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Bloom Day – December 2010

It isn’t quite Christmas so it is no surprise that the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is mostly fat pink buds. As usual my angelwing begonia has a very few pink blossoms. Along with my dependable and ever blooming abutilon these plants are now in our bedroom in the beneath the west window, but very near the south window. This room is very bright during the day, and very cool at night. We had to move plants from the guest room because we have been trying to fix a leak in the dormer roof for months.  We removed the moldy plasterboard and the wet insulation giving us a view of wooden slats and the metal roof that is sometimes icy these days, even on our side of the roof.  The roof only leaks when it rains hard and the wind comes from a certain direction so we cannot finish the interior until we are absolutley  certain we have made a good repair and we are not. Absolutely certain. So the room is really too cold for plants and we keep that door closed.

My Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)  is a very Christmasy color and it is still giving us quite a show.  You can see the little ‘barbs’ on the foliage that give this cactus its common name, Crab cactus.

As I said the abutilon, or parlor maple, is always blooming. It is a dependable plant as the holiday cactuses. Cacti?

Even though I do not have many flowers blooming in my house right now, it is the season for friendships and good will to bloom throughout the family and the community with Tuba Christmases, Moonlight Magics, Nutcrackers and carolling. And latkes. I never like to forget the latkes.   The seeds for some new friendships were sown this summer when I met 70 other garden bloggers in Buffalo, including the wise and funny Carol of May Dreams Gardens who hosts this Bloom Day. Please visit and see what else is in bloom around the country.

And for the friends of this blog you have a chance to win a great book about perennial blooms if you click here and leave a comment.

Another Chance to Win – Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer

I remember when I first learned about perennials and thought – what a great idea, I’ll never have to replant again. LOL.  Even if pernnials didn’t have to be divided, or die, most of us still have to move plants, add plants or remove plants in our attempts to have a garden that pleases the eye and the heart.  For my full review you can click here, but I can tell you briefly that The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer: The Essential Guide to Creating Simply Sensational Gardens delivers design instruction and advice that will be useful to every gardener, novice or experienced. The authors, Stephanie Cohen and Nancy J. Ondra will be familiar to some of you, and will immediately indicate the value of this useful book.

I like Stephanie and Nan giving us a peek at their own garden designs.

Through Storey’s generosity I am Giving Away a copy of this book next Sunday, December 19. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post if you want to participate in the Giveaway. Maybe you can tell me about the thing you find most difficult about design, a success or a disaster.

Another Winner!

Chosen by a random number generator Ellen Sousa of Turkey Hill Brook Farm is the winner of Recipes from the Root Cellar!  In her comment she mentions that there is a passageway between her garage and basement that maintains a consistent temperature that allows her to store winter vegetables so she’ll be able to put this cookbook to good use. Congratulations, Ellen.  I will get Ellen’s address and send this book right out. I’m sure she will find a some recipes perfect for the holidays.

Ellen will be celebrating the publication of her own book, The New England Habitat Natural Garden, this spring. Two hoorays and congratulations to Ellen.

Don’t forget, tomorrow there will be my third Giveaway – of particular interest to those who have, or want to have, a beautiful perennial garden.

Thank you Storey Publishing for being so generous and helping me celebrate my third blogoversary.

Giving Away Recipes from the Root Cellar

Storey Publishing is helping me celebrate my Third Blogoversary by giving me three books to give you starting with Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 fresh ways to enjoy winter vegetables by Andrea Chesman.

I have been using my own copy of this book for the past month, making Festive and Fruity Coleslaw for Thanksgiving Dinner and Applesauce Crumb Cake for a weeknight dessert with friends.  I can tell you that coleslaw is really good with turkey and that all my friends loved the cake made with homemade applesauce.  Apples count as a winter ‘vegetable’ in this context.

I chose this book to giveaway first because December is a cooking month. There are so many meals to be shared with family and friends; this book will give you some new and easy treats, salads, vegetarian main courses,  vegetable dishes with seafood, and meat, and poultry AND desserts. Andrea Cheman has given us something for everyone around your table.

If you would like to win this book just leave a comment on this post – all week.  The Giveaway will end at midnight on Saturday, December 11 and I’ll choose a winner at random from among the commenters on Sunday.

Our Final Winner!

Nan of Letters from a Hill Farm, up there in Maine, is the winner of Right Rose Right Place and 2 dozen CowPots.  Nan is a voracious reader as well as enthusiastic gardener so I know both will be put to good use.  Congratulations Nan. Happy reading and planting.

Thank you all who have visited and helped me celebrate my second anniversary as a blogger.  These two years have brought me gifts I could never have imagined, so much information, horticultural confessions that have made me so much braver, good humor, and so many friends. I had no idea what it meant to be a part of the garden blogging community, those who encourage gardeners and bloggers everywhere, but especially newcomers,  with advice for the garden and for cyberspace.  Thank you all!

Snow is Snowing

And the wind is blowing. I barely made it out to the hen house and back.

This is a day for staying home, browsing through Right Rose Right Place by Peter Schneider and considering what roses I want to add to The Rose Walk in the spring.  My daughter Kate in Texas suggested I build a wish list on the Antique Rose Emporium website. So I did. I hope someone looks.

You all have a chance to win that excellent book, Right Rose Right Place if you leave a comment before midnight December 11. On December 12 I’ll have a drawing and the winner will get the book and 2 dozen CowPots for their spring seed starting. Storey Publishing and Liquid Fence have made this celebration of my second blogoversary possible. Thank you both.

The Landscape and Art

The artist Robert Strong Woodward spent most of his life in Buckland – and in a wheelchair. At the age of 21 he was injured in a hunting accident in California where he was living. Paralyzed from the waist down he returned to New England where he was born, studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and then moved to Buckland. It was his intent to make his living as an artist.

He was successful and many of his works capture the beauties of the New England Landscapes. I’d like to mention that he often came to Heath to paint our familiar landscapes. This year the Buckland Historical Society has put out its third Robert Strong Woodward calendar to benefit the Society. The painting above, The Golden Slope, belonged to Beulah Bondi, a famed Hollywood actress who appreared in movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, and TV series like The Waltons.  The calendar is $20 and for sale locally at the Buckland Town Hall and Buckland Library, Boswell’s Books and Sawyer Hall in Shelburne Falls and Andy’s Pine Shop in Greenfield.

Janet Gerry, a Buckland native, has just published Artist Against All Odds, a biography of Woodward intended for older children. Actually, anyone interested in the history and beauty of the area will enjoy the book, and the story of one of its most distinguished citizen. It would make for a great family Read Aloud during the holiday season. Janet grew up living two houses away from Woodward’s house and studio, hearing stories of his life which she has translated into a true story for the whole family.

Artist Against All Odds includes photographs of the artist, and color plates of a few of his paintings. The book costs $14.95 and is available at Boswells Books and Sawyer News in Shelburne Falls, and the World Eye Bookstore in Greenfield. You can also go online to order the book.

The book and calendar made excellent Christmas gifts. You can (possibly) give yourself a present by leaving a comment here and entering a drawing for Right Rose, Right Place by rose expert Peter Schneider and 2 dozen CowPots made of composted manure for seedstarting. I’ll have the drawing on Saturday, December 12.

Another Celebratory Giveaway

Right Rose Right Place

Right Rose Right Place

Because it is my second Blogoversary, both Storey Publishing and CowPots are making it possible to have two Give Aways.  Right Rose, Right Place: 359 Perfect Choices by rose lover and expert Peter Schneider will be a lovely and useful holiday treat for any rose gardener, or would-be rose gardener. There is advice here for the experienced gardener as well as for the novice.  I have already added a number of roses I never knew about to my must-have list. They are all marked reliable because I still don’t trust my warming climate. Schneider talks about every kind of rose, old roses, modern roses, climbing roses, tree roses, and roses for containers.  Just leave a comment and I’ll enter your name in a drawing that will be held in the morning on Saturday, December 12.



But the CowPots people also wanted to help me celebrate twice. I have another two dozen Cowpots to send along with Right Rose Right Place.  Peat pots for seed starting help to deplete peat bogs, but cow manure is definitley a renewable resources.  CowPots are made of composted manure that will add fertilizer to your garden when they are planted, and will get your seeds off to a really good start. They are made by the Liquid Fence people who also make a line of products like Deer and Rabbit Repellent. I’ll be using this as the winter progresses to keep hungry deer away from my rhododendrons.

For those of you who have begun your holiday shopping, I have a local resource – Artspace on Mill Street is holding its annual Holiday Shop with gifts made by local artists and artisans. You will not be surpised to know that I could not resist notecards featuring a porcupine.

I’d rather have porcupines on cardstock rather than in my compost bin and keep them as a lovely country memory.  There are lots of other beautiful cards for sale, as well as art prints, blown glass ornaments, beautiful candles, jewelry, honey, CDs by local musicians and much much more. Gifts are priced under $50 with many under $25.  Shopping at Artspace supports arts education and artists – and the local economy. The Holiday Shop will continue through December 13, every day, 10 am to 6 pm except Sunday 1-6 pm.

Our First Winner is. . .

Rose of Prairie Rose’s Garden in Central Illinois. Rose has won Nan Ondra’s book, The Perennial Care Manual, and 2 dozen CowPots!  Congratulations!  When I get Rose’s mailing address I’ll send them right out.

Now, since this is my Second Blogoversary, Storey and CowPots are offering a second chance to win in a drawing.  This time the book is Right Rose, Right Place: 359 Perfect Choices for Beds, Borders, Hedges and Screens, Containers, Fences, Trellises, and More by Peter Schneider who has 1200 types of roses of his own and has written extensively about roses. There will also be another 2 dozen CowPots made of composted cow manure that will make seed starting especially nutritious this spring. Just leave a comment this week and I’ll have another drawing next Saturday, December 12.  Who will be the second winner?

First Snowfall 12-6

First Snowfall 12-6

The snow had been falling on and off all day yesterday, but it didn’t look like it was really going to stick – until late last evening. This morning we woke to 4 sparkling inches of snow, so I think this qualifies as our first snowfall. The plows were out last night as we prepared for bed, and out again this morning so the roads were clear for church goers. A beautiful way to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas. To see who else might be having snow as winter proceeds check out Nancy Bond at Soliloquoy as she hosts The First Snowfall Project.

Henry went out to feed the chickens and saw a mess surrounding the compost bin. He peeked in.

There was our local porcupine!  He had pulled out enough compost to climb in through the bottom to sun himself on top of the pile, protected from any wind by the sides of the bin. I can’t believe this small pile was generating any real heat, but at least it isn’t cold ground. Do you think he has taken up permanent residence there?  How valuable is porcupine manure? Do you think he has been around long enough to earn a name?

I want to explain one thing. You can see paper plates tumbling out of the bin.  I got these biodegradable sugar cane plates for Thanksgiving dessert. There is a limit to how many dirty dishes my kitchen can handle at once!

The December Wilds

The first wildness was our local porcupine sunning himself (I don’t really know if he is a he or she) in front of the henhouse this morning. I nearly stepped on him on my way to feed the chickens because I was so busy looking at a wild hardy kiwi vine on the adjacent shed and wondered how I was ever going to prune and tame it. Fortunately the movement of the porcupine, including getting all his quills in fighting order, woke me out of reverie in time.  I thought he would amble off, but no. He ambled up onto the step of the henhouse, where perhaps the stone was even warmer than the wet grass.

I ran in to get the camera and ran back to find the porcupine with his nose, and maybe his teeth, nudging the door.  I learned recently that porcupines like to eat wood and the hen house is so old that it might taste like sponge cake – or at least have that texture. I finally had to give up waiting. I did have other things to do besides talk to a silent porcupine.  The hens got their breakfast at lunch time, but they had not yet totally emptied their feeder, or waterer.

Then it was off to town, Shelburne Falls, for a little shopping. I needed candles. We always need lots of candles at Christmastime, so my first stop was at Mole Hollow candles right next to Salmon Falls. We had at least 2 inches of rain Wednesday night and the Deerfield River was in full flood. The Falls dam was partially let down and the Falls themselves were wild.  Fortunately, I never go anywhere without my camera.

This is an unusal sight at this time of the year when the river should be quiet, and icy, but this odd mild season is driving us all wild.

And time is rushing wildly. Readers have only til midnight tonight to leave a comment and have their name put in a drawing for Nan Ondra’s great new book, The Perennial Care Manual, and 2 dozen CowPots for seed starting. The drawing is tomorrow morning.