About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

This Gardener's Path

In our neighborhood we're coming into high gardening and landscaping season. There's always a push to get the outside looking great for the first Saturday in May when many eyes are on Kentucky for the running of the Kentucky Derby. We want our yards and gardens to be as beautiful as the most fanciful Derby hat. So, for the past month everyone has been cleaning up from the January ice storm, planting flowers, pruning, and getting the lawns cut into a green carpet.

This buzz of spring activity got me thinking about gardening. So, here's your assignment for this Fun Monday. I'd like you to share your thoughts on gardening. Are you a keen or casual gardener? How long have you gardened? Who taught you what you know about growing plants? Do you grow vegetables and fruits as well as ornamental plants? If you had just one container to garden in, what would you grow? What lessons have you learned from gardening? Have you taught these lessons to your children or grandchildren?

Here's the list of Fun Monday participants. Be sure to visit as many as you can to check out their gardening experiences. Scroll past the signup list for my own gardening tale.

1. Mariposa (host for May 18--thanks!)
2. Sayre
3. Gattina
4. Misanthrope
5. Jan
6. Karisma
7. Janis
8. Jill (Corrected link--sorry Jill)
9. Troll Y2K
10. Grace
11. Peter
12. Church Lady
13. Ari_1965
14. Pamela
15. Swampy

This Gardener's Path

Early Years--growing up in rural Kentucky, I learned about gardening by helping my mother and father grow a garden very much like this one. It was strictly a food garden where we grew enough vegetables for eating fresh throughout the spring and summer and canning for the winter. By late fall the cellar under our house would be filled will canning jars of fruits and vegetables and piles of root vegetables and cabbages. As soon as the ground was dry enough in the spring, my dad hooked up his mule to plow the ground, spread chicken or cow manure over the garden and then disk it smooth (we kids got to sit on the disk to add weight to bust up the clods of dirt) . In the cool spring we planted lettuce, onions, peas, cabbage and potatoes because they needed cool weather to grow well. After danger of frost we planted green beans, corn, and tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. In the fall turnips and greens went into the ground in time to be sweetened by the first frost. Everyone in the family was expected to help tend the garden. If I pestered my dad long enough, he allowed me to plow instead of hoeing after I proved that I could control the mule and plow a straight furrow. I worked in this garden until I left home for college.

First Home--I bought this modest little brick home for me and Zack the Crazy Border Collie. The yard was a mess when I first moved in so I began by renovating the lawn. The goal was to have a green carpet and I achieved that by watching gardening programs on TV and reading horticulture books. I planted the weeping cherry tree in the front yard, holly, and roses. Every hole I dug was full of rocks.

In the back yard I planted my first garden since leaving home for college. Vegetables were planted in raised beds with straw laid between the beds to keep down weeds and make it look nice. I also experimented with growing apples, peaches, and sour cherries on these dwarf fruit trees in the back yard. They actually bore fruit in the time I gardened there. And, can't forget the blackberries and raspberries that I trained on trellises. They produced well and the sweet fruit made the scratches from thorns bearable.

Garden Travel--by the mid-80s I had begun traveling quite a bit and I was always looking for great public and private gardens to visit because I was just obsessed with gardening. I looked and learned how to combine plants, especially ornamentals. I admired both the formal English style of planting like these roses and lavender passages at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. I studied the plantings in famous New England gardens like Wintertur and southern gardens at Calloway Gardens,
Bellingrath, Middleton Place, and Biltmore. I was always looking for new plants and combinations for my own garden. This photo of a private side garden was taken in Nashua, New Hampshire. It is the perfect combination of plant textures and colors with simple garden ornaments like the sun dial, lattice trim,fencing and rock wall.

Garden Shows and Fairs--were perfect places to learn new gardening techniques. I especially became interested in container plantings. The effect you can achieve with a collection of plants can be like a painting.
Notice this window box from the Cincinnati Flower Show. Look closely and you'll see that there's five or six different plants in this one arrangement from upright scented geraniums to trailing vines. This window box planting on the left is my version of the flower show box.

Second Home--I bought this little
place in the early '90s. The house is on a corner lot and has entirely too much lawn to deal with. The real estate agent took me seriously when I told her not to worry about square footage of the house. I needed a place to grow a garden and three dogs. i laid out sweeping beds to connect three large trees in the front yard. All this I planted with hostas, astilbes, and ferns--many varieties of each. The rule of planting is that you must do three of the same variety together so that the bed doesn't look choppy. It's hard to know how many plants were in these beds. I selected and planted all of them.

In the side yard I had island beds dug and planted them will several varieties of ornamental grasses, sedums, barberry, Japanese maple, spirea, and perennials--iris, peonies, daylillies, and columbine. There was always something in bloom throughout the season.Sad Reality--very little of these plantings still exist in my garden. The trees are damaged by ice storms, most of the hostas and ferns have disappeared from under the trees. In the side island bed I have only overgrown ornamental grasses, sedum, daylilies and iris. It takes me three hours to mow the front lawn. Now that I'm retired I want to renovate the garden , but this gardener needs to take a little less ambitious path so there's time and money for other interests--like travel and blogging!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fun Monday Signup--May 11

Fun Monday Signup
May 11
Your Thoughts on Gardening

"We have all been taught that life begins in the garden."
First a Garden
by Jon Carloftis

As a writer, the thing that I enjoy most about Fun Mondays is the challenge of writing a post about a topic that one of the other Fun Monday participants throws out to us. Many times I sign up thinking that I know nothing, or have no interest in, the topic that the host for the week sets for us. However, in my experience, there's always a link to the topic--a story, memory, or opinion that deserves to be shared.

So, as your host for the upcoming Fun Monday, I'm asking you to think about gardening. Do you consider yourself a gardener? Or, just the lawn keeper? When you think of your home, is it important that there are growing and flowering plants in your home landscape? Regardless of where you live--from a city apartment to a farm--do you need to grow something, even if it's a pot of geraniums on the patio? Do you grow your own food or have childhood memories of helping parents or grandparents grow a vegetable garden? Do you look forward to Saturday morning expeditions to local farmer's markets to buy the first strawberries or asparagus of the season and talk with the local farmers? Are there public gardens that you love to visit? What do you learn from them? Do you think it's important to teach your children and grandchldren about growing beautiful vegetables and flowers?

Tell us your gardening stories. And share some photos of your garden, or one you admire. If you want to participate, just leave me your name and web address in a comment. On Sunday I'll provide an updated list with links. Here's the list of garden writers--or wanna bes--so far:

(Who would like to volunteer to host for May 18th? You'll be glad you did!)

1. Faye
2. Sayre
3. Gattina
4. M(the Misanthrope)
5. Jan
6. Karisma
7. Janis
8. Lil Mouse
9. Troll Y2K
10. Grace
11. Peter
12. Church Lady
13. Mariposa (also host for May 18--thanks volunteer!)
14. Ari_1965
15. Pamela
16. You're next!

Thanks all for signing to do a little digging and planting in the garden this week. I'll get the links up after watching the finale of Amazing Race tonight(although most contestants have behaved so badly not sure any deserve to win. . .). All will be ready for the early Monday morning bloggers and those of us who start a little later in the day!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Smarter than a Border Collie

(Our host for this week's Fun Monday is Karisma from Aussieland. Karisma invites us to share some bits of comedic relief from either our kids or pets. My only source is Zack the Crazy Border Collie. I fear that he's been somewhat overexposed in this blog, but there's always one more good story where he's involved. Like his bloomer fetish.)

Rule #1 of Pet Ownership --never get a dog with an IQ higher than yours. For most of us, that would certainly include a border collie. Unfortunately, I didn't know this in 1983 when I adopted this gorgeous black and white ball of puppy fur from a local farm and brought him to the suburbs to live.

How to describe this dog? Challenging. Mischievous. Smart. Demanding. Funny. Unhinged. All this was very clear early in our relationship. And, as with a lot of dysfunctional relationships, I adored this dog, for all his high maintenance demands. He climbed fences, ran away, destroyed property, harassed my guests, jumped out car windows, and kept a vet in business with regular emergency runs for various self-inflicted injuries.

In the photo above Zack was about a year old. By this time I was beginning to understand a couple of things about this yearling. One, he was terrified of storms and served as a weather barometer on four legs. Even before the first rumblings of thunder or flash of lightening he was pacing, panting, and wild-eyed. If he was in the yard he ripped through screen doors and tried to chew and claw through the wooden door to get inside and in the only safe place he accepted--the bath tub. If he was inside, he'd knock open the storm or screen doors and run though the yard and garden like a crazed animal.
If you look closely at these photos, you can see that we went through several kinds of doors from metal storm to old-fashioned wooden screen with aluminum panel scratch guards--to no effect. Most of the time Zack either jumped through the torn screens or just knocked the door off its hinge to get outside.

In addition to fearing storms, Zack was bored and desperately needed a job. And, if you're familiar with border collies you understand that if they are not given a job they will find their own diversions. I was clueless about this (see Rule #1 above) . So, while I sat in the living room trying to read, Zack mounted the campaign to get me up and going. He began casually by snatching a book, newspaper or magazine out of my hand and tearing through the house with me in pursuit long enough to reclaim my reading material. If this low level pestering didn't get the the reaction he really wanted--a leash up and walk--he escalated by launching a bloomer raid. Zack knew where the laundry baskets were kept. In the bedroom he had only to nose the sliding closet door open to find the dirty clothes. And since his battle objective was to get me up and chasing him, his border collie brain understood that a sock or towel was not going to do the trick. He had to steal something potentially embarrassing. So, I'd see this black and white flash down the hall making a run for the back door with my Jockeys for Her clinched in his teeth. Through the torn screen door he'd sail and then fly around the backyard with my underwear unfurling like a truce flag--much to the amusement of my neighbors. Sometimes he'd just sit in the far corner of the yard pretending that he'd surrender if I got close enough. Other times he'd let me approach and sweet talk him into giving them up. Sometimes he'd just chew them up if I didn't make the chase interesting. Let's just say I spent a lot of my hard-earned salary on storm doors and replacement underwear in the '80s. Not a bad return for the many happy memories I have of living with Zack the Crazy Border Collie.

Now be sure to check out other kids and pets make us laugh stories over at Karisma's place. (Photo credit: Maxine's bloomers at jaymesjammies.com.)

* * *

I'm hosting Fun Monday on May 11. Assignment will be up on Wednesday of this week if you want to play. The topic will be gardening since I'm seeing a lot of beautiful photos of flowers and gardens on blogs already. What are you doing right now in your garden? What's blooming? What kind of plants do you enjoy? Are there public gardens that you love? As always, you're free to bend the rules any way you want to participate!

If you want to sign up now, just tell me in the comments. Be sure to give me your web page link as I'm still not Mr. Linky savvy. If you'd rather wait, come back on Wednesday for the official signup. Hope you'll join us!