Sunday, December 31, 2023

Goodbye 2023 and Hello 2024...

 Traditionally at the end of the year I review my successes and failures of the past year.  This is the perfect time to set goals for the upcoming year.  I've learned over the years that nothing ever goes as planned, but usually something better actually happens.  So without further ado here is a recap of last year...

Berries!  I really missed this year's harvest.  I had no wine, jam, or juice in 2022 and it was maddening.  I need to really focus on my raspberries and strawberries.  My orchard and berries need serious attention to include fertilizer and a watering regimen.  I'm also going to have to add some Harrelson Apple trees as mine are on the decline.

I was somewhat successful.  There were strawberries, but I need more and a way to keep birds and chipmunks out. During the summer, I made vast improvements on the raspberry bed and will order some more raspberries this spring.  We also got a Harreld Apple tree for the orchard.  My black currents were plentiful, as were the gooseberries.  

Do something out of the box.  I need an adventure for 2023.  When I turned 40, I went to Denmark.  I would like to travel again.  Well, this took a turn I didn't expect.  I made a rash decision at work to do a four-month detail as secretary for the top leader of the Forest Service Job Corps.  It was my one chance to see behind the Wizard of Oz's curtain.  I learned I am a terrible secretary.  Much harder than you would think it is.  Towards the end I got better.  It was such a good experience.  Although my boss is in Washington DC, I teleworked from home. The best part of my adventure is it culminated in a conference in Washington DC.  It certainly wasn't what I had in mind last January but was a great experience.  

Take care of my friends.  You can't pick your family, but you can choose your friends and I have chosen well.  Their support and kindness is humbling.  Again, this goal ended up being much better than expected.  Our year was filled with visits from family and friends.  My brother was out several times, our Minnesota nieces and nephews came out for turkey hunting adventures, my SD nieces came out for the yearly week with Aunt Bonnie, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, and plenty of friends all took time to sit on our porch and enjoy life.  I am blessed to have such a good life.  Best of all our cabin and our kitchen was always full of laughter.   
Continue to improve my vegetable garden.  I know what I like: tomatoes, peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, acorn squash, sweet corn, peppers, beans, cucumbers, asparagus, and garlic.  As for herbs:  Basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, chamomile, borage, mint, hyssop, lemon balm, and lemon grass.  I am also going to get serious about the great pumpkin contest now that there is a trophy involved.  It can't all be sunshine and roses.  I didn't even come close on the pumpkin competition this year.  A hungry doe vandalized my pumpkin.  I sometimes wonder if my husband encouraged her behavior.  The vegetables did great (with the exception of my pumpkins).  I had the best crop of asparagus, squash, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes ever.  

Projects are always abound.  I would like to build a canning shelf for the basement.  Improve my bird feeding stations, especially when it comes to squirrel proofing them. We completed a lot of projects this year.  I made improvements to the raspberry bed.  My husband put a gate on our orchard.  Due to the always looming hail, some hail nets were ordered for the vegetable garden and installed.  I made several bee waterers and bought a bird bath made by one of my good friends.  I was going to squirrel proof the birdfeeders, but nighttime visits from flying squirrels dampened my resolution.  

What is next?  
More improvements on the flower gardening front.  This fall I added more color to the rose bed.  I planted more lilies and bulbs.  I pulled out many overgrown plants in front and hope this will encourage other plants to flourish.  I've been looking back at garden pictures over the years, and I need to bring back some old favorites.  Hopefully, I will be able to reseed my wildlife bed and keep the turkeys and deer out, so the butterflies and bees can enjoy.

The edible garden still needs some tweaks.  I need to find the perfect eggplant.  Pea production needs to improve.  For some reason they haven't done as well in the new greenhouse.  I need to keep adding to the raspberry and strawberry beds.  The orchard also needs more apple and plum trees.  I am also going to try and graft better stock onto my flourishing yet fruitless pear trees.  I added a different elderberry last summer in hopes of cross pollinating with my wild elderberry.  With luck this will mean elderberries this year.

My husband and I added trails to our property and this year we are going to enhance them with seating areas and even a strategically placed picnic table.  For the wildlife, I want to work on my two frog ponds.  There are a few ideas for more efficient bee and bird waterers.  There are plans to add a few more wildlife shelters.  

I am hoping to improve the experience for visitors to our cabin.  Over the years we have compiled a pretty extensive list of things you can do when you visit.  I want to add more games for rainy days and places to go when the weather cooperates.  We enjoy having company and are excited to see who visits this year.  Last year we were truly blessed with all of the friends and relatives that spent time on our porch.  

Here is wishing you all a happy and healthy 2024.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Oh Christmas Tree...

I'm afraid there isn't much to talk about this week.  I've been super busy getting ready for Christmas.  We finished shopping, cards will be sent tomorrow, and the work Christmas party is out of the way. 

I've been too busy to take any pictures, so I will post this video my wonderful husband sent me while I was in DC.

It is amazing how much more enjoyable the holidays are when you are able to get things cleared off of the Christmas list.  Do you have a Christmas list?  Are you getting things checked off? 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Not the DC you expect to see...

 I was lucky enough to attend a conference in Washington DC last week. As always, it is a great experience.  I was able to tour the Capitol. 

I'm sure these are the pictures you expect to see. 

Lots of cement and stone.  
But the truth is what I enjoyed most, wandering through the Smithsonian Gardens.
This is Janet.  She has been a gardener in DC for 27 years.  Her garden is the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden and it was by far my favorite. She is a lovely lady and she was more than willing to take the time to answer my questions. 
We had a wonderful visit about winter gardening in her zone 8.  All of the Smithsonian Gardens rely on the wonderful and hardy viola to provide winter colors.
Since violas are my favorite flowers, I loved to see them as the cornerstone in all of the gardens.

Her garden was tiny, but by far the most wildlife friendly. She had it filled with many interesting plants, little chalkboard messages, and something special wherever you looked.
 She still had water in the bird baths. I wasn't able to capture a bird using them, but I promise every time I wandered by one there was a bird in it. 

She created a wonderful bug hotel.  It was the only one I  saw and there were plenty of gardens to wander through. 

A friend of hers created this beautiful bird house.  It is so original.  She had two metal  birdhouses in the garden and said both were used despite the summer heat.

She created this adorable gnome display below and was working on a second one when I left.  If you look up the Smithsonian Gardens on Instagram she should be posting how to create them soon.
She made the gnomes hats herself and credited 4-H with teaching her to sew.
I found some interesting plants and planting combinations that I look forward to trying. This chrysanthemum 'Cathy's Rust' is beautiful. 
If you get a chance, I recommend going to the Smithsonian Gardens on Instagram.   You can see Janet in action.   She is a wonderful lady and I enjoyed my visit with her immensely.

 I also visited the Enid A. Haupt Garden, the Native Landscape at the National Museum of the American Indian, and the People's Garden. 

The Moon Garden entrance and part of the Sign of the Dragonfly garden. 

Wind Sculpture VII' (2116) by Yinka Shonibare -- National Museum of African Art. This was absolutely beautiful.  He really captured the spirit of the wind.
I even saw people planting in the People's Garden.  Originally launched in 2009 by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, The People’s Garden was named in honor of Abraham Lincoln who created the USDA and called it the “People’s Department” (from the People's Garden website). This initiative was used to fund the gardens at our school. 
There you go, that was my tour of DC.  I am certain I will go again and honestly I will probably plan to visit every garden possible.   While none of the museums opened until 10:00, the gardens were available quite early. 

Have you visited the gardens at our nation's Capital?  If so which were you favorite.   If I visit your area what public garden would you recommend?

Sunday, December 3, 2023


I don't have much to share, except for an advent calendar idea and a few rainbow photos.   Yes, a rainbow in December. 

I got this lovely wooden advent calendar for my nieces so long ago.  I used to mail it to them every year and pick it up after Christmas to fill again.  That practice had to end as it was pretty rough on the poor thing.  

Last year I sent a 125 piece puzzle and asked my sister to put 5 pieces in each day.  This year, my oldest niece is in college.  I wanted to do something that involved her and the rest of the family.   I came up with the idea of having a different question every day. My brother was kind enough to print the questions and fill the calendar.  The kids will take a picture of the daily question, post it in our group chat, and we will all respond.  

So far so good.  We had some kinks at the beginning,  but I  think we are working through them.

We had a rainbow during a snow flurry today.   You never know what is going to happen around here.  Normally, I end my post with a question, so today I will ask an advent question.