Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dorothy Perkins, the farmer's rose, slightly bug eaten.
Zucchini grown under wheelbarrow.

Portulaca shares spacewith lavendar in a gravelly patch of the garden.

A pale blue clermatis partners Seafoam rose,

Blue American clematis grows alongside New Dawn rose.

Nasturtiums to please the eye, tease the nose and startle the tongue, a fountain made from a pot from the discount store, seashells, a bit of sand, a mirror square. There you have it--a pocket Alhambra, your own beach fir the vacation you spend at home with good books, music, a dish of sherbet drenched in rose brandy.

Speaking of books, DIARY OF A ROSE LOVER, by Henri Delbard has a recipe for rose brandy--add 100 grams of sugar, 100 grams rose petals to a bottle of brandy and allow steep for three weeks. Serve fruit sherbet. Delbard also offers a recipe for stuffed zucchini blossoms cooked in mussel broth that has been flavored with rose butter. In addition, he also offers a recipe for salmon in rose butter. Besides recipes, Delbard writes about a gardens designed to engage the five senses. He is passionate about the beneficial role of nature in our lives and he is equally passionate about roses. His text and Florence Moireau make this an essential book for rose enthusiasts.

THE BLOOD OF FLOWERS, Iranian American Anita Amirrezvani's first novel deals with other kind of gardens --those depicted in Persian carpets. This is a beautifully wrought story about strength, creative and the role of women in Seventeenth Century Persian society. Not to be missed.

It is not rocket science. It is a way of life Americans embraced only a century ago--make over, make do or do without. Take an old tree trunk, a marble slab from an architectural salvage shop and make a garden table. Mine is twenty years old and it has held up quite well.
Got chipped or cracked tea teacups? Don't throw them away. Partially fill them with water and place a rock into it, making sure that the rock clears the water level. Presto, it is a butterfly bath. The rock gives them a place to rest. Simple.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Carpet rose Appleblossom, pink lilies and Baby Snooks geranium bring color to the summer border.


Take an egg carton, a scrap of print fabric, gingham, ribbon and a hot glue
gun and make yourself a sewing box.

Hydrangeas, daylilies and butterfly weed--an unbeatable combination for the summer garden.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In mid-June, the flower garden rests. Coreopsis, that old standbys of perennial gardens does not do well in our clay soil. Shasta daisies need to be replanted in great volumes in order to make a show. Among the roses, only the ubiquitous Dorothy Perkins, purloined from an abandoned farmhouse, puts forth its dusty looking clusters of mottled pink. Blue veronica makes a modest show and russian sage puts in the shiest of appearances. Annuals planted in March demur. Weeds flourish, covering the flower beds in great splashes of misleading green. Black spot, the bane of the organic gardener's existence takes hold upon rose leaves. For real life gardeners, such dismal times balance the easy glory of late spring. It is well that at this point the vegetable garden begins to produce beets, tomatoes, snow peas and rhubarb, although the latter, in spite of muych cosseting and massive doses of blood meal yields just enough to make a deep dish pie for the man in life. We savor it under the wisteria arbor, as sunlight plays hide-and-seek in the woods. A goldfish darts beneath the young leaves of a waterlily, in the fish pond, the wood thrush and mourning doves concertize and all is well with the world.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

טוב לטייל, אך טוב יותר לשוב הביתה

Thanks to the oil crisis the ugliest word ever to enter the English language has recently been coined--staycation, a vacation during which stays home. I await with bated breath the proliferation of hideous souvenirs and t-shirts emblazoned with the appropriate imagery. I envision t-shirts, ceramic tchchkes and coffee mugs emblazoned with homely sayings such as, "West or West, home is best" and such like. I imagine that come September, every school age child will be struggling to write compositions on the joys staying put.

Being a devoted homebody, I have no problems with staycations. Give me a computer, plenty of books, a few decent movies, tolerable weather and the occasional visit from congenial friends and I am just fine. I happen to live two hours away from the nation's capital, a few feet away from a beautiful little park with a magnificent view of the Potomac river. I have a comfortable house and a wild garden with a rustic wisteria arbor. The arbor faces a small fish pool and deciduous woods behind there is a garrulous creek. Blue herons, Canada geese, blue birds, kingfishers, orioles, mourning doves, wrens, wood thrush, pileated, red bellied, and flicker woodpeckers, hummingbirds and owls visit my garden often enough. Monarch and cabbage white butterflies hover above my dishevelled flowerbeds and once in a great while a luna moth and a zebra butterfly keep them company.

Oh, I have been to Paris and I love it. I have been to Lisbon and Zurich and Rio. I have dallied in Charlotte Amalie, in Cochabamba and in Cremona . Someday I will, g'd willing, spend a few weeks on Tell Aviv and Jerusalem someday. But home is fine and dinner under the arbor is superb--chicken in chipotle adobo, Brazilian rice, steamed broccoli, freshly baked bread, a glass of chilled Stella followed by a homemade brownie and ice cream. Take that, OPEC.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dumpster diving is not in my agenda--not just yet. Freecycling is. I have just joined the nearest freecycle group to which I offered an enormous leather sofa bed, a legacy from a previous husband who has gone on to a different time zone. The sofa is is too bulky for my taste. Ideally, I would have vintage Scandinavian furniture, a few pieces by Nakashima and not much more. I clung to the husband's ungainly couch in case paired our friends and relatives came to visit. That has not happened in quite some time and the sofa bed crouches sullenly in too small a room, offending aesthetics and cluttering up the place. Too good to throw away, too ugly to keep, it might be just the thing for a college student who can ignore its appearance. Why give away something you find too ugly to live with? Why, the fact that I find it ugly does not mean that someone might not find it utterly charming. Folks who participate in freecycling seem to focus on utilitarianism, in any case.
I have asked for nothing from my freecycle group. First I must declutter, then I must decide what it is that I really need--I think it would be hard to convince the list owner that Nakashima furniture is essential to my well-being. I might make a list of what is essential to me, beginning with books, but the idea of freecycling is to share what one has in excess.
I have been reading about voluntary simplicity, which seems to have spawned an industry., for example, lists "voluntary simplicity products", an oxymoron if ever there was one. That list compelled me to write my first Amazon review or rather, a non-review of Voluntary Simplicity: Responding to Consumer Culture, by Amitai Etzioni and Daniel Doherty.
It incensed to find out that a used copy of this book cost $29, that is, half the cost of my montly water bill. The only possible response was not to buy it.
There are those who point out that voluntary simplicity has nothing to do with saving money. It is a spiritual progress, I understand. My choices are based on enforced frugality, then--nothing spiritual, just the result of a thin wallet that gets thinner every time I fill up the tank of my aging car. Today, it cost $ 44. Tomorrow is anyone's guess. Am I alone in this? Certainly not. Does it crush me not to have unlimited supplies of disposable income? Heck, no. Crafting a life, in my book, means letting go of the notion that lots of money and status symbols are essential to a good life.
I have a few plans that will enrich me without costing me a penny. First, Vincenzo and I are going to start calling townspeople's attention to the plight of local wildlife. Vincenzo might visit schools, give interviews and tell people how his fellow boxies are losing their natural habitat.
Next, I will start proofing the first draft of my mystery novel. Third, I continue to work on my garden. Should I have tons of veggies I can share that with the local women's shelter. Third, I will offer to teach someone a skill--soldering, sewing, baking a cake from scratch, making a container garden. It's all good.
We have a new mayor. that he

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

OPTING OUT OF THE GRID is not the answer for us. However, ther is much we can do to keep OPEC from ruling our lives. Stay tuned.
Things I have not done yet, but should be doing,
Have not read Voluntary Simplicity
I have not tried freecycling
I have not sold, given away or traded all the items that I absolutely do not need.

Something I did recently that was frugal and that brought me pleasure was scoring a five year gardening journal that sells for $45 for a whole $5. I got it from a z-shop for $ 5. Even with the cost of shipping, it was a real bargain. I usually buy used books after comparing prices from z-shop with those of

Monday, June 2, 2008

Who would have thought that such a small animal--no larger than the palm of my hand--would have such reserves of strength? Vincenzo fights on, seeming to get better every day. Today he ate some chicken, part of a strawberry, some egg and broccoli. Unfortunately he seems to have an eye problem--possibly conjunctivitis--which though not life threatening, adds to his discomfort. Junior has found a very who treats reptiles and we are on her waiting list for Thursday. Should another client cancel an appointment, we will rush our little patient to the clinic. We expect a miracle.
Meanwhile the New Dawn roses began to bloom and a new clematis made its debut. This is the first time I have had clematis bloom the year it was planted. In a moment of fiscal abandon ordered four different ones from Son Sparrow Farm and to my surprise every one was in bud on arrival. Generous rainfall has helped these new additions to the garden as well as being being beneficial to our budget. Water is an expensive commodity in our village. For years the powers that be have been caving in to real estate developers whose need for sewer and water hook-ups exceeded the capacity of the existing sewer and water plant. Not surprisingly, a new water plant will have to be built. Its estimated cost will be twelve million dollars and guess who gets to pay for it--we the little folks who did not profit a whit from the explosive growth that plagues West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.
Gardening is an expensive proposition in our area. As the price of food soars, it makes sense to plant vegetables to feed the body and flowers to feed the soul. The catch is that unless one plans carefully, one's budget can to hell in a garden basket. I happen to own a rain barrel. That trims the water budget a bit but I still depend on town water to keep my plants going. I have been trying to learn more about xeriscaping and plan to add more native plants to my garden.
Next year I intend to transition from almost organic to completely organic gardening. Since I have yet to master the art of transforming old newspapers and kitchen scraps into compost, I did use commercial fertiliser this season. Gardening takes time and willingness to learn. Most of all, it takes patience. Vincenzo can teach to cope with bad gardening mistakes, crop failure, bug invasion and other predicaments. Just seeing how bravely he endures the trauma of his battle with the evil Pepper is a lesson in perseverance.