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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Franklin County Fair – Int’l Year of Family Farm

Roundhouse - Franklin County Fair

Roundhouse – Franklin County Fair

The Franklin County Fair is always a celebration of family farms and gardeners. This view from the balcony gives only a hint of the perfect produce, creativity and business acumen of local farmers and gardeners.

Red Fire Farm at Franklin County Fair

Red Fire Farm at Franklin County Fair

Red Fire Farm is just one of the area’s most successful small farm, a testament to farmer Ryan Voilland’s farming skills, but also his people management and business skills.

Youth cattle judging at Franklin County Fair

Youth cattle judging at Franklin County Fair

The dairy farm is not yet dead in Western Massachusetts and these young people are keeping ideal of the family farm alive. Those are Ayrshire heifers. Beautiful Ayrshires are a rugged cattle breed suitable for our climate, efficient grazers and milk producers.

Youth sheep judging at Franklin County Fair

Youth sheep judging at Franklin County Fair

Sheep have long been a farm crop in this part of Massachusetts. These youngsters are keeping that tradition going. Our farms produce food AND fiber.

The United Nations has named this the International Year of the Family Farm to highlight the importance of the family farm all  around the world. It is easy to understand the importance of local food security, even here in the U.S., because of the vagaries of extreme weather. Family farms are also vital to rural community development. In our own area we are lucky to have CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) supporting family farms

 

Full Weekend Monday Report – June 1, 2014

Nasami Farm Plant Swap New England Wildflower Society

Nasami Farm Plant Swap

On this Monday morning I can report on a full weekend beginning with a New England Wildflower Society member Plant Swap at Nasami Farm. I brought waldsteinia and tiarella and came home with Jacob’s ladder, an unusual epimedium, more tiarellas, a spicebush plant (very tiny) and an unusual native sedum.

Greenfield Community College Graduation

Greenfield Community College Graduation 2014

There  was a big crowd and a big tent for for the Greenfield Community College graduation Saturday afternoon. Granddaughter Tricia was graduation with honors and an Associate Degree in Accounting. She is very smart, and encouraging to all the students she has been tutoring over the past two or three years. She has been working at a bank while working on her degree.

Tricia in line for her diploma

Tricia in line for her diploma

Tricia and the young woman in front of her are wearing gold stoles to denote their entry into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Tricia and  her fiance Brian

Tricia and her fiance Brian

Tricia and her fiance Brian are both so proud of each other’s academic achievements. He graduated from UMass-Amherst with a psychology degree three years ago, and just finished the pre-requisites he needed to apply for a Physican’s Assistant program which will begin in January. He has been working at the Brattleboro Retreat to pay off student loans since graduation, and trying to save money for the new program.  These two are so smart, and disciplined. They will go far, but a first stop is a September wedding.

Chris and Bibi at work

Chris and Bibi at work

Son Chris stopped by over the weekend to  congratulate Tricia and to help us in the garden. Mowing, raking AND picking up the grass for the compost pile. What a guy!  Bibi, the elderly French bulldog, still has enough energy to supervise and cheer him on.

A great weekend! The garden is starting to look good too.

A Country Woman’s Language of Love

Tussie Mussie

I have written about the language of love before, giving it my own modern spin. Sharon Selz at The Country Woman Magazine has created several bouquets filled with loving messages in a more traditional tone. The bouquet pictured here says:

I am lonely without you and desire a return of your constant love and affection.

Flowers: hyacinth (constancy), jonquil (I desire a return of affection), rose (love), heather (solitude) 

I expect one could deconstruct her beautiful tussie mussies to create your own specific Valentine’s Day message. Did you know that while the rose is always about love different types of love require different roses. For example the white rose is for innocent love, while the red rose says ‘I love you’ in  the most direct way. There are many  ways of looking at the language of the rose.

I have an annual subscription to the Jacquie Lawson website which allows me to send gorgeous animated and musical e-cards (for any occasion) to  friends. A card I have sent to many people is The Eloquent Arrangement in which a basket of flowers is assembled and when it is done the recipient can let her mouse hover over each blossom to read the message sent – allium for patience, dogwood for durability and pimpernel for change, all aspects of love. The basket contains other flowers and other aspects of love as well.

As you prepare for Valentine’s Day, what tussie mussie might you assemble – with traditional meanings, or possibly with your own symbols and references?

Greenfield Winter Fare 2014

Winter Fare veggies

If I am counting correctly this is the 7th Greenfield Annual Winter Fare which will bring truckloads of fresh local vegetables to Greenfield High School on Saturday, February 1.  Enter from Kent Street off Silver Street. Beyond  vegetables there will be preserved products like pickles and syrup, honey and jams. Frozen meat!  And to keep you shopping from 10 am til 1 pm music will be provided by Last Night’s Fun, and soup provided by The Brass Buckle, Hope and Olive, Wagon Wheel and The Cookie Factory will help you keep up your strength.

At 1 pm there will be a Barter Swap. Anyone with extra home made or home grown food can gather for an informal  trading space where you can make your own swapping deals.

There is more to the Winter Fare than the Farmer’s Market. Open Hearth Cooking Classes on Saturdays, Feb. 1 and 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm at Historic Deerfield.  Contact Claire Carlson  ccarlson@historic-deerfield.org.  $55 per person.

Screening of Food For Change and discussion with film maker, Wednesday, Feb 5, 6:30 pm at the Sunderland Public Library. Call 43-665-2642 for more info.

Annual Franklin County Cabin Fever Seed Swap Sunday Feb. 9, 1-4 pm Upstairs at Green Fields Market, www.facebook.com/greefieldsunflowers for more info.

Seed Starting Workshop Sunday, Feb 9, 1 pm at the Ashfield Congregational Church. Sponsored by Share the Warmth. More info: Holly Westcott  westcottha@verizon.net.

Winter Fare is obvioulsy about more  than Fare, this is a Fair atmosphere that brings a community together.

Attend to the Wisdom of the Young as 2014 Begins

Bella’s Plan

We all need to pay attention to the wisdom of the young. My husband was telling our visiting great-grandaughter Bella (age 7 1/4) that while Granny didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions, she did try to do a little bit of everything that she wanted to enjoy on New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Day Bella went to Eastern Heath to spend the afternoon with her good friend Hazel. They both returned to our house for supper. There was time for dragging out the dress up box, reading, and art work. Hazel was in a representational mode, but I thought Bella was working in a more abstract vein. However, it turned out she was making out a list of what she planned to do in 2014.  First came Cook, then Bake, Read, Write, Color, Do Workbooks, Have a workout and run, Go ice-skating, Have Playdates, Relax, Make disigns for my room and my friends, Share with Lola (her younger sister), Sing, Dance, Eat and drink a lot to stay hidrated.

That could be a good start on a working list for many of us. In fact, during her visit, we did cook (saumon en papillote), bake cookies, read (a lot), sing (operatically), dance and have a playdate – with Hazel. A good start on the year.  I hope I will do as well.

Hazel and Bella dancing and singing

Many Ways of Looking at the New Year

 

A new day, a new year dawning

            New Year’s resolutions. The beginning of a New Year always has something of the seductive about it, no matter how dismissive we try to be, or how skeptical we think we have become.

            I look at the blankness of the calendar’s pages, matching the blankness of the winter landscape and think about the ways I will fill the days of the new year, fill my days in the garden.

            The older I get the unhappier I get with dichotomies, old or new, plain or fancy, dark or bright, good or bad. The older I get the more I see that we live in a continuum. We are always moving from one place to another.

Movement is irresistible and inevitable, but the movement is not always forward as in old to new. In the gardening world we see this in the tack of garden catalog promotions. They trumpet the New. Bigger! Better! Improved! There is the continuum, bigger, better and improved over the old varieties.

            At the same time the old varieties, open pollinated varieties, heirloom varieties have come back into fashion and are once again New! The old flower varieties are again recognize for their charm, loveliness and fragrance, and old vegetable varieties appreciated for their flavor or hardiness or special suitability for a particular circumstance.  They are also appreciated for their value in maintaining a diverse gene pool from whence new varieties will be born.

            As I’ve considered the continuum I’ve asked people whether they have any new year’s resolutions. I’ve gotten an earful.

            “More light!” One gardener said she and her husband had been working on their house and gardens for nearly two decades. They suddenly realized the sheltering woods around their house had grown so tall and dense that they shut out the sun. “I used to cringe at every tree that was cut down anywhere, but no more.  The garden needs the sun.” And my friend assured me that lots of trees are left.”

            This was a reminder to me that we have to be aware of how growth or depredation in our gardens creates the need to react to and work with those changes, whether it is trees that grow up and throw deep shade or old trees that blow down in storms resulting in unexpected sun.

            Two other gardeners, one man and one woman, said their resolution was to get better equipment. Maybe a new tractor! Maybe just a new lawnmower. Both recognized the value of good sturdy tools and the necessity of caring for these tools and creating proper storage.  I have my own resolution to create better storage for my tools and supplies.

Dahlias

            “More dahlias!” Now there is a resolution that touches my heart. Aside from the fact that dahlias need to be dug in the fall and stored properly all winter, they don’t require a lot of care. In the end you can even treat the tubers as annuals. In the late summer they start a long season of bloom. Dahlias come in so many sizes and flower forms that there is a variety for every type of gardener and garden aesthetic.  For me there is something about the big bold splashy vividly colored dahlias that really appeals. I’ve heard people call dahlias (surely only some dahlias) vulgar.  I just think those glorious big irrepressible blossoms are great fun.

            “We need to improve our soil.” This from my own son Chris who has never paid a lot of attention to the garden.  Now he has a house that came with a yard of mossy compacted soil. Last year he put in a sod lawn, a mass of white rhododendrons, a holly hedge and a collection of shrubs around the house. Although he did take my advice about careful planting and compost, not everything has thrived. He is learning (the continuum again) that soil improvement is not a task you do once. It must continue throughout the life of a garden.

            The custom of making new year’s resolutions gives us a ritual for looking at our past experience, in the garden and elsewhere. It also gives us a chance to think about new and interesting things we have seen during the year and to think about ways that we can incorporate some of those ideas in our own gardens.

            Sometimes a review of the changes in our lives, children being born, children growing, children leaving, can affect the time we have for our gardens, or the kind of gardens we want to have.

            Sometimes our interests change. With the easier availability of locally grown delicious vegetables the passion for a vegetable garden might wane, but a passion for dahlias might take its place.

            Sometimes there is a change in our own health or strength and that compels a change in the scope of our gardens. The new year gives us a chance to consider the changes in our life and spurs us to think about shifting our efforts.

            We toss around the words old and new, good and bad easily. But in the garden, as in life, it is movement along the continuum that keeps us balanced and happy.

            I wish you all happiness in the garden all the new year long.

This first appeared in The Recorder in December 2004 BTC – Before the Commonweeder – and repeated in 2010.

 

Giveaway to Celebrate Six Years of Blogging

Seeing Flowers

Six years of blogging and I’m celebrating with a Giveaway. It hardly seems possible. Six years of documenting my garden, mostly, but also family events. Because of my blog I have met gardeners from around the country at Flings.  All you have to do to meet some of them is click on the Buffa10 badge on the right side of the page.

Over these six years and 1,406 posts I have learned that gardeners have a wide range of interests.  My post about bee balm remains my most popular for another year. Did I insert some SEO magic inadvertantly? Is it because it reviews the lesson Elsa Bakalar gave me about color? I don’t think I will ever know. This year hydrangeas and heritage wheat also won a big audience.

Timber Press is helping me celebrate my blogoversary.  They will Giveaway a copy of their beautiful book  Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers with amazing photography by Robert Llewellyn, and written by Teri Dunn Chace. I wrote about Seeing Flowers here,  but I cannot say too many times what a stunning book this is, providing us with a closeup view of  each blossom, a view we could never get in real life. There are all manner of fascinating facts, some of which are sure to put a plant on your must have list. For example, did you know that the milky latex sap of euphorbias is toxic and will cause stomach upset? This means deer won’t eat them. A whole new family of plants is newly attractive to me!

Along with Seeing Flowers I will giveaway a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, which is the story of how we got to the End of the Road, the roses and life we found here.  Kathy Purdy, who was so generous with technical advice when I began blogging, writes Cold Climate Gardening and posted a review here. All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight on December 12. It would be lovely if you would tell me the name of your favorite flower.  Especially if you have a favorite rose. I will choose comment at random and announce the winner of the Giveaway on Friday, December 13.

 

Thanksgiving at the Friendship Hotel, Beijing in 1995

Thanksgiving at the Friendship Hotel 1995

As I prepare for Thanksgiving in my nice American kitchen I cannot help thinking of  other Thanksgivings, most notably two that were celebrated in Beijing where we lived in the Friendship Hotel. The first was in 1989, and the second in 1995. While many things had changed in those five years, much much more car traffic, much much less bicycle riding (because of the vehicular traffic), the arrival of big department stores and McDonalds  and Kentucky Fried Chicken, our apartment at the Friendship Hotel was just the same. Our tiny kitchen came equipped with a two burner gas stove, a tiny fridge and a sink. No oven.  Drinking water was delivered by the fu yuans (service people) at the door every morning in the excellent thermos bottles that you can see on the window sill.  I had to visit our new friend Bettina who lived across town and had an oven in her tiny kitchen. Together we made  this pie with delicious Chinese apples.

Li Sha was our wonderful language partner that year. I have to say that her excellent English may have improved somewhat, but I certainly made very little progress in my Chinese. I went around quoting a cartoon that one  of our friends tacked up on his front door. The prisoner is being walked to the scaffold when he is told he will be granted a final request.  His request? To learn Chinese.  Oh, for a long lifetime of studying Chinese.  I am happy say that our friendship with Li Sha has endured. She was even able to make her first trip to the US last year. She is used to big city living so Heath was a big change. The thing that most amazed her was  our clear winter sky, thickly sprinkled with brilliant stars. No smog. No light pollution.

Henry with our turkey

The Friendship Hotel took orders for Thanksgiving turkeys which we picked up at the Foreign Experts Dining Hall at the appointed hour. The Chinese don’t know much about turkeys, but they did a great job.

All the gang for Thanksgiving dinner

Our dinner guests included other Foreign Experts like Bettina, and in 1995 we had several Chinese friends as well. All of us had something we could be thankful for. In addition to making new good friends, one of the blessings I counted that year was being able to attend the UN Women’s Conference. I had learned a lot about the life of Chinese women while working for Women of China Magazine, but I gained a much greater understanding of the problems women faced around the globe, as well as their achievements.

Bettina and me after dinner

Bettina shared bows  with me for the apple pie. Our friendship is one of our unexpected Beijing blessings.

This year I will again be celebrating Thanksgiving with my daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons, grateful that we are all well and happy. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

 

Halloween in Heath

Welcome to Heath Halloween

Because we are such a rural, spread-out town children can’t easily go trick or treating  from house to house. A Tailgate Halloween in the town center was planned, but the rain called for an instant revision. The community hall was quickly turned into Trick or Treat Central and the youngest children, baby pumpkins and kittens, arrived first, followed later by the older kids who had a map of all the houses in town where the Trick or Treat light was on.

Fortune-telling

Even the witches needed to have their fortune told before going on to the main event. Candy!  Also apple cider and donuts.

Candy – all you can carry

This is the only night when the grown-ups urge children to take more candy. Go on. You can have another handful!

Gypsy storyteller

For some there were scary stories! Bats in the library, terrified bunnies, scared siblings. Max and Ruby – what are you doing?

Ghouls and witches

All the ghouls, witches, kittens, spiders, frogs, French knights, gorillas, elephants, Princess brides, and fishermen of all ages in town turned out for a sweetly ghastly celebration.

The Wedding – Emily & Nick Begin

Wedding tent

The Wedding Tent is ready.

Family and friends

Family and friends are assembling.

Emily and Nick

Emily and Nick join hands. The wedding ceremony is beautiful.

The bride and guests

The bride is hugging everyone. Everyone is hugging the bride. The cameras are rolling.

Photographers everywhere

Everyone had a camera and everyone was snapping away. Here is Christina photographing me photographing her. We are all wanting to capture this moment forever. I was reminded of a song from the delightful, satirical musical Little Mary Sunshine.  I was mis-remembering some of the lyrics of Every Little Nothing,  sung by the wise old woman character. My ‘ revised’ lyrics fit my mood.  Every little moment means a precious little moment/if we make it gay.   Every little moment means a precious little moment/but it cannot stay.   For every little moment has its moment/then it flies away.   Every little moment means a precious little moment/take it while you may.

Admiring family

Many branches of the family have gathered to admire the beautiful couple.

Cousins

Do you imagine they might be thinking of future weddings?

Wedding cake moment

An important wedding ritual. The wedding cake. The bride and groom fed each other daintily. Thank heaven.

Time to dance

Then let the dancing begin. Conga!

The Bride and Groom

The golden afternoon was drawing to a close, but the bride and groom walked across the meadow, perhaps thinking of all the precious little moments that await them, even as these fly away.

For more (almost) wordlessness this Wednesday, click here.