Review 2015

Every year I post a year in review that is largely visual in nature.  It seems that this year may prove to be different.  There have been so many profound changes that the photographs would only just scratch the surface.  I’ll throw a few in for good measure though, I can’t resist.

150830 Morning Mist

After living with my father for a year and a half I put him back into assisted living.  It was a huge learning curve for me – but I learned that I cannot live with negativity day in and day out.  Living under a black cloud only drags you into that black abyss and it becomes more and more difficult to climb your way out.  In my heart I know it was the right thing to do for everyone involved yet on some level it feels like failure.  I’m working on getting over that in ways that feed my soul.

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Living here helped me maintain my sanity.  The close proximity to nature was a balm many times during each and every day.  Being able to see magnificent sunrises so many mornings began my days in a positive way.  It was a summer of rainbows – every day it seemed .  Hiking trails at the park, new trails in old familiar places brought discovery and appreciation anew.  Let’s face it, it’s quiet here, it smells good and nobody bugs you.  What more could the introvert in me want?

150726 Amanda's Wedding

Then there were weddings, lots of them.  My favorite was the marriage of my daughter – here.  Ten people, surrounded by my gardens in full bloom.  My favorite moment – the family humming Pachelbel’s Canon in D while Amanda and her father walked down the little makeshift aisle, thanks Cait for getting it rolling.  Although Amanda and Yusuf have been together for 9 years and we all knew this was coming it still felt like we were giving her away.  It was a line for me, both joyous and sad.


As if all of this wasn’t enough November 11th was the birth of our first grandchild.  A boy who dear husband Bill never thought he was going to see (and now has big plans for).  Another shift in my life – from mother to grandmother.  I’m not sure how it affects other people but the generational shift has always been a profound one for me.  When Amanda was born it took me a while to wrap my head around going from daughter to mother, I’m still getting use to the idea of going from mom to grandma.  He is wonderful and I’m enjoying watching them grow into a loving family.

150109 Warp

All through this the constant has been craft.  The ability to make and do things with my hands is the thread.  It feeds me – no, it is a necessity. If I wasn’t able to create something, on a daily basis, I would have sunk into that deep, dark hole long ago.  It sustains me.  It seems odd to me in some ways to admit this.  I have been a crafter all of my life.  My modus operandi is to learn a new craft, work it to what I deem the best I am capable of (more of a plateau really) and move on to the next craft.  This year was all about weaving – again.  It was the realization that I’ve been searching my entire life for what my hands knew how to do.  Weaving has connected me to my past, to people I remember and loved the most.  It is something that will probably take the rest of my life to move towards perfection.  Meanwhile it calms me and helps me to reflect on daily life, meditation.  Something we all need and I daresay find in little things we do.  We just need to recognize it.

151021 Baskets

The new year is promising in so many ways.  Growth is what it’s all about.  I’ll keep on sharing my skills and insights.  I’ll watch my family and friends embrace the changes in their lives and hold them all close because really, that’s what it’s all about.




Gifts of the Garden

150726 Amanda's Wedding

When we first started clearing the property here in Rowe the trees were encroaching on the buildings closest to the house.  The side field had been maintained but the pasture was all but lost.  Our girls were probably in their early teens.

I had been photographing weddings for years before my children were born and they were brought up knowing that the back yard wedding was their only option.  They would look at the backyard here and roll their eyes not being able to see the vision Bill and I had.  I would tell them that someday they would be married here and it would be beautiful.

This past Sunday my oldest married the love of her life in a very intimate ceremony in one of the gardens.  Their being married was something we believed would happen for over 8 years now but being cautious sorts they waited.  Amanda is one who hates to be the center of attention in any situation and they told me about 3 months ago that they were just going to city hall in Boston and getting married there.  The horror.

With much, much cajoling we convinced them to be married here with parents and siblings only.  That was almost too much for them really, the nerves were palpable on Sunday.   For what was to be one of the smallest weddings ever we did everything we could to make it a beautiful occasion and it certainly was.  From Amanda walking down the “aisle” with her father to the tune of her family humming Pachelbel’s Canon to eating al fresco in the field next to the garden it was as perfect a day as it could be for them.  It also allowed all of us to have a very intimate involvement in preparing for those vows to be said.

150716 Aerial view

Bill and I built a rustic arbor out of trees we cut across the field a couple of weeks before the ceremony and set it up at the beginning of a stone path.  It was a little wonky but fit the bill with our “rustic chic” theme. I ordered baby’s breath and lemon leaves from my niece’s flower shop to augment the flowers in my garden and picked some at my sister-in-law’s the day before.  They were a huge help in the quick planning of this.


Draped and decorated.

Arbor Flowers

I tried to put flowers everywhere and took a lot of photographs.  Day lilies are so beautiful and fleeting and I knew once the sun set the flowers would be gone too.  Sort of temporary art.


I had also picked some “weeds” along the power line and in the back forty.  Queen Anne’s Lace and Joe Pye Weed. Places were set with sprigs of herbs that smelled heavenly – pineapple sage, rosemary, lavender, thistle.


A garden riot of flowers on the table.


Lemon Raspberry cake made with garden fruit.  Molly Cantor made a cake stand just for the occasion.

Weddings are monumental occasions in people’s lives.  They represent a new chapter for those getting married but also for the parents of the bride and groom.  It doesn’t matter how long your child has been out of the house or how old they are when they marry.  As monumental as this ceremony is it’s just a fleeting moment.  In the span of a few hours my world shifted a little, in a wonderful, beautiful way.  I did what I could to make it a beautiful memory in a place where more memories will be made.


Everything is now gone but the undecorated arbor and the flowers from the day.  They are taking their time in wilting away, a little gift in a way.  A reminder of an occasion but also of how much beauty is constantly around me that can be pulled together and shared.





Where Did Summer Go?

140813 Rainbow LomoI woke up this morning, before daylight, to the sound of rain on the roof.  My first thought was  “Are you kidding me?!?” I went back to a restless sleep and finally got up to a rather cold house.  When I looked at the thermometer it was 48 degrees.

I picked up a brochure for the Heath Fair last weekend at the local farm and garden center and the woman at the check out said, “Yup, next weekend, marks the end of summer”.

To me this has been the summer that wasn’t.  We had a handful of days in the 80’s, very few days in the 90’s.  All of the fans have been taken out of the windows so I can close them at night against most of the cold air. The window in my bedroom will stay open until November – in part to keep the fresh air coming in but also so I can hear the owls and other critters at night.  The garden has been so so.  I look back at records of past years and realize that everything is 2 weeks or so behind except for the garlic.  It will be a miracle if I get beans at all – they love the sun and heat.

This past Wednesday was a complete washout (and the only day I really had to work in the gardens).  It was warmer but pouring and brought in the cooler weather.  There was a rainbow to mark the end of the day and the rain.  It also showed me where my pot of gold resides. There is such beauty here. Every day gives another opportunity to see it and share.

Today the chicken fence goes up and they will venture outdoors for the first time in their lives.  Although I have so much to do with the summer ending I will move my lawn chair to a good vantage point with camera in hand and watch the chicks take in the fresh air and sunshine.  What better way to spend part of a late summer day.


Garden Bounty

140805 Iris

My vegetable garden has been somewhat of a disappointment this year.  The tomatoes have blight, the cucumbers are slow, everything is 2 to 3 weeks behind because of the cool temperatures and copious amounts of rain we have had.  The things that are doing great are my perennials.

The cooler temperatures have allowed me to begin a long, long overdue garden rehab project.  Yes, new gardens are going in but one of the reasons for the new gardens is that there are so many things that need division in the old gardens.  I have to say that it has taken me by surprise.  One iris, planted about 5 years ago, yielded a garden full of new ones.

I’m never one to complain about free plants mind you but this is a little concerning to me when I look at what I have to divide.  I dug up three plants yesterday, an iris, a balloon flower and a Stella di Oro lily.  The iris yielded about 30 usable rhizomes, the balloon flower maybe three separate plants and the lily went from one larger clump to six good size plants.

The distressing part for me is the fact that I haven’t even begun to dig up the garden that needs to be redone.  I’m not one to throw plants over the bank but foresee that happening.  How many haphazard gardens are there from plants being pitched when the gardens are redone? (You gardeners out there know what I’m talking about).  I have two of those right here.  Daffodils come up all over the place now where they were thrown purposefully or accidentally over the years. Hostas, myrtle, daylilies, even Jack in the Pulpits.  I prefer to refer to those haphazard messes as reserves for the day when I need them.

Yesterday I gave away half of the iris to a friend that was here in the morning.  I didn’t give him a choice – I told him he could pitch them over his bank, I would never know.

This is how friendship gardens happen. Someone is dividing up their plants in order to have them be healthier and bloom better, they are overwhelmed with the number of unexpected plants they end up with, they force them onto their friends and family.  That gives me a whole new perspective on a couple of the gardens that I always thought of as “friendship” gardens.  Maybe all those special plants are really things that were being cast off and rescued by my mother, similar to things that have happened to me recently.

Regardless of how the plants have ended up in my garden I love most of them.  Even if some were cast off from another’s garden renovation I look upon them fondly.  Some of them have been here since 1968 when we moved here and my mother began gardening in earnest.  To identify certain specimens with certain people in an aspect that I love.

So as the garden renovation continues I will be giving away a lot of things and hope that some years from now someone will say,  “Oh I got that from Joanne in 2014 during the big dig”.  For that reason I’m careful what I give away and make sure it is weed free.  The last thing I want is someone cursing me out for some invasive species that I introduced to their garden.  Although at this point irises are feeling a little invasive.

140805 Stellas

Birds, Bees and Butterflies

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This garden was one we put in about 3 years ago (time all melds together at this point – maybe it was four years, maybe two).  It is pretty spectacular this year.  All of the plants have matured and I put in a few annuals that Bill brought up.  The best part about this garden is its attraction to hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

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If you are within sight of this garden you can see it is a hub of activity.

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I was thrilled to see honey bees on a lot of my flowering plants this year, it’s been a while.

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There is always something to watch.

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I originally planted this for the color it would give our view of the back forty. When I sit in the Adirondack chairs and look over this garden I realize I planted the perfect wildlife garden.  There’s a hummingbird feeder that I have to fill every few days and I have seen finches in and out of it all day long.

There are also a critters that I could do without – chipmunks, red squirrels and woodchucks.  Although, truth be told, I love watching them too. They don’t really bother anything, they do dig holes all over the place.  If and when they get into the vegetable garden I might have a change of heart but for now I’ll share this beautiful space with anyone that wants to visit.



Digging Sod

140721 New Garden

I have been thinking about expanding this garden for a couple of years now.  I blame the weather for my lack of commitment to the project.  It’s been too hot during the window I have every summer to move things around.

An opportunity presented itself in the past week or so that has pushed me to do this.  A lifetime gardening mentor is dismantling her perennial gardens and I am the recipient of a lot of her plants.  This is a mixed blessing.  I’ve written before about how I feel about plants in my garden that come from friends and family, they hold a special place in my heart.  For the most part perennials last more than a lifetime, that’s the reason you often see flowers blooming in odd places.  They are very often in spots where homes once existed that are long gone. I have many, many plants that I can tell you came from people I love.  Friendship gardening.

The difficulty in this particular gardening adventure is that I have been visiting Mabel’s gardens for decades.  They were spectacular in design and there were always new and unusual plants in them.  I learned a lot about the gardening of perennials from her.  There are many reasons why she has decided to dismantle her gardens but for me to go there and dig plants out of it seems so wrong to me.  They are part of how I think of her and it seems so sad to me to know that I will not be visiting an amazing array of plantings and have the narrative to go with it.  And it’s not that I visited often but it was just knowing it was there.

At the same time I will be taking a piece of her for my yard.  My sister and I walked her gardens over the weekend with her and she made a mental list of who was taking what.  There were tips on how to dig up certain things and where they might go.  There was also the excitement of having practically a ready-made garden for the moving.

Then comes the hard work.  I have been digging out the sod for a couple of days.  I finished yesterday early in the morning and have been thinking about other spots that should be dug up.  Plants will be moved in the next week or two to various spots around the house, some love sun, some shade. It has also forced me to do things that I haven’t done in the past.  I had to remove the forks from the tractor and put on the bucket – I’ve been shown once but never actually did it. As you can see that was a success.

All in all this project has given me perspective on my physical capabilities.  It’s easy to say I’m too old and out of shape to be digging this much space by hand but honestly it feels so good doing it.  Pace yourself I keep saying, stay hydrated my brain reminds me.  Focus remains a bit of a problem, I want to dig up all sorts of places and know that I could get myself into some trouble with the amount I’ve taken on.

I came in for another large glass of water the other day and my father said, “You know this place once had the most beautiful gardens in town”.  That, my friends, is something to aspire to.

Morning Walkabout

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This will be a photo heavy post today – just to give you a glimpse of the place right now.  It also serves as a record for me.

Each morning starts with picking up my handy bug zapper.  It’s deer fly season and this has proven itself to be a necessity.

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The patio garden – to my right as I cross the driveway heading for the back forty.  This is an old garden, a friendship garden with almost all of the plants coming from people we know.  My mother worked on this from the summer we moved in, 1967.  It’s going to be renewed this summer since the lawn is really creeping in at this point and things are really crowded.

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Towards the back of the garage there is the newest perennial garden and in the foreground is the raspberry patch.  The raspberries are in their third year and are just starting to fill in.

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We take the road to the back forty, we being me and the dogs.  They know the drill and love being out there.  On the right is the sawdust building for the sawmill.  I don’t think it’s a crooked as it looks in the photo but you never know.

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As I walk around what used to be the back pasture the dogs spend their time sniffing whatever went on the night before.

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From the same spot (more or less) looking towards a road that goes back into the wood lot.  There’s a branch that goes to a stump dump where I’ve taken some very nice compost for the garden over the years.  Everything about gardening is waiting – years not months.

The tete-a-tete chair my father made is up there and it overlooks the pasture back up towards the house.  It’s the perfect spot to drink a morning cup of coffee or that martini in the afternoon.

140624 (15)As I walk the perimeter I check on the berries, deciding what I will net this year so I get more of a harvest than the birds.  These are blackberries and the birds pretty much get all of them – they probably scope them out more often than I do.

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This is the view from the back of the pasture – the table was too worn out for the patio but too solid to burn so there it sits.  Just one more thing to weed whack.

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From the same spot if you turn around you look into the woods towards the wood lot – there are also some old, empty beaver ponds back there as well.

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Back up into the driveway I noticed that this summer is the summer of potted plants for me.  I love the way they look and I’m here to take care of them now.  This is the well by the driveway.  Years ago we replaced the wood cover with stone fearing our kids would climb up on top of it and fall in.  I think it might be usable in an emergency but I wouldn’t want to drink out of it now.

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This is the view from the patio, it overlooks the vegetable garden, the new garden and the raspberries towards the back forty.  I have annuals in pots as well and tomatoes and cucumbers.

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Yes, cucumbers.  I was skeptical at first.  Bill brought two pots of these up that he got from the plant gypsy we have come to the shop in Enfield.  I told him they would never grow.  How wrong I was.  Now I’m looking for the seeds for next year.

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Across from the patio is another perennial garden that has morphed into all kinds of things over the years.  It’s now overgrown as well but I love having the pots for color.  It is also a place for the birds that we can watch from the table in the kitchen.

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Another crazy potted plant.  Its in a pedestal pot so I guess I could take the hanger off of it now huh?

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Heading for the front yard and looking back over the gardens – this is the relaxation spot for every part of the day.  I swear people that drive by only do when we are sitting in those chairs.  I figure they think that’s all we do.

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This is the vegetable garden from the chairs.  It’s slow but steady this year, about a week to 10 days behind last years.  It’s been quite cool.

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But the potatoes are doing great!

This is what I look at every morning (even if it rains).  I check my plants, take a walk, play with the dogs all in about 20 minutes time.  It gives me time to plan my day.  Look around at what needs doing and try not to get overwhelmed by the list.  Prioritize.  Breathe in the fresh air, stand in the sunshine, hug a tree, center.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

130630 Morning Mist


There is nothing better than getting up just before the sun peaks over the mountains to the East.  The mist rises off of the back field and the sunlight begins to shine through it sending it’s rays to the ground.  This is the first day of our staycation here this summer.  Quiet, drinking my morning coffee in the field with the birds, once again connected with the earth and nature around me.

The dew is thick this morning and the one thing that keeps me from being relaxed is as the sun casts its light on the dew covered plants it accentuated every weed in the garden.  So after that quiet little interlude, soaking it all in, all I could think about was weeding the garden.  Sigh.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

130616 Chives in bloomA couple of years ago I read about making chive blossom vinegar.  This has to be the easiest infused vinegar to make and one of the prettiest.

The chives are in full bloom right now.  When they are take a quart canning jar out to your garden and pick the blossoms until the jar is 1/3 to 1/2 filled.  Fill the jar to the top with white vinegar, cover and set on the counter for about 2 weeks.  Strain it through cheesecloth into a clean container.  There you have it!   No processing needed.

This is a beautiful, bright pink vinegar with a bright chive taste – perfect for salad dressings.  My favorite thing to do is make a refrigerator pickle with sliced fresh cucumber, topped with this vinegar, salt and pepper.  Let it sit for a couple of hours and you have a fresh, tasty pickle with a mild overtone of onion.  Wonderful.