May 16, 2022

The first rose of 2022

Life has taken on a surreal feel. With only four more working days left at the day job, I can't decide if I'm excited or dreading the loss of so much structure in my life. As someone who has been gainfully employed for fifty years, I may have been brainwashed, or at the very least brain-trained, to believe regimented days are a good thing.

Nope. That's not it. I simply want the next four days over and done with so I can finally, finally, finally move on and get on with "retirement." I have a set of lists, you see.

There's a list, actually a spreadsheet, for outside work, inside work, tractor work, gardening work, pantry work, equipment maintenance, and items to improve the humans in the house. I do so love a good spreadsheet when the cells get filled in with the color of completion! 

But there's one thing I can't put on a spreadsheet: remembering to take the time to slow down and enjoy the fruits of all my labor. 

Yesterday, late afternoon, the sky darkened and a front swept through bringing rain showers. The spousal unit and I had gone in different directions puttering at small tasks, and the rain sent us inside to the television. I glanced out the front window and noticed the season's first rose was blooming. How wonderful! 

The sunshine reappeared while the rain continued to fall. I love when that happens! Spring's green world glows! I snatched my phone and stepped outside to record a short video to share with whoever is interested but to mostly have to look at any time I remind myself it's time to stop and enjoy the roses. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway) 

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, simple country pleasures, roses, gardening, pantry prep, greenhouses, rain, retirement, to-do list, spreadsheets, country living, rural lifestyle, a writer's life

May 9, 2022

We upgraded the greenhouse

There's never a shortage of things we want to do here at the Manor, and it seems there's always a roadblock or two on the way to getting it done. I want to grow more veggies, and you'd think it would be a simple matter of tilling up a spot for a garden. Nope. Deer. We have a DEER PROBLEM. 

To go off on a tangent, this past hunting season was a bust. As in there were not many hunters in the woods. Why? Well, they couldn't get any ammo! Now all you left-leaning folks probably think that's a good thing. In real life, next winter, the deer will starve to death because there will be too many of them. Good going. 

But I digress...

With our local deer herd population, that is to say the little herd that lives in my woods and beds down in the thickets we leave for them, expanded to fifteen, there's no way in hell my veggies are safe. The small greenhouse I got two years ago is just that - small. So I upgraded to a 12x7x7 greenhouse, and amidst screaming wailing and gnashing of teeth from the spousal unit, it went up yesterday. I think it will work out fine. 

I should be able to extend the season for a few tomatoes and plant a few fall Brassicas. Next year, I'll be able to move my seedlings outside a lot faster, and that's always a plus. I may even be able to coax some herbs to live over the winter inside the greenhouse. 

This greenhouse is probably a stepping stone to a more traditional constructed greenhouse, one that won't need to sit on the leeward side of the house to be protected from the wind. I'll just have to see how I do with this one to more accurately gauge whether or not it's worth the investment in a more permanent structure. 

Like a lot of things in life, it's an experiment. It may work out, or it may not. This is just one more step in my life's journey to somewhere. It requires patience to allow everything to happen at a pace I'm not sure I control. No matter how it all shakes out, I know I'll enjoy spending time in the greenhouse on chilly winter days. Maybe it'll be a warm spot to read a book on a cold day. Wouldn't that be fun?!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, simple country pleasures, greenhouse, gardening, Lady of the Manor, a writer's life, white-tail deer, hunting, ammo, veggies, herbs, stepping stones

May 7, 2022

Expect the unexpected (tree fall)

I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I would not thrive as a city dweller. It's May 7, 2022, and everywhere I look I see shades of vibrant green! So much green! It makes the heart hurt it's so green.

Springtime in the country means rain, and rain means all sorts of things. Rain puts water into the ground, cleans the air, fills cisterns for farmers, and rain barrels for the gardeners. But too much rain can be deadly. While we're not in a flood plain, we do have a few issues that stem from too much rain. Two-thirds of the mountain is above us, so we have to deal with drainage long after the rain stops. Too much rain softens the ground to the point where some trees topple over, root ball and all. That's what happened last night. 

Around 2:30 AM, Deuce hopped off the bed, barking and growling. Being his doggie Mom, I got up to see if I could figure out why. The obvious culprits, in the middle of the night, are deer in the yard. I don't know how he knows, but he always knows. I switched on the outside lights but didn't see or hear anything above the sound of the rain and wind. Back to bed we went. 

This morning, I settled at the computer and looked out the north window and saw a tree had come down. The root of the tree is on the other side of the stone fence but it fell our way. I could go to the neighbor and ask them to remove the tree, but we want the firewood. And truthfully, out here, our neighbors would expect us to harvest the tree for firewood. If a tree fell the other way, we'd let it go to the neighbor for their woodstove. True country folk are like that. 

It's an easier job than it might appear. After the ground has a chance to dry up some, I'll take a battery-powered chainsaw over the stone fence and make a cut as close to the root ball as is feasible. It should release the trunk and top of the tree and allow it to upend toward our property. 

Expecting the unexpected is part of country living. The unexpected is not always a bad thing. Frequently it's a good thing, like receiving unexpected free firewood. It's even a good thing we'll have to do the work to harvest the wood. It will make us appreciate the gift of heat on a cold winter day even more. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

May 5, 2022

A "what is it" wildflower

Last year I sowed a pack of wildflower seeds above the little knee wall I built. It produced some pretty flowers and I loved the cottage garden feel of it. I knew then I'd sow seeds there again this year regardless of what may have self-seeded. 

This little orange bloomer lived over our winter. I had no clue what it is and so I turned to Google for a bit of help. Google found an image of a Siberian Wildflower that's a match. Okay... something from Siberia wouldn't find our winters daunting. 

I'm not sure the name of the flower matters all that much. It's a pretty little thing and I'm happy to have four of them blooming, even if one is out in front of the wall and will be in danger of being decimated by the weed-whacker. 

This year's seeds have been sown and now I'm keeping an eye on the soil for signs of sprouting. Sometimes it really is the simple country pleasures that brighten our days. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 30, 2022

Planting day 2022

2022 before

The day has finally dawned in which I'm planting all the little veggies outside. Yes, I'm reclaiming my sunroom office from the jungle it has become. All will be put to rights. I hope.

We already planted eight cabbage and eight tomatoes outside and yes, we did toss a tarp over them the last couple of nights. The Weather Channel said we'd have frost, but we did not. We'll have to keep an eye on the forecast and use the tarps again if necessary, but that's okay. The plants are going outside! 

Yesterday, I filled all the grow bags except one. I ran out of my planting soil with one bag to go. I need to get another bag of Black Kow and mix up another cart full of the mix to have at the ready. (Which we did.)

I'm looking at the starts I have and I may purchase more grow bags. As with last season, I did not expect to have such good germination and survival rates. After I get the basic plan planted and arranged in my garden corral, I'll make that decision. 

One thing I won't short space on this year is tomatoes. I have a cherry, a slicing, and a Roma variety this year. I hope to make a modest amount of tomato sauce from the Romas, and to freeze dry some of the Veranda cherry tomatoes. The other veggie I need to reserve bags for is cucumbers. Those seeds are going in the dirt today. I got one pack of mixed bell pepper seeds, and they are doing great - but I don't really need peppers. They'll be the last thing planted, and I may double up in the bags. Whatever pepper harvest we get can be freeze-dried, too.

Eight hours later...

What a beautiful day to spend outside! I don't have everything planted. I did end up running out of my planting soil mix again, and we do need to go get even more Black Kow, perlite, and peat moss to mix up a bit more. 

We got more than planting done, though. There are always dozens of small chores to do when you live in the country. As I'll be fully retired in a month, we spent some time formulating a plan to gut the shed and reorganize everything in there! That's going to be a lot of work, and probably more than one trip to the landfill. Having all the junk gone and the items we actually use better organized will reap dividends for both of us, though. It'll be worth the aggravation of doing it. 

To top the day off, the spousal unit called for a pizza for dinner. All we had to do was drive to the local pizza joint and pick it up. No, we can't have it delivered because 1) we live one-half mile too far out of the town, and 2) Deuce loves to go for rides in the car and we spoil the dog without any guilt. 

I do love a man who knows when it's not a good idea to ask, "what's for dinner?'

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 26, 2022

The Second Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

There is a lot of bru-ha-ha going on about the Second Amendment. Maybe the politicians of the United States no longer understand the language. 

"Shall not be infringed."
SHALL: expressing a strong assertion or intention
NOT: used with an auxiliary verb or “be” to form the negative
BE: used with a present participle to form continuous tenses
INFRINGED: actively break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.)

What, exactly, shall not be infringed? The right of the people to keep and bear Arms. 

Why, exactly, shall this right not be infringed? It is necessary to the security of a free State.

Who, exactly, is responsible for the free State? The militia. 

Who, exactly, is a part the Militia? Every citizen of the United States who reaps the rewards of said free State.

Now wasn't that easy?

The Lady of the Manor (The Hideaway)

April 25, 2022

Let's try those 'taters again

Last year I got my hands on a few Kennebec potatoes and planted them in grow bags. I had a meager result, but I saved the spuds to use as seed potatoes this year. Well...... Those suckers sprouted like you would not believe! This year I have six potato bags planted and we'll see how they do. 

My grandparents always planted Kennebec potatoes. It's not a variety one hears about very often, but my grandparents were able to supply spuds to my parents and my maternal uncle. I'm not sure why they scaled back the potato patch, but the time came when they did. Maybe when the recipients of free potatoes weren't able to help dig because of job constraints had something to do with it. I just don't remember and it hardly matters now. 

So we'll see how it goes this year. Gardening is nothing if not one big experiment. You just never know what you'll have at the end of summer, and that is what makes it so much fun!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 24, 2022

The Grand Solar Minimum

I'm increasingly interested in the discussion about the Grand Solar Minimum. Wikipedia, granted not always the most complete source of information but still very informative, describes it as: 

Solar minimum is the regular period of least solar activity in the Sun's 11-year solar cycle. During solar minimum, sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes, and often does not occur for days at a time. On average, the solar cycle takes about 11 years to go from one solar minimum to the next, with duration observed varying from 9 to 14 years. The date of the minimum is described by a smoothed average over 12 months of sunspot activity, so identifying the date of the solar minimum usually can only happen 6 months after the minimum takes place. Solar minimum is contrasted with the solar maximum, when hundreds of sunspots may occur.

The NASA Science page, located at, has more information. Science has been observing the sun since before "science" was a word and one of the resulting bits of information is that Sol is very, very active. 

But every eleven years or so, the sun becomes less active and we have a solar minimum. And there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing. 

The sun's magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from cosmic rays. Sunspots and solar flares, which we know can cause heatwaves and magnetic disturbances, decrease. Coronal holes can form on the sun. Our temperatures get cooler. 

What occurred to the spousal unit and me is the fact The Weather Channel doesn't seem to be reporting on this. All THEY talk about are electric cars. 

Here's the thing - If we're going to depend on the sun for more and more energy, should we not understand the cycles of the sun? Or doesn't the cycles of the sun fit the narrative?

Just saying...

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 23, 2022

Finally! Warm weather means outside work


outside motion=activated lights

I've been waiting months for a Saturday with decent weather. The mercury hit a healthy 75F today, and we were outside handling some odds and ends. 

You do know what mercury has to do with thermometers, right? Look it up, babycakes. 

The spousal unit was, to my surprise, happy to hop on the old Husqvarna and mow the grass while I cleaned out the greenhouse, installed a few new motion-activated solar lights, and worked on gardening "stuff." He then swapped out the bucket on the tractor for the Brush Crusher and gathered up a few downed branches. Then he put the bucket back on and added a scoop of garden soil to my cart so I can amend it for growbags, and spread two or three buckets of gravel where we drive the John Deere in and out of its barn. We were busy all day.

And you know what? It felt really good to get a few things accomplished. I'm really glad we decided to get a few more of the outside lights. It's dark out there when Deuce makes his last trip out before bed. Black night, black dog - he literally disappears! Now we have these fixtures all over the place and I can keep an eye on him. Another plus is we won't forget to turn off the outside lights and have them burning electricity all night. Yes, I have done that - but no more!

I put up the curtain screen door today, too. I didn't want to put it up this early in the year, but those big drilling bumblebees arrived today. They don't sting but we don't like them buzzing about when we're relaxing on the patio. 

I also hit the step goal for the day without going for a walk. I got all my steps in just working in the yard. Tomorrow may be different. I think Deuce needs a good long walk to burn off some doggie energy. 

We're not sure what we'll accomplish tomorrow in the way of yard work, but it won't be on the same level as today. We have plenty to do, but we need to pace ourselves.  We're both feeling "old" tonight. Go figure!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

April 17, 2022

Shifting times of sunrise and sunset


He is Risen!

Yes, it's Easter 2022 and I'm up to watch the sunrise. It's always pertinent to remember the empty tomb but always more so on this day. Easter Sunday - the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. People like to scoff and remind Christians just how pagan the timing is, but we don't mind. Scoff away if it makes you feel better. Scoff until your little heart is content. The day of Christ's rising will be remembered and remarked every year with or without you, and the exact date hardly matters. The changing date is part of the Easter tradition and a subtle reminder that we don't control God's timing. 

But I digress yet again. I didn't sit down to create a blog post about Christianity. 

Last evening, as I prepared to shut down the computer for the night, it occurred to me that it wasn't yet full dark at 8:30 PM. The spousal unit and I have discussed this a few times and had I not just clicked the shutdown icon, I might have investigated. As it happens, I'm up early and not ready to tackle the Wordle of the day, so I looked up the sunrise and sunset chart for the current year and for nineteen-fifty-seven.

Hmm. Interesting.

On April 17, 1957, sunrise was at 5:41 AM, and sunset was at 6:57 PM. In 2022, sunrise is at 6:41 AM and sunset at 7:57 PM. 

So now I am freaking out! Why is that happening??? What is happening to the Earth's rotation?  

As it turns out, Daylight Savings Time in 1957 didn't start until April 28. What does this mean? It means the spousal unit and I are NOT losing our minds! This is important stuff to a pair on the cusp of senior citizenship! 

It never occurred to us that we were both right and wrong. For us, when we were younger, 8:00 PM in April meant it was full dark. Now it means we don't need a flashlight to take the dog out to pee-pee. 

Our overblown and idiotic government caused this one. Just imagine that! They could leave Daylight Savings Time alone. Or better yet, end it or make it standard. Jeez...

This means we're really not losing it and the Earth is not about to fall off its axis and drift away from the sun, which would not be good for any of us, including the dog. I can't wait for the spousal unit to get out of bed this morning so I can regale him with the width and breadth of all this knowledge I gained this morning while searching for information on the Internet! He'll be so impressed - NOT. 

The fact of the matter is none of this really matters. Even if the Earth would break orbit and float away, it would still be Easter and the Easter promise that our souls are safe would still apply. If I did have more daylight hours to use in 2022 than I had growing up, it would still be more daylight hours to appreciate the creation around me. 

The time the sun rose on that morning so long ago doesn't matter, only what the sunrise revealed. The stone rolled back and the tomb was empty. The WOMEN were sent forth to tell of what happened. 

Can you imagine their wonderment as they told a pack of skeptical men, "He is risen!"? 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)