Category Archives: Five for Friday

The Waning of Summer

Summer has pretty much come to an end. While the days might still be warm and sunny, the gardens around the house tell a different story—autumn is coming.

The back garden is definitely ragged, no two ways about it.

The bee balm is no longer in vibrant bloom, just a few red petals here and there.

Except for the border of annuals, the rest of the garden doesn’t look much better. But the impatiens are positively thriving—I have never seen them so big and full. Clearly, they liked the heat and humidity, even if I didn’t.

And the begonias, troopers that they are, continue to provide welcome color.

The front yard actually looks a little better, and it’s all because of the hostas that I divided and planted in the many holes in my garden. Hostas might not be showy, but they maintain a cool, even presence. Surely there must be a lesson in this.

One plant that is coming into bloom is the sedum—autumn joy. Here’s a close up with a little friend on the top.

Farewell, summer. You might have been too hot and humid, but I treasure those evenings on the patio, the nights with the windows open, the gatherings with grilled bread.

 

 

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The Dream of the Fish and the Chips

Last night, I dreamed that Clif and I were making fish and chips. We seemed to be in the hall of the Methodist Church in town. You know how dreams are. People kept coming for our fish and chips, and I was afraid we were going to run out. But lo and behold! Suddenly there was plenty, and when our friends Alice and Joel came, we had enough to give them. I have no idea what the heck such a dream could mean, but it makes me giggle just to think about it.

Now on to other matters in the hinterland.

My birthday is right around the corner—in September—but my friend Barbara will be home in Pennsylvania by then. So we got together for tea and cookies, and she gave me a lovely tea towel.

“I thought of  you when I saw it,” she said.

“Oh, it’s so lovely. I don’t want to use it,” I replied.

Barbara gave me a stern look. “I gave the towel to you to be used.”

She’s right, of course. What’s the sense of having the towel and not using it? So here it is, covering rising bread dough, and this is how the tea towel  will be used from now on. But the tea towel is pretty, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you hate to use it?

And speaking of pretty…I am slowly, slowly coming around to begonias. They’re bright, they do well in part sun, part shade, which is the best my yard gets, and they last straight through until fall. In short, they are troopers. (I hope you noticed the little fairy hovering over them.)

Readers might recall that this was the year I succumbed to hostas. I had lost far too many flowers in the dry shade that is the reality of much of my yard. Finally I snapped, digging like a fiend, splitting up hostas I already had, and planting them wherever there was a hole left by a dead plant. And there were holes aplenty. Now, in late summer, I see the wisdom of all that mad activity in the spring. The front yard actually looks pretty good. There are no masses of flowers, but that’s pretty much true for the entire season. Most important, there are no ugly bare patches.

In the backyard, a plant has crept onto the patio, and Clif thinks it might be an evil creature from Doctor Who. But Clif is wrong. Instead, it is a cucumber, exploring and expanding. So far, I’ve only gotten a few cucumbers. I hope I get more before the frost comes.

This last shot might seem a little odd. This really is our kitchen wastebasket, and there is nothing distinguished about it. I included the wastebasket because in an effort to reduce trash and my carbon footprint, I had set a modest goal for myself. Instead of a bag of trash a week, I resolved to have a bag of trash every other week. I am happy to report that this goal has been met, chiefly by buying more in bulk, cooking more from scratch, and being careful about the packaged goods I do buy.

My next goal? A bag of trash every third week. That one will be harder to achieve.

Stay tuned!

 

The Generosity of Friends

It’s been quite a week. For starters, I made some absolutely delicious  granola that is so good that I will probably never buy another box of cereal. (We like having cereal on hand, not only for breakfast but also for busy nights when you want something quick to eat.) In the past, I have made granola but have had only mediocre results.  Not so with this recipe, which came from the blog Thrifty Frugal Mom.  This granola recipe really is as easy and as forgiving as Thrifty Fugal Mom states in her blog. I didn’t have any wheat germ or coconut, so neither of these went into the mix. I only had quick-cooking oats, so no rolled oats went into the mix either. It didn’t matter. The granola was still very tasty, and I have been eating it for breakfast every morning. Next time, I will be sure to have rolled oats on hand. Also some dried cranberries. Anyway, this granola will now be a staple in our house, thus reducing the excessive packaging and cost that come with boxed cereal.

And speaking of packaging…On a recent trip to Hannaford Supermarket, I brought two of my own bags for green beans and popcorn. I wondered if the cashier would be nonplussed by the bags from home.  She was not  and even stated that these bags were much better than the ones the store provided. Of course, we had to pay a little extra as Hannaford doesn’t weigh containers from home, and my bags are heavier than the ones from the store. Also, my bags are still plastic and will eventually wear out. But I’ll be able to get many, many uses out of my bags, unlike the flimsy ones from Hannaford, which really are pretty much single use. And my bags aren’t that heavy. So, success!

And to make the week even finer came a perfect summer’s day with low humidity. This is the view across from the Winthrop Farmer’s Market, where we buy our corn on the cob. Note how blue the sky and water are.

That night we had a meal consisting solely of Maine vegetables. Nothing else was needed.

Now what, you might ask, could possibly top all the delights I have described above? The answer: A box and two bags of vegetables left on our porch by my friend Beth Clark. She had dropped them off so early that we didn’t even know she had come until we saw the bounty on our porch. Her husband John had picked the vegetables for us the day before, and we were dumbfounded by the abundance, which included cabbage, Swiss chard, tomatoes, eggplant, and yellow squash. Both Clif and I were incredibly touched by Beth and John’s wonderful generosity.

Here is a picture of a few of the beautiful vegetables we found on our porch this morning.

As we might say in Maine, a finest kind of week.

Welcome to the Jungle

Hot and humid. Humid and hot. This was the theme of July,  and so far,  August is following suit. Clif and I can only look back wistfully to the days when Maine summers were delightful—not too hot, not too humid.

The plants, on the other hand, thrive in the humidity, and my little herb garden, with the cucumbers and tomatoes tucked in, has exploded into a jungle.

Mint has a bad reputation for hogging a garden, and while it often does grow where it doesn’t belong, mint has nothing on oregano, which is so out of control that I hardly know how to contain it.

Here is the mint, more or less confined to one corner of the bed.

Now behold the oregano. At night, I am certain that I can hear it call, “Feed me, Laurie!”

Fortunately, there is room for wee, delicious cucumbers,

as well as wee tomatoes that I hope will be delicious.

As a bonus picture, here is Clif by the tomatoes, so that readers can appreciate just how out of control this garden is. (I know. I know. I should prune. Somehow, I just can’t bring myself to do it.)

Finally, to borrow from one of my blogging friends and her blog CIMPLE, here’s a little something to start the weekend.

 

The Lazy Birder

Many people who are keen on bird watching  get up with the sun, grab their binoculars, and tramp around the woods. No doubt they see a lot of birds, and the morning light, I’ve been told, is beautiful.

On the other hand, there are people like me, who are much more casual about their bird watching. They want to put up their feet and sit in a comfortable chair. A drink is often at the ready—sometimes iced tea, sometimes something a little stronger.

I belong to the second group of people. Call me lazy, but I enjoy having the birds come to me. Because we have feeders in our backyard to entice the fluttering beauties, and because we live in the woods where there is plenty of cover, the birds, by and large, do come to me.

Among the regular visitors are hummingbirds (only in the summer),

woodpeckers,

goldfinches,

and cardinals.

Sometimes a furry little visitor finds his or her way into the feeder, and the birds must wait.

And what a delight to be on the patio in late June, when the weather is absolutely delicious, the dragonflies have drastically reduced the mosquito population, the little fountain chuckles in the background, and I am surrounded by trees and birds.

Is it any wonder I am such a lazy birder?

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Everything’s Coming up Hostas

All right, folks. The furious digging is done. (How I love digging. I swear I must be part terrier, except that I dig for plants, not rats.) All the bare spots in my garden—and there were many—have been mostly filled by—you guessed it!—hostas. Fortunately for my budget, which is as big as a minute, I already had quite a few hostas in various spots in my gardens. Those hostas have been there for a while and were ripe for dividing. With spade in hand, I went to work.

Now, as I’ve previously written, my preference would be to have gardens with glorious bursts of flowers from May through September. And when my blogging friends feature their bright, beautiful gardens, I am filled with conflicting emotions—admiration, awe, and envy. But we live in the woods, and while there are many pleasures to be gained from this, riotous blooms aren’t one of them.

So onward, ho with hostas. Here is a picture of the front yard. I have a hard time getting pictures that reflect the simplicity and tranquility of my hosta-filled gardens. (When life gives you shade…) However, this picture  does capture a little of this feeling.

Here is another look.

Confession time. Perhaps I might be exaggerating a teeny-weensy bit when I write that my gardens are all hostas, all the time. Observant readers will note that there are a few other plants tucked here and there among the hostas.

There are chives, which seem to thrive wherever they are planted. (There must be a lesson in this.)

And my beloved irises, which tolerate some shade.

Later in the season there will be evening primroses, some lilies, and black-eyed Susans.

Recently, a friend gave me a plant—tough as nails, she assured me—that does well in shade. It’s called Persian shield, and it’s noted for its foliage. I planted it less than a week ago, and so far, so good. May this plant thrive in my shady garden and bring a little splash of color to it.

But back to hostas. Although they do well in dry shade, they are magnets for slugs and snails. By summer’s end, the slugs and snails chew the hostas leaves into green lace, which sounds prettier than it actual is. The hostas always come back in the spring, so no permanent damage is done, but by the end of the season, they look pretty sad.

Recently, I heard that a way to deter snails and slugs is to mix one part of ammonia to five or six parts water and spray the hosta leaves. Somehow, I am leery about doing this. Ammonia doesn’t seem like anything I want to be using in my gardens. But I must admit that I am tempted.

Blogging friends, what do you think of this method of controlling snails and slugs? Am I right to be leery, or is it a safe method?

Don’t be shy. Tell me what you think.

 

Comfort Me with Gardening

It has been a long, sad week without our dog buddy, Liam. I keep listening for him, wondering where he is. I save him bits of toast.  Is it time for him to go out? Very foolish to think these things, as I know he is gone, but old habits are hard to break.

Fortunately for me, the weather has been oh so fine, and I have worked in the gardens all week. Such a consolation, and I can only be grateful that Liam’s decline did not happen in the winter when we were stuck inside. Instead, like a terrier, I have been digging and moving hostas to fill in empty spots left by less hardy plants that didn’t make it. Finally, after nearly thirty years of gardening in this dry, shady yard, after spending too much money on plants that either died or didn’t thrive, I have given into hostas. Now, in our yard, hostas rule.

However, amid the calming foliage of the hostas, there are some budding irises, my favorites..

And front or back, everything is green, green, green. Our yard is held in the palm of the forest.

Amid the green, I love the dash of blue of the little fountain, given to me by “the kids” on my sixtieth birthday. When Clif and I sit on the patio, we can hear the gentle splash of water. So soothing.

And then there’s this dash of orange, which always livens things up.

Believe it or not, wild Sherlock is a comfort, too. He and his gentler sister, Ms. Watson, bring purring life to our evenings, settling beside us as we watch TV.

And so it goes into June. Soon the heavy gardening will be done, and after that, it will be on to bike riding. We’ll probably never be able to keep up with my blogging friend Tootlepedal, who recently biked seventy-six miles in honor of his seventy-six years, but we are going to step up our game, so to speak.

Biking, flowers, time on the patio. Come, summer, come!