September 27, 2022

It really was a close run thing

Yesterday, after what seemed like a long delay, the tree trimmer returned to take down the massive poplar tree that grew outside my office windows. It may seem strange for us to cut down a seemingly healthy tree, but those of us who live in the country know trees have a lifespan. We began to suspect the tree was at the end of its health and we were correct.  The sudden problem with branches dying was a sign of a worse problem. Once the tree was down, it was clearly evident the heartwood was dying. I feel like we cut it down in the nick of time.

The poplar was about eighty feet tall and big. Like really, really big. Coming home and driving up the lane, anyone could see it rose above the maples. For over forty years I've watched that tree drop a single yellow                                        
leaf on August 1 every year. I found that amazing. 

What was not amazing was the tree taking an odd twist on the way to the ground! The picture does not do it justice. The tree trimmer went up the tree like a squirrel and cut off branches along the way. Then he cut the trunk, section by section until about thirty feet remained. It was then things took a turn. It only missed the house by about six feet. 

Himself was in the house at that moment and he said it sounded like a bomb went off when the trunk hit the ground. Cousin Dave and I were parked along the upper stone fence, perched on our respective tractors to watch. Dave's tractor is orange, not green, but we don't hold that against him. 

But I digress...


When the tree hit the ground, I must have made a noise. Dave kept asking if I was okay. Okay? Noooo. Not much, at least at that moment. 

I'm pretty sure it rattled the tree trimmers, too. They had a guideline on the tree with a lot of tension else I wouldn't be sitting here in my cozy sunroom office telling the story. I'd be looking for a place to live. 

While I appreciate the tree trimmer and his abilities, it may be a while before he gets to come back.  

Today, Himself and I set ourselves to the task of cleaning up the brush from the tree. I started around eight o'clock, and he joined me around nine. I really wonder how in the world we managed clean-up before we had a tractor. What took one day with the John Deere took several days without. As I type this, the fire is still smoldering, but I can keep an eye on it from the office. 


My skyline looks different. The poplar dominated it for many years. While we worked today, we both commented on how much more sunshine reaches into the woods. With the tree gone, I wonder if the spot would be good for my greenhouse. I think I'd really like to have it just outside my office window. 

Before we started the clean-up this morning, the young buck meandered through the yard and stood staring at the mess as if perplexed. He and I get along tolerably well so I stepped out onto the porch to speak to him. He stopped, flicked his ears and tail, and then went on his way, carefully stepping through the leaves. I suppose tree branches and leaves on the ground are not an everyday occurrence in his world. 

Thankfully, it's not in my world, either. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, tree trimming, poplar trees, deer, country living, rural lifestyle, close calls, 

September 24, 2022

Deconstruction: tearing down to build back up

This is not going as planned. 

Back in the fall of 2004, or thereabout, the Lord of the Manor constructed the west terrace. Our small terraces help control the runoff after heavy rain. We live on the side of a mountain and it's necessary to control water.

Fast forward almost twenty years and the freezing and thawing cycles have taken a toll on that terrace.   

I mentioned the need for this repair several years ago before the pandemic hit. Our focus shifted to pantry prep and avoiding unnecessary trips to the home improvement center. Himself had had major surgery at the end of 2018 and my stepfather died in May 2019 and I had to settle his estate. We had the perfect storm to put the terrace wall project on the back burner. 

Well, no longer. Today was the day we got started on it. It's going to be a bigger job than anticipated. WE botched the repair on one section and now need to do more extensive work to reconstruct about six feet that we didn't expect to do. That's just the way it goes. We'll do it better now. 

I think the job will take in the neighborhood of two to three weeks to finish. Himself can't work for hours and hours without becoming exhausted. I need to do the bulk of the heavy work and as you may suspect, I have a lot of regular chores to do every day. 

I'll be glad to cross this repair off my to-do list and move on to something more fun.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country living, rural lifestyle, stonework, terraces, rainwater control, mountain living, building stone walls, a writer's life 

September 22, 2022

Debt is slavery

If you listen to the news media, the "information" being presented is alarming. The United States seems to be headed into a recession and our political "leaders" can't seem to do anything about it. I don't find that surprising. Country folk have always known you can't depend on the government. 

The Covid-19 pandemic that began in 2020 is a very good example of what can go wrong. So much of what happened was a man-created crisis. Logic and common sense went out the window. The news media focused on what was happening in major cities. It was very, very different in rural America. It's probably not good to admit, but we cruised through the worst of it with hardly a hitch. We did wear masks when we needed to shop, but that was our major concession to the madness. What we're facing now is also a man-made crisis brought about by an inept government. 

September is National Preparedness Month. Seriously. Our government even has a website dedicated to it: They present a lot of ideas, but none of them are new to me, and I don't see mention of what I think is one vital thing we all must do.

We must get out of debt. 

Debt is slavery. If you have debt, you are not free. If you have debt, you're working for the credit card company, the bank, big box stores, the auto industry, the colleges, and the list goes on. 

We must get out of debt.

If you carry a lot of debt, inflation is killing you. You can't absorb higher food and energy prices. If you have NO debt, you have the additional funds needed to weather the storm. You won't like it - I certainly don't like it - but it's doable. 

Get out of debt. Is it easy? No, but you dug the hole a little at a time and you have to climb out the same way. You think the government should bail you out? Don't be stupid. That will raise taxes for the rest of your yet-unborn grandchildren's lives. Everyone suffers when taxes go up, but those of us with no debt suffer a lot less. 

Think about what your debt is doing to you, and think about how you got to where you are. Think about what you want to teach your children. 

Debt is the modern-day slavery and it is colorblind. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

September 21, 2022

Tomato surprise!

I love living on the mountain and having nature all around me. I learn something every day, even more so now that I'm retired and home more.  

This past August, we had a bit of a heat wave. Our temps got up into the 90sF every day for about two weeks. It's not unusual for us to have 90F days, so don't go all climate change on me. But it is rare for us to have a long stretch like that. The last time it happened was back around 1992/93. 

But I digress...

Due to the heat, my tomatoes stopped putting out new flowers which meant no new tomatoes. I allowed what fruit was on the vines to mature, and then I cut off the plant and moved the grow bucket to the winter storage area. I had a good crop so it was fine with me. When you garden, you have to take a lot of things as they come. You can't fight it.

Yesterday, I noticed that several of the tomato plants had sent up new stalks. That was unexpected! There's not time enough for them to set new flowers and produce fruit, but it's a fascinating development. I'm going to move one bucket into the greenhouse just to see what happens. It's an experiment, a test, of both plant and greenhouse. It should be interesting - and a lot of fun! 

Here's the link to a short video: 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, tomato plants, nature, country living, gardening, greenhouse, rural lifestyle, green peppers, container garden, grow buckets

September 14, 2022

Finished - clean and tidy, ready for next season

Yesterday was the day I'd been waiting for! I picked the very last three tomatoes and four peppers of the year! Then I set about tidying the garden coral for next year. 

It was a beautiful morning, too, with temps around the 65F mark. I was outside early so I could work in mostly shade. I put the bucket on the John Deere 1023 and moved the remaining five-gallon grow buckets and grow bags to their storage area. Then I scrubbed the little table, swept the tarp, and then dumped a bucket of hot soapy water on it, and swished the broom around before rinsing.  

You may wonder why I'd want to give the area the hot water and soap treatment, but it's important to keep a garden area clean so as to cut down on pests, mold, and mildew. Besides, it looks a lot better if it's clean and tidy. 

Looking forward to the 2023 growing season, the plan is to do a few things differently. I'm not going to transplant every little seed that sprouts. I had too many tomatoes crammed into too small a space. I was able to make sauces, etc., which I wanted to do, but we have a lot of top-notch local growers in my area. It may be more time effective to purchase a bushel of tomatoes from one of them to do the canning next year. A high tunnel would also allow me to use the garden coral area for what it was installed for - a small pool. 

I also want to grow a few different things that I didn't have room for. I have acreage, but I also have a large deer population. The deer would decimate any unprotected area so I'm keeping my garden small. My ultimate goal is to get a high tunnel that should thwart the deer. It's that or obtain a hunting license, sit on the front porch, and wait for them - not my first choice.

Growing in the garden is not quite complete for 2022. I have red beets growing nicely in a raised bed under a screened frame. That's another first. I had one or two beets grow in a bucket last year, but I may actually get enough to freeze-dry a batch this year. 

It's time for me to go through my seeds and see what I have left to use next year and what I want to order. It's never really too early to stay organized. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, seeds, deer, rural lifestyle, country living, organization, a writer's life, simple country pleasures, home food preservation, hunting, tomatoes, peppers

September 9, 2022

The end of an era - Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)

There was little doubt that Queen Elizabeth II's reign would end during my lifetime. I may not be of British ancestry, but I admired her and I'm saddened by her passing. Like countless others, she's the only Queen I've "known" in my life. Unlike those who live in the United Kingdom, the passing of the monarchy to King Charles III isn't something that will affect my life. That's one of the perks of observing from afar.

I admired Queen Elizabeth greatly. She was above all else a lady who knew how to hold her head up through thick and thin. She had the highest title a woman can hold, but I would hate to live in the fishbowl as she did. People have asked me if I aspire to have my writing career achieve a level equal to Nora Roberts and the answer is no. I do not want strangers watching my every move when I walk down the street in our shared hometown. Her Majesty lived her entire life under the watchful, and sometimes critical, gaze of strangers. I would also hate to have my every day planned out for me. I suppose my sense of duty is not that developed. 

Yes, I'm saddened that Queen Elizabeth II is gone. She was a great lady. We truly have reached the end of an era, the kind of which we won't see again. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)


September 3, 2022

Apple Pie Filling for the WIN!

I need to face the fact that I will never get done canning homegrown and homemade foods for the pantry. I think it's some kind of addiction.  I had apples left over from making applesauce, but not enough to fill the canner with another complete batch of applesauce, so I made apple pie filling. 

No, I didn't end up with a complete batch of seven quarts of apple pie filling, either. I have a Presto 23-quart canner so a "batch" equals seven quarts, or nine pints if using the water bath method, or up to eighteen pints if pressure canning, or twelve half-pints in a water bath. Half-pints are usually jams and jellies or a specialty item like chutney. 

So...five quarts of apple pie filling. I'm happy with that and with the fact I have enough of the filling "sauce" left to open a jar of sliced apples from last year and bake a pie for Sunday dinner. Win-win. 

The apple pie filling was by far the most difficult processing I've done this year. You have to peel and slice the apples, blanch the apples, and drain the apples BUT KEEP THEM WARM! Yeah? Well, the best way to do that is to get them in the jars, get the sauce over them, and get them in the canner. And...the sauce. It's an easy recipe and it's delicious, but it goes from liquid to thick in three seconds flat. It needs stirring while the apples need warming. Holy crap! I brought out the old two-burner hotplate because I needed to spread out for this operation!

It worked and I guess that's all that matters. I had quite a sticky mess to clean up while the jars processed for twenty-five minutes. I'm five for five on the seals, and we'll have a few apple pies to keep our bellies happy this winter. 

I'm very pleased with my summer food preservation efforts. I don't know what next summer will bring, but I plan to spend the cold months reading canning books, making soups, and getting ideas for next summer. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, home food preservation, canning, Presto, apple pie filling, gardening, soup, books, planning, simple country pleasures, rural lifestyle, a writer's life, applesauce, pantry prepping