  work I was coming around to his way of thinking, and he was coming around to my way. What do we do now?

Do you have vegetable sculpture in your kitchen or dining room?


Beavers are at work – on Wordless Wednesday

Beaver pond

Beavers have been working this area out on Rte 8A and now the water has risen nearly to the road.

Beaver pond

The pond has become quite large and there is more.

Lower beaver dam

It’s hard to see the steps of the dam below the beaver pond but the water is rushing here.

Beavers worked here

And here is evidence that work continues.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.