Time, Distance, and New Snow

Seed catalogs are coming in fast.  They’re fat and colorful and full of tempting things, and they make me realize I need to start planning my garden tout de suite.  I don’t need much, as I save seeds, but there are always surprises when I look at my seed stores and the garden plan.

These are just the beginning.

Having spare time has opened again the possibility of writing more extensively.  Back in 2011, I decided the blog would be my creative outlet and I stopped writing poetry and fiction.  Mostly, I did this because my paid work and volunteer activities around food access crowded out the creative spark.  Also, if you write fiction and want to publish it, the shopping around process takes a certain kind of energy and mindset I didn’t have at the time.

All the projects–reading, writing, sewing…

I’d been feeling I might have the creative mental space back, so I looked at my work.  There are 15 poems, one of them published; five short stories, two published; two short stories in process; one novel, complete, but likely in need of rewriting; and one novel in its second draft.  

That scarlet color is wild berry canes, spotted on a walk on Roosevelt Island.
I wasn’t able to capture the color well, but saw them more than once.

I have always thought one of the short stories could be a screenplay but have never learned what is entailed in that process.  The completed novel would likely be more marketable if I killed off one of the characters and changed the arc of the story.  And the novel started and in the second draft reveals a problem I have with focus.

You can see the color a little better in this one

Most of my fictional characters come to me in a particular situation or with a particular attitude.  I write things that illuminate them, not always in the order of the story and not always pertinent to the story.  As a result, I wind up with excess, off-point scenes and a LOT of words in novels.  Two writer friends, recognizing this problem, gave me books that addressed it years back.  One is called Structuring Your Novel and the other is called The Moral Premise.  The latter is about screenwriting, but just as applicable to story arc in a novel.  I’ve decided to read them both, do the exercises and proceed, if possible, with the newer novel.  With all the distance from the creative writing, I was able to see and accept what I was doing wrong when I dipped again into Structuring Your Novel. 

It was a nice day to be out for a walk and see sparkling water.

As I write today, it’s snowing again and I’m enjoying it.  Overnight it will turn into wintry mix, ice, and then rain.  Tomorrow is supposed to be well above freezing, so I hope people stay in tonight and the stuff melts fast.  Earlier, I took some video of it, but it’s relatively silent.

It’s snowing even harder now. I’m glad it will be dark when the wintry mix starts.

I’ll stay in and have a few shortbread and some hot tea…

There used to be stars as well, all eaten because they were smaller…
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Whiplash!

Yesterday, I was harvesting cilantro, broccoli, cauliflower, and parsley from the garden.  It was over 60 degrees, and I wasn’t even wearing a jacket.

Doesn’t look like January 2, does it?

Today, I woke up to this.

Snow was clinging to the screen and coming down at a good clip.

It was snowing crazily, almost a whiteout without wind.  The predictions had changed over the course of the day from 2-5 inches to 4-7 inches to 6-10.  In my neighborhood, we seem to have received somewhere between 6 and 6 ¼ inches.

I measured.

I love seeing snow.  Especially this wet heavy stuff that makes branches look like a fairy world.

That’s a downed branch lower center, from the redbud. Still, it looks pretty magical.

Unfortunately, it’s also caused a few branches to fall.  I noticed one from a white pine, one from a holly and one from the redbud down the courtyard.

This Japanese Maple still had leaves, unfortunately. It seems flexible, though.

I cleaned my car off but did no shoveling, as I think I can just drive out of 6 inches.  And this stuff is heavy and very wet, which is mostly what we get here.  The last time I shoveled the car out I had to remind myself that I was no longer 35.  It’s likely that with temps well above freezing in the next few days that it will melt soon.  If I’d believed the forecast last night, I might have moved the car into the County garage, but…

Because the snow was so wet and the streets have not been plowed, traffic is creating an icy road base for the evening.

It’s so nice to see, and so rare (it’s been a few years since we had anything much in the way of a snowstorm) that I’ll likely have another walk in it today. 

Wishing you your own early-year magic, whatever that might be!

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Watching the Hawk Watch

One of the things I like about my neighborhood is that wildlife presents itself for the alert passer-by.  I was in my living room when I noticed some people walking up the steps toward the shops.  The man looked up and then turned back to look up again.  I walked to the window, curious, and saw this perched on a limb above what is often a squirrel playground…

It looks like a young Red Tail to me, given its head color and breast, which you’ll see later.
You lookin’ at me?
Well, you should know I have superpowers…

The funny thing is that several other people walked by and never looked up.  I have seen foxes, coyotes, deer, raccoons, opossums, and all manner of birds I never expected to see in town (pileated woodpeckers, for instance) just by looking around.

This bird had its eyes peeled.
Pesky human still looking at me…

I love seeing the big hunters because I know they will keep the rodent population down.  That seems to be what this little guy was looking for—some chipmunks or mice in the ivy.  I hope he or she (I can’t sex juvenile hawks) finds something tasty before the afternoon is over.  What a treat for a grey day—and thanks to the alert neighbor for sending me a clue to look out.

Ah, well. No chippies. May as well look elsewhere…
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A Park Discovery

A couple weeks ago, on a visit to one of the end of year art and craft exhibits, I discovered a new place for walks.  I had been to Fort CF Smith before, as it is a favorite place for art exhibits.  However, I had always been with a friend and thus distracted from the landscape, usually by someone who wanted to leave immediately after seeing the exhibit.

This time, when I exited the house, I looked down a swathe of lawn and realized I needed to check the place out.  It’s only a five-minute drive from my home.  

I learned that there was a short trail, and I went back the next day to check it out.  The land itself is high ground above the Potomac and the Fort was one of a number that formed a defense of the Capitol during the Civil War.

The walk is a lovely, wooded loop above the George Washington Memorial Parkway.  What a nice array of trees it has:  tulip poplar, beech, white and pin oaks, hickory, and –bonus of bonuses—there is a paw paw patch!  Heh, heh, one more place to discover good eating in the fall…

There is also a landscaped area that is more park-like and I enjoyed that as well, with its Japanese maple leaves mixing with golden Gingko.  

I also saw this, a Camellia of some sort (sinensis?), and I had to stop and enjoy it for a few minutes.

I’ll be back here when I need a short wooded get-away to clear my head.  Having such a breath of fresh air so close is a great gift.

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Whew… Exhale

Hello fellow bloggers!  It’s been another wild ride of a year at work and in the garden, but I finally retired in September and … nothing much changed with me getting blogs posted.  I did, however, get my bicycle fixed, paint the hall, living room, and bedroom, deep clean for the winter, clear out clothing that is unlikely ever to fit again, and in general get at items on a two year old list while decompressing from the world of work.

Here is the winter garden–lettuces and spinach in the cold frame…

It’s been fabulous.  The first two weeks, I giggled a lot when I realized I didn’t have to go back to work.  I’ve been enjoying a whole variety of things:  seeing friends more frequently for more long walks, hikes, or just coffee; putting the garden to bed over a few hours a day during the week, rather than four hours a day over two weekend days; discovering new parks and places to walk locally; and having conversations without having the next thing to do in the back of my mind.  

A week or so in, I remembered my father after he retired telling me that he had started sleeping nine hours a night and saying “I don’t think I was getting enough sleep all those years.”  I was doing the same thing.  And believe me, I already knew I wasn’t getting enough sleep.  I have serious night owl tendencies and often get a second wind around the time I should be going to bed, but I was still getting up and getting online on time.

So, sleep, friends, exercise, and the pleasures of my own schedule.  Tonight I’m starting a course on how to take video for news stories; I’ve already taken a course in radio broadcast.  Not sure what I’m going to do with these things, but I’ve always wanted to know how they’re done.  I’ll keep growing food for the Plot Against Hunger and gardening in general, so I’m hoping to be a little more regular with my posts and visits.

View from the back–there’s always another garden to start–in a few months!
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The Garden Thrives

I was in the garden last week getting some trumpet vine shoots out of the rosemary bush and saw a bird’s nest in there!  What a treat!  I never knew any young’uns were raised there.  They had a parent with nerves of steel, because nothing ever flew out when I brushed by on my way in.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a nest this close.

Both gardens—my own and Plot Against Hunger—are doing fairly well given the weird extremes of temperature and rainfall we’ve had.  In the large Plot garden, the blackberries are amazing and there has been—I continue to cross my fingers—very little bird feasting.  I will be taking several pints to the pantry on Monday.

These are some of the sweetest blackberries I’ve had.

My summer and winter squashes are doing well—with blossoms and tiny squash coming on.

This isn’t all of them–I have not taken the best photos of the garden lately.

The tomatoes seem to be thriving (they love the heat).

Three quite large tomatoes developing here, and some nice Italian pear tomatoes as well coming on. I’m visualizing some lovely salads and tasty pasta sauce.

The basil is doing well and the oregano is blooming (yes, I should have been trimming it, but…) and serving the bees.

I’m looking forward to getting melons from this—the Edisto Mystery melon, which along with my cucumbers, also seems to be spreading its shoots.

I’m hoping this melon is mysteriously good, but I will be ordering some covers for the fruits to keep away the critters.

Tuesday, I’ll be taking my new car on its first long road trip—all the way to Illinois to see my family—whom I’ve not seen for 18 months.  It’s good to be breaking out and going places and ditching the masks.  Still, I’ve been watching our brethren in the southern hemisphere, hoping things go well there, because what happens in their winter is likely to be predictive for us.

The car looks fierce and sturdy in this picture.

To end on a better note—I’m expecting zinnias soon, and currently have the crazy seed pods of Nigella damascenes to enjoy.

I love these things and am happy to see that bits of yarrow are holding their own among the Nigella.

Have a fabulous week!

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Gardens, Cicadas, and Evil Lagomorphs

It has been so long since I wrote that I feel a bit sheepish, but I want to start again.  Something happened at the height of the pandemic here that translated to just too much screen time and I dropped out for the most part, but missed the community and visited sporadically.  Now I want to start writing again—there’s still a lot to write about—and periodic cicadas are one of them!

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have heard of these.  There are a number of them, separated into broods and the brood where I live in northern Virginia is Brood X, which appears every 17 years.  The adult cicadas 17 years ago flew up into the trees where they bred and laid eggs; their larvae dropped to the ground and burrowed down to the tree roots, where they suckled for 17 years before digging their way back up to transform again.  This can make it look as though your lawn has been aerated.

They molt, leaving these empty shells all over the place and they make an amazing sound.

Those big adults are a bit like WWII bombers.  They fly, but really slow and they don’t have maneuvers, so it’s best to get out of the way if one flies at you. There are apparently three species of Brood X, but I have only seen one in my area.

The cicadas are good for the garden.  The birds are so full of them, they haven’t eaten the mulberries, cherries, and blackberries they normally gobble down, meaning…I have gotten mulberries and hope to get blackberries.

I’ve been gardening this year both for myself and for the Plot Against Hunger.  My Plot volunteer, Holly, had the idea to plant the three sisters this year—corn, with beans growing up the corn, and squash underneath.  Because of evil rabbits, we had to fence the three sisters in.

We also had to replant okra, cover it with chicken wire (rabbits love okra sprouts), and cover the blueberry plants as well.  Not only did the rabbit eat the blueberries, it also ate the leaves off the bush.  Then it started on the pepper plant and the eggplants.  Luckily we’re getting an infusion of eggplants in a week or so.  I’ll fence those.

My fellow gardener Mike and I took 8.3 pounds of lettuce to the food pantry last week using lettuce from my garden and a couple other gardeners who had a glut.  

My own garden has had rabbit depredation as well, but I think things will recover as time goes on.  I have summer and winter squashes, tomatoes, peppers, okra (covered for now), a melon, cucumber, and flowers and herbs.  I’m looking forward to what the growing season may bring (likely more fences) and to telling you about it. 

Have a good week!

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Walktober in the Marsh

Well, I wanted to post a walk for Robin over at Breezes At Dawn, who runs Walktober for us here in WordPress-land.  I’m a day late for her deadline, but still in October, so thought I just MIGHT get in on her round up if I was fast this morning.  My friend Jane and I wanted to go kayaking, but it had turned kind of brisk, so we decided on a walk instead.

One of the first stops was a little cove where waterbirds feed.

We wanted to go to Dumbarton Oaks, but the gardens are closed through at least December.  I knew Great Falls would be crowded on such a beautiful day, but the night before the walk, I remembered Dyke Marsh.  I wrote about the marsh earlier this year when my friend Carolyn and I took a walk on New Year’s day.  Seems like a million years ago.

The marsh was very much itself and beautiful as ever on the lovely day we had.  It’s next to a park along the Potomac and adjacent to Belle Haven Marina, where I rent a kayak when I want to paddle through the marsh.  One of the things you notice if you walk river paths is that the movement of the water scours out little beaches.  They tend only to last a season and then there are new ones made at the next flood.

Plenty of nice places to sit and hear the water lapping…

It’s not a long walk, and one that Jane and I are used to seeing from the water, but both of us stopped periodically to search out the source of a scent or try to identify a bit of flora.  Often the flora doesn’t belong in the marsh, brought there by flood and tide, but much of the time it’s nice to see jewel weed, cattails, and other bottomland plants. 

We saw a lot of asters and the yellow flowers are a type of biden that grows in the marsh. I can’t remember it’s common name.

When you live in a city or suburb, if you grew up in the country, one of the things you miss is seeing a horizon.  One of the things I like about living here is that it doesn’t take too long to get somewhere where a horizon is in view.  And a long path is always a nice thing to see as well.

Ahh, exhale…

There’s also a boardwalk that gives views of the marsh.

Jane gazes at what we dubbed crow island.

From there, we saw some kayakers and both thought simultaneously, “That could have been us.”

We also saw a type of rose off to the side of the walkway that was growing where it would be subject to the tide.  It had made hips for the fall.  As I was looking at it, I saw this northern water snake resting after a meal.  It had likely eaten a frog…

Look at that bulge…

We went on to have a look at the island across the way from the end of the walkway.  As we stood there, crows seemed to be gathering for the evening.

The rose hips that led to the snake spotting…

Have a good week.  My next post will be on Geoff Le Pard’s book of poetry, including an interview on just how he writes on so much different stuff.

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Fall Arrives in the Garden

I can’t seem to find the time to write a blog this year. It’s nothing like my regular once a week post I used to do. I have to admit the new block editor has complicated things. I need a lot more time to learn it. Last weekend I did look at some videos, but none of them answered my questions and relatively few were even doing the sort of blog I do. But this is my attempt at putting my learning into practice.

I thought of doing a video to show the hundreds of busy bees, but didn’t…

The garden is looking beautiful, if a bit end of season. The asters have been in their glory, giving bees a last few bits of pollen before they have to hunker down for the winter. Other creatures have been out and about as well.

I’m enjoying the last of the basil as well…

I have done a bit of fall planting in my garden, even though I still have a lot of peppers and some tomatoes coming on. I’ve planted kale, which does well in the fall, arugula, which likes cool weather as well, some carrots, and beets. I also brought the cold frame back to the garden and planted lettuces in it. I haven’t covered it yet, because temperatures are still in the upper 60s and I don’t want to cook the seeds.

This is truly on its last season, I think…

I’m also looking forward to harvesting this eggplant. There’s another close to this size below it, making this the best year for eggplant I had in years. I doubt the blossoms will get very far, given the lateness of the year.

This will be my third large eggplant this year, with another on the way…

In the donation garden, Holly and I harvested the last of the okra and beans and the last of the large crooknecks, then cleaned the garden out and prepped it for fall. Along with donations from fellow gardeners, we were able to send 577 pounds of fresh produce to food pantries so far. With the discovery of two more crooknecks, not yet ripe, a resurgence of tomatoes, and a second crop of cucumbers, I hope to tip 600 pounds, but we’ll see.

The three crooknecks weighed 22 pounds. The okra, beans, tomatoes and peppers weighed three.

Holly did an amazing job creating rows for the fall plantings. Here in Virginia, if the weather cooperates, you can grow pretty well in the fall, if you stick to root crops and cold weather plantings.

We put the spinach, lettuce and most of the carrots and beets in the enclosure to foil evil lagomorphs…

Holly put in spinach, beets, various kinds of radishes, carrots, lettuce, and turnips, some of which were volunteering. In previous years, I’ve had really good luck with broccoli and cauliflower. The bonus is that if they get bitten by frost or freezing rain, the early spring garden is pre-planted.

What a job she did, while I weeded the small garden, where the asparagus bed is. Those sad little pepper plants in the cans had a rough year.

Next year, we’ll also be able to harvest from our asparagus, which this year was harvested by the rabbits, for the most part. Next year, I’ll be much greedier.

One of the last roses, in Mike and Gerda’s garden. I can report that the block editor is seeming easier now…

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Fall and Other Sadnesses

The seasons are changing, summer running toward fall.  It’s been cool here, cooler than I’d expect for September.  I will miss the Contented Crafter in the coming months.  Pauline, as many of you may have read in Alys’s lovely memorial piece, died on September 5th.  I first met her when she came to DC as a member of the “blogging babes” and was privileged to show her, Alys and Kelly around DC.  Since, we wrote, skyped, visited each other’s blogs and grew in friendship.  I wish her spirit Godspeed and her daughters, Danella and Joanna strength and comfort in the times to come.

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In the garden, I’ve been planting for fall as I clear space.  If it’s a mild winter, I hope to have lettuces, beets, parsley and a few other things.  I’ve had eggplants, peppers and green beans galore this year, along with a lot more tomatoes than I usually get.  We’ve had a lot of rain, which may have helped.

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In my garden, there is a mystery squash.  I have no clue what it is, but I think it’s a winter squash and I have quite a few of them.   If you know what it is, leave a comment.

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Not an acorn squash, not an overgrown pattypan…

More to come soon on final donation weights and fall plantings.  Take care all!

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