Saturday, April 6, 2024

Annual Historic Garden Week in Virginia begins April 20th, 2024

In 2 weeks, Historic Garden Week in Virginia begins. April is a lovely time of the year to check out area homes and gardens. Local Garden Clubs throughout Virginia host the annual week long tours. A really nice guidebook is available at select outlets or you can view it online.

I always seek out locations that are more nature centric. Some tours focus more on home interiors but regardless, one is sure to get a blast of what is blooming in Virginia as you stroll through neighborhoods.

After reading the tour book, I've decided this year I'll be traveling to Orange and Madison Counties on 4/20. A short drive from Charlottesville to explore five historic properties that feature natural landscapes, all under land conservation easement. The properties foster habitat for bird, animals, and insects with wildflower meadows and native plantings. I also have a potential family connection to one of the homes. Genealogy can be tricky but my family immigrated to Madison and there might be some history to discover given one historic home originally belonged to an individual with our family name.

Another interesting option is a neighborhood walking tour in Norfolk on 4/25. Four homes and three gardens will be featured. There are two other nearby public gardens you can add for separate fees but it sounds like a full day as is. Keep an eye out for the amazing arrangements garden club members create!

Richmond offers several tours on different days. The one that sounds most interesting to me is the walking tour through the River Hill subdivision of the Westover Hills neighborhood on 4/24. Six homes will be open, overlooking the James River in a really pretty part of Richmond. Also do not miss Maymont if you have extra time. Historic Tuckahoe is also very interesting.

Get out and about and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather in Virginia!




Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Cleaning out the Greenhouse in Preparation for Seed Starting

My greenhouse has been up and running for 2 years so it allows me to grow more plants from seed. When the gardening bug bit me 25 years ago, I would order hundreds of seed each year! I will never be able to physically manage the constant gardening that I enjoyed long ago so many more controls are in place to stop me from completely going overboard with seed buying My main interest in seed buying has turned toward vegetable growing.

We always battle critters in our garden because I have a no kill policy when it comes to critter control as I do believe nature is smarter than me and will generally work out a balance (for the exception of imported Stink bugs and Japanese beetles). We had been losing sunlight in our garden space each year as trees matured so Anthony moved a part of the garden more into the sun which gave us some successes last year in growing crops. I'm a fan of cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers but my neighbor gave me some fun hot peppers that I enjoyed viewing but not eating. Thai peppers are quite ornamental and I will be growing them again this year from collected seed.

It has been fun researching online as to the current best varieties to order based on disease resistance, performance, and taste. I lean toward open pollinated seed (true to seed = allows you to collect the seed annually and replant). Hybridized seed will not come true to seed and you have to purchase seed each year to produce the same crop.

Long ago I gave up growing beans as they are a critter favorite. I'm focusing on veggies that I eat the most often so Squash is top of the list. We attempted several varieties last year. A patio zucchini in the greenhouse which never flowered so I moved it outside and it flowered but we only harvested one and then it became diseased. We tried a baseball sized zucchini and it was a total failure. All fruit rotting before forming. I believe it was too covered up by the volunteer Butternut squash which went nuts and we harvested 25 squash from several plants. I'm going to try Lemon squash and several zucchini again. I had some luck with Thousandhead Kale that wasn't as huge as described but it was bigger than most so I'll toss that out again this year. I will again try mini watermelon and melon in the sun this year as they were also in the shady section of the garden and did not do well.

I had to put toilet paper collars around all my plants last year when I set them out because something was hacking the stems off! Could have been cutworms or rabbits. Hoping to beat the heat, disease, and the critters!

The variety of cucumber I picked for the greenhouse last year was terrible. It rarely developed any female flowers, which means you don't get any fruit! I was so disappointed because my first year of growing cucumbers in the greenhouse was great success (Burpee Garden Sweet). I'm trying 2 open pollinated varieties; one that self pollinates (Beit Alpha) and one that produces mountains of cucumbers (Suyo Long) in hopes to keep them going from May - December. 

Part of growing plants from seed is that you can pick the recommended winners and really see if they are all they claim to be! It's fun experimenting and growing varieties that you have never tried.

I just finished Spring cleaning out the greenhouse. This Winter I moved most of my plants indoors to save on heating expense (it cost me an extra $200 to run heat in the greenhouse last year). As a precaution I will apply 3 treatments of BTI to my greenhouse planter box (another exception to the critter control rules). It is a selective bacteria that attacks mainly mosquito, black fly, and gnat larva. Working indoors in a greenhouse is very different than outside as far as insect management.

Cheers to kicking off the Spring growing season!


Sunday, December 31, 2023

Ending 2023, my year in review. A tough year and glad it's GONE.

I probably should not wish a year to end as the coming year could always be worse, but it's hard to imagine. It was a year full of anguish and hard work. Once I got a breath, more bad news arrived but conversely some really depressing moments ended up positively.

Judy loved her cats!
Early in the year a dear friend passed away and I was named Executor of her estate. Prior to her death I was her Power of Attorney during her long illness. I had never been either so it was a learn as you go experience, emotional but educational and interesting. When I signed the original agreement we lived in the same town but as the years traveled along we had moved 3 hours away, making assisting more difficult. Fortunately I worked closely with her dearest friend to inventory her belongings and gained a new friend in the process.

My Mother-in-law loved Schnauzer's
As soon as I managed to get her estate in order, my mother-in-law passed away after a long illness. My husband ended up practically living with his mother and father for months (they live 6 hours away). I was glad he had the opportunity to do this for his parents. After her passing, we switched gears to figure out his father's situation, researching health care workers for him because he didn't want to leave his home. I discovered a veterans program where they pay for home health care for a certain number of hours a week. It has been a life saver.

A few of our amazing chickens from the past
Oddly, with each human death one of our chickens would follow. We now have no chickens after 10 years of managing and watching out for their safety from hawks and foxes. There is nothing sadder than looking out to an empty chicken yard, but we're planning for our retirement by not adopting more animals as we're determined to flee the coop and travel... ONE DAY. We still have our three cats which amazingly are hanging in there with various senior issues.

In between the ups and downs, I've somewhat neglected my online vintage business but I found time to kick it in gear for the holiday season. Surprisingly I've have a good sales year. I presume it's because I've been selling for 13 years now which gives me an online presence and I also have keyed in on what and where to sell.

My mother still lives with us and is very independent. Shopping for herself and pitching in with packing up goods to ship for my shop. We finally got her to visit our new Senior Center in the Fall to pick up a bridge game or two and the next week we all got COVID so that new venture has been put on hold until Spring. I also developed a sinus infection which was worse than Covid! Shutting me down for a month.

I captured this Bee sleeping in a Crocus
Unfortunately for our pocketbook we had to get a new roof but we're hopeful we will be dead and buried before needing another one! Happy to at least get that behind us because we suspect the roof might have been 43 years old! It was a positive experience and the contractor was awesome so that helped swallow the bitter price pill.

We ended our year with my husband, my mother, and me needing a tooth crown, all in the same week. As I was waiting for the permanent crown a different tooth decided to break. So I'm ending 2023 with a temporary tooth reconstruction awaiting a crown in 2024 (which Cigna insurance pays zero for - they only pay for 1 crown in 60 months - what a racket). So technically my 2024 is not starting well, but we'll just lump that with 2023 since it happened in that year. I am very grateful to my new dentist for stepping up for my two emergency visits.

We didn't have any big health dramas other than teeth, so we can consider ourselves fortunate on that front. My husband is now officially 65 and signed up for Social Security but will not retire for a few more years - wow - seems impossible.

Finishing the year refreshing the dining room in time for Christmas dinner. The table was overtaken with Estate business and my Grandmother's Chandelier was jerry rigged with a piece of wire for the last 14 years! We managed to clear out the stuff, clean and rehang the chandelier, and hang a large painting that belonged to my deceased friend over the table.

I always try to adopt an eco-resolution and this year I'm trying to limit my plastic purchases to #1 and #2 recyclable containers (or better yet - purchase none) since any other number can't be recycled and most of #1 and #2 are landfilled anyway - ugh. I'm also testing our appliance consumption with a device and researching solar panels, an all consuming research project. Better to generate less electricity and waste to begin with!

Wishing you a positive and healthy 2024! Keep the faith that turning the page to a new year can refresh and renew.


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