June 7, 2023

Wildfires are raging in Canada

I can think of little that is more frightening than being at the mercy of the elements. Floods, blizzards, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes are beyond our control. We have to ride out the havoc and devastation they leave in their wake. For the first time in my memory, Canada is beset with wildfires. As I write this, there are over four hundred different fires burning, and only about half are "under control." 

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd think a group of activists had been busy. Maybe they really don't like Justin Trudeau.  

Looking out my office window, a grey haze covers the land. Never in my life have I experienced a time when smoke from Canada has blanketed western Maryland. Early this morning I thought I needed to get busy and wash the windows, but that is not the problem. It's much worse.  

To say that I'm concerned is an understatement. Is this a harbinger of things to come? 

I pray it is not. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rural living, a writer's life, wildfires, Canada, smoke, elemental dangers, air quality, threats to life

June 6, 2023

The tomatoes have blossoms

A few short days ago I was in my little garden patch talking to my tomato plants. I wanted to give them some encouragement so their buds would turn into flowers on the journey to become fruit. It has happened! 

All eighteen plants now have blossoms. I have two varieties planted, Beefsteak and Giant Pink Belgium, and I think this is the last year I'll plant two. If I stick to one heirloom variety, I can save the seeds, and in time, have a strong tomato well acclimated to my microclimate. I'd like to try it, anyway. 

Unless I get an incredibly huge amount of tomatoes, I'll have to supplement my harvest with half a bushel or so from the local fruit stand and/or farmer's markets. I processed a good number of jars in 2022 and I think it will see us through. And if it doesn't, I'm not going to get hung up about buying commercially canned tomatoes. I think we do what we can when we can.  

One thing I would like to home process is ketchup, so we'll have to wait and see how that works out. But for now, the tomatoes are blooming and I'll be happy with that. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, tomatoes, home canning, gardening, rural living, country lifestyle, growing in containers 

June 5, 2023

An update on the 2023 Greenstalk

Earlier this year I purchased a Greenstalk. The Greenstalk has been hyped on a lot of gardening and homesteading YouTube channels, and I thought it did look kinda cool.  I have three acres of ground, but not much of it is actually arable. I'm averse to cutting down trees on a whim when I can work out options. My option for having a garden is to grow in containers. 

Back to the Greenstalk. I had to set it in the old washtub so I could level it. Level ground is also at a premium here. I live on the side of a mountain. We make do. 

I planted seeds in about half the pockets, added a few begonia cuttings for color, and transplanted a few herbs. It's finally looking like I did not waste my money. 

The Greenstalk will be in another location next year. I need to get a large concrete paver and the special base before next season. As with all things, we tend to take cautious steps. This year we observe how things grow in it. Next year we take it as far as we choose.

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Greenstalk, gardening, rural living, country lifestyle, level ground, using caution, seeds, wax plants, begonias, container gardening

June 3, 2023

How old is that log splitter?

We have an old, and I do mean old, MTD log splitter. It's been a workhorse. I think we got it around 1995 and it hasn't missed a beat - except for one thing. We got to the point in life where neither of us can give the pull starter rope a good rip to get it started. We're lucky we can call next door and my cousin will come and give it a yank, but we like to be more self-sufficient. To that end, Himself has swapped out the motor with the pull starter to one with a battery and a key. 

This should have been done years ago!  

It wasn't an easy job for him to do. He worked on it a little bit at a time over the course of many days. He had to purchase a few new tools to remove the old motor. He had to purchase new tools to mount the new one. We ordered new hydraulic hoses, too. You might wonder why we didn't simply go buy a whole new splitter with the electric start, but damn. Prices are astronomical! The old auto mechanic put his rusty skills to good use and at a fraction of the cost. 

Living among the trees as we do, the log splitter is a necessity. Keeping the trees trimmed so that they stay healthy, plus what Mother Nature drops to the ground, keeps us in firewood. Last year was an anomaly in that we deliberately cut down three trees, but those threatened the house. I can't let that wood go to waste. That wood will warm three houses in cold weather. 

I'm happy to have saved the old MTD splitter. Just like a lot of people in this world, it may be old, but it's completely functional. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, MTD log splitter, rural living, country lifestyle, firewood, equipment, electric starter, function

May 31, 2023

Almost time! Flowers forming on toms!

One of the most pleasurable things about gardening is walking through to check the plants and discovering the changes. Seeds sprout, plants grow, they start to vine, new leaves pop out, and flower buds form. Yea!

Several of the tomato plants, both the Beefsteak and the Giant Pink Belgium, have flower buds ready to open. I'm not at all sure where this fits in the 2022 schedule. I know that by mid-June last year there were green Roma tomatoes on the vines. This year the weather seems cooler, so it may take longer. 

But no matter. All happens in a garden in its own time. You can only hurry the season so much without a heated greenhouse. Oh, yes, I'd love to have one but as with all expenses, we'll have to wait and see.

It's enough for now to see the buds in the tomatoes. One lesson that is quickly taught to novice gardeners is that you must be patient. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, tomatoes, gardening, flower buds, rural living, country lifestyle, container gardening, greenhouse, Beefsteak, Roma, Giant Pink Belgium

May 30, 2023

The wildflower garden is getting there

For many years, I wanted a knee wall built at our parking area. My first husband refused, my one serious "boyfriend" refused, and the Lord of the Manor refused. I didn't ask because I wanted to see them work hard. I asked because they were physically stronger than me. Even Himself could have done it the first time I asked him almost thirty years ago.  

Back in 2020, I did it myself. It was very difficult to do. Rocks are heavy. I'm still angry that none of them cared enough to do it for me. 

Fast forward three years and the wildflower garden behind the knee wall is showing promise. I can visualize what it will be in a few years. I have an old-fashioned iris from my great-grandmother's garden, a row of Stella d-Oro daylilies, Siberian iris, a red peony, and two seed packs of wildflowers that the seeds have sprouted and are growing. The row of blue wildflowers along the back are lovely. I just wish I knew what they were!

I'm hopeful that next year even more seeds will sprout on their own. I want it to be wild and free to grow in whatever direction it takes. This will certainly annoy the Lord of the Manor, but he had his chance to issue input and now he doesn't get a say. 

Is that petty of me? I don't care. Building that wall myself was an attitude adjustment I'm sure he's sorry he forced upon me. I have my wall. I have a jumble of wildflowers. 

Empowerment comes when we least expect it, and in ways we can't foresee. Be open to it.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, wildflowers, knee wall, empowerment, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, gardening, stacked stone wall, 

May 29, 2023

Remembering on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who entered military service on our behalf. Military service is a big deal in my family. My five-times great-grandfather whose last name I was born with took the Oath to the new United States back in 1781. My father served in Germany during the Korean Conflict. 

Dad never saw any "action." He was tasked with driving some General around. He made it sound like he and the General got along rather well during their time together. 

Some people may snicker that this was the task assigned to him, that he didn't do much. Driving a General around - how hard can it be? 

So driving around one of the command staff and protecting him, having to make the decision to step in front of a bullet if necessary isn't really serving your country? It is. 

I thank all our veterans for performing the tasks put to them and the families of those who never made it home for such a sacrifice. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Memorial Day, veterans, Korean Conflict, Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, a writer's life, rural living, family

May 27, 2023

A very busy month, lots to do

I can't believe it's been weeks since I blogged here at The Hideaway. To say we've been busy would be a bit of an understatement. Spring is a time of preparation in the country.

My little garden is planted and thriving. The tomatoes are ready to bloom! The inner leaves of the cabbages are starting to curl. The sugar snap peas are vining and climbing their guide ropes. After a tentative start, the cucumbers are gaining traction. The butternut squash seeds have sprouted as have the cantaloupe and watermelon. The Contender green beans are looking good and I wish I'd planted more of them. Five of the six green pepper plants are thriving. 

If there is anything I can call a disappointment, it's the Greenstalk. Hopefully, it will improve as the summer progresses.  

Other activities include mowing, weeding, mulching, some tractor work, helping a neighbor with the removal of a downed tree, and the usual household chores. I even uploaded a short video. I wanted to have the pool set up by now, but that hasn't happened. 

It feels good to have the work done. For the next little stretch of time, I'll need to water the garden (possibly daily) and mow once a week or so. During this "break in the action," my one cousin and I may drop a large cherry tree that is leaning out over the yard. Cherry makes great firewood and we'll each take half the wood for the winter of 2024-25. 

One thing is for sure - there is never a day with nothing to do.

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country lifestyle, rural living, gardening, Greenstalk, cutting wood, mowing grass, John Deere 1023, helping neighbors, hard work, loving life

May 11, 2023

Lopsided roses

The roses began to bloom a couple of days ago. It's May, so it's time, so that's really not news. The news is they are only blooming on one side. 

What's up with that, you ask. Answer: the deer nibbled off the front side of all three rose bushes. 

The roses are planted along the front porch so the deer can only reach one side. You would think they wouldn't bother roses because of the thorns, but they do. 

Nurturing roses and then having the deer destroy half the bushes is frustrating. We're about to take drastic measures. 

We don't hunt. We have no intention of shooting a deer. We will, however, put a slug in the ground near their feet to scare them away. We hope that if we do that often enough, they'll get the message and stay in the woods. 

Will it work? We'll see. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, roses, whitetail deer, country lifestyle, rural living, a writer's life, deer damage, deer control, gardening, simple country pleasures

May 1, 2023

Press the pause button, albeit unwillingly

Happy May Day! The Celts called this day Beltane and it was, I believe, their most important day of the year. It might be a pagan holiday, but these days, we need to remember that regardless of the different places we come from and the different things we believe that we're on the journey together. 

So. That wasn't on topic for today. Today I'm commiserating about the weather. It's the first of May and it's cold and damp outside. I had to press the pause button on all my outside activities, which didn't please me or Deuce. He's one bored pup at the moment. No long walks or car rides. No playing in the cold creeks. No squirrels running about the backyard. No work in the garden beyond a visual check which resulted in dispatching one green worm today. eewwww.  

Is our rainy, cloudy weather the result of the eruption of Shiveluch, a Russian volcano, on April 11? I haven't heard The Weather Channel mention it. Is it just our normal May weather? May and June are my area's historically wettest months with rainfall. It may be wet, but the temperatures are holding up, staying in the fifty+ Fahrenheit range, so my tomatoes and begonias are fine. 

Around three o'clock this afternoon, a bit of sunshine broke through, and Deuce and I went out for a brief stroll around the yard. It's a mixed bag out there. The daffodils are over, the one really early daylily is trying to bloom, the purple lilac has a couple of blooms, and the old-fashioned brown/yellow iris from my great-grandmother's garden has popped up a few buds. Along the front deck runway, the peonies are showing some promise, too. 

This brief pause won't last long. The clouds, be they regular or volcanic, will soon blow away. The sunshine will return in full force and the outside work will resume. Whether we like it or not, that's the way of weather. We simply need to be patient. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, peonies, gardening, weather, rural living, country lifestyle, Labrador Retrievers, a writer's life, iris, daffodils