Heavy dew this week makes for magic mornings. The apple blossoms are just starting to open on the north side by the henhouse. Violets and dandelions sprinkle the lawns, along with fallen branches from winter winds and snow—now just a memory.
12 May 2013 7 Comments
17 Mar 2013 17 Comments
Another St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, with chill winter in the air, and hearty Irish fare cooking in the kitchen. A perfect day for that, though I wish our days would be ripening toward spring flowers instead of brewing up a big winter storm for tomorrow.
I’ve been looking at photo albums from April 0f 2006 when we first took our daughter to Ireland. She was four, and looked upon everything with the wide eyes and questions I associate with that year. We saw places that we’d loved and visited through her naive and tender gaze. And we loved them anew. She loved them along with us.
On this trip we returned to Roundstone, a small village on the western edge of Co. Galway, in a wild region called Connemara. In pockets of Connemara you can still hear the Irish language spoken, and there are roads that cross the bog where you won’t meet another car or person. Just sheep, sprayed with a color to mark their flock, and crows and the occasional seagull.
Back to Roundstone. I took R. there for our 5th anniversary (1995) and we stayed in a little B&B called St. Joseph’s on the main street. As we wandered from pub to pub that night we were followed by an elderly trio of two men and a woman. At the first pub they asked to join us at our table since there were no other vacant seats.
They mistook us for local kids, wondering if we were the children of anyone they knew. They were native to Roundstone, but had emigrated to England years before (as have so many from Ireland over the centuries). They’d returned for a wedding in the town. We all chatted amicably while sipping our pints, and since we had arrived first we also left before they did, wishing them a good night.
We moved on in the hopes of finding some live music. Further down the street we found some music in a smaller, more rustic pub. A few men were singing so we settled in to listen for a little. Who should walk through the door, but our three friends. They joined us again and we laughed at the coincidence.
Our last destination of the night was Ryan’s, on the harbor side of the street. Here two men were playing guitars and singing. Not the fiddle and accordion tunes I’d hoped to hear all night, but the quality was good, so we decided to stay. The place filled up and we barely found two spots at the bar. The crowd around us joined in on the singing and near eleven p.m. a rousing rendition of Danny Boy left us breathless as we raised our glasses and sang at the top of our lungs with the crowd. And who was beside us, but our three new friends. It was—we decided—a perfect travel moment.
Back at our B&B we settled in and were awakened an hour later by some noise in the downstairs hallway. “I’m sorry Christina,” we heard a man saying, and the soothing response of the innkeeper as she took in the newcomers and gave them a room.
Imagine our surprise at breakfast to see that the latecomers were our friends from our pub crawl! It was as natural as anything to sit and eat our generous fry up together.
This was the story we told our daughter L. as we walked the pier in Roundstone and pointed out Ryan’s Bar and our former window at St. Joseph’s B&B. Our daughter’s name is an Irish surname. We picked up some Roundstone brochures and discovered that Christina—whose name we’d mentioned in this story dozens of times over the years—has our daughter’s name as her surname. Really? Did we somehow intuit it when naming our child? Down the road in Clifden, we discovered a Bar, a woolen shop and a butcher with the same name on the main street. We had no recollection of this! Of course, our daughter settled in and felt right at home.
24 Feb 2013 6 Comments
Nine days after I brought forsythia branches indoors I found the first three flowers opening. By today—day eleven—the whole arrangement is showing off. Through the yellow tinged branches I can see a red cardinal flitting around in the falling snow. Two thirds of the primary color group is making an appearance on a late February day.
21 Feb 2013 10 Comments
How funny, then, to wake up to winter paradise the next morning. It’s like Mother Nature overheard us and decided to win us back. Well done, Mother Nature. I am in love with you again. At least until the next blustery night when the windows rattle and clumps of heavy snow fall intermittently from the roof.
Winter self preservation: a bouquet of tulips and a bowl of green pears. The last one asked to be photographed and I obliged.
13 Feb 2013 11 Comments
in color, Creativity, Design, Garden, Housewares, Interior Design, Natural world, Spring, winter Tags: Fine Gardening, forcing branches, forcing forsythia, forsythia, Interior Design, Le Creuset, nature, orange, Staub, winter gardening
As I typed the words ‘forcing forsythia’ I heard them spoken in the voice of Sylvester, the cartoon cat who always chased Tweety Bird.
These metal industrial stools cheered me when I came across them this morning via Nest Design Studio. I do love orange, and a jolly little 1940s milk pitcher, a small le Creuset butter pan and a few Staub shallow dishes are practically glowing on my shelves this morning in all their orangeness.
Then the forsythia filled me with longing for Spring—which is a long way away in these northern parts. Just yesterday I found my secateurs under a dusting of snow in the alcove off the porch. (The wind blew snow into every nook and cranny in this last storm.)
I’ll cut forsythia branches to force today. If you’ve never done this, it’s so simple to do: clip branches close to the main trunk of your bush until you have a bundle to fill a vase (or put single branches into a group of glass bottles).
Put the branches in warm water, then fill your sink with very hot water.
Submerge each branch in the sink and (under the water) recut the end at an angle, then cut a one inch slice through the end of the stem (to help the branch absorb the water).
Make your arrangement and put it out to display. The branches will respond to the water and indoor warmth and blossom in due time. They will last longer if you change the water regularly and don’t have them in direct sun or near direct heat. That can be hard in our house, so I just enjoy whatever blooming comes my way. The yellow flowers are dazzling when lit up by sunlight.
Happy winter gardening.
More great information about forcing branches: Fine Gardening.
09 Feb 2013 5 Comments
It’s hard to measure a snowfall on a morning with the wind howling and snow blowing about forming clouds in the otherwise blue sky.
We braved the weather to feed the animals, shovel some paths, clean off the cars. And now we’re warming by the fire and watching the snowscape shift and reshape itself under the sunshine and tree shadows.
13 Jan 2013 15 Comments
in Creativity, Design, DIY Tutorials, Garden, handmade, Natural world, Seasons, Vermont, winter Tags: cloche, creativity, DIY, DIY tutorial, gardening in winter, gathering moss, handmade, handmade gift, indoor garden, moss, terrarium, winter garden
The days are lengthening, I can already tell. The chickens, who took a break from laying for a few weeks, are sharing an egg per day.
Around now the indoor greenery is keeping my spirits up. The tips of narcissus are reaching toward the ceiling, and the amaryllis has a fat bud that looks promising. Also green and thriving is the winter garden with moss and stones.
I gathered moss before the snow flew back in December and put this winter garden together. It was so easy to do and sustains my link to the dirt under all that snow. About once a week I take off the dome and spray the moss to keep it moist and green.
If you are able to find some woodland rocks on a south facing slope, you can still gather moss. Even with a ton of snow on the fields, I’ve seen some green spots peeking out here and there on my back-road drive to my parent’s house. I have plans to collect moss to surround the amaryllis bulb I mentioned.
What you need:
- a plate or container for a little soil and stones (moss only needs stone and a tiny bit of dirt and moisture to thrive)
- glass dome (I found this at my local thrift store)
- gathered moss—if you can find a few different varieties it adds to the interest of the garden. Some mosses will become cushioned and velvety. Others will send up little shoots like small antennae).
- a small porcelain item can be a nice decorative touch, or a small cut branch with winterberry for some color.
- spray bottle filled with water
Arrange your stones on a plate, or fill a container with stones and then soil. Moisten the soil. Top with several stones for the moss to grow over.
Collect your moss and blanket the stones and soil with the pieces. If your moss is in tiny pieces lay them together. They will fill in quickly as the moss grows.
Using the spray bottle thoroughly mist the top of the moss.
Add any decorative porcelain birds or small berry twigs now.
Place the dome on top. If condensation forms, prop the dome open a little with a utensil to allow some moisture to escape for about a day. You can leave the winter garden in the sunshine to help speed the drying. Then close the dome again to keep most of the moisture in.
Spray the moss about once a week. If it gets brown, don’t worry. Spray it and it will revive again in a few days.
06 Jan 2013 11 Comments
Today I took down the Christmas tree. The momentary sadness was instantly replaced with the euphoria that comes with moving the furniture around. I trimmed the rosemary plant of dry ends and woody twigs, filling the house with its piny scent, to replace the traces of balsam that went out the door moments before.
R placed the now-bare tree outside the window in a snowbank like we always do, and found a wild turkey feather in the snow which he tucked into the branches. (A flock of turkeys have been roosting in the crab apple tree each night and eating below the bird feeder in the mornings.) We’ll try to add to the feather as we find other natural flotsam and jetsam that flies in on the wind.
This afternoon was windless and not very cold. We walked down the road and then snow-shoed onto a trail nearby. Breaking new trails in deep snow is never easy.
Farewell to another holiday season. What new trails will we break in 2013? Time will tell.
23 Dec 2012 11 Comments
Winter kept us waiting. But yesterday seemed to seal our chances for a white Christmas. Curtains of snow fell, finally blanketing the last of the kale in the garden, and coating each branch with nature’s best holiday tinsel. Even the animals seemed to enjoy the snow.
The world is still after a windy night. I filled containers to make ice lanterns (how to make them here). The mercury will dip well below freezing tonight.
A friend sent me a lemon curd recipe and the house filled with the sharp crisp scent of citrus as I zested three lemons this afternoon. Sun streamed into the kitchen—a welcome sight after a gray week—and the curls of zest cast their own inner glow.
From the eve before Christmas Eve I wish you and yours a festive holiday time of togetherness, warmth and gratitude. May the peace of the season be with you all.
02 Dec 2012 4 Comments
in Christmas, Creativity, Friendship, handmade, Holidays, Natural world, Seasons, Vermont, winter Tags: "Barrett Hall", Christmas, holiday traditions, Jingle Bells, old town hall, prints in snow, snow, Strafford, Strafford Vermont, Vermont, winterberry
Fresh snow fell yesterday morning. A nice way to begin December.
I pinned the first of Peggy’s jingle bells to the hem of my coat, opened the first of my 24 advent packages—a gorgeous garland of rustic wooden stars—sent from my dear friend in France, and headed to Strafford, Vermont.
Who is Peggy? Why did I go to Strafford?
I wrote about Peggy’s jingle bells last December 1. Here is an excerpt. See photos and the entire post here.
My daughter is the one who found the little red box full of jingle bells and safety pins.
We were at the rummage sale last summer in the old town hall near where my parents live.
It was my mom who told us who the bells had belonged to, and the reason for the safety pins.
Peggy used to live in the old brick Cape cottage across from the town hall. She moved into assisted care housing last year, and her nieces and nephews went through the house to choose things to keep and things to sell. Many wonderful things arrived at the rummage sale, and I am now the happy owner of things from Peggy’s house.
Among these things, are the bells.
On December 1—every year—Peggy would pin a jingle bell to the hem of her skirt. On December 2 she’d add a second bell. And on and on, up until Christmas day when her hem was a sparkling, jingling masterpiece.
I pinned the first bell to the hem of my coat this morning.
Strafford (home to July 4 parades featuring dachshunds!!) had its holiday extravaganza yesterday and we Henhouse Fibers and ilo collective makers set up a table and had a great day hanging out in Barrett Hall—a classic Vermont building with high ceilings, big windows, a stage, good cheer. It was full of local artisans and folks coming through to do their Christmas shopping. Very festive.
Outside the snow fell gently all day. Inside the air smelled of pine boughs.