May 31, 2022

Wildflowers and Iris

Two years ago I built a dry-stack knee wall. I had a little help from the John Deere 1023, but I lifted and stacked the stones. That little wall was something I wanted for a very long time, and I'm just pleased as punch with it! There's a backstory to the building of this tiny wall in that it took decades to be accomplished, and it turned out to be quite the life lesson. 

My original plan, way back in the 1980s, was for that to be a spot where a pickup could be backed up and the tailgate lowered to drive a mower into the bed. Time marched on without the wall and priorities changed. Instead of being a handy built-in ramp, it is a spot for a wildflower garden.

Isn't it strange how things turn out? 

Last spring, I scattered a pack of wildflower seeds and by the end of the summer, there was a pretty little garden blooming. I like the look of cottage gardens but have always found them difficult to maintain. The knee wall garden is small enough to easily pull weeds, although at this point in the season I don't yet know what are weeds and what are young wildflowers. It's a dilemma. 

The spousal unit, who could not be bothered in twenty-six years to build the wall for me, requested I plant a clump of Siberian iris for him. I should not have honored his request, all things considered, but I did. I also added a start of a very old-fashioned yellow/brown iris the start of which came from my great-grandmother's garden. 

Sometimes in life, original plans don't work out but what we end up with is ten times better. So it is with my little wildflower garden. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, cottage gardens, knee wall, John Deere 1023, doing it yourself, simple country pleasures, a writer's life, rural living, wildflowers, disappointments, original plans, life lessons

May 25, 2022

81.4 Million

This has been a horrific week. There have been three "mass" shootings this past week. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. They were going about their lives and a single person acting alone choose to dictate their futures. 




March 4, 1975, I was a seventeen-year-old girl going about my business. I was a senior in high school, I had a part-time job, and was paying for my first car, a 1969 Camaro, myself. I was eagerly awaiting the release of Elton John's album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. I left school that afternoon to go to a local department store to see if the album was out by some stroke of luck. 

As I pulled into a parking space, a man yanked open my car door and put a revolver to my head. He jumped into my car and drove out to a deserted road where he dumped me out and took off in my Camaro. He was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. 

Now you'd think I would hate guns. No. I do not. I have a great deal of animosity toward that man, however. 

The gun did not create the situation. The gun did not throw me out of my car on a deserted road. The gun did not steal my car and use it in the commission of several robberies. It was done by a person. 

If you think I was not traumatized by that event, think again. I live with it every time I park my car in a public parking lot.  

I am a legal gun owner. 

There are, according to a 2021 report, 84.1 million Americans who own firearms. As one of them, I am executing my Second Amendment right, which shall not be infringed, to keep and bear arms. 

84.1 million gun owners and only a few decide to -what? Make a political statement? We'd better dial back the emotions displayed on the television and on social media. We've upset some folks and driven them over the edge. Mental health is the real issue here. Normal, law-abiding and life and liberty respecting people do not aim their weapons at another person or themselves for any reason. 

84.1 million gun owners and only a few decide to - what? Grab their fifteen minutes of fame? Well, the rest of us have certainly given them that and encouraged the next deranged person to follow suit. Just go to YouTube and see how many clicks they've gotten. 

84.1 million gun owners and only a few decide to - what? Use the death of innocents to deny me and 84.1 million people their right to keep and bear arms because THEY don't like guns? 

Why would you or anyone else want to deny ME my second amendment rights? Who the hell are you to attempt to govern MY life? 

You are just like the man that put the gun to my head. You want to control me and take from me and you have no right to do so. 

And there are 84.1 million other people just like me. Why is it important to control ME? Why is it important to strip ME of MY rights? 

The gun does not pull its own trigger. 

The gun does not pull its own trigger. You do understand that, don't you? 

No, I don't think you do. As a victim of a violent crime involving a handgun, I certainly do. It was a person who kidnapped me and left me to die along the road. The gun had nothing to do with it. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

May 24, 2022

Beans in molasses sauce


A recipe for navy beans in a molasses sauce was recently brought to my attention. It's from the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website. They also include a recipe for the beans in a tomato sauce.

I watched a YouTube video of them being canned and thought it would make a good switch-off for always having baked beans when we put burgers on the Blackstone and eat on the patio. I downloaded the simple recipe and yesterday, I got to work. 

I followed the recipe, which should have netted me nine pints. I ended up with fourteen pints. Yeah. That's a lot. The recipe for the molasses sauce is written in a way that you'd believe the recipe would fill nine pints. I found this to not be the case. I had to make three batches of the sauce and was very glad I'd reserved all the liquid from cooking the beans. 

The canning process itself was standard. Fill clean jars with prepared beans, add the liquid sauce to the proper headspace, wipe the jar rims, put on the lids, and then process in a pressure canner. Thirteen of the jars sealed, and one with a Golden Harvest lid did not. It's in the fridge for consumption sometime this coming week. My assumption on that jar is I may not have had exactly the proper headspace and it siphoned. It does happen, even to those canning gurus on YouTube. 

The contents of properly sealed jars, according to Ball, should be good for at least eighteen months. It may take us that long to eat all the beans. That's okay with me. Having side dishes prepared is always a good thing. 

The recipe is at . The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a good resource to bookmark if you like to have additive-free home-preserved food. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

**Update: The spousal unit says the recipe needs a bit of brown sugar. He may be right. I'll add a quarter cup to the sauce recipe if I make them again.**

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, National Center for Home Food Preservation, country living, simple country pleasures, home canning, a writer's life, additive-free foods, molasses, beans, gardening

May 22, 2022

When the clock ran out

Do you know what is meant by the expression, "the clock ran out"? It's an old expression that predates football. Letting the clock run out means something is effectively over. 

I've been watching the countdown clock on my phone for many years, and today, the numbers went to zero. Time has run out on my working days. The reception for my retirement was earlier today and it was quite the sendoff. I was deeply touched by the end of it. 

Perhaps it was the generous parting gift that will be attached to my last paycheck, but I think I was equally touched by all the kind words. We often don't know our own worth or how much others value us. It would have been nice to hear some of the words earlier, before leaving. 

It is of no matter. The clock ran out, and a new day has dawned. I'm ready to embrace it. 

The Lady of the Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, retirement, time, parting gifts, a writer's life, new day dawned, a writer's life, sendoffs, countdown clock, 

May 20, 2022

The Dawn of New Days

My permanent office complete
with "staff" members

Today was to be my last day in the office at the day job. It turns out that yesterday was the day. I managed to walk out with no fanfare at all, which is what I wanted. A big scene would not have pleased me. That's not who I am. 

I'm finally retired. It seems like this has been a long time coming. Yesterday, I wrote a bit about this over at my writer's blog, Between the Keys.  This morning, it seems rather anti-climatic. Go figure that one out because I don't think I can. 

Home has always been where I'm happiest. I enjoy my country manor, all tucked away from the eyes of passerbys. Of course, Google Earth knows where I am, but it doesn't often take my picture. We're very private except to the eyes of the next-door neighbors who are all family.

I thought I'd have a sense of elation this morning, but that's not the case. It's Friday, and it's a day like any other day. It's rainy, so Deuce and I didn't go far. He doesn't like rain. He'll roll in the creek but if it's raining? He turns into a couch puppy. 

What to do on this first day? Items on my spreadsheet await, but I think that today I'll be better served with reflective pursuits, like this blog and planning the June menu. I still have a "reception" to get through so maybe being retired will feel differently after that. Maybe it will feel more final. 

And maybe it doesn't feel final because my employer offered me a consultant deal for the next year. I have a contract to be a resource for my protégé until she's completed the yearly cycle. I don't expect to hear from her very often. She's a smart cookie and will figure things out by looking at what I've done in past years. 

Yes, this new dawn definitely calls for reflection - of where I've been, where I'm at, and where I want to go. The first two are easy, but the last calls for thought. Do I today want to go to the same places I imagined I did a year ago? Do some things no longer matter? Are there new ideas to examine? Yes, there are. 

I'll take the time today, because when tomorrow comes, I want to begin my new era with an open heart. The past, the present, and the future deserve no less.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

The Hideaway, simple country pleasures, seasons, country living, Holly Tree Manor, Between the Keys, retirement, KC Kendricks, a writer's life,

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)