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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Gifts for the Gardener – still time to shop

Gifts for the Gardener begin at the garden center

Gifts for the Gardener begin at the garden center

I have never thought it very hard to find gifts for the gardener. After all, what does a gift say? I love you? I understand you? I want you to enjoy your days? I want your dreams to come true? I share your passion and I know just what you need?

No matter what your message there are garden centers and other kinds of shops that have just the gifts to convey these messages to the gardener in your life. I made the rounds of some of these stores and this is what I found. The Shelburne Farm and Garden Center has colorful Dramm long armed five liter watering cans ($30), and equally colorful one gallon Gardman watering cans ($18). A rolling Saucer Caddy ($40) holds more appeal for me as I get older. My potted plants get bigger every year and moving them a bigger chore. These gifts say ‘Lets have some fun in the garden, but let’s not strain ourselves. I want you in one piece at the end of a gardening day.”

SF&G also has a nice array of gloves. I used to pride myself on not using gloves, but after years of dirty nails and dry calluses I decided gloves are a Good Thing. Of course, gloves like Cool MUD gloves ($10) with water repellent nitrile have gotten lighter, more comfortable and breathable. One style of Women’s Work gloves is flowery and has nice long gauntlets ($20). When I got to the Greenfield Farmer’s Cooperative on High Street I found they had a whole aisle of gloves. And a lot more besides. Gloves are a consumable; they wear out and need to be replaced from time. A gift of gloves says “Don’t worry. Dig in. There is always another pair. Better the gloves get ugly than your lovely hands.”

There are fewer flowers in the winter, but SF&G has bags and bags of bird seed and a whole array of bird feeders. Attract the birds and you will be able to enjoy these flowers of the air. I met a neighbor there and she expressed her pleasure at finding that birds love safflower seeds, but squirrels don’t. Good information.

Blue Pots at the Greenfield Farmers Coop

Blue Pots at the Greenfield Farmers Coop

Greenfield Farmer’s Coop has a fabulous array of Burley Clay pots in sizes from about one cup ($7) to large handsome pots that can hold a striking flower arrangement that is a work of art or even a small tree ($60) These pots come in lovely blue, and subtle shades of green or brown. They also have an array of black metal trellises, perfect for supporting ornamental vines in the garden. Prices range from $25-$40. They say “Isn’t it fun to have plants grow up and add a new dimension to the garden?”

Grow Bags are another way to have fun and continue the vegetable garden indoors during the winter. The Farmers Coop has several Grow Bags ($7-$15) that include coconut coir instead of potting soil, but you will need your own seeds (any left from the summer?), a liquid fertilizer and good light. I think these are great for growing herbs and greens like lettuces. You know your beloved just can’t stop wanting really local food.

Christmas platter at Stillwater Porcelain

Christmas platter at Stillwater Porcelain

On the other hand, sometimes you want to stop thinking about tools and chores. Sometimes you just want to surround yourself with the images of flowers and nature while carrying on in your non-gardening life. I stopped in at Stillwater Porcelain in ShelburneFalls where Pat Pyott has a unique way of creating ornamental tiles, with realistic images of Queen Anne’s Lace, autumn leaves, herbs, an evergreen branch. There are functional pieces like a variety of plates to tiles that surround a mirror. Prices range from $15 for lovely tree ornaments to $218 for a platter that will hold the roasted holiday beast. “I know you want to be surrounded by nature in every room,” these gifts say.

J.H. Sherburne embroidered cases

J.H. Sherburne embroidered cases

Just a little further down State Street is J.H. Sherburne’s shop. Jo-Anne has garden ornaments, and lovely botanical jewelry. I could not resist the gold and silver bulb complete with leaf shoots and roots that provided a space for a sprig of leaf or flower. I am not really a jewelry person, but I found this absolutely irresistible. She also has a collection of brightly embroidered Guatemalan cases, from luggage ($187) to a change purse ($7). I don’t have a cellphone (no service in Heath) but if I did I would love a flowered cellphone case ($14). I like the juxtaposition of technology and a flower garden.

Portrait by J.H. Sherburne

Portrait by J.H. Sherburne

Jo-Anne is also a fine artist and just think what a gift a portrait of the beloved would be, set among the colors of the garden. Full information about how that process works is on her website.

Gift certificates carry all sorts of messages. They can say, “I know you, and I love you and your garden, and while I have no idea what you want or need, I want you to have it.” This message is often sent to experienced gardeners who can be very particular and opinionated about tools or plants. A gift certificate is a gift of anticipation, of time for thought and the delight in picking out just the item you have been longing for. There are times when a gift certificate is the perfect gift. What about a gift certificate to OESCO where fine tools are found in Ashfield? The Greenfield Farmers Coop, the Shelburne Farm and GardenCenter, JH Sherburne and Stillwater Porcelain also have perfect gift certificates.

Between  the Rows   December 13, 2014

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.