Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall Trip to Landis Farm

Prudy, Judy, Eileen, and me in Lancaster County, PA

Eileen, Prudy, Judy, and I are on our way to Pennsylvania today for our fall weekend. I know, it seems like we go there a lot, even Julia said to me the other day 'aren't you going there more often these days?' We always go in the spring for plant shopping and in the fall for holiday shopping, but we have made a few extra trips this year. There's a quilt show in March we like to see, and then the picture above was taken in August, when we went up for Evie and Earl's 50th anniversary party that was given by their children. This fall trip is definitely less pressure than in the spring when we are buying 10, 000 plants and stuffing them and hanging them in our cars. In the fall we visit all our favorite little Amish markets, buy quarts of vegetable soup at a local church fair (to bring home), buy chocolate for the holidays at Wilburs, and buy *bacon* at our favorite home away from home, Weavers Market. We used to do holiday shopping and craft fairs on this fall trip, but none of us do much of that any more, and we certainly don't need one more Christmas decoration. But it's always fun to look.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Heaven It Is Always Autumn

In Heaven It Is Always Autumn--John Donne

--by Elizabeth Spires

In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near
to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking
heaven's path no longer feel the weight of years upon them.
Safe in heaven's calm, they take each other's arm,
the light shining through them, all joy and terror gone.
But we are far from heaven here, in a garden ragged and unkept
as Eden would be with the walls knocked down, the paths littered
with the unswept leaves of many years, bright keepsakes
for children of the Fall. The light is gold, the sun pulling
the long shadow soul out of each thing, disclosing an outcome.
The last roses of the year nod their frail heads,
like listeners listening to all that's said, to ask,
What brought us here? What seed? What rain? What light?
What forced us upward through dark earth? What made us bloom?
What wind shall take us soon, sweeping the garden bare?
Their voiceless voices hang there, as ours might,
if we were roses, too. Their beds are blanketed with leaves,
tended by an absent gardener whose life is elsewhere.
It is the last of many last days. Is it enough?
To rest in this moment? To turn our faces to the sun?
To watch the lineaments of a world passing?
To feel the metal of a black iron chair, cool and eternal,
press against our skin? To apprehend a chill as clouds
pass overhead, turning us to shivering shade and shadow?
And then to be restored, small miracle, the sun shining brightly
as before? We go on, you leading the way, a figure
leaning on a cane that leaves its mark on the earth.
My friend, you have led me farther than I have ever been.
To a garden in autumn. To a heaven of impermanence
where the final falling off is slow, a slow and radiant happening.
The light is gold. And while we're here, I think it must be heaven.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday Drive, Fall

Yesterday was such a beautiful fall day, so we decided to take a drive out Route 7 towards Round Hill and get some apples. After getting the apples (and an apple pie, too), we took some back roads through horse country and got some beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The leaves are still a week or so away from peak color, but it's always such a joy to see our beautiful Virginia countryside with its wide open spaces, miles and miles of stacked stone walls, the allĂ©es of trees,  the horse farms, the big old trees, the little stone buildings and houses, and always the backdrop of the mountains. After the congestion and craziness of Northern Virginia, it feels so good to know there is still all this beautiful open land not so far away.  We ended up in Middleburg, walked around for a bit and had a coffee, and then headed home.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Fleurs

Well there's not much left blooming in the garden these days for Friday's fleurs, but I did find a few stray roses hanging on.  It's getting colder and we were supposed to have a frost last night, but I don't see any sign of it this morning.  At least we didn't get snow like they did in Cleveland!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Books On My Nightstand

How The Light Gets In, by Louise Penny. The latest in the Inspector Gamache series, set in Canada. This series has been recommended to me by several readers at the library.

Never Go Back, by Lee Child. Oh, that Jack Reacher, he's the best.

Abide With Me, by Elizabeth Strout. I'm on an Elizabeth Strout kick now after reading The Burgess Boys. This is one of her earlier books about a young minister who loses his wife.

Trespasser, by Paul Doiron--I'm anxious to see what's up with Maine game warden Mike Bowditch in the second of the series.

Dear Life, by Alice Munro. I've enjoyed Alice Munro's short stories, so will read this newest collection which just won her the Nobel Prize.

Someone, by Alice McDermott. One of my favorite authors, I've been looking forward to this, her latest novel. She's such a good writer.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Aimless Love

I heard Billy Collins interviewed on NPR yesterday and enjoyed this poem that he read from his new book of poems, Aimless Love.

Aimless Love

by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.
In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.
This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.
The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.
No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.
No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then
for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.
But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.
After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,
so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Walking the C&O Canal

We had a nice weekend, a delicious dinner with friends on Saturday, and yesterday we took a long walk along the C&O canal, starting at Lock 10 in Maryland and walking about 2.5 miles towards Georgetown and back.   It was a  beautiful fall day and we saw lots of walkers, runners, and cyclists along the way. Looking at the maps, we see lots of hiking trails we want to try on the Maryland side of Great Falls. Got to take advantage of fall walks, they're the best.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Time to Hibernate for Holiday Plants

Christmas cactus

It's time to bring in the amaryllis and the Christmas cactus. Mine have spent the summer outside, tucked in a corner of the garden (amaryllis) and hanging from a tree (Christmas cactus). I cleaned them up a little the other day, and brought them inside to rest in the dark for 6-8 weeks. They need this cycle of dark and cold (cactus) to bloom later in the year. I put the Christmas cactus in the garage so that it will get cold temps and dark at night, and the amaryllis goes in a dark corner in the basement for 8 weeks. I find that usually my Christmas cactus starts to get buds in about 3-4 weeks, so as soon as I start to see buds, I bring it in. It's usually blooming at Thanksgiving, so I guess I have a Thanksgiving cactus.  See all that color already on the Christmas cactus? That means something is happening and buds will be forming soon. I think the cold nights outside have already started its bloom cycle.

Christmas amaryllis

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pink and Purple Fall Fleurs

Hyacinth bean

There's still some color in the garden these days, and as I was walking around with my camera, I realized it's mostly pinks and purples that are hanging on.  All the rain and these cooler temps have rejuvenated my pots and brought on a few new blooms in the garden. Yea October!


Hyacinth bean pods



Million Bells


Mexican heather
Persian shield

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Poacher's Son

My friend JoAnn recommended this book to me after we got home from Maine. It is the first in a series (four so far) of light mysteries about 24-year-old Mike Bowditch, a rookie game warden in the North Woods of Maine. His long-time girlfriend has left him, he doesn't have much of a family, and Mike likes the isolation and solitude of his job in Maine’s wilderness. His job is to protect the wildlife and woods, and to enforce the hunting and boating laws on the small lakes. He is soon caught up in a murder investigation in which his deadbeat father—a poacher—is the main suspect in the murders of a timber executive and a cop. As Mike tries to prove to everyone and himself that his father is innocent, we learn about his childhood and some of the reasons he likes being alone in the woods. It’s a good story, and the descriptions of the Maine woods, the hunting camps, the hidden lakes, and the wild landscape,  are great, even though it’s quite a bit different from the coastal Maine that I know. I thought Mike was kind of a weak character,  but I'm sure he develops more in the next books.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finally, Fall

I love fall. As much as I love my garden and being outside in it, I like this winding down season, I like the changes the cooler weather brings. And it is finally getting cooler around here and we even are getting some rain at long last.  I may be the only person in the world who likes when the days get shorter and when it starts getting dark earlier. Yesterday I finally tore out all the zinnias in my small mailbox bed (they did so well this year!!) and planted some fall lovelies.  Sometimes I plant mums, but this year I decided to go with pansies and two different kinds of kale, and a swiss chard.

As I was driving home from the nursery, I couldn't help taking a picture of the truck in front of me with this giant pumpkin tied on the back. So funny.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

"From where we are, it is easy to overlook that in these conditions it is blisteringly hard to be good. The astonishment is that some people are good, and that many people try to be. If the house is crooked and crumbling, and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?"

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is the story of one of the many slums that exist in India today, this one Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels (and behind billboards advertising beautiful Italian  tiles that will be "beautiful forever, beautiful forever") near the Mumbai airport. Katherine Boo, an American journalist,  spent four years living among the residents of Annawadi and getting to know the people.  She tells their story, focusing on several individuals and families and documenting their lives as some of the most desperately poor people in the world, even though by India's low standards, they are not considered officially poor by the government. As India begins to prosper, the Annawadians feel glimmers of hope, believing their lives might improve as well. We soon learn that is not the case in India. The caste system makes it all but impossible for anyone to rise above, and the Indian government and political system are so corrupt that even when someone makes an effort to better their life, they are kicked back down. One of the main characters in the book is Abdul, a young Muslim man who is makes his living collecting and recycling the trash of the rich, and he is doing well for his family. Their house has four actual walls now, instead of a sheet which used to separate them from their neighbor. When his one-legged neighbor Fatima attempts suicide by self-immolation, she accuses Abdul of beating her, and ultimately ruins the lives of Abdul and his family, sending them all to prison.  People know this is not true,  the police know it is not true, but that doesn't matter.  Fatima was jealous of Abdul's small successes in and all that matters is trying to beat him back down. And this is just one family we meet in the book.

One of the most striking things about the book is how it is written. If you didn't know it was non-fiction, you would think you are reading a novel, until you come to the Author's Note at the end of the book explaining how and why she wrote the book-- she wanted to "follow the inhabitants of a single unexceptional slum over the course of a couple years and see who got ahead and who didn’t and why, as India prospered.” Well, no one really does.  This is not an easy book to read--it is so hard to read about the people in our world who are living such desperate lives, and with no real hope for change. Katherine Boo manages to show the political corruption at every level, the caste system, the joke of a health system, the lack of community, and the huge and growing divide between the rich and the poor.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Garden Dreams

I finally got around to planting some azaleas in the area under my pine trees. I have been thinking about doing this for about 15 years and I finally got around to it this weekend.  This area is under 4 large pine trees and has mostly been just a mulched area and a dumping ground for leaves and grass,  but lately I have been thinking about turning it into a shade garden. I think this is because I have run out of room for plants and I need a new area to cultivate.  In the spring, I transplanted some hellebores and some variegated solomon's seal to this spot (can I call it a garden yet?) and so the azaleas will fit right in.  And a friend dug up some toad lily from her garden for me, and I planted that in here too.  I bought white azaleas, as I think they will look nice in the mostly green and shady spot. And the white solomon's seal and greenish-white hellebores will continue the whites. It doesn't look like much now, but someday...

Sometimes when I am lying in bed at night I like to think about what I would do if I had all the money in the world, and a full time gardener to help me do the work.  First I would plant a wide perennial and shrub border all around the perimeter of my side yard. I would love to have a conifer garden, with lots of different textures and sizes, and maybe some perennials thrown in. I love the look of that mix.

Image via Pinterest

I love this little pocket garden of conifers. This might be more my speed.

Image via Pinterest
I would also do a hedge of hydrangeas somewhere. There used to be a house by my parents house in Ohio that had the most beautiful hedge of hydrangeas. The problem is I would need a lot of hydrangeas to have a good long hedge. I always thought I could propagate six or seven hydrangeas from one of mine, but that would take years for them to get big enough to plant.

Hydrangea hedge in Ohio

And then there's the tree lawn--or hell strip--or parking strip--that  I've thought about planting. I love when  I see these gardens, it's such a great idea for that narrow strip of grass that serves no purpose except for dog walkers. I am always looking for pictures of these. I would love to have the energy and time to plant one of these street-side gardens.

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

So,  probably not going to happen but at least I planted some azaleas.