All Is Calm

It’s a  dreary day with lowering clouds and a look of snow. To the south, there is a winter storm that’s crossed 2000 miles and is heading for the Atlantic.  Here in northern Virginia, we aren’t expected even to get flurries.  But we’ve got that wintry look.

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What’s more wintry than this? Well, snow would be, I guess, but …

I’ve been lazing around my house since November 28 with a case of pneumonia.  Today, I take the last of my antibiotics and tomorrow I have an appointment with the doctor to see whether my lungs have cleared well. As pneumonia goes (I am unfortunately well-experienced with it), it hasn’t been bad, especially the coughing, which has been efficient and (drumroll) largely during the day.  I’ve been sleeping  like a stone.

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Leeks and red sorrel together in a dormant garden.

I’ve been getting great meals from friends, too.  And boy has that helped!  The thing with pneumonia is that you don’t feel bad after the initial slam-down, but boy is it hard to do much but lie on the couch.  I realized I was on the upswing when I had the energy to open a can of refried beans and cook some rice.

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These figs, on a sheltered south wall, won’t be anyone’s meal…

Today, I’m thinking about bringing out my Christmas decorations.  I don’t have a lot, so it shouldn’t be too strenuous.  I will likely be snugging in locally for the holiday, as travel after pneumonia is too strenuous, and way too many people seem to think flying while sick is a good idea.  Well it is, if you want to make the maximum number of people sick … otherwise, not so much.

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Ah, citrus! Gracious fruit of the winter.

So I’m reformulating Christmas for myself at the moment, and continuing to relax.  I may write my cards today.  I’ve already got them stacked in order for addressing.  One thing I’ve enjoyed, being home with little to do, is being able to visit everyone’s blog fairly regularly.  You folks are productive and entertaining and educational!

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I thought these were the loveliest little blast of color. I Imagine them calling to birds, “Here we are!”

To prove it, just this week, I got a book of Cynthia Jobin’s poems in the mail, pulled together and edited by John Looker, published by Bennison Books. It’s a lovely edition.  Cynthia’s blog was like a master class in poetry and its forms, and the conversation in comments was wonderful.  I’m glad there’s another edition of her work to savor. It’s available from…yup, Amazon, so order it if you’re inclined and many thanks to John.

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I had to hold the cover down, since it’s already standing open from reading.

I hope you have a good week! See you in the blogosphere.

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And because I’ve been reading Derrick Knight’s blog, I’m pretty sure this is a clematis–I offer it in memory of Cynthia and in thanks to John for his work.

 

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Paradise Regained

Dumbarton Oaks garden closed for a while to replace what was probably 100 year old piping for fountains and no doubt shore up some walls and a few other things.  As a result, I was shut out of this particular paradise for some time.  Over the weekend, I took the opportunity to go for a visit.

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The Katsura had lost its leaves, so I didn’t get to smell its cooked sugar scent. But look at that Japanese maple to the left. It’s definitely dressed up.

Those of you who follow the blog know this is my favorite place in Washington, D.C., and that I have written about it multiple times (just put Dumbarton Oaks in the search box). I was hoping there would be a new art installation, and to my delight, there was!

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Was I enchanted? You bet!

All of the exhibits have been organically part of the garden.  This one, done by Martha Jackson Jarvis, a local artist, was no exception.  I saw the forms that looked like seed pods in a couple places in the garden.

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Well, you can see red seeds from outside Magnolia pods, but…

There were also structures made from bamboo harvested from the gardens and embellished with metal, glass and other materials.

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I liked these and the way they were formed.

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Here they look as though they’re on the march. Or perhaps part of a small family group…

While I could see that the green mosaic work was a stem and the red mosaic work might be seeds peeping out from a disintegrating outer shell, the second group of pods looked more like wounded slugs fleeing evil bamboo towers than fallen pods, but then, how did day of the triffids start?

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Ouch! Let’s get away!

The garden had beautiful surprises other than the art installation.  There were fall crocuses.

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The cones on the Cedars of Lebanon look to be near the completion of their two year development.

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The view into Rock Creek Park showed the color that’s left in this odd delayed season.

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There were paths that had to be walked,

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Roses that needed to be sniffed,

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Surprises at the end of paths,

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And places to rest.

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Have a great week!

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Bottling the Light

It’s just short of two months since I last posted and it feels much, much longer than that.  So many things keep happening.  For a while, we seemed suspended between summer and fall, with cooler temperatures and green trees.  Then, in one weekend, there was a transformation.  Like a little color bomb.

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This maple seemed to go red overnight.

Since then, we’ve had some extraordinarily beautiful days where the leaves seem to give off their own light.  One windy day recently, the leaves blowing down looked like falling tea lights.

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If this were a lamp, I’d buy it!

And of course the light itself is changing, its slant and tint, and intensity.  It’s gone a bit pale.

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Still, with the leaves as they’ve been, that color is intensified by the paler light.

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I’ve been working in the garden as well as enjoying fall’s last flashy dance.  In fact this weekend, I put my plot to bed.  With the help of a fellow gardener, I also cleared the large Plot Against Hunger plot.  It remains to be weeded a bit more and then heavily composted.

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I may have the start of an asparagus patch.

The small plot that we had also dedicated to AFAC is going back to the garden for people who want to garden but can’t manage a larger plot.  I cleared that out as well last weekend.  Like the large plot, it needs a bit more weeding and then the compost.  I can get that done in the next couple weekends if we have a nice day!

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It’s nice to see the calendulas thriving. They do like the cool weather.

The year wound up well, with peppers and eggplants and a last rush of green beans.  I had planted some arugula and beets and those came on as well.

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I’m thinking arugula, beets, walnuts, and chèvre.

The last bouquet was poignant.  It’s hard to get used to going flowerless after such amazing decoration for months!

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I have an abundance of green tomatoes, which I’ve put in a paper bag with two bananas in hopes they ripen.  I haven’t the heart for pickled green tomatoes this year, but a few may get fried with batter.  We’ll see what they do in the bag.

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Yup, that’s a pile of tomatoes…

In the meantime, I’ve brought out my candles to enjoy in the early evenings.  We’re expecting snow, sleet and rain, otherwise known as wintry mix, on Thursday.  It’s a bit early for that, but I’m ready as I’ll be!

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It’s Here Now, Fans of Fall

It’s definitely end of season.  I see the signs everywhere–not just on the calendar.  It continues to rain here, as though preparing us to make a decision about building an ark.

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The Blackeyed Susans are a bit seedy, were leaning, and … I ripped them out.

I’m at the point where I’d just like to rip things out and clean up, but I do still have tomatoes coming on and the rain has revitalized the green beans, a treat courtesy of hurricane Florence and a generally damp weather pattern.

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Looks like some hard work compared to getting pollen from the zinnias, but perhaps this bee wanted a little variety.

The thing about ripping out, though, is that the bees and butterflies and birds are so busy in the flowers.

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Like this black swallowtail…

Sometimes there is so much movement among the blossoms that I stop and try to see individual things. And there are a lot of them still collecting pollen.

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And this Monarch.

So I’ll give them extra time.

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I’m sure the bees will appreciate it, even if they don’t give me credit.

I have to search through the flowers now for my bouquet.  The blossoms are increasingly spotted and don’t last as long.  Still, this was coming.  All those folks declaring end of summer at Labor Day knew it, but I deny it right up until the fall equinox.  Officially, that was yesterday evening.

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Now this one I could have picked.

I’ll savor the last few tomatoes and green beans in the next few weeks, put the garden to bed for the winter in good time, and look for the pleasures of autumn, perhaps among them the Katsura tree at Dumbarton Oaks, whose turning leaves smell of cooked sugar.

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And speaking of sugar, I used the last of the peaches in a pie. Into apple and pear season now!

 

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Late Summer

Well, I didn’t write after the beach, but we had a great time there.  It was HOT, the kind of hot that’s wonderful with a breeze and 69 degree water to wade out into.  I love floating out in the ocean, bobbing up over waves.  It’s very relaxing and invigorating at the same time.

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Do you believe this sand castle? Some man’s family built it for his 80th birthday!

I did take pictures of the garden last weekend after I did a late summer clean up.  I had shorn the oregano in late August and look at it!! It’s back for a fall cutting.

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It smells so lovely, oregano.

And it seems to have adopted a winter squash.

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A fine bed to rest and grow on!

The basil made a recovery after a heavy rain, but they really want to blossom, and at this point, I may have to let them go to seed.  But not before another couple batches of pesto…

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I pinched most of the blooms off, but it never does much good.

The tomatoes are still coming on, as are the okra pods.  I will also be having a few more eggplants, I think, not to mention lots of peppers.

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The zinnias are crazily beautiful as usual with birds and butterflies flitting in and out of them. More butterflies in mid-day and more birds in late afternoon.

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Hello, you…

There are cabbage whites, fritillaries, and swallowtails most commonly, though I saw a viceroy, but was unable to get a clear picture because it kept flitting.

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I think the smaller of these is a meadow fritillary and the larger one may be a variegated fritillary. But, I’m better with bird and plant ID…

So it’s late summer in the garden, heading toward fall.  It’s been a pretty good season.  I should have pulled the pole beans out, but given we have a hurricane coming, I didn’t. Sometimes great lashings of rain for days on end make the beans recover and give a few more meals.  Hope springs eternal.

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So there are actually blossoms, but it’s getting late in the year for many more beans.

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Ah, Summer…

It’s not that I haven’t been in the garden.  I keep forgetting my camera when I go.  It’s been a good garden year.  I was able to pickle cucumbers and this morning, I’m putting up a second batch of tomato sauce.

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I had to use the tomatoes I wouldn’t be eating in the next four days. These will be okay while I’m gone.

I work in pretty small batches of three to four pint jars at a time.  It works with the way I seem to get tomatoes and I can whip up a batch of sauce or whatever I’m making in a short time instead of making a whole day of it. Also, since I’m only one person, I don’t need lots of great big jars stored away.

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Other than pesto, there’s just nothing like opening a jar of home canned tomatoes in the winter.

It’s now late summer and the cicadas are singing and evenings are cooling down.  We had the most extraordinary few days of weather only about 80 degrees and very low humidity.  I’ve had my windows open, enjoying all the outdoor grassy smells and the cicada singing–and of course, I’ve heard the birds in the morning and evening as well.

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Heating the lids…

It’s turning warmer again in the next few days, though, which is fine by me, as I’m heading off to the beach with a friend and it must be hot at the beach, as far as I’m concerned. That way I can lie around in the sun, soaking up rays like a little lizard, run into the water to cool off as necessary, and of course, shelter under a beach umbrella and read a good mystery.

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A few filled jars, with a leaf of basil tucked in each…

Other than gardening, this summer, I have also been reading.  Most recently, some essays by Richard Russo, The Destiny Thief, which have some interesting discussions of creativity and the writing life from the perspective of someone whose professors did not expect him to be a novelist.  The title essay is about a conversation he had in middle age with a former classmate their professors expected to be a successful novelist–who went on to be a professor instead. I also read Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel, and I have to say it was pretty terrible.  I kept reading, expecting it to get better, but I can’t remember a worse novel in recent years.  It managed to be both tedious and horrifying.  Like Our Souls at Night, I wanted to throw it at the wall when I was done, but unlike that novel, whose story arc I just disliked, this one was both frustrating and pointless.

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Tomato sauces take a 35 minute hot water bath because without pressure cooking them it takes that long to kill off the spores of evil organisms.

I also just finished Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.  I must confess to having read much of his output (except the poetry; and that’s because I read less poetry than prose) and liked it all. He has moved back and forth in time and geography in his novels, showing deftness and imagination of the best fiction writers.  His prose can also be the sort that makes me, a greedy reader, slow down and stop at the end of a chapter to absorb imagery and layers of possible meaning.  Warlight is narrated by a child looking back on events, with all the acknowledgement of misunderstanding, acceptance of the puzzling as normal, and ultimately revelations in adulthood.  It’s worth a read if you want to sink your teeth into something layered and mysterious.

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I also got this eggplant from the garden. I’ll be fixing it today, since it won’t last the week.

I’ll be heading to the bookstore for something I can take to the beach with me.  I’m currently reading Good Omens by Neil Gaiman.  It’s not my usual thing, but it’s rippingly funny.  Unfortunately, it’s on my iPad, which I won’t be dropping into a beach bag. It tends to heat up in the sun.

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Some finished jars cooling…

So have a good week, all! I’ll be slathering myself with sunscreen and walking the beach, wearing the calluses off my feet.  And I’ll try to drop by some of your virtual porches to say hello.

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I wish I could share my bounteous crop of basil with you…it’s getting that end of summer look to it. More pesto!

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World of Wonders

This week, I had a lot of goodies from the garden–and I am eating them.  In the case of flowers, I’m still picking bouquets for the house every week and enjoying them greatly.

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Since nothing much is different in the garden from my last post (well, the tomatoes are riper), I thought you didn’t need more pictures of the progress of my bounty.  I had been thinking about children and the things they see in the world and how they can be terrible and wondrous and awe-inspiring. It comes from a certain closeness to things (in the case of pinching bugs, that would be the ground) and attentiveness.  So I was noticing the bees on my flowers (even the ones I had picked).

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Look at those wings.

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And who knew zinnias had so much lovely pollen?  Well, the bees did.

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And this sparrow was looking for nesting material, trying to get some of last year’s vines off the trellis, no doubt for a second hatch. I was only able to get a picture when it paused for a rest.  Look at the way those feathers lie (or just enjoy the “cute little fluffy bottom” as Sid the Cussy Bunny would have said).

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I was looking for blue flowers to cool down my bouquet, and was blithely deciding which stem had more incipient blooms on it, when I noticed this:

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Good grief, look at the forearms.

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Finally the mantis decided to crawl over to some zinnia leaves.  Probably trying to get away from the paparazzi.

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Enjoy your week and watch for the wonders.

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