October 19, 2021

Lemon Balm salve


Lemon balm is a member of the mint plant family. It was one of the first things I planted back in 1981 when I first moved onto this piece of property. It takes a lot to kill it off once it's established but continually mowing it off will do it. My first husband didn't like where I planted it so he mowed over it every week. "Ex" is for many reasons. But I digress... I have a nice new patch planted this year. It will eventually be the centerpiece of an herb garden.

Lemon balm is also a medicinal herb. For my purposes, I steeped leaves in avocado oil to make a skin ointment for this winter. Basically, I made my own knock-off of Burt's Bees cuticle conditioner.  

To do this I dried lemon balm leaves and stuffed as many as possible into a four-ounce Ball jar and covered them with oil. I let it steep for four weeks. Then I strained the oil and discarded the leaves, getting about half a cup of essential oil. Because this is a topical product, I added a bit of purchased lemon oil until I had the fragrance I wanted, and then added one-eighth cup of pure beeswax. Then I set a bowl inside a bowl using hot water to passively melt the beeswax. While this was working, I cleaned out the little mason jar.

When the wax was completely melted, I used a coffee stir stick to stir the mix and carefully poured it back into the jar, sealed it, and let it cool. The result is something that immediately made the dry skin on my hands feel softer. I think the oil is absorbed and the beeswax stays on top to seal it in. It puts a little bit of gloss on natural nails, too. It smells both lemony and "green." I can't wait to use it on my elbows and heels. 

A darker, amber jar might be a better choice to store the product in, but I didn't have any. Nor did I have a tin available. But since I'll store this in a drawer, away from sunlight, my light blue Ball jar should be fine. 

Most recipes for an herbal ointment like this call for olive oil, but I didn't want that scent alongside the lemon. I don't know why grape seed oil won't work with this, either. Any mild oil without much of a scent should work, but you should test it out to make sure you don't have a reaction to it. Same for any herb leaves you use - test them first. The less beeswax you add, the softer the end product, but I wanted a firmer end product, similar to the cuticle conditioner I've used for many years. 

So that's my latest experiment here at the manor. Next up, I'm doing a similar project with calendula. Stay tuned. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)



October 17, 2021

Cheesecake and meatballs!


 Yesterday, I fed my addiction: I canned meatballs! And not only did I put seven dinners worth of meatballs into jars, but I also made a cheesecake in the Instant Pot while the pressure canner was busy cch-cch-cching away. And then there are the four meals worth of diced potatoes blanched, bagged, and into the freezer. 

It was a busy morning! 

At first, I thought I'd can the potatoes but after a brief discussion with the man of the manor, I decided to go the diced route. The potatoes were just on the cusp of beginning to go soft so this was a good way to save them. They will make great home fries or even potatoes and eggs. 

The cheesecake was done on a whim and is the dessert for Sunday dinner, which will be something with meatballs. I had one jar that didn't seal because I think I tightened the ring down too far. I could freeze that batch, but meh. Let's eat them! As for the jarred meatballs going into the pantry, as the price of ground beef rises, I'll have six dinners at yesterday's beef prices. I have another five-pound pack of ground beef (88/12) to brown off and then decide if I want to freeze it or can it in pints. 

It was a labor-intensive morning, but it was for a good cause - my pantry. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)



October 16, 2021

It's not on my sleeve, but in my heart


With full retirement imminent, I've been pondering the nature of the friendships I've made at my place of employment. It's a fact that people come into and float out of your life. Sometimes that's okay, but other times it's a sad happening. Sometimes we understand the loss, as when a friend or family member dies. It's those times when they drift away for no apparent reason that weighs on the heart.  

I'm no more or less spiritual than anyone else, and I don't wear my beliefs on my sleeve (or t-shirt). The main reason for that is I refuse to be sucked into a debate by individuals who want to "explain" to me how wrong I am. 

I don't debate. I know what I know from experience and critical thinking. I may not know everything but I do know that nowhere in the religious texts I've read does it say, "Thou shalt be and act stupid." 

There is another thing I do know: God removes people from your life for a reason and he only removes people who are holding you back, not people you need. 

Knowing this doesn't mean I don't have questions. My best friend for many, many years moved five states away. Was it me who no longer needed her, or she who no longer needed me? The last time I had any contact with her was in May of this year. The last words out of her mouth were, "I'll call you." I'm still waiting on that call. 

Yes, I could call her but there seems to be a perverse streak in my nature that wants to see if this time, she'll follow through on her words. It's not the first time she told me she'd call me and didn't. I'm hurt enough by it I worry I'll unleash bitter words on her if I call her. 

As for my on-the-job friends, it's my decision to retire fully so I guess I'm walking away from them. It's up to me to develop ways to stay in touch with them and for them to accept the changes and reciprocate. If they don't, I need to let go. 

What I fear - well, fear isn't the exact word. What would sadden me is to reach out to someone I've known for years and get only a cursory response instead of the lively conversation of years past. That's probably inevitable when the glue that held the friendships together is dissolved. 

Retirement is my choice so I guess I'm being removed from their lives, at least on a daily basis. Perhaps it is my time to step aside. 

I'm impatient to have retirement happen. I feel poised on the edge of new adventures in my writing, life at Holly Tree Manor, and in friendships. My writing has been frozen since my writing partner died. I've tried to remain friends with a group of writers but it's not the same as that one friend who wrote so similarly to me it's difficult to tell who wrote what in those books we co-wrote. We truly clicked and I doubt I'll ever have that again. I'm eager to get to where I have the time to write without having to check my work email every twenty minutes, lose focus, and not be able to pick up the story again. 

Sage words we've all heard are, "when one door closes, another opens." It's hard to hold internal panic at bay when you see the door closing but you can't see the opening on the other side. You know where you want the door to lead, but what if it doesn't? 

And I suppose if God tells me stepping into my future means removing people from my life, I'll have to go with it and not run after them. It's not my master plan, after all. 

The Lady at The Hideaway



October 8, 2021

I think I'm having withdrawal


It's been an interesting summer. I had a bountiful garden for what select veggies I planted, and I took up home canning again at what must be the worst time in history to do so. I enjoyed all of it! And now I'm having withdrawal...I think. 

I want to preserve something and for the life of me I don't know what. I have fall carrots, beets, and radishes still growing but not ready to harvest. Most fruits are over for the year. 

But I have jars left to fill! 

Trust me, those jars were hard-won. I had to hit the stores, namely Walmart, when the doors opened in the morning to get quart jars. And lids? If you live around here, you're fucked. I ordered several batches of Tattler lids, so screw you Newell Brands. Today and in the future. Tattlers work great and they're reusable and most importantly AVAILABLE. 

I've been researching soups. I've already processed chili, vegetable, and chicken corn soups. We just popped the seal on the second to last jar of chili a few evenings ago. It's really nice to pour a jar into the saucepan and heat it up - no waiting for it to thaw. I'll definitely make a larger batch next time. 

So what can I preserve this weekend? Surely there is something I can work on.  I'm infusing avocado oil with lemon balm to make a balm or salve, but it's not steeped long enough. I have some calendula blossoms drying but they're not ready to do anything with. Of course! Banana bread! I do have a couple of really ripe bananas, enough for two loaves, and one and a half loaves can go in the freezer. That might get me over the hump for this weekend. I'll get it figured out and add something to the pantry. 

And speaking of the pantry, the prevailing wisdom is not to let people see what's in your pantry. There's concern that when times get really hard, people will try to steal from you. I see the validity to that fear, but please remember this if nothing else. 

We also spent the summer upping our level of security.  

The Lady of The Hideaway

October 3, 2021

Hosting a Cousin's Lunch


This past Saturday, we hosted a Cousin's Lunch. It's not as grand as it may (or may not) sound, but these small get-togethers are a high point for me. Several years ago, pre-pandemic, me and my two surviving first cousins decided we didn't sit down at the table together enough, the way we did when we were younger, and we wanted to remedy that. We decided to meet for lunch every quarter. The Covid-19 pandemic derailed us, but we hope that's a thing of the past. 

I decided to invite them to an afternoon on our patio so we could enjoy each other's company and the glorious autumn weather. The patio is screened so insects are not a problem. Our new countertop provided the perfect staging area for the food and left us plenty of room at the table. The lunch fare was pure picnic with hamburgers, potato and macaroni salads, Cole slaw, baked beans, apple cider, apple cake, and some chips and dips. We are blessed with abundance and we all ate too much. 


Maybe it's a sign of being older, but I didn't stress about hosting my cousins. We did a cursory "house cleaning" and let it go at that. The house is always clean enough to be safe and dirty enough to keep our immune systems paying attention. Deuce was a perfect gentleman pup, and I do mean PERFECT.  The one cousin-in-law has been less than enthusiastic about dogs (I think she's a bit afraid of them) and even she had not one snark over his presence. Lunch lasted late into the afternoon as we were all reluctant to part company again.  Next fall, I hope we can do it again. 

And maybe next fall, if we're able to gather, I'll reach out to a girl who is a second cousin to me and D, but not R. They know each other, that's not the 'issue.' We started the cousin's lunch for the first cousins, but now that we're getting older, maybe it's time to include L. I'd certainly like that. She and I were very close growing up. 

It's bittersweet to reflect back with memories of our youth. We've all lost parents, and R has lost his brother, too. My mother has Alzheimer's Disease and is lost to me and the world. Time was our Christmas happened on Christmas Eve at D's house when his mother hosted all of us for dinner and gift exchange. We became teenagers in the 1970's and we hung out together. Life got busy for us but now I'm the last one still working, something that I'm trying to remedy. 

Our memories are a big part of who we are, and I'm so grateful to be making new ones with my cousins. Time has become precious, and spending more time with the people who have been most important to me for all of my life is a high priority. 

I'm reminded of some very special words from artist Neil Young: 
We've been through some things together
With trunks of memories still to come
We found things to do in stormy weather

Long may you run, long may you run
Although these changes have come
With your chrome heart shining
In the sun long may you run.
Long may you run. 

Long may we run. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

September 30, 2021

Another September passed


This September has been a busy month for me. I'm technically still employed although I work from home quite a bit. But September is budget-setting time so I've been in my town office more than I like these past few weeks. It didn't make me jump for joy but it was necessary. My employer has bent over backward for me so I can bend a bit, too. 

There are still good places to work out there. My best advice to you is to find one and prove yourself worthy of loyalty. Anyway...

September. I cleaned up my garden corral and planted another packet of radishes, which are doing quite well. The strawberries finally look good. Apple canning went splendidly. I said to hell with worrying about the pandemic and went back to the bowling league. I pondered my place in the universe far too many evenings, I read a lot of smutty books, and I didn't write or blog nearly enough. And come Saturday, I'm hosting a Cousin's Lunch. 

I'm suddenly the "middle child" between my two surviving first cousins, both guys. The older one called me a bit ago to tell me his wife was bringing an apple cake. I'd planned to make an apple cobbler or crisp, and I still may. He's also bringing his baked beans made with apples and root beer. Oh, yeah...

I'd report in on the younger cousin but they went RVing so who knows what mischief they got into, right? 

We also spent some time at our little shooting range this month. It's fun as long as we stop after a few magazines and/or cylinders. Too much is just too much and ammo isn't cheap these days. Deuce doesn't like being left inside when we're outside, either. He howls. 

It feels like the month sped past me with barely a break. I hope October will have a slower pace as the leaves begin to turn in earnest. Our showiest maple already has a few bright orange leaves and I hope it puts on a show this year. There's always the chance I won't live to see it show its colors another season, so I want to savor it, and October, the best month of the year. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

September 27, 2021

Dehydrating frozen strawberries

Cheesecake! Yum! Yum! 

We're hosting the Cousin's Lunch this coming Saturday, and I thought I might make a cheesecake. It's that or an apple crisp. Maybe both. The future is unwritten and who knows where the spirit may lead?  Or maybe dessert will be a good, old-fashioned apple cobbler and I'll keep the cheesecake for us. 

Last winter we ordered two dozen strawberry plants from Burpees, a very well-known company. The plants arrived a little late for planting in my area (strike one), and because of that, only nine of the plants lived. That's not a good margin of success. I doubt I'll order roots from Burpees again. A local nursery seems a much better option if I go for blackberries. 

Several of the stronger plants did produce a berry or two which was enough to pick and eat on the spot but nothing more. Those stronger plants have also sent out runners and the sets seem to be taking hold. The plan is to move them into the greenhouse this winter since they are in containers and not yet the ground. I hope to get a harvest in 2022. 

With cheesecake on my mind, I pulled a bag of sliced strawberries out of the freezer and spread them out on the dehydrator trays. Once they've dried to a light crisp, I'll put them in the coffee grinder and turn them into a powder to add to the cheesecake batter. It will only take a tablespoon or three of powder to intensify the strawberry flavor. Powders are a great way to take the flavor to the next level. Beyond that, green powders can add nutrition to soups and other dishes. Himself hates spinach but doesn't balk at a tablespoon of spinach powder added to some dishes. The trick is to only add to the point where it may become detectable and stop. 

Another perk of dehydrating strawberries is that the house will smell of delicious strawberries for several days. The man of the manor is correct in one thing. Spinach doesn't add a thing to the air. 

The Lady of The Hideaway



September 14, 2021

Did you grow?


Being introspective by nature, every so often I become aware I'm in a period of self-examination. I question why I'm doing what I'm doing and what I hope to gain or achieve with it. For example, I've been doing a lot of food preservation this summer. Why? Do I really think it's going to be a difficult winter or is it just a fad to fill the hours emptied of people by the Covid-19 pandemic? Am I doing the work because I want to or because someone influenced me to do it?  Or is it a bit of both with a dash of "I enjoy it" tossed into the mix? 

Lately, my thoughts have also been dwelling on the nature of friendship. I know a lot of people. Social media has extended everyone's circle but those closest to me are still those I've had a flesh, blood, and bone relationship with since my youth. There is time and distance between some of us now, but we can pick up the conversation like that space never exists. My writer friend in Alabama is a prime example of that. Just thinking about her makes me want to charge up the phone and call her. We haven't chatted for far too long, and sometimes an email isn't enough. I want to hear her laughter. 

What troubles me these days is the nature of the social media relationship with mental health and the effect it has on friendships. I see social media in its many forms as a valuable tool. As a writer, it helps me promote my books and gives me insight into what people with vastly different perspectives think. (Yes, that gets scary.) The Internet has brought a group of friends to me, people I never would have gotten to know otherwise. I value my modern-day pen pals. 

But being in a time of introspection, I wonder if a few of them have become toxic. My life seems to have diverged from theirs. I like to think of myself as mature, but sometimes those ill-advised jabs tossed at me hurt and the sting doesn't lessen. I'm suddenly callused about what I now view as their insignificant concerns. To be truthful, I'm not one to forget a slur even after being tendered an apology. I can forgive because I understand the imperfections of human nature, jealousy being a prime candidate to toss nasty barbs at someone you call "friend."

Have I grown through having these Internet friendships? Perhaps. Would I have grown in the same manner without them? Perhaps. I still mourn the loss of my friend author Chris Grover, with whom I had daily email conversations. Would I have made different decisions and followed different paths without my Internet friends? I think that's unlikely. My feet are firmly planted on a path I laid out for myself decades ago and one I've never wavered from wanting. 

So why am I frequently troubled by the nature of some of these long-standing "friendships?" Perhaps it's because some of those barbs show a surprising lack of tolerance with my choice to delve deeper into the heritage of my country lifestyle. 

And perhaps it's all me. Maybe I have grown and they feel left behind, outstripped. That, too, is simply life. There is no going back, at least not for me.  

The Lady of The Hideaway

September 11, 2021

Famous #men words


How many times have I heard these words: "Yeah, set it there and I'll fix it." ????

It's almost a joke here on the manor. Yes, Himself is very handy to have around because there is very little he can't repair once he puts his mind to it. I like that in a man, I really do. But sometimes the time, and the inclination, get away from him and those "promised" repairs do not happen nor will they ever happen. 

After almost thirty years, I'm well aware of what will and what won't get fixed. 

Today we were in the shed preparing some spray to *murder death kill* any bug living near the patio, and we were discussing the need to tidy-up the implements hanging on the pegboard. The next thing I knew, I had a truckload of junk to take to the dumpster. 

I'm not sure how it happened, who said what or what started the de-cluttering, but I'm really glad it happened. 

Maybe next weekend it will happen again. #hopeful

The Lady of The Hideaway 

_*_*_*_

I could have blogged about the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States of America, but I truly have little to add that has not already been said. If you can't see that tragedy has been compounded by more tragedy, you don't want to know my opinion. If you do see the tragedy of the last eighteen months, then you know and I don't need to tell you what you already know. 



September 10, 2021

Back to living


I'm getting back to living. Tonight is bowling night and I will be there. 

I sat out the 2020 season because of the Covid=19 pandemic. Since then, lies have compounded lies and I'm tired of listening to them. I'm tired of being a cow in the herd. I have more reasons than ever to mistrust the government. 

I'm a lifelong bowler. I enjoy the sport and the camaraderie of my local bowling alley, my "house." I've known many of my fellow bowlers for decades. Those of us who have bowled together for so long have become akin to family. 

Yes, this is my first step back to the land of the living. 

I'm going to shake off being afraid and I'm going to do something that I enjoy - bowling.

I'm not utterly stupid, though. I'm not about to hug people or even give a "high five" for a strike. I won't be alone in that. We bowlers are a bit smarter than that. 

Some people will wear masks and I may be among them. If a member of the league tests positive for Covid-19, it would be prudent. 

That's my statement for today. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

September 9, 2021

Conform or be cast out

I've pretty much had it. I'm sick of theories with no grain of truth.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit and people died by the thousands. Why?

We're told the virus has mutated and is stronger, and yet fewer people die. We're told it's because of the vaccine. 

I wonder how many of those early deaths were caused by medical malpractice. 

We were told the vaccine would save us. We have breakthrough cases. 

I'd imagine by now almost everyone who has not contracted the virus knows someone who has. We know several dozen people who have/had Covid-19, and yet we remain without affliction. 

We're both vaccinated. It wasn't our first choice but we saw the writing on the wall. CONFORM OR BE CAST OUT. 

Cases are rising again. Government school systems are holding parent's emotions hostage. The government is mandating that people who work those posh government jobs are to get vaccinated or risk losing those jobs and benefits. Awww. 

Conform or be cast out. That's it in a nutshell, and I have a frightening theory as to why. 

Once "we" have all have several doses of the vaccine, what will be unleashed upon us? What if this vaccine is preparing us to be vulnerable to the next pathogen? 

We ARE being controlled but to what end?

These questions keep me awake at night. 

The Lady of The Hideaway


August 31, 2021

History repeats? The "I" storms

August 30, 2021
In 1751, my five times great-grandfather landed in Philadelphia and made his way to Maryland's Cumberland Valley. The valley has South Mountain along the east side and Fairview Mountain along the west. A good portion of his descendants remain. It's a nice place to live. Although we experience all four seasons, the highs and lows of each are generally bearable, and the mountains provide beautiful vistas and a small measure of protection from severe weather events. 

As I write this blog entry and add updates, the country's attention is focused on Hurricane Ida which is currently hammering New Orleans. Ida made landfall on August 29th, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall at virtually the same spot. It is to me another example of our cyclic weather patterns. By the time the remnants of Katrina reached western Maryland, it was light rain. The mountains broke the storm apart. I hope if Ida comes this way, the mountains will protect us once again. What worries me is the Ida is an "I" storm. 

More retired Atlantic hurricane names start with "I" than any other letter, and nine of the names have been retired since 2001. 

August 31, 2021 8:30 PM
Iris (2001), Isidore (2002), Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Ike (2008), Igor (2010), Irene (2011), Ingrid (2013), and Irma (2017). 

Isabel, September 17, 2003, hit us hard, downing massive trees and slicing off the power for 55 hours. In 2004, Ivan caused flooding. Ike came along in 2008 and the outer bands drifted over and brought wind and rain. Ike made it to Canada. In November 2009, a different Ida hit us and became known as a Mid-Atlantic "nor'easter."  Irene in 2011 did not make direct landfall, but it was a huge storm and we had winds and rain and the subsequent power loss. It was different on the other side of South Mountain. In 2011, Isaac brought a good bit of rain. 

I doubt I'll forget Isabel. She brought down an 80-foot tall oak that landed mere feet from the house. It's a fact of life that mature trees die and fall, but this one had the help of a micro-burst. 

While what we experience here in western Maryland is nothing - NOTHING - compared to the heartache people along the Gulf of Mexico suffer, we are concerned. We worry about loved ones. We worry about property damage. We worry about power outages. The "I" storms are nothing to ignore. 

There's little we can do to prepare even if we were certain Hurricane Ida will reach us, which when I began this entry seemed unlikely. As we've followed along, the storm has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm and is moving slowly. It's Tropical Storm (or depression) Ida that will impact us. It's going to rain - a lot. 

I've filled the gasoline cans to make sure we can run the generator and that's about it. We wait and watch the radar, and know that one hundred years ago, our great-grandparents had no such early warning system in place. They never knew how bad a storm was until it passed over them. 

And yet such knowledge encourages us to worry, to fear, and we have been instructed to "fear not." That's difficult to do when media images of destruction, and our own memories, remind us we do have things to fear. 

Perhaps I should let greater minds ponder these things. Perhaps it's enough that I know the "I" storms brim with the potential to cause major damage. And perhaps I must bow to powers greater than my own. It will be as it will be, and none of us can change it. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

August 30, 2021

Preserving peaches

I heard the peach harvest this year was exceptional, and from what I saw at the orchards it was not a lie or a marketing ploy. I made the drive to a local orchard my grandmother favored for peaches and brought home a half-bushel of Bounty. They were huge! 

This local orchard has been family-owned and operated for a few generations. I like to see that sort of stability. Anyway, I went and bought peaches. 

These peaches were, no lie, bigger than my fist. I'd never heard of Bounty peaches, but they looked and smelled wonderful, plus they're a freestone variety. I've since learned they were developed at the USDA peach breeding program at Kearneysville, West Virginia, which is just a tad more than half an hour from the manor. 

Once I had the peaches home, I immediately began to process them, canning them in pint jars. I got twenty-four pints of canned peaches and one batch of peach jelly. It was an intense two days but very much worth it.

With so many pints on the shelf, I won't need to can peaches again next year. I suspect it will take two pints to make a pie, but that's okay. I didn't want to process them in quarts and risk opening a jar to have peaches for dessert and not using the entire contents over the course of a few days. 

Home-canned fruit is good in the sealed jar on the shelf for at least eighteen months. I personally am not worried about fruit that is jarred longer so long as the seal is intact. 

And that's the key to safe consumption. The seal must remain intact. If you take a jar off the shelf and the lid falls or lifts off in your hand, throw the food out and sterilize the jar. Don't risk eating it. It rarely happens, but a seal can fail so be mindful of it. 

I'm looking forward to canning apples, but that won't be such as intense process. Apples keep longer than peaches so I won't need to do them all at once. I'll also be putting apples in quart jars. Some of the newer varieties such as Gala are available now, but I want Stayman or Winesap which are older varieties and will, I hope, capture the flavor of my grandmother's pies. 

Summer fruit and winter pies and cobblers. It's worth the work. 

If you want to learn more about canning, please visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at https://nchfp.uga.edu/. This is your preserving bible. 

The Lady of The Hideaway


August 29, 2021

Black-eyed Susan


Trivia fact - the Black-eyed Susan has been Maryland's state flower since 1918. 

My foremothers always had abundant patches of Black-eyed Susan. It's a hardy, free-seeding plant and gives a lovely pop of bright yellow to the August flower garden. Back in the day, I was given a baggie full of seeds and told to simply scatter them on the ground. I did and the next year I had lovely flowers. 

These days, I'm down to one plant but now I have hope! For the first time in years, the deer have not come in close enough to eat the buds before they flowered. I have hope of harvesting a crop of seeds to scatter over the manor. 

Black-eyed Susan may be an old-fashioned flower, but I like it. It comes back every year and spreads on its own (usually). Maybe I'll get lucky and end up with a patch to rival that of my grandmother. 

Old-fashioned? No. Black-eyed Susan is the stuff of memories living and blooming today.

The Lady of The Hideaway


August 28, 2021

Morning mist


I've been remiss in my blogging these past days. There's been a lot going on and the days flew by. People often say, "the time got away from me" when this happens. I think we understand the full statement is that we lacked sufficient time in our schedule to do some things not necessary for survival, such as blogging. One of my goals for this weekend is to catch up on my writing, both with the current manuscript and the blogs. 

But I'm easily distracted these days. I landed at the computer with a cup of coffee and did the normal things. Checked my email, checked Twitter, checked sales reports, watched the mist settle in over the manor. Yeah, that was the one that got me.

Once the lovely, soft mist came down, Deuce and I headed out. I have all sorts of things to do, but a walk through the misty woods with the dog trumped them all. We made the first mile and detoured to one of the streams so he could get his paws wet. On our way back to the trail, we met up with my cousins and their dog, Sadie. Deuce isn't too fond of Sadie yet. She's a bit energetic and he's a bit stoic, but they managed to walk together just fine, basically because Deuce took his normal point position and ignored her. It was still a lovely walk. 

By the time we got back, about ninety minutes later, the sun had burned off the mist and the temps were climbing. The next order of business was for Deuce to cool down and for me to get a shower. 

I still have the same to-do list as before our walk and now there is less time to do it. And you know what? I don't care. I may or may not get all the items checked off my list. There's still time to do a lot of it whereas there was a small window of time to walk in the misty woods. 

I think I chose wisely. 

The Lady of the Hideaway




August 16, 2021

How apropos

Just a few days ago I expressed my annoyance with media darlings who preach rhetoric. We're all quite capable of forming our own opinions when given true facts, and therein lies the rub. We need The Truth. 

Lack of rain can be a serious problem. So can flooding. We all get it. The earth is doing something it's done many times already and we're all to blame for it. I get it. My fault. 

As a young girl, the week of The Great H--n Fair was something the entire family looked forward to with great anticipation. My grandparents moseyed around the fairgrounds, chatted with their contemporaries, and went to the tractor show. My mother haunted the ag show, notepad and pen at the ready to jot down ideas. My father met his cronies, found a shady spot, and talked about work - or he shadowed me in case my friends weren't there. I was cut loose to meet girlfriends and hop on every ride again, again, and again until we were all dizzy. And we did this every day for a week because it took a week to see and do it all! 

Why did it take a week? Because it rained every damn day. When was the Fair? It overlapped the second week of August, sometimes beginning around the 10th, and sometimes ending around the 10th. 

When I saw the 10-day forecast this morning, my thoughts instantly went to Fair week. Rain with the threat of thunderstorms is absolutely normal for my area as we enter into mid-August. 

I suppose this is one of the reasons why I don't trust what I'm being force-fed about the weather. Our earth heats and cools. Ice ages? Had 'em. Tropical forests around the globe? Had 'em. Mass extinctions? Had 'em. It's pure hubris to believe we paltry humans have much say in any of this. 

The Lady at The Hideaway

August 14, 2021

How does water escape the earth?


Water does not escape the earth. While H2O can break down when "attacked" by UV radiation, it's the diatomic hydrogen that can achieve escape velocity. When the breakdown happens, oxygen becomes ozone which is bound by gravity to the earth. So scientifically speaking, water does not leave the planet. 

And this matters....why?

The Lord of the Manor was watching a broadcast this morning that was supposedly about the weather. Instead of getting the weather, we got a pack of political activists. Their latest schtick is about conserving water. That's a great idea for people who live in California! I sure don't want them coming east to try and get mine. 

Mine is several hundred feet underground and naturally filtered. It is returned to the ground and once again naturally filtered as it continues onward. 

Out here in the country, I don't know of any entity other than the local State Park that wastes or pollutes water. I'm serious. Country folk - old-time country-raised folk - don't waste much of anything. Yes, we tend to bathe every day, but we work and we need to get clean. We're not Hollywood. We don't like to brag about three-day-old body odor. We like soap. Hell, we can make our own! 

I'm not sure why the total idiocy I heard this morning annoyed me so badly. The condescending attitudes? The blatant inference that they are so much better than their country living viewers? The conviction that the way they live is the best way to live? The obvious belief that the common folk are too stupid to figure out ways to conserve on their own? 

And what about these rising sea levels? We know how to desalinate seawater. Why aren't western states investing in this as a way to provide more water to the people who live in the west? That would help solve two problems at once, wouldn't it? And sea salt as a by-product? Lots of people prefer sea salt. 

There was just something about the broadcast that set my teeth on edge. It did not ring true, and by that I mean I thought it lacked sincerity. It sounded like party-line propaganda. 

We are under attack. While conservation is necessary, it's now being used as a way to control the populace.

Awareness of a problem leads people to take steps in their own lives. We begin to take action, moving toward a goal knowing that even small changes make big impacts. Why is this not enough? It's about control and sometimes, like what I heard this morning, it's control by trying to cast blame and shame on others. And if we don't fall into step, they'll amp up their game. It's what liberals do - anything to win. 

LOOK at who is feeding you the weather and news reports. LISTEN to their message and ask why it's their message, who supports their message, and most importantly who BENEFITS from their message. 

Who benefits? Do you? It's something to consider. 

The Lady of The Hideaway





 

August 13, 2021

Peaches anyone?


It's decision time. Do I get a bushel of peaches, or do I pass on them until next year? I'm definitely on the fence about peaches. 

My grandmother always canned peaches. It didn't matter if she still had a few jars left over from the previous year, when the peach harvest was happening, peaches were processed. My grandfather had a couple of dwarf peach trees, but there were problems when he'd only bring in a few peaches at a time. Processing just two or three quarts of anything at a time is labor and time-intensive. I don't like to preserve anything if I can't fill the canner. 

That's a problem I won't have. Having been an eyewitness to what the deer can do to fruit trees, I never planted any. Nor will I. If you'd like to read The Apple Tree Story, it's over at Between the Keys. True story, too, and it explains why I won't bother with fruit trees. 

But back to the question of the day. Do I go to the orchard and get a bushel of peaches? I can make a batch of peach jam, peach pepper jam, maybe a peach chutney, peach pie filling, and plain peaches. If I do it this year, I'm likely set for peaches for the next two, possibly three years. We're told that home-canned foods are good for eighteen months, but the truth is it lasts longer if the seal is intact. Would I stretch it past three years? Probably not, but two years isn't a problem for me. 

I'm leaning towards doing peaches. It'll add variety to our winter menu, something we desperately need. We're like most people in that we gravitate toward the "easiest to cook" menu. I want to do better and better needs to include peaches. 

The good news is I won't need to try to do everything today. There's time to join Himself for a cup of coffee before I head out to the orchard. I want to make a few phone calls to see which storefront has what variety and for how much. I know I want a freestone variety and not a cling. I think my grandmother preferred Red Haven, but there are newer varieties out there. 

Home food preservation is a brave new world to me. My grandmother would be amazed at the changes in our foods and the shortcuts we now have to "putting up" canned goods. 

For better or worse, peaches, here we come!

The Lady of The Hideaway



August 8, 2021

Family reunion 2021

The Lord of the Manor is the oldest of five siblings. His mother was the oldest girl in a family of eleven. Suffice it to say, his family reunion has occasionally gotten lively. But not so much this year. This year, attendance was sparse with quite a few people opting out. We've both taken the Covid-19 vaccine and so we decided to go but keep our distance as much as possible. 

Keep our distance. Right. Some family members are idiots. 

The reunion was held at a local park that has a nice pavilion. It's covered but not enclosed. A light, persistent breeze kept us cool and I wondered did it blow the germs away from us or did it bring the germs to us? Such a wonderful musing to have on a Saturday afternoon. 

With my husband's limited mobility, if I'd declared I wasn't going, he could not have gone as he would not be able to get there on his own. His youngest brother would probably have seen his power chair loaded and unloaded, but I'm not sure Himself would have asked. The man does exhibit stubborn pride at the wrong times. 

In these uncertain times, having the reunion could be considered an acceptable risk. We need family. We don't need family who are careless about respecting individual space and I did observe some of that. One of my sister-in-laws is the driving force behind maintaining the reunion even as participation waned in the pre-Covid days. Insisting everyone form a circle and hold hands for prayer, something responsible church leaders avoid these days, was foolish of her. (We did not join in this.) 

The fact that Himself declined to be part of the prerequisite poker game told me how uncomfortable he actually was. Dealing with my own ambivalence about going probably kept me from seeing his. As he has become the family Patriarch, he felt pressured to go. Once there, he refused to be cajoled into staying too long even though he may not be able to attend many more reunions as his health continues to slowly decline. I get it. He needed to see his family and that made a short stay an acceptable risk. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has everyone thinking differently about family, about personal safety, about personal rights. The government is likely to soon require us to show our papers - proof of vaccination. And now we are learning that even being vaccinated isn't always enough as reports of "breakthrough" cases are increasing daily. We have perhaps accepted a poison into our bodies that will prove to have little protection as this virus continues to mutate on its programmed path. 

Do any of us approve of the way the world is turning? I fear some holding positions of power do. If I'm lucky, I have another twenty years in this world. I pray we can keep anarchy at bay that long. To do that, families need to stick together even to the point of risking serious illness. 

Yesterday really brought it home to me just how scary the time we're living in is. 

The Lady of The Hideaway



August 6, 2021

An unexpected and appropriate change

 

Yesterday afternoon, a visitor braved the drive into the woods to visit us. When he arrived, I smiled and said, "Welcome to my hideaway!" And that's when it hit me. I knew right then and there I needed to update the title of the blog. In the beginning, it seemed like Holly Tree Manor, because of all the holly trees, was a good name, I've not warmed to it the way I'd hoped. Those words, so easily spoken, resonated deeply. And so we make changes. 

The Holly Tree Manor blog has officially been renamed The Hideaway. 

Google Earth provided a good overhead photo of the manor and house. It clearly explains why the name change is so appropriate. I'm invisible on the ground level, but not from the air. 

Whenever I look at my woods, I'm reminded of the words of my favorite poet, Robert Frost: 
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, 
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

He's not alone. We all have miles to go.

The Lady of The Hideaway




July 30, 2021

Drop back two and punt?


Life at the manor has taken a few twists and turns over the years. Sometimes we've been reacting more than proacting. When a loved one has health issues, you're often at the mercy of disease progression or disease treatment and that's simply the way it is. Other times, you can lay out a good plan and see it through to fruition. Sometimes your plans are thwarted by forces beyond your control. 

And sometimes, and this is the hard one, you come to realize that what you planned, what was your dream, is no longer feasible. You realize there isn't time to invest into working the plan or you come to the crossroads of where you've been versus the fact you've gone as far as you think you can with it. So it is with me and my writing career. 

Becoming a writer was a fluke. I was bored one day and I sat down in front of an old HP desktop that had a whopping big 256MB hard drive and a One Note program, and I started to tell a story. The damn thing snowballed on me and here I am, decades later, with a publishing history, blogs, social media, and book sales. Unreal. 

It became my plan to retire so I could write full-time. I lived for the moment! Now that I'm in the transition into total retirement, I'm wondering if that's what I really want to do. With so much that I love to do - walking, gardening, canning, quilting - do I want to sit at the computer for several hours a day? 

The publishing industry is one of constant change. Established writers get pushed back by new voices fueling different markets. Amazon only rewards megastars. Many, many, many good, solid writers get lost in the algorithms because that's the way Amazon makes more money. My own work is buried by the algorithms at Amazon. My sales are predominately at iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and a few other subscription services overseas.  

Even Facebook has begun to punish promotion. I belong to a lot of Facebook groups, and as I started to promo the release of July Heat, my posts went "into review" because I included buy links. 

Should I spend the time, months in fact, creating a good story only to have nothing become of it? Or should I spend my time, daily, enjoying Holly Tree Manor? As I transition into retirement, would my time be better spent rebuilding old friendships now that we all have more time to spend together without the constraints of jobs? 

I can't see my way to striking a workable balance. Maybe it will be clearer when I'm not "employed" even on a part-time, work-from-home basis. And maybe I'll have to drop back two and punt my way into something I've yet to imagine. 

Some days I'm just along for the ride, not steering the boat. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


July 28, 2021

That went surprisingly well


Himself wanted to create a dedicated shooting range. We're working on it but in typical male fashion, he needed (yes NEEDED) to test out his target backboard. To that end, we went to plink a few rounds.

Guess who "won?" 

Seriously, I whipped his ass. I suppose now he'll stop nattering at me to go plink with him. 

#men


The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

 

PS. Note to any copperhead living nearby - I will find you. There is nowhere you can slither to escape me and Walther. 





July 26, 2021

Tractor work at the shooting range


We decided to create a designated shooting range. We've been killing bales of straw for a while now and making sure the occasional dead tree was really dead, but we felt it was time for something in a more protected location. The "west forty" has the perfect hillside for safety. 

We went back and forth a bit but eventually concluded that a stack of dead tree trunks strategically placed at the base of the hill would stop any bullet that went wide of the target. So will the hillside but we had the option of stacking the deadwood or burning it, and we chose to stack the solid lengths. Some were too far gone and those went to the burn pile. And some of those dead tree trunks are there temporarily and will end up as firewood in the stove some cold winter day. 

It may seem strange to some that we want a designated place to practice, but practice makes sure you can hit what you're aiming at - like the friendly raccoons and the not-so-friendly copperheads. Believe me when I say I'm more of a threat to society when I get behind the wheel of my car than when I'm target shooting. 

Putting in a range is a lot of hard, physical work. There's no way we could do it without having the John Deere 1023 with a Brush Crusher grapple. While Himself was running the tractor, I was lounging on the John Deere x370 shooting a few videos. I managed to piece them together and get them up on the YouTube channel. 

One thing I'm rather sure of is that I'll never make a good videographer.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor






July 25, 2021

The deer munched the raspberries!

 

We have a small red raspberry patch growing behind our shed. I think it's remnants of my grandfather's berry patch that have gone wild. Last year I picked enough to make some lovely raspberry crepes one Sunday morning, and I planned to do the same this year. 

I checked on the berries every few days, delighted to discover there would be enough for the crepes and to put in the freezer for crepes in about six months. 

It was not to be. 

I checked them on a Saturday morning and told the Lord of the Manor that tomorrow was the day. I got up on Sunday and took a bowl to the patch and.....no berries. None. But there were fresh deer droppings everywhere. 

This fall I'm taking preventative measures. Those sneaky ladies will not rob me of one of my summertime treats again, no sir-ree. Not only will I fence the bushes, but I'm also going to start a few sets from the runners and fence those as well. There are only six bushes, but that's all I need. 

All you deer go find someone else's berries. These are mine!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

July 24, 2021

Pantry prepping - canning ground beef

Yesterday, a trip to Walmart gave me a sticker shock. I was going to purchase a pack of 85/15 ground beef. I did not. Instead, I stopped at our local grocery and got it two dollars cheaper per pound. When a local store can undercut Walmart, I begin to think we may be in trouble. 

I bought thirteen pounds of 85/15 for $56.00. The same amount at Walmart would cost $71.00. 

What did I do with all that ground chuck? I pressure canned it. My Presto canner will hold sixteen wide-mouth pint jars. That's almost a pound a jar of shelf-stable meat in my pantry. I probably could have forced more into fewer jars, but I stuck to the amount of beef we typically use for spaghetti sauce. That's a good measure for us. Yours may be different. 

The National Center for Home Food Preservation gives instructions on how to safely can meats. If you want to can ANYTHING, that should be one of your "go-to" resources, along with the Ball book I've mentioned several times. Read and learn about the process so you do it correctly.

I even broke out the Ball lids for this project. I like the Tattler lids, but this was meat and I didn't want to risk operator error. 

I must confess I never thought I'd can any sort of meat, but times have changed. Inflation is running wild and all any of us can do is purchase wisely and practice whatever measures we feel necessary to save what we can. 

Will I go get more ground beef to can another batch? Not this weekend. Now I'll be on the watch for sales and then can another batch. 

Eat tomorrow at today's prices. Yep. That sounds like a good plan.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor





July 23, 2021

Sunflowers - bright and sunny spot

 Thank you to whomever it is who plants the small plot of sunflowers along the highway. It's a lovely, cheery spot in an otherwise gray drive. 

This is the third or fourth year this patch has been planted but it's the first year I stopped to get a picture. And I no sooner got the picture than the plot was harvested. 

It makes me wish for a summer row of sunflowers but I know it's pointless to plant them. There are too many squirrels and birds around to even hope for any sort of harvest. 

I'll just have to settle for enjoying this patch for a few weeks as I whiz by on my way to some busy-ness. They do make me smile!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

July 21, 2021

First time preserving blueberry pie filling

One of the local groceries had pints of blueberries, 4/$5.00. In our area, that's a really, really, really good deal. So I jumped on it. I like blueberries although Himself doesn't care much for them unless it's blueberry pie or cobbler. Not a problem. I got enough to make pie filling and to bag up in small portions for me. It's a win/win. 

It would have been a bigger win if the blueberries would have been locally grown, but it is what it is. I went for the deal.

Blueberry pie filling is a lot easier than I thought it would be. I used the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for my first attempt at this. Maybe next time I'll try a different recipe, depending on what I may find in the other canning books I have.

One thing I've noticed about the Ball book is that even if you measure exactly, you might not get the yield they say. Always have an extra jar ready. 

I have about half a jar of the pie filling left over. That's not enough to put in a jar and can, but it is enough to put over vanilla ice cream. Yep. This home canning has a lot of benefits. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



July 20, 2021

The high cost of love

My mother has Alzheimer's Disease. I have issues with God over it, being that my mother was a faithful prayer warrior. 

When you hear the talk about the high cost of nursing home care, don't shrug it off. It's not a lie. My mother's care is just under $12,000.00 a month. Believe me when I tell you she doesn't receive $12,000.00 worth of care a month. She may not even receive $12,000.00 worth of care in the entire year. 

I had a choice. I could care for my mother or care for my husband. Some days I think I made the wrong choice, but the reality is my mother needs specialized care I'm not equipped to give her. 

My mother refuses to walk. There's no physical reason for this, she just won't do it. She won't get out of bed on her own. They use a lift to put her in a wheelchair. Consequently, she spends a lot of time lying in bed. 

She's in a facility that, thankfully, won't discharge her when her money runs out, which won't be much longer. Once her money is gone, the taxpayers will foot the bill. 

Alzheimer's Disease is a horrible malady. 


July 17, 2021

It gets green in the woods

Brush piles happen. 

We are never without dead brush that needs to be burned. Air pollution, you cry! So are airplanes, I say! If you can pollute on your way to exotic vacations, I can burn brush. Didn't think of that, did you? 

My house and yard are an oasis surrounded by woods, which are part of my property. For many years the southwestern corner was designated as our "wilderness" area or sort of a bird sanctuary. Unfortunately, the local critters have become too comfortable being too close to the house. We've been waging a war with the local raccoon and we decided his cover has to go. We are cleaning up the wilderness area. 

This job wouldn't be possible if we hadn't gotten the Brush Crusher. The grapple is able to lift and carry large pieces of downed trees and drop them directly on the burn pile. It's amazing.  How different the manor would look if we'd had the tractor and grapple twenty-five years ago before cancer first entered our lives and his health began to decline. 

Google Earth view
But there is little to be gained wishing the past to be different. We are here today and we do what we can today. I look out the windows of my sunroom office and am amazed at the transformation taking shape after only two days. I'm very happy with it. We still need to do a little weed-whacking and move some large rocks to the stone fence, but it will get done. One of us will take the old Husquvarna mower in for a finer chopping of small sticks. This fall, I'll sow a lot of deep shade variety grass seed and see what we get in the spring. We'll finish our shooting range, but that's for another blog entry. 

The manor has long had a park-like feel to it, and this will add to our enjoyment of the property. Well, it won't make Rocket the Raccoon very happy to get the eviction notice, but I don't care. 

Take that! you little varmint!  

Or should we thank him for giving us the motivation to clear that section of the manor so WE can enjoy it? 

Nope. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

July 14, 2021

Cowboy Candy - I've waited a year to make this!

I can put the blame on YouTube for my addiction to Cowboy Candy. It wasn't until I watched an episode of Living Traditions Homestead that I even heard about Cowboy Candy. I made a batch and it was down the rabbit hole from there. I processed several batches and enjoyed it over the long, cold winter. 

Cowboy Candy is great when mixed with cream cheese. I drain off the syrup, chop up the peppers, and mix. Crackers or raw veggies, the resulting spread packs just the right amount of punch to satisfy a snack craving. 

Earlier this year I started jalapeno peppers from seed and the result is that I have thirty-three plants all producing peppers. I anticipate being able to process multiple batches from my own garden. I'd like to make salsa, but we'll have to see how that goes. 

If you'd like to know a little more about Cowboy Candy and how I do it, check out my page here.  I do it about ninety percent by the Ball book, and about ten percent "rebel." 

Here's where I tell you to never go "rebel." The instructions to process food are in place for a reason, like so you don't die of botulism. My "rebel" is simply cooking the peppers a tad longer than required. 

Having home-canned food in the pantry is about more than just being prepared. It's about making some really tasty foods to enjoy. It's about preservative-free food and opening a jar of soup and having dinner ready in five minutes. It's worth a little bit of planning and a couple of hours here and there for a more varied menu. 

It definitely works for us. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor
 

July 11, 2021

Wildflowers

 Last summer, I built a wall

The small knee wall was something I always envisioned for a problematic area between the house and shed. It happens to be where I park the car and for decades it was an eyesore and a sore subject with me. I asked several men (ex-husband, a live-in boyfriend, the current spousal unit) and none of them was willing to do that much hard work. Ultimately, I did it myself.

Ultimately, the Lord of the Manor will never, I repeat NEVER, be absolved for not doing it. I ask for little, being quite self-sufficient, but I did ask for that. And he refused. It'll bite him in the ass one day, I assure you.

Last year I sprinkled the contents of a few cheap seed packets and got a bit of late summer bloom. This year, I bought a good quality pack of wildflower seeds and the wall is now exactly what I envisioned for so long. It's in full bloom and is gorgeous! I think next year I'll add a few herbs to the mix and see what happens. And next year I'll keep the seed envelope so I know what all the little flowers are because there are quite a few I don't recognize. 

It was worth an afternoon of very hard work and a lot of sweat to dry stack the rocks. Really, it was. I'm very pleased with the end result. But I can't help but think how much more it would mean if just one of those men had been willing to give me the gift of their time and strength. 

Apparently, not all of us are worth an afternoon.

No matter how pleased I am with the wall, it will always be tainted with my disappointment. It has made me examine other projects and figure in a factor for the same disappointment. I plan on doing things myself. 

So at what point does the man become nothing more than a millstone around the woman's neck? 

We are sometimes who we are forced to become, not the person we hoped to be. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



July 8, 2021

Kohler's Pig by Michael Sowa

 
Have you ever had an image reach into your being and tell you secrets about yourself?

Many years ago - many, many, many years ago - my best friend and I were doing a bit of "shopping" to while away the hours of a Friday night. Being the frugal sort, I rarely bought anything I didn't truly need, but those evenings were about spending time together more than our purchasing power. One night we walked into a home decorating outlet and saw Kohler's Pig by Michael Sowa. We were both immediately drawn to it. She purchased the print right away. I needed to think about it before I parted with that much cash. Ultimately, I went back the next morning and got a copy. 

I have no idea why it's entitled, "Kohler's Pig." It's never mattered to me. What mattered is the little pig. 

Quite a few of us have heard the expression, “when pigs fly!” (Well, if you live below the Mason-Dixon Line you know it.) This familiar southern expression is the essence of impossibilities. "When pigs fly" is the no way, no how, no when, ain't ever gonna come to pass and why would you think otherwise of a mundane life. 

My parents didn't use the expression, not in so many words, but I grew up believing they expected little of me. Consequently, I expected little of myself until I turned thirty and had the first of many epiphanies. 

Thank God for my grandparents, and for this anonymous little pig. 

So think about the pig leaping off that peer. 

After being told all her life she can’t fly, she proves them wrong. Let the naysayers keep telling her it’s not possible. She knows. 

It doesn’t matter she’s alone and no one sees her do it. She knows in her heart she can fly because for a few glorious moments, she did it. If even for a singular glorious moment, she did it! 

So many of my victories are like the little pig flying. They've happened in quiet secret moments experienced alone. Does that make them less valid? I think it makes them more so. 

I don't need false accolades and praise any more than I need to prove myself to others. Neither does the little pig. 

She hangs in front of me as I sit at my desk, a constant reminder that I know how to soar. No romantic spirit animal for me. No wolf, no bear, no bison, no fox, no coyote. Mine is the little pig who still speaks to me even after thirty years, reminding me we fly together. 

She knows. Fly on! 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor



July 7, 2021

That did not go well, not at all


And so it came to pass that on June 26, 2021, after twenty-one years, I tindered my letter of resignation.

It did not go well. 

If you ever have the feeling that people do not listen to you, that they do not take your words seriously, let me tell you to not doubt that feeling. I've been talking about retiring since June of 2017. I must have been spitting in the wind. 

The upper echelons were, in a word, gobsmacked. They came as a group to see me so we could "talk it over." And so we did. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed our world. The change is maybe not what the creators of the virus hoped, at least not yet, but what they released on the people will have long-reaching effects. 

I, for one, will no longer be tied to working in a dingy little office in a downtown area that is rife with undesirables and crime. 

My employer counter-offered, and I agreed. 

During the 2020 lockdown, I proved I can do my job my way. Most of my job is now information gathering, disseminating, and sharing which can be done via email, and we all do email from wherever we are. 

Between now and May 31, 2022, I will be working mostly from home. I will be able to come and go at the in-town office as I choose. I know when I have to be there and when I don't, and they have acknowledged I know. 

I did not see this coming at me. I never imagined they would hand me continued employment on a silver platter, but they did. I will continue to work with full pay and benefits. They will search for my "replacement." I will stay on long enough to get her (or him) settled. 

I was willing to pay the ungodly cost of health insurance out of pocket to retire now, so whenever they find someone new will be fine. I'll have a bit of a reprieve from paying over a thousand dollars a month to continue my current health insurance. What a lie we were fed with the Affordable Care Act. 

It's been a lot to process. On the surface, it seems like an agreeable option but I confess to being disappointed in myself. This is not what I truly wanted. I'm acquiescing to the needs of others and not my own. It doesn't truly do me any harm to continue this way for a few months but I wish I would have "stuck to my guns."

No longer will I be forced to sit in the office with nothing to do, waiting on someone else to do their job so I can do mine. I can simply pack it up for the day and come home. If I have something going on at home, as I did today, I can either stay home all day or work a couple of hours in town. My choice. 

Maybe what bugs me is that during the lockdown of the pandemic, they didn't know if I was working from home or in town. I felt free of being under their thumb. Now I do not and therein lies the rub. 

We shall see how this new arrangement unfolds. 

No, it did not go as planned. Not. At. All.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

June 30, 2021

So how did the potatoes in the grow bags work out?


Last fall I conducted a little experiment on growing potatoes in fifteen-gallon grow bags. It was enough of a success for us to give it a try this past spring. I got a couple of Kenebeck seed potatoes and planted them in a big green bag - and they grew! 

Unfortunately, be it due to the weather or my inexperience with grow bags, the tops of the potato plants browned over the past two weeks. That meant the growing spuds were probably done growing because their source of nutrients had died. I wasn't quite ready to call it quits, but logic and common sense do sometimes prevail here on the manor. I emptied the bags to harvest the potatoes - and there were potatoes.

It wasn't the harvest I hoped for, but it's got potential. These can be used as seed potatoes now. There is no reason at all I can't allow a few of them to sprout and replant the bags for this fall. I even wonder if the plants will survive in the greenhouse over the winter. 

Half the fun of gardening is just planting and standing back to see what Mother Nature will do, and what she can do. 

We'll keep you posted.

Oh, and those really small potatoes? We'll boil them, butter 'em up, and enjoy!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor