June 29, 2022

We have an interloper and it's bad news for him

In the old days, I could call what was happening in the picture a Mexican stand-off. I imagine that's politically incorrect these days. Whatever you want to call this, it is not good news for the pigeon.

And what the hell is a pigeon doing way out here on the mountain? And why is he on MY roof? 

Yesterday, the spousal unit was outside puttering around and he started yelling for me. I went outside and there was the pigeon on the roof. We were surprised but we figured he'd fly on his merry way soon enough. Today we realized his wings have been clipped and he's not flying anywhere too fast. So how did he get here?

This is not a safe place for Mr./Ms. Pigeon. If Loki doesn't have fresh squab for dinner, the fox or the Red-tailed hawk will. It's even possible Deuce could inadvertently kill him thinking he had to retrieve the bird. 

Our community has a private Facebook page and I did post the bird was here. I do hope the owner contacts me to help facilitate a rescue before the inevitable happens.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, pigeons, country living, lost birds, rural lifestyle, Loki, Deuce, a writer's life, interlopers, Red-tail hawk, bad luck, simple country pleasures, lost pets

June 25, 2022

I heard a noise...

This past Wednesday our area experienced thunderstorms and heavy rain. I'm not complaining. It's summer and if you live in western Maryland, it's thunderstorm season. So, yeah. It arrived right on time. But thunderstorms also mean tree damage. 

We were watching it rain sideways when there was a flash, a pop, and a snap! The lights flickered but the power stayed on. The television didn't come back on, which was worrisome, so I investigated the situation and discovered one breaker had tripped. I reset it and all was well again, at least until we went outside to see if there was any damage. 

One of the maple trees between us and our younger cousin snapped about ten to twelve feet up the trunk and, unfortunately, the top fell in the direction of our shed. Deuce told a little story of how one of the branches landed on the John Deere's bucket, but Deuce didn't know to look up. Dogs are like that. They don't always look at what's over their heads. Anyway... getting this tree the rest of the way to the ground looked to be very problematic. 

I called my cousin to let him know we'd be cutting a tree on his property before it could land on our shed. He immediately came up for a look-see, and to see if we wanted the wood. It's his tree so no, we told him to take the wood. We settled on this morning to work together and bring it the rest of the way down safely. 

We got lucky. Last evening, I heard a tree fall, a sound I know well having lived in the woods for over forty years. Deuce started barking at the window so I knew which direction to look. The tree had snapped off completely and come down, landing just short of the shed and the John Deere 1023. I texted my cousin and he walked up again (we're curious that way). We all agreed it was a good thing because of our safety concerns. 

Today looks to be a hot one with the mercury rising into the nineties. The spousal unit will probably go out and cut the top out of the tree and use the Brush Crusher to haul the pieces to the burn pile. This will clear our "alley" behind the shed. I doubt we do any additional clearing until Monday is supposed to bring cooler temps. 

My cousin will come to cut the wood and we'll give him whatever help he needs. The "damage" will be cleared and the wood harvested instead of wasted. It's just the way things work here at the manor. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, fallen trees, country living, rural lifestyle, thunderstorms, cutting wood, storm damage, a writer's life, simple country pleasures, summer heat

June 22, 2022

The State of Retirement: One month in

Today marks my being retired for one month. How's it going? Holy crap...

If I'd had any inkling I'd be on the go from six in the morning until past dark, I may not have retired. I'm working waaaaaay too hard! Falling in the creek didn't help much either. 

Having a sore hip hasn't stopped me. The roses and peonies needed tending and the garden needs to be watered daily. June started out with a completely blank menu, the planning of which involved the spousal unit (not conducive to the speedy completion of any project). 

We sold our beloved 2011 Chevy Silverado and began in earnest our search for a van. That was not a good experience until we stopped by Stakes in Fayetteville. It's amazing what sort of junk the dealerships in Frederick and Sykesville are attempting to sell for top dollar. But at this little place on Route 30 just outside of Chambersburg, we got red carpet treatment - and a van. 

We've mowed and mulched, burned the brush pile, and installed three small raised garden beds with an eye to the future. I've canned butter beans and plan to can baked beans next. I had a little royalty windfall and did a major shopping trip to bolster the pantry. 

It's been a very busy start to retirement. I'm truly not complaining. The last thing I want to get is bored, and that has not been, nor does it look to be, an issue. The old adage that busy hands are happy hands is proving true. The only complaint I have is that I've not had enough time to write on a regular basis, but now that we're not running all over four states car shopping, that situation should improve. What I'm missing is rest. 

I thought I'd have time to laze on the patio in the afternoons, but no. It hasn't happened. I think that to have a true day of rest, I'll have to stay in bed! With a book! 

That would not be a bad thing.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, retirement, simple country pleasures, Chrysler Town & Country, brush, patio, gardening, home food preservation, Silverado, yard work, roses, peonies, raised garden beds

June 20, 2022

Green tomatoes - winning so far!

Earlier this spring, I started a passel of tomato seeds. "Passel," in country-speak, is a lot. The word is in the dictionary, but it's not a word you'll hear city-dwellers using too often. Anyway, I planted a BUNCH of tomato seeds. I did not expect to have one hundred percent germination so I gave some of the young plants to friends. 

Originally, I planted Roma, Veranda (cherry), and Bodacious (slicing). The Bodacious had excellent germination and the seedlings looked good, then all but two of twenty-four seedlings died. The tray they were in sat side-by-side with the Roma and Veranda seedlings, and they're fine as the pictures show. Not to be deterred, I grabbed a pack of Rutger seeds off the rack at Walmart and started them. They are doing very well, flowering right now, but still behind the other two. 

I'm still calling it a win. I learned not to purchase Bodacious seeds. Learning is good! I learned I may not want to plant an entire pack of 25 or 50 seeds. I might want to scale back to twelve and see what grows because I can always plant more seeds. In fact, having staggered planting might be an advantage when harvest time rolls around. 

What am I going to do with all those Roma tomatoes? The plan is to home-can diced tomatoes in pints to use in chili, soups, and hopefully new recipes we'll find and want to try. I also want to make ketchup and I think for that I can add the cherry and slicing tomatoes to the Romas for a richer flavor. I also want to freeze-dry some of the cherry tomatoes for in green salads over the winter. We'll see how that works out in due course. 

I have a few ideas on how to improve my little garden next year. With a recession starting, I hope I'll be able to carry through on them. Stay tuned.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, country living, tomatoes, planting seeds, harvesting, a writer's life, simple country pleasures, Roma tomatoes, cherry, staggered planting, home canning, home food preservation

June 18, 2022

Changing directions on strawberries

Last year, or maybe the year before since one does lose track of time, I bought a five-tier planter that was marketed for strawberries. Nope. Strawberries wouldn't successfully grow in it. The soil is too shallow and it dried out too fast. And I did worry that the planter may not be BPA-free and the strawberries *could* absorb bad chemicals. When in doubt, change direction. This year, I decided that the planter could be better used for begonias. 

My maternal grandmother loved red begonias (wax plants to some). Where I live, they are treated as annual bedding plants or as houseplants. I'm so pleased with this planting that this fall I'll bring in one red and one white plant to winter over. Next spring I'll start cuttings and plant them again.

A love of wax plants is just one thing my grandmother passed on to me. I think of her when I look at my little planter and that's important. When we remember our loved ones, they're still with us, and she is still with me.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, annual plantings, begonias, wax plants, gardening, rural lifestyle, houseplants, a writer's life, memories, simple country pleasures

June 17, 2022

Butter beans 2022

When all else fails, do it yourself. 

The spousal unit and I enjoy old-fashioned ham potpie. It's a great way for our household of two to use up the Christmas and Easter hams. We have ham a few times, then I freeze what remains for potpie. 

To make the potpie, I first simmer the ham bone to get good broth and freeze it. Then freeze the ham. When the time comes to actually cook, the broth, ham, two potatoes, maybe a quarter cup of diced onions, parsley, seasonings, potpie bows or sometimes bot boi noodles, and butter beans go into a big pot and come out as potpie.

Ah, butter beans. Around here, one can no longer purchase butter beans. 

But one can certainly get dried large lima beans and home-process butter beans, and that's what I did this morning. I now have fifteen pints of butter beans cooling on the island. That's a lot of butter beans!

I didn't plan on ending up with fifteen pints. I aimed for nine, which is how many pints my Presto 23-quart canner holds on the bottom layer, but it is what it is. They won't go to waste. There are any number of soups I can add them to, plus any number of casseroles. It'll be fun finding new-to-us recipes and changing up dinnertime. And, of course, I can double the next batch of ham pot pie and freeze-dry a few meals. 

Canning butter beans is just one example of how a lot of people are working around how limited some items we used to consider staples have become. Not to mention how much money I saved.

At my local Walmart, today, if you could actually purchase a can of butter beans, the Hanover beans would cost you $1.38 a can, and the Goya would cost $1.74 a can.  I canned them for 31cents a jar. You can argue I had to buy the jars - totally endless reusable jars - and lids, but for jars I've had and used for years, it won't add much. Metal lids cost about 25cents a lid if they're purchased at the correct price point. So you can argue the added cost but it won't add up to $1.38 a jar. 

May I also point out I KNOW there is nothing added to my jars that I don't know about except beans? It is important to know what is in the products you consume. 

I'm not sure what the next canning project will be, but I'm actively looking. Canning is fun!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, home canning, butter beans, simple country pleasures, rural lifestyle, pantry prepping, a writer's life, ham pot pie, do it yourself, canning jars, canning lids

June 13, 2022

Keeping a diary

Several years ago I set up a Google calendar to record what I'd accomplished during the day. It was a private calendar, just for me. I didn't share it with anyone. It worked well for many years, but last fall, when I knew for certain 2022 would be the year I finally retired, I wanted something more personal. Something I could write in. For the first time in many years, I purchased a desk calendar. 

Probably fifteen years ago a friend sent me a very nice Daytimer as a Christmas present. I loved it and used it for several years before Google calendars came about. It was customizable and comfortable back then, but not so now. I changed. It did not. Not wanting to part with it since it was a gift, I slipped it back into the bottom drawer of my great-grandfather's desk and there it will remain, probably for a few more years. A spiral-bound book is a lot easier to keep than loose pages. 

I find that I record appointments on the Google calendar as well as in the diary. I like the reminder option that syncs with my phone. And it doesn't hurt to have them listed in more than one place. But there is something soothing about writing things down on paper. Perhaps it's the times I grew up in, or perhaps it's that the diary will be tangible evidence that I existed. That I prospered. 

I found bits and pieces of journals my mother began at the beginning of several different years but never followed through with. I wish she would have continued. To read her thoughts - ones she never shared with me - brought me to tears. There is so much she committed to the page that I never knew. 

Maybe someday one of my young cousins will find my 2022 diary and read through it. What will they think of their reclusive cousin who lived in the woods? I can only hope they find it entertaining. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, journals, diaries, simple country pleasures, a writer's life, old-fashioned love song, family, country living, rural lifestyle, retirement, calendars

June 12, 2022

Canning tip - storing empty jars

Now, why didn't I think of that? 

Somewhere on YouTube is a video about canning cherries. I've seen it. It does exist. 

Last night I went looking for the video, which I should have clicked the like button on so I could find it. My bad. What popped up in my search was a video about storing empty canning jars. It was only a couple of minutes long from Mousetoes so I figured I'd watch it. I'm so glad I did!

This is so genius and it solves three problems at once: where to store the rings (or bands if you call them that) when not in use, how to protect the rims of empty jars, and gathering up rings for a canning session. 

If you have empty jars on your shelf, put a ring on them and store it upside down. The ring protects the rim. Storing upside down keeps the dust out of the jar, and the ring is right there when you need the jar. 

Seriously! Why did I not think of that? 

I have rings by the bag full, and a bunch of empty jars. My jars are already stored upside down but guess what my project of the day is? 

I'm so glad I didn't discard all those unused rings. So glad!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, canning tips, storing jars, simple country pleasures, a writer's life, rural living, gardening, food preservation, 

June 11, 2022

2015 Chrysler Town & Country

The search has FINALLY ended! 

Fact of life: the spousal unit is partially disabled. Like most disabilities, his is an odd mix of what he can and cannot do. He can't stand up straight and walk, but he can sit and drive a car. It makes getting into and out of vehicles problematic. To that end, we sold his beloved Chevrolet Silverado and purchased a Chrysler Town & Country van. 

If there is one type of vehicle I NEVER wanted to drive, it's a mini-van. I detest them. And yet, here we are. 

This van is easy for him to get into. All he has to do is get up and turn around and his butt is on the seat. It's that low to the ground. He couldn't get into his Silverado any longer because of how high off the ground the seat was. He couldn't even get a foot up on the running boards and step up. A van, with the capability to haul his power chair or scooter, is the best option. 

Finding this van wasn't easy, and it wasn't what he was shopping for. He was looking for a small cargo van with an open space with multi-use potential. The problem with that? Everything we looked at was beat to hell and back. Don't people believe in caring for their vehicles these days? Well, no. Autos have become as disposable as razors. Bust it up, trash it, and go get a new one. WE do not live like that. 

I was pretty much at the end of my tolerance with van shopping when the universe set this one in front of us. We'd gone to the car lot to look at a newer van (which was trashed and filthy) and the young man told us he had a slightly older van with less mileage on it. We looked at it and brought it home. 

We didn't want to go as far back as a 2015 model, but it has only 39,000 miles on it - a big plus. Another thing in its favor was that both rows of rear seats fold down flat into recessed compartments. There's plenty of room for his chair or scooter, and for Deuce. Yes, the dog matters.

I'm sorry to see him go back into debt on a vehicle, but he didn't have a choice. I do believe this is the vehicle he is supposed to have else we would not have come to it via the path we did. Now that I'm retired, we won't be driving every day. We don't need to. Our trips "to town" will be planned so that we can do all our shopping in one trip, for the most part. I'm sure there will be instances when we need materials for a project or want to go out to dinner, or I need to zip to the grocery because we need [fill in the blank]. Those days will happen. 

And yes, we may actually be able to do some overnight trips with this van. With the seats down, all three of us could sleep back there if we can locate good campgrounds. It's a thought, going forward. 

I'm relieved the search is over. If I had the energy, and the vindictiveness, I'd name a few auto dealerships to avoid. They are NOT friendly to the disabled. Oh, hell. Be honest. I'm going to Facebook and Yelp about them, but here's my warning. Don't trust the pretty pictures on their websites. Those vehicles WILL be "sold" when you get there if they were ever there at all. The fancier the website, the bigger the chance of a lie. 

We found this van at a little place called Stakes Auto in Fayetteville, PA. We were treated like people by a very nice young man named Jordan. Once we made the deal, the paperwork was completed and we were on our way in no more than thirty minutes. It was stress-free! Will we go back there? Yes, we will. 

The next search will be for a ramp to load his chair. I guess that means researching on Amazon and that is always costly. I need a new purse, too. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Update June 16, 2022 - Jordan had to redo a piece of the paperwork due to a June 1 change he was unaware of it. He came to our house for the spousal unit to sign instead of running us back to Fayetteville. Service like that is unheard of these days! We'll definitely seek out this young man in the future. 

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, 2015 Chrysler Town & Country, simple country pleasures, buying a car, Stark Auto, honest dealings, disabled individuals, shady auto websites, power chairs, best choices, a writer's life

June 7, 2022

A little luck never hurts

Several days ago, May 29th to be exact, I took a tumble in the middle of a creek. I'm lucky I didn't break a hip and lie in cold water for hours until someone came looking for me. It was just one of those careless things that happen when you have a big dog. Deuce tells the story over on his blog, Deuce's Day. Anyway, I sustained a really deep bruise on my left hip and it's taken this long for it to start to feel better. 

A little luck never hurts. I was able to get up and limp home. It could have gone in a very different direction and I'm grateful it did not. It would not have been a fun way to start my retirement years. And if my retirement is off to a limping start, that's really okay. At least I'm on my feet. That's a good thing.

About five days ago, I pushed it and walked with my cousins. Big mistake. It may have set my recovery back a bit because I started to hurt all over again. Today, it's much better so I tried it again and it was just Deuce and me on our walk. We went back the old homestead lane, a walk that is always a balm to my soul. I spent summers back at that homestead as a young girl, and every twist and turn in the road brings back a memory. The woods are so green and the sunlight is dappled and glorious in the early morning. No one else was on the trails and it was so very peaceful. 

We made it home in good time and I set about filing the pictures I took. I decided to make a Photoshop collage of some of them. It was a good occupation for an afternoon that turned to rain.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Deuce's Day, Greenbrier Smokey Deuce, Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, walking in the woods, a writer's life, simple country pleasures, retirement, good luck, broken hip, bad falls

June 1, 2022

Scary things - a blank June calendar

The spousal unit and I share a Google calendar entitled, "What's For Dinner." Supposedly, it's to be used by both of us but he never seems to add anything. I use it to loosely plan meals so I can grocery shop more efficiently. Now that I'm retired, it's even more important to 1) have a plan and 2) stick to the plan. I'm far from destitute, but wasting money and food isn't something anyone should embrace. 

So here we are at June 1, 2022, and there is nothing on the WFD calendar. No hints. No suggestions. No clues as to what the man will eat or wants to eat. 

Damn it.

I'm going to take this as a carte blanche to start to eat the way I want to eat for the next month. 

Oh, yeah. It's going to get scary - for HIM. 

For me  - it's a chance to dive deep into the pantry and rotate some stock. I'm going to start with the oldest items in the freezer and go from there. This may actually be fun! What better way to kick off my retirement than spending time assessing the items in my pantry? 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, meal planning, simple country pleasures, What's For Dinner, calendars, organization, pantry prep, rural lifestyle, marriage, retirement, panty planning, organization