Monday, September 30, 2013

Dear Mis-Canthus........

I hate you.  I have walked around you for two years until yesterday........ when I hacked you down and set you on fire.  

These are the plants newbie gardeners buy when we are young and stupid.  OR  We see a "specimen" at the local arboretum.  Usually planted in mass on the edge of a field...... a 125 acre field! You've seen them.  The setting sun hit's the panicles perfectly, setting them aglow in a wash of light, as their fronds gently wave in perfect rhythm.  Three deer stand off to one side quizzically looking at you with their big deer eyes.  Racing to the garden center, I burst through the automatic doors;  Where are they and how many can I load in my garden center cart!  Oh and excuse me garden center elf helper person,  where is the aisle with deer, I only need three.  OK, the one redeeming factor on ornamental grasses..... deer won't eat them, ever.

 This is a half acre, they will look spectacular, especially at the back of the garden!  
Back that wheel barrow up Penelope Hobbhouse! 
When installed in a small space, miscanthus sinensis zebrina needs to be cut down every year or it looks like I do at 4:30 a.m. streaking to the chicken coop.  Scary!  After the first big snow fall it will look like an elephant wandered through the garden and took a nap on the stuff.  Another note on this lovely ornamental grass nobody talks about, especially the helpful elf working at the local garden center.  Miscanthus sinensis has tiny hook like fibers on the underside of the leaves.  When you cut it back, it fights back by imbedding those little daggers into your flesh.  Even brushing against it can cause a rash...... Oh wait, let's talk garden placement.  Move it from the back of the garden to the front door!!  Hello Avon Lady ...... ding dong you have a rash!  And others who show up on my porch asking if I was lost and needed to be found.  

Last night, as I stood in the door of the newly cleaned studio, smelling the freshly painted, repurposed table and feeling smug with satisfaction of time well spent. 

  The sun was setting, I scanned the gardens and saw a poke berry bush starting to push through the garden horizon line.  WHAT!  How did you get in the garden?  Sneaky placement, thank you birds!  When I ran around behind the garden to pluck out the offending weed, Miss. Canthus met me head on with..... Where do you think you're going?  You have to get through me to get to my BFF, Ms. Poke Berry.  (whoa, are those stripper names or what?)   Standing next to Ms Berry was Ms Choke Cherry.... also sneaky placement thanks to the birds.  Dear God, it's a jungle back here!  After a few hours of hacking, huffing, puffing and sweating I found plants I forgot I had!  How are you Acanthus!  And look!  Cimicifuga brunette, how I've missed you too!  You could hear them sigh, breath deep and lift their heads to the sun!  Plants I love!  That's when I went for the bernzomatic propane torch, saw, shovels, rake.  After an hour, I was bleeding from the razor sharp old reeds, itchy and swearing.  The chickens were under the solomon seal watching the show.  You're next, I muttered through lips surrounded by itchy welts.

Even with burning and hacking it will be back in the spring unless I dig it out.  I do not have a back hoe at this time so it will remain to grow again next Spring.  The rabbits will move in next Spring, have new crop of bun-sters and the circle of life will go on.... pure madness in this gardeners opinion! 
I just called to rent a back hoe.....

The bean crop failed due to mildew but when I yanked the plants the dried beans rattled in protest.  Before the plants hit the compost pile I harvested the dried beans.  Can't wait to try these! 
Three short rows produced 2/3's qt.  At this rate, we will starve! 

Nasturtiums are still rock'n.  
I will be trying my hand at Nasturtium vinegar this year.  Takes 5 minutes.
1 cup of nasturtium leaves, flowers and buds, 1 pint of champagne or white vinegar.  Put all in a clear glass jar, seal tightly and let sit for 3 weeks or more before using.  Supposed to have the peppery flavor of the nasturtiums and the beautiful glow of fresh picked nasturtiums.  
I will report back later!

During the big studio clean out I realized I could not live with the left over sheets of wainscoting from the porch project.  I moved it three times while cleaning and finally moved it out to the chicken coop.  Dragging out the air compressor, saws and tools, by late Saturday night the coop was insulated and looking good.  Installed the heat lamp too.  Then cleaned out under the coop and wow do I hate that chore!  Four wheel barrows full of straw, wood chips, poop, dirt and feathers all dumped on the cleaned out gardens where it will leach out over winter.   Usually I do these projects when the snow is flying and my fingers are frozen, so I high five'd the chickens and went in the house to shower!  As I looked over my shoulder the chickens were picking out wallpaper..... 

We love it! 

And on that chicken note.  I had planned not to winter over the chickens! I had named them after Henry XIII's wives.  Ann Boleyn was going down first, Kathryn of Aragon would linger.  Winter is hard on the chickens, expensive and hard on the Mistress of the chickens.  My neighbor, 94 year old Lois, comes down for a dozen eggs every week.  Lois was born in the house she still lives in and her mother kept the same breed of chickens I have.  Lois is just delightful!  Last month while I was away, Butch got Lois her dozen eggs.  Returning home, my husband, who is not to keen on these chickens said:  You can't kill the chickens!  Really? I said.   Lois was here and told me she is having a rough patch every day or two.  She saves the really brown eggs for the rough days and eats the light colored eggs on her good days.  She just loves those eggs, you can't kill the chickens!  So the girls have been given a reprieve and will see another winter.  The Mistress of Chickens will spend another winter streaking through the backyard.  And Lois will have her dozen eggs, it's what neighbors are for.

The things that show up when you clean the studio!  A perfect little table for the new porch.  This held my Grandpa's old table saw in his workshop.  It has served many purposes while at my house.  A new coat of shiny black paint and it's off to the porch!  

All in all a great weekend.  I will save the fishing trip stories for a later post as it is not for the faint of heart!  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Early mornings and farm tours.........

I LOVE fall mornings in Ohio!  
They are a good kind of chilly, making you wrap your cold stiff fingers around a mug of steamy hot coffee and dig out the Woolrich socks stuffed in the back of a drawer, past the summer worn thin tee shirts.  Watching the steam rise from my mug and magical mist dance up from the cold garden soil, seems we both wake a bit slower this time of the year.   As I listen to a pot of split soup bubbling on the stove, I am grateful to settle back into rhythm of life.

As the dew burned off the cold morning I drove out to Birdsong Farm an hour south.
Sponsored by:  OEFFA or the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Asso.

Birdsong is a 10 acre certified organic farm, owned by Matt Herbruck.  Nice to see what others are doing at the grand scale as opposed to my little half acre.  There were ideas and practices I can use on small plot.

On the way home a stop at local butcher shop with squeaky wood floors and homemade sausages.
Finally home to split pea soup and a town hall meeting.  
Long day but nice to take a day on the back roads. 
a good day all around....... 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Public Shaming ...... well frost my pumpkins!

Well just to let everyone know, this old blog is my warped perception on my little corner of the world.  Disclaimers are posted:  Enter at you own risk.  I never set out to offend anyone but in this day age when elected officials can't agree what an assault weapon is and who should own one I guess I hold little hope of everyone enjoying a laugh on life's little observations.  And gotta say after working the law enforcement end of Ohio State Parks for a few years I have the ability to step back, learn, observe and laugh.....  When you see a naked guy running down the double yellow line of the highway at 2 a.m. swearing he is being chased by a pack of rabbits and your partner says: You cuff him.....  it's just puts life in perspective, forever.   The difference between 1977 and today...... today he is running with an assault weapon.  

Apparently my last blog post got a family members knickers in twist and I was shamed on Facebook.
I almost missed it until Rachael alerted me to the "shame on you" post.  I thought I was being shamed for "piffing" at the family table and laughed.  Nope.  Rachael jumped to my defense and was facebook shamed too.  Well it escalated to a throw down in the Harbor....... one of those family sacred places in Ashtabula.  It's a street with seedy bars, eateries and gift shops filled with Viking Chachkies and paper napkins printed with light houses.  I deleted the social shaming incident and thought what set this off?  Color me mystified!  The other part of this mystifying shaming is neither Rachael or the Shamer were at "The Big Sister Hook Up".

I went back and read the blog again, no clue and again.  Other bloggers sent emails saying "ditto" and yeah that's my life too and it's funny!   Ran it past another family member who attended "The Great Sister Hook Up".....  still mystified.  The only thing I could come up with was the use of the word "Crone".   Thinking this might be the offense I called one of my pottery buddies and said what does Crone mean to you?  "Oh not good,  old women who steal children and generally not liked."  Whoa! Really?  Hey, you're 70 years old and approaching Crone-dom, are you gonna steal a bunch of kids and have a personality shift?  And what would you do them because mine just left the house and I changed the locks!  What old woman in her right mind would steal children? 

Enter WikipediA.
The Crone is also an achetypal figure, a Wise Woman.  She is marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle...... well yeah for that!  Hormones are the devil!  Personally I cannot wait to be a Crone.  The keeper of the family stories, the wise woman, a woman who is rocking the personal power spectrum!  Celebrate those birthdays girls!  I keep watching my index finger willing it to take on a gnarly crooked appearance...... not yet. 

Some other thoughts on the possible offense...... There are in-laws and out-laws.  I'm pretty much an out-law on all levels.  I didn't grow up in my husbands town or by a body of water or skinned knees together while playing hop scotch or even had civil family members.  NO!  I grew up pretty much by the seat of pants and learned pretty early if you screwed up you were going to get called for it and not in a supportive way.  Family gatherings were a lot of yelling, it's what Hungarians do, we yell.  At big family gatherings we had a kids table!  This in my opinion, is brilliant!  I would have never known my cousin could blow milk bubbles out his nose, and pea fights were the best until it got out of control and someone flung a spoonful of flaming hot mashed potatoes and gravy.  Then we were all idiots and reminded of those starving Chinese kids and IF we lived in China they killed children for this infraction because there was not enough food.  OH thank god we are East European!  I have memories of riding home in a giant brown Dodge with a little old Grandpa who had to put "nitro pills" under his tongue to drive it.......... because there was no power steering and there was a block of wood tied, yes tied to the clutch pedal because he was so short.  AND we were coming home from the stockyards under the W. 25th bridge with a fresh, still warm, pig head stuffed in a burlap bag, rolling around the trunk for Grandma; who would turn it into a 9 x 13" pan of gelatinous head cheese.  We would crowd around the table and try to name the parts we could recognize; ear, snout, jowl.  I think it's why I like biology in high school. Holding our plates out for a slice and eating with lip smacking vinegar and a sprinkle of pepper!  AND IT WAS GOOD!  And I am pretty sure my husband was never subjected to any of this in his formative years, he was building go-carts from lawn mowers and water skiing.  
My poor Aunt Carol was pegged as; the Polish girl, she could never aspire to be a Hungarian girl, she rode that Polish horse the rest of her married life.  Even I remember the whispers..... she's Polish what do you expect?  The poor woman served Lasagna and Hawaiian Pies for Christmas one year..... "what does she know, she's Polish."  It's blasphemy!  This is family crap and thank god Aunt Carol didn't own an assault weapon! 

When I got older and married, I dragged the guy I loved and tortured him with the family antics, and he was mystified and miserable.  I bet if there had been blogging, his blog would have read much like the blog I wrote on Monday and we had three old Crones and they were Hungarian.  The motto on the Hungarian Flag was "WHY DO, WHEN YOU CAN OVER DO?" 
AND even though I have been in this family for over 30 years I am still an out law and propose an Out Law table at all family events.  A table where all the out laws can fling flaming mashed potatoes at each other and blow beer out our noses.  The kids, our kids can sit with the Crones and listen to the family stories as they should.  It's called being a family and the older I get the more I have come to peace with the concept.  We are all different thank goodness and so I will not apologize for the last blog post but instead remain in the bubble of Paine Falls and hope the last post is read by the family Crones. 

The Leaky Cauldron hangs proudly in my kitchen and I'm working on my Crone skills :) 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sustainable? Probably not, but......

Last Saturday I drove down to Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio for the 2nd annual Sustainable Landscapes Symposium.  Amazingly the room was packed, standing room only!  I placed myself against the window just in case subject material was dry, birdwatching was an option.  (always have a diversion so I don't wake myself up snoring!)  I gazed over the room at my demographic...... mostly the grey hair fashionistas sporting the latest garden togs; flannel, rubber clogs and jeans!  MY PEOPLE!  
Topics covered:  Backyard Berries, Edible Landscaping, Gardening for Pollinators, Native Plants for Gardens.  Riveting stuff!  

Diversion view for bird watching!

This guy showed up at the plant sale! 

On the three hour drive home I wondered just how "sustainable" am I?  
This morning I started to take inventory and I am certainly not at the head of the class but I am getting there! 

Before I kill myself running up and down the cellar stairs 1,000 times I snapped an image of what has been cranked out of the kitchen since Sept.  Mostly from my garden.  And because I can never find my "last year's" canning notes I decided to list them here.  Forever preserved in the fruit cellar of the internet.

 14 jars catsup, 10 BBQ sauce, 16 qts. tomatoes, 6 pts. tomatoes, 13 jars salsa, 24 jars chili sauce, 12 jars marinara sauce, 7 jars spiced cabbage, 8 jars pickled hot peppers.

Now out to the freezer......

8 loaves zucchini bread, bags of shredded zucchini, 6 bags or 106 stuffed hot peppers, 14 jars of pesto, 6 jars roasted tomato spread, 12 qts. marinara sauce.  Still loads of pork from the happy pig, chickens, a gallon of maple syrup from last Spring.  There are braids of onions drying and bowls of garlic.  We are on our third gallon of cold pickles too!  We take them to every summer party!  

And the garden is not done!  Today is devoted to the eggplant, grilled caponata packed in jars will fill a corner of the freezer.  Still canning up dilly beans, pickled cauliflower, applesauce and peaches.  
We drank all the bourbon in the boozy cherries so time to start a batch of boozy peaches for Christmas.
Oh and those yummy cherries are going to top a German Chocolate Cake for a family gathering!  

As I walk around the gardens I take stock that there is a good 75#'s of potatoes waiting to be dug.  Butternut squash, Acorn squash, Swiss chard is stunning, banner year for peppers.  OH and all those hot peppers came off three plants!  Tomatoes are still producing, as are the green and lilac peppers.  Carrots are going to winter in the ground as will the parsley and other hearty herbs.  I have jars of dried basil too.  The leeks will winter over too.  

We have eaten loads of berries; blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, a handful of currants and baskets of rhubarb for juice.  

Yesterday I planted a crop of fall lettuce, kale, radishes, romaine, beets and carrots.  Today, peas will be tossed in the ground just to see how much cold they can tolerate.  

Oh and we must not forget the girls!  Eggs and contributions to the compost pile!

Yup, we are living large on our half acre! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Walk about Wednesday..........

What a week here in northeastern Ohio!  Temperatures soared to the highest of the year reaching a heat index of 107F. on Wednesday.  And Yes! that would be the day I thought I'd tear into the back gardens.  Hitting the back door at 7:15 am and the humidity hit me back harder than I hit the door.  Edged, weeded, soil turned over, some plants yanked because it's over!  By 2:30 pm I was toast. Headed to the barn and cold drink........ never got off the porch until 4:30 pm.  Wow, I am toasty, crispy and fried!  Not more than a sprinkle of rain since the flood at the Marina, July 20th and I am spitting dust.

The sweat runs into your eyes, filling your glasses giving a Monet look at the garden with a nice sting.  Your clothes stick to you in every possible way, going to the bathroom becomes an Olympic event because you are never getting those jeans rolled down in time.  The spring time fresh underwear you put on an hour ago is tear away.  Oh and almost impaled myself with pockets full of tools!  I was sporting the full butt compliment of weeding knife, pruners and hand sickle.  OUCH!  Wondering if "Depends" might be the gardeners friend in these awesome temps!   I realize I'm watering the garden with my own sweat as it drips down my nose.  And then through the mirky view of cloudy glasses you realize you're holding poison ivy, BAHHHHHAAAA!  Grab the vinegar and spray the offending vine liberally...... for three days I will spray!  Gloves are yanked off to be burned, arms are dosed in alcohol and scrubbed with fels naptha soap in cold water and I wait.  In three days I will know if the dreadful stuff has invaded my system for now, I'm clean!

As bad as all this sounds and I am so very aware of my uncomfortable state I step back and look what I have to show for the last few hours in hell......... it is fantastic!!  It is high garden satisfaction and I say out loud.......  I love this stuff!  And I am smiling!  I walk around the perimeter with my full butt compliment surveying the gardens.  The chickens cluck their approval from the coop.  I am done for today and will be back tomorrow.  Lettuce, kale and other cool weather veggies can still be planted.  Hoops need to be installed to extend the season.

As I walk to the house I am noticing the fruiting trees are just loaded this year, more than I ever remember.  Walking under the oak is like walking on ball bearings and just as fun!  The Cornus kousa is just loaded!  The garden has given back in spades this year.  Wondering if this bodes for a whopper of a winter.

The winds changed to the north this morning.  We are finally getting rain, needed so badly.  It's a gentle rain, grabbing the camera I run out the door to see what's going on............

not sure when I will get to the studio...... for now the shelves in the basement are filling and the freezer looks pretty good.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Changes will be made!

I have gone over the falls!  Well Paine Falls! 

For those wondering....... here is the run down since the second week of July.  

Finished up the Boston Mills Show the end of June and finally did my long over due taxes.  When I hit "Grand Total",  I tossed my cookies and vowed to make a few changes.  Yup, I logged over 30,000 miles last year peddling pots from sea to shining sea.  What did I learn?  I hate hotels and would rather be in a tent on a freezing night in Minnesota.  Love the people, loved the shows, hate the set up and hate the cost!  

In order to make sense of all my swirling thoughts I took myself off social media and the computer.  Wow!  Instantly I had 4 more hours to every day!  Well that was enlightening.  When you're not looking at pots or reading what other folks are doing you get to doing.  

But first I had to throw myself on the ground for a primo hissy fit, then I walked out to the gardens.  One look around and I realized I had been on the road for two years and not done much in the yard. 
Had not looked at a nursery "Hot" list in a few years either.  The best way to describe the "Hot List"....... it's like fashion week in NYC for those into Vogue and Project Runway. 
Who needs Calvin Klein when you have Cimicifuga racemosa 'Brunette' waving it's deeply cut leaflets at you?  

I was only going to work on the perennial beds in front of the studio but alas it morphed into a total yard makeover.  It was a side out rotate or divide for everything with roots in the ground.  An old garden designer told me one time.  "You might make a good gardener if your plants are in the wheel barrow more than they're in the ground."  I'm thinking I should be stellar by now.  

Then I tore out a huge spirea, bridal veil I had been wanting to set on fire for 25 years.  And the Lespedeza, t. Gibraltar (which is as big as the "rock of")  and a bunch of hydrangea's and peonys and OMG!  there was the neighbor waving from her kitchen!  I didn't even know I had a neighbor!  Now I needed screening and a water feature would be nice to drown out the screaming air conditioner of waving neighbor.  

  Back to the nursery and the quarry to hand pick rocks for .10 a pound.  Love that place!  I always feel very Fred Flintstone-ish when I'm there. 

Ta-Da!  and it was cheap, woven rolls of roof flashing ($15 a roll) and lumber.
(I had an extra pump from another project)

And about the time I was done and loving the yard, guess who showed up for her birthday?!

and she brought her cat!!!!!!  

I am allergic to cats...... very allergic.  So Neil was sequestered to Abby's room and the porch.  
He is a very well behaved cat but has an opinion about everything, chatty tabby syndrome.  Especially being locked in Abby's room all day.  Even though there were toys, air conditioning, food, water and piped in music.  Neil was abandoned in a parking lot in the dead of winter and has people issues, as in don't ever touch me but I would like to be around you. 

Then we had a flood.

and while we bailed at the marina Abby was in her car being washed down a dirt road.  Car number 3 totaled.  Abby and Neil stayed for 5 weeks looking for cars and jobs.  
We had Mother/Daughter bonding time.  
Weaving chairs on the porch.

realizing how really great the new water feature sounded and how really bad the porch looked.......
I decided to fix that!

and this took longer than expected...... surprise..... hardly!   I learned I should not try to put up 4 x 8 sheets of plywood over my head while gripping the air nailer with my knees and standing on a ladder by myself.  
I also learned there is straight and then there is 165 year old straight.  When you're hanging perfectly machined bead board it's gonna be a challenge.  
and women with power tools rock!

and finished porch! 

Side note...... take the cat off the porch during construction.  
It was HOT, setting up a fan on the far end of the porch so as not to die from heat exhaustion.  Neil the cat deviously moved to the sucking end of the fan.  Thereby sending cat fuzzyies and hair balls into the whirling vortex and spewing onto said allergic person.  You remember the one on ladder griping an air nailer between her thighs, and holding 4 x 8 sheets of plywood over her head.  The one who almost sneezed herself into the basement.  Damn you Neil, a dog would never do this!  
Also add $158.00 to porch budget as Neil the cat got sawdust in his eye,  blocking his kitty tear duct. (Pa-leeze cats cry?  A dog for sure but a cat?)  Trip to vet and drops in his kitty eye twice a day to a cat who does not want to be touched..... we are all wearing Hello Kitty eye patches!  

Another Mother/Daughter bonding event was furniture moving! 

My really good friend Linda is moving back to San Francisco.  That is a huge change I don't want to blog about but alas she was needing new homes for loved pieces.  This beautiful piece will live on in our entry.  I still need to give it a good once over before I fill it with "stuff"  but I am so happy to have a piece of Linda and Jerry here.  Her studio cast offs found a way to my studio too...... so sad but so glad she is taking her wheel because she will still be making pots somewhere! 

So then I needed a stiff drink........ and cherries were in season!  Cherries soaked in bourbon with a cinnamon stick and bit of vodka.  Two fingers to a glass filled with ice, top off with sparkling water or champagne' and drink liberally.  Friends leaving still sucks but these boozy cherries are to die for!  

Cherries opened the door to canning season....... game on! 

I am done on the road for a while.  I LOVE gardening!  I have applied to several nurseries seeking part time work but to no avail so I am probably going back into garden maint. and design at the residential level.  
Summers will find me gardening, canning, fishing, outside, off the road and out of the studio.  Winter will find me looking at seed catalogs and back in the studio making pots.  I gave this thing called pottery a good run and really did some great shows but all in all it has sucked my soul dry for now. 

and this bench is waiting for me to sit down and contemplate all these changes. 

when the snow flies........