Friday, November 30, 2012

Beautiful Wreckage

"Imposing a little order goes a long way at this time of year, but I leave the vegetation in the beds because there is beauty in the wreckage." --Dan Pearson

I was reading one of my gardening books the other night, Home Ground by Dan Pearson, where he talks about his garden in winter. I loved the passage above, when he talks about 'the beauty in the wreckage' of his winter garden. I liked how he describes the change in his garden, as things turn from green to brown and how the forms and skeletons of plants leave the memory of the season past. I thought that was a nice way to think about it. It's nice, too, to leave places for the birds to hide and look for worms and seeds, and as I was out taking pictures this morning at 7:30 am, there were all kinds of birds in my front garden, proving that point!  One thing I hadn't thought about too much is that as the plants decay, they feed the soil. Worms feed on the plant litter and break it down into the soil, and the worms keep the soil aerated and hearty. So while I have always liked to clean up the garden before winter,  I think I will leave a few more things standing than I usually do. Of course not everything looks good, or has any winter interest, so there's still lots that needs to be cut down. I have already cut back all the peonies because of the risk of disease and I have cleaned up the soil around them. The coneflowers are all blackened too, so I will cut them back completely. But a lot of things will stay all winter, like the hellebores which stay green even in the snow, the lambs ears, the heuchera, geraniums. and the sedums, which still stand up tall.

Sedum Autumn Joy
Potted hosta
Perennial geranium
Lambs ears

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mom's Quilts

The other day I got out my mom's old quilt to put on the bed in our guest room. I like to use it periodically, and it is so pretty and cheerful. This was my mom's very first quilt, a Cathedral Windows quilt,  which is a very tedious and time -consuming quilt to make--especially for a first quilt!! I was quilting at the time, and I remembering thinking she was crazy to make this for a first quilt. But her friend Ginny had made this quilt, and my mom loved it. And she did it,  all by hand, all those little squares of fabric framed in muslin,  and I can't even begin to think how many of those little square she made and then sewed together. Maybe after all the years of machine sewing, it was relaxing to sew by hand, who knows. And the quilt is truly a work of art.  I love to look at this quilt now, because when I look at all the little windows of fabric,  I see the dresses my mom made for me, slipcovers for the old davenport, dresses she made for her granddaughters, the kitchen curtains--every one of the fabrics  came from something else she made, I am sure. My mom wouldn't buy new fabric if she had scraps she could use, and she had plenty.

Cathedral Windows Quilt

My mom kept a little quilt journal with pictures of all her quilts and I have the journal now. She didn't start quilting until she retired, but she was an expert seamstress all her life and she took to quilting right away. She made quilts for herself, my dad, my brother (and made it a second time after it burned in a house fire), several of her grandchildren, and almost all of her great-grandchildren. I have two of her quilts now, her first one (pictured) and the one she made for my dad. Pretty cool.

Great Granddaughter Hayden's quilt, 2001

Great Grandson Jack's quilt, 1992

Quilt for my uncle's grandson, Jonathan, 1991

Great Granddaughter Emily's quilt, 2000
Dad's quilt, 1990

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Praise Song

Praise Song, by Barbara Crooker

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Gardening Books

No surprise here, but I am a collector of garden books and am always looking for something new and interesting to add to my shelves. I love all the old favorites, Henry Mitchell, Allen Lacy, Beverley Nichols, Gertrude Jekyll, Elizabeth Lawrence.  One of my favorite things to do whenever we travel somewhere is to check out used bookstores and look for gardening books (I have found several treasures at the Strand in New York City). With the holiday season coming up, I have been watching for any new books coming out to put on my wish list. In fact it is a tradition for Walt to give me a gardening book every Christmas. I love my long relaxing soak in the bath on Christmas night while reading my new book!  Dominique Browning often writes about gardening books for the New York Times and I always get some ideas from her. One that caught my eye recently is The Roots of My Obsession, edited by Thomas C. Cooper, which sounds like my kind of book. Thirty garden writers talk about why they garden, and one review said it is like getting a letter or email from your favorite gardener. I am always interested to hear about why other people garden, and like to reflect on the many reasons I love gardening so much. And many of my favorite contemporary garden writers are included--Margaret Roach, Page Dickey, Anna Pavord, Ken Druse, Tovah Martin, Nancy Goodwin, Sydney Eddison, Amy Stewart.  This one is on my list.

Another book that was reviewed in the Washington Post a few weeks ago by Michael Dirda is Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener, by Barbara Paul Robinson. Rosemary Verey was a very well-known English gardener and writer who had a great deal of influence on gardening both in England in the U.S. during the last 20 years. She came to the attention of the gardening world late in her life and her first book was published when she was 62 (she went on to write 17 more). But what interested me too was the author--she is a successful Manhattan attorney who worked as a gardener at Barnsely House (Verey's garden in England), during a sabbatical from her law practice, and became close friends with Verey for the last  20 years of (Verey's) life. I am looking forward to reading about the life and gardens of this great gardener, who was "the very personification of English garden style."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Early Morning Garden

 I was up early this morning, and looked out to see this beautiful sky outside the windows, so I headed out and took some pictures above the rooftops. It's funny how the colors last such a short time, by the time I was back inside the colors were gone.

It's been awhile since I've taken any garden pictures, so I walked around and looked for something interesting to photograph. The garden is definitely in winter mode, and there is still some cleanup to do, but I'm not too concerned about it, as I know there will be some mild days ahead when I feel like working outside.

We had a good post-Thanksgiving weekend, with lots of leftovers, and dinner with friends on Saturday. Yesterday Walt made turkey and rice soup,  and I did some small store shopping in Purcellville and Leesburg. It's amazing how many people put up their outdoor Christmas decorations over the weekend--and even trees!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Day After

Walt and I have just finished cleaning the kitchen and putting things away from yesterday. I think I used every serving dish in my house!  Everything turned out well yesterday, except the turkey was done about an hour and a half before I expected which threw me off a little.  We had the usual, turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with bourbon (yum), roasted brussels sprouts, root vegetable puree,  creamed onions, Carol's corn dish, and cranberry sauce. Oh, and Julia's rolls of course, which were a big success.  Carol made a pumpkin pie and a caramel apple pie for dessert, which were both delish and most everyone had a slice of both. We watched some football, played some bananagrams, and just enjoyed everyone's favorite holiday. The Langes left around 7:30, as Jackson and Carol had to get up this morning at 5:45 to leave for a soccer tournament in New Jersey. On to Christmas!

Playing Bananagrams

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

One of the Thanksgiving traditions in our house has become Julia's efforts to make real, yeast rolls. She has had some successes with JoAnn's buttermilk rolls, and some failures (even though Keenan always seems to like them however they turn out), but this year she made the rolls she remembers making with her Aunt Evie many summers at Chautauqua, and it looks like we have a winner! All looks good so far,  we just have to taste them.  My cousins Bob and Carol and their boys Jackson and Keenan are coming over later this afternoon, and we are thankful that we can all be together.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baker Towers

I just finished a second novel by Jennifer Haigh. After enjoying Faith so much, I picked up  Baker Towers, which had been recommended to me by my friend Lois.  Baker Towers takes place in the town of Bakerton, a coal mining town in western Pennsylvania, during WWII and the post-war years.  It follows the lives of the Novak family--Stanley, a first-generation Polish immigrant and his Italian wife Rose, and their five children, who live in company housing in Bakerton. Stanley, like most of the men in Bakerton, works in the coal mines, and when he drops dead of a heart attack,  Rose is left to raise the children. We follow the lives of the five children over the years, Georgie, Sandy, Joyce, Dorothy, and Lucy, as they navigate a not so easy life. A few leave Bakerton for the big cities, but the ties to their family and their old home remain strong. I really like Haigh's writing style, weaving the story back and forth between the characters, and back and forth in time, providing an interesting perspective on the passage of time. The descriptions of the town of Bakerton are very familiar to those of us who grew up in small midwestern towns--the ethnic communities, the close knit neighborhoods, the small family-owned stores, and then the inevitable demise of the town, as modernization and 'progress' takes place. This isn't a page turner, but it is an interesting and well-written story.

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Grandmother's Silver

My grandmother's silverware

It's a good thing I talked to my sister the other day, because she had spent the day washing all her good china and crystal, getting ready for the holidays. It reminded me of a job I always forget about until I am actually setting the table for the holidays, and that is polishing the silver. This is a job my kids would never in a million years think about--who polishes silver anymore?  Who has silver anymore? Who has real china anymore?  I am so happy to have my Grandma Camplejohn's silver, engraved with the letter 'C'.  My mom gave it to me after my grandpa died. I don't use it a lot, but I bring it out for the holidays and special occasions. It is missing a few knives, and it tarnishes easily,  but I like getting it out,  polishing it and looking at the tiny shrimp cocktail forks, and I like thinking about my grandma doing the same thing fifty, sixty, seventy years ago. When my cousin Bob and his family come for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday,  I will remind him that we are using the same silverware that we used when we had dinner on Sundays at our grandparents house so many years ago, and we will laugh and tell stories that we remember, like the noisy radiator screen behind our chairs, and the chocolate drops in the crystal bowl by the front door.

My grandmother Jane Kendall  Camplejohn and my mother, Betty Ann

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Computer!

I picked up my new computer last night, but unfortunately they weren't able to retrieve anything off of my old hard drive. I have learned my lesson about backing up.

So now I just need to spend some time getting to know my brand new Macbook Pro.  Hopefully I will get to do that this weekend, in between turkey day shopping trips!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Succulents in Winter

I am gradually getting this garden ready for winter. It's been pretty chilly the past few days, so it was time to gather up all the succulents and bring them in the garage. I put them in plastic bins and place the bins on a shelf in the garage, where they still get some light. I give them a little water maybe once over the next few months, and then will bring them out early in the spring so they're only banished to the garage for about 3 months. Most of my succulents are several years old, so this system seems to work pretty well.

And good news on the computer front, I finally bought a new Macbook Pro yesterday, woohoo, and I hope to pick it up today. They kept it at the store to load a few things on it, and also took my old computer and were going to take out the hard drive and see if they could retrieve anything. Fingers crossed! Maybe tomorrow I will be blogging on my new computer!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Beautiful Gate

I pass by this gorgeous gate on Route 7 every day on my way to work, and every time I pass it, I want to stop and take a picture of it because I love it so much. So the other day when were going somewhere on Route 7,  I made Walt pull over so I could grab a quick picture. I'm not sure what is back there, it is some kind of church or temple perhaps, but there are signs posted about 'no photography on the premises.' Whoops. Well I wasn't exactly on the property, was I? I was half expecting a big black Suburban to come after me after I took my photo. I just think it is the most beautiful gate,  and I would like one like this in my yard, please. Or maybe a smaller panel would be a little more tasteful, but with all those cheerful fleurs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Riverbend Park, Great Falls

Yesterday Walt and I took a long walk along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, which is just north of Great Falls National Park. We usually go to Great Falls, but decided to try Riverbend this time.  It was such a nice day and we only saw a few people walking along the trail, out on the water. The Potomac Heritage Trail follows the river and if we kept going we would have come to Great Falls Park. There wasn't a lot of color left, but it was a pleasant walk, and nice to be near the water.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

At Merrifield! I stopped in yesterday to get some bulbs and some plant food, and I couldn't believe it, the whole store was decorated for Christmas. They were in the process of stringing lights outside! I don't know why I was surprised, as most of the stores around here already have Christmas decorations up. These fake trees were really pretty, but boy are they expensive. The big ones are up to $800! Do people really spend that much for an artificial tree? I guess so.

I bought three kinds of bulbs, two daffodils ('Jetfire' and 'Geranium') and some more grape hyacinths to stick in a few corners. I'm going to have to try and plant them really deep, because last year the squirrels got to them pretty quick and I had to replant. I have a good amount of daffodils, but every spring I wish I had more, so I am trying to plant a few dozen more each year.

I also was looking at their hollies--Evelyn at the farm last weekend had the most beautiful holly by their barn. It wasn't real big, but it was just the perfect size and shape and just so pretty. Also looked at the beautyberry, as that's another shrub I would like to get sometime.

I don't know what kind of hollies these were, but I've never seen so many berries! I also got a couple of pots of woolly thyme that I can divide and put between some pavers. Walt and I worked outside for a couple of hours yesterday, raking and mulching leaves. There's still lots of leaves on the trees, so we'll be doing this a few more times. It was a beautiful fall day, though, so it felt great to be outside.

A strange sight--empty pots at MGC

Friday, November 9, 2012

Christmas Cactus

I've been watching my Christmas cactus for signs of life, and I am just beginning to see some buds. I usually stop watering my Christmas cactus at the end of summer, let them go dormant, and then watch them for the new tiny buds. It's kind of amazing these cycles that plants have. So it looks like I'll have Thanksgiving cactus again this year. I have a hanging Christmas cactus that I put outside all summer, and then I keep it in the garage in the fall until it starts to set buds, which is also happening now. Meanwhile, my amaryllis is resting in the dark and cool basement, gathering up its strength, and in 8 weeks I will bring it out and hope for flowers in January.