Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A bit of a problem ...

My row of swiss chard is being decimated by spinach (or beet) leaf miners. Bummer. I don't know if I'll be able to save it.

In the second picture, if you look closely (click picture to enlarge it) you can see little white eggs on the left in the space between my fingers.

I went out with the scissors this evening and cut off every--I hope--infected leaf. I'll double check in the morning. I'll leave it in for a week and observe what it does. I may end up pulling it out and putting in something else. Won't put chard back in that same spot as new leafminers can surface from the ground. Leafminers are small flies which lay their eggs on the leaves. The newly hatched larvae burrow into the leaf and start eating away. After a week or so they pupate and fall into the soil from whence new flies will emerge.

-- Just a little pause... I'm hearing the barred owl out back as I type this. Lovely. --

I was just reading that NH has seen significant leafminer infestations the past few years. Sigh.

We humans are not alone here on earth and all the other critters are hungry as well! It's all part of the picture. Now it wouldn't be so bad if the critters could learn the difference between garden plants and weeds! As far as I'm concerned they can eat all the weeds they want. Who knew a little fly could be such a gourmand?

The rose is close by the row of chard and it is in it's full glory at the moment. The fragrance is divine.

I am picking my lunch these days.

As well, the row of radishes is now completely harvested. I will think about what to replace it with. They did well this year.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

More productivity ...

I don't want to gloat, but the past few weeks have seen a spurt of activity around here. The rhubarb crop motivated me to do some preserving, as you saw in my last post. I have since been enjoying the rhubarg/orange jam on english muffins and it is very good indeed. I dare say it's my favorite jam at the moment.

The patch of mint out back has been bursting upwards bigly and it further fostered this preserving groove I'm on, so I took advantage of it. I made some apple/mint jelly and because the recipe sounded so very delicious--and I had some maple syrup on hand--I made some maple/walnut sauce. There was a little of the sauce left over and I placed it in a jar and tucked it in the fridge. A day later I sampled it and it almost made me faint, it's that good. I can imagine it on crepes or pancakes or ice cream, oh yes!

This past week saw my first radish harvest and I'm now also enjoying lettuce and mesclun out of the garden. Almost everything is now planted and as soon as the radishes are done, I'll replace the space with carrots.

This is a glorious time of year for flowers. The siberian irises are exploding in all their royal beauty, the new peony I purchased is opening some blossoms, the large rose bush I inherited is gracing the yard with it's heady perfume, and jack is snug in his pulpit.

Quite a few of the big yard tasks have been completed. Today I started a new compost heap, and worked on digging out the last bed overgrown with bishop's weed. The grass I seeded in my new lawn in the space given up by my way-too-long driveway is growing, albeit not thick enough in some places. I spread more seed yesterday and I was given advice this afternoon to purchase some perennial rye seed and put some of that in as well. It had been getting too dry here so I was watering every morning and evening. Less so now that we have had some rain. More rain forecast for Monday.

Knitting continues at a good pace on the advent scarf I'm making. Now on day 19 (of 24). It should be done soon. I've started to itch for quilting again, so when the scarf is done I may get back to the sewing machine.

A big change on the cello front: I am changing teachers to find someone more local. It had become difficult to get in-person time with my teacher, and after being held up in traffic for an hour and a half on my way to my lesson the last time I was in NY a few weeks ago (it should have taken 20 minutes!), I managed to arrive a half hour late. So I've seen him in person a total of 30 minutes in the past 5-6 months. Not enough. It's no one's fault, but circumstances. I'm not travelling to NY quite as often as I was, so if I miss him while there, it takes it's toll. So I'm going to be switching to the cello teacher at the Upper Valley Music Center where I participate in the orchestra and various classes. I know him already having taken cello choir classes with him, and a few private lessons as well. A new chapter opens. There is sadness and excitement all at the same time.

Last night was the opening of this year's Hanover Street Chamber Music Festival and I've been assigned to Mendelssohn's Piano Quartet No. 1. Very beautiful.

Progress is being made on both cello and piano and I'm hoping to play in the next UVMC salon. Not sure when that is, but I suspect sometime this fall. I have it in mind to play Chopin's Db Major Nocturne. It is divine:

On cello I've been working on Bach's 3rd Suite. Challenging. But good.

Friday, June 8, 2018

A productive week ....

Not so much in the garden as the weather turned rainy and cool early on in the week--not boding well for my newly seeded lawn. Temps reached into the 70s today and I hope the seed will recognize that warmer temps will be the norm going forward! However, the lettuces are almost ready to pick, and the radishes are plumping up nicely. Everything benefitted greatly from the rains and I don't mind too much that the temps have been a little cool as these crops have a tendency to bolt if the weather warms up too quickly.

While the ground soaked up a good dose of water this week I was busy in the kitchen making soap and getting my rhubarb put up. 5 half pints of hot rhubarb grilling sauce and 7 half pints of rhubarb-orange jam. Yum, yum! The left-over orange rind became candy.

I've been in a mood to knit lately and have made considerable progress on my "advent scarf". It should be done soon; pics will follow.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The gardens ... an update ...

But first a quick note that UVMC's fundraiser of which I wrote last time, raised $100,830! That will take another nice bite out of the mortgage. Thanks to all who contributed.

I have been almost overwhelmed these past 4 weeks with spring yard work and garden preparations. I managed to get out early--right after the snow had melted and before the black flies made their itchy appearance. During that window of opportunity I was able to clear some brush and brambles above the house, and start tidying up that part of the property. As soon as I could, I got one of the raised beds ready in preparation for cool weather crops: peas, lettuces, radishes, chard. They all got planted and are doing quite well. I tasted a lettuce this afternoon and it was beautifully tender and full of fantastic flavor. It won't be long before I can go out to pick my salads.

The Egyptian onions at the end of that bed are growing like weeds. Moreso this year since I did not harvest any last fall.

Shortly after getting the bed sowed, I turned my attention to the other large raised bed in which my strawberries have been spreading for the past few years. It was a shambles, full of weeds and crowded with strawberry plants. So I emptied the entire bed, carefully lifting the strawberry plants aside and keeping them under shade while I got rid of all the weeds and refurbished the soil. I should have taken a before picture, but it is all nice and tidy now. I gave a slew of plants to my neighbor.

Besides the 2 large raised beds, I also have 2 in-ground perennial beds that I dug the 2nd year I was here. They have both become overrun by an aggressive ground cover called "Bishops Weed". I decided to empty both beds, move the perennials to beds I dug last year and use the freed up space--sans Bishop Weed--for more vegetables. My tomatoes and red onions are in one and there is space left for more; perhaps I'll sow carrots in there as well. I have not finished clearing out the other bed: Hope to finish that this coming week and put some cucumbers in it.

Just this afternoon I got some corgettes and buttercup squash in the ground, they are plants I started from seed. The weather forecast for the next 3 days includes rain and I'm pleased to see it as we have started getting a bit dry. Also, the water from my well has a tendency to cause potted plants to go yellowish. I don't know why. I've tested the water for pH and it's almost neutral. I'm thinking of having it lab tested. One project on my list is to attach gutters to one side of my house to catch rain water. I'd love to have a rain barrel for watering my plants. But if I do it, I'll want to make sure I can remove the gutters in the fall as I don't think it's best to leave them on during our winters here.

The crabapple I planted last year was in bloom a week or so ago and it was very pretty indeed. Most happy to see it survive the winter.

I purchased a cherry plum tree a while back and it is still waiting for me to put it in the ground. I haven't fully decided where to put it yet! It self pollinates, but I may get another one anyway. I'd also like to get some blueberry bushes. I would absolutely love to have red currants but they are now prohibited in NH. Big bummer. My grandmother used to have some next to a stone wall near the road. I loved them. I was given a honey locust tree a few weeks ago. We had one when I was a child. The scent of the flowers is to die for! Don't think mine will blossom this year, but I hope it does so next year. My cherry plum:

I started this rose bush 3 years ago from a single 5" leaf cutting! It has light pink/lavender double blossoms, most pretty with an old fashioned look. It's doing well, knock on wood. I lost one of my roses bushes over the winter, it didn't pull through. But the other 5 made it and I'm looking forward to their gorgeous blossoms.

This rose is the first to open on one of the bushes I inherited on the property. The scent in one blossom is stupendously beautiful, one of the best rose scents to be found. I love this bush and these pretty heady little flowers. Speaking of heady, the Lilacs have been in bloom for over a week. Another of my favorite spring scents.

The man who rebuilt my driveway finished over a week ago. He did a nice job and I'm pleased. Starting last week I was using a shovel to break up the new compacted loam on the section of old driveway that I'm turning to lawn. I then went over the broken up loam with a hoe to break it up even more, and ended with a pass through with the rake to create a crumbly soil in which--hopefully--grass seed will feel at home. I finished working it yesterday, then fertilized it, seeded it and watered it. I watered it 3 times today as it was a bright, breezy, warm day. Rain is in the air for the next 3 days so I don't think I'll have to water it during that period.

I've been spending hours in the gardens and yard! It can be difficult to hide the fact that I've just come in from garden work.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A plea ...

If you've been reading my posts for any time now, you know that I am involved as a student at an exciting enterprise known as The Upper Valley Music Center. It is a music school in Lebanon, NH which currently provides music instruction for over 900 students. I am immensely proud that this is happening in the area I grew up in (even more so that Lebanon is my mother's home town), especially in these times when music (and art) instruction have all but disappeared from public schools.

The music school purchased a new facility last year: A splendid mansion (built in 1815) on Colburn Park in Lebanon. It's a dream come true for the school. Through enormous generosity, they have been able to retire a good portion of the mortgage and the push is on to get it fully paid so that resources can go into music instruction for today's youth.

The new UVMC

In an effort to retire the mortage, the school is producing a fund raiser going by the name "Sing and Play 50K" which will take place on May 19th in Colburn Park, the music school's facility, and other locations in Lebanon. Students and faculty from the school will perform 50,000 seconds of music on May 19th starting at 7:04 am and ending at 9:00 pm. This music will be free to any and all who wish to attend.

I, myself, am participating via the Upper Valley Chamber Orchestra (which is a program of UVMC), the cello choir (an adult course I have enrolled in for a number of semesters already), and playing part of Schubert's Fantasy for 1 piano, 4 hands.

As if all of this were not exciting enough, we, the orchestra are performing Terry Riley's 1964 masterpiece "In C". I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to perform this piece, it is epic. The cello choir I am part of will play 6 or 7 shorter pieces, and the Schubert speaks for itself. If you care to listen to either "In C" or the Schubert, here are some videos:

Terry Riley's "In C":

Schubert Fantasy, 4 hands, 1 piano:

So what is this plea? I am asking for donations to sponsor me in these performances. The really great part of this is that the amount donated is not as important as the number of donations, you see, because we currently have a challenge grant of $17,000 if we can get 1000 new donors!

As sincerely as is possible, I'm asking if you can spare $10, $20, or more. It would go towards an invaluable resource. Bringing music into the lives of today's toddlers, children, adolescents, teens, and adults working to fulfill their musical dreams.

I have a page where you can make a donation in my name. I can't thank you enough in advance for considering this. Thank you.

My fundraising page where you can contribute: Sponsor me

and the Sing & Play 50k main page: We have 8 days to acquire 213 new donors

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring is here! ...

And it feels wonderful!

Fiber works are slightly on hold while I tackle the page full of outdoor chores. The only work that got done this past week was warping the loom upstairs for some mug rugs and a bit of a start on the weaving. These are double weave with pickup--to create a pattern. Dressing the loom was quick, the actual weaving not so much as certain warps need to be lifted manually on each pick. This first mug rug is a tester while I learn the actual layout of the warp. There are some mistakes in the pickup and I need to clarify for myself exactly which thread is the first to be picked up in each row.

But my energy is focused on the out of doors right now. I planted some peas, lettuce, mesclun, radishes, and swiss chard this week--all in the ground.

Then I decided I had to renovate the 2 front flower beds. From somewhere, a ground cover crept in and was overtaking everything! I dug out half the first bed today, removing the perennials to other beds--beds I dug last year. As I was working on it, I decided that I would not refill these 2 beds with flowers, but with more vegetables! I am going to need the space, as you can see from my seedlings!

I have potted on many of the seedlings now, but there are still 3 trays to prick out and pot on. I am placing the larger seedlings outside during the day and bringing them in at night now that the temps are well above 50. I'm well pleased with their progress so far.

Top picture, top row, left to right: Hyacinth Bean, Sun Flowers, and Buttercup Squash.
Top picture, bottom row, left to right: Nasturtiums and Sweet Peas, Courgettes (Zucchini; I've taken a liking to the European name)
Bottom picture, under the lights in the bathroom, left to right: Romaine Lettuce, Corn Flowers (in front), Petunias, Carrots, Celery, and Parsnips. These last four need to be pricked out this week!

The Crocuses came and went, and the Daffodils are currently in bloom. So refreshing and joyful:

The excavator arrived today to start work on my driveway. It's going to get a renovation. He'll be taking the top layer of muddy, sandy soil away, filling it with coarse gravel and finishing it with blue stone. But before he finishes it, he'll install a culvert and dig drainage trenches to alleviate the spring flooding of the drive. At the same time, I'm having the "official" driveway shortened from 150' to 75'. The part of the driveway nearest the house will be removed and a couple inches of new loam will be put in. I want to seed it as lawn. Eventually, I will lay 2 brick paths through this lawn to accommodate utility vehicles and such.

I got a new bird!! A big one, made out of scrap metal. It was made by a sculptor in Rumney. A fine addition to the garden:

Speaking of birds, I saw a Northern Flicker this week for the first time ever. It came down to find sustenance in my lawn and garden. Very pretty bird. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me and I was afraid I would scare it off if I got up.

First bear sighting of the year this week... also on my lawn. It was dark and I didn't bother to snap a pic. Saw a moose on my neighbor's lawn last week. Tall. I love seeing moose; it's exciting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What a difference a week makes ...

The mercury was at 70F this afternoon! The front door open! The sun bright and beautiful! Much of the snow gone! Who'd a thunk it just over a week ago? Not me. Oh, didn't it feel wonderful having the front door open and warm fresh air pouring in to rinse away the months of closed doors. And the birds were out in song and the brook was rushing with melted winter; and the crocuses are in bloom!

Ah. Spring has sprung. It's always bound to happen sooner or later. I'm here 5 years in just a week and I've learned that April habitually lingers on making winter seem interminable. But it's just a tease and none of us take the shenanigans too seriously.

I took a walk around the property this afternoon with notebook in hand. The list of tasks to be done fills an entire page! I may have to hire some help. From removing rotten stumps to fixing a retaining wall, from clearing brambles to consolidating the burn pile. I will certainly need help moving the cold frame and small shed which are down in the woodland area up closer to the garden. The shed will become a house for tools and the cold frame--which I have never utilized--will help harden off my crop of seedlings. I planted several seeds a week ago and it's exciting to see much of it sprouting already.

The seed beds are in the downstairs tub--which I don't use, preferring the shower stall in the upstairs lavatory. I will pot them on in a few weeks and sometime in May will like to place them in the cold frame for hardening off. I'll be building a new raised bed this year due to one of the original beds being taken over by my strawberry plants. I can't complain about having too many strawberry plants, and what's one more bed?

I'm visualizing picket fences and garden gates lately. Wonder if I can make that work for my garden? I want an arbor for the climbing roses, one that has seats on both sides. Wouldn't that be romantic? Sitting amongst the roses reading Oscar Wilde, what could be grander?

The seeds I sowed last week are: Romaine lettuce, Buttercup squash, parsnip, carrot, celery, zucchini, petunia, sweet pea, hyacinth bean, and nasturtium. These germination pictures were taken 2 days ago and more has sprouted since:

The driveway is utter chaos at the moment. There is one section in particular that floods over and is slow to drain. I think a culvert needs to go in at the spot. I made arrangements today to obtain a quote for fixing it up.

The scarf I was weaving for the small kitchen table is completed. I'm quite pleased with the result; it is what I imagined and what I desired for this table. The 'summer and winter' weave structure is reversible and I like this particular side the best:

I received some cotton in the mail today for some mug rugs which I will weave on the upstairs loom and I expect to hear from my neighbor any day now that she's received the cottolin for the towels which we will jointly weave.

Yesterday (Sunday) was sunny, if tepid, and I took the spinning wheel out on the deck to do some alfresco spinning. Although I had to don my coat, it was very soothing and deep soul refreshing to spin in the sunshine and fresh air.